070316 Phish, Saratoga Springs, NY

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Ah…SPAC.  The Saratoga Performing Arts Center, a wonderfully unique indoor-looking outdoor amphitheatre nestled smack-dab in the middle of the forest in the gorgeous Saratoga Spa State Park, which is itself attached to the beautiful and historic City of Saratoga Springs, a town well-known for its near-ancient harness racing track and horse-racing tradition and (as I am always quick to point out) for being the birthplace of the greatest snack/dinner-substitute in recorded history: the potato chip.

Ah…chips.  No…I won’t let myself get distracted.  Back to the task at hand:

I suppose an indicator of how much I love this music venue would be to point out that I’ve been there fourteen times, once to see the Outlaw Music Festival (Willie, Neil, Nathaniel, Sturgill, and Lukas) plus a lucky thirteen Phish concerts; single, double, or three-night runs that brought me to Saratoga Springs a half-dozen times over the course of fifteen years.  That represents a whopping 11% of my total Phish concert tally so yeah, I like the venue.  (Okay…yes, SPAC is the closest regular stop to Ottawa on a standard Phish summer tour so there’s that, admittedly.)

When I think back I guess I’ve stayed at, what, five different places?  The Hilton, a non-Hilton near the Hilton, a mysterious downtown motel where I broke the bed-frame, the cheapo strip motel next to the barbecue place out by the highway, and the old downtown farmhouse B&B-looking place with the big friendly front porch and the auxiliary building out back.  I think the strip motel is my favourite.  I’ve stayed there twice – maybe three times – and the food next door is quite great, the venue is just a hop, skip, and a jump along a pretty, forested path through the park, and most importantly the motel is just so darn social, with pretty much everyone pre- and post-ing in plastic chairs in front of their open doors.

On July 3rd, 2016 I was at my second-favourite – which by no coincidence is also the second-most social – of the resting places, that old farmhouse with the big deck that steps right down to the busy downtown sidewalk.  I really love sitting out there with a beer and a guitar and speaking with the tie-dyed and smiling passers-by and stoppers-in, of which there are legion.

This was the third evening of a triple-header and if I’m not mistaken this was the threefer where m’lady and I went too far the first night and were left to pay our dues in subdued numb reverie on the second night, leading us to hit our stride for this: a perfectly executed final night.  It’s the sort of strategy borne out of plenty of experience and constant trial-mostly-error.  Anyway, we came out on top on a good night, because Phish was rockin’ a Saratoga dance party.  The first set had a fun LawnboySparkleSample one-two-three punch and ended with a Possum singalong while the second set kept the vibe going from the opening Soul Shakedown Party and Moma Dance through Twist, Theme, and Hood right up to the liberating Rock and Roll encore.

I don’t know if my life was really “…saved by rock and roll…” but it sure feels like it was when I sing that line at the top of my lungs in one of my favourite venues along with my favourite band and 20,000 good friends at the end of a fun-filled weekend of music, friends, and very good times.

Ah…SPAC.  Ah…Phish.  Ah…music.  Ah…chips.


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