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Columns > Jesse Jarnow - Brain Tuba

Published: 2009/03/24
by Jesse Jarnow

Hampton By Blazcooster Light

BRAIN TUBA: Hampton By Blazcooster Light
Dear Dean:
Man, I’m out here in some mountain pass dodging poisonous guano from ghyrrpon birds and Phish still manage to fuck up my weekend? How does that work? Kzzzknkh and I were all set to head out to the bhupp field for a few days. Imagine, like, a moor covered in ice that’s the color of deep eggplant, occasional green tufts where the hoops sprout, themselves frozen. You camp out there for oh, say, a fortnight and then you kinda just chill in a deep, contemplative laziness that’s something across between a game of Risk and going fishing. I recommend it. But, anyway, we never made it there, because who should show up on the ol’ webchat but a dear old friend, informing me that Phish were playing in a matter of minutes in Virginia and we should, you know, catch up.
It was cloudless and the satellite wifi was beaming in clear and crystal and so we caught up. (Stole some albums, too.) Threw on the Clifford Ball DVD in a window while we talked, half scanning for our teenage selves in the front row. The setlist started rolling in on his side of the connection, and he asked if I wanted to know or would I like the option of a spoiler-free download? Oh my, Dean. Once caught in this trap, it seemed like the only righteous thing to do: to hear it as Icculus intended, in the moment, wherever that moment may be. Having made this decision, I shut down all other contact with the outside world. No Facebook, no Twitter, no email.
Outside, I could hear Kzzzknkh and his friends beginning to drone quietly, a kind of seasonal throat-singing they do, signaling the beginning of a blazcooster ritual, an intensely ecstatic sequence of group dances, which inevitably turns orgiastic, and is followed by a solid 24 hours of sleep on behalf of all of its participants, usually the entire village, save the youngest and infirm.
I continued to chat with my friend. It was great to catch up, f’realz. We did a lot of touring together, back in the day. Sold some bumper stickers. You know. So it was nice. That’s not what fucked up my weekend, Dean. While we were set down there talking, there was a knock at the entranceway to my yurt. Fgfgfgfgfgfgfgfgfgerina, a comely maiden of the village—about my age, dontchaknow—stood in the starlight, biting her lip, and asking ever-so-shyly if I might accompany her to the blazcooster orgy. ‘Not tonight,’ I said, and sat back down to continue the conversation with my old friend.
A few hours later, just as the show was ending in Virginia, I stumbled back outside. My friend back home had gone to bed, and the show hadn’t gone up on the spoiler-free site yet. Outside, the village was quiet, and I walked through the tattered remains of the orgy, clothing still strewn about. The fire crackled lightly. I sat by its edge and drew in the dirt with my boot. I thought about what my friend had told me about Hampton. It seemed weirdly similar to Coventry.
That is, instead of braving long, muddy roads to get to see Phish, maybe parking by the highway miles away and hiking, the norm is now surviving anti-populist corporate ticket bullshit, an unsettling grey market of second-hand ticket wranglers, badly designed websites, insufferable phone banks, and screwed-up hotel reservations. At least, for the moment, gas prices are down. But, make no mistake about it: seeing Phish is still a challenge to be navigated, albeit less one about the magic of the open road, and more about the mid-level back-channel insider strategies one needs to get ahead in this modern world. Though there is driving involved. And, well, Dean, that’s the one thing I did long for: the ability to take five days out of my life and focus on nothing but seeing Phish. There is a sweet purity to that, I must admit, that can sometimes get lost here, by the light of the blazcooster fire.
In the meantime, the show finished downloading, and I fired it up. It wasn’t anti-climactic. They played really well. And, well, you know the rest. Though that night, I only listened to an hour of the first set before going to bed. When I woke, the rest of the village was still asleep, so I got right back to listening. Even so, I was totally unplugged from everything else, trying to remain spoiler-free. And I pressed on and on and on and on, through fairly confident, accurate versions of the Phish catalogue, waiting for a conceptual theme or even a jam, really. Three hours later, still nothing. Oh, well. I imagine I’ll go back and download the interesting looking parts later. At any rate, the point wasn’t to make new music, I don’t think, but to re-lay a foundation. And hopefully build, but we’ll see about that.
But the insider navigation of Phish 3.0 certainly seems to be a prevailing motif, with the blurp over Red Rocks tickets, eh? (If nothing else, it does seem like an interesting test of the music machine’s machinery.) What is emerging, also, is the next level of Phishhead folk culture evolution, maybe, where the personal myths that Phish fans concoct, believe, and tell stories about are more about characters like Brad the Enabler than Rutherford the Brave. Suppose there’s no going back, but that’s an odd world to want to escape into.
Not for me, Dean, though. At least not yet. The purple ice fields await. Kzzzknkh and me, we’re gonna play us some bhupp. And then I’m gonna find Fgfgfgfgfgfgfgfgfgerina. She doesn’t care about "Fluffhead."
808s & j.

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