ATLANTIC CITY — When the Vermont jam band Phish comes to the resort to perform, smiles rise on the faces of not only the operators of Boardwalk Hall, but local hotel and restaurant managers.
The fans of the group are so devoted that they will travel from as far away as Toronto or Alabama to see the group. They will not just come for one show, but for all the performances of the band’s three-night, sold-out engagement, which continues tonight and Saturday. The band is bringing more than 30,000 people to the city over those three days. That means hotels have to be booked, and the fans have to eat during their stay.
River Madill arrived at Boardwalk Hall at 3 p.m. Wednesday for a show that was not going to start until 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Madill, 24, of Toronto, originally purchased two tickets to Thursday’s show, but he traded them in for one general admission ticket, so he could be as close to the stage as possible. He was the fifth person in line. Madill said he’s seen Phish at least 109 times since 2004. He planned to spend one night at Caesars Atlantic City and the next three nights at The Chelsea Hotel. Madill also traveled to Atlantic City for Phish’s Halloween stand in 2010 at Boardwalk Hall.
“They surprise us every night with what they do. You’ve got to find out for yourself,” Madill said as he tried to explain why he had seen the group so many times.
Phish earns its fans’ admiration by making music that mixes many different genres. As a four-piece jam band, some of their music has a groove a person can dance to, but they are also known for being able to improvise on their instruments and for being unpredictable both in their song selection and the length of time they will play a song.
Dwight Balaun, 53, of Burlington, Vt., has seen Phish 60 times. He’s been a fan almost since the band was formed in 1983.
Balaun is no stranger to Atlantic City. He came here in June 2012 for Phish’s three shows at Bader Field and the Halloween stint in 2010. Balaun was staying at the Courtyard by Marriott Atlantic City and had already made his way to The Pier Shops at Caesars to eat. He arrived at 1:30 p.m. Thursday and was willing to stand in line for six hours to obtain a spot on the floor of the arena to watch the band.
“It’s great music. It’s fun. I like the scene. I like the camaraderie. You see a lot of the same people at the shows,” Balaun said.
Mallory “Roll Tide” King, 25, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., attended her 25th Phish show since 2010 on Thursday night. King made it for the Phish shows in 2010 at Boardwalk Hall but didn’t make it for the Bader Field shows. She was only in town for the Halloween show, and she stayed at the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel. She visited both Caesars Atlantic City and Tropicana Casino and Resort on Wednesday night. King ran into Phish bassist Mike Gordon Wednesday on the escalator at Caesars and took a picture with him.
“Every show is different. You can forget about real life for a few hours. Phish makes that possible,” King said.
King’s boyfriend purchased her ticket, but he couldn’t make it, so King drove 17 hours straight with her friend, Alex Horne, 22, also from Tuscaloosa. The duo spent Tuesday night at the Tun Tavern. Their meal Wednesday came from Jonuzi’s Pizza in Atlantic City, and preshow Thursday, they had Nathan’s hot dogs on the Boardwalk.
Thursday’s show fell on Halloween, and it seemed like the women waiting in the general admission line were more into dressing up than the men.
Horne was dressed Daria, the lead character from a 1990s MTV animated series. King was dressed as Jennifer Aniston’s character, Joanna, from the 1999 movie “Office Space.” The trip represented many firsts for Horne. It was her third time seeing Phish, but she had never been to New Jersey, Atlantic City or inside a casino previously.
“After my first time in a casino, I can understand why people have a gambling addiction,” said Horne, who added she lost $60 playing $5 blackjack at Tropicana.
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