It's a beautiful day for Phishing in Hampton.
The forecast calls for mild, spring-like conditions. Regardless of the weather, fans of the band
would tell you that love is in the air.
Tonight, their favorite band performs the first of three reunion concerts at the Hampton Coliseum, the venue that Phish heads affectionately call The Mothership.
"This is something we've all hoped for, but this is bigger than what I could have imagined," said Adam Bollinger, a loyal Phish follower in
. "The excitement on the [Internet] message boards is electric," he said. "This is going to be big. I'm sleeping like four hours a night."
One of America's most popular live acts, Phish racked up $176 million in concert grosses between 1989 and 2004, when the band decided to break up.
The group's decision to reunite and play its first shows in 41/2 years in Hampton sent shock waves through the nation's jam band community — as well as the concert industry.
"I feel privileged to be the focal point of the live touring business for this one weekend," said Joe Tsao, director of Hampton Coliseum. "It's a proud moment for all of us."
Tickets to the Hampton shows were scooped up in a matter of minutes when they went on sale Oct. 18.
, sellers are now asking as much as $400 for a ticket to tonight's show and more than $1,000 for a set of passes to all three concerts.
Local hotels have been booked solid for months — and some have had to wrestle with problems that come with a tidal wave of reservation requests.
"I've heard it from the Hampton police, they're even selling them on eBay and
," said Roh Patel, general manager of Best Western Coliseum Inn & Suites. "Selling rooms, do you believe it? That is crazy."
He's also had to sort out a mess that developed after his reservation system was overwhelmed last fall.
"I've had dreams about it," Patel said. "My wife wondered why I couldn't sleep at night. I told her that everybody and his grandpa started reserving rooms."
A question hovering over the weekend's celebration is how many people will show up for the party without a ticket.
"Tell people not to come if they don't have a ticket," said Coliseum director Tsao. "Be considerate. When you show up without a ticket, we still have to manage you. And you're taking away from the experience of people who do have a ticket."
Bluegrass fans are also bracing for the crush of humanity. The
, an event that's been happening for years in early March at the Holiday Inn Hampton Hotel and Conference Center, will find itself at the center of a Phish storm.
But aside from some logistical snags, organizer Earl Banton said he expects smooth sailing.
"The parking is probably going to be inconvenient," Banton said. "But we're adjusting. Everybody's upbeat and happy and playing music like there's no tomorrow. I think we're going to do well."
Giddy optimism was certainly the mood among Phish fans Thursday. They said they're happy to see the band coming back, of course. Beyond that, several also said they expect the group to be in good musical form.
"I am 100 percent sure they are going to be as good as they've ever been," said Dan Berkowitz, who runs a Brooklyn-based tour company for rock fans. "They're not doing it for the money. Their legacy was tainted by their last tour and last show [in Coventry, Vt.]." Berkowitz and other fans said their playing wasn't up to snuff there.
Speaking Thursday afternoon, Phish fan Bollinger was speeding up Interstate 64 to the Richmond airport to pick up friends from
who were flying in for the show. He had already collected another fan from Boston at the Newport News airport.
As he drove, he marveled over some special surprises rumored to be in the works.