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Phish works fans into a frenzy in farewell set

Jam band performs final concerts in Vermont countryside
/ Source: The Associated Press

Jumping, singing and dancing, more than 60,000 fans basked in the music as Phish performed for the last night Sunday at a festival in northeastern Vermont, the jam band’s home state.

With no word of introduction, bassist Mike Gordon took the lead vocals and worked the crowd into a funk-driven frenzy with the Phish classic “Mike’s Song,” to begin the first of three farewell sets.

The feverish melee paused only for the gentle pulsing of Page McConnell’s organ, signaling the band’s transition into the softer instrumental “I am Hydrogen.”

As Phish resumed intensity to round out the tune, the sun-drenched crowd thanked the band for the groove with screams, bouncing beach balls and thunderous applause.

The commotion stood in sharp relief to the venue Phish chose to build its concert stage: a quiet, mostly agricultural section of Vermont not far from the Canadian border. The rolling hills and open expanse of field formed a natural amphitheater for the band to stage its traditional improvisation-heavy live show.

The band’s last set was scheduled to conclude early Monday morning.

Phish announced in May that it would break up after this weekend’s festival, eliciting reactions among fans that ranged from anger to acceptance.

That diversity of emotion was obvious among “Phish-heads” at the site of the two-day event, the 600-acre Newport State Airport.

“I think that Trey is selfish,” said Sean Mullady of Rockville Centre, N.Y., referring to Phish’s front man, Trey Anastasio. “Phish is ending it; there’s no band to take over the subculture.”

But Chelsea Terrell, 31, of San Francisco said the band’s departure from the music scene meant that it was time to move on.

“For me, it’s time to start something new,” she said. “I’m thankful it ever happened.”