Thursday, September 30, 2004

Going home is not an option...

“I think I’m going to throw up.”

Those were Tracy’s exact words on the way back to the car on I-91 after a long morning walk - a walk we took to find out how far we were from ‘the’ exit. We had just heard Mike’s announcement on The Bunny from one of the cars parked on the highway.

I couldn’t speak; I could only think. I thought about how this was our last Phish show and I was not willing to give up. I kept replaying the announcement in my mind. He never said the show was cancelled. Phish was still going to play and I planned to be there no matter what!

Not knowing what my friends’ reaction would be to this turn of events, my mind starting spinning even more. I thought about taking everything that would fit in my backpack and walking to the show and hoping that I would be able to find my friends from Lexington on the inside and catch a ride home with them. We walked past hundreds of people thinking and feeling the exact same things. Some were crying, some were cussing, and some were turning around and going home. Although it was less than two miles, it was the longest walk of my life. I wondered what Sam, the ultimate voice of reason in our group, would say when we finally got back to the car.

After what seemed like hours, we finally saw the car and it was in almost the exact spot it had been when we started our walk. The only real difference was that there were not nearly as many other cars as there had been earlier. That was when I noticed the sun and how it was shining for the first time in two days. At first it felt like a sick joke, but it quickly became a sign that things were going to be fine.

Sam must have sensed our worries, because before Tracy or I could say anything, he said, “Listen, we’re not making any rash decisions. We’ll just sit here for a couple of hours, see how close to the exit we can get and park the car and walk if we have to!” My heart started beating again for the first time since we had been told to turn around and go home. We were all in this together and we would get there somehow. We quickly befriended the couple parked next to us. There were sitting in camping chairs in the emergency lane and weren’t ready to leave either. We decided to stick together and when the time came, park and hike the rest of the way to the show.

For the first time in over thirty hours on I-91, I felt like I could relax. I opened a beer and started making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my friends - old and new. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and I was in my element. Our trip had just begun.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Coventry: A Vermont Pharewell... Part III


Ask me any question... $1.

During the second setbreak I figured out that I had never been that wasted either without Senor or since 1998. I completed my mission. You can say I had been maintaining a steady high for the last six years... and while stuck in Vermont mud, I managed to push forth past the last exit of sobriety and ended up twenty-five miles past Shithoused City. I told the kid sitting next to me that I don't care what they play as long as they play Slave to the Traffic Light. Before the set began I mentioned to Molly that either Seven Below and Piper (or both) were coming. Those were two of their favorite jam > improv songs post hiatus. The versions I heard at SPAC were some of the tightest improvisational jamming since Japan. My only concern was if they had the proper headspace to play at that level, something I didn't think they could pull of after a highly emotional second set.
Set 3: Fast Enough for You, Seven Below > Simple > Piper > Bruno > Dickie Scotland > Wilson > Slave to the Traffic Light

Fireworks > Molly Crying

Encore: Trey speech > The Curtain With
The girl next to us was having a rough time and lent herself to a bad trip. "Time to get your shit together, sweetheart," I told her. "You don't want to miss the last ninety minutes of Phish." The lights went out and it was time. Last set ever.

I was surprised with Fast Enough For You, but felt it was a solid choice. I had a moment during FEFY. And if you ever had one of those moments... you know what I'm talking about... and I felt incredibly connected with everything around me... from Molly dancing to my left to feeling my feet sink into the muddy grass, to inhaling a fresh breath of Northeast Kingdom air, to feeling the tension and release in every instrument. I had no other thoughts aside from one... I was where I was supposed to be. I finally reached my intended destination.
If time were only part of the equation
Then you could draw the bound'ries of our cage
You wouldn't pile another stone upon me
And I'd be happy just to watch you age

But everything is in it's own dominion
And waiting in the shallows as I do
Appeases me as water slowly trickles out
Which isn't nearly fast enough for you
Molly smiled when they started Seven Below. It's a great tune to listen to when it's snowing outside. The boys like it because they have entire sections where they can go off on a tangent. Unlike plenty of other bands (especially those clustered in the jamband genre), what makes Phish unique is that during sections involving a solo... all four guys are soloing at the same time... and most of the time it works. Seven Below was sloppy but at that point so was I and I didn't care. I looked up and someone tossed an alien my way! I picked him up and realized he was taller than Molly!


Molly's new friend from planet Zippy.

I expected an emotional repeat of set 2 filled with sloppy playing and during Simple we were treated to plenty of fluffs, fuckups, and missed lyrics. Sure I miss lyrics all the time... but I'm not getting paid to sing them. It was up there with Glide and Stash as the musical lowlights of the weekend. On the walk out I composed my own lyrics to Simple which I sang for Molly.
What is a show without a setbreak?
Ooooh.... 8 balls and groupies are grand.
Tequila and 8 balls, groupies and handjobs,
Groupies and tequila, handjobs and 8 balls.
After and ugly Simple, the guys got their shit together for a solid Piper. And Molly gave me that look like, "You called both of them!" Sure the Piper was average but considering the subpar-ness vibe to the music the last 5 sets... Piper was a standout in the third set. For some reason, I was feeling a Lawn Boy after I bumped into Lawn Boy earlier in the night.


Lawn Boy with Dr. Pauly at the first setbreak.

No Lawn Boy. Instead they smoothly segued into a nice funky jam where Trey and the band ended up writing a song on the spot for their beloved monitor engineer, Bruno. Trey was back to being the leader of goofy Phish again. He dubbed the new dance... The Bruno. He made up lyrics on the fly and begged him to come onstage.
Bruno! Bruno! Bruno!
We love you, Bruno!
Bruno! Bruno! Bruno!

Everyone's doing it.
The Bruno!
From Newport to Coventry.
It's the new dance craze sweeping the Northeast Kingdom
All the kids at Newport High,
They're doing it low,
they're doing it high.
They're doing the Bruno.
Trey taught the dance with hand motions (like you're turning a knob) to the audience and I lost my shit when he made a comment to a someone in the front row after she did it right.

"That's it, you got it girlfriend."

I dunno if anyone else heard it at that time (and it wasn't an auditory hallucination... I confirmed it while listening to the show via Live Phish) but I fell down I was laughing so hard. Seriously, sometimes those guys are a bunch of geeks, other times they make me shit my pants with laughter. Like the scene in Bittersweet Motel when Trey told Fish to show the camera crew his underwear and he dropped his pants and stripped... or how in Great Woods, Trey polled the audience to ask if the Fishman tune kills the show or makes the show. And when Trey asked Mike what he thought about Fish songs and vacuum solo... Mike said, "On a scale of 2 to 3. It's a 3." Ah Fish inside jokes. I almost thought Fish was going to bust out the infamous prison joke.

Trey commented how Bruno was played in the chord of C, which was overrated so they broke into E flat. And then they wrote a song for the accountant, Dickie Scotland... and ended up taking the song into C minor and Trey and Fish would sing "Dickie, Dickie, Dickie" and the crowd would sing "Scotland!" I felt honored to see a rare and intimate moment as the creative process of Phish unfolded before our eyes. And just to be part of the crowd yelling was cool. And if I was Dickie Scotland, I'd be pumped. It's not everyday the boys sing a song for you, right Carini?


Trey jamming with a glowstick during DWD.

Enough joking aside. It was time to get a few more tunes in. "We'd like to sing about another friend of ours. Please for the last time ever..." and Trey voice trailed off as if he was holding back tears... and started the first notes to Wilson.

I guess I'm an old head. Man, when I first saw Wilson...the crowd didn't shout, "Wilson!" Back then, I walked twenty miles to every Phish show. I didn't have email and never would have thought of snorting a drug named after one of the chicks from The Breakfast Club. The crowd was into Wilson for sure. And Trey assured that us "You can still have fun!" and I'm reading into his message as if he's saying "Have a great life without us."

And that's when I almost had an emotional breakdown. I heard the first few notes of Slave to the Traffic Light and I thrust my arms in the air as if I just won the World Series of Poker or a gold medal in the Olympics. My buddy Bruce one told me, "It's always a great show when they play your favorite song." If you didn't read my Slave post... out of the 105 times they played it... I've caught 14 versions of my favorite song in 150 previous shows. That's a main reason why I go see so many shows. I have to see ten if I want to catch my favorite song. It's not like having Harry Hood or YEM as your favorite tune. They'll play it every three shows. I have to put forth the effort to catch a Slave. And yes, at some of the best shows I ever attended (The Gorge in 97, Big Cypress in 99, Osaka, Japan in 00) they played Slave.

I guess this could be an opportunity to tell everyone how important seeing Slave to the Traffic Light at the final Phish show was for me. But honestly, that's the only song I have not listened to after downloading the show. I cannot bring myself to open up myself to all the intense emotions I encountered during those 11 or so minutes. I probably would be conflicted anyway to share with you all what went on inside my head at that time. It was too personal and something's in life are best kept to oneself. Hearing Slave played as the set closer to the last Phish show is one of the greatest moments in my pretty crazy and fortunate life and at least for a while, I'd like to keep it to myself. It was a personal gift from Phish to me... a way of them thanking me for their support over the years... and that yes, you have to keep on living. And yeah... I completely did not deserve to hear it. But I did. I was there. Even reluctantly wanting to write the last paragraph made my eyeballs swell... and I'm completely skirting the moment. I'd be a mess if I had to relive those eleven minutes right now. Some of my readers tell me how my words bring them to the brink of tears... well as the writer, all I can say is that the emotions you feel when you read these words are a thousand times magnified when I bundle them together. Writing these reviews have been gut wrenching, like a rollercoaster ride without a safety bar. And that's why I can't bring myself to hear the final Slave. I might never listen to the last Slave again... because it was so moving, powerful, and meaningful to me. Yeah, I've wandered all over this world, been to obscure places, and met some amazing souls... but words can never describe the love and satisfaction you are overwhelmed with when Phish plays your favorite song at their last show.

When Trey finished Slave he collapsed to the ground and needed to be helped offstage by Mike. All I could think was that Trey and Mike and Page and Fish played their hearts out for us everynight. Sometimes they missed. Most of the time they created magic, the type of unbottled wave of energy that people wander the earth for decades searching. I was blessed to witness 151 of their performances spanning my rowdy teenage years to my drunken college years to my rambunctious 20s, and into the first mellow years of my 30s. You either got Phish or you didn't. I'm fortunate that I was able to easily pick up what they were putting out.

Before the encore, there was a cool and colorful fireworks display. That's when Molly started crying. I told her that everything was going to be OK. In reality, I was just telling that to myself. In the last couple days, I was told by a few friends who saw the simulcast that they were overwhelmed at that point too... because of the obvious, but also because they knew I got to see my favorite song. Alea sent me a text after the show: Phish played Slave for you.

The Encore
As he saw his life run away from him
Thousands ran along
Chanting words from a song
"Please me have no regrets"
I don't think anyone actually called The Curtain With. I figured Squirming Coil or Divided Sky. I knew they weren't going to play Fluffhead, yet parts of the crowd cheered for it. I recently checked my stats and out of the six times the boys played The Curtain With... I caught it four times (Coventry 04, Brooklyn 04, Vegas 00, Deer Creek 00). And ironically... two of those shows were with Heather. Full circle. That's why Trey and Phish picked that song to end their run. I got to see the boys bust out The Curtain (minus the With) in Fukukoa, Japan... one of my favorite shows of all time, but that didn't compared to the emotional energy of the last Phish song... ever. And yeah, Trey even stopped to tell the boys to play it in it's originally arrangement, one step lower. Perfectionists to the end.


The last bow.

The walk out of the venue was solemn. No one was really speaking. Molly was silent. Beano called me from Atlanta. He saw a simulcast and wanted to know what the last set was like. Although fairly wasted, I still knew what was going on, and I felt I didn't miss anything from being too far outta my tits. I was a little quiet, but I wasn't overly sad. I felt fortunate. I got to see the last six Phish shows... with some of my best friends. Overall, since the end of last summer, I saw 28 out of the last 30 shows.

As an artist I was happy that the guys had enough artistic integrity to realize that their music was not moving forward and reached a quagmire of stagnation. Those patches in an artist's life are a living hell. Depressed? Far from it. I was surprisingly happy leaving the show. I know that sounds fucked up... but over the previous week, I slowly replayed all the Phish shows I ever attended... rather, I replayed the faces of all my friends that I got to see shows with. Because the friendship aspect of Phish was certainly something that we all could relate to and that was something that would be the hardest to let go. I've met some of my best friends through Phish. I'm really going to miss them and all our shared memories. I met, dated, and fell in love with a woman I met in the parking lot at a show. I befriend musicians and Phisheads from Japan... and although we have difficult breaking down the language barrier... music and Phish are the only translators we needed.

Late Night

I wondered how I should tie this up in a nice bow. I tried my best to organize my feelings and emotions in some sort of chronological order... but memories don't work that way. I think memories are the best way for someone to travel back in time. It's an internal time machine. And after Molly fell asleep... I was still booming... and I wandered over to Shakedown. I bought a beer and sat down in the runway. I packed myself a bowl and I hopped into my Phishy time machine. I went as far back as I could and until the sun came up... I relived every show with everyone I saw them with. Maybe that night while you slept, I entered your dream life and I took you on a wild ride with me back in time. No flux capacitors needed. Just close those eyes. From sneaking into the Wetlands to see my first Phish show, to hopping in a car at the last minute to road trip to Athens for my second show with Wilkins, to the infamous three show run at the Roxy in 1993 that I saw with Bob, to Beano's first show at the Fox Theatre (to this date one of my Top 5 Phish shows all time), to my first show with Senor at MSG, to my first West Coast Phish show at the Gorge in 1997 with Senor and his brother, to the best Phish show I ever saw... Las Vegas, Halloween, 1998 and I never tripped harder in my life and I lost it when I looked over and Jay was eating a basket of chicken fingers in the middle of Rock and Roll, to the Prince cover 1999 to open at the New Year's show in 1998 at MSG, to encore at Great Woods when Phish covered Tuesday's Gone when Laila innocently asked me if that was the song from Dazed and Confused, to running out of gas in the Pauly Mobile with Modeski and Senor on the Garden State Parkway after a PNC show, to humorously watching Spider's alter-ego Richard appear before my eyes in the second set at Oswego, to meeting Page and his pregnant wife backstage in Tucson, to watching Heather dance in the aisles with her Mom during 2001 at The Woodlands, to the infamous Boogie glowstick show at Nassau in 1999 when in the middle of Harry Hood she threw a glowstick, hit the lighting rigs above the stage, and the glowstick crashed down on page's piano with a loud, "Thud!", to the epic Millennium show playing until sunrise at Big Cypress, to the Radio City Music Hall shows in NYC with Senor, to riding the bullet trains in Japan with Beano and Senor to four different cities, and cracking up when Zobo pulled out his ticket stub during the middle of Golgi Appartaus in Osaka, to Senor jumping up and down during First Tube at the last Japan Phish show also in Osaka, to the infamous Moby Dick show at Deer Creek with Heather, to Gil eating an ice cream cone during the Mellow Mood opener at the Pepsi Arena in Albany, to witnessing the marriage proposal on the floor of the Vegas show with two Japhans and Heather... also during the middle of Mellow Mood. And then there was the first show after the hiatus at MSG, and the crazy rowdy energy that got MSG rocking all night, to the Philly show at the Spectrum where Molly almost peed in her pants because the lines to get in were so long and slow, to the late night Tower Jam at IT in Maine with Alea as we wandered back clueless that was Phish up on top of the control tower, to the 20th anniversary show in Boston that I went to by myself and made a slew of new friends, to the Miami shows with Bruce and the guest appearance of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, to the wild Vegas shows this past April where I was Page side all three nights only a few rows back, to the last Phish show in NYC for me at Coney Island, to the best jam ever in the middle of Piper at SPAC, to selling Bloody Mary's in Shakedown with The Joker at Deer Creek, to almost getting arrested in Hampton, and my last show with Senor at Great Woods hanging with Emi and Junko on the lawn during Makisupa Policeman, to the crowd chanting, "Could you feel good, feel good, good about Hood!" during the encore at Coventry... I had such a short time to replay all those fond memories and the hudreds or so I forgot to mention. How could I feel upset about never seeing Phish again, when I have such amazing and warm memories to keep me buzzed for days on end?

I wandered back to the tent and stumbled upon the same girl from the night before who had been trying to sell her puppy for some yay yo. I'll write up this hilarious encounter in a short story for the upcoming issue of my blogzine Truckin'. I eventually fell asleep sometime after first light.

Leaving Vermont

I woke up after a few flimsy hours of sleep. It drizzled for a little bit just after sunrise. As I watched the traffic jam of cars exit, I grabbed an egg and cheese sandwich and an OJ. I had a nice wake and bake session and started to pack up all our gear. I woke up Molly and we headed out. A steady stream of cars, RVs, SUV's, and the such were stuck in a single lane trying to get out for twelve straight hours. A decent collection of walkers began their hikes back to their ditched cars. As soon as we began our five mile hike back to Newport, it began to rain for the first time we arrived in Vermont. Although it started slow, it picked up fast. We had to stop and put on our rain gear. Luckily I saw a pick up truck. It was driven by a local and he was headed for Route 14. I asked him to take me to Main Street in Newport first and he agreed to take Molly and myself for $10 each. We climbed into the back and sat on cubes of hay until he packed ten total people in there. The rain picked up intensity even more as we slowly made our way down Airport Road. One kid said he decided to take his last hit of acid because he knew it would get wet sitting in his pocket. He applauded one of the girls in our group who busted out a tarp to cover all of us up in the back. We each held a little bit on the ends and huddled underneath. It was a ten minute drive to Main Street. We hopped out and our car was safe and sound.

We were tired and wet! We dressed and undressed right in the parking lot with the other dirty, muddy, soaked fans. I stashed my muddy pants, socks, shirt, and hiking boots in a plastic bag. I found some dry socks and shoes and charged up my dead phone. I realized that the antenna on my phone broke again! Oh well. I grabbed some of the food and beverages we brought with us and started chowing down on orange Gatorade, a few granola bars, and a coffee cake. We were ready to go back to NYC. "I had an amazing time," I recalled telling Molly as I drove through Main Street and I wondered if my other friends had gotten into the show.


Phans return to their cars on I-91.

On the drive south, you could see thousands of abandoned cars along I-91. Hundreds of people we hiking back to their vehicles. We stopped at a rest stop to freshen up and I ditched some grabage and checked my messages. A few people still had no idea if I got into the show or not and finally had the chance to tell them about the crazy weekend.

We ate at Cracker Barrel someplace south of Springfield. Molly had a corprate discount card! Plenty of heads were also eating. The wait staff had never been that busy before... at 3pm on a Monday. I was going to get French toast, that's what Molly got with a side of bacon, that melted right in your mouth! However, when I walked in, a woman had ordered a bacon cheeseburger and the looks and smells were too enticing for me to pass up.

Last Thoughts

I didn't go to Coventry to see the greatest Phish show of all time. I had low expectations of out them musically. I was there to say good bye to my friends, the band, and the scene that had ballooned out of control over the last decade. The dark energy of Shakedown and the surrounding seedy element had become a cancer upon the thriving Phish community. I'm glad to see it go.

Was Coventry worth the hassle? Yes. Absolutely. I would have walked from NYC to see those guys one last time. I've heard plenty of negative stuff about other people's Coventry experiences. Some of it is warranted while most of it is coming from spoiled rotten kids who placed unattainable expectations on the band. I feel sorry that they weren't able to focus on the positive aspects of living free in the moment.

When Phish scheduled their summer ending festival this past winter, they had no idea that 1. The worst rain in decades would flood out most of the camping and parking areas. And 2. Coventry would be their last shows... ever. Of course those unforseen elements created serious problems. Several things could have been done to improve the situation... communication be the most vital. Mike and the police gave many people in line ambiguous information, which led to a lot of people driving home who would have hiked in had they known that was possible. I feel bad for those folks. In the end, I'm shocked only a few dozen cars were towed, that only one person died, and that Phish held their emotions in check long enough for us to ctach one last glimpse, one last breath, one last moment of one of the most epic and most intimate expirences of my life.


On the road in the Northeast Kingdom.

The Final Tally... The Last Tour:

Miles Driven: 2713
States Visited: 10 (including NY)
Speeding Tickets: 1
Phish Concerts: 6
Gas + Tolls: $232.85
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Eaten: 7
Random Hugs from Hippie Girls: 15
Times I Was Hit in the Head with a Glowstick: 6
Miles Hiked in Vermont: 4
Al Can't Hang Sightings: 1
Puppy Stories: 2
Lawn Boy Sightings: 1
Times Molly Cried: 2.5
Cell Phone Antennas Broken: 2
Avril LaVigne/Phish Jam References Overheard at the Urinals: 3
Naked Pregnant Women Taking a Dump in Front of Me: 1

Random Picture Gallery

Here's where I'll post the rest of the pics I took with a $5 disposable camera. Enjoy.



This is near where we camped. The grass was very squishy.


A trash pile on Shakedown Street.


Yes, I carried Molly through all that mud!


E.T.s for sale in Shakedown...


The local farmers had to pull cars out of the mud. Average towing rate: $35.


The Canadian Mounties on patrol.


Mmmmm... coookies!


I dunno what these guys were all about.


The sun sets on Phish one last time.

That's it for now.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Phish Out of Water Interview with Chris Kuroda

I just read a great article, pointed out to me from Alea. Phish Out of Water is an interview with Chris Kuroda, the lighting tech for Phish. I always said that he was the "fifth" member of Phish... and his lighting direction is some of the best in the business. Here's a bit:
Kuroda started working with the band after an offer from Trey Anastasio, vocalist and guitarist, to carry gear at local gigs around Burlington, Vermont, where the band and crew got started and still reside.

"I was taking guitar lessons from Trey, and he asked one time if I knew somebody to carry some gear locally around Burlington for like $20," explains Kuroda. "I was a roadie, but I wasn't prepared to travel or anything. Within a couple weeks, I was essentially part of the crew in an undefined way. I didn't realize how deep I would get into it."

His lighting career started a few weekends later in New Hampshire, when the prior LD took a mid-set bathroom break."

"There was another guy doing the lights. He stepped out for a minute. I jumped in to push the buttons on the tiny little light board, and I knew the songs from seeing the band 50 times in bars in Burlington. I knew, even then, the changes coming up. After that show, Trey called me and said, ‘You're doing the lights.’ I said, ‘I don't know anything about lights. I don't even know how to set up gear,’ and he said we'd figure it out together."
Check it out. Thanks, Alea.