Originally, I had no intention on attending nights I or II but when a free lawn seat fell into my lap via friend of Coventry Music Blog - Mitchell E. for the first night, I decided to bite the bullet and head down providing the ticket made it here from across the pond from England. I had plans to be halfway to Bethel anyway as I was having lunch with my best friend Kim in my home town of Hudson, NY and was also popping in to say hello to my dad. So what was an extra detour South thru the Borscht Belt going to cost me? The price of a tank of gas and, wisely I decided to book a hotel room in Kingston just in case I got stuck in traffic and needed to break up the trip home. A fortuitous move on my part.
Bethel Woods is actually located on the out skirts of White Lake, New York. The closest "big" city would be Monticello or Liberty, NY in Sullivan County. My ride down Rte 209 from Kingston to Ellenville in Ulster county took me thru Mid-Hudson River Valley farmland filled with roadside markets and produce stands which this time of year were largely selling plants and hanging baskets. When I turned southwesterly into Sullivan County I found myself driving thru the "Borscht Belt" aka the "Jewish Alps". The Borscht Belt was/is where many New York City Jews escaped the heat and humidity of the city during the summer. Most of the name resorts are largely defunct, but the bungalow communities still exist. The area is also the site of a hotly contested proposed Casino which would bring some much needed jobs to this largely rural area. Check out the wiki link I posted for more info on the history of this area. Many famous comedians payed their dues at the Borscht Belt resorts.
Bethel Woods had taken the pains of emailing concert goers do's and don'ts while in the area. Some phans took offense stating those who needed these "rules of the road" probably didn't have email and if they did, weren't going to read the email anyway. I just took it like the Sierra Club Manifesto of Leave No Trace. I traipsed after the Grateful Dead in the years when the band got banned from returning to many venues due to unruly fans including my hometown venue of SPAC. Phans forget the local community especially one like White Lake, NY have a major say on what goes on in their neck of the woods. Just read the Yasgur's Farm issue Dr Pauly posted about.
Parking lots didn't open until 4:30PM unless you were going to the museum in which case you could get in the lots early. I was actually pulling onto Hurd Road at 4:20PM and was let into lot E right away. There are local's houses abutting the venue property and all I could think of was how do you put up with a summer of concerts. Maybe they go stay in hotels?
The dudes to my left had lots of extra tickets, and when I say lots two of the four dudes had stacks. I deduced they were actually going to the show after eavesdropping on one dude's convo with his wife and the going price was $30 for an extra. Although listed as a sell out there were plenty of extras for sale. I heard that several people bought pavilion seats that day. I should have tried an upgrade had I known. One sketchy dude was selling NYC "rolls" and I kept running into him, but other than that I didn't hear too much about party favor's being for sale. They were hassling vendors randomly if you put a price to your wares.. There was tons of security swarming about the lot and NYS Troopers on ATVs.
Even before I stepped into the venue I could tell that the location was beautiful. I'd say it's as beautiful as Red Rocks (my memory of my GO-GO's concert at Red Rocks back in my CU days is cloudy at best). There is not a bad seat in the house and that includes the lawn which is a sloped hill, but comfortable to stand on. Off to the sides there are some rocks you can sit on too. Two huge wide screens were on either side of the stage. My first thought was SPAC (my backyard venue) needs an over haul and an upgrade to modern technology.
The Setlists have already been posted so I'm not going to do double work. I got a pretty good spot on the lawn dead center next to two first timers from ST Joseph's College: Dan and John (forgive me if I screwed up your names guys). Both the guys just completed their Freshman year of college and they were excited to be seeing the band for the first time. They asked me how I got into the band and how many shows I had seen (#15 that night), They asked me what my favorite phish song(s) were (Ghost, MOMA, Hood, YEM, First Tube. 2001 and the Tube Jam from the Dayton classic show) and to settle an argument: How many claps in Stash? Jury still out on that one. Some phans were doing two some three.
The show opener of Tweezer showed that the guys weren't rusty after a 4 month layoff. Talk was this was one of the strongest tour openers ever. This was my first tour opener ever so I cant compare. In the first set along I got two new songs I had never heard live, Poor Heart, which I didn't know at all and Axis: Bold As Love which I've heard plenty of times on a mix tape Dr Pauly had sent me in my early adventures with the band. When I heard Page going to the Clavinet I thought I'd get Boogie On but it turned out it was Ween's Roses are Free. Then right into another cover with Funky Bitch. Mike was especially strong on Funky Bitch both vocally and laying down a tremendous bass line. I gave Mike the MVP for the evening others felt it was Page but from my spot I felt Page's sound was a little muddy. The Stash was awesome but not enough jamming. Just tight and concise. I texted Dr Pauly right after Stash stating: SAFE and Solid. Funny thing was he was listening to the live stream and sent out a tweet stating the same thing. First set was almost an hour twenty minutes.
Intermission was relatively short by most jam band standards. Carini led off Set II dark and dirty. Change100 told me it took her till her 33rd show to hear Carini. Ive been to 16 and have heard it 3 times already. I got my first WAVES (see official video below) and an awesome Squirming Coil featuring a PAGE piano solo that could have brought you to tears. On a whole I liked set II better then I. I'm not a big fan of Kill Devil Falls which was my least favorite song of the first set although the Jam was great. It felt like a lot of solid singles strung together So On the whole i rated the night a solid B to B+. But what do I know as a relative Noob!!
MKDevo has posted most of his video's of phish's first night run on You Tube. So check them out. I think you can make a playlist of them. I didnt shoot any from my spot on the lawn.
The nitrous mafia was out on shakedown street post show. I heard rumor of a tank confiscated and I watched one phan get a horrific look on his face as his balloon floated away from him. I also saw mounted patrol telling phans with balloons to "drop them now." Exiting the venue was a clusterfuck. I didn't move for an hour and a half. Thank goodness I booked my room in Kingston. I spent 4 hours in it before I drove the extra hour home in the AM. I sat out Saturday as I had no ticket.
I headed back down early Sunday with my friend Amanda who was manning the Phellowship table. After dropping her off I decided I would pay the $15 for a museum ticket so I could park in the special parking. It was worth it. We got a quick out after the show and the museum was well worth the price. I don't think you can make a whole day of it but if you are attending a show at Bethel leave early and take in the museum. Awesome clips and artifacts from the original Woodstock. As I was chatting up a fellow phan waiting for the 21 minute flick to begin, security escorted in a family and Page took a seat right in front of me. This had to be before sound check. Maybe because he had a security guard following him around, or maybe because he blends into a crowd more then say Trey or Mike would he wasn't hassled or approached while in the gift shop. I do know they sound checked Guyute but they never played it. Amanda was setting up her table and heard most of sound check.
Mitchell had also sent me an extra lawn ticket for Sunday. I didn't pay for it so I wasn't going to sell it. I decided I'd miracle it. I saw a young girl with friends with her finger in the air. I asked her "do your friends have tickets", she winced and said yes, I just need one. I looked at her and said "Enjoy the show" and check out Coventry blog. She grabbed me and gave me a kiss and her two girlfriends and dude friend screamed thank you and did a group Jig. I also ran into and met Scotty B from Hidden Track blog on lot. So Mitchell, one random and I made use of your tickets. Enjoy MPP and the west coast shows you will be seeing and of course a big thank you.
I got my first live The Ballad of Curtis Loew and The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony during the first set. Suzy Greenberg didnt have the normal glow stick wars of previous Suzy's I've heard it was relatively tame. AC/DC Bag and Antelope joined the category of songs Ive now heard 6 times in 16 shows. I never get tired of Antelope. The dance party really began with Antelope and continued right on thru till the end with the exception of Joy. When they played Timber. I texted Pauly, Timber Ho, Pai Gai as I was pretty sure he was hijinxing it up at the Pai Gow tables in Las Vegas where he is mired down covering his 7th WSOP with the lovely Change100. Plus his second book was just released a few days earlier, so as much as I am sure he wanted to be at Bethel he had business to attend too.
I was in the shed for Night III and hung out with two phans from Minnesota, Ricky and Amy. Ricky kept saying during Set I no Antelope to close it out. We got it. And he didn't want Slave to close out set II and we got that. I loved my spot at the back of the shed Page Side rage side. It was actually a box suite that held about 4 of us. I got a great shot of the stage and could get the big screen in. You can check out the video's I shot of Ocelot, Mike's Song and Simple and Sample in a Jar on You tube. Mike rocked a Canary Yellow shirt. It reminded me of the maillot jaune the leader of the Tour de France wears only short sleeve. Someone, maybe Ricky said Mike hadn't worn that shirt since 1997. He also had on bright yellow socks. Dr Pauly texted me a Mike's Groove is Kangfirmed and I did get my first live Mike's - Simple- Weekapaug. Only took 16 shows.
I preferred night III over I. Others felt Night I was the best, Others night II which I didn't see. If the openers were any indication of how things will be everyone is in for a great summer tour. Most venues aren't sold out but I imagine they will now. I wish I was seeing more but I have grown up things to do and bow out until SuperBallIX. Dr Pauly picks up the Midwest runs and expect a couple of guest reporters from some of the other shows.