Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Set the Gearshift for the High Gear of Your Soul . . . Again

For a good decade of my life, the majority of my 20s and into my 30s, my life was pretty much devoted to one thing -- Phish. I spent untold amounts of money to follow them around the country, ultimately seeing them play live almost 50 times in over 10 different states. I did things in the name of Phish that I never thought I would do -- sleeping in a tent, getting caked in mud and not caring, eating food sold out of the back of a VW van or from a greasy cardboard box. I did it out of love, in anticipation of those moments of pure, transcendental joy that would come in the middle of a really thick jam about halfway through set II.
Phish provided the soundtrack to my youth. Every song comes attached with a memory. I hear "Sparkle" and I am instantly back in my senior year apartment, sitting around a circle with my friends, all of us laughing hysterically. I hear "Piper" and I am transported to Deer Creek Ampitheatre in Indiana where, after leaving my friend Peter on the lawn in search of a desperately needed bathroom, I returned to where I THOUGHT I'd left Peter and realized I had no idea where he was in the crowd of thousands of happy hippies. "My Soul" brings me to that moment when I saw Peter through the crowd and we were reunited in a moment of pure joy and relief. "Fluffhead" always makes me think of my best friend, Danielle. "Gotta Jibboo" is all about my sister.
Four years ago, Phish called it quits. Through pure serendipity, I found myself on that muddy field in Vermont bidding the band farewell, crying, knowing that the closing of this chapter for them was also the closing of a chapter for me. I came home from Coventry and started a new Phish-free chapter. I packed up the camping gear. I put away the hemp necklaces I'd made and the patchwork skirts I'd spent hours hunched over a sewing machine to make. I even pretty much stopped listening to the music. It made me cry to listen to it. It was just too painful to know that that moment in my life was gone and wouldn't be back again. The end of Phish was the end of my youth, and I took a deep breath and faced adulthood and every now and then would think back whistfully to those days spent noodledancing under the stars with tens of thousands of people who were strangers yet still "phamily."
I don't know how to describe the emotions I felt this afternoon when I received the first emails telling me that Phish is back . There was the flash of joy but also a flash of, "Oh, crap!" There was that moment of wondering if I'm too old for this shit - traveling around, camping out, dancing until I don't think I can dance any more -- and then dancing some more. Okay, so Phish is back. The question is: Am I? When I got in my car today to drive home, I did something I hadn't done in a really long time -- I put in a Phish CD. (Yeah, there's still ALWAYS one in my car) It took me back to that way I used to feel when the lights would dance across the crowd and I'd feel completely at one with the groove, like I was home. And in that moment when the smile spread across my face as the band steered its way into a particularly tasty "Wolfman's Brother," I knew the answer to my question, knew there probably never even was a question. If Phish is back, well then, so am I. I may be older and wiser, but when the music starts, I know I want to be in the room and sharing in that groove one more time.
Who's with me?

7 comments:

NICKI said...

Finally - they have been hinting at this for months on Sirus Jam On. I briefly left your blog to put in my request. I may be too old, but at least I'll have company!

Danielle Mari said...

OK... First of all, you stole my post.
Secondly, I did the SAME DAMN THING. I even went further over the edge and made sure I popped in a Hamptons show.
Thirdly, Nicki- I am glad you know! I wondered.
And, yes. I wrestled with the same "how am I going to explain this to my parents and co-workers" moment. But screw it. I'm old ENOUGH that I can have whatever childish fun I want. I put in my request.
See you in the lots.

dbz said...

Hell yea I'm with you! Let's hit Deer Creek and Star Lake!

Mel said...

Star Lake!!!!!!!!! Oooh! What about Alpine? I LOVE Alpine!!! (I gotta start working out, though, to face those hills at Alpine!)

I definitely have to wait for summer. There's no way I can take off in March for Hampton. It's 2 weeks before the musical opens here at school and after the scathing lecture I gave my cast yesterday about commitment and responsibility, I can't become a total hypocrite and bail out that close to a production. Sigh.

Danielle Mari said...

I have to say that our first show... do you remember? Back in Chicago? I came straight from my retail gig, still with my name tag on, and navigated through this totally OTHER world to find you?
Tim says I came home that night like Moses off the mountain.
That Divided Sky... still the best I've ever heard.

Mel said...

6/18/94 -- how could I forget? Still perhaps the greatest show I've ever seen. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into!

Dane said...

I just stumbled on this blog by typing in "Set the gearshift for the high gear".

Great post, I have to agree that 6-18-94 was one of the best shows ever. the Peaches into Bowie is absolute magic.