One of the best things about Phish tour are the inevitable fiascoes that go down on your mission to get from show to show. The combination of psychedelics, many miles on the road, little sleep, and a constant whirlwind of cities consistently results in absurd tales that survive the test of time. Whether you’ve escaped a police search with goodies stashed, gotten horribly lost leaving a show while barely thinking about where you were driving, been evacuated from a hotel for a fire alarm, or stumbled upon exactly what you were looking for when it was the furthest thing from possible, everyone has had their own tour adventures and obstacles. This was one of those hurdles.
We were all set for the Jones Beach run. One of my friends had hooked up his uncle’s beach house in Atlantic Beach- 20 minutes from the venue- for the entire week. We didn’t need to worry about city traffic or blocking out a quarter of our day in order to get to the show; we could relax and go about our business. But after a scathing late-night verbal assault that came through the bushes separating the neighbor’s property, my friend wanted to flee the scene. Without any real explanation, we needed to leave, and before we knew it we found ourselves back in New York City. Fortunately we had a place to stay, but we had to brave outbound traffic for the next two shows- ugh. For those unfamiliar with the math here, Jones Beach is a 35 mile drive from the city, but can easily take upwards of two or three hours if you leave at the wrong time. Luckily, my friend and ultimate navigator, Greg, refuses to wait in traffic- but that is a whole ‘nother story.
As we got to the city on the afternoon of June 3rd- a day off- we unloaded the car and Greg went to park it in a garage. Little did I know that he found a street spot- which doesn’t always turn out so well in New York City. That night we went out to Mike Gordon’s birthday bash downtown, and upon getting home, Greg went out to smoke a cigarette. Showing up at least an hour later, he said he got a phone call and had taken a walk. Fair enough. After I went to sleep, Greg, unbeknownst to me, snuck out for another “cigarette” which I’m sure he smoked many of, as he walked miles of city blocks looking for our missing mini-van we had rented only days before. Little did I know, sleeping soundly in bed, Greg searched for quite a while before giving up and calling it a night.
When I woke up, Greg had already been out in the concrete jungle, pounding the pavement to no avail. He explained to me, visibly stressed, that the car was missing! He had looked for hours, and had called the impound- it hadn’t been towed. Hmmm. What the fuck was he talking about? He had parked in a garage across the street, or so I thought. I was sure, given the circumstances, he had drank too much tequila the night before and the car was right where he left it. No dice. It was starting to get on in the day; we didn’t exactly get up early. To make matters more complex, we didn’t have the identifying rental key chain, since we had cut the wire in order to all have keys to the car. Ok, this is impossible I thought. I was calling Thrifty back.
We quickly uncovered the missing link to the mystery. Early that morning, the agent had misspoke our plate number to Greg, going as far as to say “E as in Edward,” mistaking an “C” for an “E.” He never had the right license plate to begin with when he had called the city’s tow yard. Immediately redialing the impound, we found out that our car was towed, and was now located at a lot along the West Side Highway- the opposite of where we needed to go- and it was about 4 pm. We thought about hopping a train, but that would have sucked after the show, so we decided to just go for it. Taking a cab to the docks along the water, we hopped out and ran inside, only to find a room full of people sitting patiently, waiting in front of us. The reality of city bureaucracy slapped us in the face, as we imagined being there forever. Had we fucked up and made the wrong decision? I sure thought so.
As we went to the window to give them our information, our paper work was put in line with everyone else’s- a bad omen. As we were leaving the window to await our fate, Greg- one of the smoothest talkers around- began to speak. Stressed about getting to the show on time, he channelled his stress into an absurd story. He politely, but urgently, asked the woman behind the counter- that archetypal city employee moving slower than molasses- how long it would be before we got our car. He needed to know because his wife had just gone into labor in Albany, and if we weren’t going to get our car in time, we needed to leave and rent one immediately! I turned with a look that must have come close to blowing his cover, as he has no wife, but I chilled and went with it. After some back and forth, the woman asked what he was possibly doing three hours from his wife at this point, and without thinking, he responded, “She’s two weeks early! This wasn’t supposed to happen.” Balancing his politeness with a desperate tone, the woman was clearly buying Greg’s tale. She told us she’d do what she could, and to have a seat.
We went to the back of the small room, sitting and laughing covertly at his improvised yarn. Watching the clock, minutes moved slowly as we kept our hopes alive that things would be fine. About ten minutes later, ahead of many people who had been there when we arrived, my name was called. A different woman, with a smile, asked us who the daddy was as she processed our paperwork. We dove, head first, into a conversation about her son, my son, and Greg’s son-to-be, and the urgency of the situation at hand. She wished us good luck as she gave us our receipt and claim check, and within ten more minutes we were on our way. We couldn’t have been there more than a half an hour. We forced ourselves to keep a straight face on our way out, but, nonetheless, out we went!
Greg’s super-human driving and navigation skills, with the help of “Garmini” (our affectionately named Garmin GPS), made our way through the madness of Queens and onto Long Island back roads, never stopping for a lick of traffic the entire time. Keeping in touch with our friends on lot- and stuck on the expressway- most sat in hours of highway gridlock. We realized that we were we were going to make the show, but as we continued, Garmini’s ETA continued to decrease. By the time all was said and done, we pulled into the lot from the opposite side of traffic, arriving a solid hour before showtime. What started out as a nightmare, turned into a hilarious adventure- par for the course when navigating the madness of Phish tour; things usually work out. As we locked the doors, Greg turned to me and confidently said- just as Hannibal proclaimed on Tuesday nights of our youth- “I love it when a plan comes together.”
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
5.31.09 Fenway Park, Boston, MA < MEGAUPLOAD
5.31.09 Fenway Park, Boston, MA < TORRENT
Play Ball! Phish’s summer tour opener was a spectacle as the band stepped onstage in a stadium for the first time in their career. Stepping to the plate, Phish rapped a solid one, featuring three debuts and a some classic jam vehicles. “Tweezer > Light” was the improvisational highlight, while the band surprised everyone with Skynyrd’s “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” for the first time since August ’93. A unique night that will always be remembered in Phish history.
I: Star Spangled Banner^, Sample in a Jar, Moma Dance, Chalk Dust Torture, Ocelot*, Stash, Bouncing Around the Room, Poor Heart, Limb by Limb, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Down with Disease, Destiny Unbound, Character Zero
II: Tweezer > Light*, Bathtub Gin, David Bowie, Time Turns Elastic*, Free, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, You Enjoy Myself
E: Cavern, Good Times Bad Times, Tweezer Reprise
^ from the pitcher’s mound * debut
Source: Schoeps mk41 > kc5 > cmc6 > Sonosax SX-M2 > Sound Devices 722 (@ 24 bit / 48 kHz) – Taper: Dave Flaschner