Phish performs at Hersheypark Stadium: Here’s what it’s like joining phans for an evening

As I arrived at Hersheypark Stadium to attend the first of two Phish concerts scheduled for the venue this week, I wasn’t optimistic. Storm clouds had rolled in over Hershey, with a light drizzle leading to a steady rain and frequent bolts of lightning visible on the horizon.

I felt bad for the fans, who had gathered by the thousands to see the beloved jam band, who are known for their blend of progressive rock, roots music, funk and similar genres. They’re also known for lengthy improvised numbers, and part of the fans’ dedication is due to how no two Phish shows are alike.

But my assumption that the show would be canceled proved to be unfounded. The concert was delayed by 30 minutes, which gave time for the storm to pass and the fans to file in. And among the ones I spoke to, none of them had doubted for a second that they’d see a show that night. They’d merely draped themselves in ponchos or removed their shirts during the storm (well, the shirt removal thing may have happened regardless of weather) and, if worse had come to pass, prepared to dance in the rain.

    Phish fans travel across the country to see the band in Hershey: ‘This is the greatest joy in my whole world’

The moment the music started, the crowd was dancing in the stands, as well as in the line outside of the stadium as they filed in. And above them, a rainbow could be seen behind the adjacent Hersheypark Arena. It was as if the certainty of the fans had forced the weather to change.

As I wandered the parking lot prior to entering the stadium, listening to Phish’s rendition of “Fuego” as I headed towards a concert I was certain wouldn’t happen, I noticed some flowers springing up between some cracks in the asphalt. It was a pretty decent metaphor: positive things can seem to be in short supply these days. But at every turn, the Phish concert refused to not be anything but joyful.

It didn’t take me long to realize that a Phish show is actually more like a festival than a concert….

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