Phish Friday | My First Show

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My first Phish show ever was October 4, 1999 in Normal, IL, and it’s definitely near the top of my “favorite concerts ever” list. It’s unfortunate that it was my first, too — the night before was an epic show in Chicago where the first set alone was nearly an hour and a half. And I’ve only really written about it briefly in the past so it definitely deserves more reflection during Phish Fridays.

I remember (rather vividly) how we walked through the lot scene to get inside the venue to get to our seats — and no one was in the venue even though the show was scheduled to start in about a half hour. “This is odd,” I thought.

And obviously — the show “changed my life, man!

Here’s one of my highlights…

The show ruled, I got a B on the political science test I had the next day, and all the local newspapers reported that many, many Phish fans got arrested for damaging University property surrounding the venue, including dorms, local gas stations, etc. Fans were bumming money from locals. Fans were throwing rocks at dorm windows. Fans got arrested for carrying and/or selling the usual suspects: ganja, shrooms, molly, blotters, etc. etc. etc. All stuff that is extremely scary to the residents of a town called Normal, IL.

Fast forward to Phish’s final tour, and I find myself backstage at Alpine Valley having a great conversation with John Langenstein, Phish’s security director. We get on the topic of what venues Phish enjoys best — Alpine Valley being one of them — and which venues Phish is no longer allowed to play at. John then told me that the top three venues on their list that Phish was never allowed to play at again were: Red Rocks in Colorado, Redbird Arena in Normal, and Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, IA.

I still find it funny that I happened to have seen one of the shows that ultimately caused that Top 3 List.

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com Justin

    …and even though he’s all messed up on heroine and/or pain pills lately — it still makes me smile to hear Trey cracking up after giving the Makisupa keyword…

    “NORML!”

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com Justin

    …and even though he’s all messed up on heroine and/or pain pills lately — it still makes me smile to hear Trey cracking up after giving the Makisupa keyword…

    “NORML!”

  • royce

    This was just the beginning of “lot kids” ruining the scene for the fans who really came for the music. (obviously I came for the other festivities as well, but managed to do so without offending the locals) Leaving a wake of destruction behind you as you travel from one place to the next is not the best way to become welcome visitors in towns and cities across the country.

  • royce

    This was just the beginning of “lot kids” ruining the scene for the fans who really came for the music. (obviously I came for the other festivities as well, but managed to do so without offending the locals) Leaving a wake of destruction behind you as you travel from one place to the next is not the best way to become welcome visitors in towns and cities across the country.

  • Rob

    The Chicago show was honestly not that “epic.” They sets were long… but never really seemed to go anywhere. Chicago was my friend’s 3rd show… He went to Oswego both nights. Needless to say, he asked if Sugar Blue played with them all the time.

  • Rob

    The Chicago show was honestly not that “epic.” They sets were long… but never really seemed to go anywhere. Chicago was my friend’s 3rd show… He went to Oswego both nights. Needless to say, he asked if Sugar Blue played with them all the time.

  • http://trossenrobotics.com/ Alex

    Did you witness any of this “destruction” by kidz that you mentioned Justin? I attended the Chicago show the night before, but alas, even though I only lived an hour from Bloomington/Normal I couldn’t make it to the Normal show.

    Anyways, the reason I ask is because a good friend of mine (now passed) attended that show, and he had told me that the only thing that went down as a result of the kidz at the show was the drug arrests (obvious) and a “tortilla war”. I asked him about the destruction because I read a pretty nasty article in the next days paper (Pantagraph) about it, making it sound like there were huge riots and such. He had told (back when it happened) me that all of the destruction that happened were from the locals, not from the kidz, and that he covered most of the area around and didn’t saw very few kidz partaking in this.

    This did not surprise me one bit as Normal is the home of ISU, and I have seen some intensely hard core and destructive behavior by the locals.

  • http://trossenrobotics.com/ Alex

    Did you witness any of this “destruction” by kidz that you mentioned Justin? I attended the Chicago show the night before, but alas, even though I only lived an hour from Bloomington/Normal I couldn’t make it to the Normal show.

    Anyways, the reason I ask is because a good friend of mine (now passed) attended that show, and he had told me that the only thing that went down as a result of the kidz at the show was the drug arrests (obvious) and a “tortilla war”. I asked him about the destruction because I read a pretty nasty article in the next days paper (Pantagraph) about it, making it sound like there were huge riots and such. He had told (back when it happened) me that all of the destruction that happened were from the locals, not from the kidz, and that he covered most of the area around and didn’t saw very few kidz partaking in this.

    This did not surprise me one bit as Normal is the home of ISU, and I have seen some intensely hard core and destructive behavior by the locals.

  • robotic

    dude, i totally remember you and john talking about that… great post, brings back heady memories, my man…

  • robotic

    dude, i totally remember you and john talking about that… great post, brings back heady memories, my man…

  • TC

    Nice choice Justin – that was actually my first show too. I missed all the nonsense out in the lot with the cops and all, but I just remember leaving Redbird Arena afterwards and cracking up at the Normal Police piling out of the paddy wagon all dressed up in their riot gear. Somebody behind me said something like, “Don’t they know this is Phish, not Nine Inch Nails?” We all thought the cops appeared a little overzealous.

    Just leave it to good ol’ Normal, IL to make a jamband like Phish out to be notorious. Gotta love my hometown, haha. Great show though – thanks for putting it up!

  • TC

    Nice choice Justin – that was actually my first show too. I missed all the nonsense out in the lot with the cops and all, but I just remember leaving Redbird Arena afterwards and cracking up at the Normal Police piling out of the paddy wagon all dressed up in their riot gear. Somebody behind me said something like, “Don’t they know this is Phish, not Nine Inch Nails?” We all thought the cops appeared a little overzealous.

    Just leave it to good ol’ Normal, IL to make a jamband like Phish out to be notorious. Gotta love my hometown, haha. Great show though – thanks for putting it up!

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com Justin

    Rob — hilarious about that Sugar Blue comment.

    Alex — I didn’t really witness destruction, but I did clearly witness an arena and locale that wasn’t really prepared for what they were getting into…

    The worst thing I saw was back at my dorm (Watterson, that big ass building) — I’m in line for Subway and some guys come in and grab a seat at a booth nearby. I overhear one guy — “check out all the tapes I got…”

    It was two dudes that broke into someone’s car and stole all their bootleg tapes. All of ‘em. Can you imagine that shit? Hitting a couple Phish shows and having all of your music stolen from you by a bunch of lame-ass college kids? Yeah, it definitely left a small amount of bad taste in my mouth…

    TC — awesome you were there…overall, a great first show for me. “Uncle Penn” was pretty sweet to open the show because they did the standard bluegrass jam where every gets a little solo and then they all bring it back home. A very nice intro to Phish and the lights if I might add….

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com Justin

    Rob — hilarious about that Sugar Blue comment.

    Alex — I didn’t really witness destruction, but I did clearly witness an arena and locale that wasn’t really prepared for what they were getting into…

    The worst thing I saw was back at my dorm (Watterson, that big ass building) — I’m in line for Subway and some guys come in and grab a seat at a booth nearby. I overhear one guy — “check out all the tapes I got…”

    It was two dudes that broke into someone’s car and stole all their bootleg tapes. All of ‘em. Can you imagine that shit? Hitting a couple Phish shows and having all of your music stolen from you by a bunch of lame-ass college kids? Yeah, it definitely left a small amount of bad taste in my mouth…

    TC — awesome you were there…overall, a great first show for me. “Uncle Penn” was pretty sweet to open the show because they did the standard bluegrass jam where every gets a little solo and then they all bring it back home. A very nice intro to Phish and the lights if I might add….

  • EJ

    Justin, or anyone else, why was Phish banned from played at Red Rocks? Just curious.

  • EJ

    Justin, or anyone else, why was Phish banned from played at Red Rocks? Just curious.

  • robotic

    EJ, both the red rocks and redbird bans were due to overzealous fans…

  • robotic

    EJ, both the red rocks and redbird bans were due to overzealous fans…

  • http://www.myspace.com/jrobisco JRo Bisco

    I was at both the Chicago and Normal shows, and they were high energy, fun shows, but I didn’t think either was that epic. I remember Chicago was unbearably cold and drizzly, and they opened the show up with First Tube….and there was a pretty lengthy Twist…

    …NORMAL blew my mind, almost literally. For the first (and only time), I ate mushrooms at a Phish show and evidently consumed way too much…as I could hardly move; I felt as if I were suffocating with all the people bouncing into me and yelling….it was not an enjoyable experience, but once we went back outside into the cool Illinois fall, I mellowed out. Oh, and the Uncle Pen opener was freakin’ awesome, as was the DWD.

  • http://www.myspace.com/jrobisco JRo Bisco

    I was at both the Chicago and Normal shows, and they were high energy, fun shows, but I didn’t think either was that epic. I remember Chicago was unbearably cold and drizzly, and they opened the show up with First Tube….and there was a pretty lengthy Twist…

    …NORMAL blew my mind, almost literally. For the first (and only time), I ate mushrooms at a Phish show and evidently consumed way too much…as I could hardly move; I felt as if I were suffocating with all the people bouncing into me and yelling….it was not an enjoyable experience, but once we went back outside into the cool Illinois fall, I mellowed out. Oh, and the Uncle Pen opener was freakin’ awesome, as was the DWD.