Why I Love Summer Tour
In the wake of Phish’s first Fall Tour in three years, the odes to seeing shows in hockey arenas have been coming. People like what they like, and if your first – or best – concerts have been in the northeast in fall, I can understand how that triggers the endorphins. Since most of my fall shows came in the theatre era, my history is different. Never mind arenas; give me sheds any day . Sure some of it is history, but there are reasons to love the outdoor shows. Fans might be lining up their hoody collection in advance of crisp days, but there’s still time for one last look at summer.
Interaction with the environment
The problem with arenas is that they’re self-contained. Once you’re inside the venue, you’re in a closed off world. Outdoors, you’re interacting with the world in addition to the concert. Sure, Monsoon Tour 2013 didn’t work out quite so well that way, but sometimes the rain and lightning inspires the band to play better. So many memories came out of these, from the Polaris 2000 storm to being in Phoenix in July and watching the mist tent’s liquid evaporate before it hit the ground. Those Gorge “Divided Sky”s that started as the sun dropped below the ridge would be just another versions. Sometimes there are mountains visible from behind the stage, sometimes it’s a stunning sunset, others it’s watching clouds blow across the Tucson desert sky. Would my memories of my first “Slave to the Traffic Light” be as strong if I hadn’t been able to view a storm hitting Denver? Somehow I doubt it.
More interesting venues
I’ll give this fall tour some credit for playing both Hampton (which at least has the cool exterior) and Boardwalk Hall, but – once inside – an arena is largely an arena. Some are larger than others, Madison Square Garden is round, but so many times it can be easy to forget where exactly you are. Sure there are cookie cutter sheds, but there’s a much larger chance for variety in the summer. Venues are carved out of hills, or are situated in a town park between giant mountain ranges in Telluride or sometimes are located in the same spot as historic half a million strong festivals. As amazing as Chris’s lights can be, the view of the arid hills over the Columbia River trumps that every time.
Ever since Worcester 2010, when a massive snowstorm hit the region right before the New Years’ Run leading to people having to change plans – we ended having to fly out on Christmas night and still barely were able to make it to Boston, check in, and grab some groceries before the storm hit – and others missing the entire run due to travel disasters. October doesn’t have quite the same potential for storms (although it already does rule out road trips across Montana, because you never know what can happen in Lookout and Homestake Passes) but the classic November shows easily could see delays and other events that prevent travel. There are so many more interesting routes to take and side trips possible along the way in the warmer months. Tour isn’t just about seeing music after all; it’s the adventures on the way.
Do people really like bundling up every time they go outside, having to figure out where to stash their clothes inside the show, and otherwise just having to deal with bulk? I never do. Admittedly east coast shows aren’t the same costume fest that the western ones tend to be, but I like having people be able to dress in outlandish outfits rather than for practicality.
Sure there hasn’t been one in years, but Summer Tour always brings that exciting possibility that maybe there could be a festival this year. Ferris Wheels! Surprise Fourth Sets! Random art installation! Festivals are the best thing Phish do, and one can always hope that they find a way to make one work in 2014. That, by itself, is a reason to love Summer Tour forever. OK, Festival 8 and Big Cypress are exceptions, but basically they worked by dragging the fall and winter kicking and screaming into the land of forever summer.
Hmmm. As I write this, I’m listening to the sound of start of the eternal winter rain falling on my roof. Land of forever summer sounds good. Easy tickets and nice weather here we come. It’s only 8 months away!
 I make an exception for New Years run. More than anything, seeing Phish for me is about seeing New Years shows. Holidays are about tradition after all.
David Steinberg got his Masters Degree in mathematics from New Mexico State University in 1994. He first discovered the power of live music at the Capital Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His Phish stats website is at http://www.ihoz.com/PhishStats.html and he’s on the board of directors for The Mockingbird Foundation. He occasionally posts at the Phish.net blog and has a daily update on the Phish Stats Facebook page