Andrew and I have been having the same conversation for ten years:
“Do you even like music?”
It was a challenge. An attack. (In the lame, fencing captain at UNC kind of way…) It was a way of forcing each other to produce our credentials. What shows have you seen lately? Which band is on the rise? Who’s cool? Who’s not? Why are you still listening to Slightly Stoopid?
Ten years ago, it was a looser conversation. It was him burning some Grateful Dead live tapes for me; discussing the possibility of Phish returning as a band (they were considered “broken up” for most of our adolescence); who was in a better band?
And of course, the jubilation—I’m talking jumping for joy, we both ran around our respective houses jumping for joy (and I haven’t even fact checked that at this point, but I know it in my bones to be true)—when Phish did indeed return as a band. They announced in January that they would play 3 nights at the Hampton auditorium in Virginia and we were ecstatic. I think it was a Thursday. We were freaking out.
Both of us entered the lottery to get tickets; both of us denied. (Although I do remember Andrew telling me that he had a certain way that he could have gone if the District debate tournament didn’t happen to fall on the same spring weekend).
On that March weekend, I remember vividly sitting in a very uncomfortable Auditorium—this one in Birmingham, AL, not in Hampton, VA—in between debate rounds—which were quite stressful—anxiously waiting as Andrew used his iPhone to download audio from the the first night of shows on that Saturday morning.
We were both very hungover.
There was no couch tour (live streaming) back then. Back in 2009. It was a tough time for Phishheads who couldn’t make the show. I actually don’t even think Live from the Road was around then. No live tweeting shows. I think Phish.net did an auto setlist for that show, but it was slow.
Anyways, we did have Phantasy Tour. And that’s how we found the download for the shows.
We knew they opened with Fluffhead. So as the other songs were downloaded, we split-eared headphones and dug into that life-changing opening C-chord.
In retrospect, the band’s rendition of their beloved epic about a man with a terrible disease was mediocre at best, relative to their history as a strong live unit. But at that time, at that very moment, the opening notes signaled something very different in both of our brains. They were back. Phish was back. And we are here to witness it. This was our time.
After he graduated, we continued to stay in touch, usually Live Music daily related, a natural extension of our conversation, as well as other random tid bits—a jab about seeing panic for the 4th time in 3 days. A rip about smoking too much weed. A ratty gnarl about him meeting a girl at a show.
We also had the annual Christmas party where we would really get to dig into our recent musical experiences.
I didn’t help out too much with the site at first. We talked about it frequently, but I probably only edited a handful of articles and offered advice on shows he brought through Dallas. We both had college bands and listened to each others recordings from practices and shows. But for the most part LMD was his thing and I was doing my own in Vermont.
When you know someone as well as I did Andrew, certain things go “with” saying.
When it came to a conversation with Andrew, particularly one as complex and embedded into each of our own psyches as this, everything goes with saying. And the best thing is that he was like this with EVERYONE. Every single person who has known Andrew has fallen into a conversation that just keeps going and going – but not in the boring way… It’s a cliche but the dude was the Energizer Bunny of convos.
And, sometimes, yeah the conversation got tedious – “Rat, I’ve gotta go.. Yeah, yeah, Jimmy Herring could certainly have been Gandolf in a previous life. Seriously I gotta go. Ok yes, Derek Trucks might sit in next week…” —
But he was also never afraid to just dive head first into how you were really doing. Sometimes—usually– too much. He always asked how you were. Always. And that’s why you loved him. And that’s why you found ways to end conversations with him. It was just the way things worked.
But the conversation was never over.
He knew that. You knew that. We all knew that.
That’s just how you interacted with Andrew.
By the time I graduated from Middlebury, I was dead set on finding a job in the music industry. The first person I called was Adam Ouriel. Adam Ouriel is the man, and I haven’t done a good enough job of keeping up with him. Adam, we need to catch up.
The second person I called was Andrew. Andrew was a year out of college, still doing the Auto Dealers internship that he had done for a while. Meanwhile, Live Music Daily was having it’s biggest year ever. It was summer 2014, Festival season was in full force. Phish was on tour. Panic was on tour. He had photogs, writers, heads, & people everywhere. Traffic was getting out of control and contributers were almost aggressively pushing to get published on the site.
So I got involved, mostly because of the workload. There were so many shows that summer and he needed someone to edit pieces, publish Photo Recaps and give my own two scents and subtle sounds.
By the end of 2014, LMD had blossomed to over 20,000 likes. Not to shabby for a rat in a messy SMU dorm room. His drive was real. His passion was realer. And his ratty-ness was contagious.
I wrote some Phish reviews, but wanted him to branch out. After getting my job at Higher Ground, I used my ability to see shows as a way to secure content. I put up several pieces about bands of the week, killer concerts, etc. I also helped him navigate his self-imposed immense workload. Sometime in 2015, he landed a job with NSSGA, but continued to expand LMD. At that time we had probably 6 or 7 consistent writers, 5 or 6 main photographers, several more secondary photographers, and 3 or 4 interviews per quarter (maybe more), band of the week, album of the month, etc.. Not quite Rolling Stone, but solid. And he did MOST ALL of this. I was just there to help. And I was busy with my job as well, so I wasn’t there 100% of the time. He knew my work flow and fed me work as I could handle it.
Of course, pretty much every day I would get a ping on my Facebook page from Andrew asking me to edit a write up or change a typo or something like that. One time, a full two days passed without him messaging me and I legit got worried. I facetimed him and he didn’t pick up. I tried again. He didn’t pick up. I tried again and he answers, groggily, eating wings in his bed, listening to panic and just laughing. Said he’d been sick but was feeling better. Clearly…
I didn’t quite realize the full weight of it, but I was the only person Andrew trusted with LMD. It was an honor. To be quite honest. It was his baby. He did it himself. I was just a helper.
Between receiving the invitation to the backend of LMD’s website & Facebook presence (sometime in 2015) & late 2016, our communication increased exponentially. We went from chatting once or twice a week to calls nearly every day.
Not to mention the Facebook messages—he sent me over 43k messages.
A couple months have passed since Andrew left us for the great gig in the sky. He’s jamming, smiling, LAUGHING, and singing. I have no doubt he listening to Trey “bring it on home” as he cracks a cold brew & orders chicken wings.
I’m doing my best to keep LMD alive in his name. I hear his voice every time I publish something and there’s a typo or an incorrect photog credit. I still send him Facebook messages.
I have a lot more to say, but I wanted to keep this brief. Not really sure how to end it. But I guess it never will end. Andrew will be with me forever until I get to join him.
I just hope he lets me in his band.