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Columns > David Steinberg - Some Are Mathematicians

Published: 2009/08/26
by David Steinberg

Coastal Rules

The most obvious difference between the east and west coasts is that of space. All of the clichés about the personality differences come out of that. Even the busy I-5 corridor has a nearly 600 mile stretch between Portland and Sacramento. The mountains and deserts of the Pacific and Mountain Time Zones define us in the same way the history and density of the east coast megalopolis infect the culture there.

The West Coast laid back nature is so much easier to maintain when you can escape from the crowds. Population density forces people to come up with extra rules of behavior; eccentricity is less amusing when you’re forced to deal with it all of the time. The divergence is getting more drastic. The first leg of summer tour was anything but a freak fest; Mel returned from her solo Pittsburgh mission boggling over how few people were wearing interesting or weird items. Meanwhile, the West Coast finds its shows partially inhabited by Burning Man attendees.

Where do I stand? Do you even have to ask? While I used to live in Baltimore and upstate New York, most of my concert going years were in the areas with the space. The desert is a much different environment to live in – and even rainy Seattle is only 100 miles away from the high desert of eastern Washington – and I fully have been indoctrinated into the rule of costumes. Even my own wedding encouraged celebratory wear.

It had been six years since Phish had played out west. The costumes had grown more and more extravagant over the break. How would the two interact? Exactly the way I’d hoped. The leg started in Shoreline, and you could see the different on Shakedown. Sure, it still had very little for sale compared to even 2.0 Phish – it looks like the business model of selling items in the lot in order to stay on tour might be completely broken – but who needs funny stickers when you can have a psychedelic dragon bus?

By the time the two days of camping at the Gorge rolled around, we were in complete hippie mode. While not everyone was in costume and some just gave in and wore a ton of glowrings and I continued to style my brand new wedding cape, there were some impressive people. Perhaps my favorite person of the weekend had Homer Simpson on a fishing pole because… because there is no because, it’s just cool.

It reached the point where halfway through the second set on Saturday, someone walked by in a complete bear costume. Steph just turned to me after he walked by and said, “Sure. Why not?”

Sure the second leg of Phish was incredible. The Gorge and Red Rocks and Hartford had some wonderful concerts. However, when I look to the future and Festival 8, I think more about the crowd. West Coast mentality, the spaces and crazy wind of the desert, and Halloween. It’s going to be insane. With any luck, we might inspire the band to new heights.

Author’s Note: Some of you might have seen the note on the Phish.net mailing list that “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” at Shoreline was perhaps a wedding present. If you’re wondering, yes that story involved me. Right before the show, my friend Elayne got through to Mike’s hotline. She knew about my love for the song and suggested that they play it as a present. When they played, we were both sure that they had performed it for that reason as it would have been an incredible coincidence otherwise.

Alas, it was just an incredible coincidence. Apparently, there was no connection between the message and the call to play it. Oh well. I still got to hear one of my all time favorite songs and, better yet, the performance at Merriweather Post Pavilion gives me hope that it will continue to be played. Sometimes if you throw a wish out there, it gets answered, even if there’s no logical reason for it.

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 Capital Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His Phish stats website is at 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.

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