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.]


Anonymous said...

I love reading your posts. You capture so much of he angst involved with Phish tour, something most people tend to ignore. I admire your struggle with sobriety, thank you for sharing that side of your journey. You are very brave, first for choosing to better yourself, and then for sharing that path with all of us. Again, I really enjoy your posts, so thank you. Keep it up, it seems to be working from my end. (Just bulk up on the sunscreen ;))

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