12 March, 2009

Phishing in Hampton, VA

(Fred in the red hat and Jewel front and center, front page picture of the Hampton Daily Press Saturday March 7, 2009 - Love this picture!)

I know I'm a few days late on this - chalk it up to an attack of The Ick (awww, just like old times) - but I must interrupt the regularly scheduled programming (which for me is usually silence, is it not?) to gush about this last weekend, a weekend I heretofore dub: The Best Weekend Ever In The History Of The Whole Wide World or, BWE for short.

Okay, cut to the chase - if you didn't know already, Phish is my favorite band. Now, sometimes, I will say The Beatles are my favorite band because I believe they are Rock-n-Roll's quintessential Adam & Eve (don't give me that Elvis crap!) and I *so* appreciate their existence but to be completely honest: Phish is my favorite band. Phish shaped my mid-to-late twenties and early thirties as no other non-child-of-my-body entity possibly could have.

In 2004, when Trey announced they were kaput, I was bereft. What the hell would I do with my summers, how would I ever again enjoy music? I couldn't make every show they played after The Announcement but I certainly did my best! If they were going to make me say goodbye, I wasn't going to miss it.

Their last shows, in Coventry, VT, were a debacle. As if God mourned their goodbye as much as we did, the endless summer rains leading up to the festival so drenched the former cow pasture that non-economy sized cars were in danger of becoming mired in the festival for good. Saturday morning, a day after we pulled in and set up camp, I was awakened by The Announcement Part Deux on The Bunny, Phish's festival radio station: if your car hadn't yet left the highway, you weren't going to be able to drive in. The grounds were either puddle or mud, or both - it was by sheer luck that Jason spotted a hill when we pulled into our area Thursday night/Friday morning at 1 a.m. and forced me to help tote our gear up that hill to set up camp. The area behind our rental car - a non-economy sized car - glistened in the sun, as water will, and with my tendency towards laziness, our tent and gear would have been submerged in that, as many of our neighbors were. Thank God for sensible husbands!

The music at Coventry matched the conditions; the members of Phish mourned as we did, the end of this livelihood. Together, the fans and the band had enjoyed many years and the end wasn't just tearful on our side of the stage. I still have very strong emotions at the memory of Page cracking and breaking into a sob in the middle of Wading in the Velvet Sea. And when Mike and Trey handed their one-man trampolines out into the audience - the depth of the sadness that still hits me is kind of surprising even to me, especially given the events of this past weekend.

So. On October 1st, 2008, The Announcement Part Trois: We are coming back.

Getting tickets to the Hampton shows for March 6-8 was a little like getting your name called in the NFL draft. Good luck with that one. We did not have good luck. We were denied "mail" order (quotes around mail because it hasn't been Mail order since, like 2000?) and the TicketMaster onsale was a joke. If you didn't have 6 computers running consecutively on separate T3 lines, you didn't stand a chance. Or if you were a broker. That almost undid me.

So I failed to get tickets to Hampton and I was again, bereft. I couldn't miss the reunion show; I hadn't missed the first reunion show, how on earth could I stand to miss this one?! But, without a solution and multiple thousands of extra dollars and the lack of morals required to buy from a broker, it certainly seemed as though Hampton would go off without me. And in the meantime, Jason made other plans to help run an art show for Jim Pollock (Phish's main poster artist) for that weekend in Miami and it really seemed to be the end of the dream.

Then in January, I got a PM from a friend on a non-Phish message board who had managed to get 2 3-day passes to the shows. Turns out she and her husband couldn't make the shows and they wanted to offer me the tickets for only slightly above face before taking them to eBay.

Well, you can imagine what I did. I'm not even sure I got through the entire contents of the PM before yelling out a hearty Hell Yes!

From that point on, everything fell magically into place: Jason's art show plans in Miami fell through due to the cancellation of the Langerado Festival scheduled the same weekend as Phish's Hampton shows (you had to know that was going to be a problem!) so his anguish at possibly missing the first night (aka The Show) disappeared. Then he came up with a plan to have the art show anyway - in Hampton. Which then resulted in a free hotel room within walking distance of the venue. We found very inexpensive airline tickets to Norfolk, VA from Southwest Airlines. And my boss gave her approval for me to take off the Friday of the first show, asking only that I be back the Monday after the last show (another coworker in my 5-person department had already scheduled off for that Friday and Monday so getting even one of the days off was a gift).

By the time we had reached the seats our friends Jim & Kate saved for us Friday night, we were trembling with equal parts excitement and exhaustion. Jason had spent a hectic three weeks planning an art show from scratch and I had spent three weeks listening to his woes and trying to add insightful advice when I had it. And gotten four hours sleep the night before due to tapas and a Tea Leaf Green show with a friend. But mostly excitement.

Then the moment came: pre-show music faded quickly out, lights instantly down, the moment I had waited for for so long and been so lucky enough to get to experience when others, just as deserving or even moreso than I, were not as lucky. I had my phone out so that some of them could at least know the first song back practically when I did.

Fluffhead. Frickin' Fluffhead. NO WAY! How apropos. How long had people been clamoring for a Fluffhead and apparently, Phish had been listening. I quickly texted the name off and began a very long night of dancing. I had made a deal with myself that I wouldn't sit while Phish was onstage Friday night. Saturday and Sunday weren't part of the deal but my ass had no business cuddling up with a seat at the first show back. And I kept that promise to myself. They played a nearly two-hour first set, which sorely tested the promise, but the music selection and lack of Type II Phish jamming certainly helped. 17 songs were played in that two hours and I tried a mnemonic device to remember them all without the aid of paper or pen but eventually failed. I can remember a little bit still, though:

Fluff divided the chalkdust sample from his stash - aaaaaand that's where I decided to stop being a geek and just enjoy the moment (Fluffhead, Divided Sky, Chalkdust Torture, Sample in a Jar, Stash)

So, anyway, who knew buildings sweated? By the end of the show, the first time I ventured away from our seats up high Page-side, every surface of The Coliseum was moist, if not downright puddled. I avoided falling on my ass the entire weekend long (contributing, of course, to the BWE designation). I can't even do that in real life! Phish is magic. Okay, well lots of other people fell so maybe Phish's magic only extends to me and those with me. Fact is, I stayed upright all three nights and I count that as a resume-worthy achievement.

That first night back at the hotel, we (Jason, Jim & I) further plotted the poster show the next day. The hard work had already been done with the help of our friends Fred, Jewel, Jim M. and his wife Kate who all arrived in Hampton Thursday and could spare the time to help Jason set the stage and plan. But we still needed to plan Jim's room and so, stayed up till 3 a.m. doing so. Leaving us approximately 4 hours of sleep before we had to get up to finish setting up and run the show.

Due to the invisible partner's negligence, Jason had to take on the role of overseer of the whole show so I stepped in to assist Jim in his room. Luckily enough, the questions I fielded that day were ones I knew the answers to and we weren't in need of the particular insight that Jason or another person might have had on some of the pieces. My primary job was simply to take the money and keep the table full of prints, and I like to think I did an excellent job on the first, though I was remiss on the second (I forgot about the stash in the portfolio behind the cardboard until two hours before the show was over). Other than that, though, it was a very successful day for all the artists involved.

The show wrapped up late, as we knew it would, so we had to rush to break down Jim's room in order to get to the show on time with a little time to rest between - we had all been on our feet since 8:30 that morning. We made it in time, we found seats with some friends who had a nearly head-on view of the stage, and I enjoyed much of Saturday night's show sitting down, without any guilt. It was a great show and there were several parts I couldn't help but stand and dance, but there were several parts that made it easier for me to justify sitting down and resting my very tired feet.

Walking out of the Saturday night show, we stumbled upon a scene straight out of a nightmare: a group called the Nitrous Mafia from Philadelphia has lately become a gritty fixture at concerts and festival in the East and Midwest. They have backpack versions of nitrous tanks and can pick up and set down shop on an empty patch of earth and everywhere they land, wastoids follow. Saturday night, we chose the wrong path back and ended up walking right through a crowd of balloon-sucking shufflers, hisses of tanks and carnie calls snaking out into our path from the left and right. Jason grabbed my hand and veered us off the path and out of the uselessness and into some streetlights and we both made a mental note not to walk that way again. Wah-wahs make people dangerous.

Nearing our hotel, we met up with Jim and all expressed our great hunger so we ventured over to the Waffle House in our hotel parking lot and ended the day with some late night grease.

The next morning, we -gasp!- slept in. It was awesome. The bed in the hotel was very comfy. And yea, we did have to wake up to an alarm but not one set for two or four hours later. We managed to get a good seven to eight hours sleep and that was juuuuuuuuust fine.

We met our friends Fred & Jewel at the tavern across the street for lunch and ended up running into just about everyone else we knew, to boot. There we made our plan. Jason and Jim would go sell Jim's remaining prints in the parking lot and Fred, Jewel and I would go grab a spot in line and go for great seats. After I ran back to the room to get some necessities, we walked over.

By Sunday, the security working the lines had their job down. Friday it was pure chaos, Saturday, it was approaching some semblance of order and Sunday it was a no-brainer. We joined the left-most line and enjoyed a warm day in the shade.

Once it got close to doors opening, the order began to disintegrate a little. People from the back or people who hadn't been in line at all, attempted to move forward and circumvent those of us who had been waiting but we were ready. We heckled, jeered and outright blocked most of the rudeness coming forth. But when it came right down to it, trying to get good seats at a Phish show is no different than trying to get home in rush hour in a timely manner - you have to be out for yourself and you have to be willing to move past the slow people in order to get what you desire. I grabbed a guy I knew had been in front of me in line and told him I didn't mean to cut him off so he better keep moving but everyone else, especially the group of kids who successfully cut in ahead of us, I swept past. In this day and age, niceness is a luxury if you ever want to succeed. Sad but true.

And thanks to this attitude, both Jewel and I found perfect seats and it was up to Fred to choose which ones were more perfect. Jewel's seats won but I got the story:

Running in I saw a whole front row in the lowest seating Page-side and one large, shirtless guy guarding it. Now, chances are, he was trying to save the whole row, but it couldn't hurt to try, right? So I run down there and when he sees me, he pushes his hairy chest out and bumbles over.

"These are saved!" he bellows.

"You're saving a whole row?"

"They're saved! Move on."

"No, it's a whole row."

"I've been here since 2:30, get out!"

"Doors just opened, Dude. You obviously haven't been here since 2:30."

You can see where this is going. I'm like a little Yorkshire Terrier who thinks she's a German Shepherd; it makes life interesting. I'm not afraid of a fight because I'm not afraid of a little pain. That night, the only thing I was even slightly afraid of was getting mediocre seats when I'd had them the last two nights. That's what finally got me out of there with a "You're a fucking asshole you Goddamn prick, hope you fall headfirst - can't be any worse, right?" thrown over my shoulder loudly for good measure.

To his credit, he didn't chase me and kick my ass - the seats were that good!

So, Jewel's super spectacular seats were close enough that Jason & I could finally see the band's faces (Fred & Jewel had Rail first night so they enjoyed the seats). I do wish we'd put more effort into good seats on Friday night but at least we got them Sunday. At least I got the chance to see just how much fun the guys were having and how sincere their thanks was. All the joy we felt out in the audience, Trey and Page and Mike and Fish felt onstage.

So they opened that night with one of my favorite songs, a tongue-in-cheek older tune called Sanity and closed with one of my favorite songs, Tweezer Reprise, a call-back to the first night when they played Tweezer. By the time the last song finished, I was finished. I can't imagine having the energy I had in my younger days to go from show to show, spending all day in a car and all night at a show. Those were many, many years ago.

So, after three days and thirteen hours of sleep (4+7+2=Oy), what I hoped would be a good time but not the same as it ever was, was a BWE and I can't wait to go back. Farewell paycheck, farewell vacation days. I hope you saw enough of me in the last four-and-a-half years, Family 'cause if they ain't coming to your town, I'm probably not either.

The Boys are Back.

(my husband's video of the making of the official poster and some of the lot scene, including Pollock miracling a birthday phan)


Danielle Filas said...

Thank you thank you thank you! What a wonderful post. Thanks for letting us live vicariously through you. And please thank J for the amazing vid. Tim and I watched it with big smiles on our faces. And I have to say that I had NO IDEA what Pollock went through to get his posters out there. What a labor of love. Hats off to all involved.
See you this summer.

(WOTD- redroop)

Mel said...

Aw, Deb, I feel like I was there. Knowing that one of our own was in there is ALMOST enough for me. :)

dbz said...

I hope I made a good representative of the Idiots ... I know any of us would, and God willing, we'll all be able to this summer!