This article was originally published in the Dick’s 2014 edition of Surrender to the Flow Magazine. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Summer 2014 marked the first time I completed an entire Phish summer tour. For years I have always missed out on a couple of shows, typically due to teaching or a pre-planned trip, but this summer, the stars aligned and I was able to finally complete a full summer tour. About halfway through the tour, I was taking away some lessons from my travels that had not appeared otherwise in past tours and non-music related trips around the country. Here, in random order, are some things that I learned after doing a full Phish summer tour:
Whatever you do, take care of your car: before I left, I made sure my Saturn was in good condition and I wasn’t neglecting to get anything fixed. The oil was changed in mid-June, and after driving 1000 miles for the first 10 shows, I got another oil change when I could have waited until Chicago. By the time my next oil change came, things were still in working order and my car was happy. The last thing I needed, especially when the last 8 shows were tightly packed together amid long drives, was my car breaking down.
Save money when you can – whether it’s sharing hotels, crashing at friend’s houses near where Phish is playing (incredibly I spent only $300 between 11 nights in hotels), buying groceries and not overloading on gas station food, or avoiding overpriced venue food and beer ($14 at some stops), every dollar counts. On that note…
Eat healthy! – trips to Trader Joe’s in Albany and Chicago got me through tour, using healthy snacks instead of fast food to supplement your diet helped more than I can stress. Fresh fruit is available anywhere, but it’s not hard to find a farmers market and stock up. I spent maybe $60 on these types of snacks all tour – it was the best decision I made, aside from going on tour.
Stay healthy! – despite healthy habits, I did get a bit of a chest cold for a few days. It happens. Vitamins are a must, rest helps, as does taking it easy for a night – Charlotte was a good show to decide to load up on fruit juice and take some meds. I was back to form by MPP2.
Rage, but don’t neglect sleep – ah, precious sleep. When I wrote his, I had just woken up from 14 hours of uninterrupted sleep and it was fantastic. On tour, I slept when my body said it was time, and especially if I had a long drive ahead of me. I couldn’t miss getting to some shows and venues, and I certainly couldn’t blow off vending. Sleep wasn’t something I took lightly, and yet I still raged proper with my friends. I’m not talking about going to bed right after a show, just finding those times when a nap makes a world of difference.
See local sights, local friends and family – this has been a staple of my travels for 20 some years of solo travel. Driving down I-55 in Illinois, I came upon the Mother Jones monument, and having taught about her, I made a pit stop. In Chicago, all that Grant Park and Millennium Park have to offer is worth spending a few hours roaming around. I saw family on the way back home from Alpharetta, and even brought my cousin Cecilia to her first show at Orange Beach (she loved it). Don’t just go on tour and see Phish – those pit stops make for awesome ventures and memories as well.
You will hear a lot of the same songs – yes, Fuego just came out so we knew we were getting a lot of the new songs, but after a bit, “The Line” and “Halfway to the Moon” became less enjoyable just because I’d heard them so many times. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the show, and neither did a bunch of “Julius” and “Character Zero” encores, but it wasn’t as thrilling as say, a “Lizards” encore. But repetition has its flip side – four “Waves” and all those glorious “Harry Hoods” were a pleasant addition to each show. I can imagine fans in 1999 and 2000 going on tour and shrugging at yet another “Farmhouse”, let alone “Character Zero” back in its overplay heyday, as well as 2009 when they came back and Joy songs were in heavy rotation (“Time Turns Elastic” anyone?). Still, as the new songs find their place in the regular rotation I’ll be enjoying them with everyone else.
Tour is expensive – I took part in a project that Surrender editor Christy asked fans to take part in – keeping track of expenses through tour. This was not only fun to do, but eye-opening. Next year I already know where I can cut back and how to improve cost-saving, but some things – merch bought (both lot and venue), venue food and beer, eating out – add up quickly. If I wasn’t vending shirts and such, I would have needed more than savings from a teaching job back home to cover costs.
Tour is not easy – I saw a hilariously true sticker at many stops on tour: “If tour was easy, it would be called your mom”. Tour is not easy. It is not for the faint of heart. Riders will fall through, plans that seem perfect will change and you’ll stress out from time to time. It is also tough on your relationship if your SO (or dog/cat) is back home and you don’t see them for three solid weeks. Facetime or Hangout are clutch in that regard and made the time away pass by faster.
The best take away from tour – seeing 22 shows, every incredible highlight, meeting so many great people, hanging with old friends who I hadn’t seen in years and enjoying Phish while cruising the land of the brave and free. This was an incredible journey and I can’t wait to do it again! You should too!