That Feeling I Forgot
by Jenny Makunas
I was that girl crying in the seat next to you at Deer Creek in ’04, sobbing her way through Slave and trying really hard to make sure you didn’t notice so I wouldn’t bring you down. Deer Creek…and Alpine…and a little bit at Great Woods…and definitely in the dark in a movie theatre in Berkeley, CA watching the first notes of A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing and realizing that I was watching the beginning of the end.
By Coventry, frankly, I was all cried out. Besides, what were tears going to do in the face of that disaster? So I laughed – mostly – and sunk into the mud with everyone else, put on my game face and listened to the “last ever” version of everything. As the final set drew to a close I drank champagne from a Camelbak, hugged my husband and my best friends, split open and melted. And as soon as the taillights of the tour buses were well and truly gone, I got in the backseat of our car, took a Xanax and passed out. When I woke up we weren’t in Vermont anymore and it was over.
I did a lot of stuff after Phish broke up: I worked a ton, moved to London, traveled, had a baby, and my husband and I were lucky enough to continue to see amazing music in amazing places. I saw Phil Lesh throw San Francisco quite a Mardi Gras party. I saw the Black Crowes at a converted church in Amsterdam, singing songs close to hymns under the stained glass. I discovered My Morning Jacket late one miraculous summer night in a tiny shed in the Sierras. And I saw David Bowie – the Thin White Duke himself – sing Comfortably Numb with David Gilmour at the Royal Albert Hall in London (I cried a little then, too).
But during all those transcendent musical moments and the countless others like them that I was lucky enough to experience, there was always – just for a second – a small profound moment of sadness for what was lost. My heart’s little Phish-shaped hole.
So yes, I’ll admit it: They had me at Fluffhead. It didn’t matter what had passed, or how very very different my life was five years later, just that little moment when they started Fluff at Hampton and we all looked at each other with a mix of excitement and disbelief was enough. Enough to refill that little hole; enough of an apology for the train wreck that proceeded those taillights; enough to restore that fabulous feeling of anticipation that anything can happen at a Phish show. It was, in short, That Feeling I Forgot.
Because as much of a Phish cliché as it is, isn’t that the truest experience of a Phish show? To feel that feeling you forgot – whether it be how tired you are after traveling all day, or how cramped your legs are from traffic, or how exhausting it is to wait in line for GA admission? Or how amazing it is when they play exactly what you want them to play exactly when you want them to play it (or how they’ll play exactly what you didn’t expect and it’s perfect anyway?). Or what it sounds like when we all collectively realize that they’re doing something uniquely interesting or skillful? How it feels to go back to your campsite after one of those shows. Or how each individual Phish show has a certain velocity that’s almost impossible to articulate unless you were there?
It – all of it, good and bad – came back to me in that moment. All the things that made me realize what we had lost and how lucky we were to be witnessing the resurrection of the band we love (and, most importantly, how very rare that happy ending is in rock and roll).
There have been so many more of those “feeling I forgot” moments in the past two years that I am constantly convinced that Phish is – for me – worth every second and every penny. From the earthy perfection of Mound at Red Rocks, to watching the sun set over the Gorge, to listening to Slave in the eucalyptus-scented fog at my beloved Greek Theater in Berkeley, the dividends that I get from following and loving this band continue to sustain me in ways I never thought possible.
So it stands to reason that all my memories of those indescribable moments at festivals – Phish in their most concentrated, most bizarre, most compelling form – would draw me to Superball IX. I think about the color of the sky at dawn in the Everglades, and “our intent is all for your delight,” about YEM (with fire!) and how I can now use the world “Burble” in a serious sentence. That’s why I’m here. It’s as much about all those moments past as it is about those yet to come – this weekend and beyond. It’s a simple answer, really: Where the hell else would I be?