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WE GOT PHUCKED
It was 2 in the morning, and Chris Fleming, Ryan Lamanuzzi and Erick Bright were sitting in a rented van struggling to stay awake. They had been parked in the same place for two hours. The road leading to their destination, the final Phish show, was clogged with cars, litter, and people. A long line of red taillights tapered up a hill and around the corner for the next 25 miles. Most drivers had turned off their engines and some folks had begun to gather on the shoulder of the road to socialize and drink beers. An improved parking lot scene.
"We listened to the Bunny, a radio station which had all the show traffic and show updates. There were two lanes on this road and people were cutting into the left lane, cutting in line," recalls Fleming. "The Bunny kept saying 'don't do that' and that we were going to get through. Stuff like we 'appreciate your patience', and that 'you right-laners are the ones we want in here' (at the show)."
Rain had wiped out the access roads to the parking lots, so instead of getting 1000 cars an hour through the gate, the concert was getting only 200. Progress had slowed to a crawl.
"We were 25 miles away and we weren't moving. In 6 hours we moved two tenths of a mile."
The crew had first flown from Fresno to Boston and at the airport had rented a van, and even got an upgrade to a model that had a GPS satellite positioning system.
"Erick goes to all these shows out of state and he had used it before and he felt the GPS was a must cause it had saved him before from getting lost before," explains Fleming.
While Chris and the other "right-laners" were waiting patiently, other less patient cars were whizzing by in the left lane of the two lane interstate at 60-plus miles an hour on a regular basis. Fleming and Bright had thought about jumping into the left lane, but had decided against it.
"It was like 'No, we'll stick to the plan'. We were on schedule, we felt we were going to get in eventually."
Later that evening, around 3 in the morning, a young couple walked in front of Bright and Fleming's vehicle. The couple was in the middle of an argument.
"They were saying this that and the other," recalls Erick. " I was at the shoulder of the road, at a guard rail, doing my business, and it was pitch black."
The girl, who was distressed because she hadn't yet found a ticket, decided that she wouldn't go to the show and that she would instead wander out into the woods alone. She climbed over the guardrail, in front of Fleming and Bright's van, and embarked into the Vermont wilderness.
"I heard 3 steps and then silence," said Erick.
Erick and Chris, who had both packed high powered flashlights decided, partly out of boredom and partly out of worry, to get their gear out of the back of the van and head into the forest to take a look.
"We found out that once you get past the railing there was a couple of feet and then a huge 25-foot drop," said Chris. "We saw the girl at the bottom sitting up, kind of askew, it looked like her legs were broken. We shouted down to her and asked her if she was alright."
The girl didn't respond, and although she looked conscious in the distance, Erick and Chris knew they had to get the girl help. Unfortunately, while most everyone waiting in the Phish concert caravan was carrying a cell phone, nobody was getting service.
"We went to the car in front of us and talked to them and they weren't getting service. We decide that we should just drive up to the front of the line."
While revving up their engine and preparing to make the move into the left lane, the group had a stroke of luck. Erick's cell phone started getting service, out of nowhere. He dialed 911, and with the help of GPS was able to give emergency rescue crews the exact location of the girl.
Several long minutes later, the frontage road below the interstate, where the girl had tumbled, was swarming with police and fire trucks.
The end is nigh...
And then at 9 am in the morning, the call came. Over the radio, the bass player for Phish announced that they would not be letting any more cars into the venue and that everyone would have to turn around.
"It was a hard pill to swallow, we were shocked."
The group quickly decided to turn around find something else to do for the weekend.
"It didn't work out and were on the other side of the country. What were we going to do? Have a good time or be bummed out and talk shit about Phish the whole time?" said Fleming. "No."
The group discovered a map on the bottom of an empty six-pack of beer and followed that map to the town of Windsor, where they spent the weekend camping near a local Brewery.
"They were the nicest people," recounts Chris. "This one lady gave me the secret recipe for her family's beer cake."
On the way back to Fresno, at the airport in Boston, the two ran into several people who had made it to the show. They were identifiable by the blue bracelets they wore around their wrists and by the post-show glow they had about their faces.
"We met people who had driven all the way around the venue and gotten in, we met people who had just parked on the side of the road and had walked 18 miles, people who had parked in fields and walked in, people who had done all the things that they had asked you not to do."
"They broke our hearts"
"My friend Ryan said that Phish is no longer his favorite band and that he's going back to Metal and that Slipknot is going to be his favorite band," said Fleming. "If it comes down to something like that, I don't want to see Phish again. I'm really glad they are stopping."
"I still love them," said Erick.
The group plans on keeping their unripped tickets, even though Phish has offered to refund them and provide slighted fans with a special autographed photobook.
"I'm going to keep my ticket stub and keep it in a frame and be like, that's the show I didn't go to."