Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dispatches from Telluride: The Invasion

By Pauly
Telluride, CO

The citizens of Telluride had a legitimate fear -- being over run by blood thirsty Phisheads who blindly trail their heroes around the country, ingesting every potential mind-altering substance in its path, and literally taking over and destroying whatever city Phish plays in, let alone a tiny town nestled in the Colorado mountains. But somehow, Phish's management team pulled off two 9,000 person shows at Telluride's Town Park. Someone must've dropped off a huge sack of cash to the local political machine, because the council was eventually swayed to permit Phish to play. They even extended Phish's curfew to 11pm (formerly 10pm for other musical acts including Jazz Fest).

Phish attempted to release ticketless tickets to stick it to the scalpers. The local federales also locked down the town to prevent ticketless fans from overrunning Telluride. As a result, two days in Telluride had the vibe of a festival -- but with a fraction of the people.

Tickets to Telluride were tough to come by, but getting to Telluride proved to be just as challenging -- especially if you were coming from the Greek with a single travel day to traverse from Northern California to Colorado. Wildo and his friends left Berkeley right after the last show at the Greek ended. They drove all the way -- 19 or 20 hours in all. The rest of us either flew directly to Telluride, or flew to Denver and then drove to Telluride. Anyway you cut it, the journey was not going to be easy.

I took a bad beat courtesy of Great Lakes Airlines. I arrived at Denver's airport around 9am after a 6am flight from Oakland. My girlfriend had a connecting flight from LA. We both got bumped (along with two others) from the last flight to Telluride out of Denver. The reason? Weight restrictions. The temperature was too hot for our 19-person plane. They had to trim the passenger list by four and we got fucked. One guy who got bumped went ballistic. If I hadn't given my girlfriend Dramamine an hour before, she would have torn the supervisor's head off. I pulled out some of my poker bankroll oand put the wad of cash on the counter.

"Who do I have to bribe to get us on the last plane to Telluride?"

I didn't get an answers. All we got was a bunch of crappy excuses, a $10 food comp, and a $300 voucher. I was livid, but knew we were in a tough spot because the best the airline could do was fly us into Cortez (70 miles from Telluride) -- but that flight was 6 hours later. They also agreed not to bump us from that flight to Cortez and to pay for a taxi to Telluride. That still didn't placate the four of us who watched in agony as the plane we were supposed to be on took off down the runway.

"It's like you took away Christmas!"

Those bastards. My friends scrambled to find alternative ways to get us from Denver airport to Telluride. Big thanks to Gouda, Joker, and Jonas -- who were working all of their contacts. We opted for the Cortez flight. It went off without any drama. We then hopped into a Mountain Limo SUV, driven by a soccer-mom type who blasted The Who and David Bowie for us the entire way to Telluride.

We finally arrived at Midnight, eight hours later than scheduled, and the Joker was in the middle of throwing a pre-Phish party at his baller condo. We actually scored two condos at the Viking Lodge. My girlfriend and I had the quieter "couples condo" with Jonas & Katie and Sweet Willy & Mrs. Sweet Willy. Meanwhile, the Joker's condo was party central and pimped out, thanks to lights, smoke machine, and a sound system from Lord Farqua.

I woke up on Monday morning fighting off altitude sickness (flying from sea level to 9.5K elevation isn't easy) and I also was stricken with a batch of the wook flu that I caught in Berkeley. Any other day, I would have just stayed in bed and nursed the flu, but this was Phish in Telluride. I rallied. No way I was gonna miss Phish. Heck, if I was going to die -- well shit, Telluride is a majestic place to die.

I ate a combo of OTC flu meds and other random pills in order to get me up and runnin. The crew ate brunch at Maggie's. That's where the Joker met up with Pep who had a bag of goodies for us. He's an artist and the Joker commissioned personalized Phish Telluride hats for some of our crew. Pep whipped up a hat featuring my favorite song -- Slave to the Traffic Light.

With my new pimped out Phish lid (I really dig the poker chips), I picked up my bracelet for the two shows. The Joker and I ran into Fractalgal out front and in search of a ticket. A local came up to her and offered to give her a wristband. The scam was simple -- since this was almost like a festival with wristbands, fans could come and go as they please unlike a normal Phish show with a strict no "in and out" policy. So someone would go into the show, slide off their wrist band, and have someone deliver it to FractalGal. The price for just Monday's show? $250.

"Fuck off!" screamed the Joker. "Get the fuck out of here!"

The local was stunned and sheepishly walked away. The Joker wasn't going to put up with shysters trying to take advantage of devoted fans. He let her have it. Luckily, FractalGal got a ticket a half hour later.

We headed back to the condo for a pre-party BBQ. The Joker fried up meats while Wildo and I sweated the Yankees game. Once everyone was properly juiced up and in costume, we made the walk from the condo to Town Park. Along the way, the Joker was stopped multiple times for photo requests, which happens when you're wearing a disco ball helmet, disco ball suit, and carrying a light sabre.

Town Park is a small and cozy venue with a tiny stage and a reduced lighting rig. Jonas described Telluride as "The Gorge + Red Rocks = Telluride." Fitting description, except it's a thousand times better than he mentioned. You don't have to be an indigo kid or be one of those new age freaks to feel the vibe and energy of Telluride. This is definitely one of the most unique spots on the entire planet and I was one of the few lucky souls who got to witness these shows.

On stage at 7:31. Sun still out, about to dip behind the mountains. The Down with Disease opener was a repeat from Berkeley. Sorta surprised to see it, but glad it wasn't PYITE. I was giving Daryl 3-1 odds that they wouldn't play it. DWD was the statement -- "this is Mike Gordon's night."

And Gordo did not disappoint.

"Mike owned Trey," said Sweet Willy. "Mike is the most consistent member of Phish at this point."

During DWD we attracted a schwilly wastoid who was missing one flip flop. He stumbled around like a pinball bouncing off of Wildo. He nearly tumbled into Change100 before he fell back into Jonas and Katie. Jonas Grabbed him and try to set the guy on the ground before he face planted. Kudos to Jonas. Even when he's not working a scheduled shift on Wook Patrol... he's still keeping the scene clean. Jonas is always on Wook Patrol.

Gordo was outrunning Trey all night. Case in point: Camelwalk.

Ocelot is my favorite new song, which they can play it in a variety of genres. I heard a few grumbles about "another repeat", but I can hear Ocelot at every show. The Greek version was a little bluesy.

"They tightened this up," said Jonas.

The sun eventually died down and Page stepped up for a cover of Traffic's Light Up or Leave Me Alone. That was one of the personal highlights of the show. It was a surprise in North Carolina and it was a curve ball in Telluride. The jam was cut short and ended in favor of Trey's ballad Summer of 89, a new "Pauly Takes a Piss Song." Judging by the lines at the pissers, I wasn't the only one.

The triumvirate of Stash, Cavern, and Wedge gave me flashbacks to college. Those tunes were in heavy rotation then. Kinda cool for me to hear all three in a row. Trey flubbed lyrics in Cavern. Fish took the reigns during Wedge. Stash had some moments, but we attracted another wasted guy.

"We keep attracting the stumblies," explained Wildo.

Maybe it was amateur hour? Or maybe it was the altitude? But we had a lot of wasted folks in our section.

Drunk guy knocked over my water during Possum. He offered to smoke me up. Trey's better moments came during Possum's jam, but Gordo was always one step ahead of him. Just when the boys get cooking, Julius is the set closer. The playing was average, but the locale of Telluride trumped whatever they were lacking in musicianship that night. Oh, and Gordon smoked Trey.

At setbreak, we found the Joker -- very easy to find actually with his light sabre and Disco Ball helmet. Our condo crew was assembled for the second set. Sand opener was well received.

"Dirty tones!" Jonas kept shouting.

Sand kicked my ass and I heard a few Boogie On teases. Wildo heard a Scent of a Mule tease as well, but they segued into Backwards. That part of the set was rough... Backwards > Caspian. Ups and downs. Tweezer got things back on track, but the jam out was rushed. The segue into Boogie on was even more ugly. I'll save the discussion about the sloppy segues for another post or even a podcast. Suffice to say, I've noticed a bad trend -- rushing through songs to get to other songs or racing against time to beat the curfew.

Jonas' comment about the Tweezer > Boogie On segue said it best: "Poorly done and awkward."

Despite the slip, the frenetic funktastic pace picked up with a Boogie On > Piper sandwich. Gordon led the charge. They delved into a Maze-like jam during Piper which branch off into something completely different -- but in a fatty bombtastic way.

Mountains in the Mist was expected, but killed the momentum of the set. They jumped back into fray with a smoking Bowie and a Beatles cover -- Day in the Life. Always good to hear Page swap vocals with Trey.

At that point, I wondered about the time. Would they have enough time for two proper songs? Or would we get a quickie and Tweprise? Or would the boys hold off Tweprise to end the Telluride run? The answers were seconds away... Bob Dylan cover's Quinn the Eskimo was the bustout. I recall hearing it at Oswego -- at the request of the crowd. Quinn was fun, lots of fun. Especially the "everyone's gonna dose."

"I wish I had a vial to dose everyone in the crowd," snickered Wildo.

Tweprise rocked as expected. The boys ran off the stage and hopped into their tour buses which sped off as the clock struck 11pm. We rushed out of the park and returned to the condo, which we dubbed the Mothership. A bunch of snarky heads were giving the Joker shit about his costume on the way out.

"Where y'all heading?"

"The Mothership muthafuckers," muttered the Joker.

The condo was quickly transformed into a late night lounge and dance party. By Midnight, it looked like a raver with the music, lights, smoke machine, and Cheesey chicks twirling around. I swear, one of those scantily clad gals had former training on the pole. She had moves, and I used to live in Vegas, so I can spot one from a mile away.

Right away, the Joker ground scored a fake bracelet made out of cut off ends of other bracelets. It was a passable fugazi. The party filled up and emptied out in cycles every twenty or thirty minutes. A bunch of the Colorado crew stopped by, but a few stranglers and passerbys crashed the party. As per usual, we allowed the ladies to stay but the Joker was extra vigilant about policing the party with "dudes in the front row." Wildo and I were on fridge watch to make sure uninvited guests didn't take the booze.

Despite a few crashers, the party was a rager. Typical scene. Drunks in the kitchen. Coke fiends in the bathroom. Potheads passing around doobies in the corner. Spunions grooving to the tunes in all the empty spaces. We even had a girl all dressed in black who was crying into her cellphone while sitting on the stairs for most of the night.

By 1:13am, Katie broke the light sabre. The Joker was shocked it lasted that long in a crowd of fucked up people. I felt bad for one girl who tried to change the music, especially in the middle of a tune. The Joker swooped in. He jumped from the top of the steps and snatched his laptop out of her hand.

"This is my music. You don't fuck with my music!" he warned her as she cowered in the corner.

The Joker resumed playing of his special mix. The party really took off when the other late night parties shut down. The condo got a surge of invited friends and crashers. That's when the room nearly exploded when Panda arrived on a luggage cart. Someone must have stolen one from a hotel lobby and they pushed Panda all the way to our condo and onto the dance floor. A few girls were using the extra poles to do their best stripper dances (they were obviously amateurs, but fun to watch none the less).

At 2:37am, the booze ran out. Within minutes all the frat daddies and drunks were gone, and the only ones left were the wastoids and the spun out souls who were getting down on the dance floor.

By 4am, I got offered morphine, deemsters, and ketamine, and politely declined all three. If anything, I was looking to wind down the evening. My biggest decision at that point was a Percosett or a Xannie. The Joker had to bounce a few people like the wook who showed up with a tour dog. Listen to our podcast for that story. The party continued in the condo until past sunrise. But, that's what we do.

One night down. One to go.


  1. dengl5@earthlink.net12:06 PM

    Great to see you in Telluride. I've been there a few times on my mountaineering journeys (one of the ones I climbed is that really pointy one that's on the Coors beer cans), and I've got nothing but awesome memories of that wonderful place. 

  2. Schizohedron5:30 PM

    Your Twitpics of Telluride are fairly stunning. Can't imagine waking up to those mountains every day.

    Dig the wordpics of the Phish shows, too!

  3. pokerpeaker5:34 PM

    I have to admit, though, that I kind of chuckled at you getting sick at 9,500. We're so high on altitude all the time we don't even notice it here. It's pretty sweet. 

  4. Smarkacz7:10 AM

    Although I enjoy reading the Poker Blog I also enjoy reading about your life travels (and associated partying!).

    I live in the UK but travelled through Cortez in 2001 as I was staying in a place called Dolores.

    Can't remember if I saw the airport though!

    Nice to add another place to the list to go along with Schiphol!

    Hope the Concert was good, not quite my music - I'm at a festival next weekend in Krakow as Muse are headlining it.

    Last festival was at http://www.opener.pl/en, best live act was Skunk Anansie, after that The Hives and Pearl Jam - having had 4 years keeping the orthpaedic industry in business it's nice to be able to stand and watch bands again. Give it another 6 months and I'll be able to jump up and down like an idiot as well. Of course it wasn't until the last night that I realised that my bed was not the most comfortable one in the world....

    Enjoy the rest of your year, let us poor Europeans know when we can buy the book without being charged a small Home Loan for postage.....