, attached to 1998-08-15

Review by toddmanout

toddmanout On August 15th, 1998 I woke up on the tarmac of the Loring Air Force base in Limestone, Maine ready for day one of my second Phish festival (their third): Lemonwheel.

My friend Jason and I had arrived onsite the day before, having driven in from Vernon Downs, New York, the previous stop on our ten-day run of concerts south of the border. On the way in (or as Jason remembers it: on the way out) we were cruising along the interstate behind a hippie-van that was clearly bound for (or coming from) Lemonwheel as well. When all of a sudden a moose bolted out of the forest at a full gallop, running straight across the highway directly in front of the microbus! It happened in such a flash that I think the van’s brake lights didn’t even light up. Luckily, the moose was a millisecond ahead of the van, which missed the massive beast by mere inches. I had never seen anything like it.

The van immediately pulled over and so did we. The driver of the van was freaking out, hyperventilating and amazed that he and his friends were still alive. Close one, that was.

Anywho, with that either safely behind us or ignorantly ahead of us*, we pulled onsite at the festival just as the exhaust system fell off of Jason’s ailing Volkswagen Jetta. Well, not entirely. While it was the entire exhaust system, it didn’t entirely detach. So if the loud, rumbling mufflerless engine wasn’t loud enough we also had dangling, clanging metal bits scraping sparks against the pavement. We pulled into the first available spot we saw.

We pitched our tents right there on the asphalt, shook hands with our festival-neighbours and plunked ourselves down on the tarmac. We pulled out our cooler full of leftover duty-free Molson XXX and a cardboard-box of synthy-burgers that had been marinating in vintage icewater, cracked our first beers of the weekend and threw a bunch of burgers on the Coleman stove (our theme for the tour – and our argument for eating things we definitely shouldn’t have been eating – had been “fire kills everything”).

The weekend had begun.

The band played a soundcheck on the Friday evening but to me it was only rumour. I’m confident I was drowning it out with my Coleman-side acoustic Bon Jovi jams, which went over better than you might expect. Regardless, the concert field remained closed to mortals on Friday night.

The Saturday (and the day in question here) was a whole different situation, let me tell you! More beers and pre-poisonous burgers held the day until The Phish From Vermont began their mainstage musical glee that compromised of three full-on sets of jammy rock and roll before closing out with a candle-lit space-spa hour-long musical interlude-to-nowhere ambient set that I enjoyed immensely from my comfortable spot lying on the grass.

(Though logic tells me we probably watched the concerts from paved runways my memory tells me that we were in fact on a vast lawn. In this very moment memory is wrestling logic to the ground forcing it to say “uncle” and agree that Phish would not logically have made the crowd stand on concrete for the concerts. Looks like we can score this one: brain 1, brain 0. “In your face, brain!” sez brain.)

As I was still (barely) in my twenties at the time I’m confident that I spent the post-show hours drinking, guitar-roaming, and making new friends until sunlight forced me down for a short count. And while this is pure conjecture, it is based on a historical pattern that makes it almost certifiably true.

Festivals are fun!

*Jason has since convinced me that the moose incident was indeed on the way back to Canada after the weekend, but I’m not going to change things now. Nor will I add that he got strip-searched when we reached the border, another fact he reminded me of. No surprise that he remembers that bit more than I do.



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