On Your Marks (From The Phish Festival Newspaper)
The now-legendary show, which lasted some 15.5 hours, was only expected to draw between 150,000 and 200,000 people. The overflow resulted in a third of the crowd settling for spots nearly a half-mile away from the stage and out of visual range of the performers. Nevermind the gridlock and lack of waste management that plagued the area in a town that normally —then and now—boasts a population of less than 3,000 (for more on Summer Jam, check out this feature, just posted to the site).
Despite the chaos, Henry Valent, the head of Watkins Glen Grand Prix Corp. in 1973, told reporters a few days following the concert that, “The kids were just wonderful. I would say that 99 percent of those young people were fine, fine youths. Sure there was dope and drinking, but for a crowd that size, they behaved admirably well. Under similar circumstances, with an older element, I don’t think they’d put up with it. These youngsters seemed to enjoy the Spartan experience.”
So to soothe any residual fears from ‘73, Glasgow and his Phish team flew the sheriff, some track officials and a local politician to the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif. last April to show them how a modern music festival functions. (Phish’s previous festival, Festival 8, was held in the same venue in October ’09.) “That really started the process,” says Glasgow astride a bike in the shadows of the Super Ball’s Ferris wheel.
And in regard to how it would be far easier for the band to return to the same site for their festivals, Glasgow responds succinctly: “We don’t want it to be easy—we want it to be great.”
Rumors already abound about what’s going to make Super Ball IX special for fans that made the trek. A popular one has to do with the campsites being named after the seven states where Phish has not performed—the theory being that the band could do some sort of late night flatbed truck jam ala the ’96 Clifford Ball and quickly “play” all the remaining states. (It should be noted that former Phish tour manager Brad Sands is still responsible for naming all the campgrounds though Glen Close is Colton’s brainchild.)
Another fun rumor, playing to the festival’s namesake, centers on the return of the “Big Ball Jam,” which was a staple for a period in the early 90’s. The jam featured the release of four large balls from the stage—each representing one of the band members—with the band improvising to the balls’ movements as they bounced over the crowd.
And then, of course, there is the simple and age-old experience of hoping for a particular song to be played. Longtime Phish artist Jim Pollack, who’s helping raise funds for the Waterwheel Foundation this weekend, says he’s hoping for “The Wedge.” “I’m told they might be pulling out some Gamehenge stuff,” he adds. “I like some of that nerdy, early Trey music.”
If the band’s hour-long soundcheck that began at 4pm was any indication, the seven announced sets portend music both focused and exploratory. Opening and closing with freeform jams that vacillated from groove-based to mildly psychedelic—the Grateful Dead’s famous ’73 soundcheck furtively lingering in the late afternoon’s shadows—Phish worked through a brief selection of four songs in between. (Fun fact: they also soundchecked “Undermind” and “Sleep Again” at Festival 8.)
Whatever goes down, rest assured that you’ll once again remember the name: Watkins Glen.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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