Aside from amazing music, great times, and great friends, Phish provided us with something even greater- an alternate reality. A realm where the most pressing issues were tickets, dance space, and finding your way from venue to venue on the maze of interstate highways, Phish tour provided a break from every day monotony, real-life problems, and cumbersome responsibilities. Yet, the funny thing was, time spent on tour was as real, if not more real than many days spent at the office, at school, or at work. It was here that you were living.
“Waiting for the time when I can finally say
That this has all been wonderful but now I’m on my way.”
In an alternate take on this lyric, a friend once explained to me that this line represented leaving all that crap behind, and heading out to Phish tour. Instead of bittersweet feelings, this song should evoke feelings of excitement and celebration, in line with its musical direction. I always found that interpretation to be thought provoking and pretty spot-on for my own life. On tour, whether for a weekend or a month, you were genuinely following your heart; your deep desire for human transcendence through music- a portal for your soul to reach the divine. Wasn’t that more real that than what you did at work every day? You never listened to tapes of meetings, recalling the feelings they evoked in you- that might be masochistic. You get my point, you were following your passion.
“We gotta get on the road, destiny unbound.”
There was nothing like a long road trip to Phish with some friends and some weed to leave your problems in your dust for a while. Watching the fields of Iowa, or the desert of Utah, the farms of western Pennsylvania, or the coast of California fly by your car window- your consciousness slipped into your subconsciousness while the Bowie > Cities > Bowie provided the soundtrack for your journey. Your thoughts drifted into a state of nothingness as your imagination took over. The open road was inspiration, eternal possibility; perfect interludes between cosmic evenings of music and inward exploration.
“The passion that sparked me one terrible night
And shocked and persuaded my soul to ignite”
And each night, nothing mattered except every note coming from the stage. Life-sized Phish grooves as imposing and alive as any thing in the “real world” dominated your evenings and mind. Tomorrow didn’t matter as you danced like you had never thought you could; realizing this was it; this was you. Discussing setlists you had just lived through, and basking in the post-show glow, this is what spoke to your soul. Some people from back in that other life just didn’t understand, but now it didn’t matter. All that mattered was finding your friends and your spot for the show, and raging it for all you were worth. Embracing the privilege of being in front of the Phish, nothing else mattered when Trey dropped the the opening lick of Mike’s, or into when the band exploded into a Tube jam. Those “time and space”-less moments were the fabric of our dreams.
“The winds will lift you into the sky above
Where you will see a trail of treasure, memories you love
A rainbow record of the thoughts, the moments you’ve enjoyed
Arcs behind the earth as spectral colors in the void”
Some of our most treasured memories still come from the adventures of Phish. Whether in the venue, on the road, at a hotel or campground; these were our “trail(s) of treasure.” High times, cruising the country, living the dream with an unparalleled soundtrack. We have file cabinets worth of colorful memories at this point, and we are about to write some more. But, when it is over, what will remain are the eternal feelings, memories, and music. So even when life gets crazy, we have the respite of our minds to return to these times, and derive the power to persevere, the power of the void.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY: 8.6.97 Riverport Amp., Maryland Hgts, MO
Surrounded by The Gorge, Alpine, and Deer Creek, this Summer ’97 gem often flies under the radar. With a killer first set sunset combo of Twist > 2001 > AC/DC Bag, followed by Yamar, YEM, the was place buzzing by half time. Another 20 plus minute Ghost exploration highlighted the beginning of the second set, while one of the best Antelopes from the summer took it home, this show full of amazing improvisation from start to finish. With a tight Stash tucked in this one as well, it’s the best show from Summer ’97 that you haven’t heard.
I: NICU, Stash, Beauty of My Dreams, Twist > 2001 > AC/DC Bag, Yamar, You Enjoy Myself
II: Runaway Jim > My Soul, Ghost, Prince Caspian, Cars Trucks Buses, Sample in a Jar, Run Like an Antelope> Makisupa Policeman* > Run Like an Antelope
*Instrumental, with Page on Theremin and Mike on mini-drum kit.