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Wednesday, August 17

It was Almost Twenty Years Ago Today, that Phish decided to Play a Festival at the Top of Maine so let me re-introduce to you: The Great Went: With both shows

 On this day in 1997, it was the second day of one of the best of the Phish Festivals and the first at the top of Maine at Loring Air Force Base in Limestone,May on Aug. 16-17,1997

Phish loved throwing the Clifford Ball so much the previous year, that they planned another festival at the end of Summer Tour 1997. This was the age of "cow-funk" and the band played a great pair of shows almost twenty years ago yesterday and today. One of the most famous parts of Phish lore is they played "Makisupa Policeman>Harpua" that finished the truncated version of "Harpua" the year before. The Great Went was named after a scene in Twin Peaks:Fire Walk with Me. The movie referenced a scene from the television show Twin Peaks.

The event was moved to Limestone,Maine. It was held on the decommissioned Air Force base. The site is mildly famous for a bunch of ufo sightings (and one alleged abduction) in 1975. There is also the fact that the site is also a toxic landfill that the government decided was cheaper to leave there then truck somewhere else. The site is as close to Canada as you can get, more or less, then actually being in Canada. Therefore, there were a lot of nuclear activity at the base but that is kind of besides the point. 

The attendance figures were around 75,000. Which was a fairly large jump from the previous year. The town manager made the hilarious tongue-in-cheek comment," They put Maine on the map".  
As people walked in, they were hosed down by the world's largest fire truck to cool everyone down. This show also had some new things from the year before. They had a string symphony but this time it was the Bangor Symphony Orchestra playing Stravinsky and Debussy, on Sunday. They also had The Gordon Stone Trio ,who played on Rift and The Beatroots Gypsy Caravan,  This was different from the year before, in which they had the symphony but no other bands.  They provided 89.1 WENT, an onsite radio station, which was called BALL radio the year before.  
Phish, themselves, played almost 500 minutes of music (courtesy of ZZYZX), and a disco set where they all played old synths and KORG equipment and Fishman played on electric drum kits around 2-3am on Sunday morning. The main things that made this festival special, besides the magical shows, were an all-nude photo early in the morning to cap off a fifty state photo tour by Tunick. Fun fact, Tunick was arrested in New York city for organizing a nude photo shoot in 1999. There was also a naked marathon/run/jog for those early risers. Also, throughout the festival, fans were encouraged to make their own art and add it to an installation that, while Phish played, each member painted their own piece and passed it over the crowd to the installation. At this point, an oversized, large matchstick was lit and set the whole thing ablaze. Trey was talking about how everyone contributed to this installation and set it ablaze to commemorate our commitment to art and togetherness and etc... It had shades of Burning Man before that became the big sellout rave in the desert it has become.  On the third set of the second night, a fan was breathing/spitting fire and it showed up in the documentary of the festival, Bittersweet Motel,  but even though he was broadcast on the big screens, cops and security were seen chasing him through the crowd, so maybe it wasn't sanctioned after all!  

Now for the numbers, Phish made $4,337,184 making it the highest grossing high concert of the year, although who knows how much they spent putting it together, so the net is a mystery to all but a few.There were also different attendance figures put out. One guy said 85,000 and another said 70,800 but I would trust the official number from Phish that kind of splits the difference. 

The shows were amazing and consistently rank among the top rated shows on However, there was a dark side to this festival. This was the first time that I heard hard narcotics being sold out in the open on Shakedown. You knew they were always there but it was kept on the low down. This, I felt was one of the turning points for the scene and it turned out to be for the band too. I had never heard opiates being sold so openly.  You're used to hearing about the psychedelics and herb at Phish shows but this was the first time I had heard people selling Oxys and Dilaudid out in the open. If you think it wasn't around, you're being incredibly naive but it's mostly kept to the camp that is holding. Also, this was the first time I was offered heroin at a Phish show. So this festival had a hint of things to come, even if the band wasn't participating. Even though there were dark clouds on the horizon, the levee didn't break for a few years. It was an incredible festival though and the music was top notch.

Written by: Greg Heffelfinger 

 Saturday, 08/16/1997
Loring Commerce Centre, Limestone, ME

Set 3Halley's Comet -> Cities[3] -> Llama > Lawn BoyLimb By Limb > Funky Bitch[4]
EncoreContact > Loving Cup

[1] Picked up where the Clifford Ball Harpua left off.
[2] Intro performed a cappella with finger snaps.
[3] Trey altered lyrics to reference "Fishman sleeping in the daytime."
[4] Fireworks.

Sunday, 08/17/1997
Loring Commerce Centre, Limestone, ME

[1] Unfinished. (setlists: courtesy of
Day One: The whole show
Day Two: The whole Show
The Disco Set from Sunday night(partial recording) 

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