Monday 09/21/2015 by phishnet


Jürgen Fauth’s The Ashakiran Tape is a novel set at Jones Beach in 2009, and the following excerpt opens during the second show of the run, 6/4. After he’s had to deal with hapless noobs, sketchy scenesters, and a yacht full of strung-out tech millionaires, hardboiled lot detective Quentin Pfeiffer is finally trying to enjoy his first shows since Coventry – but the dark events of the previous days are threatening to overshadow the music.

EXCERPT (from Chapter 14)

Of course they played "Drowned."

In The Who’s Quadrophenia, the song marks a desperate moment for mod hero Jimmy — but according to Pete Townshend, it was originally intended as a love song: "I wanna drown in cold water" wasn’t a death wish but an expression of ecstatic abandon. Out of the structured section, an urgent jam exploded, teeter-tottering between stadium rock grandeur and darker undercurrents that lashed the audience like an elemental force, like the rain that came pouring down for most of the show. For a second, Quentin thought he heard the band tease "Jumpin’ Jack Flash" — it’s a gas, gas, gas! — but it dissolved before he could tune into the significance of it.

Walt and Q watched the show together from the taper's section, where it was considered good form to keep the chatter to a minimum as to not ruin the recordings. Q danced carefully, forever worried he’d bump into a 12 foot mic stand or step on someone's MacBook Pro, the situation complicated by the tarps people were using to protect their equipment from the weather.

Phish seemed much more in sync now, but the vibe was ominous. Q figured the band would have to know about the dead body fished out of the bay a stone's throw from the stage, and death hovered over the music all night long — from "Grind," a cheerful a cappella number that changed lyrics every time to count out the actual days the band members had been alive, to "Squirming Coil," "Dirt," and "Ghost." The joyfully silly dance tune "Meatstick" couldn't seem to find its bearings and was played in a wrong key and "You Enjoy Myself" was lacking its usual, blissful nirvana section. Mike Gordon was wearing purple pants, which was neither here nor there — his sartorial choices often left fans befuddled.

The show concluded with another cover, the Velvet Underground's anthem "Rock and Roll," which seemed like an attempt to find salvation in the music: "Her life was saved by rock 'n' roll," the song went, and the crowd dutifully roared at the mention of "a New York station." All Q could think about was the Skipper's horrible swollen face, lying down by the bathrooms, and the cold stare Chuck had given them, but finally the images resolved into the rousing final chorus.

"They'll need some time," Walt said as he packed up his gear after the show, "but they'll get back to where they were, and more. I'm sure of it."

"Searching for a way forward," Q said. "They seem horrified by the idea of repeating themselves, trying to relive past glories and failing. I think that's why Trey ripcords jams. Either it's fresh or he cuts it short."

Some dude wearing Mr. T levels of Mardi Gras beads around his neck had overheard them and sneered. He sang a line from "Time Turns Elastic:" "I'm a submarine, a submarine, sinking beneath the ground," and broke out into drunk giggles.

Walt invited Q over to his hotel for a beer while he tracked the show and got it ready for seeding, but Q declined — he had to get back home.

"How's the little one?"

"She's awesome. It's hard, but I wouldn't miss it for the world."

"Spoken like a real daddy."

"It's a cliché because it's true, man."

Walt nodded. Q didn't know what his story was with kids, and he'd never asked. He’d known some of Walt’s girlfriends over the years, yoga instructors and nutritionists, Waldorf teachers, all of them quite fetching, and some of them had kids now with other men. Their friendship covered more than just the music or the scene, and Q could have easily asked — but he never had, and now it seemed too late, somehow.

"Speaking of which, I gotta check in with Em — "

Walt nodded and bought two beers from a vendor while Q dug out his cell. The battery was on its last legs, but it'd do for one more call. Em picked up on the second ring.

"Quentin Pfeiffer," she said, and the way she used his full name told him everything he needed to know.

"Two house guests are quite enough for me, thank you very much. I’m not running a home for hippie chicks in distress."

"It's only for tonight, I promise. I gotta go, my battery's dying. I’ll head back now, okay?"

After he hung up, Q found himself lingering on Shakedown rather than heading straight for the car. He meandered aimlessly down the main drag and the surrounding lanes, which slowly emptied out of cars — but enough people were still hanging around, drinking beers, enjoying their highs. The mood wasn't euphoric, exactly, but the faces Q saw seemed to know they'd seen a better-than-average show with some profound moments that managed to speak, however imperfectly, to the vibe of the place and time, that addressed the mysteries surrounding the day, the death on the beach, this peculiar moment in Phish history that was, like any other day, cyclic yet utterly unique, never to be repeated in its singular configuration of hopes and dreams, disappointments and possibilities.

Unwilling to let the night end quite yet, searching for something he couldn’t put his finger on, Quentin turned and ambled down Shakedown one more time. From way beyond the far end came the telltale hiss of a tank — someone was selling nitrous. Hippie crack, they called it. The high didn't last, it was terrible for your brain, and a fucking balloon of the stuff was up to what now, $8? The margins were astronomical, and the people selling it were famously profit-driven and somewhat less than invested in the health of the scene. Q hated the stuff, but already clusters of people with moronic grins, some of them holding two or three balloons each, were stumbling his way or slumped out on the ground, like a kid's birthday party gone stupendously wrong.

He found a curb at the edge of the lot to sit down for a moment, closed his eyes, and breathed in the cool air. He attempted to read the moment, feel his way through the remaining crowd to get a sense of the secrets still hiding out, but he couldn't find the right place to do it from — couldn't get time to slow down and stretch, couldn't get a handle on the night.

His phone beeped, not with a message notification but a battery warning: it would be out of power shortly. He flipped it open and dimmed the display to squeeze a few extra minutes out of it and noticed that he did have an unread message after all: a text from Dana.

Q had tried to call her before the show to see if she'd gotten the news and if she was okay, but when she didn't pick up, he’d only left brief voice mail.

Her text read: "Need to talk to you. At the marina. URGENT."

He tried calling, but his phone went dark on the second ring. Quentin Pfeiffer stood by the edge of the emptying parking lot and cursed.


The Ashakiran Tape (HEAD CASES Vol. 1)

From the author of the historical thriller Kino, a "fast, complex, exhilarating roadster ride through history and time" (Frederick Barthelme) comes a gripping psychedelic mystery steeped in sex, drugs, and rock ’n' roll.

When legendary improvisational rock band Phish returns to the stage after a five-year breakup, longtime fan and hardboiled hippie sleuth Quentin Pfeiffer has to be there — even though he is older, wiser, and the father of an adorable baby daughter now.

But not everything is sunshine and rainbows in the freewheeling circus surrounding the band's summer tour: after the millionaire skipper of a drug-drenched luxury yacht goes missing, Q and his crew are drawn into a dangerous intrigue of dreadlocked dames, shady tape collectors, and spun-out wookies chasing after the long-lost recording of a mysterious late-night jam.

Inspired by Raymond Chandler and set during a series of concerts at Long Island's Jones Beach amphitheater, The Ashakiran Tape takes readers deep into the spiraling ecstasy of Phish's epic shows and the seductive underworld of the obsessive fans following them.

Jürgen Fauth’s first Phish show was 4/26/96, New Orleans Jazzfest. He is the author of the novel Kino (Atticus Books, 2012) and Raves (2014), a collection of movie reviews. He has been called “for better or worse, the only person to ever provoke Robert Hunter to write a semiformal explanation of one of his songs” (Jesse Jarnow). Jürgen holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and divides his time between Berlin, Germany, and Dakar, Senegal. You can find him online at, and on Twitter at @muckster.


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, comment by charliefogg
charliefogg If you're looking for Robert Hunters response,as mentioned at the end of the article, its here...
, comment by User_11821_
User_11821_ Interesting. I want to vomit more after each sentence.

Personally, I can't support this - reading this is like catching my sister coming out of the bathroom without a towel or that one time I saw my parents doing the sexy time. It was messed up and it forever changed me - this is definitely Phish taboo, I will not be reading another line.

I dont understand the appeal of writing any fictionalized story in this kind of setting. It's not good writing, it doesnt seem to support any respected Phish ideal and I don't think anything previewed above hints at a good story.

Maybe I'm having a bad Monday, but this is probably the worst thing I have ever read in the Phish world. I find the fictional jabberings of spun forum users more interesting, more believable and more impactful than anything written above.

Jurgen, your writing style lends itself to reviews and essays about travel or movies better than American fiction, perhaps your stories of how you get around the world to see Phish shows would be more interesting. As a first novel, bravo and I hope you continue - but perhaps you should continue by not fictionalizing a story in a scene where the truth is stranger than the fiction.

Just my .02 cents. I'll make sure to donate to MB, since I did waste time by bashing someones creativity.
, comment by muckster
muckster Ouch -- but thanks for reading, Peacey. To my mind, any setting is fair game for fiction, so I'd be curious why you react so strongly to this.

I won't try to defend my style, story, or ideals -- that's for readers to decide. FWIW, this isn't my first novel, and I since I grew up in Europe, I've seen my sister come out of the bathroom without a towel a lot. Maybe that explains it.
, comment by User_11821_
User_11821_ I blame Monday, keep being creative, don't worry what we plebes say
, comment by Dressed_In_Gray
Dressed_In_Gray @muckster said:
any setting is fair game for fiction
Well said. Don your armor @muckster, because there's a critic around every corner.
, comment by PhishMarketStew
PhishMarketStew Lots of my friends and I have thrown "fictionalized" stories around via email and campfire, all centered around some Destiny Unbound like saga, anti-heroes traipsing around the nation in search of....something.
I can't bring myself to judge a book by a page or two but I will say that I'll take a "phish lot scene murder mystery whatever this is" novel over another fucking Alex Cross book any day. Even if the truth is stranger than fiction (and when isn't it?)
, comment by sirhotpants
sirhotpants I'd definitely like to check this out but alas do not have a Kindle and will not be getting one any time soon. Should it ever be printed I'll look forward to reading it!
, comment by JMart
JMart I agree with Peacey.
This reads like the person who wrote it thinks everyone is as invested in phish as we are. It just doesn't seem interesting know...good.
But whatever, man. Keep following your dream, etc.
, comment by The_Good_Doctor
The_Good_Doctor Congrats on the novel - that is quite an accomplishment. I admire your commitment and dedication to seeing it through. Hopefully I'll be there too one of these days.

Haters gonna hate I guess but don't let it get you down.
, comment by ski2sea
ski2sea I like it. Looking forward to reading more. Nice work.
, comment by projmersch
projmersch Hey Muckster-

Congrats on doing something brand new in the very creative Phish community!
, comment by Trey_Talks
Trey_Talks I thought the writing was quite good and the story very engaging. I'll be sure to pick up a copy, as I absolutely have to have any book in print that's even tangentially about my favorite band. (by the way mockingbird, where's TPC third edition?? I'll donate as penance for that bit of kvetching.)

One thing I do take issue with is the way the book is being promoted. It seems the aim is to draw in curious non-phish fans by portraying the community as housing a seedy underworld of drug abuse and crime. I refer in particular the following sentence:

Q and his crew are drawn into a dangerous intrigue of dreadlocked dames, shady tape collectors, and spun-out wookies chasing after the long-lost recording of a mysterious late-night jam.

To some degree this seems to be a problem with the premise of the story as well. It's simply laughable. There's an order of magnitude more violence and drug dealing at EDM, hardcore punk, grindcore/whatever metal, or underground hip hop events. Yes there are nitrous dealers on phish lot, but what they sell is hardly dangerous compared to crack cocaine or heroin, both of which were dealt openly and in profusion at eighties and nineties dead shows and even at Further tours (of course, if one is looking for them, these drugs can be found literally everywhere). More to the point, drug use and abuse does not go hand in hand with danger and propensity to do harm. The jam band scene (collectively speaking) is largely middle aged, predominantly middle class and above, and for the most part family oriented people (in some sense). That there are people getting wasted at shows does not make the environment particularly dangerous. People take drugs and get drunk while doing anything these days. It's become thoroughly banal since the days of the Merry Pranksters. The only danger wooks really pose is to themselves-- and their families-- by spending too much time on tour and not enough time building their resume and investing in their future.

Of course I understand the book is fiction, and I enjoyed the excerpt immensely. Yet I can't help cringing at the thought of some unsuspecting (and dim witted) person getting their hands on this book and being left with the distinct impression that "THE PHISH KILLS. NOT EVEN ONCE."

Anyhow, that was probably far too much harping on a minor point of contention. I wish you the best of luck in this endeavor.
, comment by muckster
muckster Thanks everyone for checking it out, I appreciate it.

@Trey_Talks, you raise an interesting question, and I was actually wondering about this quite a bit: by setting a murder mystery in this world, how am I presenting/misrepresenting it? In the tradition of a hardboiled thriller, I wanted the book to be a bit lurid and exaggerated -- it's what the genre demands. At the same time, I was worried I'd be doing a disservice to the scene by making it seem worse/darker than it is. What I settled on is an acknowledgment of the more selfish & destructive elements (which are certainly around, but very much in the minority) to drive my story -- balanced by what I hope is a clear sense, from the protagonists, that this isn't what Phish is about. Ultimately, that's Q's motivation: he's a family man who wants to preserve some kind of Phishy ideal that always brings it back to music and joy.

It's up to you guys to decide if I hit the right balance. Just wanted to chime in and say that I don't think it's a minor point at all, and that it was very much on my mind as I was writing.
, comment by Voraciously_Alternate
Voraciously_Alternate Phish = win
Murder Mystery = win

i was hooked and i look forward to reading the rest
thanks for posting this up
, comment by clove
clove Thanks for sharing, I just uploaded it! Looking forward to reading.
, comment by Phrederick
Phrederick I can only speak for the portion of the exerpt that I stopped maybe halfway through. If I was a high school English teacher, and a student wrote this, I'd be okay with it. Might even give them an A. But I wouldn't give them any money, and I certainly wouldn't add it to the curriculum. I will say it reads slightly better than The Mazerunner, but that was written for middle schoolers. Frankly it surprised me that the reviews for this "literature" weren't as harsh as the ones for the Dicks run!!
, comment by muchado
muchado This is right up my alley having been to that run. Read the excerpt and loved it. Going to read it on prime and will happily give you money for the entertainment once a hard copy is available.
, comment by muchado
muchado i ended up just purchasing this after reading your disclaimer. Just letting you know, it
, comment by muckster
muckster Thanks, @muchado! Much appreciated!
, comment by timkell
timkell I didn't like this excerpt very much. The references to the show just seem superfluous and could only potentially appeal to a Phish fan. As a Phish fan myself it just comes across as a quick attempt to prove the author knows a thing or two about Phish and the Jones Beach show in particular rather than advancing the plot or providing necessary insight into Q's character. OK he's a Phish fan at a Phish show but what do we gain from all of the words about the songs they played?

I imagine you tried to choose one of the most heavily Phish focused excerpts for presentation here so perhaps my view would change from a full reading. I'll check it out.

Good luck to the author!
, comment by muckster
muckster Book launch! I'll be reading from the book at Subject in New York on Oct 19. Come on down!
, comment by SimpleMinded
SimpleMinded Half way through this and for me this is great. I'm no literary scholar, but as I've aged into my 30s I now need a book to at least be pretty well written to hold my interest. But at the same time it needs to be fairly easy to read. (I'm educated yet lazy?) So for me this just about hits the sweet spot.

I have also wondered if this will hold interest for non-Phish fans. But even if it doesn't that certainly wouldn't affect my enjoyment of the book, as a Phish fan myself. (And presumably everyone posting here is a Phish fan so I'm not sure why this potentially narrow audience would lower your opinion of the book).

For me this is a page-turner, and I would love to be on a beach with a paperback version of this. I was saddened to find that I'm already 46% through the book. Muckster, hopefully you're working on the next one!
, comment by muckster
muckster That's great, @SimpleMinded, glad to hear you're enjoying it! Hope you liked the second half as well.

The paperback edition is available now:
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