I missed most of the first leg of Summer Tour and only boogied down at both Ohio shows (my recaps: Cleveland Steamer and Dali Blossoms & Cincy: Jedi Mind Bends) and the three-day jamboree called Superball IX. I had a crazy work assignment covering the seven-week long World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and was fortunate that I escaped Sin City for five shows. The timing is perfect right now because I'm in between freelance writing assignments so I can take off an enjoy the entire second leg without missing any work. I busted my ass this spring and summer working on a couple of projects including a start-up so I could have enough money to fund the second leg -- which is a tour built for custies because it's one pain in the ass to drive.
Most of the Coventry crew was absent from the first leg of summer tour. We were all busy with life stuff -- raising families, finishing school, moving to a new city, unable to get off from work, lack of funds for tour, and even one of us was expecting a baby (yes, we have a new lil rager in our crew). We're all bummed out that the second leg also presents many obstacles for our entire crew to meet up on tour. Alas, at least we have the three shows in Denver to throw down. Saving the best for last, eh?
I missed a couple of smoking shows on the first leg, especially skipping the sleeper of the tour in Detroit (before jumping on tour for two stops in Cleveland & Cincy, yeah I should've jumped on in the Big D). I listen to Michigan's epic version of Down with Disease with the Coltrane teases at least once a day. It's one of a few daily 3.0 jams that appears on my personal playlist along with Albany's Seven Below > Ghost, Camden's Michael Jackson inspired 2011, and Chucktown's Crosseyed & Painless.
I saw the majority of 3.0 era shows, almost 2/3 of every gig Phish played since they returned to the Mothership and Hmapton in March 2009. I called in lots of favors with clients to get the time off to follow around my favorite band over the last three years. I subcontracted a couple of writing projects and even gave up on the chance at a few awesome gigs in exotic locales in favor of Phish. I pissed off friends by bailing on other non-Phishy weekends and made my family think I had joined a cult or something, but whenever possible, I dropped everything I was doing to see Phish in the 3.0 era. I made a fair share of sacrifices to see one band... night after night after night. Why? You never know what's going to happen.
Any you know what? If I could do it again, I'd go see the 44 shows I missed in the 3.0 era -- even the two or three that were universal stinkers.
I saw my first Phish show at the Wetlands in 1989 and went as far as Japan to see them. As I've grown-up from a teenager to frat boy to young-adult to thirtysomething guy, I noticed the band has gone through different stages (both emotionally and artistically) including three distinct eras: 1.0, 2.0, and now 3.0. Phish morphs into a new entity every few years, but many of us on the rail are much slower to adapt. Hence the friction and backlash that bubbles up to the surface from time to time. It's natural to resist the change, but if you want to have fun at Phish and more importantly within the Phish community, then you have to truly surrender to the flow and just accept the path everyone is headed on... both good and bad.
We're lucky to have Phish in any form. I'm counting my blessings (after surviving a scary car accident last month) because who knows what the future brings in all of our lives, especially the nebulous and magical world of Phish.
Phish is going to call it quits someday, or maybe one of them dies unexpectedly, or they are cursed by some crazy witch and one of them gets seriously injured in a "bizarre gardening accident" that doesn't allow them to function as a cohesive quartet on stage?
There will be an eventually end to the Phish. That's the life cycle: birth > breakup > reunion > death.
I wasn't prepared in the Spring of 2004 when they pulled the plug. But this time around? If it happens, I'll have zero regrets because I'm soaking up as much Phish and fun in the sun as I can before one day... pooooooof... and it's all gone. That means longing for the old, anticipating the weird, and having the patience to allow Phish to play what they want.
But for now, as musicians, Phish is playing as close as their potential as possible (at this juncture in their lives), so I shall attempt to see every show as long as I have the time off from work and the money to make it happen. Nothing is quite like a Phish concert and I'd rather save my money to buy up those intangible and visceral experiences. The music is not the only payoff for the journey; you know that the show is just one aspect of the traveling circus. Some of my favorite moments of tour happen in the lot before the show or during a late-night after party. Alas, none of those memory burns wouldn't have been possible if they never showed up and attracted 15,000 passionate music lovers, vibe seekers, spunions, aliens, wooks, and a few curious souls.
The second leg of summer tour is unique, particularly the West Coast swing with two shows at the Gorge, a historic gig at the Hollywood Bowl, two more in Tahoe, followed up by a music festival in Golden Gate Park, before migrating to Chicago for a three-night stand and taking a mini-break before finishing the tour with a three-run blowout in a soccer stadium just outside Denver.
Gone are the days of the meandering two-plus week tour out west when the boys would play three shows in the Pacific Northwest (no love for Portland in 3.0) before playing a double-dip at Shoreline, then hitting up the outdoor amphitheaters in SoCal scattered around LA and San Diego. Sure SoCal got Festival 8, but I miss seeing Phish in Chula Vista -- the scene of the monstrous 20-minute Boogie On to open Set 2 in 1999. It was easier to follow the band on the West Coast when they played more dates closer together. This year the circus zig-zags over the West Coast. Drive safely if you're making any of those rough, time-consuming journeys (Gorge to Hollywood and San Francisco to Chicago).
The Gorge is special for me because I moved to Seattle in the summer of 1997 and the Gorge was the first time I ever saw Phish on the West Coast. I racked up quite a few Gorge shows and aside from Red Rocks, it's my favorite outdoor venue. The last time Phish rocked it out at the Gorge for a raging dance party was two summers ago and we had a great crew from Coventry represented. As far as personal memories go, nothing can beat the Reunion shows in Hampton or Telluride last summer (I'm still recovering from that monstrous trip) or Festival 8, but if you ask my friends about the Gorge in 2009, they'll tell you it was one helluva time. We're all a bit disappointed we can't reprise that fun this summer. Alas, all of my friends will be with me in spirit.
Gorge - 2009
The Gorge is only two days away. It's hard to go into those shows without lofty expectations after hearing many musical highwater marks from the first leg, but I'm going in with very low expectations so everything will be gravy. I'm damn lucky that Phish is playing on the West Coast and just happy to be able to see as many shows as I can while I'm alive and while Phish is still bringing it.
My mantra this tour is... enjoy it while it lasts.
See you in the lot.
Feel free to follow @taopauly, which is my own Twitter feed, but don't forget I will also tweeting before the show (lot prices!), during the show, and after the show for @CoventryMusic. Oh, my girlfriend is going to all of the shows (minus Chicago) and she'll have some fashion reports from the lot along with other gems. Follow her at @change100.
I'll also do my best to post show recaps here -- travel permitting. It's tough to publish stuff when you're camping, and it's even more problematic to write when you're all schwilly.
Have a safe tour. Be smart. Drive safe. Don't do anything we wouldn't do... er, actually, just be smart and safe!