Tens of thousands of concert-goers crowded into Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion and the surrounding area to soak in the perfect weather, the good vibes and hours of music as Phish performed in Bangor for the first time in nearly 20 years.
The concert — one of the biggest in the four-year history of the Waterfront Concerts — drew an estimated 16,000 ticket holders and several thousand more spectators listening in from the area around the pavilion grounds. The kickoff for Phish’s summer tour, it has been one of the most hotly anticipated Waterfront Concerts of the year.
Phish, composed of guitarist Trey Anastasio, keyboardist Page McConnell, bassist Mike Gordon and drummer and former Maine resident Jon Fishman, came into town on Monday to rehearse for the tour at the Cross Insurance Center. Primed and ready, the band did not disappoint, playing a variety of songs from their 14 albums. They started off with live favorite “Possum,” which elicited a mighty roar from the crowd, and proceeded to morph into countless others jams over the night.
Emma Janney and her friend Laila LaJoya, both in their 20s and from New York City, were sporting sparkly pink flowers in their hair and enormous smiles on their faces in the hour before the show began. They planned to spend the next several weeks touring the country with Phish.
Janney counted the Bangor show as her 52nd time seeing the band and her first time seeing them in Maine.
“There is nothing that compares to it. All the people, the fun, just waiting for it to start,” she said. “I’ve never had more fun in my life.”
Al Papadonis, 27, of Medfield, Mass., said the Bangor show was his 29th Phish concert, though it was his first Phish show in Maine.
“I just love the whole experience,” said Papadonis. “But it’s all about the music.”
The grassy area outside the venue, near the docks, was turned into a temporary village, full of vendors of all stripes and Phish fans blowing bubbles, dancing in the grass, eating grilled cheese sandwiches and casually drinking beer on blankets for hours before the show even started.
While people came from all over the Northeast and Canada to see the show, plenty of other concert-goers hailed from a little closer to town. Annie Cammack and Garth Eldridge, both of Ellsworth, came with their friend Emily Howe of Bangor and her 10-year-old son Dryden Lenney. Cammack recalled seeing Phish at Lemonwheel at the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, nearly 16 years ago.
“I found an ad in the Bangor Daily News to do security for Lemonwheel, back in 1997,” Cammack said. “You got a T-shirt and three days of a Phish show. It was definitely memorable.”
Virginia Rose and Brian McLaughlin of Dover-Foxcroft sat in the grass outside the venue with a sign reading “Looking for a miracle.” The miracle in question was two tickets to get inside the gate.
“That would definitely be a miracle,” said Rose. “But right now we’re just enjoying the vibe.”
Fans flooded into Bangor as early as Monday, filling up every available hotel room and campsite within a 20-mile radius. Bars, restaurants and retail stores in downtown Bangor were packed full of concert-goers.
Andrew Day, manager of Paddy Murphy’s on Main Street, reported that from lunchtime on, his bar and restaurant was completely packed.
“We were absolutely mobbed,” said Day. “It’s been amazing for business.”
Police officers and vehicles were at nearly every corner. However, the crowd was pretty tame, according to Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards.
“There’s been a lot of drinking in public, but no tickets were handed out,” said Edwards.
Instead, police asked people to dump their alcoholic beverages. Many empty containers were seen along the ground and in the trash or recycling.
A Maine State Police trooper said there were two arrests made by state police in Bangor related to the concert.
The Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department assisted, while Bangor Fire and Rescue and Maine Marine Patrol had boats on the river.
Edwards warned motorists to avoid Main Street on Wednesday evening. The concert is expected to let out about 11:20 p.m., he said.
Phish took stage about 7:50 p.m.
BDN writer Alex Barber contributed to this report.