Monday, August 2, 2010

Miracle of A Lifetime: A Lot Story (Part One)

Word & Photos By J-man
Edited By Chris Bishop

It was just another night in Upstate, New York. I sat with my girlfriend, watching an episode of a television show that was recently recommended to us, when I heard a beeping from the kitchen. The brownies were ready! I could smell the sweet aroma of chocolate and unavoidable calories in the air, when out of nowhere came a ringing noise. I wasn’t anticipating any calls, so as I reached for the phone with my cooking mit, I pondered the possibilities. To my delight the caller ID on my phone read “Murray”.

First a little back story on my friend Murray; Murray and I met on the interwebs. We were both a part of a very prominent music community through In July of last year, I had fallen on some tough times, where my future on the jamband/festival scene looked grim. I was frustrated with the scene, I was broke and down on my luck. One sunny day as I sat in Ann Arbor, panicking on passing on an opportunity to attend Rothbury Music Festival, (which the previous year was one of the best festivals that I have ever attended) where my roommate, Zach would be seeing his first String Cheese Incident show when my phone rang. The gentleman introduced himself and told me that he had a VIP ticket to Rothbury with my name on it. Not knowing how to react, I told him that I could not accept, as I had never met him. As I recall, he called me a “pussy” and next thing I knew I was on my way to Rothbury.

In the end, Rothbury was the best time I had ever had… In my life. It was all because of Murray that I had been able to attend. Furthermore it rejuvenated my energy and passion for the scene, throwing me into a deep spiral of inspiration. From that point, I wanted to share my love of the scene with everyone. So I began covering the festival scene and sharing links, which led to starting a website. I can say with great confidence that I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for Murray.

My next experience with Murray involved him calling me and telling me that he had reserved the Jacuzzi Suite for Rock the Resort, as well that he had extras. Without a twist of the arm, I was there. What I didn’t know is that he had also made arrangements to have Zach turn out and surprise me. The moment literally brought me to tears. Who was this man, so generous and so caring? What did I do to deserve such a person in my life? Sometimes you just have to embrace what the universe throws at you.

Back in Upstate, I answered my phone; “M U R R A Y !”

“Dude, come out to Colorado for String Cheese at Red Rocks” The voice on the line said, casually.

“I’m broke as a joke, dude… As well, it’s sold out and they go on in twenty hours.” I stated.

“Don’t worry about it, man. Go to the airport in Rochester and I’ll work out the rest.” He again stated casually.

When an opportunity like this is dropped at you feet, you are forced to choose what kind of person you are: A responsible person or a complete wookie. I don’t even have to tell you what kind of person the J-man is. With that, I began packing. Three hours later (in the middle of the night) I made my way to Rochester International Airport. What the fuck?

I walked through the terminal following no issues at security, and headed towards my gate. Arriving at the gate it hit me… I hadn’t flown in seven years. Not because I didn’t like flying, but because I love to drive… Everywhere. There is something that I love about the open road. In that moment I had a feeling of anxiousness that passed when I thought of what was waiting for me across the country. After two turbulent flights and a layover in Jersey, the plane touched down in Colorado.

I had never been to Colorado before, or if I did, I didn’t remember it. My girlfriend and I had been planning on moving to Colorado, and our first trip to check it out was set to take place in mid-August. That trip would at that moment become my second trip to Colorado. I walked up the ramp into the Denver International Airport and checked my phone to see a text message from Murray with instructions on what to do next. I am usually the kind of person who plans ahead when it comes to trips; printing out all of the information I need for my journey. Yet there I was, relying on someone else via cell phone/text message to get me to where I needed to be. I headed to ground transportation and caught a van… to where, I wasn’t sure at that moment.

I turned to the driver and asked “Are you sure you know where you are taking me?”

He smiled with a confused look and said “Yes, of course… Are you alright?”

“I’m fine” I said with a smile “I’m just not sure where I am headed.”

An hour after I had landed in Colorado, the van pulled up out front of an apartment building in a somewhat affluent part of Denver.

“This is it.” The driver said.

I tipped the driver and stepped out of the van to see Murray at the front door of the building with a little dog by his side, and he was laughing. I walked towards him beaming and reached out to embrace him. It was such a pleasure to not only be in Colorado, but to be spending the weekend with one of the coolest cats that I have ever met. Murray introduced me to the dog “Yankee” and we made our way to an apartment on the third floor. As we walked Murray explained that this was his friend Joann’s place and that I would meet her later. I dropped off my backpack, changed my shirt and we headed out to buy a cooler. As we headed out the front door of the apartment building I asked him who’s car he was using.

“I bought a car, dude. We’re going to need it when we’re in Colorado. I’m going to take it out west with me.” Murray said, casually yet again.

We hopped into the vehicle and made our way to the store. I waited in the car with Yankee and listened to jazz while Murray made his purchases. About ten minutes later I see Murray pushing a cart across the parking lot with a cooler and a watermelon in it. I hopped out, and popped the trunk to find about twenty cases of heady beer.

“Holy shit, man.” I exclaimed as Murray smiled.

We made our way to a near by convenience store for ice and a staging area for the beers/coolers. Coolers loaded we made our way back to Joann’s where I had the pleasure of meeting Joann as she had returned from work.

My first and standing impression of Joann was that she was free-spirited, a conscious individual and enjoyed a good laugh, which was evident by her willingness to be the source of such laughter. I told her that it was a pleasure to meet her and I thanked her for welcoming me into her home. Right away I felt a connection to Joann. It felt like I had known her forever. The three of us shared a few laughs, some root beer milk and I grabbed a quick shower before we were on our way to our next destination. I liked the feeling of not knowing what was next and I trusted Murray as our guide in this adventure.

Murray’s car wove through the Colorado foothills at a high rate of speed while we joked, laughed and listened to String Cheese. The car would eventually come to a stop in a small town about twenty minutes outside of Denver at the house of James and Carla. They came out to greet us with smiles on their faces and embraced me with open arms, literally; hugging me as we introduced ourselves. The energy was high in this place. James invited me into their home and offered me some of the wookie essentials including food and wine. The minute that I stepped through the threshold of their home I was overtaken with energy. The hair stood on my arms, my cheeks hurt from smiling, and I felt like I wanted to cry tears of joy.

“What is this place?” I thought.

A short time later we were buzzing towards Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Red Rocks is a place of legendary status. Since I have been seeing concerts ten years prior, folks have been telling me to make the pilgrimage to Red Rocks. I have even heard it spoken “You have not seen a show, until you have seen a show at Red Rocks.” It has been described as magical and its sheer beauty cannot be put into words. Excitement grew in the car as the passengers realized that it would be my first experience at Red Rocks.

We pulled in and in the distance giant reddish rocks peaked over the surrounding hills. We passed the sign directing us into the lot. The winding road lead us up and around as we approached the venue itself. We were stopped by a woman who told us we could go no further due to a wedding that was about to take place.

Without thinking, Murray spoke up. “We’re with the wedding.”

And with that we were heading towards the lower entrance of Red Rocks. We could not have asked for a better parking spot, as Murray hooked the car around and pulled a spot almost directly across from the entrance. Smiles around, the chairs, coolers, bag o wine, and tunes were brought out and the party began.

I love Cheese lot. There I said it. It is by far the most positive and beautiful lot that I have experienced of all of the scenes. The people are smiling, colorful, friendly… It’s really amazing. Red Rocks seemed to bring out that Cheese scene that I loved, but it magnified it, heavily. This was a “Mecca” for a reason. At some point James had informed me that this was his first String Cheese experience. I told him that he was in for a treat. I asked him how many nights he was doing and he told me that he and Carla were only doing that Friday night. He said that he had to work the next two nights and that he wouldn’t be able to turn out. I prayed to the gods of Cheese that that night’s show would not disappoint.

We made our way to the lower lot for some straight wookery and were not disappointed. The lower lot was clearly the place to be, with people partying openly, selling their hippie trinkets and ultimately making magic. We ran into some of our other friends from the music community; Wally and Kacie, and shared some good conversation and a photo op. There was a minimal police presence and all seemed to be right with the world. As we were wooking out one of Murray’s friends made his way over to us, a gentleman who was introduced to me as “Spuuuuukes.” This clean cut wook would provide what would become the theme of the weekend; laughter. Spukes’ laugh was infectious and genuine and made all of my antics worth while.

After a couple hours of non-sense, some hoola-hooping, and some of Denver’s finest; we made our way up the “never-ending” staircase to the venue.

Now, I’m not here to review the shows. I will leave that for Zach (a true Cheese connoisseur) to handle. I am just here to tell a story of magic and miracles. As we walked up the steps I realized the full scope of the miracle as Murray handed out tickets to all of his friends who I had met over the course of the day.


... And with that, the surprise was put into action...


  1. EPIC on ALL points!!!




  4. Blowin my mind... Oh, ma my my...


  5. U must be the luckiest dude on the planet... I went to both rothburys and all three nights of red rocks.. but i payed for every bit of it which comes out to be quite the pretty penny! But thats great to know that there is still amazing folks out there... so many beautiful people in cheese lot!! Best time of my life!

  6. Indeed. I'm working on making it up to him. I've got a few festivals coming up that he may be joining me for, as well I want to send him on tour one day in the not so distant future...


  7. Great story Justin.

    I was lucky enough to get miracled to Rothbury as well, what an amazing experience it was...we had some good times :)