Alyssa Mastromonaco: My Love Letter to God Street Wine
Alyssa Mastromonaco on August 6, 2018
My very best friend, Cara and I have been friends for over 30 years. A few weeks ago we were talking about the GSW 30th anniversary tour and tried to figure out how old we were when we saw our first show.
Our collective memory was about 14 years old and that we saw our first show together.
It was at the Rhinecliff Hotel which is now a posh boutique inn. But in 1991, it was the most fantastic dilapidated structure. The owner was Ed and he was generally a misanthrope. The sign behind the bar read “Hippies Hate Water”. The back room where the bands played was complete with exposed asbestos and rotting wood beams. And it was well known that you only drank things that came with caps. Nothing from a tap. Ever.
I think we would all agree it was the greatest place on earth and when GSW played, it felt like the world showed up but “that world” was actually an incredible community.
The talk in the parking lot was always “will they play Peanut Butter Jar?” “Wendy?” “HELLFIRE?!” “they played Nightingale last night at Tickets in Amenia so they probably won’t play it again tonight”.
My reward for getting a good report card, or cleaning my room or – at age 15 – just acting like a human was reason alone for reward – was an extra hour on my curfew when GSW came to town. Even my mom and dad understood the deep abiding love for God Street.
What made GSW different to me – a devout DeadHead and lover of Phish – was that there was no litmus test to belong in the sea of “winos”. You didn’t have to rattle off how many shows you’d been to in order to demonstrate “cred” or how dedicated you were to the band.
Singing along to songs wasn’t meant to show well you knew the lyrics – it was because it was part of who you were. And dripping with sweat while you danced was from the expression of pure joy…and because every crammed in tight like sardines so that no one was left outside.
Coming from a very small town, going to college was different then I had imagined. I went to the University of Vermont which was idyllic but my dorm had more kids than my graduating class. Despite being surrounded by a group of nice, mostly friendly women, I was indescribably lonely.
And then God Street came to Burlington. None of my new college acquaintances seemed to know about them so I did what I considered very brave at the time (1994!) – I went to the show alone. And there all things familiar were present. And I didn’t feel alone, I was home.
That’s how it was and how it has always been. No matter where I’ve lived, I could find a show and people I’d met along the way.
When they did their final show at the Wetlands in 1999, we didn’t need to email each other. We knew we would all be there. And when I was White House Deputy Chief of Staff to President Obama – one of the only personal days I took each year were the quick trips up to New York to see what had become a ritual summer reunion show.
And when things got very stressful in the West Wing – the jams of GSW could be heard coming from my office because there is almost nothing a great version of Epiphany or Stupid Hat can’t put a shine on.
Saturday night was no different. The people danced, sang, jumped, clapped and made room for each other and the music felt better than ever.
So thank you God Street, for the music – and for all of it.
I will always hear the music.
Alyssa and Cara
Alyssa Mastromonaco is a NYT Best Selling author of Who Thought This Was A Good Idea about her time working for President Obama, contributor to Crooked Media and senior adviser to NARAL/Pro-Choice America