When Phish announced their fall tour plans a few months back, the Glens Falls Civic Center date jumped right out at me. I was lucky enough to attend the Halloween ’94 show there that catapulted the band into the mainstream, and sent me from coast to coast the next two plus years following the band around. I was not going to miss it!
After a rock solid show in Rochester the day before, and after picking up my friend Adam in Herkimer, we set off for Glens Falls. Arriving in town around 4:30, the Civic Center was in view and the crowd (and the police) were already surrounding the building. The ’94 show did have some bad moments as those shut out started to rush the gates and throw bottles at police. This time around, the police presence was beefed up around the venue, but the preshow crowd was mild mannered at best with most smiling and chatting among phriends.
Several preshow parties were in effect, and after parking off Elm and South, I set off for 42 Degrees. Specializing in custom made glass works, 42 Degrees is one of the premier head shops in all of Upstate NY. With in-house glass blowing, and munchies and drinks available, 42 Degrees was packed by the time I arrived. My next stop was Aimee’s Dinner & Movie, which hosted an art show featuring some of the scene’s best artists, and the next door Wallabee’s Jazz Bar, where local favorites High Peaks Band were laying it down for the masses. Check them out when you can they deliver!
From there I ventured over to the Downtown City Tavern to catch a set by Acoustically Speaking, featuring Mik Bondy and Kat Walkerson of The Garcia Project. This stripped down duo features Mik on guitar while both he and Kat share vocal duties. Their soulful renditions of Garcia Band favorites meshed perfectly with my Octoberfest preshow draft. After talking with Mik and Kat on their break, I headed over to the Civic Center to get my credentials and check in for the main event.
Although I had a floor ticket for this one, I headed instead to the upper level behind the stage to snag some dancing space. Not surprisingly, I ran into some other ’94s up there looking for some space as well. It wasn’t long before I found a sweet spot as the lights lowered and the band appeared on stage. The energy was already amped up considerably, and when the opening notes of “Back in the USSR” started, it was like a flame to gasoline as the place erupted. It brought me back for sure, and the lyric “Gee it’s good to be back home” really nailed the moment. Phish left no doubt that this was not a total throwback, when the opening guitar licks of “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan” sent us all back to the future; Trey was on his game already.
Next up was “Water in the Sky”, which gave me a chance to catch my breath and my second wind. I would need it as a seven minute “Undermind” showcasing Page’s funkiness led to a midset “David Bowie” reminiscent of a mid-90’s version, clocking in at just over 10 minutes. Old school favorites “Golgi Apparatus” and “Gumbo” were next, followed by Mike Gordon’s “Yarmouth Road”, which debuted at SPAC this summer. The old school feel continued with “Camel Walk” and “Horn”, and was followed by a decent but standard version of “Limb by Limb”.
“I Didn’t Know” was next, which brought Fishman and his vacuum out behind his kit. Trey asked “For 19 years we’ve all been wondering, is he gonna do it again??”, referring to Fishman getting naked at Glens Falls Civic Center the last time they played. He replied: ” I can if you want, but I doubt you want that”. The set ended with a standard version of “Split Open and Melt” that did feature some Trey licks towards the end. On paper this was a decent set at best, but if you were there, the place was rocking and the energy was intense.
After some random acts of kindness during the intermission, I headed down to the floor, just to the right of Chris Kuroda and the light board. “Rock and Roll” opened the set with a bounce and some ripping guitar from Trey. The groove slowed and “Seven Below” emerged, a standard version that gained momentum towards the end, which led to a spirited version of “Alaska”.
The set’s highlight was the 14 minute “Twist”, complete with full band exploration for the first time all night. CK was on fire as well, and his new light rig was put to the test. A very soothing “Wading in the Velvet Sea” followed, one of the best versions I’ve seen or heard, which led to “Harry Hood”, featuring a glow stick war that wouldn’t quit. The place was going crazy for sure, and the “Chalkdust Torture” that followed continued the late set dance party proper.
After a very loud and lengthy ovation, the band reappeared, and Trey spoke about how great it was to play near Burlington and in Upstate New York in particular, and that many friends and family from the past 30 years were there to help celebrate. The band then revisited their Halloween past with a fitting “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” to wrap it up.
Exiting the arena, everyone was smiling from ear to ear, all of us knowing we were a part of Phish history once again. I ended my night at Hotshots, were Albany’s Mister F and Vermont’s Twiddle were the perfect nightcap to an incredible day of live music in Upstate New York.