Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Feeling I Forgot

Our mini road trip from Raleigh to Charlotte was an incredible reminder as to why I love this band so much. Myself, my wife, and the friend who introduced us in 1996 at a Charlotte show set off again to recapture that feeling. Things just got better for the 3 of us from that point on. After setting up our accommodations through another friend in Chapel Hill, we set out to the night before, so we would wake up there. We knew we were only getting 2 shows in the run, so we wanted to make them count. I had no idea how much they would count.

After a relaxing morning with Bloody Marys and coffee, we packed our things, and headed to the lot. The last time I was in Raleigh was the '03 run, and things could not have changed more. Arriving and setting up back in the G2 section, it seemed that all the rules about vending had gone out the window. There were lots of Live Nation yellow shirts, but we saw little hassles among the willies and their wares. Not to mention that the weather was the best of any summer show I have attended. At it's hottest, it may have been in the 80's with a nice breeze. There were two bands playing in the lot, including one "Galaxy Jam", who played a late night set after the show.

Vending has become one of my favorite activities, because I get to meet so many great people from all over the country...and sometimes all over the world. It was sometimes difficult to remember who was who, and from which message board or social network I have met them. There was a large contingency of folks from Reality Tour, many people who said they had seen my shirts on Phantasy Tour, and the many people I have talked to on Twitter. I don't want to mention everyone, because I know I will forget someone. It was truly great to meet you all.

If I had any expectations prior to the Raleigh show, they were completely blown away. There are always songs you want to hear, sure, but there are some in the back of your mind you think you will never hear. Getting a Time Loves a Hero and a Have Mercy made it truly special. And the last time they had played Traffic's Light Up or Leave Me Alone, I was also with my wife after a harrowing trip down to southern Florida. I knew the energy of the tour was on an upward climb. After Merriweather I figured that we'd get something special on this run, but none of us had any idea what was coming the next night.

After a post show night that seemed to go on incredibly long, we rested, made our recovery, and packed the car for the ride to Charlotte. This was probably the worst traffic of the tour for us. We hit a stand-still leaving Raleigh and also when arriving in Charlotte. Somehow we still managed to check into our hotel and hit the lot by 5pm. There were no bands playing where we were, but vending, food, and music cranked up immediately as soon as everyone was out of their cars. Both Raleigh and Charlotte lots were much more relaxed than I remember them being in '03. We traded notes and stories with the folks around us and met up with our local friends we had somehow missed the night before. It was good to see very little nitrous in both lots on this trip. It may have been there, but it was out of sight.

When I talk about the Charlotte show, I will probably refer to it as my favorite show. There are multiple reasons for this, so I can't really attribute it to any one thing. The people I was with, the new memories we were creating, The Buried Alive I had waited 16 years for, the 20 Years Later I was hoping for since last year, the longest notable gap of a song in Phish's history (FYF), and the perfect song placement are among the reasons I will remember. However, I think it was something more than this. I might never be able to put my finger on it, but I also will probably never try. It was magic.

The only negative experience of the 2 night run was the venue staff in Charlotte ineffectively trying to get everyone out as soon as possible. The large groups of yellow shirts stuck together and ignored people waiting for their friends. People who stood quietly with no music playing from their cars and no beers or other beverages in their hands were met with snarky, sarcastic, and ill tempered comments like "You better get in your cars right now!", "I don't really care...cause I wanna go home!", etc. It was actually refreshing to hear one employee question the madness, by staring at the line of unmoving cars and wonder "We're asking them to leave, but where are they going to go?" For as many staff as they had standing around telling people to leave, they could have at least helped by directing traffic. Again, I think this was a fairly minor setback to an otherwise great couple of days.

However, as I type this, I sip on another delicious Bloody Mary and make my plans for the Deer Creek run. I am thankful for my experiences, and am hopeful and inspired.

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