Phish – The Gorge Amphitheatre (George, WA; Aug. 7th, 2009)
PHEAR NOT! After 26 years of mostly on (though occasional—yet painful—off) live performances, Phish has done it again. This time, at the fantastic Gorge Amphitheater in George, WA. On August 7th and the again on August 8th. They once again stunned the immense sea of fans with brilliant, tight, inspiring, danceable music.
I must say, first of all, that the Gorge Amphitheater is one of the most stunning concert venues in the world! The show started at 7:30pm, on the dot. 7:30pm, in the middle of August in the Pacific Northwest, means creeping, colorful, magical sunsets. The stage perched high above the Columbia River atop a sheer cliff, the sun gently setting behind one amazing stage, paving the way for two amazing nights of music.
I had the pleasure of standing in front of twenty thousand avid fans, screaming with joy, raising their hands as if doing so made them ever so close and connected to the musicians. I only had 15 *quick* minutes to photograph Phish performing their first couple of songs. I can tell you that my stomach was in my throat from the excitement of being up there. At the same time, I had to get to work! Focus, Alice . . . FOCUS!
Seeing Trey and the gang so close was one of the most memorable experiences, and once I put my camera to my eye, they were even closer! I felt the music pump through my veins as I leaned on the stage, shooting away. Behind me, the audience was roaring and dancing and hitting inflatable, fish-shaped balloons from left to right and back. I could very clearly hear everyone singing along. I had a perpetual smile on my face, from the first camera shutter click to the very last. Towards the middle of my 15 minute shoot, Mike Gordon, the bassist, must have seen my “perma-grin” and smiled right back at me. Fantastic!
Phish performed newer and older songs intermixed throughout the night. Looking around the expanse that is the Gorge Amphitheater, I saw fans from a wide age range singing, dancing, bouncing around, and grinning. No matter which tune was being played, every single soul there knew the words. I even saw a 8 or 9 year old child spinning glow sticks and mouthing “Sally in the alley” over and over again. I felt an amazing closeness, a comforting tightness with everyone there, even if I knew no one personally. We all connected, it seems. Magical.
I can tell you readers right now that on the August 7th performance, Phish stunned me, and I believe they stunned everyone else there, as well. They paused for a good 4 minutes; regrouped at the center of the stage; mouthed a few words, exchanged a few smiles; returned to their designated places by their monitors and microphones and began playing . . . “Fluffhead.” “Fluffhead??” Really? Does this mean that Phish is back and staying for good?? I think so! “Fluffhead” is a classic! One of their very own originals from over a decade ago; a 12+ minute jam session. People went NUTS! The time was 10:31pm, Set 2. Wow, what a surprise and what a delight. An all-around epic performance, appreciated by the old fans and respected by the new ones.
I was blessed with the opportunity to see Phish again, after their long hiatus. Not only that, I was blessed with being a part of an old tradition of Phish-following and -devotion, and at the same time, got to immortalize them with my camera. Since I graduated from UofA in Tuscon, AZ back in 2000, I hadn’t seen a live Phish performance. On August 7th and 8th, I (and 19999 other people) was given the honor of another chance. They nailed it. Their return tour has been much awaited and anticipated and welcomed by millions of fans. A truly epic opportunity for me and performance by them. I can’t stop looking at the photographs, and I hope you like them as well . . . .