27 February, 2009

Me Music Part II

Having had my eyes opened by The Dead and how much fun really great, live music can be, the next summer I joined my friends in getting tickets to see the Jamband heir apparent, Phish for one show at Alpine Valley in Wisconsin. We had all been listening to Phish for a few years thanks to the intriguing cover art on Rift, but most of us hadn?t yet seen them live and I wanted to have an experience like the one I?d had with the Dead at Soldier Field.

Alpine Valley is a ski slope in the winter and the trek between the parking lot and pavilion seats is steep ? down into the show, back up at the end when your energy has been completely drained from dancing through two sets. My friend and I were just leaving the beer platform at the border of lawn and pavilion seating when the band took the stage, and I have the most wonderfully vivid memories of taking long, smooth strides down the steep slope to our seats to the beginning notes of My Friend, My Friend.

At the end of the night, after having had the single best time to that point in my life, I realized that the Grateful Dead was just a very wonderful warm-up act for me. I came home from the concert completely rejuvenated and ready to hop on tour.

At the time, I lived in a three-bedroom with three friends from college, one of whom has a fascination with all things shaman. He had a set of animal medicine cards and profiled each of us with them, much as a Tarot reader profiles a client.

I don?t recall each of the individual animals that made up my profile ? perhaps *pt* does? ? but the reading as a whole was pretty spot-on in many ways and my totem animal, the Lizard, was damn accurate for who I was at that time. The card reads as such:


Lizard sat lolling in the shadow of a big rock, shading himself from the desert sun. Snake crawled by, looking for some shadow to coil up in and rest. Snake watched Lizard for awhile as Lizard's eyeballs went side to side behind his enormous closed lids. Snake hissed to get Lizard's attention. Slowly Lizard's dreaming eyes opened and he saw Snake.
"Snake! You scared me! What do you want?" Lizard cried.
Snake spit his answer from his forked tongue. "Lizard, you are always getting the best shadow spots in the heat of the day. This is the only big rock for miles. Why don't you share your shade with me?"
Lizard thought for a moment, then agreed. "Snake, you can share my shade spot, but you have to go to the other side of the rock and you must promise not to interrupt me."
Snake was getting annoyed. He hissed, "How could I bother you Lizard? All you are doing is sleeping."
Lizard smiled knowingly. "Oh Snake, you are such a silly serpent. I'm not sleeping. I'm dreaming."
Snake wanted to know what the difference was, so Lizard explained. "Dreaming is going into the future, Snake. I go to where future lives. You see, that is why I know you won't eat me today. I dreamed you and I know you're full of mouse."
Snake was taken aback. "Why Lizard, you're exactly right. I wondered why you said you would share your rock."
Lizard laughed to himself. "Snake," he said, "you are looking for shade and I am looking for shadow. Shadow is where the dreams live."
Lizard medicine is the shadow side of reality where your dreams are reviewed before you decide to manifest them physically. Lizard could have created getting eaten by Snake if he had so desired.

Lizard is the medicine of dreamers. Whether dreamers smoke you or dream you, dreamers can always help you see the shadow. This shadow can be your fears, your hopes, or the very thing you are resisting, but it is always following you around like an obedient dog.

Not long after the Phish concert at Alpine Valley, during the days of my roommate T blasting Phish everyday for a couple of hours after work, I first heard the song The Lizards. This was one of the songs comprising Gamehenge, a rock epic written by the lead guitarist for his college thesis.

Not surprisingly, given the elevated levels of my ego, I quickly adopted this song as My Song. Of course, in doing so, I had to ignore lines such as:

The Lizards were a race of people
Practically extinct from doing things
Smart people don?t do

Which isn?t at all difficult to do when the band stops singing and starts into the melody of the last third of the song. Like Harry Hood, like Divided Sky, like so many other songs they have written that don?t depend on the 3-refrain formula, the melody makes the entire song. Whereas the Dead excelled in poetry, Trey Anastasio?s gift is clearly in the notes between the poetry.

I have the most amazing time behind closed eyes at those moments.

The song is one of the rarer songs to catch at a show but I have lucked out and caught it twice, once at a show I brought my Mom to, which I thought was very nice of them. While I don?t feel much like a Lizard anymore, I still feel like the song is My Song and if they were to bust it out at the upcoming Hampton shows next weekend (starting a week from today EEEEEEEEEEEE), I would count myself even luckier than I already am.

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