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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Village Voice published my Phish Hand Signals piece

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While I was away, the Village Voice published my Guide to Phish’s Hand Signals piece. It’s just a little entertainment piece, not meant to actually be considering some official guide. Most are from the Red Rocks show filled with one-offs because I didn’t want to give too many of their secrets away (plus, it’s hard to find video of the signals, most Youtubes start when the music starts). Obviously, they don’t use signals all the time, but it’s a fun treat to catch one. Read the humor piece at the Village Voice here:

http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2014/03/a_guide_to_phish_hand_signals.php

UPDATE: over 100,000 views on this article! Thanks to my wonderful, goofy readers!

My interview with Mike Gordon

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If someone had told me last summer when I was chasing Phish around the country that in six months I’d be interviewing Mike Gordon himself, I never would have believed them. Yet, there I was this past Monday morning singing a guitar part of “Yarmouth Road” to Cactus himself, and in return he sang me some Los Lonely Boys “Heaven”. Read my interview here, it was the fastest twenty minutes of my life:

http://blogs.westword.com/backbeat/2014/02/interview_phish_mike_gordon.php

His new album Overstep came out today, check it out, it’s a ton of fun and has really great production values. Listen to the new “Yarmouth Road” below:

Westword article I wrote about the stigma of jam bands

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After writing a band an apology for calling them a jam band in a recent article, (they said they didn’t care what I called them as long as people were listening phew!), I started to get annoyed that the term “jam band” had become such an offensive insult. I wrote an opinion piece for the Westword which quickly accumulated comments from jam band haters saying we stink, and because jam bands suck. There were also some fantastic, valid arguments, some prefer the song craftsmanship of singer/songwriters over extended jams, others don’t like the fusion of genres. But the majority had the knee jerk reaction I spoke of in the intro. Here’s a link to the Westword article, the comments are pretty funny:

http://blogs.westword.com/backbeat/2014/01/jam-band_stigma.php

If you go to the Westword’s main page, they put it front and center next to an article about where to buy weed in Denver: http://www.westword.com/

The Minneapolis City Pages music blog Gimme Noise liked it so much they published it as well. There too, jam bands are hated on:

http://blogs.citypages.com/gimmenoise/2014/01/why_do_jam_bands_have_such_a_stigma.php

The vitriol, it’s so amusing.

Couldn’t have asked for more at Phish NYE

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I was supposed to review String Cheese Incident in Denver for New Year’s Eve, but as is typical in the world of Phish, they started playing too well so we last second booked the last two seats flying out of Denver that morning. We stayed with wonderful friends in Williamsburg who had a view of the Empire Building from their fire escape, and even managed to get tickets for face value (one a shiny glittery lotto ticket!). It was fairly amusing that coming to NYE last second took way less planning and stress than if I had decided to go months ago, but isn’t that always the case? The city streets were absolutely electric with excitement, topped only by what Phish was about to pull off inside. My best moments of the NYE run article was published today at the Westword, read all my gushings here. It’s days later and I still spring little tears of joy and gratitude thinking about that Forbin’s.

Read here: http://blogs.westword.com/backbeat/2014/01/best_moments_phish_madison_square_garden_new_years_eve_2013.php

I could sit here for a lifetime:

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Atlantic City Boardwalk Photos and my Westword review of Fall Tour

photo by leslie loudspeaker

photo by leslie loudspeaker

I was supposed to write an article for the Westword about the ten best songs of Fall Tour, but they played so well I could have gone to twenty. Here is a link to the article, including photos I took wandering the Boardwalk early mornings while everyone else slept. I was really excited to go to Steel Pier, as that is where W.C. Fields got his start and I love all things circus and carnival and W. C. Fields. When I went it was completely isolated, and very cool for getting pictures. It was also a little dangerous with the rides all unlocked, and I quickly found out that was because it was NOT open and I was trespassing. I was told “if we don’t stop unlatching the gate, they are going to start ticketing!” Silly wooks.

Westword article: http://blogs.westword.com/backbeat/2013/11/the-twelve_best_moments_from_phish_fall_tour.php

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Cass McCombs double album brings a lot to the table, including Mike Gordon

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When you see over twenty tracks listed, you think either someone has a lot to say, or they need an editor. Cass McCombs is the former, his sound is so pleasing and easy going he could have recorded a box set and it would have all been listenable. With Mike Gordon of Phish playing bass here and there, the thumping backbone of the rhythm section lets his vocals echo and wisp above it all while remaining strong and direct. “Big Wheel” trucks along strong, a beat similar to “When the Levee Breaks” chugging on as Cass purrs seductively with the slightest sneer. The slide is used to maximum beautiful effect in “Angel Blood”, amazing AM pop hooks that remind me of early Beatles through it and the remainder of the album. Some tracks are more segments of songs, as McCombs seems to be sharing any idea he had at the time, fully formed or not. “Brighter!” appears twice, a melancholy song that sounds like it would have fit in on the Twin Peaks soundtrack, and then having cult actress Karen Black take over the vocals the second time around, giving the song and even eerier turn as her final performance before succumbing to cancer.

“There Can Be Only One” has a very Velvet Underground feel to it with the flat story telling vocal delivery, bouncy bass from Mike Gordon (Go Cactus!) and shimmying drums from Furthur’s Joe Russo sprinkling all over the album. “Name Written on Water” is as close to an homage to Bob Dylan as you can get, the repeating Watchtower sounding rhythm growing stronger and stronger as his snarky delivery questions life. The production on this album is great, warm with a vintage feel that just sounds so damn pleasant. This is one of the better and more prolific songwriters out there right now, and with his galley of talented collaborative friends, there’s no telling the body of work he will create in his lifetime.

“There Can Be Only One” with Mike Gordon: