“I feel the feeling I forgot.”
To tarp or not to tarp? Is that the question?
It is certainly a hot topic. My answer is a resounding no.
The real question is – who are we? Yes, the collective “we.” When I came on the scene there were high-five’s on lot all day and someone shouting “Free Hugs” could be heard with every step you took. After the show strangers telling strangers – travel safe, see you next run, much love. That was the community that we were all part and it was our safe haven. Tour was a place to be as free as you chose and feel safe while doing it, it was very communal.
Recently while on the floor at Phish in Dayton, Ohio, I was walking back to where I had been prior to set break. As I stopped for a moment to get my bearings, I was pushed. At first I thought it was someone walking by, but then I immediately felt an elbow in my back and then a push from my side. All of this occurred within maybe 10 seconds. I turned around and was told, “You are too close to our tarp! Move!” I explained to them (one guy and two girls) that I was just trying to find my previous spot and that they needed to chill. They informed me that they didn’t care, and I needed to move. As I turned to walk away, the guy pushed me again. I am a woman who travels to shows somewhat alone or splits from my group and that is the first time I have felt uncomfortable at Phish. It was disheartening to say the least. Their behavior was so aggressive and completely unnecessary.
I went back to my previous spot in disbelief, confused by what had just occurred, and looked down. I noticed that there were tarps, blankets, towels—you name it—duct taped to the floor of the indoor arena. In those areas, there were also huge gaps in the crowd because of the tarps … meaning they did not “need” the space. They felt entitled to it. In their minds, they “owned” that space. I could not stop thinking – who are “we?” what have “we” become? Is this the new idea of family? Do they even understand what they are part of?
Somehow certain people have decided that their general admission ticket is also a free pass to own a piece of concrete. From where does this mentality come? The idea that you are entitled to something that isn’t yours. This is OUR show. All of us. Part of what makes Phish so great is the crowd, the energy, the “We are all in this together.” I kept thinking: What if this had been my first show? How would I speak of this community? Honestly, I probably would have considered leaving.
I was fortunate in that I wasn’t hurt and I found my way back to where I had been. I spent the rest of the night sharing the groove with two wonderful people. We hugged at the end of the night and went about our ways. In true Phish fashion, when I arrived to Pittsburgh and walked through the General Admission doors of the next concert venue, we literally bumped right into each other again. I thanked them for giving me a safe space the night before, and we all settled in for the show. Little did I know my safe space happened to be, Steve Pollak (AKA “The Dude of Life”) and his friend Julie. They were nothing short of wonderful to me. They restored some of my faith in the community. I will say when I looked on the floor in Pittsburgh, I personally did not see any tarps – you could feel the difference. The vibe was completely different than it had been in Dayton. Energy is infectious be it good or bad in my opinion.
I was welcomed into this scene with open arms almost 20 years ago and I am thrilled to encourage others, perhaps younger to go, experience it. Live it. Breath it. Come back dirty and filled with stories! I stood there thinking, maybe I need to start letting them know, they are part of something. They aren’t “the” something.
Sadly, I believe that if we continue to allow this level of entitlement we have lost touch with what brought us together. This isn’t just music; it is a family, a community, our good vibe tribe. In some ways, it is kind of a secret society. Now I am asking all of you: “Who are we?” Who have we become? How do we want our family—our brothers and sisters—to look and act? Is a tarp really worth the trade-off? Claiming general admission space at the expense of an entire community is completely unacceptable. I refuse to believe that this is who we have become. Are we no longer “strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand?”
There are so many wonderful things that have come from this community: The Be More Project, Waterwheel, and my own shop Grateful Momma Bear to name a few. Each of these came from this family and gives back in its own way to make things better for all of us. However, now we are forced to have things like GrooveSafe, an unfortunate necessary evil to help protect our own from unsolicited sexual assaults, advances, and harassment. We are better than this. We are not the entitled suburbia upper middle class kids – not here. Here, my space is your space. My water is your water. That is who we are.
I challenge you to be the change—to bring back brothers looking out for sisters and vice versa, to bring back “Free Hugs!” and high fives … to bring back the community. This is what sets us apart: “We are all in this together.” Act like it.