The very first time I heard the music of Phish was in the fall of 1994. My brotherís friend Guido was hanging out at our house and he was going nuts listening to a tape he brought over. My brother played guitar and our house had always been the designated practice space for his numerous garage bands. Guido also played guitar and they would often jam together. At the time I didnít really pay attention to the music coming out of the stereo and I remember thinking that Guido was a capital douche bag and was probably stoned.
I, unlike my brother, had never really been all that into music. The only CD I owned was Guns -n- Roses Use Your Illusion II. My brother on the other hand had a huge collection of late 80ís hair band rock, everything from Poison and Warrant to Eric Johnson and Joe Satriani. The walls of his bedroom were completely covered by posters of long haired white boys with perms and bangs wearing make up and leather pants. My brother tried hard to dress just like his rock idols. He grew his hair out and pierced his ear. He wore bracelets and necklaces and black button up shirts with skulls on them. All of his jeans had big holes in the knees. He was your typical 15 year-old circa 1993.
My exposure to music began and ended with MTV. Granted I listened to Pop music on the radio and my parents would sometimes listen to some Rolling Stones, Jimmy Buffet, or Bob Dylan, but what I was plugged into was on MTV. When I thought of rock n roll the images that came to my mind were of Slash and Axel or Steven Tyler. When I first heard Phish, Grunge had just recently replaced the hair bands on MTV. Nirvana and Pearl Jam were dominating the charts with their angst infused teeny bopper whine rock. Bands like Green Day and Sublime offered a different flavor but my musical exposure was admittedly limited. That would all change in the spring of 1995.
I had just gotten really high on some pot I had stolen from my brother. I was home alone and pretty bored and I wanted to share my altered state with someone else. I decided to call Guido as he was always trying to get me high. I guess he thought it was kind of fun to watch me get all baked and geek out. I was in 8th grade at the time and had just recently tried pot and I would just get retardedly stoned off a few puffs. When Guido answered the phone I told him that I was really high and he suggested that I should listen to some Phish. The only problem was that I didnít have any Phish. Guido then decided that he would play some phish over the phone for me. I shit you not. He played me an import CD he had gotten his hands on from 5-1-1992 that had been sold under the name ďSloth.Ē The bass on this particular recording is turned way up and it is an early testament to how awesome Gordon was even back in the day. The first track on the CD is Suzie Greenberg. I remember the bass of Suzie coming through the phone and I immediately began laughing hysterically. I had never heard anything like it! The jovial bass licks thumping through my phone were down right comic. I geeked out a little bit, couldnít help myself. I was hooked. I asked Guido to play me something else and he picked out the build in YEM and played it over the phone. I loved it too! I asked Guido to please bring me some Phish the next time he came over and much to his credit he let me borrow the 5-1-1992 CD the very next day. I listened to that CD all summer long. It never left my CD player.
I began my freshman year of High School in the fall of 1995. My brother was a senior at the time so every morning I rode to school with my brother and Guido, whom we would stop and pick up along the way. Guido would bring us a nice jam to listen, in addition to a fat joint of the brown frown, for the ride to school.
It was during my freshman year of high school that I began hanging out with Brian, aka Spankford. Brian was the only other freshman in high school that smoked as much as I did so we became fast friends. Brian had been listening to the Dead for a few years and was also getting into Phish. We were both 14 and unable to drive yet so we depended on our parents and occasionally our older sibling to drive us around. Brain was fearless and didnít give a shit. He had gotten expelled from middle school the previous year for trying to buy pot from some kid at school. I on the other hand had never been in trouble for anything in my life. I generally played by the rules and tried hard to steer clear of trouble. Brian stayed in trouble and couldnít help but get caught for just about everything bad he ever did. Brian got expelled each of his high school years. One time some kids found something they thought might be drugs in one of the school bathrooms. They brought it to Brian to see if he knew what it was. As soon as the kid handed Brian the package who should walk by but Mr. Wilson, the school detention officer. So Brian got expelled again, even though the so called drugs turned out to be baking soda or Ajax or something or another.
Needless to say Brian and I were very different in our approach to life but we were both united by our shared love of weed. Very soon we would become united by a much greater force.
My first Phish show was entirely unplanned. Brian called me on a Thursday night to let me know that his dad was willing to drive us to the show the next day in Charleston if I wanted to go. I was like hell yea I want to go! That was back in the day when you could walk up to the box office a few hours before show time and buy tickets. My brother and Guido were already going, but of course I was not invited nor allowed to go along. I asked my parents if I could go and they reluctantly agreed as long as Brianís dad was going to be driving. I was stoked! I had already listened to set 1 of 5-1-1992 like a thousand times. I knew every note of Divided Sky and couldnít wait to hear Suzie. I also knew there were going to be lots of drugs and was really excited to check all this out.
I remember my mom dropping me off at Brianís house that day and telling me to ďhave a good timeĒ. ďI willĒ I promised. Brianís Grandparents lived in Charleston and his dad was going to drop us off at the show and then go hang out with them until the show was over. I was worried at first that Brianís dad was going to want to go the show with us and was quite relieved that he was not going to be our shadow for the night. Oh boy was this going to be fun.
Brian had brought a half burned shwag joint that he was planning to take into the show but when we arrived the lot the scene was sketch. As soon as we pulled up, we saw K-9 units and a bunch of cops loading hippies into the back of police vans. Brian decided to leave the roach in his dadís van as he didnít want to risk getting arrested. With his luck he probably would have. Brianís dad instructed us to meet him back at the entrance after the show and then left us in the lot. After we bought our tickets, $22.50 after service charge, we made our way into the lot and the great unknown. I had never been to any concert before and had no idea what to expect. I can still remember the nervous feeling of walking through the lot and feeling totally out of place. We were certainly some of the youngest kids walking around the lot and Iím sure we were an odd site among the well established tour rats of fall 95. We managed to find my brother and Guido who definitely did not want to be seen with us. They were already tripping but told us they didnít know where to get any more dose. After walking around for about 30 minutes, I convinced Brian that we should go in the coliseum and see if we could find some acid in there. After some convincing Brian agreed and we went in about 6:00 when the doors opened. I didnít realize at the time that once inside you were not allowed to leave. So we were stuck. I got a pretzel at the concession stand and we made our way to our seats. Our seats were at the very top back of the coliseum. In fact, I donít think I have had worse seats for any show that I have ever been to since. We sat in the top of the coliseum and slowly watched it fill with excited Phish kids.
Brian decided that our seats sucked and that we should sneak onto the floor. He decided that as soon as the music started we should sneak down. I reluctantly agreed but what could I do? So as soon as the lights dropped the whole place goes crazy and we make our way down the stairs towards the floor. And then it happened. Dinner and a Movie. Treyís intro dark and evil, the rest of the band dropping in a few beats later helping to build the anxiety, kids everywhere dancing like possessed Baptists at an Appalachian snake handlerís prayer revival. Holy shit what have I gotten myself into. I was a little freaked out this being my first concert and not at all what I was expecting. As we get to the end of the stairs we see a big security guard standing between us and the floor. Without a second thought Brian ducks below the rail and runs in. I wait a second or two until he turns his back to check someone elseís stub and I walk right by him. Brian is now standing a few feet into the crowd behind the tapers section with some older dudes who are smoking a bowl. I join the session. As we begin to puff the boys dropped into bouncing. We were both so stoked. We had brought the Lawn Boy disc with us in the car on the ride down and we must have listened to Bouncin about 5 times on the way to the show. We were total noobs. Everyone starts somewhere, I am just grateful I got to go through my noobish behavior at young age. There is a whole generation of kids about 20 years old who have no clue having never seen a show. I was a seasoned tour vet by the time I was 20. Big Cypress, Hampton, the usual east coast-mid west summer run. But on 11/18/95 I was a clueless custie-ass, noob.
So Brian and I are puffing when a glow stick drops at our feet. As we are passing the bowl around I half jokingly tell one of the older dudes that he should cut the glow stick open and much to my surprise he whips out a pocket knife and does just that. At first he sprinkles a little bit on the floor and then his buddy is like ďpour some on meĒ and the dude just went nuts spraying glowing liquid everywhere. Everyone within a 10 foot radius got covered in glow, including the security guard. At that point Brian hands one of the dudes back the bowl and a cop grabs the dude and starts to drag him away. I turn around and there is security guard asking to see our tickets. Brian and I both look at each other and I blurt out ďwe must have left them in the bathroomĒ so the guard tells us to beat it and we do, back to our shitty seats at the very top of the coliseum. As we made our way up the stairs we had forgotten that we covered in a neon yellow iridescent effervescence from the exploded glow stick. Everyone was pointing at us as we made our ascent. We definitely drew some tripped out stares, ďeither that kid is glowing or Iím tripping face.Ē We finally made it back to our seats, quite stoned and now glowing. Some dirty tour rat had taken refuge in the top row next to our seats though at the time I thought he might be a narc because he kept asking me if had any pot. I guess he could tell how blazed I was and wanted to catch a buzz. He stunk like shit and talked a lot but I guess he was pretty nice guy. I donít remember much about the music from this show as the only song I recognized was bouncing. After every song I would yell Divided Sky! or Suzie Greenberg. I guess Trey didnít hear me because they played neither. I do remember the set break chess moves and I remember Sparkle, and BBFCFM, Blue and Lonesome, PYITE, and of course Bill Bailey with Pageís dad. Right before the encore Trey says something about playing the night before with Jimmy Buffet before introducing Pageís dad to the stage but the acoustics were so bad all we could make out was something about Jimmy Buffet and then we saw Pageís dad. We were like, ďman, Jimmy Buffet is old.Ē
As we filed out of the coliseum we were tired and still trying to digest what we had just witnessed. We made our way back to Brianís dad waiting outside in the mini-van. He asked about the show and we said it was awesome and that Jimmy Buffet played with Phish for the encore. Then I lay down in the back of the van and went to sleep not knowing that my life had been changed forever.