Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Worst Year Ever is Finally Over [It's safe to come out!]

Well hey there, stinky britches! Didn't see you hangin around. I thought everyone had left. I certainly got the hell out of there. I guess after the Thriller was gone I just couldn't see a reason anymore.

Look, I have no idea why I abruptly vanished from these airwaves way back in June. This year just sort of shook out that way. Sure, the good moments included some all-time memories, and I intend to give thanks for that. However, for me, navigating through 2009 mostly felt like spelunking through a long, dark cavern of suck. I know I'm young in the big scheme of things, but this was by far the worst year I have ever experienced. And so, with that in mind, Schiff Happens presents to you not the Best Of, but simply "The Rest Of 2009." Here's hoping that we remember the few good times and otherwise ready ourselves to say good riddance to bad rubbish in the final moments of this decade. I can't promise that 2010 will be better, but can it really get any worse?

I guess I should probably begin where I so rudely left off by finishing the story of Bonnaroo. The short version is that we saw a bunch more music, attended the lamest Lebowski-Fest of all time, and witnessed the coming-true of my live music wet dream - Bruce and Phish, together on stage - from the front freaking row. Now you might be thinking to yourself, "Schiff, what in your wide fist-pumping world could possibly top rocking out to a Trey vs. Bruce 'Glory Days' guitar battle from mere feet away?" And you'd be right to ponder that question - until you heard the tale of Schiff's Epic Bonnaroo '09 Springsteen Miracle.

This isn't even the greatest story to come out of Bonnaroo '09. I know, seriously.

Saturday night's E Street set was obviously the most anticipated moment for our Bonnaroo group, and we decided we were going to rock out from the pit, or not rock at all. This proved to be excessively easy, as all we had to do was stand in a line beside the main stage while watching Wilco's set. Tough life, I know. Soon enough after Wilco finished up, the line was moving and we were there. And I mean there. Front row. Center. FIST. I had come prepared with my new video camera, knowing that I wouldn't want to miss a moment. The show came and went and E Street of course brought the power, as they do night after night after night after night. You all have seen the setlist by now so you know all the highlights (If you haven't, Backstreets has your back. Light scrolling required). Growin' Up. Thunder Road. Hell, Santa Claus even came to town. But what made this show a life-changer for me and our crew was our spot. When Bruce came down into the crowd during the "Badlands" opener, we were feet away. When Bruce brought a delirious hippie chick out of the crowd to Courtney Cox with him during "Dancing in the Dark," we could hear her squealing with joy. And when The Boss motioned for all of E Street to join him in the crowd for the final flourish of "American Land," we were feet away from the most hard-rockin accordion you ever saw. After that, I knew I'd only be able to see a Springsteen show from the floor for the rest of my life. How could I return to the seats after that experience? The best part? I captured all the highlights in 720p thanks to my trusty camcorder.

Needless to say, after the show we were wiped, so we took a seat toward the back of the main stage field to reflect and munch on some snacks. With the big stage closing for the night, a nearby festival vendor started shouting, "Free food!" Clearly we jumped at the opportunity, powered through a plate of some sort of festival grub or another, and headed back towards Centeroo to get started on Saturday's late night sessions. Approaching the fountain, I paused for one of my famous paranoid patdowns, checking each of my pockets for vitals. Wallet. Check. Phone. Check. Car key. Check. Video camera... Video camera?! In my haste to get up and chow down on free food, I had forgotten to grab the camera, which I had taken out of my back pocket and placed on the ground beside me so as not to crush it when I sat down. I grabbed my brother and cousin and we raced back toward the main stage.

Predictably, the entire area was closed off, with security guards flanking the entrances. I pleaded my case with a few of them to no avail. "Please!" I begged. "I know exactly where we were sitting!" Refusing to resign myself to the lost and found, I raised my voice one last time and demanded to speak to someone in charge. An older gentleman approached, looked me in the eye and asked if I could really take him to the exact spot where we were. "If I don't," I replied, "then you can give me a hard time. How about that?" He agreed and we were off again, trying to put as much distance between him and us so as to maximize our search time. I mean, I had an idea of where we had been, but it was dark and that field is huge. Soon we reached what I thought was the spot and frantically started looking around. I noticed an enormous truck circling the premises and feared that I'd find my camera in the shape of a pancake. My brother and cousin weren't seeing it. The truck passed by. Still nothing. My body froze over in a cold sweat. Then I heard someone calling out to me. It was the security geezer. He had caught up to us. My heart sank, fearing our last gasp was over. I honestly don't even remember what he said to me. All I remember is looking up, and seeing him toss something towards me. A black pouch. My camera case. Inside...the camera, fully intact! In that moment, my friends, I became the Luckiest Guy at Bonnaroo '09.

The true miracle here isn't just that we found the camera. It's that if we had not, the world would have been deprived of this. And this. And of course this. And you wouldn't all get to relive with me the greatest moment of my concert-going life. Observe below and enjoy while I steel myself for the rest of what I have to believe is the first-ever "Rest Of" countdown. Clearly I thought that the highs of '09 were few and far between enough to include in a single post, but we're going to have to make this a multi-parter. I promise I won't abandon you like last time. Believe in the Promised Land that is 2010.

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