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Phishing at SPAC: warm, serene (with video, photo gallery)

Saturday, July 7, 2012
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Phish performed the first of three weekend shows at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs on Friday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
Phish performed the first of three weekend shows at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs on Friday.

— Kid, he calls himself, 29, from Rochester, N.H., has been going to Phish concerts since at least 1999. And the Saratoga Performing Arts Center is his favorite venue.

“I’m probably up in the 60s, 70s … something like that,” he said. “I come for the whole thing, especially to Saratoga. I come here for the beautiful scenery, for the beautiful everything — it’s a great thing. What separates this place from everywhere else is that you’ve got the state park, and you can just take off for hours.”

He came to see Phish at SPAC Friday with a group, and they’ll be camping out for the weekend. One of the best shows he’s ever seen, he said, was in 2009 at SPAC.

“The boys are playin’ really hot this summer … ” he said, “On this run, this is definitely the best place to come and see ’em.”

Fans of the band gathered in Saratoga Spa State Park as early as 3:30 p.m. to get ready for the show, which began at 7:30. Some cars were lined up on the right shoulder of Route 50 just outside the SPAC parking lot, waiting for it to open at 4:30.

Police were present to direct traffic and their presence could be felt immediately upon entering the park. One officer had stopped two cars near the Automobile Museum around 3:45 p.m., and could be seen talking with six shirtless men on the grassy shoulder of the road.

At other parking lots and on the grass outside of the Roosevelt Baths and Spa, concertgoers were setting up portable canopies and tents, playing Frisbee, kicking balls back and forth and talking with one another in chairs set up around their cars. And of course, Phish was playing from seemingly every car and trunk stereo.

People were eager to meet new faces, and excited to see old ones. Overall, the atmosphere was as friendly and pleasant as the sunny weather.

Liz, 29, from New York City, said that this was her first SPAC concert but her 15th time seeing Phish.

“I love the music, the good atmosphere, and it’s a nice venue. I have a group of friends who are kind of nation-wide, and we all meet up and go to events like this as a group,” she said.

Music review

Phish gives packed SPAC what it wants. Click HERE.

A spokesperson from SPAC said that they estimated that between 18,000 and 20,000 people gathered in the park Friday night to see the band.

He said that the park was expected to be most crowded tonight, with up to 25,000 expected at the concert. The final Phish show is Sunday night.

Vendors set up shop in the West 50 parking lot, and that’s where many people parked and walked to hang out as well. A bluegrass group, The Blind Owl Band, set up an impromptu concert underneath some pine trees near where the footbridge meets the lot.

Past the vendor tents selling bongs, bowls, food and drinks could be found a mixing of the old and the young, the first-timers and the long-timers, sharing conversation, smoking marijuana, and drinking alcohol.

Park authorities watched over the festivities with hawk-like attention but rarely intervened. SPAC EMTs patrolled through populated areas in a clearly flagged cart, while police drove around the lots throughout the park. Officers on horseback patrolled where cars could not reach. Authorities could be seen in regular communication with one another via radio or through the open windows of their cars.

Susie Williams, 21, of Lake Placid, made a special trip to see Phish on Friday.

“I drove about an hour and a half to get here, and I have to leave early early in the morning to work tomorrow,” she said. It was her eighth time at SPAC, but her first time seeing Phish.

“I like the people, the people are awesome,” she said. “Everyone seems to be in the same mind set, they’re all just looking to have a good time. It’s a beautiful summer day, people just want to have a cold drink, hang out with cool people, and listen to good music.”

 
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