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December 20, 2014

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Thomas & Mack Turns 25:

No. 19: Phish fans out in force

Beyond the Sun

Editor's Note: In conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the Thomas & Mack Center's opening on Nov. 21, 1983, the Sun is celebrating the building's colorful history with a top 25 countdown - to No. 1 on Nov. 21, 2008 - of the biggest events held inside the arena located on UNLV's campus.

Phish and legions of fans waded into the Thomas & Mack on Sept. 30, 2000.

The show was preceded by a show of force: Thousands of early-arriving Phish fans turning the Thomas & Mack parking lot into a street fair, craft market and temporary recreation village. It was sort of like a KOA park for stoned campers.

It was not surprising that the arena sold out for Phish, or even that the announced attendance of 18,300 was the largest single concert ever at the Thomas & Mack. By the fall of 2000, Phish was the next Grateful Dead, both in musical style (this was at the peak of the jam band era, where it was common for fans to fall sway during 10-minute instrumental flights of fancy) and for its remarkably loyal fans.

The Dead had spinners; Phish had Phish Heads. Or, if you will, “Phans,” who enjoyed Halloween just about every day, their imaginations fueled with whatever substance might be smoked or added to a recipe for brownies. The band enjoyed the inventive role-playing, too, and was known to play Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and The Beatles’ “White Album” during Halloween performances.

This Phish show was the first of two for the band at the T&M, with the band performing a pair of hourlong sets, but really, any Phish show was just a segment of a greater, nationwide spectacle.

Kid Rock was supposed to show up on this night, but there were no reported sightings. Maybe he was there, disguised as a guy dressed as Kid Rock. Through the haze and thumping jams, who could tell?

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