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Columns > Annabel Lukins - Both Sides of the Rail

Published: 2008/10/06
by Annabel Lukins

Phish, FOMS and Phamily

Ive got a case of the FOMS, but what can I do?

No, Im not spelling the Phish song, FOAM wrong, Im speaking of fear of missing something. Guess what everyone? I wont be there when the lights go down.

I think Ive been avoiding writing about Phish. Upon asking my editor and two other colleagues what this months column should be about (note: this was before any announcements but rumors were flying), they all said, Phish, of course.

Once upon a time, I was one of Phishs greatest most loyal phans. So when murmurs of a reunion pop up, everyone wants to know what I think. I turned the offer down, choosing to write about a day in the life of a festival off-season for Annabel. You know what? It was boringtoo boring to submit.

So, this column is not about my opinion. It is about my how I feel about not going to Hampton. See, I havent even gotten to WHY I cant go. And its not time yet.

I started seeing Phish in 1993. I was going to school at Lehigh in Pennsylvania, and the guy I was dating at the time brought me to the Tower Theater shows 5/1-2. Soon after the Runaway Jim opener kicked in, my world changed: I was slapped upside the head by a whirlwind of music like none I had ever seen or felt before.

Those shows were the beginning of a lifelong adventure touring as much as I possibly could. I was a serious cheerleader for Phish. Without having to go into my ZZYZX stats, I saw A LOT of Phish. I was a setlist writer, calling songs within seconds, I was a poster collector, running to get in line as soon as we were told where they were being sold that night. Basically, I was there more than I wasnt. The community and music was like gold to me. I helped start the Phamily and once that became home, I truly never wanted to leave tour. I cried so hard at Coventry that I was wheezing. I didnt know what would fill me up like that band did. I loved tour so much that I wore an I Love Tour shirt and carried around stickers spreading the love.

When the band broke up forever, I knew that I had to get my priorities straight. My family hated me for seeing Phish more than I ever saw them, my career was moving SLOWLY, it would be nice to find an actual boyfriend instead of being married to a band and fooling around my tour love Tim, (bless his heart), and god I needed to lose some weight!

Well, folks, I pulled a 180. My family forgave me for loving Phish more than I loved them, I nailed my career, I met Peter & I lost 10 lbs.

For the past four years, I have been nurturing a brand new side, always always keeping Phish in my heart. As you have read in my previous columns, I married the man of my dreams and I started running festivals, taking my career to heights I never thought were possible.

Heres where I tell you why I cant go to Hampton: Langerado is the same weekend. So, how did it feel when all my friends were texting, calling, emailing me: Its all hamptoning, or The mothership has landed once again, or This is the best day of my life, or what hotel are you staying at? It hurt badly. It took me a few days to respond to people because it wouldnt have been fair for me to say, Fuck all of you, I cant go. Instead, I muddled some peace together and I am really happy for you but Langerado is the same weekend, bummer, was the best I could do.

The fact is that my life has changed without Phish in it. I have grown loyal to things like my career. So when I found out that my band was playing the same weekend as Langerado, a festival I am proud to have helped run for 5 years, it was a no brainer. I will be in Florida raising the flag to my festival.

How I do feel about that? I am impressed with myself, my lack of selfishness to not even think TWICE about where I will be that weekend. Im super bummed that I wont be with my phriends, my phamily, but I know they will be thinking of me. I am disappointed that management decided that they HAD to play the same weekend as ours, knowing that we hold our event the same time every year. But equally, I have respect for their decision, knowing that a lot more went into it than I can ever know about. I assure you they didnt say, Screw you, Langerado, were gonna steal your thunder.

Maybe Im in shock, maybe Im in denial, and Im sure when the time comes, Ill really feel like Im missing something, but Im in decent spirits considering. Because really, I have to accept the things I cannot change. Feeling like crap isnt going to make the situation better.

I have moved way past the existence that once was. It was the best time of my entire life. I cant wait to get to see a show in the next year, but Im not FREAKING OUT like I used to when I couldnt get to a show.

And I pray for those kids who will see the band for the first time. It will never be the same. It will be wonderful, but never the same. I honor Trey and how far hes come in the past two years. I know how badly he loves to play music and how much he loves Phish. I am thrilled for Jon, Page & Mike, all who have come so far since Coventry and who will make something beautiful happen in Hampton.

There is just about nothing as exciting as the moment the lights go down. I will truly be there in spirit. I love that damn band.

Annabels Top 10 Phish moments of all time (in chronological order)

12/6/96 Aladdin Theater – Vegas We had driven from Aspen, CO to Vegas, got pulled over, my friend got arrested, we were over a day late than our scheduled arrival. Within minutes of the show, we ran to the Excalibur, dropped our bags off, dashed to the Aladdin, dumped ourselves into our seats, light down. With a perfectly energized Wilson opener, the Peaches bust out sent me into heaven. Just when you thought things couldnt get better, the Harpua with Les Claypool, Elvis Fishman, the yodelers and everything else BEAUTIFULLY WEIRD about that encore made it in the top 10.

8/8 & 8/9/98 Merriweather is one of my favorite venues ever. So a show opener with the Wedge is perfect for me. But who knew they would encore with Sabotage? You want to FEEL a Phish show? Every one of us exploded. After that night, a lot of the regulars weekend tour warriors were headed back to real life, but with a closer like the Beastie Boys, a bunch of us pulled through and headed to VA Beach. We knew it was the anniversary of Jerrys death, but since Phish hadnt played the Dead in so long, not a lot of people had faith. But sitting at the show before it started, we knew something special was going to happen. Encore: Terrapin Station for Jerry. I think all of us cried. Good job, boys. Way to honor the fat man. Top 10 for sure!

Summer tour 1999 I was working at MTV in NYC for this mega bitch who hated me because I would come into work with tie-dyes and my hair in braids. So you know what I did? I quit my job and went on tour. Best idea possible. From Merriweather through Oswego (9 shows), I danced my way to a carefree life for the summer. Top 10 amounts of phun!

Big Cypress in my Union and Reunion column, I stated: There are all events in our life that can be classified as the best ever. When Phish played at Big Cypress New Years 1999, I left saying, that was the best day of my life. And really, that was the BEST Phish experience ever ever ever. I was there a week early and could have stayed for the rest of my life. Dancing from dusk to dawn amongst Phamily and Phriends as far as the eye could see, having our first meatstick post show party, running around that sacred land with a shit eating grin on my face, makes Cypress the Top of the Top 10.

5/22/00 Radio City Music Hall NYC – this whole 3-night NYC run was phenomenal. Two nights at Radio City, where the whole crowd was told to dress (SO PHUN), followed up by Roseland Ballroom where we were on the rail for the whole show. Ridiculous. But what makes 5/22 in my Top 10 is the 2nd set. Now, on paper, it looks average. No Phishead would really go nuts over a Bouncin opener. But oh my god, Bowie, Sand, Mango, Ghost, Rock & Rollone of the most incredible sets of Phish ever. The jams that came out of those were beyond unique. I never stopped dancing for a moment, I couldnt even talk to anyone. Plus, Mango is my favorite Phish song of all time, so in the middle of the madness, I was jumping up and down for an entire song. CLASSIC PHISH!

9/30/00 – Thomas & Mack Vegas -Treys Birthday. Lets start by saying that 2000 was my best year for shows. I saw over 25 shows and was in LOVE with the band more than ever. Thats why 3 of my Top 10 come from 2000. Plus, Vegas is the coolest place to see Phish. As one of the heads of the Phamily, I took it upon myself to get our entire section to blow up balloons for Treys birthday, getting ready to chant HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU right after setbreak (yes we started that). Besides the BUILD UP of that show and how fun it was to get the crowd riled for his birthday, the SETLIST was delightful. OK, lets put that run in the Top 10. Because a Carini opener with Kid Rock freaking out in the 2nd set was basically retarded (in a good way). But a WALFREDO to open and the band switching instruments, which was SO endearing, you knew we were in for a hell of a show. Timber Ho 2nd set openerhonestly, I am shaking my head still in awe over that song. And in VEGAS? Come on! Emotional Rescue (PEOPLE FOR A LOUDER MIKE) was incredible, what a way to close it!

10/4-7/2000 California run – Phinal shows before Hiatus. Ok, since Vegas was so close in time between the Shoreline shows, my plan was to head back to NYC and then fly a week later out to San Francisco. I got a call from one of my best friends Aaron Schimmel while I was at work, on 10/3: Annabel, you have a flight leaving for California in 4 hours, go home and pack your bags. I started freaking out because I wasnt supposed to take off for 3 more days. But come on, its PHISH, right? So I go into my boss office, Um Sarah, my grandmother is about to die and I need to leave right away. Im so sorry, Annabel, please do what you need to do. SORRY NANA REST IN PEACE I DIDNT MEAN TO LIE AFTER YOU HAVE BEEN GONE FOR 5 YEARS BEFORE THIS DATE. So I headed to Cali shaking with excitement. I toured with the hardcore Phamily that run, we danced, laughed, cried and embraced every moment of that tour.

12/31/02 MSG I cant say this was the best show ever but it was the best ENERGY in a venue ever. The anticipation of the crowd was overwhelmingly special and fierce. Screaming and cheering and hugging for hours before the show, just glad to be back, all loyal Phish fans celebrated the return of our band.

7/13/03 The Gorge My 30th Birthday! Who gets to spend their 30th birthday at Phish, let alone at the GORGE!!!! We spent the weekend in bliss out in nature and come time for doors, we all ran in, secured our spot and made room for all our phriends to come celebrate. I felt like a princess that day, wearing a wreath of Eucalyptus flowers. I had most everyone I loved from tour with me, I was celebrating with my favorite band of all how could it get more perfect? Well, after the encore, my crew started singing happy birthday to me. All of us a sudden, like a wave of sound cascading from one end to another, the ENTIRE crowd caught on and sang along. Happy Birthday Annabel was echoing in the venue and onto the beautiful Gorge. I was flooredcompletely honored, humbled and proud. Top 10 FOR SURE!

NYE Run 2003 Miami AA Arena Being in the warm weather with all your phriends is awesome, especially a 4-show run where no one has to go anywhere but to the show each night. Plus, they were playing great! P-Funk, Jungle Boogie, the whole thing was as simple as this: Phish threw a MAJOR party and invited us to come play with them. We did that and more.

There you go, folks. My top 10 of all time. I would be doing a dishonor if I didnt give the Phinal Tour an honorable mention. It was such a bittersweet experience that I cant call it Top 10, ESPECIALLY because the band sent us from Hampton, up to Boston, back down to NJ and then all the way up to Maine. It was crazy. We were all frazzled, sad, tired, happy, grateful, annoyed.the list goes on and on. The shows werent musically the best to date, but it was more about spending as much time together, the Phamily and the band was breaking up, not that we wouldnt see each other again, but never like on tour. It was sad, sad, sad. I cried the entire last day at Coventry, and when it was over, on the tarp with about 30 of my closest phriends, I wept.

Some Random Phine Photos over the years:

Big Cypress Smile NYE 1999

Freezing outside the Mothership January 2003

My 30th birthday at the Gorge 7/13/03

Wandering around the grounds at IT August 2003

Hanging with my old buddy Benji at Coventry. I helped him start HOOD at Red Rocks 1996. Too bad that got old quick and we wanted to STOP phans from saying it after a while.

Nassau Coliseum 10/8/1999

Columbia, MD 9/17/2000

Vegas 9/30/2000 Treys birthday

Coventry Phamily Photo

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