Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Back on the Train

I don't even know where to begin to talk about my Phishing weekend. It was amazing, inspiring, emotional, exhausting, and so much more.

The adventure started on Friday as I loaded up my camping gear into my friend Craig's Explorer and we headed for Deer Creek. It seemed so appropriate that things should begin like that. After all, my Phishing journey had begun relatively similarly fifteen years and one day earlier, on June 18, 1994, when Craig and I hopped into his old Buick and cruised down Ashland Avenue to the UIC Pavilion in Chicago to see our very first Phish show. And now, here we were again -- the two of us tooling down the highway. Just like fifteen years before, we weren't exactly sure what the weekend would hold. We'd been listening to some recent shows (ah, the beauty of the Internet -- where you can download a show less than 24 hours after the band has played the last note), but we wondered how the band was really sounding on this reunion tour and if the mojo would be there for the last three shows of this tour.

As we got closer to Deer Creek, we had another concern and that was the fact that I had no ticket. I had decided at the last minute to add Deer Creek to my journey and thought that going to the show without a ticket (the first time I'd ever done that) could be an interesting adventure. As my sis pointed out, at least I could listen to the show from the lot (more on that later). We were about an hour from DC when my friend Danielle called and told us they were checking tickets to get into the parking lot. EEK! Danielle offered to scout the lots for a ticket and meet us at the gate. In the meantime, Craig and I concocted a series of potential "stories" to get me in -- I was meeting the person with my ticket inside, my ticket was buried in the back, etc. Danielle called with updates and told us that the only ticket she could find was $100 (too expensive for me) and that she "wasn't having any luck." I was beginning to despair and imagining spending three plus hours in the parking lot while my friends were inside getting down.

When we got to the lot, the event staff had clearly given up on any premise of a ticket check and waved us in without even a word. As we pulled into our space, I pulled out my cell to call Danielle and let her know we were in. At the same time, a man walked by holding two tickets up, looked at Craig, and pointed questioningly. Craig waved him over and before we had even stepped out of the car (the engine was still warm!), I had a ticket! I did pay a little over face and probably could have gotten it significantly cheaper had I waited to hit Shakedown (or waited about 30 seconds when my friend Debbi called to tell me she had found someone with an extra ticket where SHE was parked), but there was something exceptionally cool about not even having to step out of the car to get my ticket.

Craig and I took a stroll down Shakedown, figuring we'd check more out later, met up with Danielle and Tim, and headed for the gates so we could get in early enough to get a good spot on the lawn. Our other friends, Debbi and Jason, showed up within seconds of us joining the line, and the Phamily was reunited. We got into the venue pretty quickly and Tim took off running to find a good spot on the lawn while Craig and Jason took off to buy posters. Tim did find us a great spot -- almost right up front and center with a perfect view of the stage. Then, it was just time to chill and relax and wait for the band to come out -- and ignore the increasingly ominous looking sky overhead.

The band took the stage and started off with "Backwards Down the Number Line." I'll confess that the petulant child in me was a little disappointed that the first Phish song I was hearing live in five years was a song I didn't know all that well. I had had visions of exploding with joy upon hearing my first live Phish since Coventry, but my honest reaction was a "meh." It was, however, a "meh" that didn't last long as the second song was "AC/DC Bag" (the song I will admit was my "fantasy opener" when I imagined seeing Phish live again). The set continued to rage from there with "Limb by Limb," "Moma Dance," and a "Split Open and Melt" that left me feeling like that literally had happened to me. The set just kept going and going and then suddenly the opening notes that I had secretly been hoping for since listening to the Hampton shows but "knew" would never happen -- "FLUFFHEAD." Needless to say, the crowd went crazy. Absolutely amazing.

At intermission, the sky became impossible to ignore as we were witness to amazing displays of lightning -- horizontal lightning that jetted and branched across the sky. I was too happy and impressed to be worried until Page came out and told us that they were asking the folks on the lawn to return to their cars for safety but that the storm was not supposed to be long and they would come back onstage at 11.

By the time we got out of the venue and back to the car, it was nearly 11, so Craig and I took a couple minutes to relax before heading back in. As we were walking towards the venue, we could hear that the band had already started (playing "A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing" -- another song that would have left me feeling a little "meh"). We were separated from the rest of our companions, so we went back and wormed our way into a great spot on the lawn close to where we had been before and again had our minds blown as the band took us through "Twist," "Tweezer", a "2001" that seriously almost knocked me over, "Possum", and a "Suzy Greenberg" that had Craig and I laughing since we'd had a long conversation on the ride to Deer Creek about the song and wondering if "Suzy Greenberg" really exists and how it must suck to go through life with that song being sung about you. During "2001," the rain began and continued to fall through the "Sleeping Monkey" and "Tweezer Reprise" encore. By the time we got out of the venue, I was drenched but too happy to care. Because of the rain, Shakedown was almost completely deserted, although we found some vendors selling an amazing French bread pizza (one of my favorite lot foods -- second only to garlic grilled cheese!). When we stopped for gas, I went into the bathroom and changed my clothes and then we launched into the three hour or so drive to Chicago where we would be sleeping at Debbi and Jason's house before heading up to Alpine. But Alpine is a story for another post!

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