Monday, March 2, 2009

Phish is playing their first shows in 4 1/2 years this weekend.

Oh Honey, all the time I've wasted on the internet looking for tickets to Phish's 3 sold-out "comeback" shows this coming weekend at the Hampton Coliseum in Virginia. The tickets sold out immediately and while I tried valiantly, I wasn't one of the lucky ones. After sellout super-inflated tickets showed up on the internet . $500 and more for tickets face-valued at under $50.
(fyi: found this picture on the internet. I don't actually have tickets)

No way in hell would I pay that much for a ticket, especially for a band whose repertoire is based around improv. With Phish, it's kind of a crap shoot whether the band will be "on" or not, and of course the setlists and jams change every night. You never know what you're gonna get and that's half the fun. But it's a risk. It's a gamble. $500 could get me a lot of flubbed guitar-playing and forgotten lyrics.
But I'm always willing to wager face-value on a show because even an "off" show is a lot of fun for my ears, eyes, and dancing feet. And a show filled inspired jams and good set-construction can be transcendent!

I was lucky enough to get tickets to all 8 shows I want to go to for the band's subsequently announced June tour. But I got it into my head that I NEEDED to be at the Hampton shows . The thought of being there on Friday (March 6th )amidst an ecstatic crowd of 18,000 when the lights go down for the first time in nearly 5 years filled me with joy and excitement.

And there's nothing wrong with hoping that somehow a friend or a friend of a friend would offer me extra tickets to the shows. And there's nothing wrong with checking fan (or "phan") message boards for people looking to unload tickets at face value. And of course there's nothing wrong with checking Ticketmaster for unannounced re-releases of Phish Hampton tickets (tickets do often get rereleased for "sold out shows" as the show date draws near) But there IS something wrong with spending hours and hours each day trawling through the messageboards, asking and re-asking friends if they knew anyone with extras. And it definitely was wrong to check the Ticketmaster page 20+ times each day.

I became obsessive. It was no longer, "oh it'd be nice to get into these shows." It became I MUST get into the shows. A lot of time I could've been writing, making music, or just breathing deep and enjoying life was spent huffing, puffing and scheming vainly. The quest for Phish tickets became an easy way to self-sabotage. The endless red-eyed interneting got me nowhere except my desk chair, wearing out the cuhion, an animal ensnared in a net.

I felt very lonely by myself in my room refreshing pages. I looked for companionship on Phish fan messageboards, a bad place to hang out if one is looking for a sense of connection or a self-esteem boost. Sure the boards have some "normal"-acting friendly people who converse civilly, smiling in type in the same respectful accepting way they would if they were talking with you face-to-face. But the internet also provides a good mask. Viscious 16 year olds who have never seen the band before and bought their upcoming concert tickets using Mom's credit card can pose as veteran know-it-alls. These greenhorns can freely without repercussions unleash all the bile the net can bestow upon another person. Yeah it's only the internet. Yeah it's at least a full step removed from "real" life, but an online put-down still hurts. And somehow I took to heart the taunting of these online personae when they wrote that if I were a REAL fan, I would've already found a way to procure tickets to the comeback shows by now. Maybe so, maybe not.

This ticket obsession and message board time- sap almost made me forget two things:

1) Phish has thousands of hours of wonderful freely traded concert recordings I can enjoy any time i want. For a while I'd neglect to listen to he very thing that set off an obsessive spiral--- Phish's great live music! When I finally took step back and really listened to the band a few nights ago, I couldn't help but smile. The recordings will always be there for me. And while plenty of folks out there don't "get" Phish, I do and I can't help but feel a little lifted when I hear them.

2) I AM seeing Phish 8 times this summer. That's a lot of potential for great improvisations, oddball cover tunes, fist-in-the-air sing-alongs, whirling dervish dancing, and general merriment and/or as music as a spiritual enlightenment that escapes words. I was lucky enough to be able to obtain tickets to all these quickly sold-out performances, and was able to afford the not-so-cheap tickets ($50 for each ticket) and all the associated travel costs, and I will be able to take the time off to travel as far out as Alpine Valley, Wisconson to see the band. All this is a lot more than can be said for other fans. I'm sure many other Phish lovers got shut out of tickets, couldn't afford tickets, or couldn't take the time off to travel to an out of town concert ( there are NO shows currently scheduled for the South West or West Coast)

I won't say it's wrong for me to still wish for a miracle to happen to get me down to Virginia and in the door for the shows on March 6th, 7th, and 8th but I now think it's pretty selfish to think that I somehow need to be at the shows or deserve to be at them because of my fairly hardcore fan status.

Patience, dear Sebastian! In three months you WILL be seeing a slew of Phish shows and through the magic of modern technology you'll probably be able to download recordings of the Hampton concerts less than 24 hours after they happen.

I'm getting excited!

And here's an example of the very thing that gets me excited. Here's a clip of Phish playing "Piper"- one of my favorite songs--live in Vegas on Feb 16 2003: