Out Of Your Head

I got stoned tonight for the first time since 1998.

Ok, not really. But it was definitely a contact high. Those Phish fans, they sure can smoke down, huh? But lemme’ back up…

How did the consummate alt.pop singer/songwriter fan end up at a Phish show? Bobbing his head and getting dangerously close to doin’ that whole ‘Tripping Billy’ spiral dancing shit, no less? Thanks to Mr. Ron Lieber and his lovely wife Jodi.

Ron emailed me a few months back having somehow traipsed across my site. He’s got terrific taste in music, and is a great writer/reporter (Wall Street Journal). We’ve got some common ground, and has been a terrific friend already. He and Jodi invited me over for a ‘lil BK BBQ, then sent me an apologetic email earlier this week saying Jodi had to go to the Phish show for work (New York Times). So I figured he had to cancel — no problem. Upon closer inspection, though, I noted that he’s invited me to the band’s final New York performance at Keyspan Field on Coney Island.

Listen, I left the whole Dancing Bear thing behind years and years ago. But Coney island? Keyspan Park? Phish’s last New York show ever? Right there on the edge of the continent? SNAP! I’m in!

So there we are, the sun’s setting, and clouds upon clouds of pot smoke are wafting into the almost motionless, lukewarm sky. And we’re like 100 feet from the band. Despite my discomfort with the scene (which passed with time), it was difficult to diminish the element of experience in this, well, experience. Forget the patchouli, the tie dye, the trust fund hippies, the dude’s elbow in your gut (again) — these four can play!

I like hooks, I like short and sweet, I like to sing along and all that. But give Trey one sweet lick and fifteen minutes to run with it and he and the band can run with it. And then some. I enjoyed myself most when I closed my eyes and just listened. Every once and a while, some really subtle transition in tempo or song, or some crescendo or false ending would leave me grinning.

And then Jay-Z walked out.

Yeah, f’in’ Jay-Z! Worlds collided right there in front of me: my life at 22, and my life at 32. M’ man did ’99 Problems’ and ‘Big Pimpin’ and it was pretty f’in’ hot. Then they resumed the epic ebb and flow, the sonic roller coaster, that many call jamming, and I often refer to as noodling. And I closed my eyes, and rolled my head around, and kinda’ lost myself for maybe just a second there.

The whole tribal aspect of the show took me back to the fall of 1993, I was barely 22-years-old and had just graduated college. I had no idea, I repeat, no idea what to do with myself. So I packed up the Chevy and drove to Durango, CO, where I Vision Quested with a new-age outfit called the Animas Valley Institute. In short, my objective was to walk off into the high desert, fast, and wait for a vision as for what to do with my life. The first night of fasting, just prior to our departing for four nights alone, we had something of a drum circle dance thing goin’ on, and my soul kinda’ hovered over my body just a little bit. I was out of my head. In a good and holy — and legal, I might add — way.

Like tonight.

The cultural phenomena of the whole thing? Wish I had the energy to go there right now, but after an hour-long ride on the F to my office where I grabbed my bag and walked home, well, I’m pretty toasty.

All I can say is this: if a friend offers you tickets to something, do it. Just freakin’ break routine and check out a new scene. It might just help you find a little bit of yourself all over again.

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