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Phish Fans Jam Bangor Waterfront for Band's Summer Tour Kick-Off
07/03/2013   Reported By: Jennifer Mitchell

Ten years ago, the town of Limestone was transformed, as 60,000 people flocked to the decommissioned air base at the top of the state to see the Vermont jam-band known as Phish. Some might describe Phish as the heir presumptive to the Grateful Dead. Both bands rely heavily on band chemistry, and have spawned pools of die-hard fans, despite limited mainstream appeal. We caught up with Phish fans gathered near the Bangor waterfront, where the band kicks off its summer tour tonight.

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Phish Fans Jam Bangor Water Listen
 Duration:
3:13

Phish 2

Phish fans:
Man: "Haaaa! It's awesome! Ah, t's just good. I dunno. Just gotta experience it."
Man: "It's my 53rd show."
Man: "It'd be - 37 times?"
Man: "Uh, maybe 75? In that area - a lot of shows."
Man: "Well, they keep playing, so they keep coming back."

Phish fans are known for their loyalty.

"A lot of people don't get it, but when you do? You can't help but come back," says one.

"I was hanging out on the lot by about 9, or 8 or so," says another.

They've come from Ohio, Colorado, Boston, Old Orchard Beach and Chicago, just to be at the show. And some of them, like Megan from Pittsburgh (above), can't even afford the $65 for a ticket - but she's not giving up hope. Instead, she's got a paint set, some canvasses - and a plan.

"I mean, if I can sell some of these paintings, and get enough money," she says, "or, I think soon I'm going to go over and see, like - I don't know, I hear if you, like, sign up to, like, pick up trash afterward, someone might hook you up. So, we'll see."

Phish 1Across the way, several tents line the grass, where the city has allowed some folks to camp overnight. And some of them aren't coming for the rhythms, the controlled musical chaos, or the extended improvisational sequences for which Phish is known.

"We're homeless in the Bangor area," says one camper, "so this is an opportunity to make some cash."

Jon and Fawness (right) are offering handmade hemp crafts and jewelry - which they hope will be big sellers. And they're pretty confident they know their market.

Fawness: "It's a Phish concert, man," she laughs, "you know?"

Jon: "They're all about the hand-made, and the natural.

Fawness: "They're into the natural stuff."

It's just part of a whole scene that many fans, like Justin from Old Orchard Beach, say either you get or you don't. "It's like an inside joke that 20,000 people are in on," he says.

Either you get the extended improv tunes, the free Ben & Jerry's ice cream at concerts, and the appeal of following the band, or you don't. Maybe you understand that describing a Phish song as "dank" is a good thing, maybe you don't. And maybe you're cool with the fact that drummer Jon Fishman wears a dress on stage. Maybe you're not.

There's a whole culture that's grown up around Phish, but fans like Mike from New York say even if you don't get all of it, it's still really about the music.

"Everybody who comes to the show is here for the music, and everyone's real happy to be here. I like it. It's the vibe," he says. "That's what it is. It's a good vibe."

Phish, which turns 30 this year, is kicking off its summer tour tonight in Bangor. We've heard from just a fraction of the more than 16,000 people expected to flood the waterfront tonight.

Photos: Nick Woodward

 

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