I can’t say I remember it like it was yesterday. It actually feels like a long time ago, mostly because it is. It was the summer of 1995 and Phish wasn’t swinging through Michigan at all. The most accessible show to me was at one of my favorite venues growing up, Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. My girlfriend at the time didn’t want to go, so an old friend from high school was up for going, and he even drove from our home town into the wilds of northeastern Ohio. We had pretty good seats, center stage in the pavilion. After that all I remember is the Mike’s Song.
This wasn’t the first show I had been to since I got it. My fellow Phishheads know what I mean when I say that. I’m sure everyone does in a sense, but most of you wonder, “Why do you even want it?” That wasn’t really my choice, I suppose. I liked Phish before 11/16/94, but after that night in Ann Arbor, they became more than just a great band to see. To steal a tag line from a local radio station, Phish became the soundtrack of my life after that date. I attended another show on 11/18, but it barely registers to be honest. No, 6/20/1995, was the next important show in my Phish fandom. Like 11/16/94, 6/20/1995 had an EPIC JAM. In both cases it was a Mike’s Song. Until the archival release, I really couldn’t tell you much of what else was played that night. I do know that after I got back to Michigan, I immediately went to the local head shop to see if they had a copy of the show. Luckily, they did and I was all set. I pretty much wore out the tapes I had from the Ann Arbor and the Blossom shows the rest of that summer. To seal my fate, the next show I attended was in my new home, Chicago. It was the second Halloween show. The musical costume was great, Quadrophenia, but the third set YEM, the 45-minute YEM, made me a bit of a junkie, really. If I was at a show that didn’t have a song that extended beyond 20 minutes, I felt disappointed. That disappointment wouldn’t last, but every time I’m at a show that launches into something lengthy, something spacy, something special, I can’t help but feel a connection to those three shows from 1994 to 1995.
I remember Charlie Dirksen giving the Blossom show a bad review, at least the Weekapaug, and I was furious. After listening a little more closely a few dozen times, I realized he had a point, though his judgment was always a little suspect to me after that. I must admit, however, when rumors started to circulate that 6/20/1995 was going to be the next archival release, I was shocked. I don’t remember a lot of buzz around the show afterward and much like my first turning point show, I rarely see it pop up on any best of lists. I was also a little scared that I wouldn’t like the show that much anymore. I lost those first tapes a long time ago and I’ve been slow to use the spreadsheet to get some of my old shows back. I mean why? I’ve got Phish radio, Turn Table and plenty of free downloads from shows I’ve attended since the breakup.
I had to buy it, though, this major touchstone in my Phish experience. I was curious if it would hold up in my own mind after not listening to the show in years, especially the Mike’s Song. All I can say is that it did, and more; the Mike’s is still amazing, no doubt. I hear it and I’m transported back in time, not to the show, but to the countless walks I made from my apartment to the computer lab to work on my MA thesis (and play Civilization.) I would put 6/20/1995 or Ann Arbor in my Walkman and be in an amazing place as I made my way across campus. Now, however, I can’t get over how good the first set was as well. The soundboard quality of the new release makes it feel almost new to me, yet as I listen to the second set once again, I smile. Even after all these years 6/20/1995 has still got it and Phish has still got me. See you July.