TVD Live Shots: Phish at the Allstate Arena, 10/26

If there is a fan base more passionately dedicated to the live experience than the jam band fan base, I’ve yet to encounter it. Their level of commitment far surpasses fans of other musical genres. Phish phans are no exception—and arguably the golden standard of jam fandom.

I arrived to Rosemont’s Allstate Arena for the first of three sold-out nights of Phish in time to wander through Shakedown Street, a staple of the jam community. Vendors of all kinds were doing their best to try to make a buck so that they can continue to follow the band on their tour. A quick walk offered me an array of things to purchase: beer, shirts, jewelry, bowls, art, drugs, and lots and lots of grilled cheese options.

Inside the arena, I made way to the photo pit where an enthusiastic fan informed me that the band wouldn’t be on for another 30 minutes. He was right and I was glad because it gave me the opportunity to observe the rituals of the most diehard of phans. Floor tickets were general admission, so those closest to the photo pit were just beginning to sit up and fold their blankets. Some pulled meals out of plastic bags, while others pulled out changes of clothes.

There was a lot of hydrating and stretching. Like, so much stretching. Some yoga, some meditating. Some setlist guessing. And then like clockwork, just as the lights dimmed, they began to wildly dance and didn’t stop until the last note of the encore. I’m not talking about some head bobbing and swaying. I’m talking dancing with intention and fervor—flailing limbs and beaming faces. Seasoned pros, all of them. Talk about dedication. Even after my 15 minutes in the photo pit, I watched those fans from my seat in awe. That’s what so great about jam fans—they want to give just as much as they want to receive. There’s a mutual respect between those on the stage and those in the audience and that type of communal energy sharing ultimately elevates the environment.

Oh yeah I guess I should talk about Phish too. The Vermont quartet put on my favorite show to date—and I’ve been going to their shows since 1997, so that’s saying something. The energy was simply off the charts, as was their improvising. I don’t think they’ve ever sounded stronger. In the first set, I thought we had reached max peak during “Reba,” but an extended and gorgeous version of “Mercury,” which bled into Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream,” had the crowd so ecstatic that I thought the cheers might blow the roof off. “Tweezer” and “Wilson” were second set highlights, along with their covers—”Golden Age” (TV on the Radio) and “A Day in the Life” (The Beatles).

Phish’s fall tour concludes in Vegas with four nights of phun beginning this evening, for what is sure to be a memorable Halloween performance.

Set 1

Punch You in the Eye
Martian Monster
My Sweet One
Moonage Daydream (David Bowie cover)
Walls of the Cave

Set 2
Golden Age (TV on the Radio cover)
Frost (Trey Anastasio song)
Limb by Limb
A Day in the Life (The Beatles cover)

Tweezer Reprise

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