It was May 1994. My second voyage to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival had come and gone. I was now sticking around the Crescent City for a few days to catch Phish at the State Palace Theater before returning to sunny Florida. To save money we decided to camp on the Mississippi Bayou, home to many a legend, and many a biting insect.
Two nights before the show, while camping out, I made the mistake of not covering every inch of my body to protect it from insects. My ankles were torn apart and dotted like a page of Braille from all the bites.
I awoke the next morning and my left ankle was severely swollen, and very sore and tender. It hurt to walk on it. All I could think to myself was that this could not and would not ruin my Phish experience. The swelling would go down and I would have no problem. Well not quite. Through the course of the day my ankle continued to bother me but it was far from unbearable. I continued to think that it would slowly go away, so as not to interfere with the show the following evening. With that thought in mind, I went to bed.
Lo and behold, I woke up the next morning, the swelling was gone, and any pain had all but vanished. All I had left to do was enjoy the show that evening. As we waited in line for the show to start, rumors abounded that the Cosmic Country Horns would be joining the band as they had in NYC earlier in the tour. I made it through a great first set, still no problems.
The second set began, and it was really inspirational. They kicked it off with “Antelope”, one of my all-time favorites. This was made even more special when Trey dedicated the “Antelope” jam to a friend back in Burlington who had given birth to a baby during set break. He playfully wished "the baby [went on to live their] life something like that jam" and that it be named Marco Esquandolas. You wouldn't happen to have any spike…man?
The set continued with a “Bouncin'”, and then “YEM” into jam and…bring on the horns. The Cosmic Country Horns (The Giant Country Horns + Michael Ray), marched out on stage in all their psychedelic glory blowing their brass to the beat while Trey and the crowd cheered them on. From there they proceeded to blow the roof off the State Palace Theater with made-for-horns songs like “Julius”, “Magilla”, and even a rendition of Duke Ellington/Juan Tizol's Caravan.
The show was a real barn burner and gently set me down on an astral plane somewhere this side of the Milky Way. I found myself waiting outside the venue about an hour after it ended when Mike Gordon came strolling by with a friend. "Hey, what's up?" I said. "Not much, me and a friend are going to grab a drink, wanna come?" Mike replied. Being the responsible friend that I am, and knowing how much it sucks thinking that you have lost a member of your party in a town as sketchy as New Orleans (although I love it), I declined, choosing to wait for my pals.
By this point I was exhausted, and had long since forgotten about my previously bad ankle. Unfortunately, I awoke to a painful reminder. The ankle was again swollen, only now it had become so painful I could bear no weight on it or even move it. I thought I had broken my ankle. We had a long drive ahead of us and my first priority was to see a doctor upon returning. It turned out the excessive bug bites had infected my ankle causing the pain and swelling. After twenty-four hours and a few antibiotics, I was 100 percent healed.
Looking back on the whole event, I am still amazed how I was able to will sickness away long enough to enjoy a healing of another sort, a spiritual one.