Are You Excited Yet? I Am.

Trey Struts - 6.3.11 Pine Knob (C. Gadzinski)

Excitement is slowly starting to come to a head in this Phish home. After Phish took fall off only to pop up quick and give us an under-performing NYE run (I know many people are going to stop reading after that sentence) only to be followed by another extended touring break, the stench of Phish is slowly coming back to the air. I was looking forward to the long winter’s break after Madison Square Garden; it would give me some time to think about some important non-Phish-related things and accomplish some important non-Phish-related tasks. It was a nice breather to recollect and decompress. Was I disappointed with NYE? Yes. Does it mean anything? No.

Summer 2011 was a major success and the most musically exciting tour since their return. Phish, for the first time in 3.0, got my rocks off so who cares about a lackluster NYE run. Showing the pattern they’ve shown us now three summers in a row, this summer will only build off of what they have already accomplished. Trey’s playing has been fantastic and their communication is tightening.

Now that tickets are all lined up for most of us, it’s time to plan and think about the fun stuff. Hours spent at work looking at Google Maps for the best routes to venues and hotels is never considered wasted time or a boring endeavor. We love it. Looking at what Phish played the last 10 times in a particular state in hopes of cracking some code to what they will play at your favorite shed this summer is never deemed fruitless because it’s always fun. Everything we do and think about to prepare for the shows months ahead of time is part of the experience.

What’s better than waking up at the crack of dawn to pick up the tour buddy you’ve seen shows with for over a decade to hit the open road in the summer–windows down as the sun comes up, the road quickly becomes a playground of inside jokes of yestertour, crummy food, and hilarious camera-phone-worthy sights.

nTelos 2011 (P. Costen)

Gas may be expensive now, but everyone in the car certainly rotates the cost of fuel when it’s time to fill up. As you near the city of the next venue the concentration of other phans grow. You start noticing antelope stickers on bumpers or Coleman grills crammed into back windows. When another phan exits his tour vessel a simple nod means more than “hi”, it means… well I don’t know what it means, but it’s fun to acknowledge one another like you’re both in on some everlasting spoof that ‘normal’ people don’t even know is taking place around them.

Everyone needs their stand-by items ready for lot and show too. I need a few things among more obvious items: Jim Beam (or Johnny Walker Black), cans of Red Bull, Cheez-it Duos (one of the inside jokes discussed earlier), my blue ball cap, and my swim suit that isn’t only for having fun in hotel pools but also comes in handy if rain is forecasted for the show. My very small group of tour friends know this and I know what they like. We know each other in a way that the rest of our friends don’t. We see each other dance and act in ways that would make our coworkers and loved ones shutter. But only when Phish is around. Then we return to our normal lives. If Phish is our escape, the drive is us escaping and what is more exciting than escaping?

When Phish hit the stage the memories and excitement only grow. 2011 wasn’t short on memories. It’s those type of memories where you don’t only remember what happened, but you remember how you felt. I’ll always remember jumping in the air with my friends when Fishman began the thunderous rolls to Colonial Forbin to open up UICIII. It’s impossible to forget your thoughts when the jam in the Gorge’s Rock and Roll locked into a groove with Fish and Mike last year. The excitement and anxiousness building in phans while Phish was eerily jamming to open a set at SBIX before popping into Crosseyed isn’t something that will ever leave one’s soul. The moment Harry Hood started segueing into Have Mercy in the hot, stale air under Blossom’s beautiful roof is one for the ages.

Festival 8 (rollingstone.com)

What got me thinking about the wonderful moments most people (non-phans) can’t understand is when I recently listened to some of Festival 8. I was leaving my parents’ house Easter afternoon. The sun was warm and I was in good spirits. I forgot my iPod and had a few random discs in my 6-CD car stereo. One of the disks was the Exile on Main Street set. What a great set that was. Let it Loose came on, a song I always liked but never paid much attention to–that is until I got to see it a second time in Chicago last year. Let it Loose, even though it was preformed better (horns and vocals) in Indio, it had more meaning and yielded a bigger response in the Windy City. That’s because it was unexpected. No one in the arena could have possibly predicted that to be the next song, let alone the song to close the first set. I bet the Rolling Stones have no idea that one of their songs brought such extreme joy to thousands of people at once one hot night in the summer of 2011; and that’s fine–as long as we know. We’re so lucky that these things mean so much to us. We’re so lucky that we have an excuse to have fun in otherwise really boring cities. We’re so lucky that we can see our favorite band multiple times in a row and have each concert be a surprise. We’re lucky for every little personal reason that gets us personally excited over Phish. We’re lucky to have Phish.

The first leg of this tour looks pretty fun already. We got Deer Creek and Alpine back in the mix, we got two nights at nTelos, we got the Centrum in summer (WHAT?!), we got SPAC, and we have a festival-like run in Atlantic City. I can’t wait to see what the second leg holds!

What are some things that you like tediously planning for tour? What are some things that excites you that most people would roll their eyes at? What inside jokes do you and your friends have on tour?