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Bangor’s Phish fans elated for band’s imminent return

January 16, 2019
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Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio at the band's last Bangor appearance. Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio at the band's last Bangor appearance. (photo courtesy Jeff Kirlin/The Thing of the Moment)

When the band Phish announced summer tour dates last week, revealing a two-night return to Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor on June 25 and June 26, many local fans began making plans to attend.

Todd Simcox, meteorologist for WABI-TV 5 and creator of “Todd’s Salsa,” says he’s been a fan of Phish since his years at Lyndon State College in the band’s home state of Vermont during the 1990s.

“My roommate was a huge fan and he got me listening to them early on,” Simcox recalled of being exposed to the group’s music. “There were a lot of Phish fans on campus. Their music kind of grows on you and I became hooked in those years.”

Simcox attended his first Phish concert when the band last performed at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion on July 3, 2013. He says seeing the band perform before a sellout crowd of 16,000 fans the night before the fourth of July was an unforgettable experience.

“They opened with ‘Possum’ and they really blasted into it,” Simcox said of hearing guitarist Trey Anastasio, drummer Jonathan Fishman, bassist Mike Gordon and keyboardist Page McConnell rip into the enduring rocker which debuted in 1985 and is performed (on average) once every 3.5 shows.

Simcox says the band was exactly what he had expected but that he was surprised to see how many fans were present at the concert with their children.

“The biggest takeaway for me was how much of a family atmosphere there was at that show,” he said. “It makes sense when you listen to their music. All ages can listen and appreciate it.”

Photographer Jeff Kirlin has fond memories of shooting hundreds of photos of Phish fans at that July 3, 2013 show for Waterfront Concerts and his “Thing of the Moment” photo blog.

“It was by far the best experience I had there,” Kirlin recalled of dealing with the band’s fans. “What I remember most is how nice and happy everybody was. I shot a lot of photos in and around the venue, but I also went to different campgrounds to find fans, and they were all fantastic. Phish fans are all so polite and are just happy to be here. Many of them I only met once and they’re still among my Facebook friends.”

Kirlin laughed as he recalled the kind offers from many Phish fans to share their pre-concert snacks with him.

“I remember one guy handed me a bag of raisins which I thought was very nice,” Kirlin laughed. “Then I realized I didn’t know the proper dosage for raisins, so I passed on those and went with a grilled cheese, and that was very good.”

Kirlin says Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion and the City of Bangor did an excellent job of accommodating Phish and their audience in 2013 and he expects a similar situation this summer.

“When Phish comes to town, a lot of people come with them, but they’re very nice people,” he said.

Phish fan Joe McCaffrey of Milford agrees. Born in Burlington, where the band formed in 1983 at the University of Vermont, McCaffrey ultimately moved to the Bangor area after meeting his girlfriend, Darlene Jack, at the Phish concert in Bangor in 2013.

“I’d like to give Phish credit for me meeting the most wonderful woman in my life,” McCaffrey said of his girlfriend and the band he has seen in concert 77 times to date, most recently during their 2018 New Year’s Run at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

McCaffrey attended his first Phish concert on December 9, 1989, at Castleton University in Castleton, Vermont, and says it was a drastically different experience to that of contemporary Phish shows.

“They played in our dining hall because Phish wasn’t invited to play the gymnasium,” McCaffrey said incredulously. “There were only 45 of us in the audience and before the show Trey pulled a bunch of kazoos and tambourines out a large brown box and handed them to us, along with macaroni and cheese boxes for us to use as shakers. They explained how they wanted us to be part of the music and I’ll never forget it.”

McCaffrey follows Phish’s career arc closely and believes the band is currently in the midst of a golden age in their existence.

“When drummer Jon Fishman appeared on ‘The Nite Show with Danny Cashman’ last April, he said he thinks Phish is entering the most important stage of their career right now and I think he was right,” McCaffrey said.

“Watching them play is mesmerizing because they can jam so freely,” Simcox said of his Phish concert experience. “A lot of what you hear is music they just created on the spot and a lot of it is really good.”

Joe McCaffrey says he won’t be surprised if this June’s Phish shows in Bangor draw twice the number of fans as the band’s sold-out 2013 concert.

“Last time, Phish started their tour here and followed it with three nights at Saratoga Performing Arts Center,” he said. “A lot of fans skipped Bangor to go to SPAC. Phish’s following is even heavier now than it was six years ago, and these shows arrive in the middle of a tour instead of the beginning. I wouldn’t be surprised if 40,000 people show up this time.”

“Phish is great for the economy,” said Kirlin. “You won’t find a hotel room within 50 miles of Bangor. I think Phish will be a fantastic thing for Bangor, economically.”

Tickets to see Phish at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor go on sale to the general public Saturday, January 26, at 10:00 a.m., at www.WaterfrontConcerts.com and in person at Mark’s Music in Brewer.

Ticket prices range from $45.00 to $85.00. Both reserved seating and general admission tickets will be available. A ticket request period is currently underway at www.Tickets.Phish.com.

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