Tag Archives: awesome

Watermelon Gazpacho BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!


I know Summer is officially over but it’s NOT QUITE OVER until you have that last watermelon. Well. My last watermelon came and went with this tremendous Watermelon Gazpacho that was inspired by a hot weekend at Lockn’ Festival.

Takes 10-15 minutes to make depending on how soupy you want it. I did about half and half because I like it thicker, but as you can see, the chunks were submerged in a fully blended liquid.


Chop about 3 cups of watermelon and put a little more than half of it in a blender. Chop a cucumber, red pepper, and red onion, and put a little more than half of those in as well. If you want any heat, add a chopped jalepeno here, I used half of one. Add about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and puree.

Finely chop the remaining ingredients (or leave them big if you want) and put them in a large bowl with salt and pepper to taste. Once the blended ingredients are smooth, pour them in the bowl, and mix to the two to fully combine. Taste here for s&p needs, and cover, letting the flavors meld in the fridge for an hour (if you can wait). Stir before serving, and enjoy!

What to do with all the photos I take of my food.. and Cashew Cheez


I’ve been trying to get into vegan and healthy lifestyle blogging, as I try to get better at a vegan and healthy lifestyle, and along the way, I’ve taken pictures of the particularly successful dishes I’ve made to remind myself that it’s easy and fun. I post photos of my food on Facebook, like everyone else, so I figured I should take them elsewhere, and maybe include recipes… so here goes!

Baked Cashew Cheez (Dairy, soy, and gluten free)

This takes some time to prep, but the herbed chewy crust and creamy spreadable center make this small project a worthwhile effort and can last refrigerated for up to a week- if you can last that long. (Please note that even though there is a hair-tie in this photo, the recipe does not call for hair.)


Soak 2 cups of raw cashews fully submerged in salted water overnight or for at least 8 hours. Drain and reserve at least half a cup of the water for later.

Blend the soaked cashews, adding the soaking water slowly to get a smooth consistency. Taste it at this stage in case you need more salt which will bake out, or want to add a flavor to the entire cheez. If so, add the spice or your select flavor (i.e.- basil, red pepper) as you are blending to get it all the way through. (You can use the blended cashews at this stage for a vegan mac n cheez, add spices and put on nachos, use for v. pizza, and more.)

Pour the blended cashews into a cheesecloth, wrap it in a bundle, tie the top with a rubber band, and suspend the cheez bundle over a bowl or bucket to drain at room temperature for 2-4 hours. (Leave a little room between the top of the cashew cream and the rubber band and stick a dull knife through to balance on the rim of any deep dish.) Then put it in the fridge to chill for another 4 hours at least. 

The cheez will be in a firm ball at this point but should be unwrapped delicately and placed in an oven-safe dish to be herbed. Cover the top with your choice of herbs or more salt, depending on your flavorings and preferences. Bake at 200 degrees for 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how crusty you want the… crust. If you want to bake it for less time, you can turn the oven up a bit but not more than 250 or the process will backfire. (The photo above was baked at 200 for about 2 hours and 30 mins.. I was going for a Brie-like texture and I think I got pretty close. Chewy but flavorful and slightly different from the warm velvety inside cheez.)

The Weekend Trip, 9/23/11


Hey everyone, thanks for checking back in with the second episode of The Weekend Trip! This weekend, we start off with some bluegrass, mellower tunes, then kick it into gear with a funk sandwich fron Zach Deputy and New York Funk Exchange, and prep you for your night with electronica jams from a couple brand new bands! Let me know what you think, I’m still breakin’ in my DJ skillz and could use some constructive criticism! I would also love to take requests, I’ll honor any that I can, and if you have a band you’d like me to check out- hit me up! Email me at phunkytela@gmail.com

No longer available to stream =( Download it for free =) right here.

Here’s ya playlist, kid!

Eggs- Ryan Montbleau Band, Live at Bear Creek 2009
Complicated- Yonder Mountain String BandThe Show
Whiskey In Heaven- Poor Man’s Whiskey, Dark Side of the Moonshine, Disc 2
Incandescent Devil- Tea Leaf Green, Rock ‘n’ Roll Band Soundtrack
Sunshine- Zach Deputy, Sunshine
Shimmy- New York Funk Exchange, Funkonomic Stimulus Plan
Bugless Brunch- Fundimensionals, Fundimensionals
Beadhead Crystal Bugger- The McLovins, Good Catch!
The Chase- BAM!, Live at Triumph Brewery
Explosions- Wolfman Conspiracy, ( 2011 single )
Devil’s in the Details- Jimkata, Ghosts and Killers
Down in the Yards- Rubblebucket, Omega La La

"How do you like yours? Unfertilized." RMB at Wormtown 2011

Zach Deputy at Catskill Chill, 2011

Fundimensionals at Catskill Chill, 2011

Other important stuff:

Most of these artists are touring right now, so definitely check out their schedules,

ZD is releasing his new album Another Day very soon, pre sale ends Sept 27th and it’s an absolutely wonderful album,

I’m hopelessly obsessed with Jeff Austin, forgive me,

and our background music for this episode was Soulive’s cover of The Beatles “Come Together” off their AWESOME album Rubber Soulive. Check back here for more from Soulive next week!

Peace and love friends!

Why You Should Try Studio Phish


Someone in a recent issue of Surrender to the Flow was recalling his favorite version of “You Enjoy Myself” and said that he never laughed out loud to music before hearing that second track on 1988’s Junta. It occurred to me then that I had never listened to Junta, never mind a studio version of “YEM.” I hadn’t really listened to any studio Phish. ‘Why would I,’ I thought, ‘when live Phish is so much better?’ ‘But how would you know?’ said a little voice. So I went and listened to the only studio recordings I had on my iPod at the time- “Light,” and two tracks off an old Valentine’s Day mix, “Waste” and “If I Could,” the latter which had been played maybe once. After listening through these selections, I decided to indulge in some studio Phish, even if I wasn’t “supposed” to like it.

Naysayers, I hear your concerns loud and clear. Studio versions of our favorite songs can be very weird and discomforting. Take “Chalk Dust Torture,” where they decided to lower the tone on Trey’s vocals, making the whole vibe of the song kind of creepy. The production effects on songs can often times be questionable, and the band has admitted to putting less effort into their studio sessions than their live shows. But for many studio versions, we get an elaborated, perfected, and fantastic example of Phish songs. We get horns and back-up vocals, choirs even! We’re treated to amazing featured artists, harmonies you can’t possibly hear at shows, and parts of songs completely forgotten. Let me just ask you this: how do you know how good the jam is if you don’t know where it’s coming from? Most of the studio versions provide a jumping board for these songs to take off from, to grow and develop as they noodle through the sound-space continuum that is Phish.

Give that classic first album a thought. Some of Phish’s most highly anticipated songs come from that project: “Fee,” “YEM,” “Foam,” “Dinner and a Movie,” “David Bowie,” and “Fluffhead,” to name a few. And the writer from some issues ago is absolutely right; each funky turn in YEM can make you laugh out loud. The first four tracks of Lawn Boy, which came out in 1990, pack a hard punch with a “Squirming Coil> Reba> My Sweet One> Split Open and Melt” opener. “Reba” sounds clear, the words flow out clutter-free and precise, and it’s slowed down a bit so you can really appreciate the story in the music. “Split” becomes this kind of demonic, weirdly powerful, twisted little journey that I usually don’t experience during a live hearing. The horns add a level of unknowing to the coarse, deep vocals (which work here as opposed to “CDT”), and the sultry chorus singers remind you of some burlesque carnival fun house.

A Picture of Nectar will always be one of my favorite albums because each song brings something to the table I haven’t heard in a live version. The boys slipped “Manteca” in there, thinking no one would notice (ha!). This 1992 release gifted us with “Llama,” “Stash,” “Guelah Papayrus,” “Glide,” and “Tweezer,” not to mention the other gems. It’s enough to say that this album brought us classics, but it also revisited the character side of Phish. “Eliza,” “Cavern,” and “The Mango Song” are all amazingly driven by character and plot, and bring us back to the days of TMWSIY. 1993’s Rift includes rarities like “Lengthwise,” “The Wedge,” and “Weigh,” and without listening to the album, you may never hear these songs.

Hoist is the album that features the most incredible talent the boys bring in the studio. Horns and collaboration are some of my favorite Phish specialties and this album has both. Julius featured the soulful Rickey Grundy Chorale (with Rose Stone & Jean McClain) and the Tower of Power Horns. The spacey-watery-wonderworld of “Down with Disease” is something not easily replicable, while the familiar, but new “Axilla II” is another album treasure, with the quirkiest ending I’ve known Phish to produce. We already know that “If I Could,” featuring Allison Kraus, is the studio version that got me going studio-ways in the first place, and “Scent of a Mule” is crisp, clean, and delightfully bouncy, something that doesn’t always translate to the stage.

In my opinion, the albums that came after this are less to write home about. 1996’s Billy Breathes and 1998’s The Story of the Ghost did bring in some more classics that we’ve fallen in love with, and it’s definitely worth it to give those versions a listen. Farmhouse was pretty much a flop (if you ask any phan, though the mainstream media seemed to like it). Round Room and Undermind were, well… somewhat undermined and have kind of been swept under the rug. Give them both a chance and see if the lighter, more poetic tunes don’t show you a different side of Phish. As far as Joy/Party Time, I would buy them both. It’s their first album back (again) and now that most of the tracks are pretty integrated into rotation, it will be interesting to see how they grow.

Just as the writer of a past STTF encouraged me, I hope this article opens your mind up some of the perfected powers our boys can stir up. It’s just as amazing what they can do on stage as what they can do in a studio.

Catskill Chill Review


Check out my review of the 2nd annual Catskill Chill Music Festival at Camp Minglewood, only on The Grateful Web!!!


Featured artists: Fundimensionals, Shwizz, FiKus, JGB with Melvin Seals, Jimkata, Conspirator, Perpetual Groove, Heavy Pets, Zach Deputy, Umphrey’s McGee, Dumpstaphunk, Particle, 7 Walkers, and more!

Fundimensionals, 2011

The Heavy Pets 2011

ShwizZ, 2011

FiKus, 2011

Zach Deputy, 2011

Zach Deputy, 2011

Umphrey's McGee, 2011

Umphrey's McGee, 2011

Billy Krueztmann, 2011

inPHANcy… Or How to Love Phish as Much as That Guy with 100+ Stubs


Someone once said to me, “You’re about a decade and a half late on that whole Phish thing.” Another person questioned the love I have for this band based on the amount of shows I’d been to. Even others doubt my knowledge of Phishtory because I’m young for this crowd (23, really?). And to be honest, sometimes this makes me feel like I really did just jump on the bandwagon. But no, let’s go back and I will tell you the story of a baby phan who came to the party right on time.

I saw Phish for the first time in 2004 on top of the David Letterman building. It’s a show that changed me, for sure, but didn’t have the impact that my next, and really first, two shows had. I had been a fan of Phish during their hiatus, and even kept up spirits when we all thought they would be gone forever. Upon their return in 2009, I didn’t think for a second that my life was about to change dramatically, and in so many beautiful ways. So I went to Bonnaroo, and though neither of those sets compare to what we can expect from Phish these days, it still set me on the roll that has yet to slow. Since then, I have seen 20 stunning shows that keep getting better and better.

During summer and fall of 2009, I fell in love with the crowd, the passion of the phans, the welcoming neighborhood of each lot. Foolishly, neither Halloween nor New Years was on the roster for me then. If only I had known!

When it came time to write my thesis for graduation, my professor said, “Well, what do you love?” and I said, “Phish.” So I wrote it on the band, phans, and love of the music, and in so doing, fell into the endless tunnel that is Phish phandom.

Dancing through that tunnel- more like a spiral of joy- summer 2010 was my tour of confirmation. Finally, the boys were close to home and I could afford to follow them around. Each show taught me more about their playing techniques, styles, personalities, and genius minds. (I had been listening to Phish non-stop, mind you. Every day was- and still is- filled with different live recordings, from all the years of their music making.) Each song seemed to fill out every time I heard it, the exploration of new songs constantly amazing me. I uncovered the depths and wonders, the layers of the cake, the jazzy, smooth, funny, serious, weird, and true corners of Phish, and each of these amazing musicians.

By the end of my summer of love, I decided to dedicate my life to Phish. I know, I know; this sounds a little crazy, and I realize, of course, that my life can’t be solely dedicated to Phish (or can it…). So I’m not twiddling my thumbs waiting for the guys over at Red Light to up and quit. But during fall tour, I got some sort of unspoken message through every Phish avenue that this was my calling: through the band, obviously, the lights and Koruda himself, the crowd culture and the lot scene, the individual phans, our subcultural market of toys and garments and food, hell, our language. It all made me absolutely positive that I had found some sort of affirming identity, some real group I could be a part of and relate to. And some fucking incredible music to guide us on the way.

My real point is that I don’t think I’m the only one in this situation. There are a lot of younger phans who didn’t get to see Phish back in the 90’s, either because we were too young, weren’t into it yet, whatever the reason. This is not to say that we’re resistant to learning: so many of us are finally getting into the groove of what Phish really was. The boys are back, there’s no denying that. The “reunion” part of this is definitely over; though to an older phan I’m sure it still seems different, they are certainly back in action and we’re all here together now. Sure, there’s some unspoken merit behind having seen a ton of shows, but if you love it, and if you’re feeling the good vibes, then boy, man… god… shiiit rock on!

Mom Rock: Talking to Tina Weymouth


Mother’s Day is right around the corner and to honor all those amazing moms out there, we hope you’re having a wonderful Mother’s Week here on BTR.

Moms have the tendency to take on double, triple, even quadruple duty when it comes to their kids, and this mom in particular is an expert at juggling many different roles at once. I’m talking about one of the best bassists in rock history, one of the most influential women in the world of music–the Tina Weymouth, herself.

Tina was the bassist for Talking Heads, which featured her longtime boyfriend, (now husband) drummerChris Frantz and front-man/guitarist David Byrne. They later added Jerry Harrison on guitar and together, created several groundbreaking records that changed how people thought about music and rock n’ roll. Tina’s bass lines, in particular, differentiated the band with her funk drive, unique rhythms, and no-holding-back attitude. From the dingy streets of NYC’s Lower East Side during the 1970s and ’80s, to the top of the rock charts, to maintaining her success with numerous hits from her and Chris’ side project, Tom Tom Club, Tina has done it all in her professional life, including raising two happy, healthy children.

This rock-star mom was nice enough to have a long and wonderful phone conversation with BTR about being a hardworking woman in rock, raising kids while exposing them to the joys and protecting them from the harsh realities of life on tour, family life past and present, Zappa, and her personal opinions on motherhood. Be warned: Tina is wonderfully intelligent and well versed. She speaks with the kindest voice, as this conversation felt as comfortable as gossiping after school with a best friend.

T: You had your first baby in November 1982 (Robin, 29) after finishing Speaking in Tongues with Talking Heads? How was recording throughout your pregnancy?

Tina Weymouth: I actually went into labor as I was putting in my last bass part. With Egan, we weren’t in the midst of an album when he was born, but he was a little crawling baby when we made the last album, holding his drum sticks. That was the first thing the boys did when they were babies. They both started playing drums, like their dad. That was their first instrument.

T: What else did they like to play?

TW: Well, they moved to guitars after they saw the Ramones, and Egan was a drummer in a punk band but now does fine art. Robin went to Savannah College of Art and Design, but now he’s a composer. They both work together, too. They’re young men now, they’re doing their own thing completely.

T: Did you ever have to take them on tour with you?

TW: I’d take them on tour to some extent, I thought it was going to be easier than it was. With Talking Heads, I just did one tour with the baby and then that was the end of that then. But with Tom Tom Club, I took them on the last tour that we did with the Ramones. It was called “Escape From New York” and I didn’t want to leave them behind for an extended time. When they’re babies it’s easier, they’re very portable and you can plop a baby into a nanny’s arms and everyone knows how to take care of baby. But when they get to be older, then you have really serious questions arising and the windows of opportunity to address those questions are very short. You need to be around and not just anybody can do that–can answer those questions. Adolescence was a very critical time, I did not tour much. I spent much more quality time with my kids. It was just much more crucial, that’s when your whole frontal lobe is developing. You do the best you can up to age 10 to instill good values and that sort of thing, but after that, you just have to be there because you can’t be instilling it anymore. All you can do is lead by example. You can sit down to dinner each night with everyone and speak on important issues and talk about important things and treat them like equals so that they become equals and think for themselves, because you cannot live in a democracy and not think for yourself.

T: Do you think they had a normal family life?

TW: Well, the PTA didn’t think they had a normal life. It’s those parts of moms that just interfere with everything. They just made these vast assumptions that they were better mothers because they weren’t in rock n’ roll. When my kids would get taunted in the schoolyard, they would say, “Oh, you’re mom wears motorcycle pants.” And my kids would say, “Yeah she does!” What wasn’t normal was they learned drug culture really early. We were doing a production for Happy Mondays and they learned by observing how terrible drug abuse was. We had broken arms, broken noses, junkies robbing; it was just an amazing, horrific experience. And immediately following that, we were in an attempted carjacking together. Three gangster crack heads. We got away, me and the two boys, about 4 and 8, and we enrolled in a family Tai Kwan Do course. I wish I had done it as a girl, so that I’d known how to send off a would-be rapist, but I’m so glad I did that with my children. It got them a lot of respect for not fighting but [showed] what to do just in case. I think it was a wonderful thing to do together. Also, it was another opportunity for them; they learned so many things early because of these experiences. We didn’t go to Six Flags or Orlando. We went cruising on a sailboat, we went camping, we would write songs on the guitar–we wanted them to be more self-reliant. Now they say, “Oh, thank you so much, I’m the only one I know that doesn’t hate my parents!”

T: Did you have to have them in any really tough positions?

TW: We wrote Naked in 1988 in an old, Long Island City loft and recorded it in Paris, in June that same year. Egan must have been just an infant. I had to have Robin [first born] in that loft but when we had Egan, I just wanted to get out of there. By the time Robin was 3, I wanted to get out. You know, the lead paint and everything. Then when Egan came, we realized that we could pay the same in rent as we could in mortgage and live in nature.

T: So having a home made it way better?

TW: Yeah, the kids would come into our studio and set up their little drum kits right next to me and they would sound just like The Velvet Underground back in the day.

T: How did the way you learned music compare to the way your kids did?

TW: I’m a self-taught musician. I was listening to the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul & Mary–a lot of folk, in fact. I learned a folk finger-picking style from one of those Pete Seeger books with little diagrams with numbers for the fingers.

T: Who have your kids’ musical influences become besides you?

TW: It took them time to grow up before they discovered Talking Heads. They first fell in love Tom Tom Club because it was around all the time, and later they liked Talking Heads. They really loved the Beach Boys, but they liked other stuff too. But their tastes were growing all the time. Like I love big band jazz, but I couldn’t stand bebop. I think we all need to mature a little before we can incorporate new patterns and schisms. Sometimes it’s just too complex and some people are so math-minded that they like a good puzzle. They want Zappa, which is a musical Sudoku, but I really much prefer a composition. I much prefer things like Mozart that have real melodies. Most of western music has been built on a very simple time signature, but our African heritage brings over the crazy, complicated polyrhythm. We’re so blessed to have access to European culture, as well as African culture, and so lucky to be part of both in that respect. And thank goodness for radio, radio is what completely informed us back in the day of what was what. Who knew what to buy or who to listen to without radio?

T: Did you want your kids to go into music?

TW: Well, one did for a while and it’s not impossible that he might return to it, but I don’t encourage my children to go into music as a career because it’s very hard on your body and on your health and there’s just no money in it. Whatever golden age happened–Mick Jagger said in 120 years of recording, there was a 15 year window where an artist could really, truly thrive, but that ended. Some people still have to do it. It’s a vital passion. It’s sort of do-or-die, but one of the reasons I’m still able to do it is because when we did make a little bit of money, Chris and I just stashed it all away. We only spent half of everything we made. The one half, we invest and invest in ourselves–our music, our health, and then our home and family. I just don’t want to be a burden on my kids. I hope that when I die, I will leave no debt. One thing that stopped a lot of musicians [was] spending money on cocaine and shit like that. It’s empowering the worst kind of people. I just can’t stomach that. That’s what we had to deal with the Happy Mondays. It doesn’t make you a better writer or artist. This goes back to the first rock star, the romantic poet, Lord Byron. He had this idea that you have to be on opium, but look at the Bronte Sisters, they did it without anything.

T: Were you ever affected very personally by something like this?

TW: I’ll tell you a great story. Don Cherry was a musician in Ornette Coleman’s band, and Moki was the mother of Neneh Cherry and Eagle-Eye Cherry. With a lot of jazz mucians, they thought they were better if they were taking heroin. So there was never any money for that family and Moki told me one time that, during the hippie flower child day, she made nine patchwork and velour long-dresses and she carried them up to Henri Bendel Sales in New York. She carried them from Brooklyn, on foot, across the bridge, all the way to 57th street. She got $90 and she came home. It was Christmas, and she was able to take the subway on the way home. She bought a turkey and food for the kids, a doll for Neneh and a toy for Eagle-Eye. His first song when he was 8 years old was about cars and food, because he never had it, but Moki Cherry was the most creative artist and the best mother to those kids. It’s so great what women do for their musician lovers. The whole story of rock n’ roll is the women who have supported these men. But watch out for having kids because then you have more babies. The men don’t stop being babies, you know.

T: Yeah, you joined a band and learned an instrument for yours, and that worked out pretty well, right?

TW: Chris was my boyfriend since art school and I was living with him and David [Byrne]–or you could say David was living with us. Chris found the place, and the three of us took turns cooking and cleaning up and we rehearsed every day. I bought a bass guitar, and eventually, an amp. You know, one thing at a time and we took it from there. But now David’s manager is working out of that same space, an office now.

T: Where was it?

TW: Down on Christie Street, rough part of town back then. We had to push a dead body away from our door one day to get to our day jobs. We lived in lofts for 20 years without heat after 4 pm. We had no showers or bathrooms. I had to travel out to Long Island to shower at my brother’s when I had the train fare for it, but we had fun without money. I mean, it was really rough. I like having money now. New York was broke, though. It wasn’t until Carter, and Congress under him, changed the tax laws on capital gain and that’s when things started to pick up.

T: How did the way you grew up compare to the way you raised your kids, with or without the rock ‘n’ roll?

TW: I was one of 8 and I had near perfect parents–five sisters and 2 brothers. My parents were just fantastic. When they grew up, I spent as much time as I could with my children and parents. They were very interesting people and they loved to travel. It was excellent for my kids to experience different cultures with them and my parents made do with so little for so long, but we had great experiences. We learned to sew our own clothes. I think being on a super tight budget makes you more creative. I was still making my stage clothes with Talking Heads. When I wanted to wear something a little different, I would get out my Singer sewing machine and start making it.

T: What else would you have to say about being a mother and in rock music?

TW: I don’t recommend parenthood really because no body tells you in advance how hard it’s going to be. They think, “Oh, my parents did it,” but I so understand what Sigmund Frued meant when he said, with infant mortality going down, we start to have a lot of other types of problems. There’s always something, but I’m glad I only had two kids. In a technological world where each kid is a composition of every other kid, I couldn’t imagine bringing more children in the world today. It’s heath care costs, it’s everything. And you better have your body really prepared. Just as its old sperm that causes down syndrome, children spaced closer together are more likely to have autism, there’s a new study out about it.  I was always told, space your babies four years apart because that’s how long it takes. If you don’t get all the vitamins you need, all the nutrients won’t grow while you’re pregnant. It’s like a rose bed–the roses will grow, but you need to prepare the rose bed, the soil needs to be just right, you have to get it ready and then your roses will be beautiful. You cannot take too seriously conception today because you’re not going to have 14 kids and maybe one will turn out great. You’re going to have one, maybe two. How are we going to provide for them? It’s not something people should just automatically do, and certainly not because religion tells you to. Women say, “I want to have a baby because it will be perfect,” but it’s not starting from scratch. It also might be a good idea for people to understand their genetic makeup, and they may change their minds. If two people have a recessive gene for a disease and they find out the chances of their baby having that disease are very high, they may want to consider adoption. There are so many beautiful children all over the world who need homes. Debbie Harry was adopted and she’s so grateful to have a loving family and also very happy to learn she came from a good family. These are very personal decisions and you want to make them the most informed way possible.


Originally published on BreakThru Radio, 5/5/2011

Super Ball Icks, a Review.


Photo by Kirsten Sheahan

“I’ve got big balls,” sung Phish drummer Jon Fishman, “Some balls are held for charity, and some for fancy dresses, but when they’re held for pleasure, they’re the balls that I like best!” While I suppose there’s a slight chance he was referencing an engorged scrotum, what he was really talking about (in singing the AC/DC cover, “Big Balls”) was the Biggest Ball Ever, the jam band’s 9th festival since 1996.

Not only was it their biggest festival ever, but it was the best planned and executed Phish festival to date right from the start. Clearly, the organizers had done this before and had learned from their mistakes. The first Phish festival, The Clifford Ball, set the bar for the modern-day super concerts we know and love. This goes not only for Phish’s festivals, but events like Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza (though the alt-rock festival was conceived 5 years before the inaugural Phish festival, it was a touring event, like Warped Tour), Austin City Limits, and many others, take a hint from the Phish organization in ways to please the crowd: art installations, cooling tents, using local resources, even car-side camping all came from the one-band festival that preceded these giant concerts. The Clifford Ball (1996), The Great Went (1997), Lemonwheel (1998), Camp Oswego (unofficial festival, 1999), Big Cypress (1999), IT (2003)–these were events that defined what a music festival had become.

The Phish organization may have followed the footsteps of the Grateful Dead in their musical approach and marketing scheme, but planning and organizing these giant events was somewhat uncharted territory, especially in 1996 when all they had as an example was Woodstock (largely a failure) and day-long touring festivals. They wanted to create a completely unique fan experience, something you couldn’t get at any old concert or any regular camping trip. From the beginning, The band was fully immersed in the planning process. They helped the creative director and the engineers in figuring out what should go where and how, and in their earlier days, even helped build some of the structures. Without the efforts of the Phish organization, and without the compassion for phans that Phish truly had and acted on, we may not have today’s festival as know it.

Super Ball IX was held at the historic Watkins Glen International Racecourse, site of 1973’s Summer Jam that featured The Allman Brothers, The Grateful Dead, and The Band. Unlike anything a Phish crowd is used to, the venue was fully prepared for the influx of jam band fanatics that started rolling in on Thursday morning. Even Wednesday night saw a line forming at the gates, and when the crowd thickened, they abided for safety purposes and started letting people in. Many had arrived early in hopes that Phish would pull a Grateful Dead-move and let the audience in for a full blown 2-hour set during sound check. (Alas, while the Thursday sound check would have been nice to hear, listeners had to stay outside the gates.)

Thursday night was a northeastern reunion, with phans finally coming together to make up for the disaster that was 2004’s Coventry. Billed as the last Phish show ever, the event was poorly planned, poorly managed, and even more poorly played. We may have been able to deal with the flood, the mud and the 15-mile hike to get in if anything else had worked out, but it didn’t and no phan was about to let that be their last east coast memory of Phish. So we all found ourselves back in northern New York, just an hour past Ithaca (just?!), and you could feel the excitement and joy as soon as you stepped onto the festival grounds. Well coordinated, mostly car-side camping areas were named after states Phish has never played in (North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Hawaii, and a phan-designated area called Puerto Rico) and overflow parking lots surrounded the racetrack, enabling festival city to be in the center of the huge arena.

As phans came trickling in on Friday, others took time to explore the ever-developing Americana theme on the festival grounds. Not only was there a ferris wheel, bocce ball and wiffle ball courts, an air-conditioned charging tent, and a plethora of vendors giving out information and ice cream (thank you, Ben and Jerry’s); there were also giant structures (a storage unit, a water mill, a factory-esq production line) to walk through and on. Each of these buildings was constantly changing, starting on Friday in a wooden, colonial style decoration. On Saturday, they were transformed to more industrial designs. Sunday’s incarnations represented the future, brought in by a secret, late-night, futuristic set Phish played from the storage unit in an area called “Ball Square.”