Birthdays, Phish, Traveling

I’ve been taking advantage of my recent forced unemployment by traveling a lot — something I love to do but never seem to have time for. It’s lovely not to have an excuse to stay home now. Traveling is one of the things I love most about life, even if it’s not very far away. Lately I’ve been reminded that I haven’t been doing nearly enough of it in a while.

So last week I had a birthday…the 3rd anniversary of my 29th birthday to be exact. Ha! My friend Jeff took me out for a kick-ass Japanese dinner and gave me a beautiful silver initial necklace that I love (it looks like a wax seal), and we watched the new Robin Hood movie with Russell Crowe — one of my favorite stories and kind of Jeff since he had already seen it.

I went back to my hometown for a few days to visit with my family and friends. I got to see my goddaughter for the first time since she came home from the hospital, and she is already looking more like her dad and acting more like her mom. My mom makes me a birthday cake every year, and usually I choose coconut, because she makes the world’s best coconut cakes. This is also my dad’s birthday cake of choice. But this year things were a little rushed so I opted for something easier for my poor mama — a heath bar chocolate sheet cake. It was fabulous. My cousins, grandmother, and aunt came over for pizza and cake, and it was so nice to hang out with them since we only see each other two or three times a year.

This is the first year in history I’ve felt completely ambivalent about my birthday and didn’t even really care about celebrating it at all. I feel so old. I know that’s silly to say. In the grand scheme of things I’m not old, and age is just a number anyway. I suppose I feel a bit down because now that I am “in my thirties” my life is not at all where I imagined it would or should be by now. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But at times I do feel like quite a failure. I have been reminding myself for years that everyone has their own time line, but I still have trouble believing that to the fullest extent rather than feeling like it’s a cop out, or an excuse I’m making for why my life sucks.

But when it comes to maturity, I don’t feel old AT ALL. I have friends who are 10 years younger than me that I completely relate to, and I’m not sure that’s such a good thing, but it is what it is. I feel like there are two distinct sides to me — one that is very mature and wise beyond her years, who is fairly responsible and shit, and another side that is still a kid and just wants to have fun, party, break all the rules and be rebellious and live it up while I am still unencumbered by attachments and responsibilities. Maybe that’s why my mom says people don’t really become adults until they have children. Maybe that’s part of why I don’t want children. LOL. But seriously? When I’m not at least aware of current pop music, I feel like a geezer, and my younger friends keep me in the loop. Pop music is like my crack — I’m so ashamed that I like it but I can’t quit. (Luckily, I listen to lots of “good” music also.) And when I hang out with them, I still have to say, “Wait, who is this?” every five seconds. Anyway, enough about being old.

I’m really excited about this coming weekend because I get to do some more traveling to Charleston with my friend Swampman for Phish! We are only going to one of the two shows because he (fortunately) still has a job to go to on Friday, but Saturday will be amazing with communing with fellow Phans and camping and hiking in Congaree National Park. Swamp and I don’t go anywhere we can’t incorporate a camping/hiking excursion. Also promise a post on that after the fact. With pictures.

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Phish 2010!

Just got back from two amazing nights of Phish in Raleigh and Charlotte with Swampman. Our summer tradition continues! I have to say I think set list-wise these shows were way better than the ones we saw last summer. The weather was awesome — lately it’s been in the 90s here, but we ended up with breezy high 70s both nights, which was so pleasant and made my happy place that much happier. And the crowds both nights were wonderful — a great representation of the Phamily. Smiles everywhere, kindness everywhere. I love being surrounded by good people who think like me, live like me, dress like me, dance like me, and are made happy by what makes me happy!

This tour made me really appreciate living in Winston, because it really is a good central location. Two hours to Raleigh, and an hour-and-a-half to Charlotte. Actually, it took us longer to get to Charlotte than Raleigh because of Fourth of July beach traffic, which sucked. But Swamp let me sleep in the car a lot instead of doing my normal stereo duty, and he even bought some new CDs for the drive that he knew I would like so I didn’t have to focus on changing them out after my recent weeks of working overtime. Very considerate. We listened to a lot of the new Robert Randolph album, some Sound Tribe Sector 9, and of course, Phish.

The lot scene in Raleigh was cooler than Charlotte in some ways. We got there early enough to cruise Shakedown before heading in and check out all the cool glass work and jewelry. These days it’s all about feather earrings and druzy crystal pendants made from the inside of geodes (awesome), in addition to the standard blown glass. I could have spent a lot of money there if I had had it. Got complimented on my necklace by someone from Asheville — she thought is was amber but I corrected her. Actually carnelian. And got to tell my story about the history of carnelian from ancient Roman times. Tons and tons of good kind veggie vendors that made me SO HUNGRY and good beers for cheap. Got a couple of dollar waters on the way in and breezed through the bag check thanks to my skirt’s secret pocket, which has a broken zipper, but that was fixed easily by Swamp’s random safety pin on the tag of his shirt. Eagle Scouts rule!

The lawn at Walnut Creek is Raleigh is very steep, and I could actually see well, which is abnormal because I’m short and usually have a view of the backs of tall guys’ heads. We had a perfect spot right in the middle.

Raleigh Set List:

Set 1: Llama, Roses Are Free, Kill Devil Falls, Time Loves a Hero, Alaska, Water in the Sky, Runaway Jim > The Moma Dance > The Divided Sky, Cavern

Set 2: Backwards Down the Number Line > Halley’s Comet -> Light > Fluffhead > Have Mercy, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone -> Free > Wading in the Velvet Sea, The Squirming Coil > Suzy Greenberg

Encore: Boogie On Reggae Woman

I thought that was pretty much the best show I’ve ever seen. Already have it downloaded if you want a copy. (Just leave me a comment.)¬† I think (although y’all know my memory is not the best) it was my first live Roses Are Free. Runaway Jim is my second to least favorite Phish song (besides Maze…I just can’t get into the coked out songs because I am a mellow person, yo), so I took that opportunity to go get a beer, which Swamp anticipated on the first chord, naturally, and was already fishing out my money that he was holding by the time I said, “I think I’m gonna go….” LOVED getting to hear all my favorites from the newest album — Alaska, Kill Devil Falls, and Backwards Down the Number Line. Backwards is a me-and-Swamp song because of the whole calling your best friend on their birthday thing. I think the only times I stopped dancing were Runaway Jim and Velvet Sea, which is also not one of my favorites to see live, although it is a great song for chilling at home. I just prefer dancing music live. Upon hearing this statement, one of my friends said, “I thought you didn’t dance!” Because the last time we went to a club together I said that. But I am a hippie dancer, not a dance club dancer. Unless I’m really drunk, which doesn’t happen that often.

Halley’s Comet was the best I’ve ever heard with great sing-along power. Also, Fluffhead. WOW! And then Free! YES! The Have Mercy cover was better than the original Mighty Diamonds version…I love it when they reggae it out, man. Swamp was really proud to have called Squirming Coil, and I actually was really happy to hear Suzy Greenberg, which is not usually my favorite. And the Boogie On encore ROCKED MY FACE!

Lot scene in Charlotte was a bit more mellow, which is not a bad thing necessarily. Had to bum some cups off some neighbors. Met a guy from Maine who had been to all the festivals up there, so we shared IT stories, and I talked jewelry with one of the girls they were with who was wearing an awesome handmade silver pendant with inset stones made by one of her friends.

One of my personal highlights was seeing a family pass by the car — two parents with a middle-school aged daughter. The daughter was walking with her head down and arms crossed, and the mom was saying to her, “Honey, this is so exciting! Your first Phish show!” I felt really old in that moment. That could so be me. Would be me if I had a kid that age. Awesome that they are introducing her to coolness. Reminded me of my first concert experience that my parents took me to in Charlotte to see U2 and Pixies. Hell yeah! Looking back I guess that was not the coolest I’ve ever felt, but I sure do appreciate that now. I hope that girl had a good time and that she’ll be blogging about that experience (or telling her college friends or something) in the future so people know how cool her parents are. Some of Swamp’s students have started getting into Phish because he plays it for them during homeroom, and we were paranoid we might see some of them there. But I guess their parents don’t condone it because it’s evil hippie drug music. Much in the same way they don’t like the fact that their kids are all about their cool, young teacher.

Charlotte was way more packed, which made for excellent socializing and dancing on the lawn. You make a whole lot more new friends that way. ūüôā We also remembered the patchwork quilt that night, which is a huge conversation piece and friend-maker. Everyone wants a piece of that action at set break after grinding toes into grass and dirt.

Charlotte’s set list:

Set 1: Buried Alive > AC/DC Bag, Vultures, Wolfman’s Brother, Back on the Train, The Wedge, Mexican Cousin, Stash, Sparkle, Chalk Dust Torture

Set 2: Drowned, 46 Days, Twenty Years Later, The Lizards, Carini, Fuck Your Face, Also Sprach Zarathustra, You Enjoy Myself -> Proud Mary[1]

Encore: A Day in the Life

Wolfman’s Brother is Swamp’s all-time favorite, so it was cool to get that. For the first time ever, I called a song before he did (Wedge), and I was very disappointed Spar wasn’t there to high-five me and commemorate the 0ccasion. Since Swamp has been a fan for much longer than I have, it’s pretty much impossible to trump him, and I FINALLY DID IT! I was ecstatic. AC/DC Bag was a good sing-along. Mexican Cousin is one of mine and Swamp’s songs because of this lyric: “I’m awful sorry you got pissed! Just have to cross you off the list of my true friends. And tequila’s where it starts and where it ends!” Because we’re always getting in stupid fights and then making up and realizing our friendship is more important.

Highlights for me were Chalk Dust, YEM, and the a capella Proud Mary jam, which everyone was singing along to and jamming out and dancing hard. Made lots of friends on the lawn, from a cool kid with a YEM shirt I wanted and who gave lots of hugs and shared nugs (and stole my lighter, but that’s okay), to a guy behind us with a new Phish motif tattoo that honored his group of friends…a Penny Lane lookalike from Almost Famous and a¬† happy guy who COULD NOT STOP smiling. I felt the same way!

At one point, I went to get a beer, and there was all this cash on the ground in front of the beer stand. I picked it up and gave it to someone behind the counter, saying, “Can you hold this back here in case someone comes back for it?” Her response? “You guys are awesome. Out of all the concerts I’ve worked here, this is by far the coolest crowd. You’re just really good people!” I said, “I hope you’re also enjoying the music, because this is an awesome show so far!” And she said, “Yeah, I like this better than most of what I hear. Great night! Great crowd!”

And that pretty much sums up the Phish show experience for me. Random people being turned on by goodness and positivity and awesome music.

All I felt all night was love and happiness and joy and positivity and bliss. Who doesn’t want to be a part of that? I love my Phamily!

Movies: Phish 3D

We were so worried about getting tickets to this thing. It consumed us for a week or more. “It’s not showing up! The Phish email says it’s playing here, but it’s not showing up!” Finally, the theater listed the show times on its website and we were able to purchase in advance. Had a tasty Mexican dinner with Swamp, Josh, Jess, Lizzy, Taper, and Jen before heading over — the hippie posse in tour shirts and a lot of hemp, rolling up to the ticket window on the same night as Kenny Chesney 3D. People in Wranglers beside us in line squinted up at the marquee and said, “What’s Phish 3D?” No surprise, then, that we were seven of maybe twenty people in the auditorium. If only we’d gone to Asheville, Swamp said, we could have been packed in like sardines with all our hippie brethren and drinking beers at that one theater that serves alcohol. But it was not the worst thing to have the theater practically to ourselves. We got some laughs from fellow movie-goers by shouting along to “Wilson.” The best, most comprehensive review I’ve seen is here. I highly recommend reading it. But I’ll give you a few pieces of personal feedback. I know you care so much what I think! ūüôā

The acoustic set was the highlight of the whole thing. “Strange Design” was so honest and emotional, I almost cried. I loved seeing them play in daylight. I loved the set list. It was the one part of the movie where I forgot about the whole 3D thing and stopped being dizzy and just felt immersed in it, like I was sitting on the stage with them. Unfortunately, I was a little distracted by Mike’s huge blue jean bulge. He needs to invest in some looser pants. That shit just doesn’t look comfortable. That was definitely not something I needed to see in 3D.

The “Shine a Light” cover was excellent. Loved the backup singers. Loved the horn section. Even though the trombonist reminded me a little too much of Barry Gibb. Loved Trey’s faces of ecstasy and grins of sheer joy. Loved seeing his eye crinkles in 3D. “Suzy Greenberg” was entertaining but way too damn long. I wanted to smack that backup singer going “SUZY! SUZY! SUZY!” over and over and over. The first portion of the film had some great Page close-ups, where he was looking totally in the zone and deep in his groove. And it was kind of interesting to see Fish’s set up so close. I had no idea how huge his kit was. And I enjoyed playing “Where’s Waldo?” with everyone’s copy of the set lists.

Overall, I would have preferred less camera motion. Towards the end, we were all feeling sick and taking off the 3D glasses. I liked elements of it, like the balloons floating by that Swamp and I pretended to bat at each other. But as far as the show footage, it was more effective when the camera actually paused on something long enough for you to kind of savor being up close and personal. I could have done without “Maze,” which is possibly my least phavorite song. I have a little anxiety freak-out every time I hear that chorus. But everything else I was really happy to hear. And I will totally be purchasing the DVD.

Bottom line: A-. Could have been better in some ways, but I left with a great big smile on my face. And I’m totally pumped for summer tour!

Crafty Love! Festival Accessories

I’m getting pretty excited about my musical summer, which began last weekend with an Acoustic Syndicate show in High Point, NC. Next up is the Phish 3D movie this Friday. We’ve got a whole group going, and with any luck we’ll have the theater to ourselves. Or else I might be really surprised at how many closet Phans there are in the Triad and possibly meet some hot hippie boys. At the end of May, we have a weekend-long music festival, Smilefest, up in Stokes County. Looking forward to seeing Michael Franti & Spearhead, as well as more Acoustic Syndicate, Larry Keel, Barefoot Manner, David Via, and others. Also looking forward to camping amongst hundreds of my closest friends, playing some music before hitting the world’s comfiest sleeping bag, and eating camp stove grilled cheese. In July, I’m going to the two North Carolina Phish shows on summer tour (Charlotte and Raleigh). After that…who knows what else will present itself as an opportunity for more fun. Since I’m daydreaming about shows today, I’ve got some Etsy love for the hippies in my audience. (I know there’s at least one!) You need these things for your next show/festival. You need them bad.

It goes without saying that you’re gonna have to have a cool t-shirt or two. I have to say I’m probably one of the world’s pickiest people when it comes to t-shirt designs. There are just so many that are funny but don’t really work as shirts. For example, this one is hilarious, but I don’t want to wear it. I am somewhat of a tomboy hippie, because I prefer coverage as opposed to backless apron tops and whatnot. I am modest, I prefer to be comfortable above all else, and I think some things are better left to the imagination. I like the simplicity of this Grateful Dead reminiscent dancing skeleton batik, with what could be confetti or maybe glow sticks or stage lights.¬† And, as many people forget, it’s all about the music, man –and dancing and having fun and being amongst others who find happiness in that. $26.50 by Cracks in the Wax

Next you’re gonna need some accessories. Hemp is always good. Trippy glass is always good. I love staring at hand blown glass, and this artist is one of the best I’ve seen. (And I’ve seen a lot.) This necklace reminds me of one my friend got for trading his extra ticket when Trey came to Asheville back in our college days. I love the colors in this, and the craftsmanship is excellent. $50 by Vonbeads

For the festivals at least, this is my favorite toy/activity — hula hooping the night away to some good tunes. I have a basic stripey one that is pretty and functional, but I’m seriously coveting these LED ones that are like glow sticks on steroids and more fun to operate. I can’t quite afford one yet, sadly, so I’ll have to stick to my plain Jane hoop for now. But this is definitely the Cadillac of hoops. $190 by Midnight Star Glass

Good Lyrics: When the Circus Comes

This is one of those songs that I forget how much I love until I hear it again. It’s a sit-in-the-car-and-wait-til-it-ends kind of song. It makes me feel things I don’t particularly want to feel. That’s a good song.

When the Circus Comes (click to play)
by Los Lobos (but also covered excellently by Phish)

Could have had a chance to get out of this mess
The time that you came and the day that you left
Could have had a chance
Could have had a chance

Never thought I could make it this far
With a pain in my soul and a hole in my heart
Never thought I could
Never thought I could

But when the lights are turning round
The wheels are flowing on the ground
The day I burned this whole place down
When the circus comes to town

Carved your name out on that tree
Scratched mine out right in front of me
Didn’t mean that much
Didn’t mean that much

But when the lights are turning round
The wheels are flowing on the ground
The day I burned this whole place down
When the circus comes to town

Thoughtful Thursday: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Between_A_Rock_And_A_Hard_Place_Ralston

My friend Swamp and I are currently reading each other’s “Top 5” books. Actually, I’m having a hard time narrowing it down to just five. I’ve given him my first one, which he is reading now: 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. As for¬†my other four…right now it’s more like the other twenty.¬†Our lists are not in any particular order according to rank, but the second of his that I read was Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston. You may remember his story being in the news a few years ago — he was hiking in Utah when a boulder fell and pinned his right arm. He survived for six days, but he ended up having to amputate his own arm with a pocket knife.

The story appeals to Swamp because he is also¬†the survivor of a near-death wilderness experience,¬†being lost for six days in the Amazon. (That story is one for another post.) I think on the surface he and Ralston have a lot in common — the outdoorsman personality, the near obsession with all things nature related and the very experience of nature. They even have the same favorite bands.¬†But when you go deeper, Aron Ralston’s got nothing on Swamp in terms of spiritual evolution and enlightenment.

Ralston’s personality really comes through in his writing, and at times I was¬†just as¬†fascinated¬†with learning about his¬†psychological make-up as I was the smallest details of his ordeal. From my reading, I thought he came across as motivated by “inferior” qualities, as the I-Ching would say. I thought it was¬†pretty admirable that he quit his high-paying job at Intel to move to Aspen, work in an outdoor¬†equipment shop,¬†and pursue his passion of mountain climbing. At the same time, though, Coocatchoo and I knew plenty of people back in Asheville and Boone like that, and we would call them “Trustafarians” or “Gear Heads.” I guess if I didn’t have to worry about money, I’d probably¬†live a similar existence, hanging around in cool hippie towns and seeing great music and playing outdoors. But it’s hard not to be bitter when you know you’ll never get the opportunity.¬†And you already had to abandon that life once because you couldn’t afford it.

The theme of¬†every damn story he tells about¬†his outdoor experiences is something to the effect of, “I could have died! And I almost did!” It seems that his pursuit¬†of these extreme experiences came more from an intense need to “have a great story to tell his friends,” or impress people with his daring and bravery, than a true¬†desire to¬†nurture his consciousness.

To be fair, he actually admits as much a little farther into the book. He does admit that he spent a lot of time in situations where it was highly likely something terrible might occur, because he wanted it to deep down. I think¬†it has to do with the larger concept of males in the modern, Western world having no real, accepted¬†“rite of passage” into adulthood, and as a result many of them seek out one¬†on their own. Add into that mix a natural proclivity towards thrill-seeking behavior, and you’ve got a great recipe for disaster.

He talks about a good friends’ response to one¬†of¬†his crazy¬†tales: “Aron, it’s not what you do. It’s who you are.” He didn’t¬†understand what¬†the friend meant by that at all.¬†He claims to have realized the true meaning of that statement while trapped in the canyon, fearing death was imminent, but¬†I have my doubts as to whether he¬†ever really¬†got it, especially¬†taking into account¬†what he has done in the last¬†six years since the accident — he’s become a motivational speaker and now makes his living by telling the story of his ultimate near-death experience, to a wider audience. He still doesn’t get it. It’s not about what you do or what you survived, Aron. It’s about who you are. I’m not sure about the extent of his spiritual development as a result of the accident. But we do know that he is¬†still telling his stories —¬†you just have to pay to hear them now.

I’ll end on a positive note with things I actually like about Aron. He loves Phish and got to meet Trey after his accident. He helped a prosthetics company design mountaineering attachments for amputees, and while that was undoubtedly¬†for personal gain primarily, others are also benefitting from¬†it. And he’s got a smoking body¬†from the neck down.

AronRalston

Musical Monday: Phish Reunion Trip

Phish_Phun_Phish_-_101_Phish_Songs_Color_Poster

A few months ago I was talking about not being able to get tickets to the Asheville show on the Phish summer reunion tour. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because my friend Swamp ended up getting tickets to TWO other shows, which allowed us to take a sweet road trip, visit some old friends, and see the band outdoors, which is preferable to us. Even though I’m still kicking myself for not taking the day off just to hang out in Asheville that day, because they closed off the streets downtown and created this huge hippie convergence. It was like a city-wide Shakedown Street. How fun!

First stop:¬†Washington, Pennsylvania, about 6 hours north of here.¬†The drive up there is some of my¬†favorite interstate scenery around. Whoever came up with that whole “Wild, Wonderful West Virginia” slogan was spot on! Beautiful¬†mountains.¬†Actually, I think they’re called hills there.

wild-hills

We stayed with some old friends, Cheryl and Shawn,¬†in Washpa (as the natives call it).¬†They are renovating a beautiful¬†old farm house¬†that sits on 100¬†acres or so.¬†We got to spend a little time getting acquainted with their new baby, Paul.¬†At almost 9 months,¬†he’s growing like a weed and is very smiley and¬†happy.¬†I should say that I spent some time with him, since Swamp does not touch babies and is hard to catch even looking at one, unless it is apprehensively. However, Swamp and Paul do share the same birthday: Halloween. People born on Halloween were thought by the ancient Celts to¬†possess supernatural powers, including the power to read dreams. I don’t know about the reading dreams part,¬†but I do think Swamp is particularly gifted with¬†intuition.¬†So maybe Paul understands intuitively that Swamp is afraid of babies and doesn’t take it personally. Let’s hope so!

We arrived (late, naturally) in the middle of a severe thunderstorm with tornado warnings. Cheryl¬†and Shawn had been trying frantically to call us to make sure we were safe, but I was too busy being nervous about tornadoes, and Swamp was too busy¬†exclaiming about how beautiful the lightning was to hear the phone ring.¬†We all¬†sat up late drinking Straubs¬†at the kitchen table with the lights out,¬†watching¬†lightning illuminate the fields through¬†enormous¬†windows. I presented a box full of Mellow Mushroom pretzels as a host gift — their one request from the great state of North Carolina — which turned out to be full of ants from Swamp’s car full of dirty camping gear. Shawn popped them in the oven anyway, which killed the ants, and then just brushed off their crispy dead bodies. Now that is my kind of fortitude! Upon inspecting the car later, we could not find a single ant anywhere.

We went with¬†Cheryl and Shawn¬†to the show in Burgettstown, PA. Shawn brought along the leftover pretzels, which everyone was pretty excited about, even though next-day Mellow Mushroom¬†crust is so hard it’s almost impossible to chew. Still tasted good!¬†On the way into the concert grounds,¬†Shawn was bragging to passersby about¬†them. We¬†stopped to listen to sound check, did some people-watching,¬†and made a¬†few laps around Shakedown, where Swamp was trying to sell or trade his extra tickets. It turned out that there were a lot of extras floating around, so he ended up trading one for a cool autographed photograph of Trey playing guitar alone on a stage, and he sold the other one for less than face.¬†We also ran into tons of other people we’ve known from various encounters and life situations. I had not seen most of them for about five years.

I’d like to give a shout-out to Warren, the group’s unofficial social ringleader, who said, “Hey, we met at¬†the camp out¬†party at Gibb’s, right? When Gruvbak performed?” I said, “I was at¬†that party, but we met up in Maine at IT, I think!” Warren, slapping his forehead: “Oh, yeah! I remember! My kid brother’s first acid trip —¬† all that mud! — that insanely huge¬†glowstick war! — and you and Gibb pissed off about getting bad shrooms! Man, so awesome to see you again!” The whole evening contained many similar encounters. It was like a big family reunion, and I don’t think I stopped smiling all night. Except maybe when my parents, who were dog-sitting, called me to say Birdy had gone to the vet due to not eating and throwing up, and she had hookworm. I was not smiling then.

btown

The amphitheater is now “owned” by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but everyone up there still calls it by its old name: Star Lake. That was the second Phish show I had seen at that particular venue. It’s a cool place. Good show…pretty substantial glowstick war. Vacuum-solo from Fishman, which I probably could have done without. He’s such a terrible singer. But I do love his polka-dot dress. Hearing the boys live again after so long a hiatus was amazing and thrilling, and now that Trey’s off the blow, the performance had a whole new dimension of upbeat positive fun.

Music Phish Fenway

You can hear in his playing and in his voice, and especially in his off-the-cuff stage banter that he’s¬†in a good place now, and it definitely projects onto the crowd in a new way that was very pleasant. I also have to say I am quite impressed with the new songs that will be on the next studio album, Joy. I love almost all of them. It’s a little bit of a different approach for their sound, but I like where it’s going so far. Swamp would tell you, with a conflicted expression, “It’s so poppy.” But it’s good, and he¬†thinks so, too. ¬†At Star Lake, they played a lot of my favorites, but I was especially happy to hear Chalk Dust Torture, Bouncing Around the Room, Harry Hood, Free. There were also some screw-ups and hilarity ensued — from Phish.net:

About halfway through Grind, they were singing in the wrong key and some (Fishman) couldn’t hit the correct notes. They stopped, laughing, and huddled, trying to decide whether to re-start Grind again in the correct key or start something else. The crowd knew this because the band was too close to the mics and the crowd could hear the conversation. Trey realizes this and says,”Can you guys hear what we’re saying when we are talking?” Crowd goes nuts and Trey says, “It was supposed to be a secret but Page blew the wrong note.” They try to restart Grind, but it never happens and they huddle again, with Trey saying,”Hold on, don’t go away.” Crowd goes nuts again. After almost a minute, they step up to the mic with Trey saying,”If this doesn’t work, Fish will sing Bike for you.” They start Hello My Baby, but it is scrapped after 30 seconds because the band is laughing hysterically, and Trey proclaims, “And Fish will now sing Bike for you,” and runs to the drum kit to start HYHU. Fish gets vacuum, goes center stage and says,”Welcome to the train wreck portion of the show. I hope everyone is enjoying it as much as we are. Maybe I’ll remember some of the words to this song.” Before going into Bike (forgetting a number of the lyrics) w/ vacuum solo at the end, then Jon did an intro of the band (introducing himself last as Henrietta). Then Trey came back out, and they did Loving Cup.

Here’s¬† a pic of Swamp and me on the lawn waiting for the show to start:

us

burgets

The next morning, we got up super-early and stumbled out half-asleep to hit the road again. It was crappy not to be able to spend more time with our friends in Washington. But another show was waiting! We drove another 5 1/2 hours up to Noblesville, Indiana — home of the famous Deer Creek Amphitheater! Actually, I think it’s now called Verizon Wireless something-or-other, but just like with Star Lake, everyone still calls it by the much cooler former¬†name. We were a little bit late getting in due to getting a little bit lost on the way. (If any of you know Swamp, you know he never gets lost or anything. Ahem.) To be fair, the Mapquest directions were sort of wrong.¬†One of Swamp’s work friends, Bo, drove up from NC as well. We met up with him at¬†a campground just a few miles from the venue. It was a cool place. I would recommend it if you ever go see a show at Deer Creek. It was pretty large, and on the way in, I was a little anxious about the number of nitrous tanks I saw…didn’t want to be trapped in that kind of crowd with no walls around me. But it turned out to be fine.

The show at Deer Creek was pretty amazing. Hanging out with Bo in the lot beforehand, we were trying to figure up how many shows we’d seen. Deer Creek was my 12th or 13th Phish¬†show, depending on how you want to count up IT (3 days of Phish in Maine, 2003) —¬†a number which¬†is totally unimpressive to most hardcore Phans. I think it was Swamp’s 20th or 21st Phish show. And what an adventure. Towards the end of the first set, we started seeing all kinds of beautiful¬†lightning in the sky –horizontal branches reflecting wide curtains of light off¬†dense cloud backdrops.¬†They appeared in a very precise order, forming a circle around the amphitheater. The crowd roared at every lightning flash, which came often.

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At around 10:00 pm, Page came onstage and said he had been asked to read a weather service report, which was basically a severe thunderstorm warning. He said everyone on the lawn was to go back to their cars, and everyone under the covered part of the pavilion should stay in their seats. I was getting a little bit worried at that point, because I have a terrible tornado phobia, and since we were in flat-as-a-pancake Indiana…but Swamp, as always, calmed me down.

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Our tickets were for actual seats, but we had been sitting on the lawn for the entire first set because, well, blending into the crowd is easier that way and necessary for some activities. Most people, like any good (and in this case, foolish) hippie rebels were staying put on the lawn. But when the rain started, we moved to the pavilion seats, which just happened to be on the very last row and not covered by the roof. The second set was delayed by over an hour, and we were overjoyed to find that the wind was blowing so fiercely it was shooting the rain right off the roof onto the lawn behind us, instead of down onto our uncovered heads.

Swamp and I had totally different takes on the set that followed. I was all jazzed up and energized by the storm and the shared crowd excitement, and I wanted to hear some really energized music to complement that vibe. But what we got was a mellowed-out, deep groove that Swamp found to be the absolute perfect response to the storm’s fury and the crowd’s frenzy: A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing > Drowned > Twist, Let Me Lie, Tweezer > 2001 > Suzy Greenberg > Possum > E: Sleeping Monkey > Tweezer Reprise.

The music brought us all back down to a chill place.¬†Swamp says it’s still his favorite set of the two shows. I haven’t listened to it much since we got back, mainly because I’ve been too obsessed with the first set of that show that contained several of my favorites: Backwards Down the Number Line, AC/DC Bag, Limb By Limb, The Moma Dance, Water In The Sky, Split Open and Melt, Lawn Boy, The Wedge, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, The Connection, Ocelot, Fluffhead. But also because I’d like to wait for another good hard thunderstorm to put it on and relive it.

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When the show ended, it was still pouring rain. I mean, pouring. We had to hoof it back to the car, which was probably a mile away. We were all drenched to the bone. I had a poncho, but I didn’t even put it on, because it was raining so hard I couldn’t see anything anyway. Not to mention the venue’s band curfew is 11:00 pm, and the second set started at 11:00, so when we came out, all the lights were off, and it was a mad scene of people trying to hold onto their friends¬†and not lose each other¬† — I don’t know if I couldn’t have found the way back to the car by myself, personally. All this¬†in utter darkness made darker by driving rain slamming against your eyelids. I mean, soaked doesn’t even begin to describe it. But it felt SO GOOD! What an adventure!¬†It was like a complimentary shower from nature for tons of dirty hippies, and falling asleep in the tent that night I almost felt like I’d just had a bath.

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Bo had not planned on staying overnight at the campground, as he had family living¬†in the vicinity. Unfortunately, none of the roads in the campground were paved, and all that torrential rain turned the whole place into a big mudpit. Bo’s car (along with countless others) got stuck, and¬†no one¬†had¬†any luck getting him out. He had to camp and wait for a local guy with a tractor to pull him out the next morning. We had parked¬†our car and¬†tent on relatively high ground, so we didn’t get stuck, and we slept nice and dry. Despite people setting off firecrackers beside our tent and sleeping next to an actual stage with an actual band playing all night (I guess hired by the campground for entertainment?), I actually slept really well.

The next morning we drove right out, blaring early-morning Michael Franti, on the very same road that had been like quicksand the night before. I brushed my teeth in a gas station bathroom while wearing my pajamas, while getting strange looks from people, and wondering why people were so bothered by it. Then it was back on the road, 10  hours back to NC, with a hiking stop in West Virginia on the way.

And that is what I did on my summer vacation. It was awesome.

Musical Monday: Phish IT

Last week’s big music news (at least in my world) was the announcement that Phish has set summer tour dates after a 4+ year hiatus, and one of the stops includes the Asheville Civic Center. As someone pointed out to me, Asheville is the only indoor venue and the only stop in the South on this whole tour, so it will probably be the most difficult to get tickets for. I don’t give up that easily. My ticket request is in through the Phish lottery, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll try the dreaded Ticket*ast%r$. Hopefully¬†out of everyone I know, someone will be able to get tickets to at least one show. But it won’t be easy.

So in honor of the Vermont boys’ reunion, I’m sharing¬†the DVD documentary of the last show I saw. It was a euphoric, muddy,¬†non-stop¬†extravaganza of people, music, and fun that is in my top 10 list of favorite memories. 2003 was an excellent year of music and traveling for me.

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I was going to write my own summary of this festival DVD, but the one I found on Amazon says it all: “Shot in breath-taking High Definition, the DVD follows the band, hailed by Rolling Stone as ‘America’s Greatest Jam Band,’ along with 70,000 loyal Phish fans from all over the world to IT – a two-day festival in remote Limestone, Maine, that marked the end of their summer 2003 tour. This 2-DVD set includes over 4 hours of music and offers an exhilarating look into what has made this band a cultural phenomenon for the past 21 years.”

See you in Asheville on June 9! (I hope!)

phishitdvd   Buy it here.