Monday, August 16, 2010

Alpine Valley Phishing 2010: Freaks, Fairies and....Families?!

25 years...25 shows.

Love 'em or hate 'em, the band, Phish, has been around for 25 years and they can still pull in the crowds.

When people see Sagezilla and Du-Jay at shows each year, someone inevitably asks if it's their 1st Phish show.   Sunday at Alpine Valley actually marked a milestone as Du-Jay's 25th Phish show and Sagezilla's 17th.

Du's now big enough to wear MY shirts.   This one is from Phish 2004 at Noblesville, AKA Deer Creek, concert mecca and unrivaled Midwestern outdoor venue.   Du and Zilla were 1 and 3 when they saw that show, in their all terrain Baby Jogger stroller.

We also like to DIY and make our own Phish wear with a color copier, dark t-shirt transfers and an iron.   This one is for the Phish classic, Hood.   Waaaay back in the early days, Phish rehearsed across from a Hood dairy plant.   

Their playful song, Harry Hood, speculates on the adventures of the Hood dairy mascot pictured on Sagezilla's shirt.   They muse about what he does when the fridge door is closed, with the lyrics "Harry Hood, Harry Hood.   Where do you go when the lights go out?"   We Googled Hood Dairy and found an image of their mascot, Harry, and we were good to go, with our one of a kind concert tee.

Phish called it quits in 2004, after touring nearly non stop since 1985, and members moved on to other side and solo projects.   They didn't reunite until 2009.   However, their fans from back in the day, were busy reproducing over the hiatus, and now a new generation of fresh Phish fans are coming to the shows in backpacks, slings and strollers.   We saw more families than ever before, dancing on the hills of Alpine Valley's ski resort.   It is a gorgeous venue, and under 2 hours north of Chicago.

Double click slide show for full screen.

Of course, a large part of the show is the audience.   

The party in the parking lot, playful costumes, and people watching are a huge part of the fun.   We met a bunch of friendly people around us who all introduced themselves.   Then we all shared snacks, bottled water, and fun toys like bubbles, balloons and Sharpies to draw or write on them, and lots of glow sticks.   How many concerts have fans that friendly?

    Creative car finder

The kids favorite Phish lot game to play is guess the set list.   It seems to be almost universal.   Everyone loves to shout out or sing snips of the songs they want to hear, or guess Phish will play.   With an extensive repertoire of songs to choose from, and every night different, it's always a fun guessing game to play.

Saturday night, Du-Jay and Sagezilla got to hear Reba and Run Like an Antelope, that they had guessed.   Sunday night, we correctly guessed Tweezer and Moma Dance.   Du-Jay is already chomping at the bit to play the next level of that game...correctly writing down the set list as the show progresses.   He's fairly good at it already.

Phish is renowned for "glow stick wars", a man made meteor shower of glow stick that rain down on the crowd, only to be picked up by the hand full and thrown again.   It's a sight to be seen. 

When the kids fell asleep on our blanket and backpacks, half way through the 2nd set, I gathered the glow sticks around the sleeping kids, so they'd be highly visible and not get accidentally stepped on.   They rallied for our walk to the car, and woke up enough to appreciate an impressive display of fireworks from the numerous parking lots.

There are a lot of misconceptions about Phish.   In much of mainstream, suburban America, the name Phish conjures images of nomadic, dread locked hippies living in micro buses.   
Certainly, some of their fans fit that profile, but our friends we've been going to shows with for 15 years are high school teachers and college professors.   They're smart, articulate people with advanced degrees and full time employment.   We also met more teachers at the Toyota Park shows and at Alpine, too.   

Our punk friends tend to rip on Phish, because they dislike the jam band genre and their self indulgent noodling.   

But they get heavy and really rock the jams with some of their songs, like Carini, and covers of Led Zeppelin, Hendrix and even Rage Against the Machine.   They did a dark, fun Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars, on Sunday that was much more reminiscent of 80's punk than Grateful Dead.

Just when you think you can explain Phish's playful, literate sense of humor and their sound to someone, they mutate and change again.   My parents have heard their long piano pieces where Page sounds classical, or more jazz influenced tunes, and really enjoyed them.   They often ask "Who is this?" and are inevitably surprised to hear that it's Phish.

The tickets aren't cheap, but they play long sets, so fans get their money's worth.   Where else can you see a drummer in a polka dotted muumuu playing an Electrolux vacuum into a microphone.  
Where else can you see a guitar player and bass player bouncing in sync on mini trampolines to a piano solo?

    Trey and Mike do a synchronized bounce in all directions on mini trampolines.

For sheer, wacky fun, performance art, and accomplished, clever, genre crossing music, a Phish concert is something to be experienced.  I'll leave you with a YouTube video of Moma dance, a sailing song and clever play on words.
"Though I feel winds, the moment ends...the moment ends.   The moma dance the moma dance."   Enjoy.


  1. Ack! I wish I had been there!!

  2. Tell Dugan that the next show we go to together, I'll help him keep a set list. :) He'll have to get a tour book!

  3. It's a fun experience watching them live. When they're on stage, people listen. There's no texting that goes on, or loud obnoxious conversation. It's simply a concert where they take command and you listen.