Getting thrown a Curveball – When a Phish Festival Cancels While You Are Already There

Before we even got to New York there were signs that things were not right- texts from the airline saying our flight had been delayed and we wouldn’t make our connecting flight. Getting on standby for a different flight only to be told “never mind! Your original plane is on time now!” Having the computers go down at the rental car place and hearing the young worker say “I quit”. Snagging my Phish necklace and breaking the chain off my neck. Mercury being in retrograde…

Once inside the Curveball campgrounds things started looking up. Easy security, great campsite that was almost under these two trees (if we had been just one car later in line!) and hot sunny weather that laughed in the face of that week’s torrential downpours and flooding.  After putting the tents up we grabbed our schmancy new Phish Nalgene bottles from Glen Close concierge and excitedly went off looking for water to fill them with as we walked on to soundcheck.

This is where things got fishy. They had some blue spigots you could get water from but we continued on to the gates expecting to get some from the filling stations inside. 3:00pm gates closed and gate staff boredly says “come back in an hour”. 4:00pm gates closed but now we are told “The Bunny will tell you”. There were ominous words in retrospect. Walking back one of the big speakers was being lowered down from the stage, and suddenly it made sense as to why they hadn’t started soundcheck yet- there’s a sound issue!

Back to the campsites to settle in and listen to The Bunny for instructions, I decided it was a good time to jump in that nice ice cold shower. It wasn’t. Just as I am finishing my shower I hear the first scream; didn’t even bat an eye until the second guy screamed. As I rushed into my clothes and out of the shower a woman that worked there gave me a sweet smile and taped a sign up “DO NOT DRINK. NO POTABLE WATER”.

Outside the campground was still. People just standing there in shock, hand over mouth, faces concerned. Did a band member die?? Back at my tent I grabbed my phone and saw a ton of texts, the first from my husband asking me “Why does Phish.com say Curveball is canceled?” Now I’m standing in shock, hand over mouth, eyes welling up and then I heard The Bunny.

“We are so terribly sorry…” rang out as people gathered to radios like moths to a flame. Instantly shock and yet acceptance hit. We all had been watching the local weather all week, and the video of the overflowing waterfall was really concerning. We expected potentially rough times. We expected mud. Never cancellation, yet here we were watching the stage and Ferris wheel coming down.

Fortunately the campground made proverbial lemonade, commiserating, contemplating, what nexting and dancing in a ditch in the shadow of a bunch of horse cops. No we didn’t get to hear primordial ooze come out of that big silver ball or see if they were going to play Talking Heads’ “The Great Curve”, but the people there received a valuable life lesson refresher that being together  with respect and kindness is a majority of that collective love high you get from a Phish show. :::enter obligatory “So keep what’s important and know who’s your friend” lyric:::

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The River Arkansas at Red Rocks

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This past Memorial Day weekend was very heartfelt for me; not only did I get to shoot a show at Red Rocks for the first time, but it was for my old buddy from high school in Texas Macon Terry and his band The River Arkansas. With beautiful vocal harmonies, pure soul searching lyrics, and thumping stand up bass lines, The River Arkansas had the crowd on their feet cheering and hugging and other general merriments. Since they were opening for the movie The Big Lebowski, it was funny to see so many people in bathrobes getting down. Spa Night at Red Rocks.

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Yes, some people do listen to less famous bands at SXSW. Here were my favorites

6th Street around 9pm. Madness already, I think this was Thursday night.

6th Street around 9pm. Madness already, I think this was Thursday night.

As every media outlet has been writing for years, SXSW is a big bloated corporate monster that had some standard organizational problems this year, but it didn’t stop me from seeing 50 bands, there are problems every year. Years of attending and deep, former drunk knowledge of 6th Street from my college days helped me out immensely (miss you, nasty ole’ Treasure Island), as I bobbed and weaved through crowds and skipped the big elaborate shows to see bands I’d never seen before. I flew in Monday night to catch the tail end of Interactive, but mostly because I love watching the change in people as you move from Tuesday into Wednesday; blazers, jeans and Google Glass quickly turn into black skinny jeans, black t-shirts, and black hotpants. The streets were packed, but once you got inside most venues it was really roomy thanks to fire marshal capacity levels, and the bands were always happy to chat. Out of all those bands, these were the ones that stood out the most to me, and I can’t wait to watch their future career trajectories.

Mozes and the Firstborn

Mozes and the Firstborn


Mozes and the Firstborn: My favorite parties of the festival were definitely the Netherlands showcases at Bar96. Polite people, loud authentic garage rock and a food trailer inside made me keep coming back to them. I’ve been listening to Mozes and the Firstborn’s latest album a lot lately and expected them to be good- they ended up blowing me away. Walking a fine line between control and chaos, this Dutch garage band had top notch showmanship, a big crunchy sound with catchy hooks, and most of all skills. I do my best to dance and make other people know it’s ok to move, sometimes it works out to awesome photos like the one above of him pointing at me. They were one of the first bands I saw, and made a lot of the garage rock bands I saw after them seem like a bunch of fakers.

Skaters

Skaters


SKATERS: As you can see, photos of shows at night turn out pretty bland and boring with the same official SXSW banner behind them, so I mainly just shot photos during day shows. When I walked into the SKATERS show and saw some mega-hot rocker babes, I knew they were going to be good, and probably good looking. Right on both counts, this New York punk group had some of the catchiest melodies like an East Coast Rancid, and their cool, confident energy was so addictive that a rowdy mosh pit was going through most of the set, much to the chagrin of the young ladies that pushed their way to the front row then quickly were spit out to the sides.

Temples at Radio Day Stage

Temples at Radio Day Stage


Temples: Temples were one of the bands I was most excited to see, and they didn’t disappoint. Calm and confident on stage, their sound is gorgeous and full live, and people were singing along to every word. In a week filled with throwback 60’s psych acts, they were the most polished and the sweetest. Very composed.

Anna Fox Rochinski from Quilt

Anna Fox Rochinski from Quilt


Quilt: Gorgeous psych-pop out of New England, I walked myself out to East Austin to attend the Austin Psych Fest showcase to see them since they aren’t hitting up Denver this tour. They really got much wilder live than I expected, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off the calmly beautiful Anna Fox Rochinski (loving the black/navy/brown combo). Unfortunately, their tour van was just totaled, so if anyone has an extra dollar to help a band finish their tour, it’s more than appreciated by the band and the fans:

http://quiltmusic.org/quiltmusic/HOME.html

Birth of Joy

Birth of Joy


Birth of Joy: Amsterdam’s Birth of Joy played a blistering set that caused me to text a friend I just saw “come back here now!!” When I wrote about their newest single I thought it sounded Doors-esque. Seeing them live did nothing to change that opinion, and that’s a great thing. Entertaining as hell, rowdy, psychedelic fun in nothing but music set without a moment to breathe. Less pomp than the Doors, more down to earth, straight up melt your face rock.

Wake Up and Live with The Quick and Easy Boys- Photos and Review

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Last night local Bob Marley tribute band Wake Up and Live celebrated Marley’s birthday with a packed house at Cervantes’ Other Side. Thank goodness they took that elevated platform out by the bar, for once no one tripped there! With the new layout and coffee being served, the Other Side is fast becoming a favorite of mine. Portland’s The Quick and Easy Boys from my Jam Bands to Watch list opened, and completely blew me away. I highly suggest checking them out live. Rastasaurus were also on the bill, acting ever more like the polished touring band they are shaping up to be. Read my review at the Westword here:

http://blogs.westword.com/backbeat/2014/02/review_wake_up_and_live_cervantes_otherside_denver_february-6-2014.php

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I also got a chance to take my first promo shots, musicians are slightly harder than babies:

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Muse and Cage the Elephant at Pepsi Center

Last night Muse stormed the house at Pepsi Center with a huge set production and far more sound and noise than I expected. These guys know how to be rock stars really well. The crowd was a total mix, and everyone was wearing brand new Muse t-shirts straight from merch. The band was giving all merch proceeds for the night over to Colorado flood relief, so by the looks of things they will be making a large donation. Above the stage were three men in lighting rig seats, hanging from the sky, and LED screens were all over the place. As the music began, a large pyramid of LED screens came down from the sky.

Muse photo by leslie loudspeaker

These guys are LOUD. I went in thinking they were a bombastic, less aggravating Radiohead type with more theatrics, but they are far more than that. Frontman Matt Bellamy is an obvious audiophile, constantly going back to his shiny metallic rotating amp and checking the sound. Live that theatrical sound is really huge and epic, and with the lights, political themes, and the crowd in unison punching their fists in their air, I almost caught a Pink Floyd vibe from the whole thing. The band and audience were on from the first note, and when they dropped into “Madness” you could feel the excitement bump up a notch. You could also see the lights bump up a notch, as suddenly tons of lasers were added to the already wild mix.

muse2 photo by leslie loudspeaker

They played hit after hit, and the audience really had some precision handclapping down. Ending with a three song encore and pyrotechnic flumes that definitely gave me a Pink Floyd vibe now, these guys ended at 9:58 with a slightly stunned and very happy crowd standing open mouthed. Gotta give it to Bellamy, he really knows how to be a rock star without you wanting to smack his face. He changes guitars as fast as I’ve ever seen, and looked especially cool with one slung across his back as he played his see-through light-up baby grand piano. Some people have the life.

Cage the Elephant

Cage the Elephant

Opener Cage the Elephant played extremely well to a half empty giant stadium. The last time I saw them was opening for Stone Temple Pilots at Red Rocks, and it was empty there as well. They kill it with what they have though, and you can’t keep your eyes off lead singer Matt Schultz. At times invoking Mick Jagger and somehow making it totally work, he slinks and spasms all over the stage, eventually coming down into the crowd, managing to stand up on their hands, and then do a headstand. I’ve never seen crowd-surfing like it. The crowd got amped when they played their hit “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked” and held the energy through to Muse, and their new material sounded great. All in all, a pretty bumping Tuesday.

Final Review for the Westword of Phish at Dick’s is live

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And that’s a wrap, folks! My review of the final night of Phish at Dick’s is now live, and I never thought my first big published piece would be reviewing Dick’s for the freaking amazingly awesome Westword! What a blast. Section 119 you rule:

my review of Phish Night Three for the Westword