Deep in the rich parts of Spring, TX, thousands and thousands of dreadlocked free spirited traveling gurus gathered together in the parking lot of a newly built mall surrounded by pine trees and foliage. They had been there all day and were still going strong in the evening sun. Volkswagen vans, RV’s, buses once used for transporting students and airstream campers occupied the vast amount of parking spaces. Hippies were pacing back and forth the length of the rows with coolers of beer yelling, “Cold Brewsky! Three bucks a bottle!” Others were sitting on the ground or in the back of their vehicles selling glass blown pipes showcased in briefcases. Others were selling food with signs that read, “Organically Grown.” A few isles down tribal sounding rhythms could be heard from bongos being beat on by about six other dread heads. Hand-made clothing was also on display and the parking lot was transformed into one big runway. Blaring from each and every van, bus, RV, and car was a variation of different songs but they were all performed by the same artist. Phish. Old Phish, new Phish, live Phish, studio Phish. License plates ranged from Arkansas to Colorado to California to Rhode Island but they were all going in the same direction following one common interest. Phish followers. The last great non-mainstream band. Some say they are the answer to the loss of the legendary Grateful Dead and until I attended one of their concerts, I never fully understood the extent of this statement. Cops were riding around on horses nearby but they didn’t pay any mind to the illegal activities being performed just a few feet away from them. I had a joint shoved in my sock and every time I walked I could feel the sock slip down and the joint slip up. I had to stop about every five minutes to push it back down. The paranoia of getting searched at the gates had faded after arriving in the parking lot, but I kept it there anyway just in case. Nothing was going to stop me from seeing Phish. It was about a fifteen minute stroll through the self-made Haight Ashbury. I could see myself doing what these people do. My envy towards them grew with each step I took. They were traveling the country seeing a different landscape and meeting different faces every day. Experiencing something new that inspires the soul to experience again. I know it would probably get old but a year could fill a lifetime. I wanted to linger around and digest it all in but Phish would be on stage in thirty minutes and my friends and I were anxious for good seats. We sprawled our blanket out over the grass, kicked off our shoes and socks and waited for the show to begin. At around 7:40 pm Phish took the stage, no opening band, just Phish. From the first song of the first set to the last song of the last set it was an all-out total jam fest. Songs lasted for fifteen minutes as everyone toked on weed and danced around oblivious to how they might look. I remained seated swaying back and forth, clapping my hands, singing along with the music, toking on my weed. The moon was full that night, and just when the sky threatened rain, wind picked up and blew the clouds away. My hair then covered my eyes and I smiled a fresh breath of air.
September 27, 1999