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Published: 2002/11/24
by Aaron Hawley

Hiatus is Over: A Journal

Saturday, August 17. 2002

It happened three days ago. Working away, in the un-air conditioned building of the non profit organization where I work, on a hot August day like most of the hot days this summer, I got the phone call that changed everything. It was my roommate, and he was sitting at the computer staring at it plain as day: Phish was coming back.

It hit me like a wave of nervous energy. I don't really remember what I was doing at the time, but I know I dropped everything to run to the computer and hit up just so I could see it with my own two eyes. New Years Eve at Madison Square Garden, and then three nights in the spaceship at Hampton, my heart was racing.

It was what I, and so many out there, had been waiting for since the moment we walked out of our last Phish concert. For me, that came on a warm September night at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Since then, there have been rumors, and side projects, and countless thoughts and predictions, but none of them were on the mark. Now, there was no more of that. Just preparation.
My first feelings when faced with this sort of thing are always a mix of excitement and trepidation. I'm not going to make it. The fact that this is a small tour, not a typical coast to coast month long expedition, has put a heightened emphasis on everything. There will be no regional bias to anything. The whole country is doing what I am, staring at the tourdates, and saying to themselves, "I will be there".

The rest of that day went by in a bit of a blur, and my mind could focus on nothing else. My phone started ringing off of the hook, my friends, many flung far and wide in the two years since we were all college kids trying our best to make the next show, were all calling to make sure I knew it was on. My coworkers laughed at me, none of them ever knowing me at a time when my life was scheduled around a band.

Friday, September 5th, 2002

I mail ordered today. In the three weeks that have passed since the big announcement, there has been much action regarding the shows. People are setting plans left and right, coordinating everything, all before tickets are anywhere near to hand. I tried, unsuccessfully to book a room at the Fairfield Inn, the day the tourdates were released, but I couldn't get one. I've vowed to plan as little of the trip as possible, since I'm always the guy who is roped into making sure everyone has tickets, and a ride, and a place to sleep, and on and on. Right now my only concern is getting my mail order.

I placed an order for a full set of eight tickets, and so did my sister. Hopefully between the two orders we have enough tickets to get ourselves into the shows. In a perfect world, both orders will get filled, and we'll each have tickets to make sure that a friend gets in too, but I have trouble being optimistic. Over a pint the other night with friends, talk turned to mail order, and my friend Raj remarked that he just "felt that he was getting tickets" and wasn't worried. I wish I could be more optimistic, but all I can think about is how much of a pain it's going to be when my order gets rejected, and what kind of madcap struggle for tickets it's going to be. The way I see it, is no one is going to be able to get more than one show online, seeing as they will all be sold out by the time your first order even processes. The phone seems like an even less likely scenario, and the odds of getting through seems like a bigger stroke of luck than the random lottery Phish has setup.

It amazes me to see how far Phish has come though. When I mail ordered for my first show on Fall Tour 1996, it seemed like the community was bitching because, for the first time, mail order wasn't hooking them up with the best seats in the house. Now, if I get any seat, from the foot of the stage to the furthest seat in the highest balcony, it will seem like a small miracle.

Saturday, September 14th, 2002

I got the email last night around midnight, as many others did. "We regret to inform you…" it opened, and my heart sank. Same story on my sister's mail order. Everyone I've talked to thus far was also rejected. My wallpaper on my computer is a picture I found online of Trey wearing a "Wilson" t-shirt giving the middle finger. It kind of feels a little like that.

I'm not going to say I deserved tickets any more than anyone else. All I know is I wanted them pretty bad. Now it's time for the mad scramble. Ticketmaster onsale date is just a few days away, but I don't feel confident on that one. Outlook from here looks pretty bleak right now.

Friday, September 20, 2002

In the last week I've done a lot of thinking about the getting tickets process. My optimistic friend got me thinking my mail order would come, but like most out there, it didn't. I know a couple of people who got tickets. Two out of roughly twenty. Neither of them got all four though. This Phish thing has turned into a real beast ticketwise. No matter how hard I think it is, I always manage to convince myself right at the last minute, like when I ambled into work this morning, that things will work out.

I plopped myself in the computer lab at about ten till, and I got three DSL connections up and running, as I sat at the controls of their respective keyboards and mice. By the time ten on the button rolled around, I furiously began clicking, 2 tickets, standard mail. Over and over I did this, and over and over I got just about every error message the server knows how to put out, if anything loaded at all. By the time 10:10 rolled around I got the familiar message, that in their own Ticketmaster way, told me that all the tickets had been had.

Then I got on the phone, checked in with my roommate manning the Cable internet connection back at my house, but he too came up empty. I still held out a brief flicker of hope for my sister and her comrades, knowing that they had taken over a University of Virginia computer lab for this one special purpose. But they too, came up short.

We all go at it again tomorrow morning, while all the while the optimist and pessimist in me duke it, for the biggest prize of all, a ride in the spaceship at Hampton.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Woke up earlier than usual today, and scurried down to work in a light gray rain. I was back at my spot by ten till, a virtual replay of yesterday, save for the rain. This time I had five computers, trying to buy two tickets, to three different concerts, but yielded the same number of tickets: zero.

My sister had no luck in ole Virginny either. She reports that she got a to the screen that said she had tickets, before a Ticketmaster error ruined her disposition. I don't know what I would have done if that had happened to me. I imagine I probably would have put my hand through the computer screen. It infuriates me the way the Ticketmaster server is obviously unable to handle the load of simultaneous requests it's getting. We pay them nearly ten dollars on every ticket we buy, but they obviously aren't spending the money on their computer systems.

Though I anticipated this moment, all the tickets having been released and snatched up, and not a solitary ticket in my hand, it feels bleaker than I expected.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

I spend a lot of my time thinking about the predicament I'm in with regards to the big shows. On one hand, I'm thinking about going. Tickets or no, I feel somehow drawn to being there. A roommate of mine in college once said that the only reason that we go to shows is so we have stories to tell. Going to New York with out a ticket would be an adventure, and that aspect of it is romantically alluring, jumping off into the abyss with nothing but my wits to guide me. It would be a ride, and I've never seen New York on New Year's Eve, Phish or no. Holding me back is knowing that more likely than not, I will be outside in the cold when the band steps back on to the stage for the first time.

I don't imagine that Hampton will be any easier, and stinging memories of a friend buying a fake ticket outside the '98 shows assures me that I don't want to relive his fate. I've never gone to a Phish show, and not gone in, for any reason, and though I know many have done it and had a great time, I know I can't. For me the lot circus is nice, but nothing matches the adrenaline rush when the house lights go down, and when Fishman ushers in David Bowie, or when Trey pulls a runaway jam back home with Down With Disease's trademark lick, or in Taste when Page's piano solo builds and builds, or when Mike steps forward and unleashes a thunderous solo at the beginning of Weekapaug. No amount of phatty dank veggie lot grub or Sammy Smith bombers can make me want to miss a second of it.

I don't really know why I am so inexplicably drawn to these shows. I did not make the trek to Shoreline to bid the band adieu, I saw two shows on that tour, Merriweather and Hershey, fairly content. Sure, as I watched the setlists roll in, I got envious, but I never felt that being there was essential. Now, there's nothing I can do to stop thinking about how I can get there. I used to say that, after Big Cypress, that there wasn't another Phish concert that I will regret not being at. I guess I was wrong.

Monday, October 14th, 2002

Time has passed since I made an entry into this journal. What started as a frenetic excitement has given way to a sense of sullen defeat. Most people out there are in the same boat as I. Phish is back, but there are no tickets to be had.

There have been rumors and postings on the net about tickets slowly being released, and every so often I give good ole Ticketbastard a call, but to no avail. I can't have any optimism about it, and will probably stop calling all together.

New Years Eve has always been my favorite holiday, a holiday devoted to taking stock of one's life, to look at where you have been, and where you are going. The revelry of a concert, coupled with the camaraderie of this thriving scene which has come so far in so short of a time, makes Phish the perfect choice for a New Year's celebration, but I'm looking for other plans.

I had hoped that I would be able to go to the shows, miraculously find a ticket and boogie my way on in to welcome back that band which has been missing from my life for the last two years. I know now that that's not gonna happen. I've decided that I'm not going. The scene will be a circus, and fun. But I'm going to respect the band's wishes and not go. No ticket, no go. I fully intend on catching the next shows the boys play, especially if it's at Hampton, but I would hate to have a hand in them getting banned from such a legendary venue, like the Dead at the end of their run.

Personally, for me it was an easy choice. If I'm gonna miss the shows, I might as well miss them from hundreds of miles away, and it won't sting as much. There's hundreds of other bands playing on the 31st, from coast to coast. But there's only one that I'm gonna regret not being at.

Aaron Hawley needs a miracle.

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