Millions of dollars were spent renovating the Mahaffey Theater at the St. Pete Bayfront. It looks lavish, plush even. And those beautiful wine-colored velvety seats.
Only thing was, nobody was sitting in the seats. Everybody was on his feet. The Mahaffey was filled to overflowing with Phish phans..er..fans dancing. Dancing in the aisles, dancing in the rows, dancing in the opera boxes, dancing on the stairs.
Who could help it? Phish, the Vermont group making its third appearance in the Bay area in the last 18 months [Ed. Note: fourth, actually], could do no wrong. Their two-and-a-half-hour concert kept the sold-out crowd on its feet from start to finish, including a 14-minute acoustic bluegrass interlude featuring Boston’s “Long Time.” Phish drew primarily from the new CD, Hoist, and from last year’s Rift (the group has five CDs to its credit).
Phish, one of the H.O.R.D.E. bands (with Spin Doctors, Widespread Panic, Aquarium Rescue Unit and Blues Traveler), have achieved cult status. MTV rotation and alternative radio alone cannot explain the fact that Phish, which previously played at the Ritz and at Boatyard Village, have now outgrown the Mahaffey and must play a larger local venue. Witness the fact that their upcoming New Year’s Eve gigs include Philadelphia Civic Center, Madison Square Garden and Boston Garden. Phans..er..fans travel with the band like the Deadheads. You can keep in the swim with the Phish newsletter (Doniac Schvice), Phish hotline, Phish.net and Phish dry goods.
The Mahaffey concert featured all that shimmers about the group. Tight arrangements, long jams and breath-taking solos filled the evening to the brim. Trey Anastasio covered a myriad of styles, and Page McConnell ran laps through his bank of keyboards (take special note of his Hammond B3 work). Bassist Mike Gordon and Jonathan (Tubs) Fishman on drums and washboard (!) drove the group effortlessly through rock, psychedelia, reggae, countrified rock, jazz, and, well, everything.
The next time Phish are in Phlorida, you won’t have the luxury of seeing them in the intimate surroundings of the Mahaffey. They need a much bigger Phish bowl!
[This article was written for the Gaither High School student newspaper, The Pony Express, during my 18 years there on the faculty. I’m pretty sure they were far too embarrassed to publish it. Me? Not so much. I’m putting it up today in honor of meeting Danielle, who’s seen Phish about 100 times more than I have! And Tristan!]
[Set 1: Runaway Jim, Golden Lady, Poor Heart, Guelah Papyrus, Split Open and Melt > Kung > Split Open and Melt, Esther, Julius, Guyute, Golgi Apparatus
Set 2: Lengthwise > Maze, McGrupp, Rift, Harry Hood, Nellie Cane, Foreplay > Long Time, Chalk Dust Torture, E: Sample in a Jar]