July 8th, 2012 was the final show of a three-night run of Phish at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, New York. I’ve seen the band there several times before, it’s a nifty venue in a cool town less than five hours from home so I’m happy to get down to SPAC whenever I can.
Though I’ve seen Phish over a hundred times I am certainly not qualified to properly critique their shows; not compared to actual fans anyway. I just don’t pay enough attention to the music. Don’t get me wrong, when I do listen I generally love it but I get so wrapped up in the different venues, the crowd, and just the overall scene that sometimes even the greatest jams are merely musical wallpaper for my wandering mind. These guys have such an identifiable sound that to me a set can just seem like one big Phish song (as opposed the upcoming Tahoe Tweezer, when the set pretty much was one big Phish song).
In short: At any given time I’m likely the most experienced newb in the lot.
That said, I can expound on the Saratoga Performing Arts Center to no end. Set in a beautiful park a relatively short walk from the town’s main drag, the outdoor shed is nestled in the woods surrounded by lush greenery and heritage buildings. The rare design of the amphitheatre features a bouncy balcony that unfortunately obscures the view from much of the lawn but adds much to the uniqueness of the venue, with it’s extra-high ceiling and ramps emanating from the back of the balcony. No matter where you sit inside the pavilion the view is just band, fans and trees.
To think that this disproportionally large concert hall was built in the mid-60’s…well, it must have been envisioned as the Hollywood Bowl of the northeast or something, an iconic, singular auditorium that would ultimately become an attraction in itself. Whether or not it succeeds as such is up for debate but it’s definitely one of the best outdoor concert venues in that part of the continent.
So long as you’re not on the lawn, that is.
And as for the town itself, if the horse-racing culture or the healing spa waters don’t draw you in maybe the quaint downtown with it’s numerous pubs and restaurants will. There’s also an auto museum and the national dance museum and countless other attractions in the area.
And if none of this is enough, Saratoga Springs is where the potato chip was invented. ‘Nuff said: make the pilgrimage.