26 in 26 of 2019: #3 06/14/2019 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Manchester, TN (Ben Smith, @bensmith1312)
“The path to God’s love is a marathon, not a sprint…”
Every trip gets a slogan based on my feelings the night before we leave. This one came to me from a customer on my last shift before departing for my first Bonnaroo, conveniently the weekend of my birthday. She saw I was anxious to get out of there and in her sweet, elderly lady way reminded me to be patient for what was to come. I thought it was fun, despite none of us being religious and after a friend unknowingly set me up to use it perfectly (I roll slow, so what?), it became cemented as the trip moniker.
Buffalo to Manchester is about a 12 hour drive & our slogan already seems relevant — we love tossing it around whenever someone shows signs of getting antsy. We didn’t realize just how relevant it would be until we were 3 hours into what would become an overnight wait in the entry line. The next morning, running on no sleep and high stress, we struggled to decide whether to follow an unconfirmed Reddit tip and abandon our place in line for quicker entry. Almost to spite the slogan that now mocked us, we decided to give it a shot. An hour later and we were in, set up, thrilled with our spot and starting to like each other again.
I’ve always wanted Phish to play on my birthday, so naturally they were scheduled for the Friday and Sunday surrounding my Saturday birthday. I didn’t know much about what to expect having never seen Phish at a festival and reading the internet had me believing they would just alternate between “Farmhouse” and “Bouncing Round the Room” for two hours. At this point, I started wondering if this would all be worth it — Should I have just gone on tour and stayed in my bubble? What was I thinking trying to branch out and ending up here? Night 1, I was a bit of a bummeroo when my friend decided it was a good time to revive what once haunted us. “Hey man, the path to God’s love is a marathon not a sprint. The good stuff is yet to come”
The lights go down, it’s my last day in my 24th year, and Phish is only playing one set. The four older men I’ve dedicated most of my time and funds to these last few years take their spots. The opening notes of a relatively short but sweet “Carini” hit & it feels like we’ve crossed the finish line. I often forget how quickly nothing else matters the second a show starts. “Down With Disease” becomes the first jam of the night but becomes “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” before it really has a chance to finish. Because I had the privilege of attending the Kasvot Vaxt shows, those songs will always get me going and this time was no different.
The jampion of this set for me, however, was “Everything’s Right,” a song I typically shrug at whenever they start playing but shake my head in disbelief at when they jam it out. This night was no different — the song part goes as it always does and it seems that the band is settling into the jam. It’s at this second that I had a divine moment of realization that “Everything’s right so just hold tight” is essentially what we’ve been saying all along! Obviously our path was to something other than what my elderly customer had in mind, and yet the message was the same. It may not seem like much now, but in that moment it felt like everything came together and I was exactly where I was meant to be. Seemingly on cue, as I collected my thoughts and refocused on the music, the band took the jam into a more blissful place (around the 9 minute mark) and I felt on top of the world. I saw a lot of great Phish that weekend, in addition to the rest of the summer tour, but the feeling I had during that jam is the memory I always return to.
If this was someone’s first ever Phish set, it certainly was a great introduction. “Mercury” creeps onto stage as “Everything’s Right” fades away and stays for another nice jam featuring Fishman on the marimba and a satisfying jam length well over 12 minutes. “Tweezer” and “2001” came next, almost seamlessly, and any fears that Phish “wouldn’t jam that hard” at ‘Roo were mocked. I beamed with delight as they navigated their way through “Steam,” “Martian Monster” and “More.” “More” is one that isnt always welcomed by our fanbase but clearly was resonating with new fans. “Harry Hood” and “Character Zero” closed what is a perfect Phish introductory set. A “Possum” > ”Tweeprise” encore showed new fans why we keep coming back and the excitement of Reprise jams, and we headed off into the night ecstatic with the great set we got to see. Unlike the Fox Network, I was ending 24 on a high note.
A week later the same woman who helped coin our catch phrase came back into my store. We talked a bit about my trip and I mentioned my correlation between her phrase and the lyrics.
“Everything’s right, so just hold tight? I like that!”
Ben Smith, 27, Buffalo I’ve attended just under 30 shows, my first being Toronto ’13. Favorite shows I’ve see so far are the 2019 Vegas run, 2015 Miami run and 8/15/15. I play keys in Bobby and The Pedestrians and Wolf of Waltzer, both out of Buffalo NY. My favorite movies are Boogie Nights, Heat and Sonatine.