101718 Phish, Albany, NY

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Albany can be pretty boring.

I woke up early on October 17th, 2018, at about 6:30am or so.  I laid in bed as long as I could before going down to the gym for a half-hour, showering, and eating the semi-meagre free breakfast on offer at the Holiday Inn Express.

By the time I had finished reading the USA Today and had twiddled my fingers half off it was still not even 11am.  With a full eight hours to go before even thinking about going in to the Knickerbocker Arena for night two of Phish I flipped through the city’s entertainment guide in the hotel room with little hope and even less success.

Eventually I took a walk and discovered some history about the place.  Albany (or at least the area I was in) used to be called New Netherland, which explained the sporadic Dutch-style architecture.  Back at the hotel I hopped on the lobby internet and scoured the CBC for news on Canada’s historic legalization of marijuana, which had happened that very day.  Back in the room I flaked out and found myself in a Pawn Stars loop courtesy of the History Channel and finally, finally it was time to strike out for dinner and head in to the concert.

The previous night Phish had put in a pretty unique tour-opener, crunching through a somewhat surprising set that was conspicuously short on guitar solos and extremely tall on astounding lights coming from the fingertips of Chris Kuroda; aka CK5.  For this show, however, the band churned out a fairly standard Phish experience, their usual blend of well-played songs presented in a generally foreseeable placement; an early Chalkdust Torture, Bathtub Gin closing the first set, a semi-rare (lately, anyway) Birds of a Feather near the start of the second, and Wilson>Slave to the Traffic Light to close out the set.

In other words, it was awesome.

Oh, and right near the end of the concert I changed my life.

I don’t know how it is that I never thought of doing this before, but during Slave I reached up and took off my glasses, and my goodness, if I could even begin to describe to you what I saw…

Years ago I looked into getting eye surgery to correct my 20/800 vision.  One of the factors that helped me decide to not go through with the surgery was how much I’ve always enjoyed looking at Christmas lights with my glasses off.  My absurdly blurred vision does remarkable things to bursts of light, making all light sources look exponentially bigger, with pulsating veins and a crazy separation of colours.  

And then, to take the mesmerizing palette of a Christmas tree and magnify it by CK5, well, my world changed.  The best concert lighting technician in the world combined with my drastic near-sightedness created something that only a combination of the magic of Disney, the rendering of Pixar, and the inspiration of Albert Hoffman could possibly come close to replicating.

It was so damn beautiful.  I put my glasses in my back pocket and enjoyed the rest of the concert in a state of visually-impaired bliss.  

Did I say “impairment”?  I should say “empowerment”.  I kept raving to m’lady about how much I wished she could experience what I was experiencing.

I will be bringing my glasses-case to every concert I go to from now on, that’s for sure.

(I must add that crossing back into Canada the next day I was asked for the first time if I had any cannabis with me.  I guess this will be the new normal.)

(I’d also like to add that after attending a hundred and ten Phish concerts, this is the first one – i believe – that I don’t have a ticket stub for.  Grrr.  Stupid print-at-home tickets.)


  1. Hey Todd:
    Evil just gave me your blog info as I was telling him that I was just about to publish a travel book. He said you actually published a book. Anyways I loved what I just read and can’t wait to go back through your stories.
    Love to you brother
    Jay Flesher


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