Deer Creek 2004
I slowly tore open the Fed Ex envelope. Two tickets to Saturday. I had been sweating my ass off the last four days. My quest was complete. My girlfriend and I had tickets for all three nights. Step 1 was complete.
I needed an old fashioned Rand McNally road atlas. These days, we tend to rely on technology and take for granted that instant access to the intertubes will always be there. I used to have a road atlas a decade or so ago. I brought it everywhere on Phish tour with me in the late 90s. Pages were torn out, some fellow out, and it was tatered and worn and the cover was long gone years ago. I never understood where New Jersey went. Seriously. North Dakota and New Jersey were both missing. I knew NJ fairly well but I never visited North Dakota. Because of Phish or the Dead, I saw 46 out of the 50 states. But never ND... probably because I couldn't find it on the map and decided that it could not be trusted unless we had a proper map. The tattered map even made a cameo during different Phish 2.0 tours. It's since been lost. But the old one went everywhere with me. Even if I wasn't driving, and just catching a ride with someone, I stashed it in my backpack. I marked the hell out of that atlas, circling the places where I stopped and tracing previous traveled routes with highlighters. I had random notes in the margins like phone numbers, hotel names, and little arrows pointing toward Kearney, Nebraska (cheap gas) or places where I got tickets for speeding in 1998 and 99. I wish I could find that old map to my past. So many memories. Some lost, some still fresh.
I was surprised to see a road atlas for sale at the local drug store chain. I went inside to buy something else for the impending roadtrip to Hampton. The atlas sat on the side of an aisle next to a street map of New York City jolted me and I had one of those feelings like it was meant to be... and I quickly bought the road atlas for the trip from Manhattan to Hampton and use it again during the summer tour. Kicking it old school.
I stuffed the new road atlas into my backpack and got a slight chill and shiver down my spine. It really hit me... I was packing for Phish tour. Because of my job, I spend 200+ days a year on the road traveling all over the world and living in dreadful places like Las Vegas. Every other week, I'm packing my bags or unpacking or packing for a new destination. But for the first time in almost five years, I'm packing my bags for a road trip that I thought would never happen... Phish tour.
Coventry was a journey in itself. My friend Molly flew from El Paso to New York City. I finished up the Phish show in Camden and drove to NYC. I picked her up at the airport and we drove right to Vermont. We waited for hours when Mike told the bad news. After a bit of confusion and tears, we decided to drive as close as possible and we walked in like thousands of other fans. Refugees in mourning.
This time around, I'm sure whatever obstacles that I encounter won't be as hectic and challenging as the journey to arrive at Hampton and Phish 3.0. The MSG reunion show in 2002 was a breeze to get to because I lived in NYC off the #1 subway line. On NYE, I walked from my apartment to the subway, hopped on to Penn Station, walked up the stairs to MSG, saw Phish. So simple. I missed Phish MSG shows. Amazing venue. So easy to get to.
Hampton has the potential to be so many things but the hardest thing is hyping it up too much and placing too many expectations on the band and the scene and my friends. There were so many negative things that infested the old scene like a nasty case of the clap and the 2.0 scene was clouded for so many other reasons and I've seen the ugly head of madness that has already been reared in the 3.0 era with money grubbing brokers and gutless thieves not to mention incompetent corporations from the ticket overlords to second-rate hotel chains. I avoided all of that darkness for now and putting out the good vibes and positive thoughts and focused on all the amazing aspects about the magic and energy and the unknown that's going to happen over three nights in Hampton.
On the morning of the last ever Phish show, I woke up in my tent with Vermont mud caked all over my feet. The guys in the tent next to us were screaming out the time and current tempature at the top of their lungs. I opened up the door to the tent and stepped outside. The first thing I saw? A naked pregnant woman... taking a shit.
"I'm really going to miss this," I said.
Later that night, as I trolled Shakedown Street at 2 am in search of a grilled cheese, a spun out chick offered to sell me her puppy for ya-yo. After 151 shows, I had seen it all. We were all tired and run down and sucked up into an alternative universe that was about to implode. That night in Vermont, I realized that the circus had turned into an insane asylum, and I was ready to go home.
As time passed, I missed the circus. At random moments, I get hit with a tour flashback. Buying mushrooms in Tokyo from Japanese hippies. The vastness of the Gorge and losing my friends on the floor. Looking up at the ceiling of the Fox Theatre and thinking that I was outdoors. Getting busted by a security guard for smoking weed in Chula Vista. He gave me a friendly warning and told me that's the best stuff he smelled that day.
Three more days...