Thursday 02/21/2019 by FunkyCFunkyDo

TAKE THE BAIT - EPISODE 8. THE FORGOTTEN FESTIVALS

[Take the Bait is spirited deliberation centered around the hyperbole of Phish’s music and fandom, passionately exuded via the written words of phish.net contributors @FunkyCFunkyDo and @n00b100. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of phish.net, The Mockingbird Foundation, or any fan… but we're pretty sure we’re right. Probably.]

Funky: Magnaball, Big Cypress, The Great Went, IT - the big cheeses of in-house Phish’s festival circuit. Oswego, 8, Lemonwheel - the, uh, Ritz crackers of the circuit - they exist in the same universe, and are all good and stuff, but are not spoken about in the same breath. Uh, cheese and crackers, Funky.... Yeah yeah please don’t point out my obvious metaphorical flaws this early. And please don't take away my Tom Robbins metaphorical fan club card. No one wants that, in any reality. They want judgement!!

Photo used with permission - © Phish Inc
Photo used with permission - © Phish Inc

Lemonwheel - Loring Air Force Base, Milestone, ME. Night 1: 8.15.98

Set 1: Mike's Song > Simple > Beauty of My Dreams, Roggae, Split Open and Melt, Poor Heart, The Moma Dance, Divided Sky, Water in the Sky >Funky Bitch > Cities > Weekapaug Groove

Set 2: The Wedge, Reba, Gumbo -> Sanity > Tweezer > The Horse > Silent in the Morning > Chalk Dust Torture, Slave to the Traffic Light

Set 3: NICU > David Bowie, Strange Design, Limb By Limb > Brian and Robert, Loving Cup

Encore: Halley's Comet > Cavern > Tweezer Reprise

Set 4: Ambient Jam

***

Lemonwheel - Loring Air Force Base, Limestone, ME. Night 2: 8.16.98

Set 1: Ginseng Sullivan, Bathtub Gin -> Rift, Punch You in the Eye, Lawn Boy, Ya Mar > AC/DC Bag > Frankie Says, Birds of a Feather, Guyute,Possum

Set 2: Down with Disease > Piper, Ghost > Fluffhead, When the Circus Comes > Wading in the Velvet Sea, Hold Your Head Up > Sexual Healing >Hold Your Head Up, Run Like an Antelope

Set 3: Sabotage -> Also Sprach Zarathustra > Wilson > The Mango Song > Character Zero > Bittersweet Motel, While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Encore: Harry Hood -> Jam -> Baby Elephant Walk

Photo used with permission - © Phish Inc
Photo used with permission - © Phish Inc

***

Undoubtedly, fans who attended the latter three festivals might be clenching their fist and giving us an, “Oh yeah?! Come here a minute!” to defend the undoubtedly awesome time they remember, or at least re-manifesting what they might have undoubtedly remembered, at those events. But for the rest of us, who may not be so familiar with the festivals, beyond recognizing their names, why is it that they do not jump out at us like Magnaball, Cypress, Went, or IT?

A note of importance that must be addressed before the torches and pitchforks are distributed: the festival experience goes far beyond the music. I have been to only one, Magnaball, and that’s when, and only when, I got it. The magical environment that Phish creates of art and food and entertainment and visuals and camaraderie and community and the ferris wheel(!) … and I haven’t even mentioned the music yet... is like what Disneyland creates for children before they set foot on a ride (who I am kidding, I love Disneyland - I may be getting older but I’ll never grow up). Anticipation and a more fun variety of anxiety radiate like sunlight from and to each face you see. There is palpable magic in the air and a high voltage electric current that surges through the campgrounds, Phish onstage or not. Just being there is something of an utopia. Feeling the presence of so very many people - like-minded, relatively tuned-in (to the Phish frequency, which is a real thing - if you've been to a show, you've felt it), and incredibly excited. It’s amazing to be a part of. A completely unique communal experience, with the music nearly becoming secondary, ironically, as the music is the reason this is all happening in the first place..

Having not been there to experience our “forgotten festivals,” or any other outside of Magnaball, precludes me from passing well-rounded judgement on them as an experiences. So, that much of it we will not address. BUT. We do have ears. And eyes. And an obsessive ritual of checking phish.net’s forum... once every 78 seconds… for the last decade or so...

So it comes of some surprise that some festivals just don’t get the fans’ proverbial limelight that others do. I am sure that “magic” element was, probably, somewhat comparable across all. So, what does that leave us with as a discerning factor between them? The music. Like Phish’s entire catalogue, their music exists on a quality spectrum, ranging from my lowest score ever: Seven Thumbs Up; to the highest marks I can give: Immediate Pantslessness. The festivals, even though they are festivals, are not exempt from this spectrum - especially for the 99% of us that were not in attendance and thus do not have that delightful thing called "attendence bias." So, perhaps, the music is the reason that some festivals just aren’t as well-known… perhaps, festivals can be ordinary in some ways. Perhaps.

Photo used with permission - © Phish Inc
Photo used with permission - © Phish Inc

n00b: Here, let me clean up that opening metaphor for you, Funky. Think of the Phish festival going experience like eating at a steakhouse. The Big Four festivals you identified (and quibble all you want, readers, I’m confident those would be the top four vote-getters of any poll of favorite Phish festivals, with maybe the Clifford Ball sneaking in there) are like the biggest cut of prime rib, one of those joints you get with the bone in it like you’re in The Flintstones or some shit so your dog can have a treat when you get home, and are truly a dining experience unlike any you’ve ever had. The lesser festivals are more like a thinner cut, perhaps not quite as kick-your-privates-out-your-back amazing as the bigger deals, but more than worthy of tucking into and savoring for its tender juiciness (even Festival 8 has the acoustic set and Superball has the Storage Jam, for example, both of which are non-negotiable parts of the Phish fan experience). And then there’s Coventry, which is like if the waiter picked up your steak, flung it directly into your face, and then burst into tears because it turns out he’s been addicted to opiates for years.

Having not been to a festival yet (both Magnaball and Curveball - RIP - were decidedly out of my price range unless I wanted to climb the Watkins Glen International Raceway fence and sleep behind a Port-a-Potty for 3 days), I too am only able to judge them on their musical merits, and let me say this - honestly, I think the festivals that have the big reputations versus those that don’t are fairly parceled out. Think about how the Big Four are positioned in our mind. The Great Went is an absolute feast of improvisation from one of Phish’s undeniable peak touring years, anchored with one of their most widely beloved jams in Night 2’s Bathtub Gin. Big Cypress is the fabled end-of-the-millennium (it wasn’t really, but let’s go with it) all-night party, containing maybe the band’s greatest gimmick and most beloved set of them all. IT is the unquestioned high water mark of 2.0 (it’s that or 2/28/03), possibly the most astounding festival from a purely improvisational standpoint, and contains one of the band’s most challenging and rewarding listens in the Tower Jam. And Magnaball stands proudly as one of the peaks (still THE peak to some) of the modern era, three days of magnificent improv, sheer fun, and thrilling moments all throughout. Between those four festivals, nine shows, and twenty-five sets (hope I did that math right), you have just about the entire Phish experience after 1996 wrapped up into one expansive package.

Photo used with permission - © Phish Inc
Photo used with permission - © Phish Inc

And then you’ve got the other festivals, which (again, outside the Clifford Ball, which scores nostalgia points for being the first festival and musical points for its beloved Night 2 Set 2) don’t have quite as much to sell as the Big Four. There are certainly great jams, but every festival has those (even 8, although it might have the least of them all; certainly Coventry has them, and that’s all I’ll say about that). There are certainly moments that stamp all of them as events, even if it’s just through a major improvisation like the Ambient Jam (although Oswego was basically just part of the Summer ‘99 tour instead of a tour finale like every other festival, an odd choice that gets odder the more you think about it). But when you get down to it, none of them quite have the combination that the finest Phish spectacles have, which is why they’re not quite as firmly fixed in the memory as the Big Four are. It’s ever thus with Phish - basically the same reason why shows like 12/30/93 and 7/25/17 suck up all the air in the room, only to a much larger degree.

Which brings us to our next series of columns - we here at Take The Bait Industries Ltd. (that's right, we formed our conglomerate in the UK) want to talk about those “lesser” festivals, for the purposes of bringing the air back into the room, and to see if maybe we missed something in overlooking these festivals in favor of spinning 8/2/03 III or 8/22/15 II for the 500th time. And we’ll be kicking off with 1998’s festival, aka Lemonwheel, whose toilet situation NBA writer Jason Concepcion compared to one of World War I’s grisliest battles here.Take it away, Funky.

Funky: You should write for Cliff’s Notes.

Musically, Lemonwheel was what we persnickety fans call standard-great. That is to say, Phish played well. If you were there, you’d be dancing and high-fiving and having a really, really good time. There was nothing better than what you were doing right then.

If you are listening, having not been there, you’d be satisfied, nodding along and some moments giving a fistpump or two, but, ultimately, revisiting very little of it compared to what else is out there. This is fine. Really. Using myself as the goat - of the 75 shows I’ve been to, I regularly listen to probably 5-10% of the music I saw live in those shows. Now, keep this in mind: At 73 of the 75 shows I saw, I exclaimed, unequivocally, that THAT show was the best show I’ve ever seen. Maybe 74. It’s good to be me. Lotta strands in old Duder’s head. And of the shows I haven't been to, despite really trying to hear it all: magnificently less than 1% of Phish's catalogue, with any sort of regularity, goes into my ears. If you knew me in real life you wouldn't believe this, but it is the truth. And I didn't even give you my coat! So let's get to what has been long since forgotten.

The first set of the first night was as standard-great as it gets. Great flow to the set but nothing mind-blowing in selection. Solid, fun, straightforward versions of all songs, save a smoothed out, groovey, rolling-hillside version of "Simple."

Set 2 brought the night’s highlight in “Gumbo.” Funny thing about this, there are some mp3 files I have transferred from computer to computer to computer going back to college, 14 years ago. Some of those files still go by their name upon my discovery of the jam. Lemonwheel “Gumbo” is “Gumbo 8.15.98 - thick percussive booty funk.” Still extraordinarily accurate. Heavy cowblock and tribal Fishman drives a brakeless funk train - Mike is the engineer. It rolls downhill and does not stop until it crashes rather jaggedly into “Sanity.”

“Tweezer” had a good opening salvo in the jam, funky and dancey, but the jam ultimately got lost in Trey’s noodles. Very solid, emotional versions of “Chalk Dust Torture” and “Slave to the Traffic Light” (especially “Slave”) closed the set. Good set, weird flow, with a great “Gumbo.”

The third set is something of sleight of hand by the band. A real treat that sneaks up on you, and not where or when you expect it. On paper, it looks rather, uhm, slow and inconsistent for the third set of a festival. I thought that too. But of course, we have to listen to make an informed opinion.


It was a slow and inconsistent set. When it ended, I was like, “That’s it? Oof.”

Heavier on the ambience and calm - “David Bowie’s” 8-minute extended intro; “Strange Design;” “Brian and Robert;” and a more melodic “Limb by Limb.” It was just so deliberately slow. Weirdly so, even for Phish (sometimes). But... there is an explanation. At the very end of the encore, Trey starts talking about something they have planned. I was maybe 10 seconds away from pressing the skip button to get the “Ambient Jam” which came next. But I didn’t.

Instead, I hear a wildly creative, lucid, proud Trey telling the crowd about the late night set they had planned. About how the fans are the proverbial sparks/fire that keeps the Phish burning bright (as an aside, the song "Fuego" is about this exact thing, “Inside your [fan’s] Fuego, we [Phish] keep it rollin” I really love the continuity here). He explained the metaphor of fire they used at the Great Went, burning the art they had all created together, saying how they want to keep that fire burning tonight. At Lemonwheel, he explained, there was a candle-making station for fans to create their own candles. Those candles were then collected by the staff, and given to the band, who, along with the staff, were arranging them onstage for the late set. There would be no light show, Trey said, no setlist, no songs, just jamming to the lit candles in an ambient fashion for ambient music.

Photo used with permission - © Phish Inc
Photo used with permission - © Phish Inc


Boy did they deliver.

The ambient nature of the set was surreal. It sounded like the third set, all homogeneously melted together. “Brian and Robert’s” ethereal feel mixed with “Strange Design’s” dreaminess and wove into the “Bowie” intro’s spaciness. It even had a couple sections of rock and jazz. The third set, in my opinion, was the band dialing in their “vibe” for the “Ambient Jam. It made me appreciate both, much more, in terms of effort, execution, and result. The Ambient Jam, especially, a cascading triumph of improvisation.

n00b: So yeah, that’s a pretty cool moment indeed, and a great opening to the Ambient Jam. Having written reviews for both of these shows, I went back and took a look to see both how I felt about the shows and if our highlights matched up, and I was pleased to note that we had a lot of overlapping opinions (although I liked the "Tweezer" more than you). And yeah, that first set really is about as standard-great as that phrase connotes, and the "Gumbo" really is the standout jam of all three sets from the opening night. It’s such an odd show when you really give it a full listen, especially in the context of Summer 1998, which had sacrificed a not-insignificant amount of the otherworldly precision of Fall ‘97 for a more markedly Johnny Good Time party vibe. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course - one listen to something like the Vernon Downs 8/15 show or the majestic 7/17 Gorge show makes it rather clear that the band had only lost a little off their Randy Johnson-level fastball - but it does make for a rather different experience, and one that can lead to good-but-not-great shows like this one.

That said, good-but-not-great does take on a different meaning when we’re talking peak-level Phish, and the highlights here really are darn sweet. I wanted to touch on the "Limb by Limb" a little bit, since you didn’t very much in your section (neither did I in my review, I’d note) - it’s a really lovely version that briefly touches on some minor-key sentiments out of the verses before hitting a neat peak, and instead of going back into the usual "LxL" ending the band instead starts to play a little bit softer now (“Shout” style) before coming to a Page-led gentle close. Aside from that, I don’t know that there’s anything else that needs to be touched upon (the "Bowie" is wider than it is deep, so to speak), so let’s talk a little bit more about the Ambient Jam.

So there was an Instagram post or something like that that went around the day Curveball was cancelled that noted that the big mirrored ball on the grounds was meant for the band to play in for the secret set - and it also noted that the secret set, like all the others, would be made up of pre-planned chord changes. At first I was gobsmacked by that (being the naive sort about certain things), but then it made sense the more I thought about it - yes, the band is remarkable at improvisation, but they still need structure to make their longform improvisations work, else it just float off into the ether or devolve into squawking noise like what people imagine free jazz to sound like (and shit, even Ornette Coleman’s "Free Jazz" and John Coltrane’s Ascension, the twin pillars of free jazz, had mode changes suggested by the musicians or pre-planned structural shifts built in). My admiration for the great festival secret sets has not diminished one jot, and honestly has become even greater with the knowledge that they could have gone in different directions but settled on what we got for those four mammoth jams.

Photo used with permission - © Phish Inc
Photo used with permission - © Phish Inc

And that leads me into the Ambient Jam, the very first of its kind and the most meaningful in that sense, and also the one that actually led to a true shift in direction by the band. The gorgeous floating grooves led by Page; moments of odd and discomfiting darkness; Trey’s loops swooping around the stage like the bird noises in Tomorrow Never Knows (actually Paul McCartney’s laugh played backwards - you learn something new every day); the occasional hushed quietude almost entirely unfamiliar even to an audience who had gotten used to minimalism being Phish’s improvisational calling card - all of this, combined with their usual ability to build to massive peaks, pointed the way forward for Phish in 1999 and 2000, and even to a certain extent Phish in 2003 (maybe not 2004 as much...). I still stand by the jam not being perfect or even entirely interesting throughout (which is not an issue with the other big jams, but hey, gotta crawl before you can walk), but it’s still a monumental achievement all the same.

Funky: It seemed as though they got their yah-yahs out the first night. I think the nervous courage it must have taken to perform Phish a la carte - sans lights, sans setlist, late at night, surrounded by, literally, things your fans made for you - was probably just a bit distracting during the preceding three sets. And one can hear that very clearly in your articulation of the Ambient Jam.

Another very standard-great first set springs open the second night, with my personal highlight being a star-twinkle, extended version of “Ya Mar.” One sentence on the whole first set? Yeah, I mean it would be redundant to repeat what I wrote earlier about “standard-great” Phish, but hey, it’s a perfectly serviceable reality to have an even-keeled, fun little set.

Photo used with permission - © Phish Inc
Photo used with permission - © Phish Inc


The meat of Lemonwheel came in 8.16’s second set. A heavy, funked out “Down with Disease” strutted and sashayed with confidence and attitude. There was no anxiety here, no nervous tension. Phish went for it and delivered big time mixing currents of filthy dance music on top of energized murk. A frenzied, furious, psychotic “Piper” is juxtaposed by a dreamy, Ambient Jam-y “Ghost.” Reprising many of the ideas from the night, or morning, prior, “Ghost” weaves and blends through languid cosmos. A brilliant, even if mellow, display of jamming. “Fluffhead" adds an exclamation point to the stunning trio of songs. This is worth your time, every time. The rest of the set is akimbo, as it loosely tapers off after “Fluffhead” and is ultimately buttoned closed by a hot “Run Like an Antelope.”

The third set of the second night, much the the third set of the first night, just looks weird on paper. And while I eventually found the mechanism driving the slowness of the N1S3 in the framework for the Ambient Jam, I simply couldn’t find one for N2S3. Perhaps fatigue. A great “2001,” but not totally-adventerous despite its length, again, reprising much of the Ambient Jam and “Bowie” intro is all you’ll need to sink your teeth into, and the rest of the set, encore included, felt like… well, it all felt like an encore. It didn’t even reach an hour in run-time, but I supposed that is fairly offset by the hour-and-forty minute second set. Still, it wasn’t all that noteworthy any way you try to cut it. Lastly and most importantly given the nature of the festival, I am sure the spectacle of seeing the fire-lit pathway wind through the crowd during “Baby Elephant Walk” was a mind-blower.

As I review the words I have written, they appear rather mundane and subdued. Yet, I find myself wanting to change no mood or tone. Lemonwheel, to someone who wasn’t there, isn’t entirely forgettable, but it also isn’t all that memorable. It is quintessential “standard-great” Phish on either side of an apex, career moment in the Ambient Jam.


To me, it almost seems as though the festival was built entirely around the Ambient Jam. From Trey’s passionate, all-in story about the candle making, tying in Great Went, and the fire from the fans metaphorically and literally surrounding the band in the Ambient Jam - it just feels like this festival existed so Phish could celebrate their fans. And that is pretty dang cool.

It is as though the 6 sets of “standard” Phish are supplemental to the Ambient Jam, and true focus of the weekend, the fans. How can anyone, even your most judgemental author, criticize such a harmonious and genuine display of affection and appreciation? I can’t and I won’t.

Perhaps, Lemonwheel might be overshadowed (read: forgotten) musically, both by festivals and normal shows within the Phish catalogue. But after experiencing it start-to-finish through my speakers, 21 years after it happened, 3,000 miles away from where it happened, I am filled with happiness and joy on what Phish did for the fans in attendance. And that will never be forgotten. It was selfless and caring, music from the heart that melted the brain at times, but touched the soul throughout. It was a passionate “thank you” to Phish fans, at that point in time, the likes of which had not been expressed by the band, with that magnitude.

Photo used with permission - © Phish Inc
Photo used with permission - © Phish Inc

n00b: That’s a really beautiful sentiment, man. And now, here comes some wry analysis!

I really see no point in adding to your analysis of Night 2 of Lemonwheel, which I basically agree with, so let’s go with this. Go back and look at the setlists for Lemonwheel and The Great Went from the year before. What are the major standouts from Lemonwheel? Night 1’s "Gumbo," "Tweezer," and "LxL," and Night 2’s "Disease," "Piper," "Ghost," "Also Sprach Zarathustra," and a "Hood" with a dope jam attached. And from the Went? Night 1’s "CDT," "Ghost," "Wolfman’s," "Simple," "LxL," "Llama" (and that’s only a partial list; seriously, 8/16/97 has a real good case as the greatest show they ever played), and Night 2’s "Tweezer" -> "Taste," "Disease," "Gin," "2001," "Hood," and "Mule". Now, setting aside that the Went has considerably more highlights, of the overlapping songs between the two, how many from Lemonwheel would you say outdo their Went counterparts? The "Ghost?" Maybe? I know that seems like an unfair comparison to make - at least three of Went Night 2’s jams are among the most beloved of their kind - but it’s a comparison that suggests itself, and is incredibly stark when actually made. Lemonwheel is a great deal of fun. The Went is a great deal of fun AND contains some of Phish’s benchmark jams. Bit of a difference.

And I guess that gets a little bit at how Phish fandom works, now that I’m thinking about it. I can hear people grumbling as I type this - “What’s the point of comparing the Went with Lemonwheel? Why not just take 98’s festival on its merits?” Well, let me answer with my own question - how often, on average, will you play some random 2009 or 1995 show over your favorite jams or sets, spread out across your entire lifetime of being a fan? Favorites don’t become favorites because you’ve heard them once - they become favorites over wearing out your Maxell lying in bed at night, or burning CD after CD of a show you love for your B&P tree, or (ahem) putting a jam on repeat on your iPod wandering around your law school library stacks looking for that one treatise on contract law you need to write your midterm paper on the Statute of Frauds. And at a certain point, unless you embark on one of those full-tour listening endeavors for all of their tours, you’re just not going to listen to their entire catalog, and you surely won’t listen to every show the same amount. I enjoy 7/16/13 a lot, as anybody who’s seen me write about this band knows. I don’t enjoy it as much as 12/7/97. I just don’t.

To which I return to the original point about Lemonwheel - yes, I don’t doubt it was a fun and lovely time for the folks that were there; yes, that pre-Ambient Jam speech is really touching; yes, the band showed a great deal of affection for the fans that were there. But that was 20 years ago, and those fans have those experiences forever, but only for themselves. For the folks that were there, at the end of the day, all we have are the recordings of the show. And what I hear on those recordings, good as they are…….well, I’m gonna reach for the 8/17/97 "Also Sprach Zarathustra" over the 8/16/98 version; shoot, I’m gonna reach for the 12/29/98 version over it. C’est la vie.

That said, you all really should hear that jam out of the 8/16/98 Hood. It’s neat as hell.

Authors' aside: Have a great time in Mexico this weekend - pro tip: wear fewer pants.

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Comments

, comment by SporkFan
SporkFan Cool, a debate on the merit of Phish festivals between somebody who only went to one (and in 3.0) and somebody who went to none. The elevator pitch alone should have been shot down.
, comment by FunkyCFunkyDo
FunkyCFunkyDo @Sporkfan, as we addressed pretty clearly, we cannot speak to the Lemonwheel experience with any sort of accuracy because we were not there. We can only speak to the music, since it is accessible to all fans. The music was the focus of this episode, attempting to explain why Lemonwheel isn't held in as high of regard as other Phish festivals. This type of analysis (listening, talking, speculating) is at the foundation of all Phish music discussion, and all music discussion in general.

Still , we genuinely encourage you (and anyone who attended) to tell us your experience while at Lemonwheel, so that a more complete perspective (beyond the music) can be given about Lemonwheel.
, comment by SporkFan
SporkFan I get it, and this probably relates to the ongoing conversation of whether show reviews should be done by those just streaming at home. But when you yourself admit that it wasn't until you attended Magnaball that you got it, I think that stands as a huge testament to the fact that these experiences in the flesh both amplify and fully alter one's experience with the music. My three biggest takeaways from Lemonwheel, which at least emotionally and experientially felt like Went Part 2, are these:

1) I think early Saturday afternoon was the first time the disco bus played the VA Beach "Terrapin Station" and I remember that for about 50 yards in every direction, the entire lot became silent. It was a lot of people's first time hearing it, (myself included), and served as an emotional echo to one of the most transcendent moments in Phishtory.

2) I spent a good chunk of late night on Saturday doing laps around lot on my skateboard, with a head full of everything, and singing the chorus to Mighty Quinn over and over at the top of my lungs. I ran into Gordo on a golf cart at around 3:00 in the morning and told him they needed to bring Quinn back, and he replied "Oh yeah, it's been a while with that one." Three months later in the Mothership would be the first time I cried at a Phish show.

3) The Sabotage>2001 was an absolute rage fest. The entire field was going bonkers. Also the first time I remember being disappointed hearing WMGGW.

@FunkyCFunkyDo said:
@Sporkfan, as we addressed pretty clearly, we cannot speak to the Lemonwheel experience with any sort of accuracy because we were not there. We can only speak to the music, since it is accessible to all fans. The music was the focus of this episode, attempting to explain why Lemonwheel isn't held in as high of regard as other Phish festivals. This type of analysis (listening, talking, speculating) is at the foundation of all Phish music discussion, and all music discussion in general.

Still , we genuinely encourage you (and anyone who attended) to tell us your experience while at Lemonwheel, so that a more complete perspective (beyond the music) can be given about Lemonwheel.
, comment by FunkyCFunkyDo
FunkyCFunkyDo @Sporkfan, thank you very much for those anecdotes, they are sincerely appreciated and well-received. Sounds like a really great time, and there is no way me, we, or anyone else is trying to triviailize or undermine your experience and memories with our words from afar. The Sabotage > 2001 example is awesome. There is no way I (or 99.99% of Phish fans who did not attend Lemonwheel) could have known what that must have felt like unless we had someone like you tell us. That's why you paid for the ticket, the travel, and the experience - to have that moment shine for *you.* That's your awesome contribution/involvement to/within Phish history, among many others I'm sure. I am glad you shared that.

My only retort is that if any sort of anaylsis is left exclusively to those in attendance/there it witness it live (whether it is music, history, cultural events, political events, sports, ect) then we would be living very boring, sheltered, closed off lives, exempt from so much perspective and information that has happened outside of our own personal, eye-witness experiences (which are quite few and limited).

I do understand and agree with your point of how being there completely changes the experience... this goes for literally any experience. I also see the other side, however, our side, where we can inform ourselves in focused, educated, but perhaps limited, arenas in order to formulate an opinion about an experience or event, in some capacity.
, comment by pikepredator
pikepredator Lemonwheel had a polished feel to it . . . ran very smoothly, weather was beautiful (sweatshirt weather for the ambient jam but otherwise lovely), no train wrecks musically that I recall. But outside of the Ambient jam - which was a fantastic, almost-meditative experience - there wasn't too much risk-taking. The Mike's Groove was fun but not very jammy and I like it better when Mike's is all one piece, instead of a bunch of tunes in between two songs.

Day 1 set II is a set I will always love. Every song in that set is a song I love to hear. And I loved the flow.

But overall . . . being the 2nd year in a row at Limestone it definitely felt like sort of the same thing as the Went, but less magical. Both third sets were lacking and could've used a YEM (particularly night 2) as an exclamation point.

Was it a great time? Totally. But there's really only one set I listen to, and a few too many memories of the "hmmm, curious song choice . . ." variety. I definitely dig the jamming from Oswego a lot more so I'm excited for the ?next? entry in this series!
, comment by ezzulus
ezzulus Very thorough and interesting recap of The Lemonwheel. I agree that the late night ambient jam holds up over time as an important and groundbreaking hour of improvisational Phish. This is one of the main reasons the festivals are so special - letting it fly with no time constraints, no curfews!
, comment by n00b100
n00b100 @SporkFan said:
Cool, a debate on the merit of Phish festivals between somebody who only went to one (and in 3.0) and somebody who went to none. The elevator pitch alone should have been shot down.
Hello! While I do sort of wish you'd mentioned in this post and not after the very polite rejoinder from Funky that you'd attended this festival, I certainly understand your point about how the live experience amplifies (as you noted) the experience with the music. Having attended ten shows myself (though no festivals, as you accurately pointed out), I have what I'd like to think is a reasonable understanding of what the live experience brings in terms of being able to appreciate Phish. And yes, I agree, the in-show experience is far more meaningful than that of someone only listening on tape (or "tape"), and I have never disputed that.

Now, that said, one thing that should be noted is that the in-show experience of every show is contained to only those that attended, and (even with festivals) that's a mere fraction of Phish's fanbase. I did not start listening to Phish full-time until 2010-ish, and did not attend my first show until August 5, 2013. All of the experiences related to shows that happened before then are closed off to me, forever. And they're closed off to the people that did not attend in person, forever. But, hey, you know what's NOT closed off to the folks that didn't attend those shows? Listening to them on tape and divining an opinion of them based off of that! Roughly 40-50,000 people at Lemonwheel got the in-person experience, and that will never change. But you know who gets the on-tape experience? Everyone! And that, I think, has a great deal of merit - you can speak to an experience very few had, and that's valuable; I can speak to an experience anybody with a high-speed internet connection can have right this very second, and that's valuable, too. IMO, anyway.

What the elevator pitch actually is for this blog is "two wordy Phish lovers talk about all things Phish, up to and including shows we didn't attend". That, I'd like to think, holds at least some merit. But hey.
, comment by SporkFan
SporkFan All completely understood. Sometimes it's hard for me to grasp that 1998 was 21 years ago. Especially since my memories of my first 50 shows are still far more vivid than my next 150. Also I still sometimes need to be reminded that the current Phish crowd has a very limited overlap with the crowd back then. I can sit around with my friends who've been with me for the ride and talk shit about 90's festivals like they were last summer, so again I need to be reminded sometimes that the majority of current Phish fans are experiencing things from a far different perspective. Hell, in 1998 I was extremely vocal about my 1977 Grateful Dead opinions, so... same shit, different millennium. Keep up the good work guys.

@n00b100 said:
@SporkFan said:
Cool, a debate on the merit of Phish festivals between somebody who only went to one (and in 3.0) and somebody who went to none. The elevator pitch alone should have been shot down.
Hello! While I do sort of wish you'd mentioned in this post and not after the very polite rejoinder from Funky that you'd attended this festival, I certainly understand your point about how the live experience amplifies (as you noted) the experience with the music. Having attended ten shows myself (though no festivals, as you accurately pointed out), I have what I'd like to think is a reasonable understanding of what the live experience brings in terms of being able to appreciate Phish. And yes, I agree, the in-show experience is far more meaningful than that of someone only listening on tape (or "tape"), and I have never disputed that.

Now, that said, one thing that should be noted is that the in-show experience of every show is contained to only those that attended, and (even with festivals) that's a mere fraction of Phish's fanbase. I did not start listening to Phish full-time until 2010-ish, and did not attend my first show until August 5, 2013. All of the experiences related to shows that happened before then are closed off to me, forever. And they're closed off to the people that did not attend in person, forever. But, hey, you know what's NOT closed off to the folks that didn't attend those shows? Listening to them on tape and divining an opinion of them based off of that! Roughly 40-50,000 people at Lemonwheel got the in-person experience, and that will never change. But you know who gets the on-tape experience? Everyone! And that, I think, has a great deal of merit - you can speak to an experience very few had, and that's valuable; I can speak to an experience anybody with a high-speed internet connection can have right this very second, and that's valuable, too. IMO, anyway.

What the elevator pitch actually is for this blog is "two wordy Phish lovers talk about all things Phish, up to and including shows we didn't attend". That, I'd like to think, holds at least some merit. But hey.
, comment by socalsurfinphishfan
socalsurfinphishfan Thanks to Funky and Noob, interesting read! 1st show 11/3/96, and only 2 festivals (Big Cypress and 8) under my belt, I'm only fortunate to have seen them a few times each year since (although I never miss the solo band stuff in SoCal, including Pork Tornado). I lament missing the festivals I COULD have attended, but I so enjoy reading the breakdown of the music from Lemonwheel, as I devour all the other reviews on Phish.net anytime they are out on tour. I so get the "attendance bias", as I GOT them my 1st show the same way I got the Dead 1st time in 1980 at a live show, but I just want you to know how much I appreciate the diligent and thoughtful essays from obviously fervent phans whether they attended or not. Keep up the great work/reviews, Thanks.
, comment by whatstheuse324
whatstheuse324 One of my best friends, Achal, (a guy who is half responsible for starting my obsession with Phish, who went to Big Cypress, IT, and Coventry with me, not to mention lots of other shows), used to tell me for years that he would wake up every day and wish he was still at Lemon Wheel. To him, that was hands down his favorite Phish festival. His $.02.

Also, n00b, your comment about Coventry with the waiter and the steak made me laugh out loud. It’s true. I lived through that and I’m glad I can laugh at it 15 years later, but those were dark times.

Anyway, great job to both of you. I really enjoy reading your posts.
, comment by LocustdLurker
LocustdLurker Well I took the bait, of course. I happily picked up the hook you so deftly laid on the table, like the token hooded, sunglassed dude at poker night laying down his pocket kings and I put said hook right in my mouth. However, you probably unaware of the nuances of your bait. To me, it was like my two favorite artists, in their medium, getting put in a Hadron Collider and crashing with such precision

I have good news and bad news, fellow outlaw. The good news is, because you are literate and caused this collision, your card as Tom Robbins metaphor fan is safe, for now. But alas, goodsir, your metaphor was as vapid as Alobar's grave. It was as bad as me trying to liken it to something that contained more cheese than the law allows.We are (and, yes ked, the royal "we" not me) dangerously approaching dadpun territory, once out in that wasteland you'll be utterly alone, while at the very same time, surrounded by pasty middle aged white men who cannot turn the tide of their conversations away from politics or whatever sport is in season , literally talking about the weather.

Am I even doing this right??
Image
, comment by Nomansjam
Nomansjam I still can't believe my '82 Dodge Van (3 speed stick) made it up there & back
I brought a Beasties fanboy friend with me
Needless to say he exploded to Sabotage
***
We need to Went back up Limestone; Do it Phish!!
, comment by neosphorbin
neosphorbin You lost me here: "I’m confident those would be the top four vote-getters of any poll of favorite Phish festivals, with maybe the Clifford Ball sneaking in there"

I have a feeling you're confidence is based on the fact that most of the people you know and/or interact with on a frequent basis were not at many (if any) of the 1.0 festivals. Then again, I wasn't at Lemonwheel (or Oswego for that matter). But having been to all the others, Clifford Ball EASILY fits in my top 5 festival experiences.

Great article, I like the way it's written.
, comment by krivraq
krivraq "1998’s festival, aka Lemonwheel, whose toilet situation NBA writer Jason Concepcion compared to one of World War I’s grisliest battles."

Nope. Lemonwheel was high and dry, and they figured out the porta-john scenario after the previous year's catastrophe. Perhaps the symbolism of the porta-john tower and Trey's reference/joke about Fish with said tower during the show?

The Went was raining (at least) Friday into Saturday morning (when we arrived and set up our tent in the rain) and the porta-johns were overflowing by Sunday and never got taken care of until post festival.

Attended both.

Forgive my OCD about details.
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