Actor, writer, and tour guide Timothy ”Speed” Levitch, 30, is the star of 1998’s The Cruise, a documentary about his madcap tours of Manhattan. Despite being a virgin — he’d never heard a single note of Phish music before — Levitch opted to spend the final New Year’s Eve of the 20th century with about 80,000 phans at Phish’s massive Y2K bash in Florida. Here, Levitch takes us along on that phantastic voyage:
My first Phish concert was also my first experience with the Floridian Everglades: Alligators, swimming in shallow green pools of primal mud, were being serenaded for miles around as I heard the band warming up. From the stage came a cacophony of rambling, randomly selected chords.
A 19-year-old girl wearing a homemade patchwork tunic and a bandanna wrapped around her face — she looked like a babushka — asked me how I liked the band.
”Wow!” I said. ”I’ve never seen a headliner warm up in front of the audience. It’s gutsy.”
”They’re not warming up,” she replied. ”This is the show. Don’t you know this song? It’s the best!”
Then she grabbed my hand and invited me to come back to a picnic table surrounded by a troupe of her friends. Together, they were staging a faithful reenactment of a medieval community of serfs. They were working on a batter, shmooshing ingredients together — peanut butter, oatmeal, nuts, raisins, graham crackers, an aromatic oil that was spread invisibly and omnisciently throughout — and churning out sticky globes of goo.
”These are goo balls,” she whispered. ”Take one. It’s a gift. Eat it slowly.”
I took my goo ball and, because I practice brave naiveté in this life, I didn’t ask exactly what was in it. (The more I ate, the more I wanted to eat: It had the munchies built in.) After several bites, I found myself having an intense conversation with an outcropping of rocks. The rocks were asking me why all these people had suddenly shown up. All around me, the crowd of 80,000 youths cried out for salvation and openly defied civilization.
”It’s weird,” I chuckled along with the rocks. ”Once in a while, human beings get together to try to find new ways to be human…to play jazz riffs with the idea of what a community can be…this is one of those occasions….”
”Oh!” the rocks replied, and just then I heard a sound soaring across the top of the trees. It was a single note descending upon me along with a breeze. The sound was a low bass vibration that reminded me of ”Om” — the unifying sound of nature. People began to dance; the leaves on the trees matched their rhythm. My problems were no longer my own, and the single soaring sound turned into a higher note. I was lifted to the top of a really steep mountain — a mountain of instant enlightenment: I had often in my life decided I could save the world, but now I knew it was possible.
I became a soldier of bliss and a matador in a bullfight of love. My hips began to sway and, in a moment, I was a Phish phan.