Phish Hampton Reunion: Oral History by CoventryMusic

October 2008. London. I worked for this Lithuanian gangster wannabe. After a 15-hour work day, the only open food in our neighborhood at 3am was Subway. I ordered a meatball sub and was so hungry, I tore it open to eat it outside in front of the building where I rented a flat, that was also located next to an after hours club. An old woman wanted to sell me a rose. I told her to ask the guys next to me; one of them was giving the other a blowjob while terrible Eurotrash untz echoed into the street. She noticed they were both men, spit on the ground, and cursed them out in Romanian. I ate a shitty meatball sandwich and all I could think was, "I'm 5,200 miles away from home, I've been on the road for three months, and I could really use a fucking Phish show right now."

Relive the lead up to the Hampton run, the reunion shows, and afterthoughts ten years later. Here's the oral history of Phish's 2009 Hampton Reunion as told by Neillybop, change100, Pauly, Fink, Lori, Javier, and Benjo.


change100: I was in London covering the 2008 World Series of Poker-Europe, living in a short-term rented flat near the Tottenham Court Road tube station. I had only a couple days left on the assignment and came home exhausted from the casino around 2am to find Pauly buzzing around, saying he had "well-sourced information" that Phish was coming back in March.

Pauly: I was working in London with my girlfriend, I saw an email from an unknown address. It was a tip from a random person who lived in Burlington that a Phish reunion was a go for Hampton. To this day, I'll never reveal my source. But they were close to the band and told me they were big fans of my writing and wanted me to know the dates before anyone else. Hampton, Virginia. March 6, 7, and 8. That was like five plus months away. It's still 2008, I had a European mobile phone but it didn't sent texts to the USA. I shot off an email to all my Phish friends back home.

change100: Pauly was so confident, he had already booked a hotel room in Hampton, VA for the alleged dates. I was like, "Whatever. Do your thing. I'll believe it when there's an official announcement. I'm going to bed." When I woke up at noon the next day, it was official.

Benjo: I remember seeing Pauly in London the day Phish announced the return. Never seen him happier. Made me happy.

Neillybop: I was at work in downtown Denver, Colorado. I heard the rumor but was surprised for sure with the video Phish put together. I was excited but didn't really know if it would be good, or if they would tour or what. I remember I printed out an image from the reunion announcement video and hung it in my cube.

change100: I don't think there was a moment after the official announcement where I thought I wasn't going, but Pauly's foresight in reserving a hotel room in Hampton turned out to be a slick pro move because rooms sold out quickly. It was going to be a hard ticket for sure.


Lori: When Hampton, rolled around I was definitely willing to give them another try, but the competition for tickets was fierce. I remember the long drives I made to Hampton to see the Dead in the 80's and basically said, let the real phans have at it.

Neillybop: I wanted to go for sure but tickets sold out instantly. I got a Friday from a friend in Colorado about 10 days before the shows. Then Pauly found me a Saturday and Sunday. I was prepared to fly out with only the Friday ticket and figure out how to get in to the others.

change100: Pauly was already in New York and I flew out there from L.A. a couple days before the shows. We stayed at a hotel on the Upper West Side and saw Kim Kardashian in the elevator in full hair and makeup at 7am the morning we were leaving to get the rental car.

Pauly: I had just moved in with @change100 in LA and then I turned around flew from Los Angeles to New York City, gathered supplies, rented a car, and drove to Hampton. The Mothership is a special venue. The only time I ever saw Jerry Garcia Band was at Hampton in Fall 1993. I caught only Phish show in Hampton before, back in summer of 2004.

change100: I don't remember the drive from NYC to Virginia being as bad as everyone says it is. What I do remember is listening to a lot of Phish bootlegs Pauly had brought along from his archives in the Bronx. I also remember eating at Cracker Barrel. I don't think I'd had Cracker Barrel before that.

Fink: I was living in San Diego at the time. I already had booked a trip and flights to Brazil for Carnival. I wasn't going to cancel my vacation but I was able to switch my return flight to fly through DC on the way back to San Diego. After landing in DC, I went through customs and never showed up for the flight to San Diego and made my way to Hampton. I had no idea if this was legal, if it would get me in trouble at customs or when I flew again back to San Diego but I had to get to Hampton. I was not going to miss this run. Nothing happened but had I been arrested it would've been worth it.


Pauly: Met up with the Neillybop as soon as the lots opened on show day. He flew in from Denver the night before. He was already in party mode after seeing a Bisco show the previous night.

Neillybop: At NorVa. It was actually one of the best Bisco shows I have been to!

Pauly: We walked around the Mothership like a dozen times it felt like. We were in search for a proper shakedown, but I don't think we found one. We hung out in front of the venue by the weird art exhibit in the fountain. Mingled and waited for the doors to open as the crowd began to grow and grow. Extras were going for $500.

Neillybop: So many people looking for tickets. I spent almost every day trying to help people find tickets... unsuccessfully.

Fink: I have never seen a harder ticket. People were wandering around waving hundreds in the air. Everybody was looking and nobody was holding. My friend Paul said, "My definition of hell would be wandering around outside here with no ticket trying to get in."

Pauly: There's the infamous Joker fiancee story about how he tried to stub in a lady friend from Alaska. The local cops were giving him shit for going into the show without his fiancee. They were making fun of him so much, it was the perfect distraction because they didn't realize he was sneaking her inside.

Fink: I have a vague memory of throwing Neillybop a water bottle with a stub in it over the fence from inside the venue in an attempt to get him into the show.

Pauly: It was a poster tube, not a water bottle. We got in line early. He grabbed a Pollock. He slid his stub inside and then passed the tube over the wall to our friend Daphne, who couldn't find a ticket. He got the cops permission too. He told them he wanted to put the poster in his car.

change100: Until the day I die I will never forget the deafening roar of that crowd as Phish took the stage and the opening notes of Fluffhead rolled out. I've never heard anything like it. People were crying. Screaming. Just losing their minds. A beautiful release.

Neillybop: When I figured out they were playing Fluffhead, initially I couldn't hear it because of the roar of the crowd over the first notes.

Pauly: I couldn't remember the last time I heard it. Kid Rock Vegas shitshow? They shelved Fluffhead in 2.0. It was the only song Phish didn't play at the Millennium show. The thing you kids gotta realize is that the Oxy also made Trey very paranoid and super sensitive about critics hating on the childish lyrics in songs like Fluffhead. Alas, Fluff was in the doghouse for all of 2.0. It slept with the fishes.

change100: I also remember a sense of not fully believing that this was actually happening. I hadn't seen Phish in 9 years. I completely skipped 2.0, lost to climbing the ladder in Hollywood. It took about 3-4 songs for me to get my shit together. And except for a little weed, I was stone sober.

Pauly: I purposely wanted a sober show but the crowd outside was so energetic, it felt like I was schwilly on molly. Pure ecstasy. I've been chasing that high ever since.

Neillybop: The crowd was amped. Everyone was giddy. It was electric.

change100: I was so lucky to be there. So many couldn't be. And at the time I didn't come close to understanding the onslaught of emotions so many fans were feeling.

Pauly: Two hour first set? New song to start second set. Then Phish did the fake YEM start. I couldn't wait to hear it properly.

Neillybop: As far as the band, I wasn't expecting them to play that many songs. Just pretty much play the songs and not that much jamming. I kinda liked it though, to let everyone hear the songs. The jamming wasn't the focus.


change100: When we got up Saturday morning, the internet in the hotel had slowed to a crawl. Everyone was trying to download the show from the night before. We ended up going to Waffle House where I was reacquainted with the "tour diet".

Pauly: We got onto the floor for the second night. Great spot too in the center near the soundboard.

change100: After spending Friday's show in the seats on Page side, we made a break for the floor on Saturday after waiting in line most of the afternoon.

Pauly: A wookie friend of ours got a little too schwasted in the first set. He kept telling himself "Stay awake! Stay Awake!" He was very tall. A big dude. As tall as a Redwood tree. If he fell, he woulda taken out like four Phishy chicks and two Chads in one swoop.

change100: Saturday second set was when it really started to feel like a Phish show. The nervous energy had worn off for the band and audience alike and we got the first real jamming of 3.0 on Ghost > Piper.

Pauly: I loved the song selection night two. Phish played like 80% of my favorites in one night. I remember walking out totally pumped about the Ghost > Piper > Birds.

change100: Everything before that felt tentative on some level and they kicked the door open a little wider there.


Pauly: The Joker and I bought matching tracksuits the year before in San Francisco. Change100 bought one too, but a different color. We wore them to Outside Lands, specifically for the Radiohead show. Hipsters, especially SF hipsters, are usually too cool for school to comment on your clothes. But everyone in the crowd went apeshit over the track suits. We brought them to Hampton and waited for the right time to wear them. Sunday seemed appropriate.

change100: One guy from our crew from Colorado could not get a Sunday ticket after exhausting his resources and hunting all day in the lot. So he decided to crash the gate. He manages to get past the turnstiles, and security, and the cops. He runs inside the venue, he even finds a hiding place behind a curtain to avoid pursuit... but while he's hiding, all the nervous energy (and probably all the coke he was doing) catches up to him and he shits his pants. Shits. His. Pants. I don't know how long he hid behind that curtain with shit in his pants, but at some point he ran to the bathroom, threw out his underwear, and raged the show.

Pauly: The third night of a run is when the cracks start to show. A lot of people were out of game shape and it showed. I had back-to-back sober shows, so I was ready to let it rip.

Javier: I drove down from New York City. It was the only show I saw at Hampton of the three. I don't remember much about it other than I was super happy that Phish was back. Oh, and I took Adderall for the first time and it kept me all night.

change100: The Sunday crowd was schwilly, the floor was slick with spilled beer and littered with those tiny bottles of booze you get on an airplane, my knees and back were destroyed after three days of dancing and standing in line.

Pauly: Those were Javier's empty airplane bottles by the way. He had like ten shots of vodka.

Neillybop: Nothing beats the energy of the crowd at Hampton. Pretty much all 3 nights.

Javier: I missed the crowd. Nothing is like a Phish show except a Phish show.

change100: I was waiting, hoping, praying I would get a 2001 and it came on Sunday night. I got my wish. 2001 opened the second set of my first show back in 1996 and when I look back on it, that was pretty much the moment I where I was like HOLY SHIT THIS BAND. And here I was 13 years later, hooked all over again.

Neillybop: Loved the Twist > 2001 > Moma Dance.

Pauly: Going into Sunday I knew they had not played Slave yet. I figured they'd save it for later in the show. When it popped up late in the second set, it really hit me. I never listen to Slave even though it's my favorite song. Music and sense memory is like some black magic sorcery shit. I could not listen to Slave after Coventry because it opens up too many emotions for me.


Neillybop: I was lapping it up pretty quick. Definitely by the Tweezer of the first night, I was back in the groove.

change100: Lapsed Catholics will get know how it is when you haven't been to mass in YEARS and you still know all the responses? The Kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever? Thanks be to God? May the Lord be with you/And also with you? It's the same thing with Phish songs. Suddenly you know all the lyrics to I Didn't Know even though you haven't hear it played in a decade. You remember the claps in Stash. The call and response in the first verse of Hood. And so does the girl next to you and you smile at each other while you're singing along. It wasn't just that Phish was reunited, the audience was reunited as well.

Pauly: Felt good to not being the biggest freak in the room for the first time in years. I had been living in Vegas for a couple of years, and it truly is a nonstop party, but it's more like a frat party with your cousins from Kenosha. Whereas hardcore partying at a Phish show is its own universe. I missed watching people go deep... into the music... into themselves... into the mind altering drugs. Get their mind scrambled. Some of those fuckers had been holding on to killer L or shrooms for years. Saving the last hit for the right occasion. That perfect time had come and they were ready to let Phish take them on another journey.

Neillybop: The feeling I forgot = the community, the shared experience, everyone being so excited for the music. I didn't get that when Phish wasn't playing.

change100: The feeling I forgot was the joyous, friendly vibe; the sense of community you feel both on lot and inside the venue. At the time, I was working in the poker industry and spending way too much time in casinos. Everyone is trying to survive, find an edge, make a buck, and in the pursuit of that you see a lot of people at their worst moments. Phish is the antithesis of that. Sure, some folks might get too spun or try to talk to you during Tweezer, but for the most part we take good care of our own.

Neillybop: I will always remember the lights and the big balls. The disco lights. And the Tweezer Reprise when the balls dropped is definitely in my Top 10 Phish moments.

Pauly: Night 3 set closer was the first time I heard Slave in a very long time. It all hit me after the "See the zoo" part. Phish returned. I was not going to take this time around for granted.

Lori: I may have shed a tear while reading Twitter comments of the absolute joy that was being felt at the Mothership. I was probably a little jealous of those inside the venue, but also knew I was exactly where I needed to be (couch tour) to begin to understand this band. Somewhere in the course of the Hampton shows, I became a noobie fan. When summer tour was announced, I picked up a SPAC ticket for my first ever show.

CHANGES 2.0 > 3.0

Neillybop: Everyone was a little older and cleaner. Not many wooks at Hampton.

change100: There were a lot of nice cars in the lot. The family car to probable cause vehicle ratio had completely reversed and it's because for the most part, we'd all grown up. The lot kids of the 90s had real jobs now. I was 23 when I saw my last show of 1.0 and 30 at the reunion. I flew out there on frequent flyer miles I'd acquired via ungodly amounts of business travel.

Pauly: It was only five years since Coventry. The average fan looked a lot more straight-laced and everyone raided their closet to wear a Phishead Halloween costume. It was definitely good to see the freaks again, but everyone was still a little rusty. That lyric from Taste seemed to fit: "And leave your new life behind for a while."

change100: A guy pushing a sleeping baby in a stroller offered to sell us molly. It was a pretty good cover for his operation.

Pauly: Yup, 3.0 lot dads. I ain't gonna judge. But overall, fewer dreads and more credit cards.


Fink: Phish has provided so much fun this last decade that the time seems to have legit just flown by.

change100: Speaking strictly from a betting perspective, I didn't think the band's return would last more than a couple years. A lot hinged on Trey staying sober. A lot hinged on the band staying not only in a good creative place, but on good terms with one another. I didn't like those odds but I'm grateful every day they overcame them and continue to do so.

Neillybop: I don't think I thought about it too much. Wouldn't have surprised me either way if they broke up within a decade. Ten years has gone by so fast but my life has changed so much in the past ten years. Phish to me has always been something magic, that I can't control and don't expect or take for granted.

Pauly: By no means was it perfect, but it was a start in a new direction. The hardest step is the first step. That's recovery talk. I'm still stunned how courageous Trey was to pull off what he did. And to think he had to be sober while we were all tripping balls or super schwilly or jacked up on who knows what. He still took the stage at a vulnerable point in his life. Heroic.

Lori: As long as the band members were healthy and having fun and family commitments permitted it, I figured they would be playing in 2019. And I am so glad they still are. I saw my first show at SPAC in 2009. Ten years later, I am nearing my 40th show. I have now seen Phish more than I saw the Grateful Dead with Jerry.

Pauly: This butterfly effect stuff really trips me out sometimes. How everything feels so random but it's somehow connected. But then there's another part of me that sees how crazy the world has gotten and how disconnected people are and then I go to a show and it restores faith in humanity again.

Fink: I was just psyched Phish were back. The present is a gift!

Pauly: Coventry, Vermont were my 150th and 151st shows. I never thought I see another Phish show again. Never. When Jerry Garcia died, it totally crushed me because I was not prepared for it. When Phish broke up after Coventry, it gutted me, but I knew that it was the best thing for all of us. We all had to grow up a lot, go our separate ways and fix up the broken bits of our lives. Hampton though... it sucked me back in. I keep going because you never know if the next show will be your last show.

change100: Prior to the reunion, I was kind of a Phish tour dilettante. I just went to the shows I could while I was at college in the Midwest, which wasn't too hard to do in the late 90s. Ten years later, I have 130-something shows under my belt. I was a Curveball refugee. I've been through some shit with this band, traveled thousands of miles with them, spent tens of thousands of dollars. I've met some of the most outstanding people I'll ever get the privilege to know because of Phish. But I never had that whole world ripped away from me the way it felt for a lot of folks after Coventry. I didn't get it then, but goddamn... I get it now.

* * * *

Here's your chance to re-read the original recaps of the 2009 Hampton reunion shows. Check out...
The Return of Phish 3/6/09
Saturday at the Mothership 3/7/09
Blast Off Sunday in Hampton 3/8/09


Popular Posts