Saturday, April 9, 2011

Capital Panic Adventures

Spontaneity is not something that occurs often for me - at least not of a large magnitude.  However, on a whim in February, I booked a 4-day trip to Washington D.C. because Widespread Panic was playing there.  I had been to D.C. the summer before my senior year of high school, but I was definitely interested in going back and seeing the sights (and, of course, Panic).  If you know me or have read my earlier blogs, you are aware of 1) my love for Widespread Panic and 2) that I'm not afraid to travel/go to shows alone if necessary.  This trip turned out to be another of my solo trips.

And so, this time last Monday, I arrived at the Little Rock airport as excited as a 6 year old approaching the gates of Disney World.  The gate attendant kindly asked me if I would be willing to take an alternate route to D.C. to free up a seat they needed for the flight I booked.  Given that I have more flying to do this summer and that the attendant gave me a $300 flight voucher, I was happy to go through Atlanta instead of Memphis.  I was excited that this was already a good start to what I knew would be a fabulous trip.

Going through Atlanta instead of Memphis, I ended up with a bit of a longer layover than I would have had, so I wandered through Terminal A to pass the time.  As the time finally neared for my ATL - DC flight, I made one last run for the restroom.  As I approached the women's restroom, I noticed a guy standing near the entrance guarding bags and obviously waiting on someone to exit the women's room.  I made it halfway through the entrance myself when I thought to myself - 'that guy looks just like Phil Lesh'!  Trying to play it cool, I did a quick turnaround and stood outside the restroom to check this guy out again.  As I remembered that Furthur played at the Fox Theater in Atlanta the night before, my heart started racing and I approached him.  "I don't want to be 'that person,' but would you mind if I got your autograph?"  He looked at me, puzzled, and said "well, I'll need something to write with."  As I fumbled through my purse (and my words), I realized that I had no pen.  However, I did have my camera (even better).  After taking the self-portrait of Phil Lesh and me, we made small talk about the Fox, how awesome it is, and how much he loved playing there.  He asked me if I went to the show and I told him that unfortunately I hadn't, but that I was just passing through Atlanta airport on my way to see Panic in D.C..  He said something about "what a great group of guys" and "tell them I said hi," and we went our separate ways.  My heart raced and my hands shook for at least 20 minutes after my awesome encounter.

And so, Day 1 of the trip, 4 hours in - my karma was definitely paying off. 

Because this particular week in DC is also Cherry Blossom Festival week, I was unable to find a hotel in downtown DC for less than $300/night.  So, I opted to stay in Alexandria and rent a car - which was still MUCH cheaper than staying downtown would have been.

Monday night, I had dinner with my cousin Holly whom I haven't seen since the last time I was in DC in 1997.  We had a lovely dinner and catch-up convo, then I headed toward downtown DC for a spin.  I watched the sunset while sitting at the Washington Monument and enjoyed the opportunity for some prime people-watching.

After a good night's rest, I awoke Tuesday ready to get out and see as much as I could.  Unfortunately the weather had different ideas.  Not only was it pouring rain, it was about 45 degrees outside and I was NOT prepared for cold weather.  Since I had a car, I took advantage and drove around downtown DC familiarizing myself with the area and checking out some of the must-see things that I wanted to come back to. 

When the rain dried up, I parked the car and began my trek.  I was completely amazed at the beauty of the cherry blossom trees that lined the many streets around the Capitol Mall area.  I visited the Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, WWII Monument, and Vietnam Memorial.  They are all wonderful sights, and though I'm not a big American history buff, I did enjoy seeing the assorted 'tokens' of American tribute and pride throughout the city.

The primary place that I intended to visit was the Holocaust Museum.  The Holocaust is something that has always amazed me in many ways, so I reserved the entire day Wednesday for this very special place.  The museum is free, but they hand out tickets for specific tour times for crowd control purposes.  When I got my ticket, I had 90 minutes to spare, so I headed first for the children's exhibit.  David's Story, as the exhibit was called, was based on a book written by a man who was a Jewish child during the Holocaust and amazingly survived.  The exhibit is written from the perspective of a child and for the understanding of children.  I left that exhibit in tears and with a very heavy heart.

I spent another hour in another temporary exhibit that was based on Nazi propaganda and the role that it played in the Holocaust.  It was very interesting and a very good segue into the main exhibit.  I ended up spending about 3 hours in the main exhibit - contemplating every word, every picture, the lives that were taken.  I left the place with more questions than answers, but I knew I'd been exposed to something that would impact me forever. 

One of the common phrases stamped throughout the museum/exhibits is something that really stuck with me:

The next time you witness hatred
The next time you see injustice
The next time you hear about genocide
Think about what you saw

Just a few pictures of the families that were torn apart.  There are several hallways throughout the museum that have pictures from floor to ceiling of impacted families.

Piles of shoes that were stripped from the victims before they entered the gas chambers.  They were told that they were going to be given an antiseptic shower for good health.

Panic Time 

On a less somber note, I had 2 wonderful nights of Panic in a historic theater that holds 1200 people.  I had come a long way for these 2 nights, and I thought I was going to burst before the lights went down before the first night.

Tuesday night was the first show.  I think that at peak volume that night, there couldn't have been more than 60% of the seats occupied.  I took advantage and sat on the 2nd row of the balcony and looked down on the boys.  I don't think there is a bad seat in that place, but I really loved my spot.  The place was so beautiful and intimate - it was a venue that is definitely not the typical Panic venue, and I was soaking up every moment of it.

My highlights of Tuesday's show:
  • Solid Rock
  • Who do you belong to (always a favorite)
  • B of D
  • Gimme (included a nicely modified lyric to honor the band's recently deceased long-time equipment manager Garrie Vereen - "gimme a lift here Garrie")
  • New Speedway Boogie (never thought I'd get to hear that one!)
  • Junior
I met a couple of really cool guys from Atlanta on the first night who I hung out with both nights.  I didn't get their last names, but Mark and Brian were both super cool and I'm sure I'll run into them again someday.
Highlights of Wednesday night's show:
  • Help Me Somebody > Saint Ex > Second Skin > Ophelia > The Shape I'm In > Porch Song (WOW)
  • Postcard (this town is nuts, my kind of place......)
  • Last Straw (sandwiched strangely in the encore between Up All Night and Give - 2 of my least favorite songs; at least it salvaged what would have been a terrible encore, IMO)
There were quite a few more people at Wednesday night's show than there were Tuesday's.  And the crowd was really rockin' Wednesday!  I met quite a few people from various states in the northeast.  Most of them hadn't seen Panic more than 5 - 6 times, but in talking to them during and after the show, I was certain that it wouldn't be their last.  Most people I encountered were astonished that I had come all the way from Little Rock, AR - by myself - to see this band.  I was happy that people could tell how much I loved this band.

This fella's shirt was getting a lot of attention.  He said he made it himself.  I think the shirt speaks volumes for how many fans feel about Panic.

Groovy crowd

The 2 nights at the Warner Theater only strengthened my love for Panic.  They were solid as gold both nights, and Jojo got several opportunities to show out (which I LOVE).  I left the show the second night feeling more elated than I've felt in a very long time; thankful to the boys for showing me a good time, and thankful to myself for following my spontaneous idea of getting my DC Panic on.

I have the fortune of jumping back on spring tour next weekend as a few of my best girls and I head to Oak Mountain - a venue that is a very special place for Panic fans.  Several of the most memorable shows I've ever seen occurred there, and one of the last times I saw Mikey play was at Oak Mt.

Can't wait to see all of my fellow spreadheads in the upcoming shows this spring and summer tour.  The boys are on fire and I'm ready to witness some of that heat!

"I spent a little time on the mountain, I spent a little time on the hill..........."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Excitement in the form of Panic

I'm one of those people who loves Sundays.  To most people, Sunday represents the end of the weekend.  You don't get to stay up late on Sunday like you can on Saturday because you have to get up early to start the first day of (for most) a 5-day workweek.  Any chores that didn't get done on Saturday must get done on Sunday so you can feel like something was accomplished this weekend.  Oh, dreaded Sunday.

But wait.....

Today, I didn't get out of bed until 12:10.  I made my way to the couch to wake up with a cup of coffee.  I came across the first 15 minutes of Avatar.  I am one of the 2% of the population who hasn't seen this movie.  Though it was not typically something I would like, I was completely amazed by the graphics as well as the interesting story. 

2 hours later, I'm still on the couch.  Unable to find the motivation to get up and do the things I didn't get done yesterday.  Don't get me wrong, I made progress yesterday.  But there are a few critical things that must get done before my head hits the pillow tonight.

What are these critical tasks that I can't get motivated to do?

Pack.  And not even for a dreaded work trip!  I'm packing for a mini-vacation to our nation's capitol.  And not just for a tourist visit (though I'm sure I'll get my share of that too) - for 2 (count it, two!) nights of Widespread Panic at the Warner Theater in downtown D.C.  Friday night marked the opening show of a 2-night run in Louisville, KY.  They play tonight in Indiana, PA and take Monday night off.  And then, they're bringing the heat to the District of Columbia!

I spontaneously booked this trip about 5 weeks ago, anxious to do something different.  Took care of the travel arrangements and bided my time whittling the days away until I make my 2nd annual Ashley's Solo Panic Tour to a Random City I've Never Been to Before.  I went to Chicago for 4 days at the end of August in 2009, and while I got to the shows and hung out with people I knew, I still went alone. 

I lot of people think it's weird.  I think it's awesome!

Don't get me wrong, I love when I can do trips with my friends!  I have 2 really awesome trips on the books with some great friends in the next 2 months.

But I also LOVE going on trips/tour with myself.  I remember a time in 1999 - I had an itch to go see Panic.  They were playing in Chattanooga the night before Thanksgiving, and I wanted to go.  With family commitments, none of my friends could make the trip.  I decided that I wasn't going to let that stop me.  So I drove to East Tennessee by myself.  I found some random fun people to hang out at the show with, and after the show, I drove back to my Mom's house with plenty of time for rest before Thanksgiving lunch.

Now here I am, almost 12 years later, excited like a child on Christmas Eve.  I am so excited about seeing all of the history in the capital of our United States.  I am also very hyped about seeing Panic in a historic theater 2 nights in a row.  I am anxious to enjoy Panic with a different flavor of fans.  I am thrilled that I get to roam the city and do anything and everything that I want to do.  I would have been just as excited if I had a travel partner, but there is certainly a unique excitement that comes with doing a solo vacay.

The thing that puzzles me at this point - why can't I get motivated to get it together?  I have my list, but I have been deferring all day to actually make it come to fruition.  After all, it's just PACKING!

I have an idea.

Widespread Panic
The Warner Theatre
Washington, DC

Hope everyone has a great week - I know I am!