Phish during its concert at the Bangor Waterfront in June 2019. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

Beloved jam band Phish will return to the Maine Savings Amphitheater on the Bangor Waterfront this Saturday for its fifth appearance in the city since 1993 and its 47th show in Maine since 1989.

While most concerts bring plenty of customers eager to spend money on food, drink and shopping while they’re in town, Phish fans are a little different.

When Phish comes to any town or city, the band brings with it legions of fans, many of whom travel from all over the country to attend multiple concerts in a row. And with those fans can come big money for businesses of all stripes.

“Phish fans definitely bring a great crowd, but they are pretty well-behaved compared to others. It’s not crazy like the country shows. Those fans like to party,” said Mark Greenleaf, owner of bar and restaurant Carolina Sports & Spirits, which sits just a few hundred feet from the entrance to the amphitheater. “We’re happy to have any concert event. They always bring us some business, and many of them pack the place.”

This is the first time Phish has performed in Maine since cannabis — which is often associated with the band and its fans — was legalized to be purchased recreationally by adults 21 and over less than two years ago in Maine.

Staff at local dispensaries in the Bangor area don’t necessarily think that they’ll suddenly sell out of all the weed in their store on Saturday, but they do anticipate a bump in business over the weekend.

“We’re grateful for every concert that comes to town. It’s always a boon for us,” said Sam Cross, manager at Firestorm, a cannabis dispensary on Outer Hammond Street in Bangor. “It’s hard to say exactly what kind of crowd we’ll see for Phish, but we’ll definitely see them. It’s always nice to see a caravan of Phish fans come in.”

In Maine, it is legal to smoke or vape cannabis only on private property. Smoking or vaping cannabis on public property, including public parks such as the one in which the Maine Savings Amphitheater is located, is illegal.

The staff at Mexicali Blues, a Maine-based chain that sells clothing, jewelry and home goods inspired by hippie culture, always look forward to the rush of Phish fans at its downtown Bangor store when the band comes to town. In addition to offering 10 percent off all tie-dyed clothing in the store for the month of July, the shop stocks Phish-branded items, including sunglasses patterned with drummer Jon Fishman’s iconic red and blue doughnut dress.

Crowds line up for a phish concert.
People wait in line before the Phish concert on the Bangor Waterfront in June 2019. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

“We know from past experience that Phish fans are the kindest, most generous bunch of customers and concert-goers, and that the store gets really busy with all the fans,” said Julie Baker-Leaden, manager of Mexicali Blues. “We just really love having them in town.”

Phish has played in Maine nearly 50 times since 1989, in everything from tiny venues like the Penny Post in Old Town to the 15,000-seat Maine Savings Amphitheater. Among the most famous moments of Phish’s nearly 40-year career were the three festivals the band played in Maine in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Great Went — held at Loring Air Force Base in Aroostook County in August 1997 — attracted more than 75,000 people, featured the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, and was 1997’s highest grossing rock concert in the U.S.

Phish festivals in 1998 and 2003 both attracted more than 60,000 people to Loring.

Though the season at the Maine Savings Amphitheater started on July 3 with a concert from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Phish’s show will be the largest concert at the venue in nearly three years, after the 2020 season was completely canceled due to the pandemic and the 2021 season was a truncated affair.

“We’re excited for all of what’s happening in Bangor right now, like the cruise ships and the concerts being back,” Baker-Leaden said. “We have definitely seen an uptick in traffic, and we’re so ready for it. It’s already been a great summer.”

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.