Mansfield, MA

July 8 2016

by Sue Paquet

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Last Friday, on quite short notice, I ended up with the chance to go see Phish play at the Xfinity, formerly Tweeter Center, or rather the old Great Woods in Mansfield MA.  I went with my neighbor, who has been going to see Phish since the early 90’s and has seen countless shows.  I have been to a few Phish concerts in the past, each time at an indoor arena, and I was excited to visit the beloved Great Woods pavilion and see them in another type of venue atmosphere.  Outdoor pavilions have a charm of their own, with the wind blowing across the audience and stage, with the daylight turning to twilight and then darkness of the evening ushering in the second set.   In this case, the darkness greatly enhancing the fantastic lightshow that the band is so famously accompanied by.

My excitement for the experience grew as we drove toward the venue that afternoon, arriving about an hour after the gates opened at 4pm.  We tailgated in style, sharing with our neighbors delicious soft corn tacos with Cajun spiced beef, veggies and cilantro.  There was a sea of people with easy-ups at the back of their cars, cooking and eating and playing corn-hole and carrying on with a buzz of joyful anticipation.  I wandered a bit around the crowd to see if I would run into any familiar faces, but only found new faces, some of whom I had hilarious interactions with.  Everyone I encountered on lot was in high spirits, and the buzz was infectious and ever increasing with smiles and colorful clothing adding a certain delight to the people-watching.  One guy won the outfit contest hands down, wearing a shiny red and white top and bottom 1980’s jumpsuit combo, with tuxedo front to boot.

The vending area was packed, but it didn’t take long to get served a tall glass of Angry Orchard cider… which did cost I think $13.  I sipped and walked and did my best not to spill any precious ounces of liquid as we made our way to the wrong side of the pavilion seating, which we discovered at once.  We estimated where we had to be and made our way across the sea of people to the delightful sound of Bathtub Gin, actually the fifth song of the evening.    The band had started right on time, and getting through the gates had caused us to miss Party Time, 46 Days, Poor Heart and The Dogs.  Making it to about half way, and standing at center stage in front of one of the VIP seating booths, the next song to start was “Fast Enough For You”, which my companion Jim immediately stated he had not heard them play in forever, and the nostalgia of that song, taking me back to my days of living in Boston with my old best friend who now lives on the West coast, brought a lump into my throat… the breeze swirling over us, mixing the energies of so many people’s memories of that song.  It was the sweetest moment for me, of the night, and a quick glance at the girl in the box seat behind me and I knew I wasn’t alone in the notion; she leaned forward offering me a tissue if I needed it, she was clearly a fully prepared veteran of the Phish concert experience.

Once we made our way to our actual seats, which were 20th row, off to the left (stage right) side, we met some of the people around us with smiles and everyone was dancing.  The band played one of Mike Gordon’s songs, How Many People are you, which I thought was great, then Strange Design and Fuego.  The Talking Heads cover, Cities was great to hear, and then the 4 members of the band came to the front of the stage for a moving acapella version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.  In four part harmony the audience joined in the singing.  It was incredible, the unity that song could bring, and the feeling of us all together remembering and honoring the late, great, Bowie…it felt like a prayer in that moment, not a rock concert, and I think we all had our breath taken away together.

The second set started with Ghost, into Light, into Wolfman’s Brother, which was when things started to get kind-of strange.  Wolfman’s Brother kind of just stopped, after which there was a drum jam with Trey joining John Fishman, that didn’t really build, but rather fizzled out.  Then the band huddled together and walked off stage, which from the front of the house seemed to be really odd.  What had actually happened was only apparent to people at the back of the Pavilion and in lawn seating… the sound system had actually blown and there was no sound going to the back 2/3 of the audience.

When the band came back on stage, the problem had not been fixed, and the remainder of the show continued with a somewhat disjointed flow.  They played Chalk Dust Torture, Saw It Again and Back on the Train.  The band members would huddle up between songs and seem to be trying to figure out what song to play.  They ended the set with Slave to the Traffic Light, and finally the encore, I Am the Walrus, Beatle’s cover.

I can say I was lucky to have such great seating, and that at this particular show, it was in fact essential.  Reports from the back were consistent, that the first set was great, but that’s all they got.  What a shame for so many people, but it seems people made the best of it.

Of course it took us two hours to even get out of the venue, with totally stagnated traffic at the exit to our lot (lot C empties last), but people were mingling out of their cars, with some playing musical instruments.  I joined them for a while with my big old tubano Remo drum that I carted along, and gathered an audience, an appreciative crowd.  The highways home at 2:30 in the morning were covered with a stream of Phish heads, squiggling back to the suburbs, cities, and far off points…the countryside was soft and quiet and still and welcoming.

Set 1: Party Time (preceded by ‘Eine kleine Nachtmusik’ tease) (>)   46 Days   Poor Heart   The Dogs   Bathtub Gin   Fast Enough for You   How Many People Are You (Mike Gordon song)   Strange Design   Fuego   Cities (Talking Heads cover)   Space Oddity (David Bowie cover) (a cappella)

Set 2: Ghost (>)   Light (>)   Wolfman’s Brother (unfinished) (vocal jam,… more )   Chalk Dust Torture   Saw It Again (>)   Back on the Train (>)   Slave to the Traffic Light

Encore: I Am the Walrus (The Beatles cover)

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