Taking it Furthur

Bob gave me a phone call recently regarding a spare ticket he had to the Further show in Lowell later that week. I was highly excited about the prospects of this show, because I have recently been telling people that I like Phish, but that I have more of a culty emotional connection to the Dead. This would be the first time seeing some of them in the flesh, and I was quite gripped by the opportunity. Bob said a few things about the people watching, and then mentioned that he did not want money for the ticket, but something greater. He wanted the musician responsible for SHERPA, singer of such tracks as “CHI CHI BONG BONG”, and “I pray a lot” to document in written form what went down at this show. This is SHERPA’s response to that challenge.

Picking up my ticket from Devlin at the local Mexican bar was quite a trip, and is a story for another day. After a full day of work, I pull into Lowell at around 7:15 and start heading to the show. The music is very loud, and I can hear it from more than a mile off. Silky smooth guitar riffs, and wonderful melodies drew me in towards some of the sweetest etheric nectar my ears and soul had been blessed with in months.

Sightings of “Heads” began after a little way into my walk, and I started to notice things about them, like their clothing, levels of beauty, and external signals that could be interpreted as happiness. Beautiful girls abounded, along with the typical hippie clothing that is mostly reserved for these sorts of occasions. The archetypal “crack hippie” (CH) also gave me a hint into their nature, when I noticed key elements that identified them. CHs wear flat brimmed hats, huge t-shirts, fancy looking shoes and very long jean shorts. They also have a penchant for violence, scary (who knows what) drugs, balloons, smuggling weapons and hugging strangers… a fun mix, that I am partially fond of, but generally freaked about.

Entering the arena was a breeze, and then there was Further, rocking super hard on the far side of the baseball field. People surrounded the stage inside gates keeping them from destroying the minor league field.  The venue, Le Lacheur Park, is a new, tastefully built baseball stadium that was just the right size for this show. Slight winds made the warm day perfect for an outdoor show. Armed with business casual attire and a short haircut I worked my way into the crowd and charged toward the stage. Some of the audience members were highly intoxicated, some were dancing and sober, but most weren’t. Moving rapidly through thick clouds of the burning Solomon herb I was at the front of the crowd, 20 or so feet from the stage, grooving with some highly hippied out people, having a great time.

Based on the sound, I really couldn’t tell a difference between this show and Grateful Dead recordings I have heard. The technical quality of the sound coming from these guys and their equipment was incredible. The old folks on the stage were able to actually uplift about 6 different generations of people, all of whom were in attendance on this beautiful night.

Once the Sun went down, I ran into some people from my college days, and the show started getting very energetic from then on. Sugaree, China Cat,  Fire on the mountain, and Playing in the band were certainly highlights for me. If I was more literate with their discography, I may have enjoyed other songs more, but this is purely speculation.

The best sighting of the night was a male, aged at approximately 60 years old with large dreads, a vest adorned carefully with many items of flare (buttons, pins, paint), a respectable wooden walking staff, a huge body (overweight) and the disposition of the archetypal dead head. His stature, and achievement of such a look demanded respect, and he received many nods and plenty of space when traveling through the tight crowd and passages from the lawn to the stadium.

The Archetype was in close competition with the tapped middle aged white males who were spinning in circles, playing with hula hoops, creating tension with neighbors in the crowd while dancing shirtless. Another stereotype made their appearance with the young and homeless looking hippies traveling the crowd selling glass, shirts, art prints and jewelry. Some of them were looking dirty, tired, starved for food, and others were spot on sales women. Beautiful with an eye for the hippie style, they worked the crowd quite well. Their wares mostly were awesome, and I came close to buying some birthday and Christmas cards, but coming off of 6 months of unemployment (snowboarding) will keep your wallet closed sometimes.

I left just a little before the last song, and headed right to shakedown street. These are usually one of the best parts of the event for me. Crazies and hippies abounded selling water, veggie burritos, grilled cheese, art and plenty of other things that can keep hippies occupied. This was mostly set up in a huge parking lot, and I was apparently one of the first people to show up wearing business casual, looking like a narcotics officer. As such, I was looked at with plenty of suspicion, and narc was shouted at least a few times. This was fine, though I usually like to blend into the atmosphere a little more than I did.

The parking garage I used was about a mile away, and there was no traffic leaving, and just before I got in my car, I could hear the band still putting out the vibes. With luck I will see some of the band again with more friends this time around to help amplify the awesome of their performance. Spontaneity and free tickets, are the way to do it. Thanks Bob.

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