[We'd like to thank Jennifer Moore (Twitter: @rowjenny) for recapping Trey Anastasio's and Page McConnell's one set performance prior to Phish's show last night. This intimate acoustic performance was for a select number of fans; giving them access to the SPAC Foundation Lounge before and throughout the Phish show, and special Foundation poster and merch, in addition to other amenities. More information can be found at https://phishfloodrecoverybenefit.100xhospitality.com/. -ed.]
On the terrible day in July that Vermont started experiencing catastrophic flooding, I made a joke online “Phish play another flood benefit show in Vermont (too soon?)” As it turns out, it wasn’t too soon. Phish started planning two benefit shows at SPAC almost immediately when the flooding started. The last time Phish played a flood benefit for Vermont (SIGH) it was held at the fairgrounds in Essex, Vermont, capacity 11K. This time, Phish chose SPAC for two nights, capacity 25K.
SPAC is an amazing choice for Vermonters for these shows – it is the closest amphitheater to the state, and for many of us, we consider this our home venue. I grew up in upstate NY and cut my Phish teeth here, too. There have been 21 standalone Phish shows at SPAC and I’ve been to all of them. As someone who adopted Vermont as her home state for twenty plus years, it means a lot that this band and the entire organization put together these shows in such a short period of time. Huge thanks to everyone who made these shows and this special event happen.
It has been raining in Vermont and Upstate NY all summer long. Relentlessly. And on cue, it was raining yesterday, the entire drive from Burlington to Albany. After getting our daughter settled at a friends in Albany, I caught a ride back to Saratoga and landed on lot at about 3:30. Doors to the Foundation event opened at 4, and at 3:30 there were only a handful of people waiting to get in. I caught some of soundcheck, which included "My Soul," Fast Enough For You" and "Wombat!" At 4:00pm, doors opened, and after the usual security shenanigans, we were given Foundation wristbands and drink tickets as we walked in.
The Foundation preshow was held at the Charles R. Wood Stage, a little tiny stage at the back of the lawn near concessions. It is small and simple, with a beautiful all wood back wall. It looks like the kind of stage a kids’ summer theater would perform on. The stage had a few hundred chairs set up in front of it, but also a little very low platform directly in front. On the platform, people put their things down and started to get settled, but then security asked us to stand up for a moment, while they laid out wool rugs and comfy cushions for people to sit on. WOW! Trey’s setup was in his usual spot, but Page’s spot was flipped and to Trey’s left. Trey had two acoustic guitars and Page had his full grand piano. Incredibly intimate and cool place for this very special event.
With some time to burn before the performance, I wandered back to the big white tent set up for the Foundation Lounge. This was not your usual Phish experience. I have been to many of the MSG Waterwheel events, but this set up was next level. The huge tent was decorated like some sort of middle eastern hookah bar meets Vermont hippie hang out. There were couches and sitting cushions spread out on jute rugs, chandeliers with greenery, an amazing food spread from all Vermont restaurants (Skinny Pancake, Miso Hungry), a bar with custom Phish themed cocktails, and Ben and Jerry’s of course! There was also a tremendous raffle offering where you could take your chance at winning a slew of prizes, including the SPAC 2016 Taylor Triptychs.
As show time approached, it sure seemed like the rain might hold off. And then, of course, just like the entire summer, it didn’t. Oh how apropos, a Flood Benefit show and the rain is coming down strong. An announcement was made just prior to the performance asking people to remain seated during the performance and to remain respectful of your neighbors by not blocking their view. So that meant our umbrella had to go, and we just had to take the rain as it was going to fall. I settled in on a corner of my friend’s rain jacket and hoped I wouldn’t get too soaked (wishful thinking)!
Page and Trey came out from behind a sliding barn door at the back of the stage at 5:06 to a warm and enthusiastic welcome from the few hundred people there. The duo opened with "If I Could" as the rain continued to soak everyone. As would be the case for the entire performance, my heart strings were tugged tight with "If I Could." Before the next song, Trey thanked those in attendance for supporting Waterwheel and the flood victims in Vermont and Upstate NY.
Next on the setlist was "Brian and Robert," after which Trey changed guitars. "Sleep!" First one of 4.0. But then an even bigger rarity, "TALK!" Phish hasn’t played "Talk" since the acoustic show at Indio in 2009. What a lovely way to showcase these songs that don’t always translate to giant loud arenas. During "Talk," it appeared that the rain might be ending and the sun peeked through but it was a brief interlude and then the rain kicked right back in.
Trey then told the crowd the next song was something that he and Page hadn’t rehearsed. "Strange Design!!!" Up until now, the crowd had held cheers until the end of the songs, but everyone couldn’t help but sing along to this one. Just relax you’re doing fine! Except for the rain. RELENTLESS! Page’s glasses are fogging up at this point, and mine are too. Somewhere in the middle of "Strange Design," Page’s glasses are OFF. As the chorus picks back up at the end of the song, it is POURING while the crowd cheers.
Next up is "Mountains in the Mist," and rain is certainly falling on my shoulders. And my head, and every other part of me, too. The rugs and the cushions are all soaked, but no one cares. My glasses are still fogged up, but at some point while Trey and Page are sweetly playing the instrumental section of the song, the rain stops!
Page and I both put our glasses back on and the set ends with "Sample in a Jar." "Sample" turns into a complete sing along, and the soggy but stoked crowd obliges with a raucous accompaniment.
Thirty minutes of acoustic love from Trey and Page. Everyone was soaked but hearts were SO FULL. A truly special performance with an incredibly special purpose near and dear to my heart. THANK YOU!
Looking forward to round 2 tonight!
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