This was private property, after all -- so if some enterprising homeowner along Route 50 wanted to throw a party for $10 a head, who would care?
"Phish fans don't let anyone stop them from having a good time," proclaimed "D.C.," one of the private parking lot's patrons. He and his friends from the nation's capital had heard all the stories about Saratoga Springs and State Parks police with their Alco-Sensor booze-sniffing devices, and the supposedly preprinted tickets for alcohol violations that cops were ready to hand out, so they simply moved their tie-dyed tailgating activities away from Spa State Park.
Aside from the off-campus activities, the prominent no-alcohol signs and what some said were Woodstock-size traffic tie-ups due to police checks, the scene outside SPAC looked like a pretty normal concert warm-up: lots of folks walking around, lounging in portable seats and making their way toward the concert venue.
Saturday's Phish concert was the second big show this summer during which police have made it known that they were finally going to enforce the long-standing ban against alcohol in state parks and against bringing booze, beer and other mind-altering substances into Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
The tough stance began with the Dave Matthews show earlier this month -- and police had explained that last year's Matthews concert resulted in some 100 arrests for public drunkenness and general rowdiness. Alcohol-fueled assaults and sexual abuse also have occurred at the band's SPAC concerts, officials said.
As of 9 p.m. Saturday, authorities had made at least 18 arrests on drug and alcohol charges.
While the June 4 Matthews crackdown evoked a level of skepticism and even derision among fans, lots of last night's Phishheads seemed to merely shrug off the tough new rules.
"It doesn't matter," said Jay McCartney, of Albany, who was there with his friend Dwight Methusa. "I'm underage," he said, explaining he was too young to drink and was there for the music anyway.
The pair had driven to Hartford, Conn., to see Phish on Friday, and were going to follow them to Mansfield, Mass., and Camden, N.J., as part of their summer Phishing trip.
"They just kill it," McCartney said of the band's performances. Not everyone had heard about the crackdown, which seemed to catch some 50-something fans unawares.
"It was a complete surprise for me after driving here for five hours," said Don Hess of Rochester, who was tailgating -- with Starbucks -- beneath the trees in the park with his brother, Joe Hess, and Joe's wife, Patti, of Hoosick Falls.
"I'm actually drinking coffee," said Patti, sporting a tie-dye skirt (yes, they enjoyed the Grateful Dead's music, too).
Other than police stopping concertgoers on the way in and asking them if they had any alcohol in the car, Joe Hess said Saturday's scene seemed like a typical mellow Phish concert warm-up. "It doesn't look that different to me," he said.
But Patti added, with grin, "Although, we haven't looked around the dark corners."
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