At What Price?
The list is long, and it grows larger with each passing year. The number of musicians, artists, singers and comedians (among others) who die before their time as a result of drugs/alcohol is a list that makes me sick. Janis, Jimi, Belushi, Jerry, Jim, Elvis, Layne, Moon, Bonham, Brent, Farley.But theres a difference now. With virtually all of the aforementioned names, these were musicians before my time or outside of any real level of concern on my part (excluding Layne, but we also saw that coming years in advance and people did try). But now, now were talking about someone that I give a shit about. And that, in essence, is what both confuses and angers me so much.
Ive been fortunate in my thirty years. Ive never seriously overdosed, no one close to me has ever seriously overdosed, and while I have seen more than a few drug induced situations while on tour, none have resulted in anyones death or lengthy hospitalization. And when I did come across those situations, admittedly from an outside perspective, I wondered how things couldve gotten to that point, the point where someone is on the ground and his/her friends are all standing around trying to help that individual in any way possible. The looks of nervousness and concern on their faces and the fear in their voices.How does it get to that point? Perhaps everyone around is in the same mental situation, but the person laying on the ground just lost that days pill-induced game of Russian roulette, the game that everyone plays when they take an ecstasy pill, while drinking heady Sammy Smith beer and smoking enough weed to kill a small horse. Maybe thats just it.
I dont know, because Im not an abuser of drugs. For all the partying that was done by show going friends of mine, no one ever got to the point where someone else shouldve said Whoa. Take a break. Which leads me to the confusion I now feel concerning the recent arrest of Trey Anastasio, subsequent to his being pulled over, and charged with allegedly driving under the influence with a small pharmacy in his car, a pharmacy that may or may not include Heroin.
Trey has always been a man of contradictions, at least in his public persona. When Phish disbanded, Trey took to the airwaves, citing a dizzying array of reasons, from extensive touring to backbreaking responsibilities, all of which masked what many of us knew to be true; Trey felt as though he needed to get away from the suffocating environment that the Phish scene had become.
One of the truly believable statements Trey made in interviews at the time was that he was reluctant to end up as The Grateful Dead had; trucking along just to support countless individuals, both behind the scenes and in the parking lot, whose lives was dependant on the four guys in the band taking the state each night. As Trey saw it, that defeated the purpose of music, which was a creative endeavor, not a financial one. To me, that makes complete sense. Trey was deathly afraid of ending up as the Dead had, from a musical standpoint. And perhaps that, in the end, contributed to Jerrys early demise and of course Trey didnt want that same fate for himself, both personally and musically.
So he got out. And he began a new life as a solo artist, with fresh music and a fresh direction. But his admitted concerns about Phishs heavy touring schedule seemed to fade away as his solo band booked date after date, tour after tour. And his concerns about running the show in Phish also seemed not to matter, for as a solo artist surely your responsibilities are magnified since you dont have three other individuals to fall back on for support. And lastly, Treys attempt, whether legitimate or not, to get away from the drugs that had infiltrated the Phish scene also proved futile, as evidenced by his recent incident.
Oddly enough, the man who was so concerned about following in the footsteps of The Grateful Dead is now following in the footsteps of Jerry Garcia. The story goes that later in the Deads career, the band gave Jerry an ultimatum; choose the band, or choose drugs. And Jerry chose the drugs. Thats what addicts do and thats what Jerry did. But the band ended up backing down as they continued to play, perhaps ultimately contributing to Jerrys death. To this day, many wonder what would have been had the rest of the band treated that situation differently.
Do I want Phish to tour again? Sure. Theres been plenty of speculation and the band members have all said, more or less, theyll get back together when the time is right. But at this point, I have to ask myself:
At what price?