Intro to the Gorge theatre

I just spent the weekend attending the two Phish concerts at the Gorge Ampitheater, which is just outside the catchily named little burg of George, Wash. Boy, oh boy, am I happy I got off my ever-mottling hiney and made the effort to get up here.

What a place. Have you heard of it? It has to be simply one of the great concert venues on this planet, and it can certainly give the mighty Red Rocks in Colorado a run for its title as Most Super Awesome Place Ever to See a Show. Carved into a desert hillside in the boonies of south central Washington, the Gorge is a huge—25,000 capacity, or, in the case of the Phish crowd, 25,000 incapacitated, in a town of 528 people—ampitheater that overlooks a lengthy stretch of the mighty Columbia River. The view is grandly superb as you look down at the enormous stage, which sits above a steep drop to the river. On the other side of the Columbia, there’s nothing. Only the naked, raw, treeless desert, rising sharply from the river in the form of tan, flat-topped bluffs. No lights, no houses, no roads. Nothing. Which makes for a stark and dramatic backdrop that fits the scene quite nicely. Whoever had the bright idea to put a huge ampitheater out here, of all places—well, that person is a stone cold visionary.

What gives the whole experience even more impact is that you get this serious visual wallop as you enter the place, because you can’t see the river on your approach. You really don’t have a clue as to what awaits inside until you reach the upper rim of the theater itself. And then, it’s wow time. Big wow. As in, “Wow! Looky there!” Way cool.

I took the long, slow, vehicular slog up to the Gorge. As in, I loaded up the truck and trailer and made the epic road trip out of it, taking three nights to get there. It can be done in two, if you want to step on it a bit. It’s pretty easy to find the place from Reno. Just get on 395, head north for 721 miles, take a left at Washington State Route 17, and you got it.

The easier and more do-able way to go, of course, is air. You can fly into either Seattle or Spokane, since both are nearly equidistant from the Gorge, rent a car, hit Interstate 90, and about two and a half hours later, you’re pulling into the parking lot. And you’re about to live a little larger than normal. If some musical entity you’re totally crazy about ever schedules a show or shows there (for example, the Dave Matthews Band pulls in for a three-nighter on Labor Day weekend), consider the trip, at the very least. My diligent, dogged, muckraking research has revealed that a night at the Gorge is something special.

And yes, Phish was phee-phreakin-nomenal. Absolutely at the top of their game. An ecstatic dance bash for 25,000 at the Gorge? Good idea!