Though I was hoping for the miraculous announcement of a Summer Tour in Europe this year (don't we deserve it too?) it looks like it's not going to happen. Phish
is in their element in the summer time of the good ole US of A. The land where rock and roll will never die. Since I was in the US as recently as January, another trip this summer is not a financial possibility for me. Instead I'll just have to live vicariously through my friends and the internet, like the rest of us Phish fans in Europe have grown accustomed to doing. Phish is even playing Merriweather Post Pavilian
, in my home State of Maryland
. I have been to Merriweather several other times, to see the likes of Radiohead
, the White Stripes
, Velvet Revolver
, Ben Harper
, Manu Chao
, and the Thievery Corporation
. That venue holds a lot of great memories for me. Coincidentally the shows there on the 26th and 27th of June will be attended by a Polish friend of mine for whom it will be his 26th and 27th Phish shows! Just goes to show that with a little dedication and a lot of free time, dreams really can come true :) Can't wait to feel that feeling I forgot.
For all of you though, that may be considering the oceanic voyage, and all the other cars, trucks and busses that will take you for the ride of your life, I could perhaps give a bit of advice taken from my 'recent' experience to Festival8 in Indio, California for Halloween weekend in November. I was extremely fortunate to be able to go to my second Festival.
My booking plans were pretty routine. First I flew home to Maryland, where I am originally from. There I was able to gather some of my own camping gear that has been conveniently stored at my parents house, such as a sleeping bag and a cooler. Then, I flew into LAX airport, using the cooler, filled with my other camping necessities (sequined costumes, glow sticks, face paint, flags, you know- just your basic camping necessities) as my check-in luggage on the flight. Sure, I got a few funny looks trollying that thing around the airport, but when you're on your way to see Phish, a few funny looks only give you additional satisfaction. The knowledge that you will be seeing your phriends and phamily in a world which remains only an elusive to concept to those on the outside....
Once in LAX where there were shuttles for the show running to and from Indio for the festival. This information for the shuttle was widely advertised on the official Phish website. Additionally, there are plenty of other Phish phan sites that use forums to arrange ride shares, airport pick ups, and so forth. If you feel comfortable to arrange rides with 'strangers' I can give you a vote of confidence in this matter. Phish fans really are birds of a feather, and everywhere I've gone, there have been wonderful people willing to give the shirt off their own backs if needed. When I went to Coventry in 2004, I simply went to the parking lot after the Camden, New Jersey show with a sign that read 'Peace, love, and gas money' and within no time I was cozied up in a van with several other Marylanders (one that juggled and could solve a rubics cube in less than a minute) headed North on what became a 24-hour car journey to Vermont (this however, is such a story it deserves its own post). However, For Festival 8, I arranged with several friends to rent an SUV, and from there we drove ourselves to Indio for the festival. There were some flight issues, mainly regarding flight cancellations in Denver from snow, which resulted in us driving the SUV from LAX airport to John Wayne and back when the luggage was misplaced.... But otherwise, the travel went smoothly.
For the festival, camping passes were sold as part of the tickets package. Separate shows however, do not always have a camping venue available, so you will have to look at the location of the show and see what kind of inexpensive hotels, hostels or campgrounds are available. In the summer time, a cheap and easy way to go is to camp. Coming from abroad to the US, it may be no simple task to bring the necessary camping equipment. However, you can follow your own preferences according to your affinity with nature, and your budget. The other thing about the camping is that, so many other people on Summer Tour are doing that as well, so campgrounds turn into the 'afterparty' and that aspect of Tour is really part of the whole experience. Staying in a hotel each night after a show certainly would be comfortable, but then you'd be missing out on making all of those phriends in the campgrounds and picking mud from your toes the next day. Who'd want to miss that?
I requested 2 tickets for the show in Telluride, Colorado, but didn't get them. I wasn't planning on making it to the show, but if I were chosen from the lottery, I would have given the tickets to some of my friends who wanted to go. You can find more information from the Phish homepage, but many ticket sales are done by a pre-request lottery, then a phone booking on a specific date. If you know already which show you are interested in seeing, you need to look online at the sales date ASAP and use a cheap international call carrier (like the preceeding '99588 +number' here in Finland) because you may be on hold for a while to get through. Otherwise you may have to use some other sites, like phunkybitches.com, phish.net or other Phish fan sites to try to arrange tickets, or hope to find your tickets outside the gates when you arrive (this can be risky as they can be more expensive this way). In otherwords, though, the conventional online purchasing of the tickets from the official websites is not the only method of obtaining tickets, and certainly at this stage in the ticket sales, not the most probably way either (the 'virtual band' becomes even more elusive).
Aside from the purchasing of tickets, my best advice is to travel light, and buy what supplies you need when you get there. Lawn chairs and other things are nice to have, but are a big luxury and travelling with them is next to impossible if you are taking a flight. When you get to the US you will find many discount superstores, e.g. Walmart, that will sell cheap camping supplies. If then you have no way of bringing them back on the flight with you, you can give them away at the end of the tour to those with cars living in the US who will be able to keep them, rather than throwing them away. They'd happily take your extra tubes of sunscreen, your $10 sleeping mat, or the cooler you buy for the tour but can't fit back into your luggage. These things you will want to have, but know that you can find them cheaply at superstores or camping supply stores like Sunny's Surplus, and giving them away later only adds points to your karma. Surely another Phish fan will have certainly given you something along the way. We stopped at a funny little alcohol bait and tackle place in the middle of nowhere on our drive from LA to Indio, where they sold everything from booze, to porn, camoflauge belts with the playboy bunny on them, and dry goods who's shelf life had long expired. There we were charged above the normal selling price because we were obviously out-of-towners, but we were too tired from our back-and-forth between two airports to notice/care. We decided then to make it our mission to visit the 24-hour Walmart before heading in to the campground. There, we got all the beer, fruit, sunscreen, and booze that we needed. Unfortunately they weren't selling water guns, because it was November :(. We were in good company, while shopping there were plenty of other Phish goers about, and many of them looked even more interesting than our motely crew. Though mostly I can say with certainty that the last people to judge us are the people working the night shift at a 24 hour Walmart, it was quite funny when the woman in her 40's lacking some teeth propositioned my friend (a girl) at the check-out. Though she added afterwards that her girlfriend would have her sleeping in the doghouse if she were caught cheating.... oh the people you'll meet....
As for the actual Festival 8, I was not disappointed. The venue was very well chosen, and as usual, the band spared no expense in gimmickry or amusement! If you're travelling in large groups, or have more than one car in your travelling caravan, you may want to make sure to drive into the parking lot right behind them, in order to get adjacent parking/camping spots. That way you don't have to go all looking for your friends after the show, though this is also an experience that yields some interesting adventures and new friends as well. The grounds was a very well manicured horse polo grounds and therefore, any camping spot was nicely flat and soft. The Los Pedros mountain range in the background and the palm trees everywhere added a nice scenic touch!
My friends had purchased a foldable picnic table with benches attached that they brought as checked luggage from Denver, and also an easy-up for shade. We brought also Halloween decorations for the 'easy-up', including solar powered LED lights, plastic spiderwebs and so forth. Finally, we marked our spot. Going to a large Festival where you will want to find many friends that you did not come with, OR at the end of the night, in case many of the camp grounds look the same and you would otherwise have difficulty finding your camping spot, marking is important. Many people do this with large helium balloons or tapestries. We used a Maryland and a Finland flag. The campsites were also sectioned off and named for convenience. Each campsite was given the name of one potential candidate album for the cover show on Halloween night. We stayed in the lucky chosen one, 'Exile on Main Street', which is the Rolling Stones album that they ended up choosing to cover :) It was to the surprise of many when they found that 'Loving Cup' was not a Phish original, but rather a Rolling Stones cover.
The festival transformed the polo grounds into it's own Gamehenge
, a miniature city taken over by peaceful nomads from all walks of life. It included a 'merch' area for necessities and amenities alike, water bottles with the Phish logo on them which if purchased, could be refilled for free at the many water-refill stations (a great way to cut back on waste). There was a farmers market, where you could buy fresh local produce and other earth friendly amenities, like organic coffee and comb honey. The nearby 'shakedown' provides an opportunity to buy souveniers, like homemade merch, t-shirts, PhanArt, and other goodies. Nearby to 'shakedown', there was live open art being created and constructed including my personal favorite- a large boat constructed from plastic recycleables! We were freely invited to contribute, and the art became a massive group endeavor. Inside the venue, a labrynth shaped like a snake tempted visitors with distorted mirrors and other illusions. Reaching the top, an elevated view of the stage was a nice vantage point for those who don't aspire to be entrenched in the pulsating, glowing swarm that is the crowd. There was also a Giant Wheel, providing a magnificent view of Los Pedros mountains and the entire grounds (see the picture of my friends and I in our Ocelot costumes). For me, little extra touches were what made the band's playful creativity come to life, for example the doughnuts shaped like an '8' that they were giving away on Sunday morning, or the giant glowing zeppelin that floated and changed colors throughout the music.
These are all just suggestions, things that I have experienced, and have witnessed working for others, but everyone has a different travel/tour mode, and their own preferences. Hopefully sharing this experience with you has given you some ideas of how things go and what you'll need to do to prepare yourself for the geat journey! Let me know if any of this has been helpful, and if you need any other suggestions, I am happy to help.