Here’s a complete list of the things for which I would wait 25 hours, huddled on a sidewalk, in line for tickets to see or do:
-Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees — the Dave Roberts game, for those who don’t remember.
-Jeff Buckley, back from the dead, performing live at Sin-é. Even then, probably only if the ghost of Nick Drake opened.
-A night out with Gisele Bündchen.
-The 1969 moon landing. Not on TV, mind you. On the moon, walking hand in hand with Neil Armstrong.
As you can see, it’s a short list, populated by once-in-a-lifetime — or absurd — events. But as the queue for Phish tickets outside the Flynn Center box office last Friday, September 9, demonstrated, not everyone is so particular about how they spend their time. There’s a reason the word “fan” stems from the word “fanatic.”
Anyway, a little before 5 p.m. that afternoon, I strolled over to the Flynn to scope out the scene, partly out of a sense of professional-music-guy duty and partly because I was curious. Folks don’t often camp out en masse on our city streets. I wanted to see the spectacle. I also wanted to talk to some serious fans, the kind of people who would wait more than an entire day, sitting on concrete, to go to a concert.
Nick, who estimates he’s seen 30 Phish shows, was among the first in line, camped out with a small group by the Flynn’s front doors. The self-employed Vermonter staked out his spot at 9 a.m. that morning, meaning he had been there for 25 hours when tickets went on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday morning.
All right, Nick. Why?
“There is just such a positive vibe at Phish shows that you don’t see in many other places in the world these days,” he said.
OK, I kinda get that. We’re all looking for a little peace, love and understanding. Nothin’ funny about that, right, Elvis Costello? But seriously, 25 hours?
Amy, who also arrived at 9 a.m. and says she’s been going to Phish shows since their Nectar’s days, offered another viewpoint.
“They’re just a great grassroots band from Burlington,” she said. “And for them to [put on a benefit show in response to Tropical Storm Irene] is pretty special.”
No argument here. Given that the show is expected to net roughly 1 million bucks for local flood relief, it is pretty special. Still, 25 hours?
I continued down Main Street taking in the sights. Groups of raggedly dressed fans huddled together closely, some on the ground, others on camping chairs. From a distance, it sort of resembled a refugee camp, except for the festive mood. A group by the entrance of the Vermont House played guitars quietly, another closer to JP’s Pub intently listened to a radio.
I turned the corner onto St. Paul Street and saw that the line extended to 156 Bistro. (Later that night, the line wound up King Street and well beyond.) I approached the people at the end of the line.
“So, you guys waiting for k.d. lang tickets?” I asked. (She’s playing the Flynn on Friday, September 23.)
“Uh, Phish,” said a young woman named Liz, smiling. We chatted briefly about the band and the line. Then I popped the $75 question. Liz and her boyfriend, Mark, a veteran of 60 Phish shows, exchanged glances. Then Mark spoke up.
“That’s hard to say, man,” he admitted. “Some things you just can’t put into words.”
Apparently. Which is why this next part is so hard to write — and for those who waited in that line, will likely be equally hard to read.
The next afternoon, a friend posted on Facebook that he was selling two tickets at face value. Having just spoken to another friend who didn’t have a chance to get to the box office that day, I texted the first guy to see if he still had them.
“Yeah,” he replied. “I was just walking by the Flynn around noon today and there was no line, so I figured I’d get two.”
I wonder what Mark would say about that.
On a related note, this week I’m introducing a new column feature called This Week’s Sign That People Are Total Douchebags: As of Monday afternoon, tickets for the sold-out show — which I’d like to reiterate is a benefit — are going for upward of $300 per ticket on Craiglist and eBay. But fret not. I’m sure the sellers will be donating the profits to the ongoing flood-relief efforts in Vermont, right? … (cue crickets) … Rot in hell, assholes.
It appears Phish are not the only rock stars lending a hand to our recovery efforts this week. Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and a “surprise guest” will join the “Irene Goodbye” Cabaret Benefit at the Woodstock Town Hall Theater this Sunday, September 18. Perry and his wife have owned a horse farm in South Pomfret, Vt., since 2005. No kidding. One half of the infamous “Toxic Twins” now raises horsies in southern Vermont. How rock and roll is that? (Answer: Not very. Still kinda cool, though.) And no, I have no idea if the surprise guest is his Toxic Twin brother, Steven Tyler. Dream on…
Happy birthday, MSR Presents! The Queen City’s arbiters of indie-rock cool celebrate their second anniversary this week with three shows in two days: the Dodos and the Luyas on Thursday, September 15, at Club Metronome; “one-man party band” Scott H. Biram with Lowell Thompson at the Monkey House the same night; and up-and-coming pop outfit Generationals with Brenda and the Milkman’s Union at the Monkey on Friday, September 16. Congrats, guys. You’re all grownsed up.
I had hoped to run a review of the new Pulse Prophets record in this week’s issue, but a scheduling conflict made that impossible. It’s a pity, because I think it’s one hell of a record — this coming from a guy who shies away from most modern reggae. Those who don’t should ride the tradewind breeze to Nectar’s this Friday, September 16, when the band celebrates the release of the new album and opens for Mighty Mystic.
Speaking of new releases, lovable local indie-pop kids the Smittens have a new 7-inch vinyl single entitled “Typing, Texting” to celebrate, which one presumes they will do in impossibly cute style this Friday, September 16, at the Skinny Pancake in Burlington. Also, the opening band has maybe the best name ever. Which reminds me…
Band Name of the Week: the Crazy Exes From Hell. Aren’t they all? This Boston-based duo describes itself as sounding like “Violent Femmes performing Rodgers & Hammerstein,” or if “the Moldy Peaches pulled a Fleetwood Mac.” You know what? I’ll allow it. But how ‘bout this? Imagine if Colin Clary and Dana Kaplan ditched the sweet acoustic bedroom-pop thing they do with their Smittens offshoot Let’s Whisper and started writing really agitated — and really funny — breakup songs. Yeah…
Maybe I was totally wrong about Plattsburgh being a cultural wasteland. Famed drag queen Jackie Beat, known for her roles in films such as Wigstock: The Movie, Flawless (with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robert friggin’ DeNiro) and Adam & Steve, as well as for an appearance on the HBO series “Sex and the City,” is bringing her cabaret act to Gilligan’s Getaway this Saturday, September 17. By the way, Gilligan’s Getaway is in Plattsburgh. Really.
Last but not least … Also on Saturday, September 17, “1/2 Way to St. Patrick’s Day” at Therapy Nightclub and Sports Lounge in Plattsburgh, which features — drumroll, please — green beer specials and, I’m guessing, assholes dressed like leprechauns and lots of “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” pins. Because one day a year to grotesquely caricature an entire culture just isn’t enough.
Once again, this week’s totally self-indulgent column segment, in which I share a random sampling of what was on my iPod, turntable, CD player, 8-track player, etc., this week.
Born Gold, Bodysongs
Little Red, Midnight Remember
Beirut, The Rip Tide
Neon Indian, Era Extrana
Stephin Merritt, Obscurities