Another New Year is fast approaching, as we get ready to say goodbye to 2018. That means our year-long party is coming to an end. It started out celebrating NYE in Valparaiso, Chile, and soon we’ll be ringing in another New Year with Phish, this time at Madison Square Garden.
In between the New Year’s Eve celebrations, we did some pretty epic stuff – Holy Week in Peru, WrestleMania in New Orleans, and the World Cup in Russia to name a few. Our new home of Mexico was also the focus of several months, as we tried being tourists in Puerto Vallarta and celebrated Mexican culture. For the fall portion of the year-long party, it was only fitting that it be a massive Rock-tober full of concerts and music festivals. You might want ear plugs for this post, because this one goes to 11!
As you may have read about by now, life threw us a huge curveball this summer. The Phish festival, which just so happened to be called Curveball, got canceled at the last minute. We used all of our airline miles, took a week off work, paid for a rental car, and loaded up on groceries only to be turned around. To say that it was a huge bummer would be a vast understatement.
While we love living in Puerto Vallarta, one thing we miss dearly is live music. Sure, we get some decent cover bands and there’s always good ole’ mariachi music, but we miss our beloved jambands and festy scenes. As soon as we got back to PV, I started scheming up ways to add some shows and festivals to our calendar to fill the void.
Thankfully, we had already made plans to head back to Las Vegas for Phish Halloween. With a few nights of Disco Biscuits late nights thrown in, that was an easy call to make. What can we say – we like to party, sorry if you don’t.
Our plans for October started to take shape when Rachel got accepted to volunteer at the 7in7 conference in Medellin. Rather than pay for both of us to head down there then back up to the US, I decided to save some money by just heading home. Since I ended up spending a week in Michigan in August after the canceled festival, that no longer sounded like fun. I needed to get my ya-yas out and go to some shows!
With a few weeks to go, I started planning a massive Rock-tober full of my favorite things in life – live music and travel.
Trading One Festival for Another
With the cancellation of Curveball, we suddenly had $600 back in our bank account that we spent on tickets. The most logical thing was to take that money and put it right towards another festival! We were robbed of our summer fest, so we figured we’d try a fall one instead.
As luck would have it, someone on one of the message boards I’m on was selling two early-bird passes to Hulaween. He even knocked another $50 off the price because he felt bad for us “Curvivors.” Just like that, we were locked in to head to Florida for our first ever Suwannee Hulaween.
It was an amazing 4-day festival with some of our favorite acts like STS9, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, and Yonder Mountain String Band. We also crossed a huge name off our musical bucket list by finally catching Jamiroquai. You can read all about the cosmic gathering that was Hulaween 2018 in our post and check out my short highlight video below to see more:
New York, New York!
After I made my plans to go back to Detroit in October, two of my favorite bands announced shows in the NYC area. Spafford had a 2-night run in Brooklyn that just so happened to line up perfectly with the Umphrey’s McGee show at the legendary Capitol Theatre. Oh yeah, and Phish was opening their fall tour a few hours away in Albany. Obviously, I had to change my flight and head to the Big Apple.
One great thing about being a Camp Counselor for the Summer Camp Music Festival is that I can cover shows of SCamp artists. The bands don’t always fill my request for a photo pass, but it sure is nice when they do! I went 1/2 on the NYC run, as I managed to get on the list for Umphrey’s. They headline Summer Camp every year, so they’re good to us!
Spafford in Brooklyn
Although I’ve been to New York several times, this was my first time going to Brooklyn. When my usual couches fell through, I decided to book a cheap bed in an Airbnb hostel. It was only $20 a night, so I figured it was worth it to take a chance. You can’t even get a closet in NYC for that cheap!
As it turns out, my hosts were cool as hell! I stayed up Friday night playing pool with them, drinking beers and blasting tunes. I even went with one of the hosts to a friend’s place the next day for a little pre-gaming before I headed to Spafford. Even though I didn’t get a photo pass, I managed to get a miracle from a fellow Spaffnerd. This really helped, as the show sold out the day of. Score!
I’ve seen Spafford a few times at music festivals and late-night after parties, but this was my first full on 2-set Spafford show. They’ve been heavy in my rotation this year and I was really excited to finally see them do their thing. It was a solid show in a pretty intimate venue, full of juicy improv and tight playing. These guys are going places, so be sure to check them out before they blow up!
UM at the Cap
Well after they announced their fall tour, UM added a show at the legendary Capitol Theatre in Port Chester. I had to get to this venue at some point, so I figured this was the perfect chance. What better way to celebrate Rock-tober than with an Umphrey’s McGee show at the self-proclaimed “Original Rock Palace”?
Once upon a time, The Cap hosted countless legends, from the Grateful Dead to Pink Floyd. This famous venue somehow turned into a catering hall for several years. Thankfully, Peter Shapiro bought the venue in 2011 and did some serious renovations on it. The Cap is back and better than ever, and is now a top choice for jambands when they come to New York.
It was an hour and a half train ride from Manhattan, which would have been a little lonely if I had to do it myself. Instead of flying solo, I got to meet up with some internet friends turned real-life friends at Grand Central. We grabbed some road beers and caught the train up to Port Chester.
Before heading into the show, we joined some fellow Umphreaks at a nearby biergarten (you have to spell it the German way to be cool) for a few pre-show drinks. UM fans know how to party, even when it’s just a one night stand on a Sunday!
Since I had a photo pass and all, I got to go up in the pit and write a review for the Summer Camp blog. Check it out to read more about the rawk show in Port Chester! You can also watch the entire thing thanks to Umphrey’s. Couch tour FTW!
Gone Phishing in Albany
After another night in Brooklyn, I hopped on the train to New Jersey. Some friends who live there were headed up to Albany, so I jumped in and joined them. Thankfully, there was a much needed night off in between the shows. We got some pizza, had a few beers, and called it an early night to get ready for Phish tour.
I just have to pause for a minute to explain just how much I love this band and their fans. Just a week before this run, I had no hotel, no ride, and no tickets. Everything came together thanks to the general awesomeness of Phish fans. My friends picked me up and let me crash on their hotel room floor. Thanks to the excellent website Cash or Trade, I even scored some great seats for the show well under face value.
It had been 14 months since my last Phish show, which happened on my birthday on the last night of their acclaimed Baker’s Dozen run at MSG. That is WAY too long for me to go without a Phish concert. I’m pretty sure I was suffering withdrawals. It may not have been the smartest decision to re-route my trip to New York, but it damn sure was the right one.
I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of the setlists for these shows and all that jazz. This is a post about our year-long party, after all, so I’ll keep it focused on the fun stuff. There wasn’t much time before the show the first night, but I managed to meet up with a friend for a few beers before going in. It’s always fun bumping into friends on tour, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
As my luck would have it, my new show mates were pretty fucking cool as well. One of their friends bailed and that’s why I got a sick seat for under face. They even passed me joints all night and bought me a custy ass $12 beer. Thanks, dudes!
One thing I will say about this run is that you have to listen to the “Twenty Years Later” from the first night. Phish agrees, because they released the pro-shot footage of this jam-behemoth:
After the show, I skipped the lot scene in favor of hanging out in the bar near our hotel. They were primed and ready for the Phish crowd, as they were blasting jamband tunes out of the jukebox. Next thing you know, the place was packed!
We ended up closing down the bar and then continuing the party in the hotel. Any time Phish has a multi-night run in a city, the hotels near the venue fill up with Phishheads looking to party. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that I didn’t even have to put shoes on to go to an after party!
The next day, us dudes headed right back to the bar to get some grub and Bloody Marys. It would have been nice to see some of Albany I guess, but it was a cold and rainy fall day and we were hungover as hell. Before we knew it, it was time to get ready to go in the show again. I managed to score a cheap seat in the lower level yet again for this one. If only all shows could be this easy!
A lot of people are all about getting on the floor for Phish, but it’s not that big of a deal to me. For one, Rachel is short and hates being on the floor. I’m also not a big fan of not being able to sit down for three hours and having people bump into me and spill my beer. Once in a while, though, it’s definitely fun to get down on the floor and rage it.
This particular night just so happened to be my buddy’s 200th show, so he was hell-bent on getting on the floor. Like the jedi w00k that he is, he of course pulled it off and managed to get me down there as well. We were grooving towards the back of the floor where there’s lots of space to dance, having a good old time.
When a bunch of people (fools) left at the encore break, I took the chance to boogie on up to the very front of the arena. I hadn’t been that close at a Phish show since I saw them in Vegas back in 2004 during my high school spring break.
Not surprisingly, we decided to reprise the previous night’s bar > hotel rage segue. With a semi-early flight back to Detroit the next day, I actually did the responsible thing and got some sleep. After international travel and several nights of shows, my body and mind were both ready for a rest. It had been a pretty wild start to Rock-tober, but I still had a ways to go.
Seeing Phish in Music City
After a few quick days back at home, it was time to get on the road again. I caught a cheap flight from Detroit down to Nashville just in time to see two more nights of Phish at Ascend Amphitheater. This outdoor venue is smack-dab in the middle of Music City and is an awesome place to see a show. Phish had the honor of closing the place down for the season with their two shows in mid-Rock-tober.
I got in on a red eye flight just before my friends had to head to work. I even had my own room for the few nights. Sometimes, adulting is fun! Exhausted, I got some much-needed sleep before the revelry began. It was a damn good thing I got some rest, too, because this one turned out to be a wild night.
The festivities started early when a friend had her dad pick me up and take us downtown. I pounded a road soda (Moscow Mule to be exact) as we drove through town. Once we got to Broadway, I saw a mix of hockey and Phish fans. Those crowds tossed in with the usual honky-tonk bar hoppers, bachelorette parties, and typical Friday night debauchery of Nashville was sure to be interesting.
We kicked things off at Acme Feed & Seed for a pre-party with Grass2Mouth, who bill themselves as “not your grandma’s bluegrass.” An old friend actually plays bass in this group, so it was tons of fun having a few beers and watching them rip it up.
As it was the smallest venue of the tour, the Phish shows had been sold out long in advance. I was happy just to score a lawn ticket at face value for one night and even ended up paying about $20 over face for the second one. As luck would have it, though, we were able to get in the pit thanks to an awesome friend.
Raging the show in the pit is fun, but it can get intense. At one point in the second set, I had to take a break to walk all the way up the hill, catch my breath, sit down and stretch, and just take in the scene. In my defense, I was pretty spun. Sometimes you just need those breaks to get your shit together. With renewed vigor, I jumped back in the pit for the rest of the show.
Some friends were hosting an after party at their house, but I jumped at the chance to get into the Jazz is Phish show for free. This was Rock-tober after all, and I was trying to see as much live music as possible. I had never seen these guys, and I was instantly blown away. Sick jazz musicians absolutely crushing Phish songs made for one of the best after parties I’ve ever been to.
As if that weren’t enough excitement for a day, we decided to head to the house party as well. I have so many friends in Nashville that I barely get to see these days, so I had to catch my 4th wind and hang out for a while. We finally headed home around 4AM – just another Tuesday night on Phish tour.
The next day was for recovering and eating. A group of us dudes headed out on a “Nashville business lunch” to a badass Thai restaurant. After a little downtime at home, we then hit up the Mariachi Plaza for some Mexican snacks, cervesas and coffee. From there, we hit the lot for a couple beers and headed in for night two.
I was happy to find out that most friends had lawn seats for the second night. We ended up having a huge crew dancing on the grass for the last show of the season at Ascend. I’m all about getting dope seats at a show and focusing intently on the music, but it’s also nice to rage with your friends once in a while. I cherish these moments now that they’re fewer and farther between.
With a full moon coming up over the venue, Phish treated us to an extra weird evening of space-themed rock. It was a fun show and yet another solid mid-week run in Music City. The band even offered up a free live stream of the show, so check it out!
Just like that, my solo Rock-tober run came to an end. As it tends to do, it went by in the blink of an eye. As Willie Nelson sings:
“The life I love is making music with my friends. And I just can’t wait to get on the road again.”
There’s nothing in life I love more than traveling, especially when it’s for live music.
While that would have been a totally respectable month’s worth of shows, I wasn’t done just yet. I had to catch another red eye flight down to Jacksonville to meet up with my beautiful wife, who thankfully loves this stuff just as much as I do. We ended the month in style by doing Hulaween and Phish Vegas on back to back weekends.
I’ve had a lot of epic runs of shows and festivals over the years, and the Rock-tober of 2018 will definitely go down as one for the books. While I was flying solo for the first half of the month, I was never really alone. I’ve made so many amazing friends over the years thanks to going to shows and festivals. It’s always great being able to reconnect with them and do what we do best.
Thanks to everyone who gave me a lift, a couch, floor space, a beer, a cheap ticket, a snack, a hit of your joint, and so on. I couldn’t do what I do without you beautiful people, so thank you. I appreciate the kindness and generosity so many of you continue to show me. See you at the next show!