This article was originally published in the Early Summer 2011 issue of Surrender to the Flow Magazine, #29.
Phish Tour as Vacation
What constitutes a vacation is different for each person and each family with variables based on cost, class and the intrinsic need for adventure. Those of means are able to travel throughout the country and across the globe in style, dining on exotic meals in locations both exclusive and secluded and broadening their views of the world from a safe distance. Many in the middle class including those with families are relegated to the once or twice a year typical vacation spots – Orlando, Myrtle Beach, National Parks, State Parks, beaches and other destinations that are economically feasible and work into the busy calendar of life. There are those who are unable to plan for, let alone set the time aside for, a vacation and make do with brief local escapes to see family and friends, forgoing leaving town for the ‘staycation’. Although that’s a lame word, many have no other way to escape reality for the important rejuvenation a vacation can bring..
For those who see Phish, vacation is a different beat altogether. While we might fit one of the aforementioned vacations into our yearly lives, Phish tour is the vacation of choice for many fans. Our love of Phish is the driving force behind our choice on where and when we take a break from the real world and focus on getting together with friends and rejuvenating our spirit through a most unique vacation that is not available through any travel website, travel agent or vacation club.
Most people take vacations with their family, but with us it’s our Phamily. How we get there and where we go depends on who we are, where we live and how far we can afford to travel on a given tour. Our travel styles vary yet we all arrive and we all get in. The single rider travels to meet with friends and head into the show. Couples ride together and bond over the trip to and from each show, adding to their story another chapter or ending the journey because it just wasn’t right. Families are starting to appear more on tour as our fan base ages and taking kids to a show isn’t something to be surprised at anymore whether we embrace it or not. By moving from town to town, going on an entire tour or a leg or run of shows or doing whatever is local and convenient, it becomes our vacation. More importantly, our vacation comes to us and can be taken 2-3 times a year in some cases, especially if you live in the Northeast or Midwest.
As my friend Emilie Goldenberg reminded me, “Tour is like summer camp for adults.” Many of us went to summer camp and enjoyed the activities, the bonds among friends, seeing old friends again each summer. Finding the joy of tour that is unseen anywhere else – THAT is our vacation and the heart of Phish tour. Before camp as a kid and tour as an adult, there are the jitters of excited nervousness, the potential to see old friends, the excitement of what might happen, what might change, where we might go on a side trip and what debacles may befall the group on our trip this time around. During camp/tour, expectations are pushed aside for the reality of the shows we see, the adventures we go on with our friends and the stories made through the unpredictability of tour. When it ends, we long for more but instead find our way back home, exhausted and hungry for ‘real’ food, a good shower and our own bed. We spend the next week or so developing/uploading pictures and videos, sorting through clothes clean and dirty, sorting out our souvenirs and tangible memories, putting them away for safe keeping until we look at them again before heading back on the road to camp or a show and starting the cycle anew again.
For Phish fans, it can be difficult to take a ‘real’ vacation, one that involves not going directly to a Phish show and not collecting another Mike’s Groove for the memory bank. Booking a flight, taking off to a Caribbean locale or elsewhere throughout the world and spending a week or more with someone special or a group of friends – all that takes effort and planning in order to pull off and its not easy. The average person can plan that trip to Costa Rica a year in advance but for Phish fans, many cannot simply due to the fact that Phish might be playing a year from now and most of the time, Phish takes priority. Weddings are acceptable reasons to skip Phish, simply because that event doesn’t repeat itself and there are hundreds of more Phish shows; weddings, not so much. So we wait and see when Phish is playing and make plans accordingly. With no fall shows for Phish this year, fans can rest assured that plans can be made and vacations taken with a relative degree of planning involved in order to make the vacation less harried and more enjoyable. Taking away the fear of going on vacation and missing something epic like a hometown show, a three night run or even worse, a festival, allows for trips to be planned and vacations to be enjoyed without the fear of missing out on something special.
Then again, some folks plan in advance and wind up missing out on the few shows that they were set on going to, simply because life (family, significant other, lack of time) got in the way. Having to plan well in advance for a tour knowing that accurate tour dates are a crapshoot until announced adds to the pressure of planning and hoping Phish and ‘real’ vacations don’t overlap. With some luck, you can get in both vacations; you gotta squeeze as much out of a vacation as you can when you know that Phish tour will probably postpone the next one!
Even with family vacations coming up more often as we get older, the need to take a Phamily vacation is ever-present so as to bring us back to where we were, remind us of the feeling we forgot and bridge the gap between the youthful exuberance that Phish tour secretes and the docility aging brings to our lives. It becomes a struggle between getting older and seeking to hold on to the things we grew up with and a balance is needed even when it seems like it might not be in our best interest. Your soul knows best and finding your way back on tour, even if just for a show or four is what you can fit in, you know it will be worth it. It always is. With friends by our side we get back feeling alive from out latest Phish vacation.