Sunday, September 9, 2012

They Grow Up Part 2: Knoxville 2009

This family has always loved listening to music. The kids went to concerts with us when they were pretty young. Amy saw America ("Horse with no Name") when she was probably 7. We took her and Jenn to The Oak Ridge Boys, Randy Newman, and James Taylor. As grown-ups, I have taken Amy to see John Prine, Arlo Guthrie, and Judy Collins, among others and Amy took me to see Steve Earle and Amos Lee. And, lest I forget, together the bunch of us, in different combinations, have seen Mandy Patinkin four or five times. Quite a range, don't you think? Then came Knoxville 2009.
Jenn, our youngest, started listening to the band Phish when she was mid-teens, around 1991 let's might have been earlier. (Chime in anytime Jenn.) I, of course, was unfamiliar with said Phish. "They're a Jam Band, you know, kind of like The Grateful Dead." Ok that helps a little, right? Jenn went to a few shows in the 90's.

Let's skip ahead to 1999 and know, The Millineum. Jenn was 22 and recently graduated  from college. We were Proud Parents. Phish was doing a three-day festival in the middle of the Everglades at Big Cypress Indian Reservation.  She and a bunch of her friends had tickets. Could we watch the dog? Sure.  Why not?

So off they go, the day before the festival starts. And the local news leads with, "Alligator Alley has traffic backed up for miles due to thousands of people crowding into Phish Festival in Everglades... 2 reported injured in multiple accidents," and "Highway gridlock halts Phish concert traffic; pedestrian killed."  Well shit! Maybe we'll just spend the Millineum worrying now. This is how it looked on the news.

It was still all over the 11 o clock news, they talked about how they had never seen that kind of traffic ever. Next day she called. Alive and well. Everything was great. In fact the whole experience was great, for her and all of those who were there with her.

Again we skip ahead. This time to August 2004. Guess that would make her 27 then.... Phish is retiring. One last festival in......Coventry Vermont. 3 days.  We are in Florida.  FUCKING  COVENTRY, VERMONT...ARE YOU KIDDING ME??  "And a bunch of us have tickets. Can you and Mom watch the dog?"
"How in the hell are you going to........?
"Well a and b are flying in first, then c,d,e,f,g, and h are flying in and renting another car and......and...and.....Andy and I are going to drive up. We can do it 2 days each way and we both got off work and it's the last one ever and...."
Get the picture? SHE IS PUMPED! Well why not? You're only young once, right?

Now she has had her new car for car maybe 3 month, so no real worry there, we hope.. Good. Kept us posted all the way up, all going well, everyone there and all together...en route to venue...on the expressway headed in...all well. Good.

    Skip ahead 24 hrs. "WE HAVE NOT MOVED IN 24 HOURS!" said the voice on the phone. It had rained for a week and the campgrounds and parking areas were flooded. They were towing cars in with tractors. Now what?  "They're telling people to turn around. Not sure what we're gonna do."

    24 hours later.  "We're fine. Still haven't moved. We going to start walking now. It starts in 5 hours." 
" And your new car???"  "We're gonna leave it here on the Interstate in the grass. They said we might get towed but Coventry only has 3 tow trucks, so I think we'll be ok. Don't worry!" 
"10-4, Sweetie.  No problemo."

Well of course Coventry was so much fun. And everyone who stayed (not all did, and that was a good choice, too, as it turned out) had a time to remember. And that was that for Phish, or so I thought. Not so fast, old chap.

Now let's move ahead one last time.  It's Summer 2009 and Phish is going back on tour. Playing Asheville, NC and Knoxville, TN and Bonnaroo, also in Tennessee all in the same week. Jenn has been living in Seattle for two or three years.   "And we have tickets and the boys want to go to Bonnaroo and I really don't.  And we might have an extra ticket for Knoxville. So what if after we go to Asheville we come back, and then you go with us to Phish in Knoxville, and then you and I can come back here, and that way I don't have to drive back here after midnight by myself? It'll be fun." At the time the wife and I were living about an hour from Asheville and three from Knoxville so, "Ok, I guess, it might be," ... and maybe I won't have to go after all.

They loved the Asheville show, small venue maybe 6,000 people. Then it was time for Knoxville. Thompson Boling Arena, home of Pat Summitt and the  Tennessee Lady many national championship banners in the rafters. Almost 30,000 capacity. Yep, I was going with Jenn. About half- way there she began to point out other cars going to the show. "Look there's another Phish sticker!" Well the parking lot was a real eye-opener. Oh,my! So many smiling Phish Phans. And there seems to be no one my age. Look harder. Not so much. Nope. No One. Shouldn't be surprised I guess. A girl had a little griddle and was selling grilled cheese sandwiches for $1.00.  I was told I really should try one. Yep. Had two. YUMMY ! Maybe it was the cheese, maybe it was the real butter, maybe it was the bread. I don't know. But those suckers were damn good!

After going through 2 security(?) checkpoints we found our seats and sat down.  "You might want these," Jenn said and handed me some earplugs. "Thanks, but I brought some cotton balls. And I don't think I'll need them anyway," I replied. All was well. Everyone was in their seats and you could feel the anticipation building.

Then the lights went out.

I couldn't get the damn cotton balls out of my pockets fast enough.  The pain in my ear was staggering.And not from the music. From my youngest screaming to my left. I hadn't heard her scream like that since she was 2. Then the music started. LOUD! Really loud! REALLY, REALLY LOUD!! The cotton had been a good idea. And the whole arena was up and boogieing (Is that a word?). ENERGY LIKE I HAD NOT FELT IN YEARS. MAYBE EVER!  Not mine so much but the whole damn crowd's. They never sat down again until setbreak, One and A Half Hours Later!  And then kept it up for the One and A Half Hour second set and encore. And never stopped dancing. It was awesome! And cell phone cameras were everywhere. People were recording it! Had never seen that before. And so many lighters. And....

Phish was amazing. The first thing I tried to tell Jenn was, " I get it now."  I'll never forget that smile on her face. And I got it. I was even able to take the cotton out for a while. Until the song stopped. And the screaming recurred.

If you don't know, Phish is four guys. Been playing together since college. 1985. Probably now in their forties. Keyboards, Bass Guitar, Lead guitar, and drums. Four incredible musicians. And energy. They grabbed that crowd and never let go. Here's a taste from other shows. They might suprise you.

or if bluegrass is more to your taste

                                                              or even the theme from 2001

It was a good night. Damn good. Got home at 3:45 AM. Awesome. Thanks, Jenn. I get it. And my ears rang for 2 whole days. Thanks for that, too!

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