Celebrating the new year at the end of 2000 got me thinking about how I spent the end of the year back when the year started with a 19 and not a 20, back when we were living in the 90’s.

The Big Hoop-la
This was it. The so-called end of the millennium. Even though there were many people who would argue that the end of the millennium would not take place for another year, people paid no heed whatsoever, and were more attentive to their televisions and other advertisement transmitters. The big question on my mind, of course, was what to do for New Year’s.

Follow Tradition? Sure!
Since 1995 and with only the exception of 1996 and this year, I have spent every New Year’s with a little Vermont quartet known as Phish. Through the year, speculations were made as to where Phish would have their big 1999-2000 New Year’s shows. I had seen all of my New Years shows at Madison Square Garden, but it seemed that this was already booked by another musical artist. Also, in recent years, fans had been experiencing difficulty in getting tickets. In an announcement, spokespeople for Phish had announced that Phish wanted to have a sort of show where everyone that would want to come would be admitted. As the months went by, possibilities started to sprout up. First, there were talks of a show in Hawaii. That didn’t work out. One area in Florida was chosen, but the town voted against it.

The Location Is Chosen
Finally, it was settled. Phish would be playing a multi-day festival at the Big Cypress Seminole reservation in the south of Florida. When this had been decided upon, and an announcement was made for tickets-by-mail, I was in Israel and thus could not participate in the program. I would have to get my ticket through TicketMaster, which wasn’t a problem for this show as there wasn’t really a specific ticket limit set for the show. Who knew how many would go?

Mode of Transportation
The next big question was, how was I going to get there? Living in New Jersey, while being wonderful in that it is easy to get to New York City by simply jumping on a train, has the disadvantage that it is awfully far from places where it is warm, such as Florida or certain springs in Iceland. Driving there was out of the question – I wasn’t going to be able to drive the twenty-four or so hours that it would take to get to Florida, and I don’t really have any close friends that are fond of Phish to speak of. I searched online and was pleased to find a site where people were offering rides. The best ride offer, by far, was one offered by someone I had given a ride to during the summer. This person was going to be hiring a bus with not one but two drivers: one would be driving while the other would be resting up, and vice versa. It would cost two hundred dollars round trip, but this would mean no driving, and the company of about forty to fifty people who would all have some interest in doing the same thing that I was going to be doing for the new year. I sent in the money order to the right place, and thus my ride was set.

The bus ride down to Florida was, as I thought, an extremely long one. It took us twenty-five hours to get within eleven miles of the campground where we were going to be staying. Then, due to ridiculous traffic, it took us an extra thirteen or so hours to drive the rest of the way. It’s a shame that I had purchased a pack of cigarettes prior to departing, as I went through most of them and I can’t imagine that it was all that good for me. Part of the money that we had paid for the bus went towards getting beer, so at least we had that going for us. I suppose that means nothing if you don’t like a drink every now and then, but when you are going to be stuck in the same small area with a group of people for a really long time, a modicum of alcohol helps, to say the least. We made a few pit stops on the way there, going to restaurants where people would look at our group with bewildered expressions. Who were these strange people, and why were they all coming into the restaurant at the very same time? At a supermarket in Florida, I picked up National Lampoon’s Vacation, as it seemed quite appropriate. I also got a small disposable camera so I could capture some memories of the trip.

The Festival
There was much to be appreciated outside of just the music. There were swampy areas where people set up enormous drumming circles, pounding away and making a peaceful rhythm that soothed. The area was set up like a little city, with the residents (us) living out of our tents. The group I traveled with stayed together, so that it would be easier upon leaving to find everyone and go. Although vendors sold much delicious food, I ate that which I had brought with me, for the most part. It seemed like a much more economical thing to do than to spend lots of money on things worth considerably less. Those who brought empty water bottles were rewarded: there was free potable water for all who wanted it. Shower facilities were not available, alas, but I figured that I would somehow survive.

The Music
The music, to say the least, was divine. I can say quite honestly that it was the best couple of Phish shows that I had seen to that point. The show they played on the 30th was astonishing, but it did not prepare me in the least for what would happen the following evening. A set was played in the late afternoon, very nicely. The excitement, if you will, really began around eleven forty-five at night, when the band came out again. Sitting towards the back of the stage was a port-a-john, a good indicator of the fact that they intended to go through with their promise to play from just before midnight to sunrise.

The promise was in fact kept. How I managed to stay awake the entire night, despite not getting a perfect night’s sleep previous to this one I am not sure. There were many monumental jams through the night, and quiet moments, and times when only three of the musicians would be playing (that port-a-john was put to good use, I assure you) and even one point when just two were playing. The music never stopped, until about a quarter after seven. At that point, it was over. The best New Year’s celebration I had ever participated in up until that point, most certainly.

The celebration wasn’t quite over then, if you are to talk in terms of sleep ending a celebration. I wasn’t quite able to sleep on the bus ride over to New York, sadly, as the person sitting next to me wasn’t the most cooperative type when it came to sleeping arrangements. I got to New York at around three in the afternoon, and by all rights I should have gone home immediately. Instead of doing this, I called up my friend Matt, who had agreed to give me a ride home that afternoon. He suggested that we go and see a film in New York, and then offered Magnolia, since Fantasia 2000 was entirely sold out. (I would eventually get to see Fantasia 2000 at the IMAX theater, and I must say that it was well worth it.) It would be showing at around eight o’clock at night. By the time we got there, I had not slept in about sixty-five hours, yet I made it through the entire three hour film while sitting in an uncomfortable position. What better way to finish off a New Year’s celebration than with a good film? I can think of few. It was certainly a New Year’s festival to remember.