, attached to 2016-07-01

Review by toddmanout

toddmanout Saratoga Springs in upstate New York is notable for several reasons. It has a proud history of horse racing that goes back over 150 years, it is home to the Fountain of Youth (in the form of a series of bubbling springs to which the natives have attributed healing powers for centuries), it is where that mightiest of snack foods The Potato Chip was invented (my eternal thanks goes out to the appropriately named George Crum for his snarky creation), and (least notably but most significant to this missive) it is home to the venue where I have seen Phish play more than anywhere else.

Helping to beef up that final stat was a three-night run at Saratoga’s beautiful performing arts centre (which is sensibly called the Saratoga Performing Arts Center) that I enjoyed beginning on July 1st, 2016*. If I’m not mistaken this was the first time I stayed at the very cute Inn at Saratoga, an antique boarding house with a large and unendingly social front porch that lazily oversees a quant corner in the oh-so-American downtown, with immaculate lawns and tricoloured banners of patriotism all around.

Plus it’s within (long) walking distance to the venue.

Anyway, m’lady and I arrived and hugged a bunch of friends that were already gathered on that wonderful old porch and we sat down for a welcome drink or two. More and more friends kept arriving, the gathering started gaining some serious steam, and finally we all piled into an extra-long shuttle van that someone in our crew had managed to harangle.

The concert hall itself is rather unique. It’s in the middle of a state park and completely surrounded by forest, which is pretty amazing, and it’s the only “shed” (as we live music fans call the countless covered outdoor pavilions that are scattered around the continent) that I can think of that has a balcony. Unfortunately the hanging balcony obscures the view from much of SPAC’s lawn section making it the most undesirable lawn section in the country, but if you ever happen to find yourself with a seat up in the balcony you’ll probably agree that it’s a pretty great place to see a show from.

I’ve been up there several times but this show was the only time I was in the balcony’s “box” section – that is, the first two or three rows of the whole level – and it was…thrilling.

Of course as soon as the band walked onstage the whole crowd stood up, and from the first note we were all dancing (nobody, and I mean nobody sits down at a Phish concert. Not a word of a lie: I once saw a wheelchair in the garbage following a Phish show). And I swear to you, as soon as the room got moving the front section of the balcony started bouncing.


I mean the floor beneath my feet was rising and falling a good two inches, and right in time to the music. It was seriously unnerving and not just a little scary, but when we all survived the first song or two I stopped worrying and just bounced along for the ride.

I really, really hope it was built to do that.

Anyway, it was a great show and a great time – it was like seeing a Phish concert in a giant bouncy-castle – and afterwards we all ambled back to the Inn and stayed up late continuing our great time on the super-vibey front porch. Ah, it was all so glorious.

And we still had two more nights to go! No wonder I keep coming back**.

*Though I am loath to leave my homeland on Canada Day I have made a couple of exceptions in these fifty-odd years: Phish’s first festival at Watkins Glen (in 2011) and this show.

**I finally (finally!) went there for something other than a Phish concert when I attended the Outlaw Festival (featuring Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Nathaniel Rateliff, and others) at SPAC in 2018. Someday I want to go there not for a concert at all. It would be nice to actually see one of the horse races for once, for example. Or the hot springs (for another). At least I’ve had the potato chips.



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