August 13th, 2009 was the start of little three-show Phish run fairly close to home. M’lady had been attending some of the band’s more westerly dates so I met her at the bus station in Buffalo (I must have been in Toronto for something or other) and together we made our way to Darien Lake. We booked into the nearest-by EconoLodge which had been completely overtaken by fellow concert-goers, just the way I like it.. We enjoyed a couple of drinks making new friends and soon started making our way to the venue.
Of course Darien Lake is most noted for it’s theme park, which houses the concert amphitheatre. Unfortunately we didn’t take advantage of the park – that would come a few years later when our Phish tickets included exclusive park access – so there were no rollie-coasters for me, though admittedly the Phish show provided sufficient entertainment for the day.
We were on the lawn for the show and I remember looking wistfully at the large Ferris wheel lit up in the near distance. Don’t get me wrong, you’d never get me on one of the things but they sure do look cool at night. Especially when one of your favourite bands is rocking out proper in the foreground.
Sample, Bowie, Golgi, Sparkle, Fluffhead…it was all so wonderful. There was a spot of bad news when late in the first set Trey informed the crowd that the great Les Paul had died. Inventor of flange, multi-track recording and yes, the electric guitar (arguably), Les Paul is the only person to be inducted into both the rock hall of fame and the inventor’s hall of fame. I met the legend and heard him play a set of music on Valentine’s Day back in 2005 and was sad to hear of his passing.
And while I was more than happy to hear Phish pay tribute to Les Paul by playing one of his signature hits How High The Moon I was astounded that they just played the head and stopped dead. Could it really be that Phish doesn’t know how to jam over jazz changes? Unthinkable, but it made me wonder*.
Back at the hotel after the show I recall running into a bunch of Ottawa friends in the stairwell just outside of our room at the EconoLodge. I remember being surprised that there was such a large Ottawa contingent at the show and indeed at the same hotel but I shouldn’t have. With Darien Lake only about four hours away it’s basically a hometown show, and everybody likes to stay as close to the venue as possible, especially if it’s cheap (or if you prefer: econo).
In the first few years after Phish reemerged and started touring again I would forever be surprised to run into friends from home in the most unlikely of places. Nowadays I consider it a given.
*What was I saying?!? Since I first typed that sentence I have noticed many, many Phish jams where they were unquestionably improvising and comping jazz changes.