Archive for The Gorge Ampitheater

Phish at the Gorge in 2003 – My experience

It all started when we arrived and were parked in the campground which was furthest away from the entrance that it could possibly be. The only way for me to get around at shows now is in a wheelchair, and the campground ground was made up of grass and gravel. We tried to start wheeling me to the show through the grass, but it tipped me over 3 times, then we tried on the gravel and that tipped me over 3 times. By this time I’m bawling my eyes out and my ankle had started to swell so we went to the first aid station. It was at the first aid station that we learned there was a gimp bus for those in need. The bus would pick up the gimps and take us the mile and a half to the venue.  I was happy about that, but wondered why I hadn’t been informed about this when we entered the campground and especially when my handicapped placard was hanging there plain to see on the RV.  We took the handicapped bus the first night of the first concert (there were two nights of shows) I was able to sit in the seats because there wasn’t a huge crowd at this point and i got to the show. When we arrived (they brought us through backstage), the guard there said, ‘hold on, ill find you a seat out there’ We couldn’t visually see the venue this well at this point, me because I was in a wheelchair and behind a large, tall fence. When the guy came back, he wheeled me out into the middle of the cement floor. At this point it wasn’t that busy but I had been on that floor without the chair at prior phish shows and know how bad it gets down there.  I was confused as i had seen at least 4 handicapped seating sections on the web page. When I asked someone about that, they said that they close the handicap sections during general admission shows. The whole show was horrible, people tripped over me what seemed like every 5 minutes. A few of the people around me bitched so much during the first set, that at set break I had Kris move me. We ended up at the back of the floor, but due to the decline of the ground, my chair would roll forward, even with the brakes on. All i needed was a flat space, but there wasn’t one to be seen, nor did the people who work at the venue let Kris or I know about one. The ride back to the bus was a fun one, but when we arrived back at the campground, we realized we still had to go up a hill made of gravel, and the bus driver and his helper refused to drive us up there. We made it up there but about 5 minutes later we saw the bus drive by!!!!

The next day dawned and we make it down to where the bus picks us up. We ask about the person they took up in the bus to the campground and they said, oh, he had an electric chair. We shook our heads in disbelief about being left there and someone else being taken. I was put into the back of the bus this time around. At the back of these buses are seat belt straps, attached to the floor. These straps are used to hold the wheelchair in place while the bus is in motion. When I was put in the back of the bus, the gentleman (the same one from the day before) didn’t put these safety restraints on. I touched him as he left and asked ‘will i be ok?’ and he said yes. I at this point was so new to using a wheelchair that I couldn’t have imagined what would be happening next. As the driver started up the bus and headed out of the campground he hit his brakes at the entrance of the campground and the wheelchair I was sitting in flew forward  and smashed into another wheelchair. To make a long story short, the same thing happened at the venue the second night, but less people tripped over me, and I was able to keep space with the help of a few friends. When we returned home, we realized that something was VERY  wrong with the wheelchair from the crash. Physically I was alright but the entire frame of the wheelchair was bent and parts had snapped off that were welded to the frame (the crash with the other wheelchair was a big enough impact to break the wheelchair). The second night ended and the most horrible time I have ever had at a concert in my entire life was finally over. I was so scared and upset and worried about being bumped (anytime someone would bump into me it would cause me pain)  most of the time that I was unable to enjoy the show, nor could i even SEE the show. There were no screens, and due to me sitting in the chair, when everyone would stand around me, I was blocked from any view of the stage.

Now that it’s been a couple of years,  I have finally been able to let this go. I thought about suing the Gorge, worked with the  Attorney General of the state of Washington and the Washington Human Rights Commission for awhile about the case, but I wimped out. Now all I have are the memories and a broken wheelchair in the basement. I don’t know why it’s there, why we never got rid of it after the decision to not sue, but it’s there. It’s there for a reason that I don’t know yet so I’ll get back to you later on that one.