TELLURIDE – It seems like we’re all getting into the PH game as the countdown begins to the Phish Phestival coming to Town Park Aug. 9-10, from the Customized Phacial (at Atmosphere Spa) to the “Stalking Phish” fly fishing trips (at Telluride Outside) to Phish Jewelry at New World Alternative Healthcare to Late-Risers Phish-or-Phloat Option, from Paragon BootDoctor, thanks to the heavy-rains-fueled high-flowing San Miguel river waters.
Late Risers, take note – late for these guys is 9 a.m.
But topping all the Phish-extravaganza is probably the Paragon BootDoctor organized Phish-toric Pub Crawl, Monday, Aug. 9, 1-4 p.m., led by Phishtorian Jim Tewksbury, out of the store at the south end of Oak Street (across the street from the Telluride Gondola).
Here’s what Tewksbury, a veteran of more than 170 Phish shows, has to say about the Telluride concerts. “Expect brilliant lighting,” says this Phan who has been following the band around the country for nearly two decades, as well as “breathtaking music and a lot of strange-looking people.”
His advice to novice Phish-goers: “Just sit back and surrender to the flow.
“And spell that with a P-H,” he admonishes.
Tewksbury started phlowing with Phish back in college.
Back in 1989, “I cut my teeth on the Grateful Dead,” he says, and “that kind of naturally transitioned into seeing and following Phish.
Oops, make that “phollowing.”
“I was introduced to Phish while I was still back East in college, by friends,” he continues, “and at first I was very loyal to the Grateful Dead – it almost felt like I was cheating on them, enjoying another band so much. But at that time in their career, the Grateful Dead were really spiraling downhill; the drug abuse was getting out of hand,” to the degree that “I’d see ten shows, and maybe two out of those ten shows impressed me slightly. It was bad; it was really ugly.”
By contrast, he remembers, “I’d go see Phish sober. That kind of says something. I didn’t need anything else to get excited. I didn’t need any additives, and I found myself dancing my ass off, five out of five nights.
“I had a frickin’ ball with those guys and became a huge Phish supporter. I don’t like the word ‘Phish-head,’” he cautions. “I’ve known those guys since way back from their whole meteoric rise to their somewhat of a fall” at the turn of the century.
These days, reports Tewksbury – who leads the Phish-toric Pub Crawl Monday, Aug. 9, 1-4 p.m. (on bicycles) of Telluride venues the band played back when Telluride was home to their first-ever gig outside the Northeast, in 1991; where they slept (one stop on the tour will be at the restaurant the late great Purple Pleasure Palace, a hotel of sorts, has morphed into today) and maybe even where they parked the U-Haul they drove cross-country to get here.
“They drove 40 hours” to get here, Tewksbury remembers, “and the back of the truck got pretty smelly.”
For the Aug. 9-10 Telluride Phish Phestival, he says, things will be different. “Now they’re all grown up; they all have families, and will probably rent a house somewhere.” And then he’s back to reminiscing about that phateful phirst visit. OK, OK, sorry, enough with the PH factor.
“They’d been promised some gigs – and a certain kind of money when they got here – by a shady entrepreneur in Telluride, who screwed them over,” but soon managed “gigs at the Moon and the Roma” – two stops, presumably, on the tour – although they “barely made any money.
“They kind of left Telluride with a weird taste in their mouth.”
A taste washed away, one hopes, over the years, from which they’d emerge as the best-known jam-band today without its own Sirius channel – and, to hear Tewksbury tell it, just maybe the wittiest-ever jam-band, to date.
“Now, they’ve evolved,” he says. “They’ve become a much more polished band – maybe a little less goofy and wacky than they used to be, although they’re still heavily influenced by Frank Zappa, with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor” the makes it likely they’ll still “bust out the trampoline” for at least one number, with “the guitarist and bassist jumping the tramp in synch. They still do that on a lot of gigs, but they have a more streamlined, more professional, slicker sound with the new sobriety – that’s kind of what having a family brings: A little more responsibility.”
These days, “they play better than ever,” says Tewksbury, who’s listening to the band’s new music. “They’re playing even better, after 18 years; they’ve really got me turned on It’s sexy; it’s hot; it’s good stuff.
“Their lighting,” he says, “is the reason a lot of us go to see Phish. Their lighting director does a masterful job. He’ll illuminate all aspects of Town Park, not just the stage – at certain special events, he goes above and beyond. He’s been in town already, taking measurements in Town Park – it’s really shaping up into something super-spectacular. I talked to him about a month ago – I’ve known him for a dozen or more years – and he said, ‘Jimbo, I won’t let the cat out of the bag – I can’t tell you why – but it’s going to be a magical event.’”
And just as he has more than 170 times before, Jimbo Tewksbury will be there, dancing the night away. “There might be a couple of slow numbers,” he confesses, “where I catch a breather, grab a beer or go to the urinal – but otherwise, I pretty much glued to the stage.”
To sign up for Phishtorian Jimbo Tewksbury’s Monday, Aug. 9 1-4 p.m. Phish Pub Crawl, call him at BootDoctors/Paragon, 970/728-4581. Participants must be 21 or older, with photo IDs.