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 Sinclairification by Grant Sinclair

Part 3: Fending Off Fears And Hearing The Call

29 Oct 2009
When Phish announced Festival 8 this past July, my first instinct was to buy two travel packages (one each for Cathy and me).  Check that – it wasn’t an instinct, it was a reaction.  My first instinct was to see how much it cost and see if we could do it.  It turns out, we couldn’t.  It seemed like the perfect weekend getaway, but the price was too steep for two people, at least in terms of travel packages.  Still, it sounded like fun.  A three-day Phish festival AND their famous Halloween set, where they play a complete album by another band!  Great!  Money?  Eh, that’s a problem.  It was more of a disappointment for me to not go than Cathy, who admitted she’d be happy just swimming at the hotel pool all day.

You see, I’ve been an avid Phish fan since my first show fifteen years ago this month.  I was told by my Phish-loving friends that to really appreciate the band, I had to see them live.  On a cool October night, in a general admission college gymnasium in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, I gave Phish a chance to show off their skills and make me a fan.  And they did.

Over the years, Phish’s music has neatly fit in with my life.  I was lucky enough to be geographically close when they put on a big show or other musical endeavor.  By pure luck, I’ve been to most major Phish events.  New Year’s Eve 1995 at Madison Square Garden, The Clifford Ball and New Year’s Eve Shows at the Spectrum in Philly and Fleet Center in Boston in 1996 all happened when I still lived in New Jersey.  I moved to Atlanta in 1997, but arranged my summer plans so I could drive from Georgia to see family and friends in New Jersey before heading to the Great Went in Limestone, Maine.

And the list goes on: Hampton Comes Alive?  I was there.  Big Cypress?  I was there.  Hell, even Live Phish 01 – which I attended – is the only show they played on my birthday!  You can’t plan that sort of thing!  And to think I actually considered not attending Festival 8.

For as much as I’ve enjoyed going to Phish shows, there are still certain rules:

First, a show will be trumped by a family event.  I’m not going to miss a wedding, reunion or baptism (as mentioned earlier) to go to a Phish show.  A Sunday dinner is a different story, because we do those every week.

Next, if Phish is playing a New Year’s Eve show in a place where I’ve already spent New Year’s Eve, I’m not going, per the New Year’s Eve Rules.

Third, no going broke or being stupid to see a show.  If I have to borrow money, take out a loan or run up the credit card to see a show, I should probably not go.

But Festival 8 fit all the criterion.  A Phish concert!  On Halloween!  And a campout! And Phish’s first ever all-acoustic set!  I had been to a Halloween show (1996, Atlanta, Remain in Light) and a few campouts (the Clifford Ball, the Great Went, Oswego, Big Cypress) but to have both things at once sounds like a lot of fun.

Things have changed since those camp-out festivals.  I drove to see those events with friends.  I’m flying alone for this.  Then, I camped out for a weekend in a tent.  This time, I’m getting a hotel room with Wi-Fi (so I can keep you all abreast of this blog as it develops).  Then I was a person who would do anything to travel.  Now…okay, I guess that much hasn’t changed.

So after considering all I’ve seen and want to do (Phish wise) and fending off fears and hearing the call, I finally booked my trip.  It was a lot easier than I thought, and less expensive, too, because I didn’t book a package.  I know that doesn’t seem to make sense, but I got a hotel a little farther away from the venue (because all the others were sold out) and I’ll take the bus to the shuttle pick-up spot, where they’ll take us to the concert.

As I was trying to figure everything out; how to get there, which airline to take, what time do I really want to get up for a flight, figuring transportation from the airport to my hotel, Cathy said something interesting, “Would it be cheaper to rent a car when you got there?”  Maybe she’s on to something.  Maybe it would be cheaper to rent a car.  But you know what?  I’m on vacation (kind of).  I don’t want to drive, especially in southern California.  I live in Atlanta, and the title for worst traffic in the country goes between southern California and here, depending on the day.  The only difference between here and there, as far as I’m concerned, is that here, I know where I’m going.  Nope, no driving.  I want to get on a bus, hand someone my ticket, sit down and just relax.

I booked my flight without a problem, but had to figure out a few minor logistical details.  Namely, how do I get from the airport to my hotel and how do I get from my hotel to the show?  I looked into an airport shuttle service, but at $80 each way, the price was a little much.  Plus, they kept weird hours.  Phish’s web site for the festival suggested the Sun Bus to get to the venue, but it’s a two mile walk from the drop-off spot to the venue.  They also suggested staying at the Motel 6 in Rancho Mirage, which was the most reasonable (read: cheapest) hotel in town, except that it was about twenty miles out of town.

After much research and frustration, I called the Sun Bus folks for more information.  They in turn put me in tough with Valley Music Travel, the people who prepared the expensive travel packages.  It turns out, you didn’t need to buy a travel package to purchase other services, like a shuttle to and from the airport ($80 round trip!) and shuttles from hotels to the shows!

To be polite to you, I’m not going to get into all the details of booking this trip, but I will say that the people at Valley Music Travel could not have been more helpful, polite and easy to work with.  They were familiar with southern California and helped me arrange details of where to stay, how to get around and what to expect.  They even suggested – nay insisted – on an early departure time (7 AM) for my shuttle back to the airport for my 12:40 PM flight, “because of the heavy California traffic at 9 AM.  If you leave at 9, you might not make it.  If you leave at 7, you’ll be sitting around at the airport, but it’s better to sit and relax than hurry and worry.”  Indeed.

There was only one obstacle; getting back to my hotel from the concert.  Now, I had purchased a hotel-to-concert shuttle, but that shuttle didn’t run from my hotel, it ran from Indian Wells Golf Resort, which is about ten miles from my hotel.  So it went like this:

Morning:  Sun Bus from Rancho Mirage to Indian Wells.  Shuttle from Indian Wells to Empire Polo Club.  Fun!

Night: Shuttle from Empire Polo Club to Indian Wells.  Indian Wells to Rancho Mirage: ?

The rep from Valley Music Travel suggested I cab it back to my hotel, and based on the mileage (fewer than ten miles; 8.7, to be exact), the cab fare should be no more than $10 or $15.

That settles it, then!  I have accommodation!  I have transportation!  I have a reason to get the hell out of here for a few days!


© 2009

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