Fire Raging in the Woodlands: A Tale Of Danger and Music and Loss and More Music
Part 1: In Which a Decision is Made
There are certain events that everyone needs to go to once in their life if at all possible. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest is one. You want to try Jam Cruise before peak oil destroys the cruise industry. Bonnaroo must be experienced. While I had been to all of those, there still was an event that should not be missed that had escaped me. Despite being tempted many times, I had yet to venture to High Sierra Music Festival. There always has been a reason why I havent attended. For most of this year it was the better lineup that Rothbury was offering.
Rothbury really was the shiny new toy of the 2008 festival scene. The grounds seemed interesting, the price reasonable, and for a jamband fan, the lineup was hard to argue with. We were going back and forth over attending it. Two things prevented us from pulling the trigger – a growing dislike of the size of the crowds at the larger festivals and the logistical issues of traveling in our current environment. Between airlines busily destroying what little pleasure remains in flying in order to salvage their industry and the practical time and resource questions that would come from driving all the way to Michigan – even my Prius uses some gas – it became hard to rationalize attending a festival three time zones away, even one with a very good lineup. In the 21st century, that kind of travel needs either Phish or an interesting destination that can be enjoyed on its own behalf.
While we were wasting a month arguing back and forth over Rothbury, the dark horse made a surprise move. Two of the bands that most intrigued us from Rothbury were added to High Sierra. With Mike Gordon (and the Emmit Nershi Band and yes we are cheesy hippies, but thanks for making sure we knew) on the lineup and the discovery that HSMF was about 100 miles closer to us than I thought it was, it was time to make the plunge. As I parenthetically alluded to above, we are a bunch of hippies. Maybe it’s time to visit the festival that caters to our type.
Part 2: In Which a Natural Disaster Reminds Us That We’re Not in Oklahoma
So there we are, getting ready for a freak out. We bought a new air mattress  and some late night tickets. Plans were made (and remade and remade. Organizing hippies is not always the easiest thing to do after all.) and routes calculated. And then with a week to go, disaster struck – literally. Massive wildfires decided to burn down half the state of California. There was confusion in the week leading up to the event as roads closed and the air quality in Quincy decreased, the possibilities of moving or canceling the event were floated. A change in wind direction and a heroic firefighting effort saved the day, but the fires added an element of surrealism to the event. It was like having a festival in Houston during Hurricane Katrina; you’d be safe there but the rain from the outer bands of the storm would be a constant reminder of what was happening elsewhere.
The smoke was a constant presence on our drive down. It started looming as far north as Grants Pass, OR. As we drove across CA 89 past Mt. Shasta, it was getting downright scary. The road climbed past 5000 feet turning what was a minor annoyance into a major hazard. Not only did visibility drop, but the smoke exasperated the problem of the thin mountain air. As far east as Susanville it was very difficult to breathe. Ignoring the advice that Oklahoma constantly gives on their highways, we continued to drive into the smoke and eventually made it through the other side to Reno.
The Reno stop was for a reason. Two of our friends were getting a stealth marriage. The friends – who I will refer to as George and Elayne since they were the last wedding I attended before this one – figured that it would be a fun thing to do while they were in the area. The ceremony was just as classy as you would expect a Reno wedding to be. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons played in the background as the officiant gave a bizarre speech comparing their love to the civil rights movement. It might not be remembered as the most formal wedding I ever have attended – the chapel was scenically located next to the Donner Inn motel – but they were so happy that the trappings didn’t matter. For that matter they caught a break. They only had two people attend their wedding but Melissa used to be a wedding photographer. After the ceremony was over, she spent a half hour posing them and taking great shots with her SLR. It might be a secret for now, but at least they’d have some photos to remember the event by.
Part 3: In Which the First Line of ‘Uncle John’s Band’ is Enacted.
Well over 90 percent of problems at festivals occur between leaving home and being set up in the campground. Sure there aren’t going to be Coventry-esque traffic jams at High Sierra, but you can get lost or pulled over . You then have to find an acceptable space for the weekend. While we got in smoothly enough, the second task proved more problematic. We had a spot saved for us in Shady Grove but there was no way we were going to camp there. The entire field was an endless sea of overlapping tents. Camping at a festival is different than going to the woods, but there has to be some room between you and your neighbors. Our inquiries as to where that could be found kept producing the same answer – Hillside.
The Hillside Campground comes by its name honestly. It can be a rough walk up and down the hill carrying a tent as you look for the perfect spot. More than once I was tempted to just give up but Melissa came through. She found a flat area between two trees that was the only tent worthy spot in the entire area. We were able to set up a lower ‘base camp’ with our cooler and camping chairs and had our tent higher up. Camp finally organized, we sat down to crack a natural soda and only then discovered the coolest part about what we had done.
Quite accidentally, we were camped right in front of the speakers of the main stage. The sound naturally moved its way up the hill towards base camp. We could sit there with our cooler and hear just as well as we could at the field. We had plenty of trees for shade and the music would come to us. This is how you do a festival.
Part 4: In Which We Have Three Nearly Perfect Days
High Sierra’s reputation is a strong one. People buy tickets before a single artist even gets announced. Over the course of the next three days I would discover why. Between the general laissez faire attitude of security , the friendly people who only wanted to freak freely and encourage other to do the same, and the beautiful surroundings, it was one of the most comfortable environments to see a concert. Management did a great job of anticipating people’s needs and proactively dealing with them. Since the festival was at a fairground, there were plenty of actual flush toilets for those who hate dealing with portapotties. They even made sure to stock the bathrooms with organic soap. There also were showers, which were also stocked with organic shampoo and conditioner. When one of your biggest complaints about the festival is that it’s hard to get hot water in the shower, then you know it’s being run well.
It’s great that we had three days in a peaceful camping environment, but this is a music festival, not just a place to hang out. High Sierra is one of those magical places like The Gorge or Red Rocks or the pool stage on Jam Cruise where everyone sounds just a little bit better. It only took one band for me to realize this. The Bourgeois Gypsies sounded interesting in the program but I wasn’t expecting to enjoy their set nearly as much as I did. Maybe it was the bliss of having the stress of setup gone, but the folk styled music sounded incredible at base camp.
As the sun started to duck behind the hills, it was time to go down to the main field and actually watch the music for a while. First up was The Duo. Maybe it was just how long it had been since we had seen them, but they put on a remarkably strong show. Their set was so powerful that we ended up at their night show on Friday .
The Duo was followed by Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet . Sure, when they started up people wondered if we needed yet another bluegrass band that specialized in Chinese folk songs, but somehow they manage to avoid the clichinherent in the genre. Washburn obviously loves Chinese history and culture as she gives brief lectures about the history of the Chinese material and the regions they traveled through. Remember teachers – they’re not just another band; they’re educational. This is the perfect excuse to arrange a field trip to any September festivals they play. You can spend the bus ride home coming up with a rationalization as to why you returned at 4 AM that doesn’t include the words, ‘Disco Biscuits late night set.’
The late night selection for the first night was Phix. Yes, they’re a cover band. However it was this night where I understood how cover bands can work. Phix was playing ‘The Divided Sky,’ and I found myself instinctively jumping during the part where the band – Phish that is; Phix only recreates the music, not the dances – jumps. After twenty years of seeing the song, it’s just a Pavlovian reaction. That’s the same reaction that caused me to enjoy the set so much. Play ‘The Divided Sky’ and I’ll jump after ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb.’ Play the peak of a ‘Harry Hood’ and my pleasure centers go tilt. You can tell me that it’s just a simulation of the real thing, but that doesn’t cause the reaction to stop.
Friday started out with a walk across the field to see the Gypsies other set. I didn’t make it all the way there without a detour. There was a bluegrass band playing in the parking lot. Bucky Walters – not named after the Cincinnati pitcher of that name – were jamming out. You might think that it’s difficult to go too far out on acoustic instruments with no amplification, but it can be done. Kudos to them for opening my eyes. I watched for about 20 minutes before finally making it to the Shady Grove stage.
The Bourgeois Gypsies understood the dynamics of the stage. How do you get people camped in party central to show up at your 12:15 set? Bribe them with free mimosas of course. A little early morning alcohol will make the set go that much smoother for the crowd. Their set didn’t quite reach the heights of the Radio Stage one the day before, but it did have the highlights of a wonderful cover of ‘Sixteen Tons,’ and an original that incorporated, ‘My Country Tis of Thee’ for that July 4th feel. Without changing the words or using any bizarre inflection, they managed to imply sarcasm when singing it. That takes some skill.
Hurricane Katrina has had many secondary effects on New Orleans. One of the ones you might not have heard too much about is the effect they had on Dumpstaphunk. The trauma of the event has slowly transformed the band into an instrument of righteous fury. I can’t say that I’ve become a fan of the idea of political music, but Katrina was so devastating – and unlike 9/11 it dropped out of the public consciousness with surprising rapidity – that you can’t blame the band for still wanting to remind people what happened and who they think is to blame, especially when they still make everyone dance while they’re doing it.
With The Green Sparrow still a few weeks away from shipping, no one knew quite what to expect from Mike Gordon’s solo set. I’m a huge fan of Inside In so my expectations were high, perhaps a little too high. The set started out strong with ‘Traveled Too Far’ bringing a lot of energy, but then it bogged down for a bit. Part of the problem was the unfamiliarity of the material. Energy was spent trying to digest the songs. Is that the bridge? Could you figure out the lyric there? It made the music interesting but it took away from the pure pleasure of enjoying the set. Sometimes it’s easier to enjoy a band you like less.
The one thing that surprised me about Mike’s set was the lack of material from his back catalog. Yes, he played ‘Meat’ from the Phish era, but what happened to his other solo material? Even if you throw out the GRAB era ‘Suskind Hotel’ and ‘Hap-Nappy,’ he has three albums of material to play with . I’m surprised all that material was dropped. Unlike Page he’s not starting from scratch; ‘The Beltless Buckler,’ ‘Invisible,’ ‘Clone,’ ‘Over the Dam,’ ‘The Collins Missile, ‘The Grid,’ ‘Soul Food Man,’ ‘Take Me Out,’ ‘The Teacher, and ‘Exit Wound’ would make great additions to the August tour.
After a surprisingly good Gov’t Mule show enjoyed from the tent, it was time for the Critters Buggin’/Duo late night. While it was the Duo that inspired the purchase, Skerik stole the show. Ever since the show at the late, lamented OK Hotel where Critters Buggin’ managed to clear out of room because the crowd was terrified , I’ve always been impressed with the band’s ability to wreak havoc. Their set did not disappoint.
We walked into the show already in progress. Somehow Skerik managed to take the simple concept of sparkly festival clothes and made them evil. He was wearing an outfit that was the exact opposite of easy on the eyes. It just seemed off in some way that disturbed you even though you couldn’t ever say what was so wrong. Between that and the dark music they were playing, they knew they were not feeding the unsuspecting part of the crowd – as opposed to those of us who knew what the band was like – what they were expecting. Skerik remarked on the fact between songs, ‘Your tepid applause is the 4th of July equivalent of, ‘Fuck You!’‘ and, ‘I’m sorry. Are we getting in the way of some band you’d rather see?’ while playing my favorite set of the entire weekend. Critters Buggin’ never seems to translate to tape, but at the time it was amazing.
Late on Friday the wind had begun to shift and by Saturday the smoke and haze had completely returned. If I knew then what would happen that night, I would have called it an omen, but at the time I just was worried about the health factor.
The big discovery of the day – even more than the high-energy bluegrass that was Cornmeal – was Akron/Family. They’re one of those bands that actively refuse to be categorized. Whenever you get a grip on their genre, they slip sideways into a different one just to keep you on your toes. They’re a lot of fun. If you catch a show, hope that you get the inane (but somehow brilliant due to the inanity) ‘Circle Triangle Square.’ ‘Circle Triangle Square/Yeah yeah yeah yeah’ is sung over and over again while the crowd is encouraged to do a stylized dance about the shapes. This is the kind of music that carries an important message that can influence a generation.
The triangle part of the ‘Circle Triangle Square’ dance
It had been a remarkable three days. The crowd was so nice that even when Mel lost her straw hat that she had decorated, it found her way back to her. When I accidentally ended up with two copies of the second Bourgeois Gypsies CD, the band took some time to swap out the duplicate with their first album, and then told me to keep the extra after all. It was an incredibly friendly environment, one that encourages you to let down your guard and go with the flow of the afternoon. That’s the only explanation for what came next.
Part 5: In Which We Learn About the Underbelly
It’s all Ratdog’s fault. We were hanging out at Base Camp, trying hard to enjoy his set and failing miserably as he couldn’t even live up to the already low expectations we had for him. Normally it’s just when he tries to sing Jerry ballads that I get frustrated, this time he was even sucking the enjoyment out of his own material. Everything was slowed down to the point of tedium; even ‘Jack Straw’ was given an extra reggae break in order to prevent any actual energy breaking through. We made it through ‘Blackbird’ but we had finally reached our limit. Trombone Shorty was playing across the fairground so we hurried to get away from the set we hated.
Trombone Shorty was a definite improvement. New Orleans energy is always appreciated. We sat in the back of the tent and watched the uber-freak show that is Saturday night at High Sierra. It felt so good to be one of the most boring people in the crowd for a change. We sat outside Surprise Me Mr. Davis, waiting for the WMDS to start, watching the crowd and the fire dancing, utterly content. Mel went to go get a drink at Base Camp while I crashed out on the grass and took a nap.
My awakening was to be rude.
The speed we took in leaving Ratdog meant that we didn’t secure our camp the way we usually do. One slip is all that it takes apparently in the happy, friendly world of High Sierra. In the brief period of time we were gone, Mel’s camera was stolen. Remember all of those photos from the stealth wedding? That memory card was also in the camera at the time. Our tent had been violated and for the first time ever I was robbed at a festival.
I spent the next few hours dealing with security. If you ever want to learn what really happens on the blowout night at a festival, get robbed. You’ll spend some time waiting as a very apologetic and helpful staff is forced to deal with an increasing series of bizarre incidents. I saw some things happen that night that shouldn’t be written in this space. Find me at a show sometime if you want to hear about the most incompetent gate crasher ever. I had never really had the chance to see what goes on in that end and that was admittedly fascinating.
Security did everything they could in that moment – I especially appreciate them dealing with me in my exhaustion; I’m at my worst when I’m a little sleep deprived – but there was really only so much they could do. Apparently there’s a history of locals hopping the fence and raiding camps. This year was especially bad; we were far from the only people who lost stuff. Around 4 AM I finally dealt with the report and went back to camp.
There’s a school of thought that says that the proper way of dealing with this sort of incident is to refuse to have the enjoyment of the first three days stolen. They’ll jump up and scream, ‘Festival!!!’ all the louder for their loss. I understand and respect that attitude, but that’s not who I am. I grabbed a quick nap in the tent and then we struck our camp. We loaded up the car, dealt with a very nice policeman who took down our information, and headed back across the mountains and down the valley to Seattle. It was an exhausting drive, but it seemed like the right call. Our sense of security was destroyed and it couldn’t be restored through force of will.
If the ‘think good thoughts and all will be good’ strain of hippiedom has a flaw (well other than annoying even those of us who buy into it every now and then), it’s that they refuse to warn people about real danger. The robberies have been happening for years now. Regulars even know who some of the thieves are . Despite that, the only warnings given are a generic protect your valuables message. Between not wanting to risk ruining people’s feelings of happiness and security and a fear of the police coming back into the scene, there’s a natural tendency to hide the problems. Robert Pirsig wrote about this in Lila: people spend so much time worried about police violations of civil liberties that they forget that cops exist for a reason. There’s a difference between positive rebels who want to live their life despite some misguided laws and those who want to prey on people. We can’t worry so much about the former that we gloss over the problems created by the latter. As much as it seems to be, festival land is not actually a utopia and pretending that it is doesn’t make it so. It just makes High Sierra look like a clique where the cool people get told about the actual danger while the rest of us don’t need to worry our little heads about it. Hey if we get robbed, it’s our fault for not attending enough years to know the real situation.
That might work for a while, but eventually it falls apart. The ironic thing is that High Sierra is so intelligently run that they have an incredible skill in dealing with problem once they’re out in the open. I fully expect this problem to be dealt with in the next few years in the same way that they dealt with the overbearing police issue. Some problems can’t be fixed until they’re actually aired out.
Part 6: In Which We Recover and Get Back on the Horse
The memory card with irreplaceable photos might be gone. Our sense of safety in Quincy was probably destroyed forever. However, ultimately stuff is just stuff. Being a programmer, I saw the robbery as an excuse to upgrade Mel’s camera. Digital technology progresses quickly after all. She’s much happier with what she has now but still, we couldn’t get over what was really stolen from us. We lost a day of music, including two shots to see the WMDS. That’s why I quickly agreed when Mel suggested a last second hit and run trip to Horning’s Hideout for Northwest String Summit.
As much as I loved our peaceful hangout on Hillside, Horning’s is the festival location that feels like home. We know where to camp (and we have friends who will hold us spots if we’re only spending Saturday night). The sound of peacocks makes us smile.
Any questions I had about going to another festival so quickly after the disaster were answered as we walked to find our group. About five feet from the camp we found a bluegrass group. One of the best parts about High Sierra was to be reprised as we were camped right next to Bucky Walters.
The music at the String Summit didn’t hit the peaks of High Sierra but the one thing that struck me about the festival was the calmness. Other than a little screaming on Saturday night, everyone was just chilling perhaps due to the child friendly nature of the event. Bluegrass festivals seem a logical progression as we age and the insanity of a Bonnaroo becomes less appealing, and it’s not like there wasn’t still a Saturday blowout with glow toys and costumes. I even got the continuation of a Horning’s Hideout tradition as the Emmitt-Nershi Band played ‘Black Clouds.’
We left the String Summit at the set break of Yonder’s really good Sunday show and felt truly content. We walked down the hill, past the playground and the paddleboats with the water cannons and knew that this venue will work for us. High Sierra might have the lineup and the cool hill, but Horning’s is where we belong. It took us a few years to make it to the String Summit but I think we have a new summer plan.  Thank you Bob Horning.
Part 7: In Which the Highs and Lows of the Music at the Festivals Are Summarized
Oh yeah. Music. That’s what this is about right? Here are my favorite and least favorite sets at each festival in no particular order.
Critters Buggin’ Late night. See above for details. This was the kind of set that makes me want them to change their name to The Happy Baby Bunny Band just so they’d draw the kind of crowds that would like to see a band by that name and then they’d really be able to terrify them.
Duo on the mainstage. I don’t have anything more to say about it but it was good.
Railroad Earth on the mainstage. I have a theory about Railroad Earth. I think that they’re the ultimate festival band for me. I never like their normal shows that much because they delve into their back catalog and play all of the songs that the diehards like. Me? I want to hear ‘Seven Story Mountain’ and ‘Long Way to Go’ and ‘Bird in a House’ and, yes, the hippie dippieism of ‘Peace on Earth.’ You know that guy who went to the Dead and wanted to see ‘Truckin’,’ ‘Casey Jones,’ and ‘Touch of Grey,’ or the person who went to Phish to see ‘Heavy Things?’ When it comes to Railroad Earth, that’s me.
One thing I really have been enjoying about RRE lately (as in the two shows I saw this past month) is how they’ve been playing ‘Seven Story Mountain.’ They’ve been ripping into a jam along the lines of the break between ‘China Cat Sunflower’ and ‘I Know You Rider’ and then slamming into the concluding section .
Akron/Family Big Meadow Stage. This is one of those bands that you can see and spend the entire show afterwards talking about what happened on stage. There were these two guys in the back holding up this flag that was a variant on the US Flag and at one point they handed out percussion instruments to the crowd and they had a little kid on stage banging away on a cowbell and they did this ‘Circle Triangle Square’ song that had a dance and and only after you recount all of that do you really catch on that it was a really good set of music on top of that.
Aphrodesia/Chicago Afrobeat Project Mainstage sets. One thing I didn’t know before High Sierra was that I really like Afrobeat a lot more than I thought I did. Maybe I only like it that much when I’m sitting in a lawn chair in the woods listening to the band below but it worked for me that weekend.
You’ll notice there are a lot fewer of these than favorites. Thats the power of seeing music with nice people and beautiful surroundings. It’s the good music that makes the impressions.
Bassnectar Mainstage. I think this is one of these cases where I’m just too old. Music wasn’t poorly played or anything but drums and bass electronica isn’t my style. This is why festivals have multiple stages, so people who like this style of music can enjoy it and we can go to Emmitt-Nershi.
Ratdog Mainstage. Anyone else think that if you ask Bobby for advice about anything at all, his answer will just be, ‘Do it slower?’ I guess it’s supposed to be some sort of jazz type of arrangement on everything but it just makes everything into some kind of generic mush.
Northwest String Summit
Head for the Hills. Nothing particularly fancy here but it was fun high energy bluegrass. They inspired me to purchase their CD after their set ended. ‘Hornets Nest’ is a great instrumental so I’m glad I did.
Greensky Bluegrass. I saw them open for Railroad Earth in Seattle and they were good then. This set was better. However, all I could think about was an imaginary conversation between them and their manager:
Manager: You guys are really good. If only you could come up with a hook, I bet you could play much larger venues.
GB: How about we take a Pink Floyd song and rearrange it so it’s our own song. I bet we could be very inventive with it and it’ll sound cool.
M: Great! That’s a wonderful idea. So what are you thinking? ‘Another Brick in the Wall Part II?’ ‘Comfortably Numb?’ ‘Money?’ ‘Wish You Were Here?’
GB: Not quite.
M: Let me guess. ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond?’ ‘Echoes?’ ‘Time?’
GB: No, we’re thinking of ‘One Slip.’
M: ‘One Slip?’
GB: You know, from Momentary Lapse of Reason, the album after Roger left the band.
M: Excuse me, I have to take a call from one of my bands who actually wants to make money. 
WMDS. You know what I love about Keller. He always projects confidence to me. Here he is. He’s going to play his goofy songs about dreaming about being on the Price is Right and he’ll throw in a Dead cover or two and some people – ok many, many people – will find him to be one of the worst performers ever. He just doesn’t care.
As for the WMDS, the most amusing member was Gibb Droll. There was Keller playing his happy little tunes and then Droll would suddenly take a hair metal solo complete with head bang action. It never ceased to amuse.
The Yonder Mountain Merging into LoS set Saturday night. This was many people’s favorite set of the weekend but I absolutely hated it. I spent most of the drive home trying to figure out why Keller’s confidence and silliness works for me but Leftover’s drives me crazy. I think it’s because Keller always seems to work with the source material. When you change a verse of ‘Fixin’ to Die’ to one about consuming fried chicken, you’re not really respecting the song anymore as much as turning yourself into Weird Al. It’s great that people love it but it’s not my cup of tea.
 This – along with the addition of earplugs to our camping supplies – would turn out to be the MVP of the summer. If you find yourself becoming less able to sleep in a tent, spend the $30 on a cheap air mattress. It’s somewhat alien to wake up in the morning and not be sore, but it took away a major objection to attending these events. Best purchase ever.
 The towns near Quincy are notorious for pulling over festival goers but I didn’t see one person on the side of the road either coming in or going out.
 My favorite security story happened on Friday morning. There were a few people stationed to check wristbands but they were mainly concerned with the ‘band’ they were forming. They had a good percussion section by twanging the belt clips of their walkie talkies, but they really could have used a horn or two to round out the sound.
 One of the few frustrating things about attending HSMF is that the late night shows cost extra money. At first it feels like a money grab, but there is a benefit to this. This keeps the late night stages inside buildings which lets those inclined to see more music continue to rage while the families and morning people can get to bed at a sane hour. It’s not fun spending the additional money but it actually makes sense.
 OK, actually they were really followed by Sneakin’ Out on the Radio Stage. High Sierra came up with a great way of dealing with stage changes. While they’re setting up the main stage, they have another stage to the left that has smaller bands playing. The Sneakin’ Out set was memorable largely for their bluegrass/zydeco arrangement of the Rolling Stones classic ‘Paint it Black.’
 Four if you count the ‘Joey Arkenstat’ album.
 The band was all dressed in shiny spaceman outfits and was playing dark music in front of a screen that was showing an endless loop of a wax mannequin melting while someone preached from a book that was most definitely not The Bible.
 Well if people on Phantasy SCI are accurate. They seem to think they know who is doing a lot of it at least.
 Assuming Phish don’t come back of course. Then all bets are off.
 The bluegrass coda of ‘Seven Story Mountain’ probably has a name. You know that guy who calls ‘Touch of Grey’, ‘I Will Survive?’ Like I said, that’s me with Railroad Earth.
 Don’t get me wrong, ‘One Slip’ is a pretty good song and their cover is well done. It’s just very low on the list of Pink Floyd songs you would ever expect to hear.
David Steinberg got his Masters Degree in mathematics from New Mexico State University in 1994. He first discovered the power of live music at the Capitol Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His Phish stats website is at http://www.ihoz.com/PhishStats.html
He is the stats section editor
for The Phish Companion and is on the board of directors for the Netspace Foundation. You can read more of his thoughts at http://www.livejournal.com/users/thezzyzx.