Telluride lands Phish

Telluride lands Phish

by D. Dion

It’s hard not to feel lucky having one of the precious tickets to the Phish shows in Telluride. Phish hasn’t played here in almost 20 years, since it was a quirky East Coast band just emerging on the scene, and this is the only stop in the Rocky Mountains that Phish will make on their summer tour.

And while it will be a huge concert for Telluride (the town’s population is less than 2,400, but 9,000 tickets have been sold for each of the two shows), the band has essentially outgrown this small pond. Phish had the largest attendance of any concert, anywhere, on the millennium New Year’s Eve, drawing 85,000 people to the Florida Everglades. The band plays big stadiums like Madison Square Garden or Fenway Park and festivals like Bonnaroo. For Phish, Telluride Town Park will be an intimate venue, albeit not one as cozy as the Moon, the Roma or the old Elks Lodge, where they used to play when they first broke into the mountain music market here in the late 80s.

Some Phish phans are already speculating that the Telluride shows, a solitary and small stop in the mountain West, will be something special. Phish (Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Page McConnell and Jon Fishman) is known for its musicianship and its ardent “phollowers.” The band’s disciples are at least as fanatical as Deadheads, with websites and blogs devoted to Phish and insider details about the group; there is even one small cult of fans devoted to Chris Kuroda, the technician responsible for Phish’s renowned light shows.

Phish encourages this kind of intimacy with its audiences. From interactive concerts where McConnell would hit a key every time a member of the crowd hit the beach ball, adding a melody line to the song, or where a giant chess game took place between the crowd and the band (attendees would vote for a collective move at each stop on tour), Phish has a special relationship with its phans. A relationship where shows sell out minutes after they go on sale on the Internet, and where obsessed audiophiles wonder months ahead of time whether the band will play selections from Gamehendge, a story that unfolds in a suite of songs that originated from Anastasio’s senior music thesis. A relationship where phans wait out the years when the band goes on hiatus, traveling to any of the shows where Phish members sit in with other groups like Benevento/Russo or YMSB, and then buy the next Phish studio album and tickets for each reunion show.

So will Telluride be special? It will be for me. Of all the big jam bands, the Dead, String Cheese, or Widespread Panic, I think I like Phish best of all. They are music geeks, and I like complicated, intricate music. Their lyrics are offbeat and their melodies are infectious, and their crescendos catch me viscerally every time. So even though I am nine months pregnant, and will only be able to waddle instead of hula-hoop, dance or party, I still feel lucky that Phish is coming to my backyard in Telluride and that I have a ticket. I can’t wait to see them play, and I know “You (will) Enjoy Myself.”

I just hope I don’t go into labor.

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