July 20th, 2013 was day two of Phish’s three-night run on Chicago’s Northerly Island. I was the first to wake up of the ten or so of us staying at a friend’s house so I got dressed and explored the neighbourhood. I found a cool coffee shop and filled a couple of to-go trays with big hot drinks.
I found my way back to the host house and delivered my bounty to the gradually growing crowd of sleepyheads that ultimately collected in the living room. Someone checked the ‘net and discovered that Phish would be playing an extra third set that evening to make up for having to end the previous night’s show early due to high winds and driving, drenching rain.
The day went by quickly. Our host Katie had planned a boat cruise for us which would end at the venue, but wind on the water had cancelled it so I spent the day jamming (there was a Martin D-28 upstairs) and learning a few nifty nylon tying tricks from Katie’s husband Kim, who was a knot-tying enthusiast. What a nifty hobby. More useful than playing guitar and about as lucrative.
This would prove to be the least eventful evening of the run (by far) and it’s no surprise (to me at least) that the action of the first and third nights created a memory vacuum that eliminated much of the to-and-fro of this middle night.
I recall being very impressed that the paved ‘floor’ section of the outdoor venue had a lettered and numbered grid painted on it making it very, very easy to find your way back to your spot. “Let’s see, we’re at N30…okay, here is K35, now L35, M35…bam! N35!” Now head towards the stage past N34, N33, etcetera until there’s your crew, right where you left them at N30. It’s a great system and every venue should should paint similar grids on the floors. Using the floor grid we managed to watch all three shows from precisely the same place each night.
Before the concert started the customary question was posed: “What do you think they’ll open with?” I thought the question was absurd. Could they possibly open with anything other than the previous night’s aborted Prince Caspian?*
Of course they couldn’t (I would have done the same thing, especially if it had been a different song), and about thirty thousand of us shared a little laugh with Trey as Phish started the night where they had left off the night before before carrying on into an extra-long first set. There was a good little rain during the second set but nothing we couldn’t dance off, and by the end of the third set everyone was dry again. And happy. Almost thirty songs and they still had plenty of heavy hitters left over for night three.
Mid-show there was a bit of schtick when the band pulled a half-dozen people up out of the audience and onto the stage. The group said they started out as stormchasers and they eventually came to be following the band. It was pretty funny though it soon became obvious that there was a put-on being put on and whattya know? there was. Finally Trey introduced the group as members of the local Second City troupe and the band got on with the show.
After the concert we hopped the now-familiar subway route back to our host home where I spent the next several hours being introduced to String Theory: The Remarkable Art Of Rope-Tying. I tell you, it’s amazing what some people can do with a piece of rope. It’s like origami, but with rope.
*“Last night was the best Caspian ever,” or so went the standing joke-of-the-day about one of Phish’s lesser-loved songs.