28 November 2009

Bringin' the Noise, Bringin' the Phun(k): Albany 2009, Night 1

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."
-- Berthold Auerbach

I'll just come right out and start by saying It Happened Last Night. From where I was standing (Section 130, Row J, Seat 6, lower level, slightly left of center on the back wall -- amazing sound), it seemed that Phish is back. Or rather, I'm back with Phish...? Or...egghhh...

How to encapsulate? Obviously, schlepping my mortal coil all over Bob's green planet indicates at least a passing interest in sticking with the newly reconnected synchronous sound unit. But the analogies of growth, fertility, perserverance and trust can't be overstated. A wise person once said that one only gets out of the Phish music experience what one puts into it. Be it an overall new understanding of that basic, universal truth, or be it sheer, blunt friction through repitition, the spark caught the tinder and the payoff came last night.

Philly II was a night of orgasmic preoccupation for me.

[Ed. Note 11/30/09: After the fact, I thought about censoring myself in the previous sentence.  But if I can't be honest about the sensual pyrotechnics that seeing Live Phish can set off in me, the value of honesty as a virtue to me would be diminished. Sure, I've been accused of honesty to a fault. I wonder constantly to what extent I need be honest about the intricacies of my phan experience. Either way, I'm not saying I sacked up with any of 'em, just that being where I was seated that night put me in a place of particular as-yet-untold ecstasy, which may or may not have had something to do with proximity to the band, during a show, which sorta *does something* to me. I've tried to be conservative about physio-emotional analysis of my Phish experience, because it could easily be misinterpreted, misconstrued, and/or disruptive to my reputation. But for crying out loud...I'm a human being! You should see the amount of male ejaculatory commentary in Hoodstream.com chat about Phish, that's way more controversial than one sentence about my submission to abstract climactic alchemy, in a damn good seat, at a damn good show. Don't even get me started on that; we'd need a semester of Sociology lectures.]

Philly II was followed by massive amounts of tryptophan with friends in the Catskills on Thanksgiving. And Friday, post-poultry-fest, Phish tripped up phans, sending us careening into revelatory, revolutionary bliss at the Times Union Center in Albany last night. They pushed an overstuffed envelope of old-style, hardwired synergy, with highlights such as:

-- Consistent, individual standout performances

-- Intriguing newer tunes, particularly from 2004's hope-among-ruin requiem, "Undermind"

-- Refreshing bustouts ("My Mind's Got a Mind of Its Own," last played 6/24/04, and Little Feat's "On Your Way Down," last played 7/30/03)

-- TWO debuts: the joyously propellant reggae jaunt, "Tomorrow's Song," both an "Undermind" debut AND a Fishman-credited tune (!!!), and,

-- A couple of jaw-dropping, genre-flipping departures, first in the second debut of TV on the Radio cover, the optimistically-oriented uplift, "Golden Age", and a perhaps gentler lean into My Bloody Valentine-esque mega-mono-chord noise onslaught, capping the jam out of "Light".

The mellow mood in the Times Union Center only supplemented the simmering crockpot of Friday night cheer, and the undeniable frenzy of an indoor, Upstate NY Phish show. It's possible something about being in the pocket of the Northeast, womb of their origins, plopped the fellas along a transverse continuum of their history, causing a simultaneous forward/backwards/in-the-moment glance that resulted in one of the shows this year that can really boast several key, vibe-locking moments: for me, it was the first show since the reunion that I felt, at turns, that:

1) Phish is f'in BACK. This is PHISH. At their best, they overarch their separate selves in unified rhythm, and pierce the mundane invisibility of a world of strangers with their uniquely magnetic personalities

2) I was finally able to NOT think, and finally able, for the first time this year, during the reunion, and (particularly, amazingly) as a sober phan, to be taken away by the music -- which is funny, since a bunch of us realized over Denny's that a few of the first set's songs were distinctly about mental processes -- hah!

At one point during the ecstatic "Harry Hood" outro jam, things were so satisfying on so many levels I said to a friend, "I'm ready for this set to go on another half-hour!!" Whaddya know, like a rocket from the core of the Earth, I was treated (and I do mean treated, near-medicinally) to a stunning Page McConnell siege. They blasted out of "Harry" into "Suzy Greenberg" (to whit I also remarked Page had swung from Beethoven to Booker T), then helped the crowd to a rich serving of "The Squirming Coil" ending with a 4-minute Page outro. I don't even know how to express my feelings about all that, without revealing way too much about the innermost workings of my mind-body matrix. 'Nuff said.

Either way, it's coming up on 6:30PM, and it's time to go out angling for another ticket. Hoping for another lower level tonight, and will be succumbing (perhaps awkwardly) to participating in various, errr, "machinations," in order to facilitate some more visual stimulation for the phans on the homefront. You can check out the first night's stills here, and a few video experiments, the second set "My Friend, My Friend", and a slice of "It's Ice". Not perfect, but definitely the product of a few times around the rock-shot block, and an excellent (almost over-powerful) camera, the Sony CyberShot H50.

All around, I'm happy to report, a fun, fresh and funky night of laughs and damn phine Phish. Saw old phriends (like college pal, Doug Loeb, a/k/a "Lawn Boy," the dude that used to walk around in a costume of AstroTurf handing out candy back in the day), and new sober pals keeping me clear and clean to shoot through these phine new tubes. And I just got a text from good ol' Nile (who now goes by Mike Z, that chameleon), wondering if I'm going to Albany II. Why yes, Mikey, I am. You taught me to likey, and I still really do. It may only be getting better.

27 November 2009

Lot Nuggets: Albany 11/27/09

I'm standing here in the lot adjacent to the Times Union Center, eating a rather excellent, sorta crispy burrito (wheat tortilla, cheddar, black beans, salsa, and fresh spinach). It's 42 degrees and threatening rain. Here's what's on my mind:

-- Inspirational reading today said:

We don't ever have to wonder what our next right thought should be when we view all actions as symptoms of either the love or fear that's being felt. The guesswork is removed. Being hopeful for ourselves and one another is the remedy for all situations, large or small.  It's the only solution that will promote peace.

Cultivating Hope, Karen Casey, 2009

Talk about ninja lot attitude. Walking around this tight, hectic, frosty lot, icy drizzle beginning to come down, I'm struck by how ridiculously naive I am. Over a decade of Phish shows, and residency on the post-Dead, Phish-fried, Bisco-fied counterculture, and it still occurs to me to tell the truth and deal straight, rather than cook schemes. This is how it was even when I wasn't sober! So, you can see why I rolled with phans and got my tix through people I knew, or friends of friends, and not places or things -- I figured at least that way I got a human connection, rather than a manufactured experience, and probably stood a better chance of not getting scammed, terrified as I was of the big, bad, never completely "kind" world...

The above-quoted life-stance is not easy to practice. It goes on to say, "The trust we need to develop to move on requires love, particularly for ourselves. It doesn't mean loving the unknown itself, which is never easy; it does mean trusting in our readiness to cultivate hope and the belief that all is well, that each fearful situation presents us with the opportunity to develop our ability to build that trust." My fear-based mind tells me that this method won't get me MSG tix, or Miami, or a boyfriend, or...see where I'm going with this? With some judicious studying of seating charts and a little good intention, I'll end up where I need to. The real problem is thinking I know where I need to end up. In the past, I'd knock the edges off that fear with mood-altering substances. Now, I try to practice acceptance.

The tickets I ended up finding are just off-center, Page-side, along the back of the arena. The folks I bought them from fell into my "don't freeze to death" time-limitation clause, right around 5:55PM when the sun was gone, and the hot carbon monoxide blast from the lot generator wasn't keeping me warm enough anymore (and, what's more, was stated to have the ability to possibly cause *actual death* on it's safety label). They were three nice, fresh-faced twentysomething kids, and I was clearly the fill-in for The Friend Who Bailed. Koo-koo! I gave them the half-face they wanted, and they said, "You'll be sitting near us! That's the bonus!" Interesting. I can live with that. I'm still getting used to the whole, "Embrace the light, not the darkness" concept. It's kinda working for me.

-- Thinking about what to write about on this blog, especially on tour, is a pain in the ass, especially when you're a petfectionist that thinks everyone's watching. The best thing about Phish reuniting and inspiring me to write a blog, is that I'm like the Chris Kuroda of Bloggers. Phish emerged, and summoned me through the forces of beingness, to expand and extract my art, and the only hindrance being exercised is that which I impose on myself...which can be, as I said, MANY.

Neil Armstrong didn't shoot from the womb to the Moon, although that would've been something to watch. Being, and writing, are enterprises I've given up trying to achieve perfection in, and the less I seek to master them, I think the more relaxed and surprised I'll be.

That said, hair is back, luggage is stowed, batteries are charged, I'm hydrated and rested and it's cool, cool business here in the Times Union Center. Albany is ready to put Phish back into a New York State of mind.

26 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving & I'm Glad to Be a Glide

I am thankful for music. I'm thankful to Phish, for the show last night, and for whatever bountiful force led me to my seat at that show. It probably ranks right behind 8/7 and 8/8/09 as "Best Peak Phish Show Experiences," which reminds me of something I'm not shocked to remember, after all these years; when I'm close to this band, I am very happy.

I'm especially thankful that, even if I have no idea exactly what's going to happen over the next 10 days with Phish, no matter what, I will grow as a human being.

I offer you a picture, a song, and best wishes to you and yours for the holiday...

[The view from Section 122, Row 13, Seat 12: all Page, all the time.]

["Wide Awake in a Dream," Barry Biggs, 1980]

25 November 2009

NOT a Blank Space Where My Blog Should Be...?

If there's a cure for this
I don't want it
Don't want it
If there's a remedy
I'll run from it
From it
Think about it all the time
Never let it out of my mind
'Cause I love you
I've got the sweetest hangover
I don't wanna get over
Sweetest hangover...

-- Diana Ross, "Love Hangover," 1976

"Truth in journalism," for realsies. Here goes...

What I would like to be doing right now is waxing ecstatic about the wobbly, winding journey Fall Tour has been thus far, how the band, despite nearly flying off the rails occasionally have righted themselves with astounding clarity and sometimes hilarious and exhilarating freshness...

[Pic taken by author of a sticker on the inside of the strange livery cab on the way to work. Yeah, basically.] 

But... I'm hungover again. I've got another punishing Phish hangover that would've, before my "big exposure" days, caused me to run under a bushel and lock this blog down tighter than a badly laundered sweater. When I didn't plan enough in advance, or accordingly, for last night's Philly Night I, and ended up getting a stiff blast of reality (i.e. I have to be at work today, which I am not even, yet, and it's 9:30AM) at the last minute, not to mention the vague suggestion that bagging last night might make this weekend's two Albany's slightly less of a wringer...I slipped into a now very familiar killer funk.

But I did buy a bus ticket for tonight, about three seconds after 5:30, when to attempt getting to Philly would've meant two hours of travel to get to a show late, and still have to find a ticket on lot = kinda not worth it...

"ZOMG! You write a blog, and you missed a show! WTF? You haven't even bought MSG or Miami tickets! Or a flight! In all this time, you've never gotten a lottery right!  All your roommates moved out, and the rent's going up by 2/3 next month! And you're late to work! Again! Dude, you're falling off!"

Am I really hungover, or am I just frustrated about all the f'in planning that goes into this, while having to be a decent working citizen, and staying sober (which, if done with the proper gusto takes anywhere from 90 minutes to every single second of every single day)? Well, one thing leads to another, as The Fixx said. The frustration about shoving the size 10 foot of phandom into the size 8 shoe of my life, time, resources and constitution...it's backbreaking, and breaking my back, again.

So, like I said, right about now, I "should" be writing my masterful halftime report, as we hit the middle mark of Fall Tour. I'm only really 1.5 shows behind on the listening (i.e. last night, and 11/21/09 Cincinnati...another smoker), and luckily heard most of Syracuse (What? Crazy?) while V-T00Ring with the crazies over on Hoodstream.com. Syracuse (unless last night at Wachovia shredded harder) seems to be my winner of the tour so far, in terms of sheer inventiveness, old-school electricity and setlist flavor, followed by Cobo, which I encourage you to read my overview of, since it sorta got obscured by my Festival 8 redux.

But I'm wiped, and hilariously enough...tour, for me, is just beginning. I remember being at the Gorge on 8/8/09, my favorite day of the year (8 being, after all, my favorite nunber), while plodding my way up a dry-grassy hill with the other pilgrims, making my way to the venue on the seemingly interminable march. There was this blond girl...a tough soldier, you could tell, with a bandana on, poring into her iPhone. She hiked slowly but powerfully up the hill with a vengeance. Then, as if from nowhere, she looked over towards the stage, looming majestically in the distance, and said, "Fuck you, Phish."

"Eeegh," I thought, staring at her, both of us, and all of us, continuing to climb and clamber. Something about that struck me, and has stayed with me. The mixture of humor, anger, adamance and resignation in her voice, as she was right there making paces along with all the rest of us, reminded me of myself. She was alone, as I always seem to be, and was obviously a pro at being on tour, as I am probably, though I'm always thinking I should be harder-core. She was passionate in her condemnation, but the fact that she was there made it clear that, on a level, the magnetism was strong enough to put her on the dry slope, mobilize her strong legs and hiking-booted feet, and move them across time and space to be heading down towards the venue from the campsites.

She muttered it again: "Fuck you, Phish." I'll never forget it. It captured my elusive, hard-to-explain bouts of ambivalence, like a fly between chopsticks. I KNOW why I do it, because when it's going well, the beauty and good feelings are like a dream. But when life and reality bear down, it gets rough.  The conscious understanding that I have to be in my life because neither R-T00R (real tour) or V-T00R will pay my bills or make my boss not endlessly scrutinize me -- it's brutal. 

I went for another mile-long power walk last night during the show, with the ankle and wrist weights, cranking my way over the Pulaski Bridge, getting a sweat on, and jettisoning V-T00R to pretend, just for one night, that I wasn't obsessed and endlessly preoccupied with these four lovable, talented, ever-distant strangers. I haven't even looked at the setlist, and I'm having horrible visions of "Tela" appearing, which will require me being brought to tonight's show on a stretcher with an icepack on my head, and a straightjacket on, to prevent the wild, embarrassed, horrified thrashing from missing something undoubtedly epic (yeah, I said it).

And so it goes. Another day in the life of an "sorta-moderate-not-very-well-prepared-half-broke-ultra-phan." 15 open browser tabs and a pain in my soul. One thing that I do know is that something's guiding me, and though I wonder constantly if Phish is what that force is moving me towards (or if I'm hauling the leash like an ornery Doberman), I keep finding myself sprawled out on the doorstep of this thing. So, struggle as I might (and I have...you've seen the password-protected blog page, if you've read this long enough), the journey continues. Another day, another rucksack of emotions, another fucking show, and probably, eventually...like I've known all this time...another reason to remember why I bother. Hell or high water, it's a relationship. It ain't over till its over, and it hasn't ended yet, not since '93.

[Screenshot of 1,000 Phish-related browser tabs open, and that's just one window. Image by author.] 

I'm going to take this opportunity to relate some of the Buddhist teachings I'm familiar with, that remind me of the spot that I'm in, with respect to Phish. It would be easy for me to be inflating Phish's ego(s) to the point of relating them to those in a position of enlightened beinghood, but sometimes I really wonder. The stamina, dedication, willingness and desire it takes to do what they do...it's either borne of extreme egotism, altruism, insanity, or resolve...and I know that, living in samsara like we all do, for them, it's probably a gumbo (*cough, cough, play it*) of every one of those things.

Anyway, the story of Milarepa goes like this: Milarepa was a poor mountain boy that had a very harsh childhood and young adulthood, who learned and practiced black magic, to kill many of his family's enemies. Wracked with guilt and aware of his wrongdoings, Milarepa turned his mind toward the Dharma, and sought out the great teacher, Marpa, and requested teachings. Hooo-hooh, boy...teachings he received!

Marpa, at one point, instructed Milarepa to build Castles of stone, and, once built, instructed his disciple to tear them down again. Like in the Myth of Sisyphus, with the poor guy rolling the big stone up the steep hill, then the stone rolling back down again, over and over, Sisyphus had to, for what seemed like forever, abide by the task. Similarly, Milarepa had to complete his tasks. He did so. He built up and tore down many castles.

Then Milarepa went into mountain retreat, into caves and practiced the Dharma. Eating nettles and surviving under the most profoundly difficult Mountain Yogi circumstances, Milarepa became Tibet's most famous and revered Yogi. Well, whaddya know, Milarepa eventually had his own student, Gampopa. Gampopa came to Milarepa's area and sought him out, as Milarepa's reputation had "traveled" far and wide. Gampopa prevailed upon Milarepa to give him teachings, and Milarepa was very difficult but gave Gampopa many, many profound teachings.

Finally, after many years, Milarepa decided that his teachings to Gampopa had come to an end. And Gampopa was encouraged to leave his teacher and go down the mountain, into retreat in the caves, and turn to teaching in his own way. The day for them to part came. Milarepa walked with Gampopa down to the stream that was below the particular cave that Milarepa occupied at the time. Milarepa, in one last teaching to his student, told his disciple cross the stream alone, to seek his path. Then Gampopa, turning around to wave goodbye to his Sacred Teacher, saw Milarepa turn around and lift up his robes, mooning him! Milarepa revealed his hairy, bestubbled, leathered-up, calloused, beaten up ass, as a last teaching to Gampopa about the importance and the rigor of meditation, of sitting, of practicing and of the perseverance required for liberation. (Thanks to Sapan R. for some of the humorous recounting of that tale)

Maybe our intrepid girl phan was feeling the shine of the Moon of Phish. It can be blinding, but also very, very enlightening, not to mention, rewarding, once the skin heals and the sting wears off.  So, I'll continue to drag my weary shit-ass up the mountain, because the mountain just seems to keep dragging me up it. Just finally looked at last night's setlist...DAAYYYUMM! No "Tela," thank Bob, but there were some twinklers I'm definitely kicking myself for missing live:

-- The first "Cities" since 8/5/09 Shoreline, which I'm also grateful to have been present for, my first West Coast show, scooting along and spinning my way into the venue as the place tilted over in full, oceanside groove formation

-- EFFIN' "CAMEL WALK"? Definitely a bustout, not a far-far bustout: last appearance 2004, but only played 5 times in the new Millennium. Fudgesicles! I love this tune...the last time I saw it live, ironically, was 12/12/97 at the previously-known-as Pepsi Arena, where I shall be Friday night (got a ride for that bad boy, so everything's pretty much in place...bring the ass and the Flow will follow). 

-- "The Wedge," also seen by me up front at 8/8/09...hey, it's looking to me like I was kinda done a favor by a lot of these tunes being repeats of ones I've seen before, recently, in a far better mood, with much more rest. The only "Wedge" between 8/8/09 and last night was the one I missed at 8, on 11/1. So, like, yeah.

-- "Twenty Years Later"...huh? There it is again! Saw this one on 8/8/09, but did NOT see it on 8/16/09, the Summer Tour closer. Don't get me started on that one.

-- The first "Mango Song" since 8/8/09, which I'm grateful to have seen at the Gorge, right up front row, the legendary "Mango Opener," only the second one in Phishtory. Before that, "Mango" last appeared in 8/2/03, officially qualifying it for bustout status

-- I got a "Mike's > Simple > Weekapaug" at 6/2/09 Jones Beach I...this time, it's sprinkled with a dash of "Slave to the Traffic Light." That's got to be something interesting.

Some others I always like to see but missed last night are "Moma Dance," "Reba" and "The Curtain (With)" (with "With" seeming to make a massive comeback as format of choice for "Curtain"), versions of which I'll be happy to hear, with the snappy gusto of Fall 2009. But for the most part, it seems like last night was sent down by the forces of Grace and Providence, to prevent me from being hauled down to Philly tonight crying, with my ass in a sling.  

You see how it goes? Some unavoidable humor, a little nostalgia and statistics, and I'm back on the train. Got into work finally -- I'd like to think no one missed me, but I told my boss I'd be late and he may have rolled his eyes again -- and just found out we can all leave at 2PM. Wow. Whew! This shit's intense. It's like family, yeah, phamily, a quizzically comforting cramp I'm sure a lot of people will be feeling and remembering this week: ya can't live with 'em, ya can't live without 'em, but they're always going to be there, whether you like it or not. 

Basically: T00R on! (*strangles self*)

21 November 2009

All Things Reconsidered #2: Underst8ed, Underr8ted & Overber8ed

(Before I begin, I need to explain one thing really quick: this blog is NOT STATIC. That is, it is a living, breathing thing, whose errors, omissions, typos and, occasionally, images and other random content, are ever-changing. Not everything, but especially in new posts, you need to keep checking back, because wrong facts become right, and what was f'ed up gets sorted out. It's just because if I want to get anything out there, I just have to do it and get it out there, lest I spend all my time trying to make it 100% perfect, and stand stock f'in still. So, the "refrosh" button is your friend here, kids.)

Welcome to another installment of "All Things Reconsidered," that is, posts where I take a moment to serve myself up some of my own words, cold as ice, with a mud-pie to the face chaser. I don't own the license to the knowledge in the universe: that's up to Icculus to handle. Me? I'm just another schmendrick mortal with a big mouth, that sometimes recognizes the need to back up, and see the bigger picture.

This video quickened my pulse, flipped my stomach, gave me goosebumps, and shook me up:

Phish - Festival 8 (long cut) from Michael Marantz on Vimeo.

It's a crisp, rousing time-lapse photo-essay of sorts, made from beautifully compiled, sped-up video footage from Festival 8. In my often unstoppable pitch towards negativity (exemplified a little, umm, embarrasingly, on the front page of YEMBlog yesterday), I failed to talk very much in my recent Festival 8 recap post about how frigging amazing it was. I feel like throwing myself on the ground and apologizing to the band. In no way did I mean to suggest, in my post, that the Festival wasn't an overall success, a classy, humorous, engaging and endlessly (and characteristically) inventive manifestation very befitting of the new Phish.

[Empire Polo Club Entrance, Friday 10/30/09.] 

That I even made the decision to go out there the very day the festival was announced (7/26/09), and actually got it together to make it out, go through the process to sign up as a volunteer, find a safe, sober place to stay, meet some incredible, phriendly insightful and respectful guys who are all now sober brothers in phandom, and to bask once again in the pastoral, harmonious and hysterical beauty that is the Phish-created universe...these things are major accomplishments for which I need to give the band, and myself, some credit.

[Weird lintel at entrance to The Squirming Coil surrealist mojo hut, which I later heard from @mdubno some of his friends got to paint for their volunteer stint, and, while doing so, were visited by Mike and Trey. **** ******* **** ****!!!]

I watch the video above, and get so emotional, I have to pause and breathe. Another contribution, however complex, to the relationship I choose to build with this band, has been made, this one perhaps more nuanced than ever before. But I was there. I showed up, and it was incredible to witness. From The Clifford Ball in 1996 to a few weeks back, I traveled a great, crazy curve into and out of adversity, and landed, once again, surrounded by light, sound and staggering beauty. I'm older, and a wee bit wiser, can see the changes, and put some into motion when I'm stuck.

I can be really hard on myself. So hard, in fact, that I get blinded to more sunny truths; my sense of dedication, and habits of loyalty, citizenship and love were all in play at Festival 8, as it was with all the assembled ~60,000 attendees. I let a little longing for a special fantasy (and some inopportune emotional aftereffects) get in the way of, at least, representing the Festival in retrospect. The above video gave me a lot of pause, enough to realize that, though not a recanting of my related woes in my earlier 8 post, I needed to look on the brighter side, bring it all out on an up note.

['Cause he's a Conehead...]

Allow me to clarify, finally, that just because I had a complex time, it doesn't diminish the magic, intimacy, music and mirthful mystery -- all the things that made The Clifford Ball, Phish's inaugural DIY festival outing -- such a triumph of orchestration, despite whatever failings may have surfaced. Musically the Friday show and Saturday Set I were substantive; granted, it was the only music I got to see, but seeing Phish in their glory afloat on their self-made creative satellite made the whole thing worth it. I'm really glad most peoples' skin does not react the way mine does to even minor exposure to the sun (15-30 mins, depending on season).

[Truth in journalism, ugh, must I?! Me, expiring from heatstroke, lips slathered in 58 SPF sunblock lip balm which, alas, did not prevent them from becoming bacon-ized. Saturday 10/31/09 Halloween, "X's for Eyes" modified sunglasses "costume" -- part of a larger outfit sourly abandoned post-tantrum after this set.]

(FYI, not all dark-skinned people have this reaction to sunlight. In fact, they're usually much more resilient, posessing generational, sub-tropical genetic construction. I just so happen to be extraordinarily unlucky in my photosensitivity. Another of my character flaws is vanity: the waterproof 58 SPF sunblock I should've worn makes me look (in my self-conscious opinion) like that robot from Fritz Lang's Metropolis, and since I stick out enough at Phish shows, I wasn't about to try playing off legit my metallic, zinc'd up veneer-as-Halloween-costume. That said, I am glad I had on some sunblock, otherwise what was pretty bad would've been much worse.)

And, miraculously, for as unremitting a sauce-hound as I am, I stayed sober, and participated in my recovery in a most unlikely place...though it's probably less unlikely now than ever, judging by the hilarious (definitely not codependency-recovery friendly!) take on the "Keep Vermont Green" (or "Keep Vermont Weird," or whatever other iteration you may have seen) bumper stickers, which say, "Keep Trey Sober."  Funny as hell, for realzies, but you'll wanna keep an eye on that, kids. I'm sure the sentiment is most appreciated, and we can all sure send out sweet, healing vibes to him (and pretty much everyone, everywhere), a day at a time. Though I don't know about Trey, for me, ain't nothing human keeping me from the hooch. It's just me, as guided by my Holy Co-Pilot, who/whatever that is, that's keeping me on the Water Wagon. I gotta wanna do this, keep Surrendering to the Flow (and not of hettie brewz), in order to enjoy it, and Share in the fresh, ensuing Groove. If you've got it in you, just pray. It's easy. Say something like, "Hey, hi, hello...uhh, please? Take care of him and me and everyone? Thanks...really, thanks. Awesome."

[All-Star "Page's Pistols" Ladies Vintage Basketball outfit, armed with afro-rake and Spalding. Well done, ladies...I wholeheartedly concur.]

Generally, I need to count my blessings with respect to 8, and all the travel, moolah and effort I put into loving Phish, which most of the time doesn't seem like effort, because labor of love seldom does register a sense of burden. The failings were all mine, and with this retrospective glance, with help from Michael Marantz's delightful turbo-replay, almost-healed skin, and a few weeks' distance, I'm able to be sincerely appreciative for what was given me, in participating in Festival 8. It gave me a chance to purge some old weight (in true Halloween exorcism fashion), test my stamina, put myself out there, and allow myself to develop a more critical analysis of one of my top two favorite bands ever.

[Stumbling half-blind and sunbaked through Exile on Main Street campground, waxing grumpadelic about costume set, hours before full impact of no doubt karmic, emotional incineration ensued. Saturday 10/31/09, 2:15PM. Video by yers trooly.]

It's hard to be anything but gushingly positive about Phish, since most of what they produce and represent is borne of striving for a level of authentic intent that is "unimpeachable" (to use Parke Puterbaugh's term). For the band's dedication to self-inquiry and examination of their motives and strategies in creating their music, I will be forever humbled and inspired.

They mobilize a community of vibrant-minded equals, who only wish to toss their own creative hats into the ring of mutual conversation that Phish creates. And lastly and perhaps most importantly, given the brown and ultimately blue, trying melee that was Coventry in 2004, all the suffering and sadness, and the dissolution of the music and dreams, Festival 8 was a Phoenix-like resurrection of all things Phish. Looking back, I admit I was wrong for failing to give the positive and far-reaching effect of Festival 8 its just due.

[Assorted costumed weirdos.]

Before "Festival 8: The Site" was even erected, the band launched the much examined, monitored and combed-over "100 Albums" Flash page on the Phish.com site, to count down possible records the band was considering playing, until only one candidate remained: the winner. From the moment I laid eyes on the page, I fell in love with Phish all over again. It happens constantly, with pictures I see of them, things I read them having said, and of course, in their music. I can't help myself!

[Par example, "Grind" from the 8 Late Sunday Set, which I missed, *grumble*. ...I love these freakin' guys!!! Pic by C. Taylor Crothers]

The wild, often silly array of LP's that scrolled past tickled me giggly. Among some of them were dear, old favorites of my own (Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic, Sailing the Seas of Cheese by Primus, Devo's Freedom of Choice, Pavement's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, Black Sabbath's Paranoid, a few Zeppelin masterpieces)...others contained no doubt bold, scintillating music I'd not yet heard, but was, again, being goaded into exploring by these master peregrinators and tastemakers.

[Speaking of peregrines...Boids of a Feather Frolic Together. "There's a whole bunch more of them," they told me. There was; a whole flock of 'em with stapled-on feathers and wings, capes, etc. Impressive.]

Although the desert and I did not agree in the slightest (I can't stand extremes of heat and cold), the Empire Polo grounds were a gorgeous, well-chosen container for Phish's Halloween weekend vision. The grounds were sprinkled with the usual bizarre Phish-concocted obscurity, my favorite being "The Fish Phone," an unwired, 80s-style telephone lashed to a wooden post, and stuck in a major field thoroughfare, which I swear I was literally too afraid to pick up. I really don't know what the hell was up with me that weekend; the whole 8 experience knocked me for a loop, I think because I am ultra-sensitive to Phish and their psychic vibration.

Giant painted wooden abstract Magic 8-Ball panels stood at the major gateways between sections of the grounds, imparting ironic prognostications. In continuance of the absolute genius that led up to the actual event, the main campgrounds were named after the last records standing upon our arrival to the site: King Crimson's Larks' Tongues in Aspic (which was my final album pick, after the slaying of many of my more played-out popular faves); the cleverly-positioned Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (which was a very long broadway, especially hiking, lost, back to the main General Store in the scalding afternoon desert sun); and, my nemesis, the (ironic) Exile in Main Street ground, where I did my labor for my short time at 8, serving enormous, long, sweltering lines of festivalgoers 10lb sacks of ice.  In a little over 5 hours, I probably slung about 100 bags for that campsite, over a course of 5 hours. I've lugged and moved computers for a living, and schlepping band equipment has been a part of my life from my college daze. I know my strengths, and, amazingly (for a *girl*), my brute labor skills are actually rather impressive. It's probably my father's rugged West Indian country genes...

[The Desert: Hot and dry, not a cloud in the sky, wear wrong sunblock, punch you in the eye.] 

Although I wandered lonely as a cloud, dizzy sweltering and glum, I'm happy for the clarity and opportunity to follow up, and take a sober backwards glance at a not-so-bad, now-past but ever-precious Phish event, a milestone in their new triumphant roadway. For that, I am infinitely gr8ful.

[Beacon of @#$%?! Light in a World of...ohh...nevermind. Over8'd.]

20 November 2009

Hear Their Sweet Sound Bouncing 'Round: Riffing on the Fall 2009 Cobopener

To start, I'd like to invoke the spirit of a photo I found recently, which is not of the Fall 2009 Tour Opener, but rather, its May 2009 cousin, the now-legend Spring Tour opener at Fenway in Boston:

[Pic by C. Taylor Crothers, a/k/a "The MAN! With the CAMERA!"]

One of the hardest-working bands in show biz is back on the beat, and it's time to get live. So, ready...set...GO!

My "Call the (Cob)opener" was "The Curtain." Straight "Curtain," no "With." I said on Twitter Wednesday night pre-show that I know they played it during the acoustic set at Festival 8, but I got burned alive, and wasn't there, so AFAIK, it didn't happen.

In a contrary vein, it was "AC/DC Bag." Always good to set the party off, I remembered the last time it was played (as an opener, that is) was at the beginning of Summer Tour, Leg II. I remember this because of Roger. Roger was clearly completely wasted when he rolled up to me in this weird-looking rental car a cross between a Scion and something from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (due to its, err, "lived-in quality" after following him from San Diego to Red Rocks, Shoreline and Gorge, to Sea-Tac, which was luckily the way I needed to go). As I waved my cardboard sign and stuck my head through his window, it was turning about 5AM, and my flight was at 7:55AM...the sun was rising over the mountains, and I was a nervous wreck. Rodge rolled down the window, blotchy from recent sleep and bleary-eyed, and, in a close shave, told me to hop in, and gratefully picked me up from the mouth of the Gorge entrance after sitting there for four hours with my gear, waiting for some kind soul to haul me back to Seattle to go home.

Roger, who seemed to be about 40-ish, first heard "Bag" a few shows ago at 8/1/09, Red Rocks Night 3, the last time it was an opener. It was his first Phish show, and he was on fire! The same show, he also accidentally gulped down one of his friends' "special bottles of water" (ruh-roh), and ended up having a wee, unexpected psychonautic thrillride. So, naturally, when he finally got to the show, and was declared to be "a crazy little kid" in the first lines of "AC/DC Bag," good old Rodge promptly lost his shit, and will never be the same again.  Thanks, Phish, for the accompaniment! Woo-hooo!

I should also say, although I know this post is starting out desperately randomly, something else pretty random, yet kind of neat, in retrospect -- when I first got to the Gorge driveway and threw down my crap for what I sensed would be a long, harried haul chasing after the rare car (most of which were just driving somewhere local), I felt what seemed to be a dried leaf or twig on my head. Lifting my hand to remove the strange, grabby object, I drew my hand down and what to my surprise should there be, but the pointed, bug-eyed, light-green, triangle-headed stare of a praying mantis looking back at me. "HOLY SHIT!" I yelled, for no apparent reason. Why do they look so accusatory, like they know something that humans don't? You're not so smart, Mr. Mantis-Pants!

The guards looked at me, thought I was dos'd, and then just kind of ignored me...imagine four hours of that rambling.

Okay, so, this is going to end up being a review of Wednesday night's tour opener in Detroit, honestly, starting...NOW!!! I don't have too much time to write this, because I'm going to have Korean food with 20-odd of my nearest and dearest in the West Village tonight, and thank goodness there ain't no show tonight -- yes, I might have actually been that lame / obsessed / hopeless / etc., to stay home and do Phish V-T00R on my birthday. Yeah, what!? (I'm asking myself that question more than you, really) But fortunately, the boyz have let me off the hook (so to speak), to gather my wits after last night's robust bounty of a tour opener. How cheered up am I in general after that show! Talk about bringing it all back to zero, tellin' it like it is, and reminding me about what's really important. THE MUSIC, y'all...wait, you knew that already, for it is I WHO AM MAD!!! (Ren Hoek, anyone?)

Oh, and the fun. You can't forget the fun...

I got home at 7:30PM, after taking a brisk walk home, my 20-minute commute on foot, 0.6 miles over the Pulaski Bridge walkway from Long Island City, to my meager perch in Brooklyn's northernmost neighborhood, Greenpoint. I trotted out yesterday's post, glum but inspired, and ready for a rousing night of V-T00R, for which I had cleared my oh-so-busy schedule. After all, I nearly dropped $420 on a plane ticket to go Rock City for a few hours, so the least I could do was spend the time doing the exact same thing with the help of VIRTUAL TECHNOLOGY(TM), while eating yogurt with a fork (more later). It's alright though: by the time I hastily tore off my day gear and hopped into my Jammys (no, not those, although I still have the pair of flannel Jammy pants I got as a runner up at that first presentation -- I wore them until they turned to ash, practically, and the worn decal is still barely visible). I was as pumped as I might have been if I was in amongst the hoi-poloi, rubbing elbows, being a goofball.

One of my molten plasticmelondreams is to have freely-held backstage passes at Phish shows, then never use them to hang out backstage or in the VIP, but just run all over the place like I always do at shows, diggin' the scene, checking the angles, getting harassed by guards, saying stupid shit to people, helping people passing out from dehydration, dancing by and high-fiving people, going "Awwww, yeeeaaah!" and "Waaaasssuuppp!" and "Naaaauuhh thanks, I don't smoke dat shit," and "Oh no they didn't!" or shoving my camera lens up Chris Kuroda's nose like I did at 6/5/09 Shoreline, much to his glaring chagrin: I think his churlish spirit-force made me lose the 4GB SanDisk Memory Stick with the gorgeous pics of his adamantine focus on them. Cursed sorcerer!

Then, when the show's over, I could go backstage and do exactly the same thing to Phish (except for that last part, because ain't not to many smokin' dat shit back there these days, neither, far as I can tell...which would be good for me, too). And they'd be all, "Get her outta here!" Then Brad would go, "But we gave her the pass!" And Page'd be all, "Who authorized that?!" and Fishman'd be like, "Awwwww yeaaahh!" and high-five me. Funny, I didn't realize this had turned into a Phish Phanphiction blog...

Anyway, so there I was, in my jammies, with my stuffed lionphish, Leemor, and ready to rock...

***FLASH*** Forward to this morning at 5:30 AM. I woke up timed to V-T00R like a robot, for when the show's over around 11:30, if you're lucky and don't spend another two hours dickering around in Hoodstream.com chat, bullshitting with the greaseballs, you go right to sleep. Otherwise, you spend a couple more hours trying to convert Shockwave Flash videos of the screen captures you took of yourself singing, laughing and talking to your imaginary friends while on Phish Fall 2009 V-T00R, to MPEG-4, to post on your blog, like the biggest g33k ever. You get up at the asscrack of dawn, to find out for whatever reason YouTube has not accepted your converted videos. Great, blog delay. You groan, and log back to Hoodstream.com, and hit play, to hear Phish playing AC/DC bag from the show that ended nine hours ago. Upload'd! Ahh, sweet V-T00R!

In the chat, Joephus is still there from the night before, probably lying underneath his laptop splayed on his bedroom floor. And look, it's mmm_phish! Yeah, that's Marc, the one who broke the bad news off'n my ass about the Exile Phishbill at Festival 8. No harm, no foul, baby, I ain't mad atcha! Not with a "Bag" of neck-crankin' gin-joint gravy happening on the headphones from The Cobopener! He's at work in NZ already. "Dude, already?!" "I work with clients on the East Coast"..." Oh. Dayyyum.

The ideations started to foment. The difference between reading a setlist and hearing everyone's half-inane, half-inspired speculation and examinations begin to come clear the minute one gets the music in their ears. I don't remember it being like this back in the day, because if you were a leaf on the branch of some sauce-nut grad student in Oregon back in the day, the tapes would take about a month and a half to arrive, and the crispy psychic vibes would be to Jupiter by then, jolting the Jovians. With the advent of technological advances, I feel fairly confident that the actual *psychic connection* with the band gains power in its immediacy (not to mention clarity). It's intense.

Talking in chat about possible directions is very rewarding, sawing away at thematic angles: the usefulness of a long, complex song here, or a "too-slow" song here (which then flips you and turns into an elbow-crawling, swampy clusterfunk that knocks you on your face, such as the "46 Days" jam, to jump ahead). It's all very rewarding when done in realtime.

Anyway, it's already taken me way too long to write this post; yesteday at work sucked, and I had a fabulous Korean dinner with 20 awesome friends last night and was full of steamed eel and exhausted when I got home. But I'll sum it all up like this:

-- Cobo was a fantastic opener, and the energy of this tour has been solidified: the band is hitting it HARD from the gate. The phrase that keeps repeating in my head is "economical but not parsimonious" -- in other words, the playing and jamming was conservative but incredibly potent in content. Since I've been studying 'em, I'll compare it to the Clifford Ball DVDs: in 1996, it was both mentioned (by Mike, in The Phish Book) and heard that perhaps more notes than were entirely necessary would go into the building of jams. At Cobo, the focus was astounding, and most of the notes executed had a lot of intensity and craft behind them, without being overly showy, which, as I see it, the band mid-90s could be at times. Not that that's a bad thing; it's just different. I can see how sometimes it's preferable to savor some of the brain-piercing assault that was mid-1990s Phish. The Phish that clenched Cobo was like a meaningful, impassioned bear-hug.

-- I also continue to think of the word "sweet" when listening to Cobo. No, no, no! Not "SUH-WEEEEEEET!" -- "sweet" as in (to use some synonyms) ambrosial, rich, charming, silvery, endearing. Yes, yes...it's been remarked by some that the setlist went a little haywire in the second set, and made some iffy turns. However, one of my criteria for examining a show is "Tone and Tenor" -- what's the feel? What's the platform the band's coming from? Is it merrymaking, buoyant? Is it dischordant? Are there emotive holes? Are they in in karate-ninja mode? Or are they sounding working-class, solid, and beautifully, humanly like Phish in all their glory? Yeah, yeah...the last one is where I can hear they were at, and it's a really exciting way to start a tour.

-- The verdict: how would I have felt if I'd traveled to Detroit and saw this show? Hell man, it's a Phish show, so if I could get teleported to every single one, I probably would, SERIOUSLY. But no such technology exists, sadly, so (gladly!) Virtual Tour will be a handy and cost-saving substitute for right now. Theoretically, my trip looked something like; work from 9AM to 1PM, get a cab to LaGuardia, take a 2PM flight with a stopover in DC, get into DTW around 6:30PM, catch a cab to Cobo, and see the show. In my rock 'n' roll dreams, I'd then hang around for a bunch of hours backstage massaging Page's temples, playing Boggle with Mike, bootin' hacky sack with Fishman, and/or eating gourmet gummy bears and drinking Pellegrino with Trey, all whilst talking with them about the last time they were in Detroit.

Then, at around 4AM, I'd be off to DTW again to take a 6AM flight home, and walk back into work wearing the exact same outfit I left in the day before. I've done shit like that before. In the recent Sirius Radio "Phish Festivalography," Trey recounted a similar stunt pulled amidst the near-tropical spectacle of Big Cypress, jumping into a plane on New Year's Day and being airlifted off the planet they'd created, back to his house with his family and kids and whatnot, celebrating the new Millennium, and feeling like Tom Hanks in "Cast Away" when he returns to civilization...

Anyway, in all honesty, if I had no "jobby job," all the money and magical transport options in the world, I would've been *just fine* being at Cobo. But realistically, I'm not horribly broken up I wasn't there, or at least not as burned up as I STILL AM about missing the barn-burners at the end of Late Summer Tour 2009, when it was like 1994 all over again in those venues here on the East Coast (haha, yup, I sometimes loves me a grudge).

-- However, to answer the question, "If there was one thing about Cobo I do regret not being there for," my answer would be threefold:

First: 1) The venue, and 2) MOTHER-FRACKING LIGHT SHOW. Oh my God. There are currently only two examples on YouTube (one linked to just a minute ago, and this one here) that exhibit what I'm talking about with the accuracy necessary to illustrate why I regret missing Cobo because of the lights.  I ask you: where else do you get a band that has four incredible, dedicated musicians, but also a fifth guy, a serious, grumpy but mostly congenial, unseen photon voodoo-master?

Chris Kuroda is the Pavement to my Phish, in that he's actually my favorite member of Phish (like Pavement is my actual favorite band), though I say I love Phish (my second favorite band) more often because they're the ones you see all the time (whereas Pavement -- at least until next year...? -- don't tour as much as Phish does). You get me? I am so half-sorta-joking-not-really-yes... Chris Kuroda is one of those people whom, like me, just sounds better being called by their full name, for its magical incantation-like quality, rather than just "Carol" or "Chris.").

Cobo Arena seems a sorely missed spot in that it seems to be scrumptiously diminutive, along the lines of early Summer 2009's Asheville and Knoxville venues.  However, as in the latter, Chris Kuroda took the rooms and tore 'em new a-holes by turning them into bold, illuminated canvases non-pareil. The grandeur of his craft can sometimes outpace that of the band, when seen in person, since the input method is more immediate. That is, when entering through the eyes than the ears, the brain, I think, is more able to immediately process light as a commanding phenomenological event, than it is "music" (as an art form), which can contain words, meanings, socio-cultural superimpositions and such. Light and color, the response to which can also be conditioned to an extent, are more pure on impact.

[the CK5 "Enlightenment Effect" unleashed on stunned lemmings, 6/10/09, Knoxville, TN -- pic by Jeff Kravitz]

CK5 exemplified these theorems by absolutely blanketing the winged, angular corners of the arena behind and around the Cobo stage with oscillating shapes, and piercing the smog-filled space over the audience with gloriously detached, otherworldly mothership-type spotlights. What a standout performance, and such artistry -- it can be said appropriately here, I think, that the last time in memory this can be said to have happened was in Knoxville, which was an alright show, but another in which Chris Kuroda blew the roof off the venue (granted, I've listened the hell outta them, but still have a lotta analysis of early Summer to do, Bonnaroo through Alpine, then Late Summer, but hell...maybe I'll get around to it in the spring, bwaahaha).

Of course, another boon of technology is I can catch a slice of the in-game mojo, without having been there. Oh so very scrummy, indeed.

Finally, and perhaps rather obviously, 3) the "Wading in the Velvet Sea." Actually, I'm pretty okay with having missed it, because were I there, I have no clue where I'd have been located in the venue, and I might have burst into tears besides some 23 year-olds unbeknownst. Played at 11PM Wednesday night, a few songs before the close of the show, it seems to me, anyway, that I got a little present from the setlist fairy. The band has somewhere in the neighborhood of 200-something active songs that they can rotate at any time, but they played "Wading" at one of the last moments they could've in the show, before Midnight (my birthday) without crushing the vibe.  And the last time it was performed was the 6/21/09 Early Summer tour closer at Alpine Valley.  So, from a purely non-emotional, statistical, mathematical perspective, even ZZYZX might agree that they played the song for ME!  (*dies laughing*)  When I first heard "Wading," it only solidified my suspicion that my linkage to all things Phish is karmic in nature, and sort of my destiny, and birthright.  That is NOT statistical, nor non-emotional, at least not at the surface, but Buddhism is actually widely-held to be a mind-science.

There are things beyond the realm of our understanding, and, human life being among the most precious and useful stations of incarnation in the universe, sometimes weird shit happens. I don't claim to have all the answers, by any means, but I know I sure have an overactive imagination, and a blog to spew my maniacal ramblings about Phish, now that they're so awesomely around again. Why not?

In sum, though... 

Carol's Cobo Highlights: 

-- Sharp vampy "Bag" opener to get the motor runnin'...

-- The triumphant return of hilarious, cry-worthy Fishman vocal ridiculousness in "Poor Heart" (YES!! MORE FISHMAN!!)

-- Page's voice and piano: bright, clear, LOUD, out-front and amazing, cooking the harmonies. Looks like there's no need for "People for a Louder Page" -- as a wise phan once said, "You know when Page stands up, it's ON!"

-- Trey's soloing is getting much more nuanced and intuitive; besides some slipperiness in "It's Ice" and a little honk in "Horn," his use of some particularly keen, tangy effects are bringing the evolution home.

-- Best Fake Out: "46 Days," which I have heretofore lambasted as being a sleepy, low-rent "Timber (Jerry)" throwaway. At Cobo, it came out as a tough, salty, workin' man's cowbell-fest, that suddenly turns into a jaw-dropping techno-fied, intergalactic cow-funk jam, sprinkled generously with those Kuroda lights I mentioned above.

-- Mike's drippydelic effects and fierce composure amidst bitch-slapping the crap out of the "Mike's Groove," a modern redux of any best 1989 incarnation.  The "Weekapaug" is one of those fast, breakneck, heart-pumping, fist-cranking, scream-and-holler "'Paug"s that make you think your legs are gonna fall off because you can only...just...barely...keep up...gaah!

Overall, a sweet, hearty, muscle-flexin', hard-hitting approach that will likely grow, upon Autumn's crimson leaves, cold snaps, serious resolve and jovial, familial merriment. Phish Fall 2009 Tour is on! Have a good, safe time out there, y'all. I'm goin' to Philly tonight to see Steely Dan, but I'll see you there again next week...uhh, if I get my s*** together.

18 November 2009

Drink a Little Whine: Standing Still, Feelin' Meh, but Staying Vert

Maybe it's because I'm a Scorpio, and the sun is in my sign, sulking through its mid-autumn paces. It is, after all, hours before a "milestone" birthday, which means pretty much nothing, since lots of people tell me I still look like I'm in my mid-20s, generous of them...

Maybe it's the phases of the moon, which is New right now, which usually either means one of two things: 1) things are starting anew or in a weird momentary flux, or b) Phish may be starting (or ending!) a new tour. I have yet to statistically analyze this (Ooohhhh, ZZYZX? Wanna help?), but I have been fairly sure over the past decade or whatever that Phish has historically marshaled the mystical forces of Earth's natural satellite for their nefarious, alien machinations, by beginning and ending their tours on (or very close to) New, Full or Half-Moons. It's not totally uniform, but I know there's probably some tye-dyed crone hiding in a cave somewhere in Vermont, who creeps out whenever Mike does the "secret knock" (pattern of claps in "Mound"), to advise the band on such matters. Naturally, she comments, "You can't nail it everytime, because of those persnickety promoters, but you can sure try!" And I think they sure do.

Brief examples culled from tours/events past and present: Coventry in August 2004 started on 8/13/04 just a waning sliver, and ended a day before New (talk about flux, right!); 2004 Spring mini-tour started at a day before Half and two days before New; Hampton 2009's moon started a wee bit past Half waxing, and ended nearly three days pre-Full (not a nail, but for what was to come, forgivable); Phenway dropped right smack on the Half-Moon, and the 6/21/09 Alpine tour closer was one day pre-New. Throwing it back to 1996 for a random sampling, the first show of the legendary inaugural European tour started one day before the Full Moon, in its infinite creative bounty, and wrapped three days pre-full. Perhaps not a scientific theory, but I kinda buy it, magical wizards they are.

Astrologist Miz MoonCircles gives me some ideas about what I could be going through with the Dark Times falling right around now in the Dark Sign of Scorpio: 

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger — it's an appropriate tale for this Scorpio season. Few of us have made it through the last few months without having to give up something, or find a different route to what we want. And, we are feeling the crunch even more strongly while no-nonsense Saturn squares Scorpio's ruling planet, Pluto, throughout November and December. Saturn in Libra tests our relationships and ideals, and makes us face the truth about what's working and what's not. With Saturn's square to transformative Pluto, many of us are ending relationships, losing jobs or otherwise having to restructure. Yet losing something or failing to get what you want are merely road signs that say 'Wrong way...'" 

I have found myself saying sometimes post-8, "Really. What the hell? Maybe what I wanted to happen didn't happen because this is all a farce. Maybe Phish are the Underlords, and this is the everlasting spoof of what should have been my life. Maybe I'm lucky things aren't coming to fruition." D'oh!  Why does my mind think in these words? 

Anyway, I digress. Maybe it's just frayed nerves from a welter of self-exposure which is, granted, comparatively minimal, given the fact I've really only made tell of this blog to the 46 Phishheads that read #phish on Twitter (and the random confused souls who choose to follow my now-turned decidedly phishy Twitter alias, @cwade -- see @Carol_Wade if you want to hear about my non-phishy life, but I'll tell ya, for right now, you're not gonna see very much!)...but what I'm hesitating to reveal is that I've been seriously bitched-out the past few days!

I'm jealous I spent 6 years on the lam, while everyone else was cultivating their journalism careers, which I started to at 24 in 1998, but flamed out on in 2000, amid the hiatus of Phish, and the eventual post-9/11 meltdown of Wetlands. I'm aggro I couldn't touch anything Phish or jambandsy during my hiatus, lest I seriously complicate things, and compromise the hermetic seal that seemed necessary for me to get my heal on, and get to the point I'm at now; alive, and truly a sort of flower blooming into creative renaissance (aww).

I'm really burned the hell up about my experience at Festival 8 (pun phun, phmeh!), and feel like a total effin' pussbag weakling for high-tailing it the hell outta Indio early like I did. Self-care aside, and the absolute fact that I might have landed myself in the hospital if I spent even 30 minutes outside that day, I always want to be the one who goes the distance, because I think if the Overlords are watching, they'd think lowly of me if they saw me...well...truth be told...molten. I wanted to think I was too harder-than-core to get molten; but I got molten.

Then I get to read about the harder-than-core soldiers that made it to The Final Frontier, by my former boss and fellow Late-90's journalista, Shirley Halperin, in SPIN.com. Just...freaking...great. I feel so uh-shamed! Phish plays 1,400-odd shows in 20-whatever years, and I can't make it through 5 hours of ice-hauling and two days of direct sunlight, without bitching, moaning and whining about the Stones record, dumb old crap, whatever.  I AM NOT THAT MUCH OF A MILQUETOAST! I really am not that lame!

Grumblez! I am fully aware I'm in need of a high-level attitude adjustment, validity of gripes or no. My thinking is neither productive nor supportive, and I kinda knew this was potentially gonna happen at some point, such as when I was doing my spritely windmill-arms dance atop my pink cloud to "Harry Hood" in my room, listening to 6/18/09 Burgettstown for the first time. I knew it couldn't last forever, the happy-slappy, clear, open opinions, even peppered as they were with the newness and clarity of constructive criticism. I knew it was entirely possible that, by laying my proverbial shit-ass out on the line, with such alacrity as I have been here and elsewhere in my rampant, reunion-fueled Phish re-rambunction, I'd get pretty rudely slapped around by the intensity of disappointment and discomfort when things didn't go "my way." And I also knew that I'd wanna clam the hell up, and not let anyone know about it. But that's not what I did this for.

I got a horoscope off this current-affairs-type LCD screen in a pizza shop on the Upper East Side a few weeks ago, right before Festival 8. It said, "Resist temptation. Don't be afraid to take the risks, but remember, a risk is still a risk." I read that to mean: I needn't do the thing I'm used to doing, which is run away from that I hold dear, for fear of it consuming me. One of the things that both attracts me to, and repels me from Phish, is their amazing connection as a band, and as friends. Their commitment is one of the main reasons they have such dedicated phans; the authenticity is deep and inspiring, magnetic in a way that all the most well-loved bands are, because they make you want to feel "a part of" the experience they're having, the fun, the meaning, the high notes and low. They are making it worth it, so we want to make it worth it, too, because...umm...it's worth it.

So why would that repel me? Well, relationships involve risk. Intimacy can be seen as "into-me-see," where one lays it on the line and bares the squashy innards for all to see, gets vulnerable, naked, real. Umm, NUH-UH! Talkin' a good game, I always say I want this, that, and your mother. But when the rubber hits the road, can I hang?

Don't get me wrong; I have friends, and many people I hold dear. But the levels upon which Phish have allowed themselves to merge, create, sync, communicate, and -- most of all -- commit...to be totally honest (which is the point), I haven't really had the best models. The challenge to personal boundaries and management of such openness is a challenge that goes into their collaboration that must be a whole other 75% of the story of their existence as a band, that no one gets to hear about in depth. The listening exercises, the psychic tricks and mental/emotional formulae that go into fueling the persistence of energy the four guys generate is some seriously powerful shit! Got-damn! I just done un-speechified myself.

Yeah. It should also be mentioned that I received my copy of Parke Puterbaugh's eagerly-awaited, well-sussed, scarily-covered Phish biography...(drum roll)...Phish: The Biography. (I mean, are they kidding me with that photo? Seriously??! BTW, that is about the cheapest you're gonna get it online as far as I can see, without buying it from a sketchy wholesaler in New Delhi, and getting it the same day you get your Joy Box, oh snap, sorry!) Mr. Puterbaugh, court-writer extraordinaire for Phish 1.0 even drops name of my good buddy (and arch-nemesis), Jesse Jarnow, as "jamband expert and fellow scribe..." Great! More grist for my "I feel like crap about all the time I've lost" mill.

Or maybe my panties are twistin' just because Phish is hours away from starting their 2009 Fall Tour in Detroit, and I'm not there. That might have something to do with it. I got shut the phuck out for all my lottery requests (figures...the one time I actually think I might have done it right, WRONG!!!), and all last-minute manipulations would have been prohibitively stupid in the wallet department, considering the massive expenditure that Festival 8 turned out to be.

Ehh! Whatever. That's one thing I can say is a perk of seeming to be an adult human being; sometimes I can pretend to act like one, people see I can work hard and get some stuff done, and I get money for it every two weeks. When this happens, it is guaranteed that 75% of the proceeds are going to go to seeing live music. Hands down. And I think I mentioned above...it's worth it. It's all in the game.

But, one thing I will not sacrifice is my newfound lifestyle. Since it's clear to me that I need to lighten the phuck up about things (Phish included) every once in a while, I need to acknowledge my tendency to use the experience as a mind-altering substance and/or escape. Sure, going to Detroit looked good on paper, but airfare within the last week didn't fall a dime under $420.00, I swear it to you.  Over and over, flight after flight, site after site...I couldn't believe it.  If that ain't a sign from the heab'ns, I don't know what is.  Stay home for V-T00R, nutbag! Mike Says NO!!!

I did, however (yes) ophicially turn 15 a few hours ago, when I bought my phirst "girly-phan-impulse-plushie-object" -- if you can believe it, in all this time of being a phan, I have not succumbed to buying anthropomorphic animal-things to appease my inner child-phan, but walking past this little hairy Webkinz goldfish in the Duane Reade on my lunch break today, I really couldn't help but grab it.

Of course, my ultra-serious, super-judicious side stood there staring at him for 5 minutes, turning him around and around, as I scanned my interior landscape like a cyborg-cum-Vulcan, weighing the pros and cons of buying a hairy plushie fishie for myself, before my birthday tomorrow, to make up for all the weirdness I've been feeling lately, and especially to both celebrate my phandom (hell or high water, bitchez), and the start of t00r, and to have something to hang out with tonight, as I loiter around on Hoodstream with the other miscreants too broke and otherwise occupied to be at Cobo Arena tonight in Detroit.

If there's anything I'm learning from this Phish-as-training-wheels-for-my-artistic-resurrection-mojo situation (and everyday is a masters program, for realsies), it's that the more I share, the more I learn. I might not feel that great (in fact, sometimes I feel pretty freakin' stupid and lame sharing about this stuff, though I know someone(s) out there digs it). But how else can I join in on this excellent conversation, without going batshit? I talk to myself, and you, who are probably as much like me as you thought the other weirdos were at your first show. Learning to be myself at 35 years old. Priceless. And I'm bringing some companions on this ride. That is, after all, the true meaning of my School of Phish.

Welcome to the Phamily, Leemor. Maybe the simple smiles and good times aren't all wrong.  T00r on!

16 November 2009

All My Plasticmelondreams Split Open and Molten: My Long Walk Down Festival 8 Mile

They have measured many a mile
To tread a measure with you on this grass.

-- William Shakespeare 
Love's Labours Lost, Act V, Sc. II 

Loyal readership (*guffaw* I mean, all 4 of you),

Festival 8 was a journey through a wormhole of epic proportions. And I do mean EPIC. For me, enjoyment of Phish has never been solely about the music, their concerts being, as they are, multi-sensory, situationist energy gatherings. I attend to be transformed, and I can be fueled creatively by Phish by simply knowing a show is occurring.

You may have noticed I sort of like Phish. I have a lot to say about them, and most of it ranges from okay-so-so, to the limits of ecstatic, and many mental / emotional stations in-between. But their recent, eighth, large-scale festival walked everything quietly off the charts. It was a game-changer. Suddenly, I had even more more to contend with in relation to these four man-machines, what seemed like insufficient time in which to do it, and what has begun to feel like much too much to take on, without a damn good reason.

To participate in Festival 8, I once again air-lifted myself out of my more-or-less controlled reality, to place myself along the continuum of shared Phish experience. The collision of ideas, emotions, observations and occurrences was multifarious, and even more weirdly personal than the already rather exquisite details I've exposed in my short-lived blogspace.

To explain; since re-opening my blog after needing to take a week off to regroup, what started to get wrung out of me as "My Take on 8," has become a (as yet unfinished) 20-page micro-memoir of my experience in the jamband community, 1993 until the present. In short, it has become clear that the story of MY Festival 8 experience can't be properly told, "in short."

But I'll attempt to suffice it, by saying the following:

In getting sober, I spent six years on a kind of wilderness retreat, where I carefully re-created myself, my world, and my view of the world, with me in it. I learned the central theme of my life was simple, and that I had a key purpose: staying sober, and, in so doing, being of service to others. In an attempt to extrapolate this new vision of the world onto Festival 8, I decided to volunteer for the event. In the end, my motives were not the purest, or, at least, I had more specific ideas for service than what were afforded me.

The return of Phish has rehydrated my talents for music journalism, which I have, time and again recently, stubbornly refused to dilute or train in other directions. As it happens, I've discovered with a mighty *THUD* that writing about Phish is something I've always wanted to do, but was too scared (of failure and rejection), and proud (lest I be misapprehended as a "groupie") to do. So, I talked around "the subject" for almost a decade, which I guess was good for the zeitgeist, since I talked about, and championed, a whole bunch of other stuff related to the creative world they influenced.

I doubt the fire would have died with Phish, but I can say they were the first in six years to rekindle it. I can also say the (albeit delayed) reformation of my other favorite band, Pavement, didn't inspire the unceasing wellspring of intellectual chatter that the return of Phish has. And since it's hard enough for ME to come to terms with why this is, I can scarcely give much thought to "how the band might take it," since I don't see that as being my job. My job, I think, is to feel my feelings, and try to keep them safe and manageable, but attempt to follow the dictates of this "life-instruction" I feel Phish has given me: Surrender to the Flow, Take Care of Your Shoes, Keep What's Important, and Know Who's Your Friend, etc. -- yeah, yeah, thanks Tom Marshall, but you know what I mean. If a band carries this message, it doesn't matter who wrote it; it becomes anthem, a sense of direction. Marshall's words are part of the delivery method.

This doesn't mean my life would have found no direction otherwise. It just means that, without Phish, the character of that direction would've been different. Now, I've been dealing with the direction I'm going in with Phish around, and it's an all-or-nothing game, kind of typical with me. Imagine a rich dinner conversation you have a lot to contribute to, but you're sealed behind glass, and can only hear snippets of it. The other participants, however, can hear you perfectly, but you don't know if they're listening, much less want you in the mix.

Starting a Phish blog felt so intense, as does feeling persistent feelings that are not manufactured or cultivated, but naturally-occurring, as an underground spring. My faith in this love is strong enough to convince me of its power, and has pretty much every day since I listened to the Hampton 2009 "Fluffhead." I get aggro when people (or even I) slag off the power of phandom for too long. No one hassles young lovers, established corporations, or sports teams for inspiring intense, complex and abiding emotional loyalties. But fear of the unknown – the endlessly looping question, “Just where is this all going?” – can be just as powerful a motivator...

The path has, so far, been decidedly twisty and bumpy. Over the last decade, I've had to work to support myself, being sort of an "acquired taste," rendering marriage, long-term relationship or the prospect of shacking up and sharing resources with a mate perpetual non-starters for me, completely beyond my control. Hauling ass into the middle of the desert with the squirming papoose of an ardent, engaged phandom on my back, I was once again throwing myself over the rack, for the sake of "Being There."

I signed up to volunteer at the fest with the hopes of working in Production or VIP, to give back to the band, not only in ways I knew how (having been in several bands, and being a computer technician), but also in other ways I'd always been afraid to try. I have never been a "groupie," having much more impossibly high standards than attempting to gain sexual access to the inner circle of a band's space. In 16 years of seeing Phish, I do not boast but will report never once having attempted to get backstage of my own volition. I've shared here about the one experience of being escorted, for an astoundingly anticlimactic 30 minutes in the bowels of MSG.

Elaborating on the simple (perhaps too simple) fact that I was en route to Festival 8 with high hopes of meeting the band, and working for the festival behind-the-scenes in a backstage capacity for a weekend, is one of the giant boulders of shame that's kept me from expounding on my Festival 8 trip for this long. I signed documentation in which I was asked what capacities I could contribute particularly well in, and I mentioned a long-term involvement with the jamband scene, long-time sobriety, and a desire to positively impact the vibe and meet these artists with whom I feel special kinship.

Although I guess it was gullible of me to think everyone applying for festival work didn't have some kind of similar angle to lay down, the hopes of going out to the desert, meeting the band, sharing ideas and appreciation, and being a kind of fly-on-the-wall influence, which I did for years with lots of bands during my Jambands.com tenure...they were absolutely real real hopes, naive as they may have been. My part in the disaster is that I probably waited 10 years too long to entertain these hopes, and, in so doing, had inflated them to impossibly grandiose proportions. Those hopes were roundly dashed, and, with the toppling of the first domino, all fell down after that.

I arrived to sign in and was informed I was doing Campsite duty Friday and Sunday, whatever that meant. Some kids told me it entailed standing around in the road while pretending to direct traffic. I showed up to do that Friday night, prepared to miss the first show, but ended up listening to Set I from a mini-boombox while standing by the check-in tent, to get picked up by a golf cart to take my group of volunteers to our post, which never arrived.

After about 2 hours (all of Set I), I was summoned by one of the staffers who said, "You, come here. You're released!" Basically, they'd watched me air-guitar-dance-drum-and-sing my way through every song of the first set, and realized I should be at the show, instead of standing around waiting for a mystery golf cart. The first set had completely smoked; the band sounded full and festive, energetic and savvy. Upon my early discharge, I literally bounded off, skipping into the grass towards the concert field, yelling, "Woo-hoo!" The second set was the truest musical moment of the weekend for me, where it started, and what it was all about. I ponder to myself: can I dial it all back to that? What does it take to make it all about that slab of sheer aural experience again, i.e. "THE MUSIC"? Or is it a fallacy to think things can remain so simple, after all this time?

I was told Saturday I'd be working in the General Store. That entailed, first, standing around in the blazing desert sun for an hour with a nice guy named Adam (sort of a labor in itself), whilst being maligned by polo club staffers (one quizzically wearing a fur-lined pea coat), and being called "Volunteer" rather than my first name. Then, I got golf-carted away by a death-defying, ADD-riddled manager to a tent shanty in the middle of the "Exile on Main Street" campground, to haul 10lb bags of ice for 5 hours, and give codependency advice to another control-freak polo club staffer, who wouldn't let me do anything except -- you guessed it -- haul ice. The ice-hauling itself was actually the best part of the job: it was concrete, straightforward, humble, and simple. If they told me I'd be hauling ice for 6 hours a day, every day, for 3 days, I'd have been psyched. Hey! (Drum roll)...it's ice! (boomsh)

Here's where things got ugly. While hauling ice, I got a text from my buddy Marc from AZ who was keeping me apprised of the details; he'd gotten his hands on the Phishbill, and the costume was indeed gonna be Exile on Main Street. My loathsome opinion of this impending decision became known the week before the Festival in really brutal fashion in the blog, and was the very first time in all my years as a phan that I've voiced that level of public disdain for a creative decision by Phish. Normally, I'd not even mention it; I usually take what I like, and leave the rest. However, it wasn't until that moment I began to come to grips with what was really causing my blood to boil at the prospect of Exile being covered at Festival 8.

First off, I have never really dug the Rolling Stones that much. Okay, okay, get up off me! They're a blazin' rock band among the oldest and boldest. But I like them least of all among The Beatles, The Who, and Pink Floyd, those big Brit rockers that Phish (wisely) memorialized in their first costumes in the late '90s. I was able to tolerate the Stones, and appreciate them for their gems, until my tepid reception was drastically worsened to a freeze, by my association of them, and Exile, with a hellish, shitty, hopeless-seeming time in my life. A terrible non-relationship, the dissolution of everything I held dear (including Phish, and my world, as this was all going down around 2000-2002), powerlessness and debauchery eating my life alive. I guess I wasn't ready to have to face up to that stuff right there, at that time, and in that way.

I started sliding into an emotional nosedive so precipitous, I was blessed to be surrounded by a giant wall of sober dudes in the Phellowship, with whom I'd connected before I went to the fest, to provide sober communion and camaraderie, amidst legions of amateur recreational chemists. To refresh, the Phellowship is a group of men and women who desire to stay sober at Phish shows. It's not related to any particular outside enterprise, program or methodology, although it has no opinion on them either way. It's a group that exists to help those who wish to stay sober at Phish shows to do that. 

These new sober phriends buffeted me as I sobbed my ever-loving eyes out for a good 20 minutes, following the first set Saturday afternoon (which was also really good, though I could definitely hear the Stones coming in on the Blighty-blues waves in the "Gin" jam). I finally understood I'd soon be subjected to one of my favorite bands playing two hours of music by one of my lesser-favorite bands, in a horrifying musical flashback to the worst year and a half of my life.

Of course, 6 hours of manual labor in 90-degree heat didn't help. I was totally sunstroked.

I volunteered to man the Phellowship table during the Halloween set, grinding my teeth, fighting back tears, and talking to other sober Phellows. Phish sounded absolutely great; I will not deny them that. But I was psychologically blocked; just couldn't get into it, which made it all the more awkward.  It's the first time since I was 18 years old (besides the previous night's first set, when I thought I'd be working), that I voluntarily sat out a set of Phish music. It was one of many not-so-positive firsts during the weekend.

Finally, setbreak came. Since I was the only one not all "HEEEELLLLL YEEEEAAHHHH" and "EPIC!!!!", I was asked to chair the Phellowship meeting that happens during setbreaks at shows, which was an awesome honor.  The meeting was big, with lots of new pholks, and it made the whole fucking ordeal totally worth it. Being a part of the scene as a sober person neither for nor against anything, but just who I was right then -- pissed off, sunburned, but not piss-drunk -- was the absolute, hands-down highlight of the entire weekend.

Then, I could return to another part of who I was, and why I was there. I zipped off to plant myself Page-side for Set III where, thankfully, Phish itself would re-appear soon.

Now's a good time to mention something that I've wanted to clarify for years, but hasn't been, err, maybe the most appropriate to cover anywhere else but in my own blog. The depth of my desire to connect with Phish (and other bands) has been mostly nonsexual. Granted, my love for music and musicians is ridiculously emotional and sensual, and personal -- I've been musician myself since I was 7 years old.  I'll even admit to early schoolgirl crushes on all four Phish, in recognition of certain commonalities and outlooks. But there has been a deeper, subtler appreciation, which, until very recently, I wouldn't allow myself to think about, much less indulge.

Believe it or not, personal principles adopted in 1995 have led me to carefully consider my interactions; I uphold spiritual vows to refrain from causing controversy in personal relationships, my own or those of others. I don't do it perfectly, but it's something I've taken seriously throughout my involvement with the music scene. As lustily ardent as I may get about bands and music, I've not been one to see physical intimacy as, or means of entrance to, "where the action is." To me, that always seemed like it would be a disingenuous mistake.

It's difficult to relate this next domino toppling without being specific, but let's just say that I had many layers of hope surrounding my voyage to Indio, all of which kept collapsing onto one another in pretty dramatic fashion from where I was standing (i.e. underneath it all). Set III on Halloween night was a really great dollop of a set, comprised mostly of a sly "BDTNL > Fluffhead > Ghost," which  one-upped 6/09/09 Asheville's "BDTNL > Ghost" by adding a tricked-out "Fluff" layer to the sandwich. But during the "Ghost" jam, I caught wind of a circumstantial symbology that communicated to me the negation, cessation, or otherwise serious complication, of another Phish-related hope I'd been fostering. The blowback from this visual information, amidst giant images of the band on the jumbotrons, caused a dizzy, disorienting recollection of The Clifford Ball, my first phestival (which I've been revisiting on DVD in the weeks leading up to 8).

My adult life flashed before my eyes; weeks before turning 35, I was alone in the desert, having traveled solo as always, following and devoting my time and hard-earned money to men I want to know and to care about me, who maybe never can, or will. A not uncommon occurrence, but standing in the middle of a crowd of 50-odd-thousand, the heat of embarrassment hit my eyes and forehead like nuclear radiation. What the hell was I doing with my life? I've asked myself before in similar situations, but this just seemed ridiculous.

Although completely unaware to know the machinations behind the work application process, I felt rejected and ignored by having signed up to (hopefully) work in VIP, and instead getting sent to haul ice. My overweening sense of magical thinking had me hoping I'd be plucked from among the crop of recruits, and brought in to witness and add to the vibe. I felt betrayed by my own sensibilities, for once again placing me in a scenario where my all-too-strong love, and devotion were being misdirected. It was the one-way conversation again; I wanted in so badly, the love wasn't unconditional anymore. Which -- let's face it -- is a problem, in more ways than one.

Frustrated, tired, sunbaked, sulking and squirming, ashamed, humbled, and just plain fucking sad, I turned right around and marched from about the 20th row, through row after row after row of thousands of people dancing in the moonlight, and kept walking and walking, straight back, until I boarded the ferris wheel, on -- oh look! -- car #13, natch. I reached the apex of the spinning wheel, sitting across from a nice couple (of course) from Big Sur, right about when they started Suzy Greenberg (which gives you an idea of scale, how long it took me to get to the top of the ferris wheel from Row 20 during a YEM intro, right around the quiet, pretty part)...

Weeks earlier, in my infinite genius, I'd accidentally booked my return flight to NYC for Sunday the 1st, instead of Monday the 2nd, in my itinerary. To correct the mistake, I then booked a replacement flight for the correct day, and was going to cancel the erroneous return flight for credit on a flight later on (maybe Miami for New Year's, I thought idealistically). I awoke the next morning so miserable that I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I was in my sleeping bag on a carpeted floor at the lovely home of my new Phellowship friend, Barrett who, in an incredible spirit of service, generously put me, and an infinitely rotating host of phreaks, up for the weekend.

Opening my eyes, moving my face and arms, I winced. I may have failed to mention up to this point that, among my evolutionary defects (chronic obsession and fantasy addiction among them), I am also allergic to the sun, and, to complicate matters further, also allergic almost all over-the-counter sun protection. Around the time of the August 2009 Shoreline and Gorge shows (my first and slightly more detached, enjoyable Phish excursion out West), my dermatologist recommended a 58 SPF waterproof sunblock which succeeded in keeping me from being scorched alive, during my two days in Central Washington. However, I used a different, non-waterproof version of the same sunblock at Festival 8, and I think all the Southern proximity and perspiration rendered the product ineffective.

Extracting myself painfully from my sleeping bag, and slouching reluctantly to the bathroom mirror, I was delighted to find I looked like I'd been dipped in boiling oil: swollen, oozy, red and itchy. I'm still peeling today (it's 11/16/09), and my hands still look a little reptilian, after spending two weeks slathered in Aquaphor. My deplorable physical situation didn't make my broken heart or bruised ego any less pained. Even before I got back to Barrett's house the night before, I'd locked down the blog (again) and protected my Tweets (Hark! A new level of bashfulness!) -- when I have "phisshues," it hurts to be associated with them at all. It's like I don't want any historical evidence of my having loved them visible to anyone, when my emotions about them are embattled.

I'm seeing all these little quirks I've had that made me very private about my phandom from the very start...it's more intense than I realized. For better or worse, this is the way things are, and the best I can do each day is stay grateful that Phish are back around, my personal "phisshues" notwithstanding, and that at least I can feel this passionately about something today, without having to drink or do drugs to mute the pain of not being able to control the situation. It's a huge improvement that, when confronted with a back-breaking straw of information, I went to get high on the ferris wheel, and nothing else. A HUGE improvement.

Anyway, upon seeing the desert sun's effect on my face and skin Sunday morning, I decided I was gonna get on that 12:55PM flight outta Palm Springs after all, and flee the scene of the crime. I thought of the acoustic set, the 8-shaped donuts, but also of the sound of my skin sizzling, and the impossibility of even being outdoors, looking and feeling the way I did. I simply couldn't stay. So many new horrible Phish firsts: voluntarily missing a set for naught...albeit to volunteer, but ending up boogieing to a boombox? Sitting out an entire set? Sitting out what was my first HALLOWEEN SET? Leaving a Phish concert early? Leaving a Phish Festival early? WALK AWAY...DURING YEM...?!

The flight home, with a stopover in Chicago, was interminable. I sat in the same row as the trumpet player from the Exile set, and one of the backup singers was elsewhere on the flight (we all ended up at baggage claim together at LGA). Before even getting back to my apartment, I decided to start "counting days" off Phish, like they were cigarettes, heroin, or booze. I took all the shows off my iPhone, didn't read a website, tweet a tweet, look at a picture, watch a YouTube video...I even backed up all my shows and wiped my Mac with the new Snow Leopard (which I was planning on doing anyway, but it adds nicely to the drama, doesn't it?). I did this for eight days. I was convinced everyone thinks I'm crazy and dumb anyways; who cares, really, about my bad feelings related to a bad relationship's long shadow, as it relates to my dismay at Phish playing a widely-accepted rock music masterpiece?

Some funny things happened. Karl Denson requested to have access to my blocked tweets. Huh? Karl Denson reads my tweet feed? Well, whatever, must be "user error." Richard Gehr poked his head in, emailing me and saying, "Write something!" Mike says NO! Then, Dean Budnick emailed me and said, "Hey Carol, where've you been?", again asking me to write something.

Where've I BEEN? MIKE...SAYS...NO!

These things warmed me up a little bit. It's not that I'm crazy, or everyone's ignoring me, or the band hates me, or any other extreme, negative mental concoction I can invent. I DO love too deeply, react too strongly, and put too much force in one direction, a lot of the time. I'm oversensitive, intense, and impulsive -- all symptoms of the problems I struggle with. But Phish can't solve my problems. Continuing to work on myself, keeping my spirits up, and remembering what's important -- yes, the music -- helps me to get back to zero. The music's coming back to the iPhone and the Mac. I returned Clifford Ball Discs 2 & 3 before I left Indio (without watching Disc 3), but got 4 & 5 (oops!) near the end of my 8-day "phast." I've been watching them. Powerful, powerful shit. I don't know how to explain my particular brand of pain, trying to have a conversation with something that cannot answer back. But I guess if I stop waiting for a specific answer, I'll hear that the answer is right there -- in the music.

It's like Mike said in the hysterical "Get Bassed" "commercial" for his recent solo tour, "...because what you don't hear is important too, y'know." And it's like the Stones said, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need."

In summing up, the moral seems a little bit obscure... Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be groupies -- d'oh! -- I mean, "rock journalists"...? Institute a parenting license for people with emotional problems so they don't pass them onto their children, causing them thousands of wasted dollars on drug addiction and other escapist tactics, not to mention hours on analysts' couches...? Always use the waterproof sun block, even if you're only going swimming at the Phish concert, or rather, don't go see Phish in the desert if you're allergic to the sun...? It beats the crap outta me, what lessons I'm supposed to be learning in all this.

My 20-page micro-memoir will get to dangle a bit, now that I've powered out this on-the-spot missive, since I had to say something. I especially had to close this thing out, before going back to battle with a full-time job I have lost interest in and cannot pay attention to, a computer technology career I'm extremely good at but can no longer stand, now that I'm doing the thing I've always wanted to do, that I thought I'd never do again.

I've got some iPhone videos, bad pictures, a dusty wristband and "Festival Volunteer" t-shirt, sunburn lines on my chest and back, and peeling skin, as souvenirs from Festival 8. I got something I didn't really need more of -- proof of my near-foolhardy dedication to Phish, and my wholesale willingness to participate in The Grand Experiment, in spite of myself, and all the more important things I think I should be achieving in my life (which seem as stubbornly far away as Phish do to me, sometimes).

I've also got options. Before starting my "straight job," I drove a livery cab for a little while in NYC, to make ends meet. I've decided I'm going to go the full route and get my NYC yellow cab license, which requires a lot more studying and time, but can afford one a lot more flexibility (to write, to tour, whenever, whatever), no bosses, and a lot more money to be made. And I can take a step back if I need to.

Something that freaked me out when I started this blog was it's shadow domain, http://wadinginthevelvetsea.blogspot.com (that's with a "Sea" not a "C." as in "me") -- an abandoned blog by a 22 year-old woman, who talks about being scandalized in her relationships and institutionalized. I really feel for her -- she should be 29 now, and hope she's okay, wherever she is. Struggle as I might with it, I started this blog so I can talk about the unique experience of someone like me (a single woman that loves music and especially this unique band called Phish, an oddball among oddballs), I can relate to her -- feeling out of control and on-the-edge, wanting to be rescued and saved. But I have choices today; I don't have to take hostages, run away or escape. There's help to be had, and if I can see my way straight for one day, I can go towards the hope.

Phish Fall Tour starts Wednesday, the day before my 35th birthday. Of course, I've been on the fence all this time, having being denied on ALL my Fall Tour ticket lottery requests. Of course, at the 11th Hour, I'm still actually considering spending $450 to fly to Detroit to spend approximately 8 of my milestone birthday's early morning hours in the presence of these perennial puzzlers, who it seems I might be better off just leaving alone for a while. The good news is: though I could probably spend it on something else, I could afford it. I have a party of 20 pals booked at a nice, affordable Korean place Thursday night, so not going to Detroit means I'll probably get there on time. Maybe I'll buy a round of sashimi.

I've asked so many times before and I'm asking it again: was it for this my life I sought? Yeah. Maybe so, maybe not. And that's cool. Tomorrow is another day.