We left with plenty of time on Saturday to make a stop at Vintage Estates to supplement the cases of Oberon and Route 113 that would get us through the weekend. Our hotel was just a 15-minute, back-road drive away from Blossom, which is still my favorite music venue anywhere. We scored a couple of nice lot shirts for each other (see mine, above; thanks, Mrs Crappy) and marched the 18 miles from the front lots inside in time to get water and beer for the first set.

One of the best things about the weekend was hanging out with Hilary, a friend from home I've known since we were in grade school, in both Cleveland and Cincinnati.

The start of the show was solid, if maybe a little unfocused. I loved the song selection — A Kill Devil Falls to match my new shirt, hearing Fuck Your Face was a treat (no, really), the Little Feat cover gave me — and all 19,000 of my closest friends — a good boost and I’ll never not be excited to hear an Antelope.

But we turned the corner at the start of the second set. Birds is kind of rare these days, and I hadn’t seen them play it before. We all roared through Possum and then, what? Seven Below? Nope, a new song (second time played?) called Steam, a dark, slow shuffle enveloped eight minutes of night before exploding into Piper, always a favorite of mine (even after its transition from a jamming song prior to the last hiatus to a rolling, tumbling energy kick these days).

Sally came up next; a great choice, but what caught my ear happened after the song dissolved, first into a song-based jam with Page riffing on harmonies and then into something a little more sinister: a 2004-style instrumental, shorter than but similar to the one that ended Scents and Subtle Sounds at Camden that year. This one was about six minutes but it felt the same, a chilling, downward spiral, creepy and exhilarating at the same time.

And just as the jam reached its full depth, Fish pops the intro for Hood (random guy, in my ear just then: “We can feel good about this.”), and we’re off, thanks to Mister Minor. But just a little bit into the final instrumental section of the song, there’s a sudden left turn, into Have Mercy — not the ZZ Top one, kids, but the Mighty Diamonds reggae song that Phish has occasionally covered since they got started. After that short respite, we veer back into Hood, which builds to the kind of climax you’d expect at the end of the second set.

Except that we started into Character Zero instead. They hit the first chorus, and Blossom is launched. Bedlam. We had worked our way up to the rail by that point, and got pelted with glowsticks in return, both during CZ and the encore, a luscious version of Slave.

We are happy, exhausted … and hungry. And that’s when we remembered that there’s a Donatos Pizza on the way back to the hotel. We had to wait only 15 minutes for the pizza, and we didn’t even bother taking it back into our room — we ate the whole thing while still sitting in Mrs. Crappy’s car in the parking lot. Sleep came pretty easily, and we had plenty of time for it before what promised to be a killer breakfast in the morning before set headed south to Cincinnati.