Phish in Telluride: Trip down memory lane

Phish in Telluride: Trip down memory lane


by D. Dion

It wasn’t anything like seeing Phish or a jam band back in the 90s. For one thing, I was 9 months pregnant and sitting in the back, stone cold sober, and too exhausted to join my one-year-old daughter in her feverish spinning dance on the tarp in front of me. For another thing, I can’t remember ever sitting down at a concert like Phish, or even bringing a chair to such a show. My friend, also 9 months pregnant, was sitting in the back with me. She leaned over and confessed, “I really wish I could have a hit of nitrous. I don’t really miss drinking, and I’ve never been much of a pothead or anything, but I have always loved nitrous.”

The whole night was like that, one long reminiscence. Seeing people twitching with that front-row frenzy, their internal speakers set to “11,” was like looking at myself ten years ago. And the songs evoked long forgotten memories. How long has it been since I sang “Would you please, please drive me to Firenze?” or “When you’re here, I sleep lengthwise, and when you’re gone, I sleep diagonal in my bed,” or since I stayed up all night literally bouncing around the room? There was something familiar and comfortable about the music, the lyrics and the way the mountains cradled the sound, which was, by the way, about twice as loud as any band I’ve ever seen play Telluride Town Park.

I wasn’t the only one reminiscing. Even the band was talking about the old days. Before the encore Trey shared an anecdote about the first time Phish played in Telluride, back in 1988, when they drove to town from the East Coast in a windowless van, believing they were about to play a huge festival. Instead they ended up playing for about a dozen people at the Roma every night for almost a week, but Telluride had obviously made a good impression, good enough to make it their lone Rocky Mountain stop on their summer 2010 tour 22 years later. And they toasted the town again—or at least the handful of people from town who were at the show back in ’88— by serenading us with “Run Like An Antelope.” Apparently that was the song they parodied with some alternate lyrics when Jon Fishman showed up 45 minutes late to that long ago gig, after getting cliffed out on a hike.

There was something comforting for me, though, about knowing that the band was sober, too. They are family men now, all grown up and still doing what they love. They have never sounded better to me, and I am not sure if it is because I am older and have a more discerning ear or because Phish has ripened with age and improved from time spent collaborating with other musicians while the band was on hiatus. It doesn’t really matter, I guess, as long as they are igniting the creative spark of some up-and-coming musicians in the audience, in the same way they were passed the torch by the Dead and the musicians that came before them.  Phans have the same duty to pass their love for music on to the next generation. Watching my daughter, a toddler-sized whirling dervish, I know who will continue to carry my passion for live music; and it’s a good thing. Next summer I will have someone to dance with in Town Park.

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