The setting: when we passed through the gates of this horse racing track (or pig racing, as Trey joked before launching into Guyute the year prior), it was like stepping back in time to the band's early days. Once inside, it was a short stroll along the edge of the track to the portable stage. No seats--save a set of aluminum bleachers a ways back--just a flat, dirt/grassy field. We strolled right up to a spot in the center about 30 feet back. The stage was just a few feet high with no barriers, adding a level of intimacy I hadn't experienced before at a Phish show.
The attendees: man, this was a mellow, friendly crowd. No mad rush to the stage when the gates opened...just a bunch of fans milling about in the late afternoon heat (~90 degrees), hanging out and reuniting, eventually finding a spot as showtime neared. Really a great vibe.
The show: The intimate setting added a ton to the band-audience connection, as evidenced during that uplifting Gin jam. That was the most ecstatic crowd I've witnessed, like an olden days outdoor revival meeting--souls were were being saved left and right. Really cool to have experienced those moments. That first set was just perfect for that warm late summer day.
The second set: Before the show, a buddy was determined to hear a Ghost in Portland, and had bought this hilarious 2-foot tall ghost figurine that, if I recall correctly, even glowed blue from the inside. Sure enough, toward the end of the first set, we spotted the ghost lifted overhead slowly making its way toward the front. A minute later, the ghost was placed on the edge of the stage in front of Trey, where it stayed for the remainder of the set. Sure enough, the band sauntered back on stage and kicked into the familiar cry of the opening notes. Success! Again, in such an intimate setting, witnessing that Ghost was a study in the band's on-stage subtle communication and ability to explore music beyond boundaries. What a thing to experience live, just mesmerizing. The rest of the set was no slouch, with a ripping Jim, beautiful Roggae, followed by a fun Sprach and note-perfect YEM. I called Theme for the encore and got a throat-lumping Theme. Perfect conclusion to an experience baked into memory.
Pardon the overly-verbose review, but 14 years later, this show is still one of those rare special moments my friends and I are blessed to have shared.