Thursday, August 19, 2004

A Vermont Pharewell... Part II

"The phinest in the nation..."
Sunday Morning

Normally as an insomniac, I wake up several times in the middle of the night, usually never falling back to sleep. I passed out hard after the first show due to the serious sleep depravation I suffered from the entire week of being on the road seeing four shows spread out along the Eastern corridor. My first memory of Sunday morning were the wailing screams from a drunk guy. I wiped away the eye boogers and unzipped the door to my tent. It was 8:30am and I was greeted by a shirtless dude wandering around our camping area with a cocktail in his hand.

"Happy Sundaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay morning! It's go time! High temperatures 76, low of 72. Happy Sundaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay morning!!!! Time to get up. You're all on vacation. You're all in Vermont. Happy Sundaaaaaaaaaaay morning!!!!! It's go time!"

He repeated the same phrases for twenty minutes straight. He woke up everyone in our acre of wet grass and mud. Despite her ear plugs, Molly could still hear him. As soon as he calmed down, I heard the girl in the tent next to us utter, "I am never doing mushrooms again."

Everyone in their tents started a domino effect of uncontrollable laughing and giggling. The poor girl next to us from Kansas was still tripping when she woke up. Yeah, Dorothy, we've all been there. Dr. Pauly's advice.... smoke through it. And don't forget... no matter what you might think, you cannot fly.

"Happy Sundaaaaaaaaaaaaay morning. High temperatures 76!"

I stumbled out of our humid tent and began my ritualistic wake and bake session, my first ever in Vermont. That's when I saw the naked pregnant woman squatting down in the woods behind our tent. She was taking a shit. A nasty one too. I heard a several uncomfortable grunts and moans. Only at a Phish festival could you shrug off that scene. Sure it might have been the first strange thing I saw that day, but I was guaranteed that by Midnight, the naked pregnant chick taking a shit behind my tent would be the 136th weird-ass-happening that I'd experience. Now if she gave birth right there... then that would have been definitely blogworthy.

What does one say to a naked pregnant woman taking a shit in front of you while you're getting high?

"Ummm, er.... how about those Red Sox, huh? Want a hit?"

No, she probably didn't like baseball. Plus the Sox suck. That would have been bad. I wandered over to the Common Ground Cafe and I picked up two egg and cheese sandwiches on a wheat roll and two waters for me and Molly. I chatted with a few Canadian Mounties to get the weather report. There were plenty of people still up from the night before as they stumbled back to their tents. We ate a little bit and Molly called her stepfather to get the skinny on the weather via the Internet to verify the information the Mounties gave me. Technology vs. odd Canadians in red shirts on horses. Which do you trust when you're stoned out of your tits and see dark clouds rolling over the hills from the West?

We were going to be lucky because a band of rain was going to barely miss Vermont and hit Cape Cod and parts of Maine and New Hampshire instead. Very cool, I figured, since I had half expected to leave early if the weather got unbearable.


Even Homer Simpson made the show!

Molly fell back asleep and I tried to get in touch with everyone at the festival. I originally scheduled to have a meet and greet brunch at Noon, to allow all the various readers of my blogs and all my different circles of friends (from almost 15 years of my Phishtory) mingle and hang out together... and have a Six Degrees of Pauly group photo!! It was going to be a huge affair! I planned on using the same caterer as Paris Hilton and bring champagne and strawberries and kind nugs. Alas, I forgot the champagne on the ride up... but... I would have left it behind anyway, and not carried it on the hike in.

I checked my messages. Alea sent me a text: Trey super wasted set 3 :( Harry Hood :) have phun 2nite! I started to wonder who got in and who got shut out. Lori and the Joker called on their way inside. I knew they were at Coventry (although I hadn't seen them yet). I had not heard from Daddy, a fellow poker blogger, my friend Sarah from Seattle, nor the japhans Emi and Junko. I was very concerned with Emi and Junko. They flew in from Japan and I dreaded thinking that they possibly got shut out. Zobo had not heard from her either and was hoping I would run into her. That's why I wear the red blazer at shows. I'm easy to pick out of a crowd filled with freaks. My goal was to wander around enough that someone would notice me. If I was meant to bump into people... I would.

I made a mistake on our original meeting place for the Sunday brunch. I realized that the event lacked a central message board that other festivals had. Maybe I flat out missed it, but I could not locate one. I attempted to text message everyone that the meeting place changed to the General Store at Noon. I wandered inside and saw Lori and her friend Sean standing in line. She clutched a few Gatorades and looked exhausted. We hung outside for a few minutes sharing our tales about our walks into Coventry and the insanity of our respective camping areas. She had four people crammed into a four person tent! I had me and tiny Molly in a four person tent. And I forgot about the pile of shit that the naked pregnant chick left behind on my back porch. Lori recanted all the rumors she heard. Trey's a crackhead. Just kidding. You knew that one already. Mike's an alien. Did you know that?


Real celebs were there too. Thanks to Marnie Mitchell for the photo.

OK, here's what Lori really told me... that the security at the gate ran out of wrist bands, so pretty much anyone could walk in at that point. Also, that tickets were available at Will Call for $100 as of Saturday afternoon. I guessed that excess re-release could have been due to the folks who never got in and picked up their tickets. But the real rumor... the infamous fourth set rumor... modeled after the late night Tower Jam the year before at IT... was that Phish was going to play on the little platform/theatre that was in the middle of the Common Area. It was wired for sound and during the day, weird characters in costumes were putting on plays and other random events. Could it happen? Perhaps. But it was fun just thinking of the possibility. I said good bye to Lori and made my way back to the campsite. She was the only one who showed up for my brunch. Even sleepy Molly was too tired to make it!

After Molly got up we wandered around the runway for a bit, hoping to bump into people I knew. I bought a cheeseburger from one guy and we found some shade to settle into for a bit. I busted out my sign: Ask me any question? $1. I love the reaction from people. Some folks are humorless. Other's get it right away and chuckle. Some play along and give me a $1 and ask me a question. And yet others are annoying as hell, trying to figure out "the catch" and grilling me about all the specifics. Folks, I'm fucked up trying to score a few extra free waters! It's not a mortgage application. Drop the cheapskate act for three seconds and just have a fun time!

I got one guy to ask me: "How many tractors will it take to pull all the cars out of the mud?" My answer: 137. Score! I went over to the water guy and bought a free water. As we wandered around, I'd hold up my small sign. One kid from Northern California offered me a few drops of liquid THC for his question... "Do you want some liquid THC?" Now that kid totally got it!


The infamous upside down trees.

Sunday Afternoon

Shakedown was packed with people. I took a few random photos and was kinda irked that I didn't have my video camera to capture the entire scene. Within two minutes a hundred people streamed by us. Half of the folks were barefoot, their shins caked in mud. The rest of the lot used plastic bags and tied them around their ankles. Still others had full blown fishing gear and wading pants to brave the mud pits sporadically located throughout all of Coventry. Everyone had the drug, molly, to sell. I'd poke Molly in the ribs when kids would wander past and whisper "Molly," to us.

"How did they know your name?" I'd tease. It made me recall Haley's first and only Phish show in Albany last November. She had never quite experienced the parking lot scene at a Phish concert and had no idea the amount of shady stuff going down. When she heard hundreds of calls for "molly" she curiously turned to me and asked, "Does everyone know your friend Molly?"

"More or less," I muttered.

Flashback over. I saw plenty of freaks, like the kid wearing the skirt and holding the giant Chiquita banana, that the Joker and I saw in Brooklyn. And the fucked up gaggle of five sorority girls from Michigan, those Dave Matthews Band chicks, who were inhaling Jell-O shots like Britney Spears feasting on a huge cut of tube steak. Then there was the wookie who was passed out in the middle of the airport runway. One girl wearing angel wings was kind enough to leave him a bottle of water. Yeah, plenty of characters and that was all seen in a quick blink of 120 seconds.

A couple of Mounties were trying to hold up the sea of people wandering past a garbage truck that needed to make a necessary pickup of an overflowed dumpster. She was a heavyset woman, and I felt sorry for the horse that had to bear her head-shaking weight. She kept blowing her whistle, attempting to hold back the crowd.

"Get back!" she yelled. "Get back. Don't you kids understand what that means?"

Of course, in my smug, snarky, wise-ass NYC mind all I could come up with was, "No. We don't speak Canadian, eh?" And I blurted that out which got a few laughs from the held up crowd.

I ended up scoring a few Superman rolls from a couple of guys from Ohio. I was set for my last show. I was on a mission. I wanted to get snookered... and make an Al Can't Hang Happy Hour binge look like a choir girl from the Bible Belt enjoying some milk and cookies. Too bad the streets of NYC weren't like Shakedown Street at Phish shows. I'd love to stroll down Park Avenue in front of a few haughty taught yuppies and score a fat bag a shrooms from a crusty with three puppies. Speaking of puppies, the entire afternoon I'd wander through the dense crowd, holding Molly's hand, weaving in and out of all the wasted, semi-wasted, and obliterated kids, whispering, "Kind nugs for your puppy!" I'd walk up to people who had their dogs following them with hemp leashes and tried to barter a trade for their pets. No luck. I wasn't serious of course. Just being silly.

"Kind nugs for your puppy!"

Again, I got some bizarre stares from folks. A lot of them just chuckled under their breath. People will sell anything. And worse, some people will buy anything. I watched some guy hand-blow glass pipes in front of a small crowd. We wandered around some more, past a couple of adorable Phishy chicks selling disposable cameras for $10. Why didn't I think about that idea? I was bumming. I was supposed to bring in a book bag filled with t-shirts designed by my buddy Bruce. He sold eight in the Camden parking lot alone... they were kick ass designs, and I would have spent the better part of my Sunday afternoon taking pictures, getting video footage, and selling Bruce's t-shirts with Molly.

I devoured another BBQ chicken breast sandwich from the Common Ground cafe (the safe choice!) and Molly ate a hot dog. I actually ate two meals on Sunday! We went back to the tent to get ready for the show. I didn't want to take any chances. We packed up all of our gear and wrapped them in the large recycling bags that the Phish Green Crew passed out when we entered the campgrounds. If it started raining during the show, we could sprint back, grab our gear and hike back to the car. I was prepared to ditch my tarp and tent if there was a heavy down pour. At that point I must say we were lucky. No one had gone through our site when we were gone. At Big Cypress, the folks we camped with had gotten some things taken. Coventry was theft free.


Freaky sculptures at the back of the concert area.

The Last Show

We wandered into the concert area much earlier than Saturday. This time we were prepared. We took our rain gear and warm jackets. And most importantly, a plastic bag to sit on. No mud for us! I took my only disposable camera into the show. We found a decent spot, Mike's side... because I felt that Mike had been the MVP of the week... and he was playing the best out of the four. I sweated Page for the entire Vegas run.
Set 1: Mike's Song > Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Anything But Me, Reba, Carini > Chalkdust Torture > Possum, Wolfman's Brother > The Sexy Bump Jam > Wolfman's Brother > Taste
The boys started a little earlier than the day before. Mike's Song was not anything special. The crowd was more into the first set than Saturday, but the boys were a little off on the first few songs. Sure, Mike was solid... and he had been kicking ass all week. He was completely in the moment and hit a few highlights in Weekapaug. Trey walked over to Page after Weekapaug and then admitted to the crowd that he had never been nervous at a Phish show before. Uh oh. I guess that explained the subpar M > H >W. Then they started into a slow Round Room tune that gets plenty of groans from the crowd. Anything But Me was one of those songs that Zobo thinks it sounds like his three year-old nephew singing/whining. It was a perfect, Pauly's going to smoke a bowl song. But the lyrics were touching.
"I am just another shooting star
High above that you might see.
Until I have your full attention,
I'll be anything but me."
Maybe Trey's alluding to the fact that the crowds have been out of their tits wasted since 1998 and too fucked up to notice their sloppiness. It was too early to read into their song selection.


We have the same bald spot!

Reba got me going. Molly loves Reba. What Phishy chick doesn't? It wasn't as tight as the SPAC show opener, but I was pumped to hear it one last time. Somewhere just before Carini... the roll I took kicked in. I really enjoy Carini... one of my favorite songs where Trey goes off. I love jamming hard to Carini. I noticed a group next to us that were getting down as well. I kept giving one girl a thumbs up sign to share my approval of the tune.

Trey played his favorite song next... Chalkdust Torture, a song I can say I have seen almost 60 times... perhaps more? It gets stale after a while... but how would Trey handle his last performance of his favorite song.... ever? He struggled but had a few pretty smoking rifts. The older I get, the more the line... "Can't I live while I'm young?" ...has relevance.

And then they busted into Possum. For some reason my mind set had been focusing on the lyrics for each of the songs... for some hidden messages and meanings into the significance of their last time onstage. The last line of Possum is fitting.
"Your end is the road."
Wolfman's Brother is probably my favorite most popular Phish song or heavy hitter. I fuckin' love the chances they take when they go off the deep end into a funky improvisational jam. I've seen some epic versions... the one I caught in Nagoya with Senor still holds up as one of the best individual performances (of any song) of all time. Trey was a little goofy and giving everyone the historical background of Wolfman's during the song.
"And the telephone was ringing,
that's when I handed it to Liz."
He told us that was his friend Liz Durkin, and he actually handed a phone to her after it rang. And Trey also admitted the big secret all these years, "Everyone knows that the walrus was Paul. When I was 18, Fishman was the Wolfman's Brother."

That was cool to know. Then Trey brought out his mother and Mike's Mom for a a version of the Sexy Bump... before they tagged teamed their tour manager John Paluska.


Trey and his Mom do the Sexy Bump!

The boys ended the first set with Taste and they finally all played together. It's a song where Page can go off on. And he did! At setbreak, I jotted down a few notes, but I was starting to get too jittery, so I stopped writing. I saw Lawn Boy and Molly took a picture of us.
Set 2:Down With Disease > Velvet Sea, Glide, [band speech], Split Open and Melt > Blowing Off Steam Jam > Ghost
What can I say? The sun went down and the boys started to get a little crazy. It was fitting that Down with Disease opened the second set.
"Waiting for a time when I can finally say,
'That this has all be wonderful, but now I'm on my way!'
Then I think it's time to leave it all behind,
I try to find a way to,
But there's nothing I can say to make it stop."
It was a kick ass version. Out of nowhere thousands of glowsticks rained up out of the crowd. It was probably one of the biggest glow stick wars I had ever witnessed. They were everywhere! Trey even picked one up and played slide guitar with one. The jam about twelve minutes in was some of the better jamming they did all weekend.

Check out the evidence yourself. Here's a great video of the glow stick war during DWD.

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks...

After a sick DWD, the boys segued into Wading in the Velvet Sea. It's a tune that gets a mixed reaction from the crowd. I get upset when they cheesed it out as an encore. But this version was special.

Page started crying. He couldn't even get out a full line of lyrics. He tried it twice. And just couldn't do it and pushed his microphone away. Wow. When Page lost it the first time, the crowd cheered to try to rally him along. But when he lost it a second time, I got a wave of goose bumps. He was overwhelmed with emotion. Then so was the rest of the band. Even Mike, who has the best poker face of all four was visibly flustered. They never did this before. I looked over at Molly. She was holding back tears. For a second they almost stopped... but they gutted it through. Which was important for me, who also lost it for the first time.
I took a moment from my day
Wrapped it up in things you say
Mailed it off to your address
You'll get it pretty soon unless

The packaging begins to break
And all the points I tried to make
Are tossed with thoughts into a bin
Time leaks out my life leaks in

You won't find moments in a box
And someone else will set your clocks
I took a moment from my day
Wrapped it up in things you say
And mailed it off to you
I can't get into Page's mind. I dunno what flashback triggered the tidal wave of sadness. Last time he'll sing it? Was it for a special girl? That song is special for me because it reminds me of the first woman I was truly in love with and I saw plenty of shows with her in the late 1990s. I thought that I successfully built up a solid fortress of denial about the feelings I still had for her up until that watershed moment. The fortress of denial of my honest feelings quickly shattered and abruptly tumbled down when Page stared crying. Phish just wasn't about music and getting wasted. It was deeply rooted in many of our lives... so far deep that it entrenched itself far inside the walls of your heart. Although I looked calm, I was barely keeping it together. The band ended Velvet Sea and then started an ugly version of Glide. They were still visibly and musically affected with emotion. Trey was sloppy, and this time he wasn't drunk or high... he was fucked up on sincere emotion. He spoke for a few moments after Glide. How he and the boys are going through plenty of "emotional ups and downs.... emotion and confusion."

And then every band member had a little something to say.

"Thank you from all four of us," Page said.

Mike offered up, "This has been a real wild ride. For many, many, many years, I'm the luckiest person in the world to get to play with these guys and for all of you."

And Fishman started off with, "Awwwww. For all of you people who walked in here... that's the greatest compliment that we could every have. Thank you so much. That's unbelievable."

I would have walked from NYC to Vermont to see these guys.

And then Trey said some sentimental things about his friendship with the band and lost it a few times. When he uttered, "We need to blow off some fuckin' steam!", they ripped into Split Open and Melt At that point, I made the decision that it was time to get really fucked up and I popped the second Superman roll. I was pretty plastered at that point... but since there was a set and a half left... it was time to go further. Trey stumbled through the lyrics, but the sharpened up their playing... and knocked off a thirty minute version... with plenty of peaks and valleys in their jamming. They eventually segued a half hour later into Ghost, which I was dying to hear. Man, Mike started off kicking my ass with some vicious licks. The second roll kicked in right away and I was flooded.

Trey had a tough time with the lyrics on Ghost and Fishman picked up the slack right away and sang lead the entire song. Trey could barely mumble the words. He must had peed his pants with emotion. Mike and Fish kept it up and pushed the jam along. They got their shit together for a distrubing ambient/distortion jam that stretched several minutes with Trey screaming unaudible words. They ended the most emotional set of Phish I ever experienced. I wish I had a bar to stumbled into to forget all the intensified memories sticking to my insides.

Coming Soon... Part III... the review of set three, after show and after thoughts!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

You rock, bro. Thanks for doing this. Good stuff.

Paul said...

I'm sure I'm among many who are linking to your blog from jambands. This is great! After spending four years moving on and finding new musical highs with new bands and new friends, its so much fun to revisit my Phish life, and especially Coventry. Keep up the good work.

"Phish just wasn't about music and getting wasted. It was deeply rooted in many of our lives... so far deep that it entrenched itself far inside the walls of your heart." Awesome!