(Long Phish Post Ahead.... Warning!)
This is a picture of me on Saturday night. As you can tell... I am about as happy as one person might be. As I sit at work this morning and reflect back to what actually happened on Saturday night, this exactly look is coming back across my face.
You see people, I am pretty much an easy simple kid. I try and do good work, I try and keep good people around me, I try to be kind to my family and most of all I try my best to take advantage of my life as it comes because I know I won't be here forever. Sometimes I spread myself thin and put other peoples needs before me. This happens at work and with family and friends, and to be honest. I'm okay with that. I'm okay with being the helper at work, the good/responsible kid, and the person that many people can rely on. Its tiring yes... but every now and again I get mine and boy is it worth it.
Saturday I got mine. And I got it good!
I decided when Phish tour was announced that I would only be hitting up three shows this summer. The local shows down in Portsmouth and then one out near Pittsburgh at a venue that I had never been to before. Why this random show? A few reasons but the main reason was, it was a Saturday night, it as a rare venue and I had a gut feeling that something special was going to happen there.
The crew was set. The cars were packed. And we were on our way... I was joined on this trip by some of my favorite people. But most importantly was Beth and Michelle. Two of my best friends in the entire world. Beth and I have seen over 90% of our Phish shows together and about 3-4 years ago we started on a journey to see the band play one of our favorite tunes... "The Lizards". To non-phish fans out there I will not go all crazy explaining this song, or why they never play it, or why we would make signs, pray for it, and scream for it all day long. It was our "White Whale" or our "Holy Grail". It was a thing that had turned into almost a comedy routine for us.... before every show. "You think they will play Lizards?" We always laughed.
Show after show after show.... I still didn't get the Lizards that I was waiting my entire Phish career to see. On the New Years run in NYC we were in the 8th row. We made a sign. Trey even looked at me holding it (I swear he did...) And still no Lizards.
(Look how much glitter Beth put on this sign!)
The funny thing was... we never ended our pilgrimage. In fact we just added more people to our journey. There is Jason and Bianca the friends we met years ago in NYC. They too were looking for their first Lizards and we joined forces. We only get to about 1 or 2 shows together a year, but when we do. All we talk about is "well... maybe tonight would be it".
Getting back to the story at hand. Jason and Bianca were not supposed to be there this weekend. Yet after seeing the set lists that were thrown down in Portsmouth earlier in the week, they knew that something special was going to happen this weekend. I got a text thursday night saying that they got tickets and will be there! Great news.
On to the show on Saturday.
Our crew got there easily. We got to the hotel, hung out with more friends who had traveled from around this great country to be there. We loaded the cooler full of beers and headed to the huge beautiful lot at the venue. After a few hours of beers, hula hooping, hanging out, listening to the tigers-pirates game, making bets about what songs they would play. It was finally time to go in. At this point I usually go grab myself a venue poster, but this one was a little to weird for my liking. So I went back to the beer line.
Finally I saw Jason and Bianca. After a quick hello and some pictures they told me an emotional story that will stick with me forever. Their seats were right behind the handicap section. They had gotten there early and saw a girl in a hospital bed surrounded by paramedics and friends. She had a smile on her face because at that time Trey (lead singer) was out there talking to her for at least 30 minutes. After Trey left they heard from one of her friends that she was very very sick and really they didn't know how much longer she would actually make it. Her final request was to come to this show, surrounded by her friends and her favorite band. This was her family and where she wanted to be. Wow. Just wow.
Its moments like these that I realize the type of family that I am a part of. I felt honored to be there. Honored that that would be her last wish. Extremely humbled. I left Jason and Bianca at their seats with a one last "man I hope we hear our song tonight..." We laughed. And moved on. Time to find my dance spot.
I found the rest of my friends located about half way back dead center in the pavilion seats. Somehow they secured a full row of seats and we had plenty of room for all of us to get down. As I look around at Beth and Michelle and all of my friends who had traveled so far to get here. As I remember the girl a section in front of me. As I reminisced about how great I have it at the moment. A feeling of complete joy came over me.
Then the show started. As they ripped through song after stellar song. The show was just flowing better than any show I have been to in recent memory. The set list was sharp. The lights were in tune. The weather was beautiful. And here I was dancing up a storm, six hours away from my normal life in Richmond, Virginia.
The first set was fantastic. But it didn't hold a candle to the second set. That second set was on FIRE. The grooves, the jams, the unexpected setlist. Everything was just coming up as gold and we were all there loving it! At one point Michelle came in the middle of Beth and I put her arms around us and hugged us. It was a beautiful moment with some beautiful friends. I will never forget it. We are all so stupidly happy when we are seeing this band I hope that it is a feeling that I never ever have to go without.
We got through the end of the show with no lizards but it was okay. It was the furthest from our mind. When they play shows like that, your mind goes into a special place where you hold no expectations. You care not about what they will play next, or what you are hoping to hear. You are just in the moment enjoying it with a family of 20,000 people. The show came to a close and we were are still smiling. We danced. We laughed. We had a fantastic time.
As the band came back from their encore, I could already hear my voice starting to slip. I was hoping for maybe a "Good Times/Bad Times" or something else that would blow the roof off the place. I did not get it. But what I did get was far more exciting.
The opening licks of the guitar started and all of a sudden Beth and I found ourselves looking at each other in pure amazement. Could it be? Are they really playing this as an encore? After show after show after show.... are we finally getting our Lizards?
Yes. Yes we are. Beth ran down the line of seats to me and we hugged harder than I have hugged my friend in a long time. Both of us looked at each other and could not believe that we had finally captured that elusive "White Whale". As the band went into the song another feeling came over my body. A feeling of validation. A notion that I know many many people will never ever understand. All these years on tour, all these shows, all these songs, all the people I had met along the way the places I've seen, were all now validated with the playing of the song that got me hooked on Phish in the first place.
As the song played Beth Michelle and I swayed to the music. I screamed for Bianca and Jason knowing that they were losing their minds as well. As the final guitar solo sounded I found myself crying. I wasn't sad. I was too incredibly happy. All those long days at work. All those stressful things I've been going through over the last month or two. Everything just faded into the distance and all I could help thinking was. This is my life. How the hell did I get it so good? I have a great job. The best friends a girl could ask for. A supportive family. A amazingly wonderful understanding boyfriend. And a band that makes me so incredibly happy that it makes me cry. I feel like I have hit the jackpot on life.
Now I sit here at work on Monday. Reminiscing about it all.
The smile that hit my face Saturday night has yet to be removed.
Thank you to everyone in my life that helps me have moments like these. I can not tell you how much the experience I had on Saturday night meant to me. It is the reason why I pack my things up a few times a year and hit the road to see this band. There is that feeling that can not be captured, it can not be bottled up, it just needs to be experienced.
and like the song says... "The trick was to surrender to the flow..." And well I can finally say that I have.