“Just grab my stomach, hold on tight, and don’t let go,” my ATV driver told me as I hopped onto the back of his three-wheeled vehicle and prepared myself to cruise through miles upon miles of mud in mid-August heat. “Oh, and whatever you do, don’t be scared!”
Please. I was petrified.
I was 19 years old at the time, and I was traveling with my older brother, Tom. We’d just left our annual family reunion in California early so that we could fly across the country to Coventry, Vermont, to attend a three-day music and camping festival thrown by our favorite band in the world, Phish. Luckily, we come from a family of musicheads, so they did not think we were crazy; they applauded our efforts. They understood that, to the rest of the world, Phish was a Grateful Dead-like band that attracted a similarly hippied-out following — but to us, it was our world. And this wasn’t just any Phish festival in that world. They’d recently announced that they were breaking up, and Coventry would be their final show ever. We had to be there.
That’s me with the blue backpack, hanging on to my local ATV driver for dear life. (Photo: Tom Daly)
Which is why we had no problem going to absurd lengths to get to the festival. To sum it up, Tom and I flew across the country in two planes, and when we landed, we rented a car in Burlington, Vermont, and drove the 77 miles north to Coventry. By the time we arrived, there’d been a big rainstorm, which left the festival grounds covered in mud — and word on the street was that they were calling off the festival as a result. But Phish fans don’t let anything stand in the way of a Phish show. Anything. And so, true to form, we abandoned our rental car in a ditch and proceeded to walk through 17 miles of car traffic to reach the entrance, only to hop on a local’s ATV for the home stretch through the otherwise unnavigable sludge.
The ATV situation at Coventry. (Photo: AP Photo/Jon Pierre Lasseigne)
And that’s the thing about music: It causes true fans to concoct seemingly ridiculous transportation plans — an ATV ride here; an overcrowded bus ride there — all for the sake of a good show. Except that they’re not ridiculous at all. The journey is not only part of the experience, it heightens the experience. When you finally get to your concert of choice, and the lights come on and the beer can gets cracked and you hear your favorite singer’s voice fill up the room (or the sky, or the stadium, or whatever else), you feel almost euphoric knowing that you made it.
Success! Seeing Phish at Coventry was worth all of the travel, mud and all. (Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc.)
And I know I am certainly not the only one who has gone to epic lengths to get to a show. Think back to Woodstock, in which 400,000 people flocked to the Catskills to feel the peace and love. And, more recently, Grateful Dead fans are making moves to go to Chicago this July, when the legendary band will perform their final three shows, in a tour titled “Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead.” In fact, Skift recently reported that there’s been an 86% surge in demand for hotels since the jam band announced they’d be gracing Chicago with their songs. With all of this mind, here are six other people who’ve taken transportation to a whole new level in order to get to a show.
1. The Speedy Euro Trip
Lauryn Hill performing with The Fugees on their European tour in 2005. (Photo: Rune Hellestad/Corbis)
“When I was a junior in college, I studied abroad in Malaga, Spain for the entire year. My best friends from school were also in various European countries — two in England, one in France, and one in Amsterdam — so we spent a lot of time hopping around to visit each other. But perhaps our best excursion was when four of us decided to see The Fugees in Belgium. The minute we heard that they were playing, we booked tickets, knowing that we would figure everything else out later.
"After much planning, we ended flying into Amsterdam (me from Spain, plus the two girls from England) and renting a car there. Then, we drove through Germany to get to Belgium — and I was the driver. I was pretty terrified to drive in a foreign country, not least because I didn't know the rules of the road, nor did I know where I was going. No one did. We were like the blind leading the blind. But we made it safely! It was a pretty epic weekend, and I think I wasn’t even in Amsterdam for 48 hours. But seeing one of our favorite bands together — in Europe! — was worth the fact that it took us three or four times as long to get to the show as to listen to the show itself.” — Julie Hunter, 29
2. Trouble in Tomorrowland
Feeling the love at Tomorrowland. (Photo: AFP Photo / Belga / Jonas Roosens)
“I was planning a backpacking trip through Europe with my close friend Abhay, when we discovered that this year was the 10th anniversary of Tomorrowland, the largest electronic music festival in the world, which takes places in Belgium. We got tickets immediately. We’d already planned to meet up in Berlin, so we booked a flight together from Berlin to Belgium to get to the festival.
Shanky and Abhay rocking out at Tomorrowland. (Photo: Shanky Melkote)
"Long story short, we missed our flight, and had to take an overnight bus to Antwerp, which we made with only four minutes to spare. Our bus driver skipped the dinner stop and pulled over at a random shop that only sold candy, so we feasted on Snickers and Mars bars and woke up in Antwerp at 5:30 a.m. Since it was so early, our hostel wasn’t open yet, so we ended up sleeping in a local park until 10 a.m., when our hostel finally opened. We took a hostel nap until mid afternoon, when we finally headed to the festival. This was likely the craziest and most scattered 24 hours of my life, but I would not have it any other way.” — Shanky Melkote, 29
3. The Honeymooners
Passport to Phish. (Photo: Shaun Kessler)
My husband Patrick and I spent our honeymoon in Tahiti, New Zealand, and Australia last December. Our favorite band, Phish, was playing a New Year’s run in Miami — four nights total — so we decided to extend our honeymoon so that we could end it with the last show of the tour. We just couldn’t miss it!
"We celebrated New Year’s in Sydney, and then flew from Sydney to Los Angeles to New York City to Miami — literally 31 hours of flying — just to get to the last show. We almost missed our last flight to Miami, too. We actually had to leave our suitcases at the airport and sprint to our gate in order to make it there on time!
Shaun’s Instagram of the epic show. (Photo: Shaun Kessler)
"On Instagram, we wrote, 'We’ve met some great people and made some amazing memories along the way. But there is one journey left, and only one truly acceptable way to close this adventure out — by flying across the world, straight to #Miami to catch the final night with #TheBoys from Vermont. Our trip is most definitely not short, but #Phish — here we come! See all you #phools soon!!'
"By the time we got there and the lights came on and we were in our Phish zone, we looked at each other and smiled and knew that all of those hours on the plane were worth it. And our lost luggage was simply collateral damage.” — Shaun Kessler, 30, and Patrick Everett, 35
4. The Deadhead
Jerry Garcia performing in 1991. (Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
“I played the organ for the Good Friday service at the Church of the Transfiguration in Cranston, Rhode Island. My buddy Trevor picked me up at the church at 1 p.m. once the service was finished — because we were going to see the Dead! We sped to New London, Connecticut, to get our car on the ferry to Montauk Point, New York. Then, we drove our car off the ferry and flew down the highway to the Nassau Coliseum. We parked our car in a lot, sprinted into the venue, and just as we walked in, they opened the show. Best of all, they played “Feel Like a Stranger,” which I love, and an unbelievable version of “Saint of Circumstance,” which features some of my favorite lyrics of all time: “Sure don’t know what I’m goin’ for, but I’m gonna go for it for sure!"
"The story does not end there, because after the show, we got in our car and drove all the whole way back to Providence, through NYC and all of Connecticut. It was almost an entire day of driving and ferrying and sprinting for just two or so hours of music, but it was worth every mile.” — Geoff Greene, 49
5. The Housing Bust
Michael Franti & Spearhead performing in 2004. (Photo: Fairfax Media/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)
“My sophomore year in college, a friend and I got tickets to see Michael Franti & Spearhead at BB Kings in NYC. Our college was in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a three-hour drive from the city, and neither of us had a car, so we bummed a ride from another friend who was also going to NYC. We made plans to spend the night at the apartment of an acquaintance, a French guy who’d just moved to the city. He said he lived near Times Square, and since neither of us knew the city well but knew that landmark, we figured it would safe. Wrong! Turns out it was an SRO in the projects, which was not much more than a prison cell. It had a cot, a disgusting sink, and a barred window that faced a brick wall.
"Soon enough, it was time to head over to the show, so we just tamped down any reservations we had, left our bags there, and got on our way. The show was one of the greatest I had been to at that point in my entire life; Michael Franti is a mesmerizing performer and I was super into his music at the time. After the show, we went back to the SRO, but quickly realized it really was too shady to spend the night there, so we called our friend who grew up in Brooklyn and begged him to let us stay at his parents’ house. As he is a good friend, he consented, and gave us directions to take the subway to Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. When we got off the subway, it started to rain, and we walked several blocks in the downpour from the subway to our destination. We ended up sleeping on the floor in the basement, wet and cold, but it didn’t matter. Anything was better than that SRO, and everything was worth it for such great tunes.” — Nich Kramer, 32
6. The Boss Abroad
Bruce Springsteen entertains a sold-out crowd during his 2008 concert in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo: AP Photo)
“I try to tie a bucket-list item to every trip I take, so when my sister invited me on an all-expenses-paid trip to Dublin, I decided to check an item off my list: See the Boss in Europe. I had to extend my ticket, and pay for it, but it was worth it: His overseas gigs are legendary. For example, he played his longest concert ever — four hours and six minutes — in Helsinki, Finland, in 2012. And he was 62 at the time!
"Dublin was buzzing about the show, and everyone had a Springsteen story to share. Our taxi driver had dinner with Bruce and Bono. Our bartender knew where the band was staying. It was supposed to rain that night, so we picked up cheap wellies at the local Dunne’s department store — and Springsteen opened the show with Credence Clearwater’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain?”
"It was great to see the difference between a Springsteen show at home and one abroad. The European crowd was significantly younger and gender-mixed; American crowds tend to skew toward 58-year old men. Rarities like “Seeds” bring those old American men to tears, but the Irish kids wanted all the songs. My conclusion? The extra effort to see Springsteen abroad went a very long way. I will never forget that show for as long as I live!” — Cathy Bennett Kopf