Wednesday, August 10, 2011

California Vacation, Day 1

My first Phish concert was in Los Angeles, which I attended with my best friend and her significant other. "Interesting" does not seem a sufficient descriptor for my experience of this musical group and corresponding fanbase. First of all, since I'm not entirely certain this blog will be visited by persons knowledgeable of this band, I will attempt to provide some background information. However, keep in mind that until the Phish concert in LA, I had never heard their music. Look them up on Youtube sometime to get a taste of the live shows.

Phish's sound reminds me of the rhythm and blues rock of the 1960s and 1970s, such as Eric Clapton, only much more nonsensical. For example, the lyrics of one the songs played goes: Steal away before the dawn/and bring us back good news/but if you've tread in primal soup/please wipe it from your shoes. The fans consist of extremely nice people, the predominant personality type being of the outgoing hippie variety. I dare not list all the substances I suspect these people partake in, partly for legal reasons, and partly because I'd rather not incur anyone's wrath for tattling. The funny part about all this is that I'm straight-edge, meaning I don't like drinking much alcohol or taking any drugs. But wait, some people may think, that's not exactly the sort of crowd this person would like spending time with! Think of all the horrible temptations there are! But see, I still manage to have fun at such parties, as I get a huge kick out of watching people act ridiculous, especially when they add questionable influences to the mix. Just because I don't dabble doesn't mean I mind that other people do.

Anyways, I had arrived at the airport in LA that morning at about 10 am. I had been forced to wake up at 3 am to make my flight. Even with short naps here and there, I was already fairly exhausted. My friends had staked out a parking spot, having experienced the chaos of Phish shows before. This setup meant I had to recruit a shuttle to make it to the venue. $26 later, I managed to arrive at the Hollywood Bowl. This place is a huge outdoor amphitheater, able to hold a few thousand people easily. The seating consisted of wooden picnic benches, and there was squishy plastic flooring, which I thought rather odd for a place attempting to be "nature-y." My friends kept regaling me with tales of the massive tail-gating antics the crowds hold before and after the concert. I had not planned on actually attending, but as the concert was that evening, I had plenty of time for a nap before the show. Luckily, there was someone who had an extra ticket willing to sell at the face value of $60, meaning I would have to save my 1337 stealthy ninja moves for another day. Some hours later, I was more awake, and all of us were rather bored as the lot was not filling up very quickly. Even though people were arriving, my friends were baffled by the lack of vendors and general chaos. Things didn't really pick up until 5 pm, meaning they could have easily picked me up at the airport. Oh well, that's how it goes sometimes.

Walking around the parking lots of the venue, we finally discovered some revelry across the street. This place is also where I started snapping photos, as the costumes and accessories some of the people wore were just amazing to behold, like something randomly shiny found on a thrift store shelf. Being something of a magpie, I was of course attracted to all the colors and strangeness of it all. I like to think of the people in these photos as the sparkling Phishies, haha.

Also these monkeys amused me greatly

Needing drinks for the concert, my friend and I started looking for a convenience store. Inconveniently, the nearest store was about a half mile down the road, and all I'd pack to walk in were flip flops. Did I mention it was 86 F outside, with full sunshine? This shop was also where we discovered the local law enforcement was rather relaxed, which surprised my friend somewhat. LAPD notwithstanding, apparently these concerts get a bit wild. We made our purchases and hastily made our way back to the car, so as to pack up all gear for inside the theater. Not knowing how in-depth security would be, my friends tried to prepare me for what would lie ahead.

Once the concert started, I was pleasantly surprised by the light show. It is on par with what the Trans-Siberian Orchestra uses for their concerts (again, use Youtube if this band is unknown to you). Here are some pictures of the stage before the show. I was sitting about halfway up the entire theater, so it is also a good sense of the scale of the place.

I met a pleasant gentleman while wandering around the theater dancing like crazy, and found his sign adorable. I was unaware my flash had died on my camera, so these pictures are somewhat dark.

Unfortunately, a great deal of smoke also started up from people in the audience enjoying themselves, but it gave me a headache. I tried to hold out for the first set, which was not difficult since the audience seemed just as determined to put on a show. I caught a great many people on camera who really can't dance, but the music had that sort of energy to it no one minded. They also threw light sticks, beach balls, inflated balloons, and who knows what else at each other. After the first set, my friends and I felt safe enough to move seats, since everyone else was wandering around anyway. Since there was apparently a surplus of extra tickets to this sold-out show, there was fortunately a large enough selection of empty seats from which to choose an area without a great deal of smoke. About half way through the second set I fell asleep on the benches, which some readers may think is impossible at an outdoor rock concert, but I had plenty of practice after living with two brothers and a hyperactive four-year-old. Also, the fact that this group played "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" by Paul Simon that night is a big deal, according to my friends. The drummer, I'm told, rarely sings songs, but he has a good voice nonetheless.

Supposedly there was to be an after-party, which might have been alright with the parked cars as stacked as they were, but the venue's staff had other ideas. It was a Monday night, dang it, and everyone was going home at a reasonable hour! So we were all shuffled out before it was even 11 pm. I fell asleep again on the way to the hotel, while my friends chattered away about past concerts. Upon arriving and laying down for bed, I decided that sleeping like a log is not a bad end to such a day.

So that was my first experience of Phish, which was apparently not at all what a typical concert by this group is supposed to be like. Still, it was a massive amount of fun, and I'd gladly go to another concert, albeit with better planning the next time around.