Hey kids, since there’s been so much chatter about the Island run today, I felt like telling my story from that week. Nassau is a home field show for me, and I had planned to drag a few college friends down to see the band for the first time. Unfortunately, early that week, my grandmother passed away. Needless to say, those plans flew out the window, and I ate the 4/2 tickets and had no idea what craziness went on that night (no computer at home to check r.m.p). As members of the (other) tribe, though not particularly religious, my brother, cousin and I were sitting shiva with our parents those first couple of nights. I’m not a believer but I see the value in just ‘being there’ for those in mourning so Phish wasn’t really on my mind, but by Friday (the dates/days line up this year!) I was feeling as though I had come to terms with my own grief, and was able/ready to rejoin the world, or so I imagined. The thing was, I needed to be sure my father was comfortable with that to have a clear conscience, so we had a pretty deep conversation. My dad isn’t a music lover, though he appreciates how happy it makes me. I’d been a phan since 95, so he was already aware I was deeply affected by Phish’s music, though i’m not sure how much he really knew. Still in that conversation, he dropped some wisdom I would never have expected. “You have to live while you can,” he said, having NO idea how close that sentiment echoes the chorus of Chalkdust. After making sure a few more times that HE was ok with my choice, I rounded up my brother and cousin to take the tickets intended for my college friends .
It’s hard to explain the power of what I felt that night. Mourning is a process, and though I was comfortable with my choice of leaving the ‘grown ups’ to see a concert (easy when you’re an invincible 21 year old), I know now that I was still obviously processing that grief. What I wound up getting was a true understanding of the depths of grief and the heights of joy, juxtaposed. To see a group of incredibly talented musicians basically playing at the peak of their abilities (and possibly beyond), and viewing it all through the lens of a week of dealing with the Big Questions and the Serious Shit, with my brother and cousin along side, well, majestic and magical (majestical?) are about the only adjectives that come to mind. It’s a philosophical cliche to talk about how there’s no possibilty of understanding joy without feeling pain, but I can say with conviction that feeling both ends of that spectrum in such a short period of time is as profound a human experience as i’ve ever had. As I said, i’m not a believer; there was no cosmic reason why Roses>Piper happened that particular night, after all, we were just 3 out of 17000 people in the room. But I can tell you that after the odyssey that was that incredible Roses>Piper, the laughter that came out of me during the ‘Carini’s gonna get ya’ antelope was maybe the purest i’ve ever had the pleasure to experience. And realizing that purity and joy still existed after a week full of sadness was such a searing revelation that i’m reminded of it every year around this time, and every time I listen to that incredible set.
There are times when a rock concert might seem like the most frivolous thing in the world, but there are also times when the power of music to move you, to heal you, to cause epiphanies, to make your troubles vanish is so evident you’re only left wondering why the entire world doesn’t see what you see, do what you do - get IT. I’d seen plenty of sick shows before that, but 4/3/98 was the night I *needed* it, and I got it.
My cousin had been a phan before and saw more than a few shows in 1 and 2.0. For my brother, it wasn’t his cup of tea (“they only played 4 fucking songs!” he still grumbles to this day), though he wasn’t one to say no to a good party back then, and as a result, the 3 of us were together for some other good times, like Oswego, Big Cypress, and IT. I’m not sure that would have happened without that magical night in April.
The next day my dad asked me if it was worth it. “Yup,” I said, “It was just what I needed.” And he said, “Good.”
Thanks Phish, and thanks for reading.