By Alex Neal
When I heard that Trey Anastasio and the other three members of the jam band Phish would be stopping in Burgettstown during their 2012 summer tour, I knew I had to purchase tickets. As the end of June approached, I became increasingly excited to see them perform at First Niagara Pavilion. Saturday night, I know I wasn’t the only person experiencing, for the first time, the magic that keyboardist Page McConnell, bassist Mike Gordon, drummer Jon Fishman, and Anastasio put on, and I also know that I wasn’t the only one completely blown away. Phish shows are not considered to be some of the largest parties in the world for nothing.
With thousands of people from all over the United States in attendance, it was clear that these four guys knew a little something about what they were doing. They approached the stage, and as the first notes of “Funky Bitch” flowed out of their instruments, the crowd came alive as the song lived up to its name. Everyone around me was moving and singing along with every song. The people navigating through the walkway in front of me were even dancing and hopping happily to the music.
As the sun was setting behind the crowd and the band launched into their second set, the genius responsible for the light show caught my attention, and the real magic began. With every synchronized wave of sound and flash of light, I came closer to understanding why lighting manager Chris Kuroda is considered by some to be the fifth member of the band. The five men put on a remarkable show that reminded me to be happy about where I was, and grateful for whom I was there with.
If you had any questions about the set list for the June 23 show, Phish.net could answer them, as well as those you may have for every other show the band has ever performed, stats for each song, comments on the performance, and an overall rating of each (we got 4.5!). These devout fans aren’t only on the Internet, or at the shows that come to their hometowns. There is a good portion of “Phans,” as they’re called, whose lives revolve around following one of the most talented bands in America. These are the people who can explain to you how hearing the last song of the first continuous set, “You Enjoy Myself,” or YEM, was pretty cool because it was played for the first time since the band’s 2012 summer tour began, or how “The Lizards,” a song off the unofficial album, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, hadn’t been performed solely as an encore since November 22, 1994. These are the people who can guess what song the band will open with for each set because they’ve been paying attention to every show of every tour for years, and who expected the trampolines to be pulled out for Mike and Trey during YEM.
At one point during “Bouncing Around the Room,” the small screen in front of me offered a close up of Trey as he strummed his guitar, staring out to the crowd. The notes lingered in the air as I wondered if the five men knew what they were doing to all of us standing there soaking it in. They must have. I would imagine it has to be hard to ignore the fact that tens of thousands of people of divergent backgrounds can come together to form one amazing, positive, and energetic crowd under the appreciation of the artistic talent that their band has been demonstrating since their formation in 1983. The magic of a Phish show is definitely not something to miss. Phish, phish.com.