Is Watkins Glen Getting Revved up for Phish?

While the major story in the music world the past few days has been the July reunion of the ‘Core Four’ members of the Grateful Dead featuring Trey Anastasio, Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti, news that Phish may be returning to Watkins Glen International Speedway later this summer was lost in the mix.

Photo by Andy Hill
Photo by Andy Hill

Two years ago, ‘s Johnny Goff spoke to WGI President Michael Printup to get the low down on the potential for a 2013 festival at the track. We got a firm ‘no’ from Printup but this year we haven’t heard anything official, leading to plenty of local media and fan speculation.

Photo by Andy Hill
Photo by Andy Hill

Based on reports from Syracuse and Ithaca newspapers, it looks like the track season ending early paves the way, literally, for Phish to perform at the track. Paving at the track in early August opens the potential for a large-scale concert at the racing grounds, and leaves open much of August for Phish to play at the site of their 2011 Superball IX festival. This is of course dependent on paving ending in time for a music festival or large scale concert to be held. With Trey playing at Soldier Field in early July, that would potentially push Phish tour dates back a few weeks into late July, leaving a summer-ending festival lined up nicely for Watkins Glen.

photo by Andy Hill
Photo by Andy Hill

Considering the great deal of money that was added to the local communities as a result of Superball IX, and with the Southern Tier region of the state always in need of a good economic boost, a potential Phish festival couldn’t come at a better time. Phish could of course return to Maine, where they held three successful festivals in 1997, 1998 and 2003, but those festivals made sense back then, not now when there are a great deal of music festivals to compete with. Plus, Watkins Glen just makes more sense being geographically-centric to the Phish fan base in the Northeast and remote enough to have the built in intimacy that all Phish festivals have manifested.

Phish playing the Finger Lakes goes back more than a decade, with memorable shows at Darien Lake, Canandaigua and Watkins Glen. According to ‘s Johnny Goff, in 2002, the County Executive of Chemung County reported that Great Northeast Productions contacted him to seek out a 300 acre space between I-90 and I-86 to hold a music festival. The region has long been a site with potential for a Phish festival, and with that in mind, the Finger Lakes region is prime for a Phish festival once again.

Speculation from media outlets adds to this potential and keeps all eyes focused on August, likely before or after Peach Festival (August 13-16). We will keep you updated on any news of Phish’s potential festival as speculation develops.

If Phish played Watkins Glen in August, would you also plan to attend ‘Fare Thee Well’ in Chicago over Fourth of July weekend?