November 12, 2018
Aroostook Latest News | Poll Questions | Backyard Chickens | Patriots | Election Results

After two decades, Phish concerts continue to evoke strong memories in Limestone

Courtesy of Andy Giles
Courtesy of Andy Giles
Phish "phans" are seen here under skywriting during the 1998 "Lemonwheel" festival at the former Loring Air Force base..

Over two decades have passed since the band Phish first graced the former Loring Air Force Base in 1997, bringing tens of thousands of fans along and even briefly making the small town of Limestone the most heavily populated in Maine.

The band held three festivals at the former base: 1997’s “The Great Went,” which takes its name from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks; 1998’s “Lemonwheel,” an anagram for “Hello, new me,” and play on words based on Limestone’s name, as both contain citrus fruit; and 2003’s “IT,” which was made into a two-disc DVD featuring a PBS documentary of the band.

In addition to drawing numbers of people never before seen in The County, the shows each had an economic impact on the region.

Loring Development Authority President Carl Flora, who served as LDA vice-president during all three shows, said each show brought “tens of millions” of dollars to Aroostook County, and that the IT festival in particular made $8.4 million through ticket sales alone.

Courtesy of Andy Giles
Courtesy of Andy Giles
Phish fans are known for traveling hundreds of miles to follow the band on tour. Here, three fans can be seen in high spirits at the 1998 "Lemonwheel" festival.

When the band first came in 1997, more than 65,000 fans flocked to the former base, making Limestone the state’s most highly populated municipality by topping Portland’s census numbers at the time.

“I don’t think the community was really ready for the first year,” Flora said. “We heard that some stores were completely cleaned out. The shelves were bare; they didn’t have even basic things like ice and bread.”

Courtesy of Andy Giles
Courtesy of Andy Giles
Several Phish fans dressed up colorfully for the band's three festivals held between 1997 and 2003 at the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone.

For all three shows, University of Maine at Presque Isle art professor Andy Giles brought a 35mm camera along with wide angle, telephoto, and 50mm lenses and a “whole bag of tricks” while navigating the undulating sea of concertgoers to document the event.

He noted that, just a few years prior, B-52s equipped with hydrogen bombs had been taking off on the runway.

“Then, all of a sudden it becomes a gigantic venue for a huge festival,” he said. “It’s an interesting dichotomy.”

Courtesy of Andy Giles
Courtesy of Andy Giles
Phish guitarist and lead vocalist Trey Anastasio, left, and bassist Mike Gordon take the stage during the 2003 "IT" festival at the former Loring Air Force Base.

The Bangor Daily News is pleased to feature content from our sister website, The County. To read the rest of “After two decades, Phish concerts continue to evoke strong memories,” an article by The County staff writer Christopher Bouchard, please follow this link to The County online.


Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

You may also like