(older entries, separated by genre or date, are listed at the bottom of this page.)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Warped Tour 2013

It should have all been a disaster. 

A 32 year old who has never been to Warped Tour, who was only able to find 14 bands I cared about seeing at all (out of a list that seemed to grow every time I looked) who hates big crowds, who has only experienced a multi-stage show once (with a whopping 2 stages), who generally hates any amount of standing for long periods of time, who burns easily in the sun, who instantly turns into a grumpy old man who hates everything at the mere presence of 5 consecutive teenagers in a row... 

"Man, this is going to suck" I thought to myself as we drove in and parked in the seemingly miles long parking lot. "How did I get myself into this?"

Over the last year, I've slowly started to follow a path I should have been on for years. My show buddy Lambert has connections that get him into shows for free for either photos or reviews of the show. He had me cover an Into it. Over it. show way back in October (for Performer magazine), and although my review apparently got lost in spam folders, it was still kind of fun to do. From there, I said I'd go to a few more for Performer, but because of 2 snowstorms, I had to bail on 2 of them. I helped Lambert edit/re-write some of his reviews, but other than a review of a Balance And Composure show (page 34 if you really want to read it), my ratio of shows I reviewed vs. shows I said I would review was a tad off. 

So when Lambert asked me if I wanted to go to Warped Tour with him (he was getting a photo pass for theywillrockyou.com), I told him I had no interest in going. But then I thought about this blog and my life after work- my once-dead-and-now-revived desire to get content- to experience things solely for the purpose of experiencing them and seeing if my assumptions were right or not. And I thought that I owed him one for not going to some others. And I said "I'll tell you what, if you can get me in for free too, I'll go with you." I ended it there and hoped that would be the end of it. I wanted to be forced to go and experience it, but mostly, I just didn't want to go. 

After the hike-drive-phish-phish-drive-weezer week, I was not only exhausted and looking for a few boring days, but also pretty much showed-out. I didn't want to see any concerts- at least until Caspian played the streets of Beverly on Saturday. 

So of course when I got out of Weezer, I had a text from Lambert saying "this will make your day- I got you into Warped. We're going." Ughk.

I did my best to pretend I was excited to go, but a forecast that called for rain all morning and thunderstorms varying between 50 and 70% for the rest of the day, it was hard. I began to lose my mind searching the internet to see what bands were actually playing the Boston (Mansfield) date. I didn't understand how a tour that featured so many bands that played some dates and not others didn't have a list of bands for each date. Lambert sent me what he thought was the list, but I balked at him: "that's like 70 bands dude, there's no way there's that many playing." I was wrong.

Watching the rain crash down on my car on the way to his house made me feel sick. What the hell was I getting myself into? Driving through dark clouds on the way there, flying past the hundreds of cars full of what looked like 14 year olds driving that were in the right lane (the exit has 2 lanes, warped tour virgins), I prepared for the worst. 80s with humidity in the instant-pit-stains regions, and all these annoying kids. This would be my life for the next 8 hours. And I didn't want that.

Getting out of the car, I packed up my backpack: crocs I prayed they'd let me have in case my feet started to hate my shoes, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (the website said I could bring in "one small homemade snack"), a granola bar and Clif Shotblocks I hoped they wouldn't see, my point-and-shoot camera, and a 1 liter sealed bottle of water. Since I was quite broke, I planned on making this water and sandwich last all day. 

As soon as we began walking, the sounds of excited teenagers yelling for no reason popped up sporadically throughout the parking lot. And the first picture I took, I already saw some jerk wearing a shirt with huge swears printed on the back. What a rebel.

We went to the press pass/guest list line and stood there for a surprisingly long amount of time. See the dude on the right with the square shaped, short brimmed greenish hat (what the hell are those called?)? That's none other than NH hardcore legend and Coat of Arms bartender Rob, who was on Defeater's guest list. Already I knew someone there. We proceeded to shoot a lot of shit, then he headed in. He cared about seeing 2 bands that day. I felt some comfort in knowing that the only other person I knew there wanted to be there less than me.

We hit the line, and I took off my bag to be inspected. I don't know what they were searching for, since once I showed them my crocs and water bottle, they were pretty much done with me. I could have brought in SO many drugs. I think they were solely making sure I didn't bring in an unsealed bottle of water. Weird.

Immediately upon entering, there was a stage facing me, with a band who I was shocked to find I really liked. "One band into this and I'm already enjoying myself?" I thought. Hmmm... 

They turned out to be Gates, who I've heard once before, and are, in fact, now that i've listened more, excellent

I stopped watching though, since we needed a schedule. See, for some reason, Warped Tour doesn't have the same order every day. In fact, they don't announce the schedule of bands and stages until 11am the day of the show. Now, I assumed that all the huge bands would end the show and the morning stuff would be stuff I didn't care about. Incorrect.

After buying a piece of paper from a dude for 2 bucks (I saved money on the marker since Lambert had an extra pen (or I just stole his all day, I forget)), I immediately saw that 2 of the bands I wanted to see most; The Chariot and Oh, Sleeper had already played, at the same time on 2 stages nowhere near each other, at 11:15am. Great start to the day. 

Oh, and I also saw that it wasn't what I thought was an absolutely ridiculous 7 stages with 70 bands- no, it was 10 stages and 118 bands. THAT IS TOO MANY BANDS.

After circling who I wanted to see, and taking note of who Lambert wanted to see, we were in somewhat good shape in that we wanted to see a lot of the same bands. But still. I immediately hated Warped Tour. From the hours of 12:55 to 5:25 or so, every band I wanted to see overlapped each other. 

I could watch Motion City Soundtrack, but only for 20 minutes if I wanted to see Letlive, who I would be able to see nearly all of if I missed all of Reel Big Fish, before walking way back to see August Burns Red, who I'd have to leave halfway through if I wanted to see Upon a Burning Body, who I'd have to leave a few songs early if I wanted to catch The Used, who I'd be able to see most of, but would then have to find another stage where Story of the Year was playing at the same time as We Came As Romans, who I'd only be able to see some of if I wanted to catch any of The American Scene, who I'd have to only see some of if I wanted to catch The Wonder Years. 


So it looked like I'd have a complete mess of 4 and a half hours, then from 5:30 to 7:10 (when Bring Me The Horizon played) I couldn't care less about any bands. And of course, one of the bands I wanted to see most (The Story So Far) was playing last at 8:15, ensuring that my tired fat old body would not only not be leaving early, but would also be leaving at the same time as thousands of other people. 

But I said fuck it and embraced the chaos. I decided my best option (other than walking around and trying to figure out where stages were in the maze of stages) was to catch some of Silverstein, and immediately saw an old friend from Apple, Jimmy Reynolds like 20 feet away from me. He loves generic metalcore and pop metal, so I don't know why I wasn't expecting to see him, but there he was. He was with friends who had also played at 11:15 and I still haven't checked out. 

I got to see Silverstein end with an American Nightmare cover they were only playing because we were in Boston (or 45 minutes from it (same thing)), with Jason from Letlive adding vocals. I was happy I caught it, but at the same time, that meant missing the beginning of Motion City Soundtrack's set. 

I went over there, caught 4 songs or so, then immediately went back to where I had come from to catch Letlive's set, which was one set left I didn't want to miss any of. 

This was where the day became very fun. Since Lambert was there to take photos with his DSLR camera, he had a photo pass to stand in "the pit," a designated area right in front of the stage where you can take pics a few feet from band members. And I apparently had a photo pass too.

I try to maintain some sort of grizzled old man attitude- the hardcore scene lifer who complains about everything and doesn't give a shit about meeting bands or taking pictures of them up close. I make fun of Lambert all the time for being excited about that kind of stuff. I pull the age card and say that when you're past your mid twenties, these kinds of things aren't important. "They're just regular people, dude. They just happen to be in bands. Big deal."

But that mindset quickly changed. Seeing Jason, the singer of Letlive flat out freak the fuck out on stage mere feet from me, it was kind of exciting. Turning around to see all of the people crammed against the gate, having people crowd surf over them, trying their best to be close to the band, and realizing I was not only way closer than they'll ever be, but even had security making sure nobody hit me... that's a pretty cool feeling. And watching bands I've listened to for years from that close... yea, it was pretty damn cool. 

photo pit: the space in between that cushioned stage extender thing and dudes in yellow shirts

I unfortunately didn't get any good pics of Letlive with my point-and-shoot, but at least got one I kind of liked from the side.

We then left early, knowing that it wouldn't be easy to get in the photo pit for Chiodos, sure to be one of the more popular bands of the day. But it was pretty smooth, and there I was, leaning on the stage, feet away from Craig Owens, who probably every girl and a lot of guys there wanted to get nice and cozy with. 

I got an awesome one of him in the crowd with my iphone, but most of my time up there was spent trying to get out of the way of the 10 other photographers, trying to get my crappy camera to do anything I wanted, and figuring out what songs they were playing based on the PPPPBBBB PPPBBB PPBB PBBB PBBB bass farts I was hearing through the tarp-covered crate I was leaning on. I'll tell you this, the sound up there is not the best. 

I did get one solid one of him screaming though.

They were frustrating though, because they were super high energy and I was immediately bummed out I didn't have a real camera to catch some of it. Stuff like this happened a lot, even though I love this one. Look at the guitarist's mouth! 


You only get to shoot for 3 songs though. I'm not sure why, but it's probably a combination of the band/front row people not wanting to deal with a bunch of cameras and the security guys trying to limit the amount of people they have to deal with when they're pulling crowd surfers out. I was ok with that though, since although a band usually saved their best songs and maybe best stage moves for the end, after a few songs from that angle, I began to feel like I couldn't possibly get any more shots unless they looked exactly like every other one.

We walked over to August Burns Red and hung out in the pit for a bit. They were predictably pretty awesome, but for whatever reason, they sounded way better too, sound-wise. Chiodos sounded like a mess.


At this point, Lambert had interviews scheduled with a frontrunner for worst band name of the festival, Rdgldgrn and the classic Big D & The Kids Table, so he gave me a brief lesson in how to use his camera, abandoned nearly everything he taught me in favor of having it be as automatic as possible, then actually let me use it for a few bands.

Lambert, thankfully being covered in red, therefore easy to find.

I went over to see Upon a Burning Body, the band responsible for this ridiculously awesome song featuring a CHUG chant (at 2:00) and saw that there was only 1 other person in the photo pit for them. For my first attempt at using a DSLR to shoot bands, I had a good time and got a few decent shots. This was my favorite.

They were pretty awesome but had a pretty small crowd for what I was used to so far. As had become the norm, I had to leave early if I wanted to catch The Used. And I only got into the photo pit because the woman guarding the entrance let me in (apparently I went in the wrong way) and I am surprisingly good at making my way through crowds. 

The last time I saw The Used, Bert (the singer) was fairly normal and had long black hair. He apparently now had a pink mohawk and was throwing around what seemed to be chalk. I was just psyched to be so close to him to get this shot:

I felt like bands hated us- we were press (not fans) who just swarmed the singer and ignored the rest of the band for 3 songs and then were gone. I felt like he and Craig Owens came right out and sucked it up to let us take pictures of them, but I still felt like something I didn't want to be- someone who was there just taking pictures and not caring about the music. So I tried my best to not be that person. I was singing along, throwing my arms in the air, and really having a blast being that close. At one point Bert looked at me as I was singing along and looking at him, and he kind of smiled. Right after that, he crouched super close to me so I could get these shots. I may be reading more into it than I should be, but it really felt like he was like "oh wait, one of these annoying photographers is actually a Used fan? Well alright, I'm gonna give him some good shots." Even though this world was new to me, I had to remind myself that I was there to be having fun too, and decided that I would be the guy in the pit who was having the most fun. And when Lambert took the camera back, I even let people with expensive cameras in front of me to get THE SHOT while I just had a good time. Out of nowhere, I felt super lucky to be up there. I had space and the band was RIGHT THERE. It was awesome. I was having fun.

I had to leave early though, since I wanted to catch Story of the Year, a band who really hasn't done anything I cared about since their second album, but a band who I knew I had to take pictures of (they do a lot of stage moves). I wandered out of the main area I had been in and attempted to find the Tilly's stage. Literally other than the first band I saw, and the Acoustic Basement Stage and Kevin Says stages I saw in passing, every band I had seen were next to each other- the Kia Soul stage and Kia Forte stages were right next to each other, with the Monster stage (where most of the metal was) just a short walk along the same line.

I went as far in one direction as I could and saw the ampitheater- the gigantic stage where most people who have been here have seen shows. I went in and saw bands, but wasn't convinced that was where it was. I asked the woman guarding the press area entrance and she said she wasn't even sure, but thought that maybe there were actually multiple stages in there. 

And after walking back, she was right. Such a weird thing to see 2 stages set up on 1 stage. And I even got to catch the end of The Early November's set while I waited.

(obviously the bands played at different times)

In there, I saw 2 dudes who had really committed to the day and decided to take a picture of them. I don't know how any human being, no matter how skinny could spend 8 hours outside like this, but more power to them. 

I saw a Batman later, but his costume wasn't as good as Spiderman and Kick-Ass's were. Sure wish I had seen a Hit Girl.

I fought my way up to Story of the Year, and as predicted, they did a lot of stage moves. Man I wish I had a DSLR. Look at that spin kick!

Lambert showed up right before they started playing and took his camera back (bastard), but he let me use it for 1 song. I missed one of the guitarists do a backflip, but managed to get a mid jump shot, which Lambert told me later he hated me for (since he's never been able to time those right). Apparently I'm a natural.

clearly I have to work on my framing though

They were fun, but once I was out of the photo pit, I was in "gotta keep moving" mode and decided to check out what I thought was going to be The American Scene, but just turned out to be the singer in the acoustic tent. Going from a crazy world of a million people and always at least 6 stages going at once to literally a tent with a dude playing acoustic guitar was quite odd. I immediately felt like it wasn't worth it and had the instant need to move on.

I fought my way through the crowd to get to the photo pit for The Wonder Years, and they ruled. They were pretty crazy, as was the photo pit. Apparently at one point, the singer jumped into the photo pit area to help a girl out of the crowd who security wasn't helping. He glared at them with a "why am I doing your job?" look and moved on. Lambert saw this, and shortly after had a breakdown and hated being at Warped Tour. He apparently couldn't stand one girl in the pit who I thought was pretty cute who was using her phone to take pictures. I have no idea why that bothered him so much, but it did. He thought the crowd was too aggressive or something, I don't know. He just was fed up. I was too busy rocking out and singing along to give a shit about anything, and after he left to go wander around being mad, I just kept on rocking out.

Soupy from The Wonder Years owning it

I caught up with Lambert in the press area a little later. On the way, I ran into the guitarist from Every Time I Die, who apparently lives in Medford now. Weird. The press area was an odd place- in one direction an interview with the drummer from August Burns Red was happening, in another, people were sitting on a rock wall eating, and through the middle of the area was a long winding line of people buying food from Warped Tour catering. I was curious about this world as I've heard a lot about it, but it was a long line and it was $15 to eat, so I didn't bother. In the distance, I could see someone getting their hair cut in a chair next to people doing yoga. The idea of Warped Tour being a living, breathing thing suddenly started to make sense.

bands and press together as one

I decided it was finally time to find a porta potty to pee (and although there were probably a hundred of them, I had a lot of trouble finding one), drink more of my water, and finally eat my sandwich, now that it was 5:30pm. On the way to the press room, I caught some of Years Since The Storm, who were extremely heavy and pretty awesome sounding. They even covered a small section of Korn's "Blind" at the end of their set. Once they were done, I walked across the place again and ate my sandwich while watching the first song of Black Veil Brides, a band Lambert was asked to photograph, and who were even worse than I thought they'd be, forcing me to leave after half a song. 

It was very odd to suddenly be in "what band do I watch?" mode after running back and forth between so many in a short time. I decided locals Defeater would probably be the best option and watched the end of their set while trying to figure out if a dude to my left was the singer of a band I used to watch back in my hardcore days in the Maine scene. I met Lambert back at the stage we walked into and we watched a band I wanted to check out solely because I liked their name, Great American Ghost. They were a metal band from Mass who were solid but nothing new. We randomly ran into Joe, the singer from Transit, a band I love. Lambert has known him for years, so we talked for awhile while I watched people walk by and realize who he was, waiting to talk to him. 

We were told by promotions people to check out Crossfaith, since this was (I think) their first show in the US (they're from Japan). Or maybe it was their first tour. I had heard them before and remembered them as a basic rock band that was just really fast, had occasional screaming and breakdowns, and weird electronic parts. I was wrong. They were basically super heavy metalcore with dubstep breakdowns, and honestly, as ridiculous as that may sound, they were quite awesome. I've been waiting for a band to do this since I first heard dubstep. Why not extremely short Japanese guys wearing makeup? The dude wearing a blood red leather jacket over no shirt was my favorite.

They killed it. I'm sure a lot of it had to do with their look and his pronunciation in between songs, but they got the crowd into it more than any band I'd seen, and were a blast to watch. They were also the only band I watched on the Ernie Ball stage, which was one of the smallest ones there was. 

Austin 3:16 says Crossfaith's dubstep breakdowns are a mean SONOFABITCH

I left them early to try and catch Bring Me The Horizon. I got into them pretty heavily this spring and even though I'd be using my crappy camera (Lambert was watching other bands), I still wanted to see a band as popular as they were that close. But oops. They're apparently HUGE.
that's them, a mile away

I walked all the way around to the side and fought my way to the front, but when I gave the security person the look of "can I get in here?" she shook her head and immediately looked away. Now that I think of it, I don't think I showed her my press bracelet, so she probably thought I was just some piece of crap trying to get up there. Oops. So I tried to watch them from forever away, but after being so close to so many other bands, I decided it wasn't even worth it. I might as well just be listening to the albums at home. Plus, they played a lot of stuff I didn't want to hear. 

Lambert texted me that he had just met the singer from Letlive and that he was super nice, and as I wandered back to the ampitheater area to catch The Story So Far and end my day, I ran into the singer from Letlive. And he was super nice. 

I don't know if I've ever taken a lame picture with someone from a band before, but I almost just took a picture of him for the blog and decided it made more sense to pose with him. I loved their first album instantly and was incredibly impressed with his stage antics, his ability to still hit notes while running around on speed and screaming his lungs out, and his general friendliness and "damn, that's a good dude"ness he showed onstage. What a frontman. 

I had time to kill before The Story So Far, so I wandered around a little bit and realized that this was the first time I really spent any time looking around. Earlier when I had downtime, it was all "find lambert, go to press area, pee, eat, go to next band, etc." But here, I suddenly had 40 minutes or so where I didn't care about any bands. I finally noticed just how many band merch areas were set up and how ridiculously randomly they seemed to be placed, how many random booths were selling lighters and bandannas with pot leaves on them, how many dead tired people were just sitting in random places, how much trash had accumulated everywhere, etc. Walking, I was literally either stepping on or kicking trash with every step. 

The Monster stage way in the back

trash, the Kia stages, people starting to take stuff down, and NATTY DREAD JAH

The Kevin Says stage, more people, one of the Kia stages way in the distance

I decided I really wanted to try one of the fruit smoothies Lambert had gotten, so I spent the 7 bucks on it. It was old and not as thick as I had hoped, but it was generally pretty awesome, and I'm sure it helped me out more than I ever thought it would. I then went in and watched 1 song of Big D and decided I really wasn't a ska fan. I wanted to see Big Chocolate, who used to be the singer of a disgusting metal band called Disfiguring The Goddess. We used to watch his vocal videos in the break room at apple, and I knew he was doing electronic music now. I had thought he mixed in death metal vocals, but nope. He just sucked.

sweet stache though

The Spotify stage he played on was a weird one- they had rap and electronic artists all day, which was a very odd thing to see sectioned off in its own place at Warped Tour. Looking back, it was surprising to see how little of the classic Warped Tour punk sound there was in 2013. Not only that, but there was no legendary headliner like a Green Day or Blink-182. Instead, it was just a very odd collection of metal, pop punk, pop, EDM/dubstep, acoustic, and bands I've never heard of. It was pretty much: 

Kia Soul Stage: Big bands, mostly metal and rock, to the left on the line of huge stages

Kia Forte Stage: Ditto, but arguably the biggest bands, middle of the line

Monster Stage: All metal of various types, at the far right of the line, facing a somewhat different direction

Acoustic Basement Stage: In between the back line and the smaller ones closer to the entrance, literally a tiny tent with acoustic sets. Very out of place.

Kevin Says Stage: Literally watched maybe 20 seconds total at this stage. It was smack dab in the middle and mostly had bands I've never heard of (maybe that's where the punk was).

Ernie Stage: To the right of Kevin Says, facing a somewhat different direction. I had heard of 4 bands and watched 1.

Spotify Stage: By the end of the day, I was able to find it to watch Big Chocolate, but for most of the day, I would swear I didn't even see it. It was kind of in a line with Kevin Says and Ernie. 

Mass Concerts stage: The only stage with no identification as to what stage it was, it was the one I saw first when I came in, and I ended up at more than I thought I would. It also had way bigger crowds than I was expecting, but I think that's because a bunch of the bands were local or semi local. I had heard of 3 bands that played here.

Tilly's Stage: The right side of the Ampitheater, featuring what I'd describe as medium size bands (in terms of popularity). 

Domo Stage: The left side, featuring more medium size bands. It surprised me that medium sized bands had probably the most space to watch, most of which was seats. 

And somehow, with all of those stages, a band playing in the distance was exactly that. The people who designed this place really did do an excellent job of facing stages in the right direction and just far enough away that you couldn't really hear other bands. I mean, you always hear them a little, but it's just distant noise. That impressed me a lot.

After leaving Big Chocolate and noticing the swarm of people coming from the back line of stages, I took a few final pictures of the parking lot mess and tipped my hat I wasn't wearing to a surprisingly fun day. But I had one more band to watch, and the place was filling up like crazy.

I'm still not sure how I got to the front to get in the photo pit, but I did. Other than one double take from a professional photographer who saw me using a point and shot camera in a press pit, nobody really seemed to notice or care that I didn't have a REAL camera. But now, a stage guy walked up and asked me if I even had a camera. "yea" "where?" "In my pocket, it's small." "Come on, let me see it." "It's just a small one, I don't have a real one." And I showed it to him, which he laughed at. "I'm writing for a website! I don't need a camera!" and he just kept laughing. He then told us that we may only get 1 song before we have to get the hell out of there. And he was right. 

The crowd was crazier and the security people didn't want to deal with having to protect us, so we were kicked out after 1 song. I guess that's why we only got 3 songs per set. 

The Story So Far have a top 3 contender for my favorite album of the year in What You Don't See, but were honestly pretty boring to watch. The singer kind of just stands there flexing. It was also pretty weird to suddenly see a band with 2 to 3 times the crowd of any I had seen that day, on a stage that, now that it was starting to get dark, looked like it was inside. Once he said "this is gonna be our last song" and it was an older one I didn't know, we decided it was time to go. Maybe we could get ahead of at least 40% of the people who were there that day. We booked it pretty quickly to the car, I changed my shirt, Lambert dug out the waters he had kept in a cooler all day (brilliant idea Lambert, BRILLIANT), and we took off. We were on the main road to get out insanely fast, and it probably only took 10-15 minutes to actually get on the highway. He said he'd seen Pearl Jam there and it took 2 and a half hours to get out of the parking lot. We talked about music the whole way home.

I ended up back at my house at 11:30, and that was it. It was a looong day, but I had survived my first Warped Tour.

I had shown my high pain threshold survival skills and had survived. I got up at 7:45 after about 4 hours of sleep, ate a dunkin donuts chicken sandwich and vitamin water, and stood outside and walked surprisingly long distances over and over again, watching bands almost non stop for nearly 8 hours, only eating a PB&J, 2 shot blocks (not packages, the actual squares), 1 liter of water and a fruit smoothie. I knew I was severely dehydrated, but other than feeling fairly drained and my left heel and shoulders starting to hurt, I was actually pretty fine. I certainly felt better than I did at those 2 phish shows.

It was overcast and ugly all day, but it never rained. And I remarkably went all day with no sunscreen and had only a little pink under my eyes and on my nose to show for it. I never needed to change my shoes, never really felt like I needed to sit or lie down, and had only spent 7 bucks. Maybe I'm cut out for all day festivals after all...

The trick is to just accept it. Warped Tour is a lifeforce that's been around for 19 years: it shouldn't have to change for me. I remember past tales of bands fighting, bands being kicked off the tour for bad attitudes, etc. It's bound to happen with so many bands playing such different styles of music to such different types of people. I caught some of a speech from (I think) rapper Mac Lethal while I was walking past the Spotify stage, where he was making fun of a bunch of bands, saying half of them are wimps who were crying into microphones and half were guys trying to sound like monsters. But I left half way through his set and almost booed him. Because I started this day out negative- even though I like a lot of the bands he was talking about, there were a lot I'd call boring or generic. There are a lot I think flat out suck and shouldn't have careers in music. If I didn't like metal as much as I do, I probably would have hated just how much of it there seemed to be this year. I hated the fact that there were 118 bands playing. I hated that there were 10 stages, all of which were impossible to find (how about a map? Would that be so hard?). But I was wrong to feel that way, and Mac Lethal shouldn't have been on the tour if he hates all the bands so much. If you don't like it, don't go. If a band sucks, go watch another one. It's Warped Tour, a force that gets stronger every year. Either don't go, or just go with it. 

I watched a song or two of 24 different bands that day, saw at least another 20 in passing, and only watched 1 full set by any band (The Wonder Years). I missed at least 6 that I was at least somewhat interested in. I wanted to check out more booths, I wanted to eat some food, I wanted to try to meet some people in bands, and I wanted to spend time at every stage. I wanted to walk around more and really see everything there, not only since this was my first time at something I've been hearing or reading about since its formation, but since I was responsible for writing a report about the day. But Warped Tour happened, and that means my plans were constantly changing all day.

You're not going to see every band you want to see. Some of your favorite bands you are most excited to see are going to play at the same time. They'll probably play across the world from each other. Your favorite quiet part of a song will be ruined by the sound of a band playing in the distance. You're going to have to fight through a million teenagers wearing YOLO shirts. Unless you spend a lot of money, you're going to leave hungry and dehydrated. You're going to get stuck in traffic going in and leaving. You're going to stand in line. You're going to have a bad view for the bands you want to see. And you're going to love it. 

Warped Tour truly is the perfect show for the ADD generation. It's a day long clusterfuck of sweaty people and loud noise, with 118 bands fighting for your attention, organized by people who want you to be there all day, running around trying to fit too much into too little time. And if you accept it- if you play by its rules and just go along with it, it can truly be a blast. I can't imagine how great this was for people in the right age range where maybe this truly is the best day of their summer, but I bet it rules. As a 32 year old fat guy who hates long and outdoor shows, who hates standing up for long periods of time, who has concerts ruined for him by bad sound, who hates all of humanity more with every "Keep Calm and..." shirt he sees, I had an awesome time and want to go back next year. I can't imagine how great it must be for people who belong there. But maybe anyone belongs there, as long as they love music and are willing to go along for the ride. Maybe that's the whole idea. Or maybe this was all a fluke and the stars aligned just perfectly enough that I am able to look back on this day as a highlight of my summer. I guess I'll find out next year.

Oh yea- this was shortened a lot but has completely different pictures. It's here on the internet. I think that's pretty cool. And yes, I already know I need to write reviews that are about 85% shorter.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Phish 2013

Life happened again, and with each passing day, it became easier and easier to ignore my once thriving blog. Why sit down and finish a really long post when it's from JULY? I actually wrote 75% of this blog in September and just kept puting off posting it cuz I was hesitant about some stuff. But oh well, fuck it. And because I believe in continuity, I'm forever behind now. I could have given up entirely, but I feel like keeping this thing going.  

So, people who check this blog at all regularly, all the stuff you've been waiting for is coming, because I'm finally posting this one. 


I casually listened to Phish in high school, then finally went to a show with Joe, Dustin and Amanda in 2010. I wore an Allman Brothers Band shirt and a pink headband with stupid glasses. 

We went to one show, and even though our traditions (riding our bikes in, setting up at Camp Hogan (where Dustin's brother in law leaves his car parked all weekend) hanging out for hours before, then riding to D'Andreas after) started then, it was a pretty tame experience. Sure, booze and especially weed is everywhere at Phish shows, but I was straight edge, and therefore didn't partake. I proved that you can not be on anything and still have an awesome time at Phish. You just have to love their music and love an insane culture of weirdos. 

2 years later, I went again- this time for 2 shows in 2 nights. I decided to look like this that year: 

I can't believe my hair was that long. this picture refuses to center.

In fact, as I was a blogger by then, I wrote fairly long recaps of the shows (Day 1 and Day 2 if you feel like going back). We partied for like 12 hours on night 1, Pog almost died, and we spent time on both days at Shakedown Street, which was a hilariously good time. Nothing but nasty hippies aimlessly wandering in zombie dazes mixed with some of the weirdest people imaginable, all selling or buying weird stuff, art, food, and drugs. Good times.

And speaking of drugs, I alluded to it a bit in those posts, but yes, I smoked weed on both nights. The first night, I had a few hits off of a friend's joint, and on night 2, I smoked my own weed for the first time, given to me by a friend the night before, and smoked through the one hitter/dugout I bought at Shakedown Street on night 1. 

Sorry Mom. 

I'm not going to say how often I smoke, but I'll admit it, I love weed. It's fantastic. The first time I ever smoked was actually in New York, on Halloween night. I blogged about that night too, but didn't want to share the biggest part with the world because I was worried what people might think, but I was mostly worried what my mom might think. I know that my parents don't read this blog, but at the same time, they know about it, and if they randomly decided to read it, I didn't want them to find that out. Sure, we've had conversations about how weed should be legalized (which they agree with) and how it helps sick people and that recent studies show that it can actually kill cancer, but I've been careful to not be too pumped up about it- I didn't want to be the standard hippie guy who goes off on tirades about how mother nature gave us a miracle plant that can do anything AND makes you feel wonderful, (as I'm sure all of my friends that I've been public about this with has heard me talk about), so I kind of just do it sarcastically. I didn't want to essentially waive a flag in their faces that says HEY LOOK AT ME I SMOKE WEED.

Truthfully, my parents probably should have guessed long ago that I've probably smoked before. I used to be an an antisocial, angry metalhead straight edge kid who never wanted to do anything and went off on tirades about how much I hated everyone. And at the same time, (although I don't do enough) I've been somewhat of an artist for most of my life and somewhat of a musician for half. In the last 3 years, I've become a full blown hippie, at least my own variety. I get more into music than I ever have before, I've started to hate the government and nearly any type of authority more than ever before, I'm a conspiracy theorist, I've grown to realize just how much I love the outdoors, I've become obsessed with hiking, and I've grown more positive, happy and outgoing, all while (even though it started as a complete joke) trying to live my life based on The Secret (which is really just living with positivity and hope). The last thing that was tying me to my old ways was that I was straight edge, which ended 2 months into the 2 and a half year vacation I decided to take at age 30. How could they not assume I'd eventually find weed?

I'm not going to flat out tell them, but if they find this, then I guess it's time for them to know. It's time for everyone to know- I can't bitch about how ridiculous it is that it's illegal without sharing with the world how much I like it. But still- please don't tell my parents. I'm not ready to have that conversation yet. 

So anyway, that first night, the 2nd time I saw Phish, I started to get Phish a little bit more. I wasn't super high, but I was high enough that the music was better to me than it probably would have been if I was sober, and all the weirdos around me were certainly more interesting. I got higher on night 2 and became obsessed with capturing weird timelapse shots of lights during the show. It was fascinating and awesome, but I also learned how weed can actually hurt an experience if you zone out too much and forget to focus on the reason you're there. 

So now, a year later, Phish was playing in Saratoga again, and even though I was shockingly broke, I started up some nice credit card debt by buying tickets to both nights and driving all the way to NY for a weekend of awesome. It was time to party. 


I got there at about 2:30 I think, and of course Dustin and Amanda were still out biking. Once they were back, we packed up and headed to Camp Hogan. This time, since the D bones had moved, we actually drove to the parking lot near D'Andreas and rode in from there. It was a shorter, flatter ride, which I was happy about because it was pretty damn hot. 

We got there, cracked some beers, and after some hanging out, headed straight to Shakedown Street. This is the bridge from where SPAC is (Saratoga Performing Arts Center) to where the weird is:

All along the bridge were people selling various drugs, edible weed snacks, beers, jewelry, etc. I think I've decided to start referring to this as the Drug Bridge. If there can be a Drug Bridge at the Gathering of the Juggalos, then there can be one at Phish too.

Once in the beast, it only got more insane.

This was the most packed I've seen Shakedown Street, and we spent more time there. It was hilarious and I took lots of pictures.

This chick's dreads ruled:

yes, I still love dreads

This may have been the same "band" that I videotaped last year:

they still sucked

Check this dude out. Hogan was a big fan. As was Llona.

This guy actually frightened me a bit. I don't trust him.

Actually, now that I'm looking again, this guy scares the shit out of me

This guy may be the oldest, grossest hippie I've ever seen. So I took a picture with him:

there's my chippy

Speaking of my shirt (it's a Tim & Eric shirt, based on a very odd skit), a few people freaked out about it. The most notable was a dude who stopped me and told me how much he loved the show, wondering where he could get the shirt. We said our goodbyes, then he came back and was like "actually, now that I have you here, I'm looking for a girlfriend."

"You want me to find you a girlfriend?"
"No, no, um... I'm looking for my girlfriend."
"Ok, what does she look like? I don't know how I would help dude"
"Um... her name starts with an M."
"Ok. Mary? Marcia? Melissa?"
"No, that's not it..."
"Medussa?" (I can't remember the names I came up with, but they kept getting more ridiculous)
"It's like M.O... like mah...."
And then, much after Dustin was already laughing his ass off, I got it.
"OH MOLLY. Yea, no, I don't have any molly. Why didn't you just ask dude? Nobody gives a shit. Go to the drug bridge, you can get anything there."

Yea, so I guess I'm not as experienced with this kind of stuff as most people here. In fact, the first time I ever heard of Molly was when like 3 people asked me for it the first time I saw Phish. "Dustin, what's molly?" was probably his favorite part of that show.

It's true though- nobody gives a shit. Cops would have to arrest everyone there if they were really gonna try to arrest people for drugs. But still, even going into it knowing that, it blew me away how open everything was at Shakedown Street. There were people walking though the crowd saying "nugs... nugs here. 10 bucks" and they literally were holding big buds of weed in their open palms. Probably 75% of the food booths had coolers of beer, from garbage for a buck a can to Heady Topper for like 10 bucks a can. All of this is illegal. All of it. And that's not even getting into all of the mini drug deals on the side, the amount of people carrying weed lollipops, brownies, cookies, etc. It's a crazy, crazy world, and no authorities do anything about it. And it rules.

This food station was super awesome, but their pizza didn't honestly look that great. I tried to get a slice later on, but they didn't have much selection.

Just realized now- does that dude have a rat on his head with Hulk Hogan riding it?

This also blew my mind- sure, it's kind of just like a hot pocket, but still. PIZZADILLA!


It was great to see the return of this stupid yard sale booth:

And for the first time, I spent some time looking at some of the art. These were incredible:

We eventually realized we had had enough and started heading back. It was getting close to showtime anyway, and we wanted to drink some more and maybe even sit a little bit before being stuck in the show for 2-3 hours. 

There's a dude on Instagram who found me somehow and liked a lot of my pictures. I usually only follow random people back if their pictures are awesome, and at the time, he had just started hiking all the 4,000 footers. Not only did he hike a lot and took a lot of solid pictures, but he always took a picture of his celebratory summit joint, which I thought was pretty funny. So I followed back, and we started talking back and forth here and there. I knew he loved Phish and had moved to VT, so I started to wonder if I'd randomly run into him. And sure enough, when we got back from Shakedown, there he was, wearing a flourescent green vest thing, his name badge from work, and a giant sombrero, looking wasted and honestly, lost. In this gigantic place, he had found himself standing 20 feet from Camp Hogan.

I decided I couldn't miss the opportunity to have an instgram meetup, so I went right over. "Jayshredspow?" "yea..." "Lifeofdirtymike, what's up man?" His mind was blown, but at the same time, he seemed pretty gone already. He said he got 4 free tickets by dancing on the street... like, literally someone saw a drunk guy dancing like an idiot and was like "hey, I can't go- take these tickets." Only at a Phish show.

I introduced him to Amanda, who he also follows (I think he follows Shaun too... weird), then he wandered off somewhere and I never saw him again. What a hilarious small world we live in. 

Eventually, we started going over to the entrance, and I got completely separated from Dustin and Amanda and actually, the rest of the group. I found Steve (one of the crew whose name may have been changed per his request), and he said to follow him- he was gonna get us in the VIP way somehow. I didn't believe him for a second. Also, even though drugs are rampant there, I was trying to follow Dustin's suggestion of "yea, nobody cares, but you should still try to hide it a little- they do pat you down afterall" and I had my one hitter jammed in my shoe, which was now effectively digging into my foot. 
Oh yea, I forgot to say- an hour into my 4 hour drive to Saratoga from NH, I realized I forgot to bring any shoes with me. I had developed a hiking routine of just leaving my hiking boots in the car and just wearing them for the hike while driving to and from the hike in my crocs (I told you- full blown hippie). I really liked wearing crocs, but I really wanted to bring shoes. I called Dustin and told him of my concern in having only crocs for support all weekend and he laughed out loud: "What do you think EVERYONE there is gonna be wearing?" He had a point, but I wasn't sure they would work for several hours of standing for me, Mr. Endless Footpain (they worked beautifully- best shoes ever). 
So anyway, I followed Steve in while my foot was throbbing, and it somehow worked. I immediately got to text Dustin, asking him why it was taking him so long to get in, which blew his mind.

Earlier, when we got there, I asked Steve if he had any shrooms. 

Sorry mom. 

Yea, last year, I told him I was curious about shrooms, but was still too scared about them. A few hours later, he turned around at the beginning of the show and said "hey- eat this" and handed me a tiny little thing that looked like a pecan or something. Looking back, I don't know how I didn't get this, but at the time, I thought it might have been some weird type of weed snack, and said "ok" and ate it without putting up any fight or asking any questions. As soon as I was chewing, I said "what is this, anyway?" and they both laughed. "Come on, what is it?" to which Dustin replied "shrooms" and immediately turned back to the show, laughing his ass off. 
I was terrified, but realized that whether I liked it or not, I was already on the ride. I had such a small piece that it probably didn't do anything to me, even though I was hyper sensitive out of terror. 

But now I was curious again, and willingly looking to take a little ride. He said he didn't have any, but he had talked to a dude the night before about getting some that night. He said that while we waited for everyone else to get in, we'd meet him and pick some up. I was now a part of a drug deal with a random dude. Wow, what a difference a few years make.

The dude kept texting saying he wasn't able to get in, that he wasn't sure if he could get the shrooms in, etc. While we waited, Steve took me to a part of SPAC I hadn't been to before and started rolling joints on his lap in the middle of a field with security people nearby. He was trying to be a little hidden, but generally didn't care at all. I'm not sure I had ever even seen anyone roll a joint before. 
Eventually, we started wandering back to the main crowd area, and the band started playing. Shroom guy eventually got in, and they did the deal without me really even seeing it. We then tried to get to a super low spot, but the people guarding the stairs kicked us out and told us we weren't allowed to get to the spot we wanted to be in. We fought our way through the crowd to a decent view, and then I saw Dustin across the main walkway, which sent us out and all the way back around. 

Once everyone was together, Steve was ready to do shrooms. My plan was to smoke on night 1 and just take it easy, and night 2, I'd give shrooms a shot (but not a lot). I told him I was terrified to eat them- that everyone I'd talked to and everything I read on the internets said to eat them in a safe, secure place with a friend who had done them before and was hanging out with you, making sure you didn't freak out or hurt yourself. I said that, and Steve replied with "look around you- these are all your friends. This is EXACTLY the environment you should be doing shrooms in." And man, he is a convincing dude. So I said fuck it and went for it.

We didn't do the full shroom experience though- the plan was to eat 1, see how we felt, then maybe another, repeat. I was scared so we split 1 individual shroom. Of course, we'd already smoked and we were planning on smoking more, so I guess the plan was to have the shrooms just kind of enhance the weed and vice versa. Later that night, when I told someone that this was how I did them, they said "oh, so you did them right." Apparently this is a way some people do them even though I had never heard of it. Incidentally, since talking to other people about this, they almost always hit me with a "that's too little- they probably didn't even do anything." So who knows, but for that night, that's how things went- I think in reality, I only ate 2 actual shrooms, and for the standard "lets do shrooms' experience, 2 grams is the recommended dose. So I had waaay less than that, but I also was smoking a considerable amount, so I certainly felt like they did the trick. 
My experience through the first set was good- it was basically like being very high, and every now and then I'd feel much higher. People who have done shrooms will read this and say that I was mostly just high, but I think my experience was definitely different, and definitely stronger than weed normally is. Maybe it was just the environment, I don't know. After the first set ended (and it was a great set), I was extremely psyched, talkative, hyper (way more than normal) through the intermission. And then after eating another shroom at the beginning of set 2, I felt fantastic. There was a part where Steve and I were scream laughing in someone's ear because... I don't know why. We were probably annoying, but whatever, we were having a great time.
The notable experience that was definitively a bit beyond weed was when I disappeared from reality for a bit during set 2. This sometimes happens to me with weed too, but when I came to during the song, it was completely different than when I come to with weed. Basically, I started thinking about how much I loved these Phish weekends in summer- how their sound is perfect for a setting sun in the dead center of summer, dancing and high in a field with a bunch of people having a great time in great weather, etc. I realized how much the song they were playing at the time fit that theme, and I started wondering why the lights guy, who is usually perfect, was using reds and blues when I wanted greens and yellows to match the summer feel. Thinking about the colors made me think about listening to this music on an island, maybe under a waterfall, then on a beach with palm trees around me and an ocean breeze in my face. Suddenly, the song kicked in harder and lights guy switched to greens and yellows, and suddenly I had a weird "oh shit, I'm at a concert" moment where I suddenly felt like I was in a hole in the sand on my beach- I literally felt like I was a few feet shorter than everyone at the show. It was weeeeeiiird. It didn't last long as I quickly realized how I had imagined I was super short out of nowhere. But that was pretty funny.

I tried to sway as much to the music as I wanted to. I tried to ignore the fact that there were people there and just let go, let the music in me, etc. I do that pretty hard anyway, but this was more of a "ok, I'm under the influence of things, I should see what this is all about." It was recommended to me to shut my eyes while the song built, then open them right as the crescendo exploded in. It was pretty awesome. I definitely found myself swaying more and zoning out more, and man, Phish is PERFECT for that. 

Here's a horrible blurry shot of people throwing glow sticks for good measure: 

The show was super awesome. Definitely one of the best of the 5 I've been to. Maybe the best. When the show ended, I still felt a little off, but in a good, fun way. We hung out for a minute waiting for it to be a little less crowded. Eventually, Dustin and Amanda jumped over the fence of our area to go to the main area. I thought about it for a second. I believed I could jump the fence, but I didn't want to be the fatass who didn't pull it off and everyone laughed at, so I said, "yea, I'll meet you at the tree at the top of the hill" and headed up in the area I was in. 

I somehow went just enough in the wrong direction that by the time I realized I wasn't that close to the tree, they were long gone. I couldn't see them anywhere, so I walked around the tree a little bit looking for them. I realized pretty quickly that there was no way I was going to find them, and I should just walk through the millions of people back to Camp Hogan.
I suddenly realized just how ridiculous these crowds are- how it literally is thousands of people all walking in different directions, sweaty and exhausted, still high or drunk or worse, trying to find their friends and the way out with barely any light in a place that was super loud with music for hours and was now just this weird, scattered chaotic world that still somehow retained some sort of order. I decided to film this mess, and really got into it, changing directions randomly, walking against the crowds, sideways to the crowds, etc. I just walked around in circles and began to think about how this full blown mind confusion mess must be to someone who's on some serious drugs. They must get so lost, or think they're in some weird alien world where everyone looks the same and nobody is fully there. Then I started to wonder if people were looking at me- this guy wandering around a crowd, shifting direction abruptly, staring straight ahead in a daze, holding a camera up the whole time, fascinated by the whole thing- and I wondered if they were thinking I was that very person I was pretending to be. Then I realized that, oh wait, even though I'm doing this on purpose, I actually am on drugs, wandering around aimlessly, and at the moment of this realization, I didn't know which way the exit was. I was realizing that people were thinking I was the person I was thinking I was pretending to be. And I was that exact person. Mindfuck.

I had another amazing moment where my mind disappeared as I neared the entry gate, and I started to realize what a weird thing this was that I was doing. I was looking up at the entry signs and above people's heads without looking around me at all. People on both sides of me were looking at their phones. And yet, we were all going in the same direction at the same speed to the same place, and we all knew exactly how much space was between us, and the exact direction we needed to be moving towards at the exact right speed. Nobody bumped into each other, we all just moved perfectly to the gate with our brains completely off- zombies staring at the lights and signs and heads above us like we were marching toward an inevitable future we were programmed to move towards and had no way of breaking out of.


So that's real shit though- that's an interesting observation and I stand by it. But yea, I was still pretty high. Here, I made a short film about the whole experience. Enjoy:

"Phish 2013" from Mike Alexander on Vimeo

We all met up pretty perfectly at Camp Hogan, and I played with my camera, realizing that I had finally accidentally stumbled on the setting to get weird timelapse shots. This one was neat:

This one was my favorite. She can stand still very well: 

The end of Phish shows are weird things. It's pretty much everyone having the same conversation with very different opinions. "This was one of the best shows." "Friday was better." "Dude the encore was SICK." "Dude that part when they played ____ into ____? HOLY SHIT." "They're playing like '84 Phish."etc etc. It's amazing how many people freak out and say it was the best show ever, yet the older crew is insanely jaded, saying that some songs were incredible, but the overall vibe was wrong. "Gordons playing better than ever." "Fishman is off, I don't know what's going on with him." It's fascinating. I went back to Camp Hogan thinking it was incredible, but the Phish vets who have seen them 30 something times were all in conversations bitching. Or at least bitching about part of the set. And the next day, when a code on your ticket gives you a free download of the song, you can view the comments section, where it's nothing but people criticizing it. I guess that's the difference between someone who has seen them 5 times and 30+. But in my crew, most agreed it was a pretty awesome show.

After talking about the show a bunch, we hopped on our bikes and I realized I still felt pretty weird. It was an interesting ride into the city, made terrifying by Hogan riding in and out of traffic, off of curbs, doing tricks, etc. I was insanely happy to finally get to the only place I'll go after a Phish show, the wonderful D'Andreas pizza, where I wolfed down some slices and we headed home. 

I stretched and took a shower and felt the kind of exhausted you can only feel if you do a 5 mile hike the night before, sleep not well in a way too hot house, drive 4 hours, bike several miles and walk around drinking and smoking and doing shrooms without sitting down on anything but a bike for like 8 hours. Finally lying down, I was out pretty instantly. What a day.


Waking up the next day, we decided to chill hard. We had breakfast, talked about the show, then headed to Hogans for a hang out/frisbee throwing session with a freakout stop at Burger King (actually not my doing) on the way into the city. We then packed up and switched to bikes, then headed into Camp Hogan for day 2. 
We were there early enough that Dustin and I decided to take a walk through SPAC- I had been there 5 times but had only seen about half the area. He asked me if I wanted to see a sketchy spot where hippies got high by sniffing sulphur. Duh, of course I wanted to see that. 

On the way from the parking lot area to there, we passed through a wedding. It was a hoooot day and as we walked though, the wedding party was heading out to have their pictures taken. One of them said he was so mad he was there and he wanted to be at the show. We considered photo bombing, but it was too obvious. Clouds started looking... doomy. 

this picture refuses to center

We eventually got to a section of woods where we walked under a giant bridge down a super steep woods section towards a river. I was still wearing just crocs, so the walk down the hill was a tad frightening, but after passing through garbage filled woods and arriving at a river/stream, I was happy I just had crocs on. I decided to just wear them in the water and we made it across with no issues.

The water flowed to a section with huge rocks that people were considering jumping off, but they had security down there to remind them that they'd probably get split in half by the rock shards below if they tried. Here's douchebag Dustin walking around with no shirt on all day:

We then looped around to the sulphur part, and it was weeeeird.

what planet is this?

The ground was surprisingly slippery to a mini cliff towards the water. I was waiting to wipe out and slide into it at any second, but thankfully, it didn't happen. It seemed like most people down here were either exploring, rinsing off (the water was freezing and it was super humid out), or looking for a place to do drugs. I didn't see anyone sniff the sulphur to get high, so I did.

sulphur rock butthole that smells like farts

Just kidding. I'm not doing that. It was time to head out. It stunk as much as I thought it would. Just a giant pile of weird this-can't-be-from-earth rock with a huge hole in it just leaking stink all day. What a weird place.
We then walked up the rock as there were somehow footsteps that developed on it over the years. Pretty cool.

We then walked back to the parking lot and got a group together to go to Shakedown Street. I suddenly realized I'd be getting wet tonight.

get your mind out of the gutter

We spent less time there, but we went farther back than we had the day before. I even got a french bread pizza (sadly the cool pizza place barely had anything when I tried again) and Dustin bought a weird shirt. We couldn't spend much time there though- it was showtime. 

This time, Steve was trying to sneak in and I went in the standard entrance with Dustin and Amanda. I stated to wonder if Dustin was playing a trick on me when he told me to hide any drugs, because I finally got to see just how ridiculous people were with this stuff in line, just not caring AT ALL that there were security people everywhere and they were like, next in line to get patted down at the gate. They were smoking joints or little electronic weed pipes literally up until they were the next person in line. People were chugging beers and throwing them out right next to the ticket taker. It was just weed smoke, beer chugging and people getting rowdy and we weren't even inside. Truly a lawless place. 

Once inside, we did what we did last year on night 2 and what I wish we did every time- we fought through the upper crowds trying to catch glimpses of the band from the hill and headed down as far as we could get, admitting that we may not see the band as much, but we'd have a giant screen right in front of us and a flat spot to stand on that somehow doesn't seem to ever be crowded. 

It got crowded very fast though, because it started to rain before the band was even on stage. Suddenly I had absolutely no room. Why? We were under a bridge.

The show started and was generally pretty solid for the first set even though they opened with a song I think I've now realized is my least favorite Phish song, "AC/DC Bag." Weed was smoked, fun was had. Actually, Steve had given me 2 joints as a thank you for supplying him with my one hitter so many times the night before, even though I said that was way too much and he didn't have to do that at all. He said "then share." And I did. I thought I smoked something else the previous year when I finally smoked a joint that was passed to me. I said no a few times and told Dustin that I didn't know what would be in it- he had told me horror stories he'd seen in his many years going to Phish shows. At some point he said "dude, it's probably fine" and I said fuck it and smoked some a dude passed me and felt very odd later- like waves of high then nothing, and an odd sensation of tingling down my spine I haven't really felt since. It could have been all in my head, but I was weirded out about my first "hey stranger, want to smoke?" experience. Now I was that guy, and you know what? It rules being that guy. I got to be the guy that said "hey, just have the rest of this, I'm done" to some dude whose night I made. Oh yea, he looked exactly like a mini version of WWE Superstar Edge. 

The rain sucked though. I was only getting rain blown towards me on one side, but I could feel the rain starting to form puddles under my feet, slowly creeping into our dry area as wet smelly hippies jammed themselves under the bridge and took away all my space. But it was still a fun time.

There was one pretty amazing moment that would have been pretty amazing sober, but probably blew my mind more because I was high. During "The Divided Sky," thunder started happening. And it was terrifying for me, yet everyone cheered every time it happened. I started to realize the weird irony that a song called "The Divided Sky" was being played as the sky opened up and thunder and lightninged all over us. Then I noticed how the song was building as the storm was, and Trey was playing the high notes while looking towards the sky. Sure, he always looks up when he gets going, but it really felt like he was looking towards the sky, saying "ok, do your thing, but this music and all these people are going to will these storms away- so get it out now while I provide you with a soundtrack." The song worked perfectly with the storm, and everyone in the crowd seemed to be feeling the same things I was. It was pretty incredible. Later in the parking lot, it was theorized that because the band was inside, they may not have even known it was even storming, and the band was building the song because of the cheers people were doing because of thunder claps and lightning flashes- that Trey was actually looking up to the crowd, thinking that they were cheering and freaking out more because the band was playing the song so well. So they were building the song based on how the crowd's reactions were building, which were building because of the storm and how awesome the band was playing in relation to the storm. This whole thing was amazing anyway, but this added a whole other level, and I really hope I hear someone years from now talk about that show so I can say "I WAS THERE MAN. It was SICK."

Set 1 ended incredibly and I realized how awesome the sky looked with my camera doing its weird long exposure thing (that I got into by accident). So during the break and during set 2, I took a lot of pictures. Here are some of my favorites.

take me to the bridge downtown

my screen view


glowstick wars and weird lights

An incredible sky

glowstick snake, which happened in the exact same spot where it happened last year

this is probably my favorite

Set 2 was pretty incredible, and I verged on smoking too much. I definitely was on the border of not paying enough attention to the music, where I don't really want to be, but I felt fantastic. What an incredible show. Dustin said it may have been the best he'd seen. We were all blown away, exhausted and psyched, and there's a certain weird feeling of relief and closure I've started to notice on the last night of a 3 night stay in Saratoga (and probably everywhere). You're dead, but you're psyched and you now have a great memory of a band playing 2 nights (for me, 3 for a lot of these people) of 2.5-3 hour shows in an awesome place. You somehow feel accomplished yourself, and you're all warm inside from something you looked forward to working out so wonderfully.

The second the show ended, things got very odd.

Actually, a better description is that it became nightmarish. I was in this wonderful blissful world where I was with friends, dancing to super loud music with bright lights everywhere, super high and happy, and literally like 10 seconds after everyone was done clapping and the lights came on, it was a hell hole. 10 feet away, a dude who was tripping hard on something was fighting security, trying to climb over the barricade that separated the lawn from the indoor seating. Through lots of yelling and people staring in horror, they eventually let him go and he ran into the crowd, completely lost. I watched him as he wandered through people, looking around like he had never been on this planet before, barefoot and filthy, just completely gone. As soon as I stopped looking at him, I saw that a chick was puking HARD 10 feet in the other direction. And there was trash everywhere. 

So, wonderful bliss into a lunatic fighting security, puke puddles, people in various stages of trashed acting like assholes, trash everywhere, people slipping in mud and the sudden realization that I also had to walk up a mudhill, wearing soaked crocs. Ughk. 

I made it though, and I randomly got into a conversation with a dude who had an insane laser light. I thought he was going to give it to me, but no dice.

major lazers

We walked back to the parking lot talking about how awesome of a show it was, and my high (both a good life high and also a weed high) was still fantastic. I had forgotten about the slap in the face the end of the show was, but things suddenly got REALLY weird when we got back to Camp Hogan. 

"Wait... are those dudes with the balloons all..."
"yea, nitrous."
"wait, this is a thing?"

In my sheltered straight-edge-till-30 lifestyle, I had heard about nitrous but had never actually seen it. So I stood and watched as 3 or 4 dudes hung out by the tree inhaling it in fast forward. I then realized that there was a line of people sitting where we usually sit, all doing the same thing, completely obviously in the wide open. It was fucked up. 

Apparently this has been part of the Phish culture all along, I just didn't know how rampant it could be, and I somehow had gone 4 shows without seeing any of it. I started looking on the ground and realized there were tons of canisters everywhere. I watched from the shadows as a few dudes leaned on the tree, taking hit after hit (are they called hits?). I asked friends about it and they all said it was basically like a super strong high that hits you instantly, but the immediate effect disappears just enough that they immediately want to do another hit. I may have made that part up- I honestly didn't really understand why they were taking hits SO fast. It was literally taking them like 30 seconds to go through a whole balloon. And I watched as a normal dude took 1 hit, giggled and sounded high, to a few later where he wasn't making any sense and sounded retarded, to a few later, where he was barely able to stand up or walk in a straight line. I watched a few guys just hanging out having a good time turn into shells of people, stumbling over each other. It was honestly pretty scary. To see someone willingly making themselves go from normal to a retarded mess that quickly, by sucking in a balloon... crazy.
One of the dudes saw I was taking pictures of him and was all "heyman DON pUT thisson facebook!"I joked around with him, saying I didn't even know who he was, I couldn't see his face, etc. and I watched as genuine concern turned into him not even knowing I was there. 

party hard

It was scary to see this many people getting this fucked up this quickly in this public of a place, then I noticed why they were all in this one spot. The giant thingamajig that was filling up the balloons was right across the street, sandwiched and hidden between 2 cars. 
When we got to Camp Hogan on night 1, we watched as 2 guys got arrested within a half hour of us being there, all in that same spot. They were playing loud music and smoking and drinking obviously. But that was it- the only difference between them and us was their brazenness. And now, as the whole thing came to an end, the exact spot cops were concerned about 2 guys smoking weed in public, there was a line 20+ people long, all waiting to inhale gas and go braindead.

When I took this picture, I saw the true horror of mankind. In the woods to the right of me were several people peeing, and in every other direction were people either already doing nitrous, already retarded from doing nitrous, or were in line, actually fighting each other to get to the nitrous faster. I watched the main person (the guy filling the balloons) yell at people who were cutting in line, pushing people, yelling to get the fuck to the back of the line, and people were pushing each other, squeezing tight to get a glimpse of the thing, trying their hardest to be next in line. I've never seen such zombie drug behavior, and it's pretty crazy. 
I walked back in awe, and we got out of there before it got any more terrifying. 

We headed to D'Andreas where we closed the experience out correctly, then headed back. It was Sunday and Dustin and Amanda had to go to work the next morning. I slept incredibly again. 

After hanging with Dustin a little the next day, I headed out around 11. I was going to Warped Tour on Wednesday (stay tuned for that post), and I was psyched to have a drive/recover day, then 2 days off. I stopped by at Keith's new bike shop, then stopped and bought Yeungling for my dad. I eventually found a Wendy's for some much needed and delicious lunch, and headed home, to another show. 
Right when I left Dustin's, I got a text from one of the 2 people I still talk to from high school, the guitarist of my freshman year nu metal band Chewtoy, Murphy. He asked me if I wanted to see Weezer for free at the Hampton Beach Casino. 2 different people had bailed on him and he just wanted someone to go with. I told him that I was 4 hours away, and I honestly didn't think I could even make it. I was exhausted and just wanted to get home, but left it as this- if he could find anyone else, go with them. If not, I would step up and might just be a little late. He didn't find anyone, so I literally drove 4 hours straight, directly to Hampton Beach, and walked in and found him, with Weezer starting about 10 minutes after. 
What a weekend, and what a perfect ending to it. 

I've since thought about how my Phish shows have been for me. 
First show- straight edge, one night, calm
Second show- first Phish high experience
Third show- first time very high for them, first shakedown street experience
Fourth show- really explored shakedown street, first shrooms experience
Fifth show- Explored sulphur hole, ate at shakedown, first time even seeing nitrous

This has been a pretty incredible evolution of experiences. No, I don't plan on my 8th show being me high on acid and nitrous and following Phish on tour afterwards, but I can tell you this, I'm considering exploring more- maybe bringing a good camera and spending a day at Shakedown or seeing if I can find even weirder, darker worlds. I'm excited about seeing them again. Who knows, maybe there's even a short book in the evolution of my phish posts over the years. Time will tell. Can't wait for next year (Dear Phish, please play the 4th of july weekend in Saratoga again in 2014 and every year after that).