, attached to 1997-08-16

Review by zzyzx

zzyzx (Published in the second edition of The Phish Companion...)

There are four kinds of legendary concerts. There are shows that are renowned for their locale (e.g. Red Rocks or The Gorge), shows that get high praise for being a special event (Halloween or NYE), shows that are exalted for the band’s great playing, and the ever-popular great-looking setlist shows. If a show has two or three of these things going for it, it will be remembered forever. The Great Went was the extremely rare show that was legendary in every category.

I first knew that this was a bigger deal for Limestone than the Clifford Ball was for Plattsburgh. There were people parked on overpasses, looking on I-95, watching cars drive by below. Getting off of 95 in Houlton, I stopped in a gas station to see how people were handling the chaos. Everyone seemed to be having fun and enjoying themselves. I bought an ice cream bar and was told that it would take me four and a half hours to get there. That was a lie…by nearly an entire hour.

The first five miles of the drive went great (you know that I had to use the pun somewhere in this review), but then I was stopped. After about five minutes I got bored of sitting there and decided that it was time for auto tag. I got out of the car, ran to the one behind me, hit the hood and said, "Tag. You're it." I then looked in the car. It wasn't filled with Phish fans; rather it was a local mom with her kids. Beet red, I walked back to my car. About two minutes later, still stopped, one of the kids came up to my car, hit it and told me that I was it.

During the next half-hour, while we sat parked by the ironic "Reduced Speed Ahead" sign, I told the family about Phish. I played some tapes for them, and ended up giving them my spare copy of 12/31/96 III and a Mockingbird flyer. They gave me their address for tapes. However, I lost that sheet of paper. So guys, if you're reading this, I didn't mean to blow you off.

Traffic finally cleared up a bit and we were able to drive. Going through small town after small town watching the locals sitting in their yards and waving was amazing. I felt that we really were part of the show this time and it was our obligation to perform our tasks properly. The vendors had better have their best veggie burritos and T-shirts, the spinners must spin elegantly, the tapers should produce only A-1 quality tapes, and my timings would have to be perfect.

After an eternity of driving (I had flown into Boston that morning), being able to pick up Went Radio was a relief. I had been listening to the local station that had decided to play all Phish studio albums in shuffle play commercial-free all weekend, but it was getting old; hearing “Fluffhead” stop right before “Fluff's Travels” could begin was amusing though. On Went Radio, Mike revealed that he was singing “Ginseng Sullivan” wrong all these years. Did they fix the version they would play the next afternoon? Umm…no.

There was but one unfortunate occurrence at the Went, and that happened the first night. It rained. Hard. As a result there was a lot of mud throughout the next two days. I ruined a pair of shoes when I misjudged the wisdom of taking a shortcut. Other than that, and the expected high price of food…and the lack of portapotties, I had no complaints about the venue.

I went into the show early the first night to explore the Went Village. It was a lot more surreal than the Clifford Ball's village. The centerpiece was a station wagon, loaded down with suitcases, the Went's logo. The buildings included a free art booth, a bubble house (with mountains of soap bubbles), and a demolition derby between remote-controlled tiny household appliances. I was not the only one wandering the village — I ran into Mike doing the same. I couldn't believe that. Even with seventy-five thousand fans there, the band was still trying to hang out.

Outside of the village, there were other attractions. There was a corn maze with a castle in the middle. However, the corn wasn't quite high enough to make it interesting. There was the portapotty pavilion with a bathtub in the center. All in all, it appeared that they had outdone themselves again.

Around 4 PM, though, it appeared that my body wasn't going to cooperate. Sharp pains through my stomach suddenly appeared. I thought about the first-aid tent, but then I would miss part of the show. Fortunately, right before the show the pain went away. I didn't know it at the time, but this is the second time I had a kidney stone attack at a Phish show. Upon reflection, the thought of trying to get to a hospital from the middle of the show area is quite scary.

Allegedly at exactly 4:20, the band came on and opened with “Makisupa”. If I had noticed the time I would have been quite amused. As it was, my amusement began when the jam segued into the end of “Harpua”. No more would Phish be chastised for not finishing the Clifford Ball version; there just were a lot of songs played in the middle. “Chalk Dust” followed, at which point we were told that those songs were just the soundcheck (due to the lack of a formal one, allegedly due to a delay in the transit of the equipment from Darien).

Apparently they meant it. With the first three songs, this set lasted close to two hours. Most likely this was the longest set they ever played outside of some one-set shows (and 12/30/97, which was up there as well). While the length was impressive, it's the jams that are the thing. We would get those soon.

Second set opened with "Wolfman's". Earlier this summer I had foolishly assumed that the Gorge "Wolfman's" was the best that they ever had played or ever would play. They were just warming up. This version has an amazing jam that eventually evolves into "Simple". HmmmmR30;back-to-back jam songsR30;that works for me. The "Simple" jam had a long Odd Couple Theme tease. The transition between that and the "My Soul" intro was seamless. This is a beautiful segue. I know everyone hates this song, but I sure can't figure out why. I thought it just rocked. They came to a full stop and then started playing a jam that sounded like it was written by Snow White after being up for a week straight. Okay what's next? "Slave"?! No way! Finally they had to try to restore some sanity, but it was too late. It just wasn't meant for them to play a normal song this set; Mike couldn't remember any of the lines of "Rocky Top". Trey added to the amusement by loudly correcting Mike.

The third set has to be a letdown after that, right? Apparently not. The first "Halley's" since the Clifford Ball was to be our opener. This is a unique version of "Halley's Comet". The jam started out like the usual quick jam, but it kept going and going. It took an angry, almost heavy-metal turn that easily could have segued into "BBFCFM". Instead they invented a little vocal reprise, singing "I'm going down, to the central part of town." A happy little jam came out of this that slowed down and funked down until I suddenly realized I was going to get my first "Cities". Never mind the Slip Stitch and Pass version. This "Cities" just completely destroys it, not to mention TreyR17;s humorous lyrical substitution of "Fishman sleeps, sleeps in the daytime" and showing us where the "dry ice factory" was, by pointing out into the nothingness to the side of the stage. The funk went on and on until the jam started getting faster and faster and suddenly was Llama. At the time I thought this might have been the most exciting half-hour I had seen Phish perform. I had no idea how wrong that would be in a mere twenty-four hours.


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