The Great American Road Trip: Phish, Part 1

Living out my Almost Famous moment, touring with Phish is the realization of a longtime dream come true. My name is Rachel Leigh, and on behalf of Adam and myself, before things get Phishy, we want to first thank HeadCount for getting us on the road. Adam, a second-year member of the HeadCount family was a seasoned festival volunteer as last year’s summer intern. Acting as our pilot and resident DJ, Adam houses the best Bob Dylan impersonation on the east coast. He’s been listening to Phish since high school and no amount of touring could ever exhaust his love for the band. As for me, growing up as the daughter of a Dead Head, it wasn’t long until my jam-band horizons opened and skies divided, leaving Phish to become my poison.

Disclaimer: Despite our loyal Phish phandom, for the sake of our readers, we won’t be using “ph’s” to replace our “f’s” or eliciting cheesy phish references as we chronicle our road trip…

…just kidding, maybe we will, but we will try our hardest not to.

Starting in Manchester, TN, I got my summer’s first taste of Phish. While I was indulging in four days of live music at Bonnaroo, Adam was working the Worcester, MA shows. Despite how much I love Bonnaroo, hands down for the Worcester weekend with killer set lists and a Trey run-in. If I weren’t having so much fun at Bonnaroo, I’d probably cry about it.

I digress…

Without further adieu, after much planning and lots of daydreaming, the tour has taken off—it’s all happening. Following our favorite band from city to city, working with awesome volunteers old and new, and hitting every IHOP from New York to Cincinnati has been an incredible journey, far from monotonous and far from over.

Luckily for Adam and I, the tour comes around full circle right by our hometowns in Long Island, NY. The tour takes us from Atlantic City, down through Virginia, with a Midwest twist in Ohio, right through Indianapolis and Wisconsin until we're back home for Jones Beach. The Bader Field, Atlantic City shows were quasi-right-in-our-backyards, and the festival-esque setup allowed all of us to really immerse ourselves in the scene and interact with everyone throughout the show, as well as catch both sets. The three-night run in AC was the perfect way to ease into tour as we got the chance to learn how to work the ropes with our friends bouncing around to Phish just a few feet away. Many lollipops and Magic Hat condoms later (we only give away fun stuff at the HeadCount table), we saw three strong nights of consistent registration numbers.

After a quick stop in D.C. at the Italian gem, Filomena’s, we were ready to hit the road singing, “This has all been wonderful, but now we’re on our way…”

Each night, as the touring representatives, we flip a coin to decide who gets to see which set while the other holds down the HeadCount fort. This brings me to Portsmouth. It was in Virginia where we remembered why we love this band so much. With the band “tucking” and goofing around on stage, Trey the Jedi moved the masses to laughter as no one could help but to smile at their Portsmouth, night one antics. Stars aligned for Adam who got to hear arguably the best “Maze” of all time, and so it goes. It was also in Virginia where the IHOP contemplation began. The International House of Pancakes has been an on-the-road favorite. However, with an extremely American menu (Eggs, biscuits, hash browns and of course, pancakes), we find it hard to understand why it is not called the Domestic House of Pancakes, as it’s hard to imagine ordering a more American breakfast from anywhere else. So, the only justification we could conjure is that they ran out of chocolate chips (very un-American) and that they sport Tilapia on their menu, how’s that for a game changer. International? I suppose so…

Aside from desperate to catch “Waste” and “Harpua” live, we’re also on a relentless mission to show the Phish following what HeadCount is all about. For us, it’s about making people’s rights accessible to them; bringing the registrations to a place where they feel the most in their element and comfortable to ask questions when they might not have otherwise—that and starting some good conversations. There’s nothing more organic than sharing a dum-dum at the crossroads of music and politics with your favorite band about to go on.

As part one of our story comes to a close, we want to give a shout out to some of the awesome TL’s we have met so far on tour. Tappan, Jamie, Yancey and Celia, Columbus and Holly—it was so great to see you guys out at the shows, thanks for all of your kind words and support. We can’t wait to meet more members of the HeadCount family along the way!

Keep on keepin’ on (I know we will…)

Sound as ever with love from the road,
Rachel Leigh and Adam