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Published: 2003/08/04

Phish Performs Surprise Set Atop Air Traffic Control Tower at IT

LIMESTONE, ME Around 2 a.m. early Sunday morning, Phish performed a surprise set of ambient music more than one hundred feet in the air, from the roof of the air traffic control tower at Loring Air Force Base, where the band hosted the IT festival. The hour-long set consisted of meandering improvisation, sans vocals, which sounded somewhat reminiscent of The Siket Disc, although with a darker, more energetic edge. Meanwhile lighting director Chris Kuroda worked from the back of a pickup truck about fifty yards from the base of the tower, creating a surreal spectacle, as lights were placed on the ground, in the buildings stairwell windows, on the observation decks and on the roof itself. Amidst fog machines and strobing lights, only the band members’ silhouettes were visible from the ground below. At one point, three acrobatic athletetes repelled down the sides of the tower, twisting and turning in time with the music (similar to the woman that dangled from the raffters during the Clifford Ball ‘Antelope’). Engineer Paul Languedoc mixed from inside the building, listening through a pair of studio monitors, as pristine sound was pumped out through large speaker stacks at the base of the tower.

There is no elevator in the building, so much of the bands gear was hoisted up the side of the structure with the use of cranes and ropes. It also meant many trips up the stairs for the crew, and ultimately the band members. At the bottom of the stairway, a sign greeted them: Only 171 More to Go.
On Friday night, Guitarist Trey Anastasio spoke on the festivals on-site radio station, The Bunny, expressing sympathy for fans still stuck in traffic and announcing that the bands sound check would be broadcast. Those already inside congregated beyond the venue gates to take in the weekends first notes of live music. Counting sound-check and the tower set, Phish performed eight sets of music at IT.

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