Dancing and raging, my first Phish show

by Yome NetSan 27. November 2013

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 - 8:05 PM - Reading, PA

Lights switched off.
Speakers muted.
People screaming.
Phish coming on stage for the first time in Reading, PA.
Phish coming on stage for the first time in front of my eyes.


First Set

My first Phish song caught me by surprise.

When I thought about what would be my dream setlist, I came up with too many songs to fit in a regular show, even in a two days/three sets festival, actually ! And yet, I didn't thing about this one, even though I had a kind of obsession for it several years ago.
Cars, trucks, buses.
What a fit choice after the countless hours of travels I had that day !
What a way to start a week of concerts I've been waiting for so long !

The rest of the set was like a dream too, like the dream I had so many times but better : Stealing Time from the Fault Plan (one of my favorite, maybe a little more favorite than my other favorties), Divided Sky (the pause seemed endless, I felt suspended on air), Sparkle (I used to sing this one a lot when I played the guitar), that Split Open and Melt jam...

Like I had expected, the glance of the band coming on stage haven't driven me nuts. I was over-happy and bouncing of course, but I've watched so many videos, dvds or webcasts along the years, that I have had no real shock when the show started. I felt like I was in my element, like I've always meant to be here. I made eye contact with everyone around me, smiling and sharing high-fives. I've always loved watching people at concerts, sometimes more than looking at the stage actually. Everybody was so cheerful, so happy, so nice, so welcoming. I've never felt this at any other concert in my life. It was the first time but I felt at home, in my family.

My Phish family, at long last.



I saw Yasu again on my way back. We spoke a few minutes and then I went to buy some water. The access to the first floor was tight and crowded but everybody was laughing, joking... I met Gilles at the Waterwheel Foundation table, an easy way to find each other. We spoke about these great first set. We felt very lucky to see the band at this time in their career. I hadn't listened to anything from this fall tour yet but all I had heard about it from the Web and Gilles were praises.

During setbreak, several fans stopped by me to ask if it really was a french flag I was carrying. One guy specificaly, Ken, was amazed to find a french fan at this show : his wife's family have been traveling from France to visit them this very day ! I asked him where do they come from in France. He said Lyon. No way ! I'm from Lyon too !! We couldn't stop laughing. That was crazy indeed ! He asked Gilles to take a picture of us with the flag. I gave him my card so that he can send me the picture by email and I received it a few days ago.
You should definitely check out his photographs on his website, they rock : www.kenscelfo.tumblr.com

You can notice that I chose to wear an old school Phish T-Shirt for my first show. I don't know from when it is or if it's official, but it represent what the Phish community is all about : sharing and having fun. Why ? When I bought The Story of the Ghost LP on ebay, a long time ago, when this vinyl wasn't expensive yet, the seller had put the Tee in the package as a free bonus without reason, just to please.


Second Set

I was very lucky to have a general admission floor ticket but after my back problems the week before I didn't want to risk anything. So I decided it would be safer to see the second set in one of the sections with a seat at hand if my back hurted too much.

I ended in Section 103, on Page side (Rage side), with Gilles. We had a nice view from above the stage and quite close too. I was surprised how good the sound was even if we weren't facing the band. There were speakers all around the stage, even some directed to the back sections. This kind of set up (multi-direction speakers and seats behind the stage) doesn't exist in Europe, at least I've never heard of it.

This second set was fantastic. We had great jams, long and diverse. During the whole concert, we had a little bit of everything in terme of jam and songs. We had jazz, rock, bluegrass, funk, dissonant explorations, spacy moments, bluesy improvisations... 

When Twenty Years Later started, Gilles gave me a claps on my shoulder : it was his piss-song. We laughed about that in the car during the day. I couldn't understand how people could skip a song during a concert. Especialy from my point of view, I've never had the chance to see my favortie band live and those fans have the luxury to choose to piss instead of listening to the show.
But when the band started to jam extensively the song for the first time ever, I started laughing.
There can't be no piss-song ! Every song is important ! Phish is important !

The boys really were at the top of their game. I'm yet to listen to this show again (I actually received my livephish CDs today) but I'm sure it's one of the best I've ever heard, and I don't say that because it was my first show. I think I managed to listen to the music with the same ears as when I listen to a show with my headphones in France.

After 5 jams in the second set, they even treat us with a beautiful You Enjoy Myself. Even the vocal jam at the end, which I don't always like, was really melodic and surprising.

Wasn't that enought ?
What about an a cappela song ?

I wouldn't have dream to hear one and there it was, Grind, on my first show ! For the records, here are the number of days for the October 29th 2013 :

  • Page = 18428
  • Jon = 17784
  • Trey = 17926
  • Mike = 17680
  • Total = 71818
  • Mine = 12096 ;)




When they came back for the encore, I didn't want it to end. But with Bouncing Around the Room, I thought it would be short. I was wrong.

I love this song. I first heard it as the very first song of A Live One, my second Phish record ever after Junta. So I was very glad to hear it tonight. I also thought it was another common piss-song and as an encore, I guess some people left the arena early to avoid traffic jam.

But at the end of the song, they didn't leave, instead, they jump right into Reba ! I was already aware I was witnessing a unique show tonight. The kind of show about which we'll be talking in years to come. But when they started Reba, I felt part of a historic moment.

With Phish, you never know what will happen next. I loved that feeling when you don't know what will happen. Phish is capable of everything, especially what you don't expect. It's like being on top of a mountain, looking down and ready to jump, but you don't know when the wind will blow and push you.

And after this beautiful surprise, they put an end to this evening with a rocker : Good Times, Bad Times.

For their first show in Reading, Phish really knew how to please their fans. Too bad they won't play here anymore...

No, they won't, ever.
Yes, I have a theory :
The only 4 times Reba has been played as an encore (10/29/201310/19/201009/21/199903/31/1991) were the first and only times Phish played a full show at these venues. That means if Phish plays a venue for the first time ever, you may expect a Reba encore (but you won't always have it). On the other way around, if Phish has already played the venue, you won't have a Reba encore. And if Phish does play a Reba encore, the band will never play the venue again ! Simple facts ! ;-)


As we were walking outside the venue, my mind was still inside. It was hard to leave but it was easier to think I'll see Phish again 3 times in the next 4 days.

Several doors had been opened to let the crowd out so I haven't found Yasu again to wish him a safe trip home. We walked to the car and drove to the hotel very quickly. On the parking lot, I asked a group of fans if, by any chance, they planned to drive to Atlantic City on the next day. I thought it would be more fun to share a ride with a bunch of fans than taking the bus. But they would either drive back home or take the bus too. So I said Good night and see you tomorrow !

After all that I had experienced that day, I surprisingly fell asleep in a flash. My only concern was not to miss the bus on the morning.


The day after

I had a hard time waking up at 7.20.
I went to take a breakfast and soon, I heard someone at the hotel reception with a slight french accent. When he came in the breakfast room I asked him in french if he was from France. In a couple of seconds, we found out that we talked on the Internet before : he was Jean-Yves, the fan from Paris, I've tried to meet at the concert !

Seriously, what were the chances we meet at the breakfast in the same hotel ?! Luck has followed me from the very beginning, and it wasn't the last time...

Gilles also came to eat something and I introduced them. Jean-Yves know the band since 1992 and have been following them quite closely during their Europe tours for the french website djouls.com (doing interviews, filming and even driving crew members from Lille to Amsterdam). At one point, another fan (american this time) arrived in the room and was puzzled to suddenly find himself surrounded by three french-speaking people !

We finally part ways as Jean-Yves didn't have tickets for the Atlantic City run. He would watch it in a friend's house in New York on a giant screen.


At 9.30, Gilles dropped me at the Greyhound bus station. I had to take a first bus to Philadelphia at 10 AM and then another one to Atlantic City while he would drive on his own to Washington to visit a cousin and to go to another concert : Chris Thile. This guy never stops !

The first thing I noticed at the station (after the several Phish fans, including those I met on the hotel's parking lot) is an arcade video game : Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga. So I felt obliged to put a few coins in it (with a little help from one of the fans).

The bus left Reading of schedule and I talked a little with the other fans at the beginning of the ride. Then I tried to sleep, listening to Miles Davis' Jack Johnson Sessions...



I'll take a little break (while translating my posts for Gamusik and writing the next one) but I'll be back with a lot more music, travels and surprises.

Don't go away !


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