The State of Washington axed its tourism office this summer, blaming budget cuts. Good riddance: the agency never recognized that the premier event drawing out-of-staters to Washington is not Seafair, nor the Apple Cup, nor a Seahawks game, nor the Dave Matthews Caravan, nor even the Portland Timbers at the Seattle Sounders. The NUMBER ONE out-of-state draw to the State of Washington is the talented Vermont jazz-rock combo Phish and its loyal and kind super-demographic of traveling phans -- filling planes not only to Spokane and Seattle, but to Wenatchee, Yakima and Pasco.
If Colorado's Red Rocks is the grandaddy of premier outdoor venues, The Gorge Amphitheater is its Washington State protege. Both venues are stunning natural amphitheaters and both have done their best to resist complete nauseating corporatization like naming rights, video advertising, or pay parking. At Phish 8/5/11, for example, a $62 week-of-show box seat includes efficient wait-service and a premier parking pass in this empty lot down below the lakewater-lapping stations.
But has Phish avoided corportization? Has the dmb-steeped red-light management of Coran Capshaw dialed the Phish into predictable unpredictability? Is there a 2010's profitable music business model in soft-selling-out the best sheds, squeezing out highly polished versions of every song in the catalog, and dealing them out in a "hood-here/reba-there" geographically-dispersed manner designed to lose fewer listeners after each show than old phish 1.0 or 2.0? In other words, does it matter that Phish doesn't run Phish?
Nope: Phish is just fine with its nerve-center 1000 miles south of Burlington. Friday night Phish's polished perfection sent The Gorge into a higher dimension, dealing-up a monstrous but tight show, even if all four of the members are obvious victims of collective post-hypnotic suggestion.