A sense of urgency was lacking in the extended pointer-finger from people roaming the parking lots of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center early Friday evening.
In the auxiliary parking lot on Route 50, 24-year-olds Ryan Barnes and Rob Pierce, both of Burlington, Vt., signaled with the familiar gesture to cars entering the lot that they needed a ticket for the first of three nights of performances by the jam-band Phish. Moving from the back of the lot toward the footbridge that would eventually take them to the official box office window, they casually waved their finger and drank from a plastic cup in their other hand.
“The show is not sold out yet, so we’re hoping to get a deal,” said Barnes. “But everyone is looking for them, so we’re probably going to end up paying face value at the box office.”
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Pierce, who would be attending his ninth Phish show at SPAC if everything went well, added, “This is my 33rd Phish show and I’ve come to  shows with tickets. I’ve never been shut out.”
He was still hopeful about finding someone with an extra ticket who was trying to cut their losses and would move their extra ticket for less than face value, but he was prepared to pay full price at the box office or from a scalper.
The one-finger gesture was an unspoken sign that was common in a part of the lot called Shakedown Street, a makeshift area of rows of vendors selling food, jewelry, crystals, T-shirts, pins and glassware. The nickname for the small marketplace comes from a song by the Grateful Dead.
New Jersey resident Glenn Gordon, who has been on the road for 36 years, said he never saw a Shakedown Street that was bustling like the one on Friday night. “The scene is off the wall,” he said.
Before the show, people were using the footbridge across Route 50 to walk away from the venue and toward Shakedown Street. One of the major attractions of the market was the cheap food, with a bottle of water going for $1 and beer quietly being sold for less than inside the venue and without rigorous identification checks.
Paddy Adolfi, 23, of Cazenovia, opted to skip the busy Shakedown Street for the serenity inside the Saratoga Spa State Park. He said the drum pounding and excitement in the parking lot was fun, but the park was what makes a concert at SPAC so unique.
“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Adolfi said, only leaving the park when he headed into the main Route 50 parking lot in search of a ticket for the show.
He wasn’t the only one who took this route, as the park was filled with people opting for a mellow pre-show experience.
Pierce also touted the special surroundings of SPAC, saying, “It’s a real fun venue because most venues are just surrounded by parking lots. Here you’ve got the entire park.”
Adolfi, who traveled to the show as a day trip, remarked on how different the scene in the park was before a Phish show than before a Dave Matthews Band show. The older crowd for a Phish show is more peaceful, he said, than the high school- and college-age kids that make up most of the crowd for a Dave Matthews Band performance. “I feel like when you go to a Dave show it is a drink-a-thon … but for Phish people bring their kids and are just hanging out,” he said.
The Phish crowd was also dressed a little differently than a Dave Matthews Band audience, with many people Friday night sporting the tie-dyed or Grateful Dead-themed shirts popular for jam band shows. Standing out among the throngs was the patriotic attire of five friends from New Jersey, who each wore a different basketball jersey from the 1992 Olympic “Dream Team.”
The coordinated outfits made perfect sense, according to 27-year-old Eric Olvesen, who explained, “We lose each other all the time and because it was the Fourth of July weekend, it made sense.”
After the show, which seemed in jeopardy before 8 p.m. because of lightning, the giant crowd dispersed to various locations, with some people going home, others camping out and hotels or motels accommodating the rest. Gordon, who was staying for all three nights of the show, was looking forward to heading back to Lee’s Park campground on Saratoga Lake.
“Go over there if you want to see a scene,” Gordon said. “Just imagine [Shakedown Street] magnified.”
Tickets are still available to see Phish at 7:30 p.m. tonight and Sunday.