[We'd like to thank Jennifer Moore (Twitter: @rowjenny) for recapping Trey Anastasio's and Page McConnell's one set performance prior to Phish's show last night. This intimate acoustic performance was for a select number of fans; giving them access to the SPAC Foundation Lounge before and throughout the Phish show, and special Foundation poster and merch, in addition to other amenities. More information can be found at https://phishfloodrecoverybenefit.100xhospitality.com/. -ed.]
For the second night in a row, Trey and Page performed a special, intimate acoustic concert at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in the late afternoon on a tiny stage inside the SPAC grounds. These special acoustic preshows were one of the many ways Phish, and the Waterwheel Foundation, Phish’s charity organization, raised money to benefit victims of flooding in Vermont and Upstate New York. Vermont experienced catastrophic flooding in July, with many towns completely inundated with flood waters, including our state capital of Montpelier. I live in Burlington and while we were safe from the flooding, many of our friends’ businesses and homes were not. We have been under the delusion that Vermont was mostly safe from massive disruption from climate change. This summer’s flooding was a giant wakeup call, and everyone is incredibly appreciative of the effort that went into pulling off these fundraisers on such a tight timeline.
We attended both nights of the Foundation event. In case you didn’t read yesterday’s review, the Foundation preshow was held at the Charles R. Wood Stage, a little tiny stage at the back of the lawn near concessions. It is small and simple, with a beautiful all wood back wall. It looks like the kind of stage a kids’ summer theater would perform on. The stage had a few hundred chairs set up in front of it, but also a little very low platform directly in front.
The weather has been broody in the Northeast all summer long, but the forecast for Saturday was clear! As if on cue, it did rain briefly as we checked in to the event at 4PM, but it stopped shortly thereafter, and the blue skies and warm sun were a welcome reprieve from the rain that fell the day before. We headed to the Foundation Lounge to grab some drinks and food before the preshow performance. I walked in with a friend who hadn’t attended the Foundation event the night before, and she gasped and hugged me when we walked into the big white tent set up as the Foundation Lounge. It was the same setup as yesterday - the huge tent was decorated like some sort of middle eastern hookah bar meets Vermont hippie hang out. There were couches and sitting cushions spread out on jute rugs, chandeliers with greenery, an amazing food spread from all Vermont restaurants (Skinny Pancake, Miso Hungry), a bar with custom Phish themed cocktails, and Ben and Jerry’s of course! Today, Jim Pollock was signing variants of the poster he created for the Waterwheel event.
We meandered back to the stage area around 4:45, and sat down on the platform in the grass right in front of the stage. A preshow announcement asked everyone to stay seated for the show and to be kind to their neighbors. Page and Trey came out at 5:03 to excited and warm cheers from the crowd of a few hundred people. The performance started with "Water in the Sky," an obvious choice for a flood benefit show. Every time I hear this song, I am transported back to Big Cypress for a few seconds, filtering out those Everglades. After "Water in the Sky," Trey teases the munchkin song that was a prominent part of the Phish show the night before, confessing that after the show, they were told the internet (that’s us, guys!) figured out it was the 84th anniversary of the theatrical release of the Wizard Oz the day before. Trey swore up and down that they had no idea in advance and that the teases the night before were just the music channeling through him, and he felt compelled to play the song. (There are lots of people calling NANS on this, but I’ll take Trey at his word!) Trey also joked that the band was eating munchkins (a Dunkin Donuts staple) after the show the night before.
"Farmhouse" was up next. "Farmhouse" is about Vermont, and I love it every single time I hear it. Cluster flies was also incredibly on brand for the moment – fungus gnats (cluster flies?) dive bombed us both nights as we sat watching the preshow. It got a lot of giggles in the audience. Toward the end of "Farmhouse," Trey seemed like he was getting a little choked up (me too, buddy). "Driver" was up next, a song many people had told me they were hoping to hear at this set. Page was smiling and happy, pretty sure the "Driver" chose the right shirt for him today.
Then came the real tear jerkers. "Miss You" starts and I am crying within the first five seconds. This song didn’t mean much to me until my Mom died 6 years ago. It is such a simple and perfect encapsulation of the feelings of loss and longing when someone close to you dies. I had no idea that I would see my mom in the faces of strangers, and that I would literally see her everywhere. Thank you, Trey, for helping me make sense of my grief through the music that I love, and for helping me know that I am not alone in these hard emotions. The crowd joins in for the ending You’re Everywhere, and I know I am not the only one who can relate to the emotions expressed in this song.
Before the next song, Trey mentions how during the early part of Covid, he and Page would hang out but sit 15 feet apart and drink tea, except Trey confesses they didn’t really drink tea. Page laughs and it’s an inside joke because only the two of them really know what happened. "Waste" is up next, and the crowd sings along the whole time. After "Waste," Trey thanks the crowd for coming and supporting the cause and flood recovery in Vermont and Upstate NY. Someone in the audience shouts, “thank you from Montpelier” and Trey is visibly moved – “we love Montpelier!”
"Evening Song" is up next, and I am surprised to hear it in this setting. My relationship with this song is tenuous – the first time I heard it was when it opened the entire MSG run in 2019, and it seemed foreboding at the time (approach the night with caution), and then Trey got stuck on the platform and Covid shut down the world. For a while, I was confident that "Evening Song" had something to do with it.
The tearjerker theme continues with "Joy", and it isn’t just the audience who is welling up as Trey sings about losing his sister to cancer. After "Joy," Trey switches guitars and the show closes with "Get Back on the Train", with a full crowd sing along again. Trey and Page leave the stage arm in arm at 5:41PM after 38 minutes of sweet, intimate, emotional and joyful acoustic music under the first real sunny sky of the weekend. Thank you so much to everyone at the Waterwheel Foundation and everyone in the Phish organization for this incredible opportunity to see our favorite musicians perform in such a sweet and intimate setting, all the while helping Vermont and Upstate New York recover from this summer’s floods.
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