A Fans View: ConsideritDead
1000s of paper cups litter the curbs and sidewalks of Manhattan. 37, 899 runners are on a 26-mile course through all 5 boroughs. Brazilian long distance runner, Maron Gomes dos Santos, mens winner and Paula Radcliffe, womens winner, reach the finish line in Central Park. Its the first Sunday of November. Tradition marks this date for the 2008 New York City Marathon. Approximately 20 blocks away in Times Square, there is a different breed of 150 athletes getting ready for a different kind of marathon. Not the NYC Marathon, this is The Philathon, The Other One. Phil Lesh & Friends are performing 14 nights at The Nokia Theatre in 19 days. Somehow the 68-year-old musician manages to pack the 2100 capacity venue satisfying fans of all ages every night.
A Phil & Friends show, like a Grateful Dead show, is not only a challenging feat physically. The audience is taken through an exhausting obstacle course of aural and visual sensations, psychic kinetic and collective energies. Their songs express the deepest known emotions filled with the mysterious tales of the human experience and the creative spirit. If the fact that Phil, at 68 years old, is performing 14 shows isnt mind blowing enough, 150 of his biggest fans join him on the trip. Along with the rotating 2000 people in the audience, about 150 diehard Phil phans are there every night.
Many of them were able to accomplish this feat with ease because they had the help of Dan Berkowitz, tour manager to the fans and founder of ConsideritDan. ConsideritDan was exclusively offering a VIP dream package for all 14 shows as well as numerous ticketing packages. One of these included tickets to all 14 shows and an exclusive cocktail hour before the shows on Saturday night. Phans who purchased the Philathon ticket package also received download codes for the complete Digital Box Set, a sign commemorative Philathon poster and a big Phamily Photo with the band!
The first of the three 4 night runs begins on Halloween, Friday, October 31st and concludes on Monday, November 3rd. Halloween showcased covers of The Whos Boris the Spider, Edgar Winters Frankenstein and Warren Zevons Werewolves of London. Neal Casal of Ryan Adams Cardinals and Warren Haynes of The Allman Brothers were surprise guests on November 1st and November 3 respectively. But the highlight had to be when Phil Lesh, Warren Haynes, Stanton Moore and John Medeski surprised The Headcount Election Eve Benefit at The Highline Ballroom with a special set. I remember standing at Warrens feet in the front row of this virtually private performance. There was a feeling in the air during the Lovelight Jam that things were gonna be all right. That change and hope was in the air!
On Tuesday, Election Day, the band had a day off. That evening Barack Obama won the election to become the 44th President of The United States of America. Just a month earlier on October 13th The Dead reunited for an Obama Benefit with The Allman Brothers. Change Rocks was at Penn State Universitys Bryce Jordan Center to a sold out crowd of 15,000. A big supporter of Obama, Phil was no doubt elated by his election. On Wednesday, the 5th, Phil & Friends performed Sugaree on Late Night with Conan OBrien. Phils mood was noticeably extra bright and cheerful.
The next show after the election, Nov. 6th began with Phils dedication:
You know 2 days ago we went through, participated in, a turning point in history. I think as important as anything that weve seen in our lives. And I betI bet that everybody in this room was a part of that in some way. I want to dedicate this show tonight to the spirit, that uniquely American spirit which is thrown up at the perfect momentthis man, this movement, and these people. So heres to you! Who ever you may be.
The show opened with Help on the Way > Slipknot into a 16+ minute Eyes of the World and closed with Built to Last, and Lovelight. The 2nd set opened with a U.S. Blues and the encore was Dancing in the Streets. I think the best way to describe this show would be by the lyrics to Phils Unbroken Chain, which he performed during the 2nd set that evening: November and more as I wait for the score, theyre telling me forgiveness is the key to every door. A slow winter day a night like forever. Sink like a stone, float like a feather. The next night, Friday the 7th, featured a spectacular 2nd set: Shakedown Street> Jam> Jack Straw> St. Stephen > Fire on the Mountain. Then a rare cover of the Beatles Revolution went into Weir/ Barlows political anthem Throwing Stones.
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right
Actually both of the first 2 weekends, during the consecutive 4 night runs. Phil sang the first verse to Fire on the Mountain:
Long distance runner what you standing there for?
Get up, get off, get out of the door
You’re playing cold music on the bar room floor,
drowned in your laughter and dead to the core
There’s a dragon with matches loose on the town
Take a whole pail of water just to cool him down.
If those 150 Dead-icated fans are the Philathons long distance runners then Phil must be the Dragon loose on the town. Its going to take more then little New York City Marathon paper cup to cool him down. Phil is going to need a pail of water, a bucket hanging clear to hell.
Sunday, November 9th marked the halfway point for the Philathon. Muscles aching, tired, out of breath and late Im jogging to the show down 42nd street. However, after sitting in 2 hours of traffic on the Long Island Expressway, I have forgotten my ticket! Its only a little after 7 OClock and the band is in the end of their first set. With the show quickly flying by normally I would have been, Screwed! Especially if I had purchased my tickets through Ticketmaster whose offices are closed Sunday evening. Lucky for me I ordered the Broadway Matinee ticket package from ConsideritDan. The package included all 3 of the early Sunday shows. I told the box office about my predicament and in less then 5 minutes they had confirmed my tickets, printed me another and let me inside. Following the many signs and arrows that say ConsideritDan check in, I walk over to the table. Dan Berkowitz, President & CEO is at the table on his laptop. I tell him I am interested in speaking with him for about everything they are doing via Ticket and VIP Packages. Dan replies, Im into it! Get here early next Sunday. Doors are at 5pm. I wonder if he knows that he just saved my 2nd set. A colossal 2nd set at that! Cryptical> Dark Star> Other One> Mountains of the Moon> Dark Star> Cryptical> Music Never Stopped and Ripple encore!
Next Sunday when I arrive to the show, Dan is crazy busy, doing a million things at once. I meet with his assistant, Cori Wein, whom tells me, Dan will be with you shortly. She is very friendly, lovely person. In between checking in the VIPs we manage to chat for a few minutes. She tells me that she interned for Dan at his Philadelphia offices and now works for him. I also meet Dans right hand man, Jefferson Waful. Dan tells me enthusiastically, We got Jefferson!!! Whos seen more shows then him? Jefferson has been writing for Jambands.com / Relix Magazine since 2000. He is also a satellite radio personality and has done lighting design for moe. & Umphreys McGee. During the setbreak, Jefferson and Cori give me a VIP bracelet. John Molo and Steve Molitz mingle in the VIP room. There is a full spread, fruit baskets, cheese and crackers, plush leather couches, private restroom and masseuse. I ask Jefferson: What is your position in the company? He tells me:
You could call me a concierge. When people arrive I make sure to be there for them and escort them to there seats. I basically just show them where everything is. I take laps around to the different VIP sections like the balcony and stage. We make sure people are thoroughly enjoying themselves; that everyone is having a good time. But really This is Dans vision.
Finally, I meet with Dan who takes me on a tour of the VIP Sections. We walk pass the private bartender down a hallway onto the stage. This is Friend of the Devil and there are 6 seats on a riser, and a personal pa monitor. This was sold out for 12 of the 14 nights. Dan tells me once people try this, they want to do it again and again. I stood there during Samson & Delilah that night and was blown away! Then there was Franklins Tower: 2 roomy balconies fitting 15 people a night. It is a premium experience with multiple security checkpoints and open bar. Walking down the steps we head over to the 3rd VIP Section called Golden Road. This is the walkway and the front 2 rows elevated behind the soundboard. All the VIP sections have their own security.
Standing on The Golden Road, I ask Dan how have the 14 nights gone so far? It was perfect. I couldnt have dreamed it would go any better. I am ready to do another 14 shows. Dan genuinely opens up and we have a candid conversation about how he started out. He reminds me that it all started when he organized Shuttle Buses to transport Disco Biscuit fans from the Hyatt hotel to the shows at Sayreville Ballroom in New Jersey. Eventually The Disco Biscuits asked Dan, to work for them, and that gave him the opportunity to work for Electric Factory Concerts in Philadelphia, PA. I remember driving to the Hyatt for the first Disco Biscuits Sayreville shows to meet with my friends who were staying there. When we were leaving the hotel Dan was waiting at the front entrance with the bus. I was going to walk to my car and drive myself to the show when Dan said, Get on the bus, Urban! Well the bus came by and I got on. Thats when it all began. Even though I didnt have a bus ticket or the money to buy one, Dan was willing to give me a ride. That is the type of person he is. There have been other times when Dan was working for The Disco Biscuits when he offered to help me get into shows. After the first Headcount Election Eve party at The Mercury Lounge in 2004 I was ecstatic telling people, I bought Barber a Guinness and Brownstein used my guitar cable to play 42! As I was leaving Dan gave me his number and told me to call him if I ever needed any help seeing the band. Honestly, I had no idea who he was at the time. I was just a kid who traveled 1,000s of miles and spent 1,000s of dollars following my favorite band around the country. Dan knew that, and I think it was the bands and his way of showing me their appreciation. Even during the Disco Biscuits A.C. Drum Off in November of 2005 Dan took a moment from dealing with the mob of fans trying to get into the sold out show to see if I had tickets. This is Dans character. He was always taking care of the fans, way before ConsideritDan.
Meanwhile, standing on The Golden Road we continue our discussion. Dan expresses that what is really cool and special about these VIP packages are the friendships that come from it. Its not just about the show. To him what is more important are the people we meet, the relationships that start at the shows and the friendships that grow outside of them. After the show that night the 150 fans plus yours truly got together for the Phamily Photo with Phil Lesh and his band. We stood on the floor in front of the stage waiting. Phil and the band arrived to cheers and bright-eyed smiles. They got right in the middle of us and took the picture. I remember Phil giving us the most sincerely grateful look as he walked away. That picture truly captured a magical moment in time for the fans and the music of The Grateful Dead. It is something I will always cherish and be thankful that I was a part of.
These days ConsideritDan is offering travel packages for the The Disco Biscuits, STS9 & Umphreys McGee. But now they have some new bands they are working with, like Phish and The Dead. Sure theres nothing wrong with doing Dead or Phish Tour the old fashioned way. Putting your finger in the air, cashing in some good karma points and praying for a miracle. But if you have the money and want a premium experience hire the team over at ConsideritDan. Its worth it!