The News Gazette, Tuesday, November 12, 1996
"Crowd make Assembly Hall a giant bowl of Phish phans"
By Chad Beckett
For The News Gazette
(reprinted without permission, typed by Chris Hartman)
[A decent picture of Page, Trey, and Mike, and lights in the background
Fishman isn't visible, off to the right somewhere]
[caption:] The Vermont-based rock band Phish plays to a sold-out crowd
at the University of Illinois Assembly Hall. A crowd of some 16,500
attended Friday night's concert which is believed to be the first
sold-out show at the Assembly Hall since Garth Brooks packed the arena
in September 1992.
CHAMPAIGN -- Anyone wanting to get a line on what Phish is about need
only look to the parking lot outside the venue in the hours before the
gig. It's like Woodstock on Asphalt.
Legions of sleepy, happy people, sporting dreadlocks, tie-dyes and
baggy overalls, wandering aimlessly around Volkswagens. People who
meander around the main entrance, apparently short of money, short of
food, short of sleep, short of hygiene, not likely to actually see the
show unless some good Samaritan comes up with a spare ticket for five
dollars or less. And yet, there they are.
These zealous phans may not get to see this night's performance but
they are part of it. They are part of the atmosphere that has come to
symbolize Phish itself: people who are just looking to have a good time.
So it was Friday night as the quartet from Vermont returned to the
University of Illinois Assembly Hall for their second appearance there
in 13 months. The band members clearly enjoyed themselves as they
played through two sets over 2 1/2 hours. And, as always, the phans who
managed to get inside cheered, writhed, pulsated and gyrated 'round
every aisle and stairway.
The stage was simple: just guitarist Trey Anastasio, bassist Mike
Gorden, keyboardist Page McConnell and drummer Jim Fishman [sic] under
elaborate light fixtures. Letting their instruments and the audience
channel the night's energy, the musicians seemed pleased but placid
throughout the performance.
Phish stayed true to form by playing formlessly, jumping from temp to
temp, through perplexing melodies and chord progressions. Audience
members, thinking they had a handle on the beat, often attempted to clap
along to the rhythm, only to be thrown off a few seconds later.
Significantly, Phish did not reproduce one song that it played at its
October 1995 concert. In an age of greatest hits-type concerts, it is
refreshing to find a band willing to play new and different material in
The band's play list for the most part suggested more of a focus on
funk-influenced rock music rather than the genre jumping that occurred
at the concert last October. Not only did the band play favorites such
as "Run Like An Antelope," "Simple" and "Down With Disease," they also
played two great covers. One was Richard Strauss' "2001: A Space
Odyssey" theme, which the rocked-up impressively and incorporated into a
light show that was reminiscent of the alien spacecrafts in the movie
"Independence Day." The band also played the Rolling Stones' tune,
Phish continues to make liberal use of extended solos. "Run Like An
Antelope," for example, ran at just under 21 minutes. Several other
songs had the potential to last that long, only to be cut short by
problems with Anastasio's amplifier. When the time came to do an a
cappella arrangement, the foursome came forward and breathlessly
harmonized "The Star-Spangled Banner." (Apparently the group will be
singing the national anthem at a Minnesota Timberwolves game tonight).
Audience members everywhere lit cigarette lighters as they sang; it was
a moving sight, particularly when viewed through a cloud of hashish.
While drug use remained as noticeable as it ever is at Phish concerts,
the Assembly Hall security team was much better prepared to deal with
the problem than they were the last time the band came to town.
Generally the security team was more visible and vigilant of illegal
conduct, maintaining order and making several arrests throughout the
show. With a capacity crowd of some 16,500 (according to Assembly Hall
assistant director Gary O'Brien), however, there was no way to stop the
drug use altogether.
With or without stimulants, Phish remains the premier feelgood rock
band of the 1990s. These talented players continue to break new ground,
enlivening audiences with their unique melodies and upbeat manner.
Andy's Phish Page