Miles Today: 0
Total Miles: 10,816.0
Days on the Road: 184
Noah Surrenders to Rock N' Roll Passion
But He's Got Nothing On This Guy
Read about how high tech this concert was.
With a Face Full of Mud
Raise your hand if you would ever, ever, consider spending 18 hours in traffic, for anything. No? Not even for a rock concert?
Well, that's exactly what we did last weekend in Maine. Phish was throwing one of their sometimes huge festivals, dubbed IT, in Limestone, Maine, and we (read: Anthony) insisted that we would be there. In the past, the traffic has been no more than a slight problem; 3, maybe 4 hours of stretching your legs, playing frisbee with the people in front or behind, enjoying a rare opportunity to use your cup holders for beer. No big deal.
With these past experiences in mind, or rather out of mind, we didn't have a contingency plan. Hell, we didn't even have a map. A nice county map may have saved us half a day, as it did for some of the people we met in line 200 yards from the gates. These people had just pulled right up, no traffic at all, and waited at most an hour to get to their campsite. We loathed these people, but mostly we loathed ourselves. Lesson? Always carry a map, as detailed as possible; always have a backup plan; never, ever take the suggested route, and pack extra toilet paper.
The amazing thing about these Phish festivals is how quickly the memory of the traffic snarls fades once inside the gates. A city (the biggest in Maine that weekend) of tents stretches for miles along the runway of an old air force base. The water tower is wearing Groucho Marx glasses, instantly conveying to the viewer that this is not a place to complain about traffic. This is a place to... wear Groucho Marx glasses. And possibly nothing else.
The weekend basically creates a small reality-free zone. Most of the "lifestyle" laws of the United States are suspended, with people openly engaging in the sale and use of most every form of intoxicant, though "hard" drugs are much less in evidence than "funny" drugs. Available for purchase from licensed vendors are the usual spate of somewhat overpriced burritos and blueberry pancakes, while unlicensed entrepreneurs in the campground sell everything from "Kind Veggie Quesadillas" to "Wicked Bloody Marys" and "Special" brownies, for bargain prices.
The most memorable event of the weekend occured during the first set on Saturday (Phish played 3 sets each on Saturday and Sunday, with a special "secret set" from atop the control tower at 3 a.m. Sunday morning). Dave, Noah and Anthony were towards the front of the crowd of roughly 60,000, while Liz and Cass retired to the hospitality tent for some cheap beers and a place to sit for a while. As the music reached a crescendo, Noah turned to Anthony and said, hand on his forearm, "I think I should go to the tent." As soon as the sentence was complete, his eyes rolled back in his head as he dropped to his knees and then plunged his face forward into the mud, directly between the legs of the guy in front of him.
Sure, it seems funny now, and fifteen minutes later and for the rest of the weekend it seemed really damn funny to us too, but at the time it was a bit scary. Dave and Anthony reached down immediately and pulled Noah's face out of the mud (missing, we might add, a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity), turning him over onto his back. His body was stiff, his eyes completely empty. The crowd parted quickly and arms offering bottles of water shot in from all sides. For a few seconds we thought he was having a seizure, and struggled to remember what to do in such a situation. As we called his name repeatedly, his eyelids began to flutter and his eyes rolled back from their vacation inside his skull. His muscles relaxed and he sat up, wondering exactly why everyone was standing around him, and why he couldn't hear very well (his ears were filled with mud). The whole incident lasted probably 20 seconds.
We walked Noah out of the crowd and he rinsed himself off. It was about this time that we started laughing, and we didn't stop for quite a while. Noah had the look of a real rock-n-roller, face covered with mud, shirt drenched, hair matted to his skull. He looked really cool, and several people walked up and congratulated him on his totaly abandonment to the experience. Sacrifice the body, set the spirit free.
He just passed out, that's all. The music is loud, he was... let's say really tired, and probably had been standing with his knees locked for 15 minutes or more, screwing up his circulation, until his brain decided to take over and hit the reset button. It happens fairly often at concerts; Anthony has seen it several times, invariably to the friend he brought along and feels somewhat responsible for. Good times.
On Sunday morning, four of us competed in The 100th Running of the 1st Annual Runaway Jim 5K, which seemed like a fun idea at first, but proved to be actual exercise. They tricked us.
On Monday morning, it only took us about 5 hours to get down the road to the interstate, a comparative pleasure cruise. As always, the trials and tribulations of attending were well worth the experience and the memories. Oh, and the music? Phenomenal.
© 2002, 2003 Anthony Hecht and Liz Jones. All rights reserved.