[Some words from Andrew Sinclair, user @aisincl, who was supposed to recap Curveball's third show for this blog. -Ed.]
Of course it is cloudy, windy and rainy on this Sunday morning. Of course Junior’s Donuts in Margate City, NJ would be serving Coconut, Red Velvet and Twist donuts on yet another 2018 weekend interrupted by Mother Nature.
Emotions are a very interesting thing. I credit Pixar for taking a real risk by tackling emotions when it created Inside Out. We got to know Anger, Sadness, Joy, Disgust and Fear and their involvement in our minds and lives. This weekend certainly brought out all of these characters for some 40,000+ of us. As I did some digging on emotions for this piece, I became focused on the “deriving from one's circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.” This entire weekend, last few years of Phandom and total relationship with The Phish from Vermont can be summed up by the bit on relationships with others.
Curveball initiation sequence started on Wednesday afternoon, as my brother Jared made his way out of the Stamford train station. He had flown in from London, where he bounces around Europe on behalf of his exciting job and company. He missed his friends and family, and wanted to see all his favorite people while, like me, taking in his first Phestival. We let the jokes fly, went shopping at WalMart and Party City, and re-watched that epic MPP N2 show from start to finish. (That "Chalk," "Piper" and "Hood" are so awesome. Of course the boys are warmed up & ready for Watkins.) We made sure to get to bed early so we would be completely refreshed for the journey up to Watkins Glen.
We were so excited. As we made good time along the NY Thruway on Thursday, we texted and called all the great Phriends who would be meeting us up there, as well as the comrades who couldn’t make it. Quite a unit of great people. The text chain for our group house was buzzing, filled with amazing jokes and shared information amongst a group of wonderful people who go back a good 30 years from Long Island childhood. Sofia M, our house leader and core, ensured we had enough food and supplies for an epic few days of eating, drinking and laughing. She was also prepping mentally for her 100th show on Friday evening, while we were inflating all kinds of whacky balloons for this truly special occasion. We were still refreshing CashorTrade to ensure Lisa, Joe and Marsi found a bracelet before show time Friday evening. “Cause we’re all in this together” was the theme for the upcoming 96 hours of greatness.
Concurrently, we checked on our buddy Jason M, who had taken me to my first show, years back at MSG, and was about to roll up to his Glen Close campground. Could we sneak in there for a beer over the weekend, and was it true he could hear soundcheck and the shows from that tent area? Another group from our suburban Connecticut town, led by the fearless Kirk W and Jeremy W, would be rocking out at the Courtyard Elmira; we were making plans for where to meet Friday at the festival campus. Kirk and I were still picking up our faces from last Friday’s "Runaway Antelope" in Raleigh.
Mid-afternoon, we stopped off at the lovely and gracious Tradition at the Glen resort outside Binghamton to meet our dearest friends/basically family Alison and Brad K, who organized their 10-year anniversary and renewal of vows around the Curve. We toasted to their love, tossed back a cold one on the hillside balcony, and took a gander at the 400+ invitations they had printed for their 5:55pm Saturday renewal ceremony at the Ferris Wheel post-Day Set. You were all to receive an invitation! After a bunch of hugs and game plans for the weekend, we set sail for the home stretch to Watkins.
We were pulling out of the Ithaca Wegman’s (Jared’s favorite hoagies on Earth) when we got the news. Jared said we should pull over. Our phones and bodies were buzzing with shock, confusion, depression, utter sadness, a bit of optimism and hope (maybe they’ll play around town even for just one night?), but eventually mass amounts of condolences. The Curve would be lost, and now would come the all-important what-should-we-do-next?
My buddy Jeremy M, a UVM graduate who had re-discovered his deep love for The Phish, rang to discuss optimistic scenarios, like an impromptu lakeside show, or makeup dates soon enough. He understood the pain, having enjoyed the Jimmies show with us about a year ago. Eric E, Jon R and Ross/Jackie K all expressed their empathy and care for us weary travelers. We received the official announcement letter via Donny D, who had taken me to my first TAB show (10/16/2015, first time I heard and fell in love with "First Tube") and my second Phish show (12/30/2015, love that "Free" and "Gin", never will miss a 12/30 show again). I remember the first time I texted Donny after a show to say “These guys are the best. It’s not even close!”, and he responded in agreement. Back to the weekend.
As we solemnly reached the corner of N Decatur and 9th Street in beautiful and serene Watkins Glen, we saw the cars and RV of our housemates fully parked and emptied. They had already skipped past the various stages of grief and moved to the only sensible and correct mindset. “Well, we have a week’s worth of delicious Beer, grill masters Josh & Jordan B and their grand buffet from the family-owned Northern Bell in Williamsburg Brooklyn, and about 30 of our closest friends in town with bookings until Monday. Let’s make some Lemonade.”
Thursday night was a perfect summer evening. The warm air, mixed with a cool breeze, made for a very emotional party. We argued and dissected all the Curveball scenarios, like cancelling Friday and just load up Sat and Sun with day and night sets galore. We laughed about attendees just signing permission slips or liability waivers, not showering or drinking water, just to let the show go on. We busted each other’s balls, just like old times. Jordan B cooked us up some incredible pulled pork, the best smoked wings in the NYC area, green beans and bacon, etc. Jordan, not all heros wear capes! Our DJs, Jimmy and Josh, chose only the choicest Jams and tracks from the massive Phish catalog. Decade-long Vets mixed and danced with the newest of newbies. It was as close to Curveball as we could make it.
Friday morning, we all decided to make a great day of our shortened vacations. The morning took us to Watkins Glen State Park, and we ventured up the Gorge (fitting) to take in extra strong waterfalls and perfect hiking climate. I witnessed many terrific Phish shirts throughout the hike, and remembered that hikes with friends from afar are more infrequent as we get older. Let’s just enjoy ourselves. By early afternoon, we all determined we would party into the late evening and return home Saturday.
What made Friday so special was the reference above to relationship to others. Jason M spontaneously decided to drive up and enjoy just one single day of partying with us, completely worth it to this hero. Brad and Alison K announced their renewal of vows would now be upgraded to a full-out wedding on our house front lawn. Brian K (thanks again for the Double Chocolate tix!) and Erika S, fiancés with their own wedding around the corner, would complete their drive all the way from California so they could officiate, and organize our group of 30 into a wedding that would make Abigail Kirsch swoon with envy. As a bonus surprise, my neighbors and friends-who-are-family Megan and Brian P rolled up in their RV 20 minutes before the wedding, because they too wouldn’t let a cancelled concert ruin their 4-day adult vacation.
So imagine this, Phish community. I hear the opening notes to Divided Sky (love the 7/28/17 version) before Alison K walks the makeshift aisle to meet Brad K, while Brian K and Erika S and Jason M and Josh B transform into Officiant, Maid of Honor, Photographer/Videographer and DJ/Band, respectively.
It was a great time, and we even threw a monster reception about 30 feet away on the other side of the front lawn. This time we brought out the 200 glow sticks, tossing them like we were in a Set 2 version of 2001 or Harry Hood. I discovered how incredible "Slave to the Traffic Light" is, and look forward to hearing it at a future show. The key takeaway from the wedding ceremony came from Brad K, who remarked during his vows, “I’ve always been indifferent to marriage, the only thing I care about is that I spend every day of the rest of my life with you Alison.” Josh B and Sofia M nodded in agreement. Relationship to others, indeed.
Yesterday, I headed back to enjoy a family vacation down at the aforementioned Margate City, New Jersey. My wife’s parents escorted me from car to NYC bus, and we enjoyed a relaxing summertime lunch together. My parents were heading down as well. They originally bought the beach house so we could enjoy multiple generations of family together, and had just enjoyed their first show last week at Camden N1. They had remarked after their show, “Everyone was so kind and friendly to us; one guy even gave us his Pavilion aisle seats so we could sit indoors as the rain came down. And that 'Disease' was amazing.”
By sunset yesterday, I had rolled into our bayside Beach House (also on N Decatur Road) and received the most wonderful and refreshing hug from my soon-to-be 7-year-old daughter Raya S. “I missed you Daddy” managed to sweep away any small, lingering disappointments from the Curventry experience. My beautiful wife Amy S, carrying our little 9-month-old bundle of joy Charlie S, remarked how happy she was to have me 2 days earlier for our family beach time together. Amy has always been wonderful in response to my newfound devotion to Phish. Each and every time I express desire to attend an upcoming Show, Phestival or local LiveStream Couch Tour, Amy says “Enjoy and have fun with your friends. When you come back, make sure you’re a great Dad”. The perfect partner.
That’s the point of this entire emotional weekend and complete Phish experience. I saw some shows in 2013 and 2015, formed a bond with my suburban CT crew on the party bus to/from 7/9/2016 Hartford, and then finally GOT IT during my two Baker’s Dozen shows (Choc Dust and Universe is a Donut). The rest has been a religious experience with a Band that represents the highest possible exponent of both Music and Community. At the end of the day, this weekend will be remembered as a minor personal disappointment that quickly mutated into an incredible time with Phriends and Phamily. Witnessing my brother mingle with my great neighbors, who danced and sang with my closest college friends, who hugged and laughed with newfound friends and Watkins neighbors brought me great satisfaction and contentment. All of my favorite people hanging out with each other, this doesn’t happen every day. We managed to pull this off, and will simply reunite when CurveBall or some other Ball gets announced in the future. I have complete and total faith in the Boys from Vermont as well as my comrades.
Last night, Raya S and I went out for ice cream. As we walked over to the legendary Dairy Bar to get some sundaes and milkshakes for the family, Raya held my hand and asked the only sensible and important question that mattered. “Daddy, did they play 'Golgi Apparatus' and 'Chocolate Rain'?”
“Of course they did!”
See you all at the next Festival,
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I liken it to the many great shows that actually were seen. For this is the show that was never seen and there are only a certain amount of people that can say that.
So again, in this strange way you were part of something somewhat magical.
I attended the Grateful Dead concert at Deer Creek when it was cancelled after the infamous “gate crashers” killed the vibe. I still have that that ticket, not ticket stub.
It’s something you will always remember, it’s strange the way things work and you will grow more fond of that memory as time passes.