When asked on my college application about my ideal career, I’m not kidding when I say I wrote ‘Rock Star.’ Problem is, I don’t play any instruments very well and I can’t sing to save my life. Not good. Yet that hasn’t stopped me from at least living like a rock star — jet-setting from coast to coast on little to no sleep and befriending people all over the country.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t do this often. It’s just that I recently returned from a nice little vacation that included some historic musical experiences and I’m still riding high on the thrill of it all.
I started off strong with AC/DC at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The concert took place on Friday, Aug. 31, which if you think back was a day of thunderous storms. Armed with a poncho and waterproof hiking boots, however, I saw this as only adding to the excitement of what was quite possibly AC/DC’s final show.
I took the day off so we could get there nice and early, and after blasting tunes while drinking cheap beers and Jack Daniels in the pouring rain, we were ready to rock out to one of the most insanely energetic bands to ever command the stage.
Seriously, these guys give it all they’ve got every time. And the fans give it right back. That’s part of the magic of an AC/DC show — the raw energy that’s exchanged at every turn. For an awesome review of the show that I can’t even attempt to top, check out Errol’s Weekly Music Update. I definitely consider myself lucky to have been part of the experience that night. Thank you — as always — Brian, Angus, Malcolm, Cliff and Phil.
After a stop at Burger King on the way home (it was gluttonous and glorious), we didn’t end up getting home until around 3 a.m. And I had to be up at 4:30 a.m. to make it to the airport for a flight to Colorado. I don’t know how, but after a quick nap I was up and at ’em. After all, I was on my way to see Phish at Red Rocks with one of my best friends in the world. What could be better??
Drove down to LaGuardia Airport, no problem. Parked, no problem. Went to check in, problem. Big problem.
The gate was closed, and no one was saying why. I was told to move to the other side of the terminal, and so I did. When I got there, I was told to move to the other side of the terminal, and so I did. Repeat. Repeat again. It was like a pinball game, with all the travelers as balls. To tell you the truth, I was too tired to even care. I just wanted to sleep. I grabbed a turkey sandwich (even though it was only 6 a.m.) and became part of the herd.
Turns out there was a bomb scare and they closed the airport. Great. Wonderful. We all were shepherded like cattle outside, not really knowing what was going on. I actually ran into an old college friend, though, which was awesome, so I was cool. Here we are:
After sitting in the street for a while and catching up, we decided to go to my car, which was nearby, for a nap. Zzzzz. Ah, that was nice. Woke up like an hour later to a text message from my friend in San Fran (who I would be meeting in Colorado) saying the airport was open again. Sweet.
It was obviously a mess inside and lots of flights were being canceled, including several to Denver, which was where I was heading. My flight, thankfully, was still on. Originally scheduled for 7:30 a.m., we didn’t take off until close to 2 p.m., but at least I was airborne.
After landing in Denver, I met up with my friend Jamie (of previous LoHud blog fame) and we headed in our sporty rental car to the Holiday Inn. The original game plan had been to hit up Red Rocks Saturday night to try to score tickets in the lot, but at this point it was too late and I was too exhausted. So we opted to just grab a good meal in Denver (which turned out to be REALLY good) and then head over to Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom to see Conspirator with Break Science opening. Aside from the fact that these acts were raging (which I’ll get to), it turns out this was a smart move. The next day in the Phish lot we heard people were asking for between $300 and $500 per ticket. Really, people?? Come on. Face value was $60.
Anyways, I literally jumped on my friend when she told me Break Science was opening that night because I had just met and interviewed drummer Adam Deitch a few days earlier in Katonah.
We were literally among the first three people to enter the venue, which immediately reminded my of the Wetlands Preserve in New York City — at least in terms of overall vibe. Layout wise the two places couldn’t be more different, but between the psychedelic bathroom murals, old wooden floor, and heady atmosphere, I immediately felt like I was back home at the shut-down Tribeca Mecca.
Sure I was exhausted by this point, but the second the music started I came back to life. Break Science is just Deitch on drums and Borahm Lee mixing beats on keys and laptop, but the sound is heavy and extremely danceable. The crowd was still sparse when they started, but people were throwing down hard, myself and Jamie included.
Once the Phish show let out and all the heads miraculously made it safely to Cervantes, the party kicked into hyper-gear with Conspirator laying it down. Conspirator features the Disco Biscuits’ Aron Magner and Marc Brownstein, plus Lane Shaw of Pnuma on drums and David Murphy from STS9 joined in, too. I have no idea what those guys are doing behind those laptops, but it sent the place into a tailspin. The club was packed and everyone was raging tribal style. We left at about 2:30 a.m. or so and there was no sign that things were slowing down at all.
Let me just say I don’t know the last time I was so happy to go to bed. Slept like a baby, waking up refreshed and ready for Phish!
After sipping some Fat Tire poolside in the early afternoon, Jamie and I trekked up to Red Rocks to party a bit in the lot. (What’s Phish tour without hitting up the lot scene, right?) Of course we met some amazing people — the spirit of broseph ran strong — and I even ate my first bite of chocolate covered bacon. Yes, you heard me right. Think about it for a minute. The salty-sweet-savory goodness was remarkable, even if at first a bit confounding…
This was the final show of a four-night run for the band, and people who had seen other shows were raving about the performances. We were psyched, to put it mildly. The venue is nothing short of spectacular, with big red rock formations all around the natural amphitheater. Seating is general admission, and we picked a spot dead center for the first set.
Couldn’t have been happier to hear them open with “Roses Are Free,” a Ween cover that was one of the first songs that attracted me to Phish back in high school. (I admit I was originally a huge hater of all things hippie, and therefore Phish, at that time. Smashing Pumpkins, Alice in Chains and The Doors were more my speed back then…) Anyways, tons of amazing memories instantly flushed my mind as the first words were sang and I had a serious case of perma-grin for the rest of the night.
Personally was quite overjoyed to hear many of the songs played that night, though if you look at the set lists for all four shows you will see you pretty much couldn’t go wrong in terms of song selection. That’s the thing with Phish. Jamie and I would look at the set lists from the earlier shows, ooh and ahh over what songs they had played and how we WISHED we could have been there to hear them, but then start thinking about all the other great tunes in the band’s repertoire that were still in store and get just as excited. Gotta love a band that can do that.
Oh yeah! Almost forgot to mention that Bill Kreutzmann of the Grateful Dead joined the band during much of the second set. As awesome as this may appear on paper, it was actually a bit controversial among fans. I enjoyed it, as did the people around me, but some of my friends have gone so far as to say “Bill Kreutzmann ruined my night.” The general consensus among my friends is that they prefer their Phish without guests. I can certainly appreciate that. And at times agree. But I enjoyed the appearance.
Once the show was out, people generally shuffled down the trail and into the parking lots without any problems. Police were out and about in their cars, being pretty funny as they moved the crowd along. “Come on, people,” one cop said through his speaker as lights flashed. “The flee market is shut down. We’ve been here four nights, we’re tired, and we want to go home.” I chuckled. Much sympathy goes out to anyone who has to maintain some semblance of order when the circus comes to town!
Next morning, what could be more perfect than a tour of the Coors Brewing Company? Um, nothing?
Tasty — and free — samples of Blue Moon, Killians, Coors Light and Molson tapped off the trip. Awesome.
Flying home was uneventful (thank God) but I was bummed to be back. I’ve wanted to move to Colorado for years (basically to be a ski/snowboard bum…) and this trip just confirmed that desire. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another 13 years for Phish to get back to Red Rocks. (We were well behaved this time, weren’t we??) If it happens again, don’t be the only one left on the block. Come on, sing it with me now: Come hide with the herd; and float with the flock! (Cheesy, sorry, but I just love that song!)