Having turned in fairly early after the previous evening's Mount Shasta visit, we were primed and ready to crush the drive to Mountain View. Before leaving town, we got breakfast burritos at a shop manned by a guy on the verge of a caffeine overdose, and started on the drive. We had taken in so much awesome scenery over the trip's first few days that I've actually forgotten what the below is a video of (I think it's the southern part of Lake Shasta?).
Not much to report about the drive (other than our rental car getting karate-chopped by a railroad gate arm, oops), although we achieved our goal of getting to GooglePlexTown before rush hour / yay. Checked into our room, said hello to a couple of Salvador's friends (who were coincidentally staying in the same hotel on the floor above us), then rolled out for some excellent pre-show pho. Back to the hotel to load up, then a 2+ mile walk to the venue on / alongside a kinda confusing bike / jogging path.
Shakedown was decent, and a welcome sight - "Best shakedown since Dicks!", hahahaha. Plenty of sunshine, plenty of the usual types of vending, plenty of cops (including reports of several undercovers), etc. What set this shakedown apart were two things: 1.) a large mound to the south between the Googleplex and the venue parking lot (which we 'climbed'), and 2.) a dude selling from a huge bag of PRJs. We took advantage of both of these curiosities.
Getting into the venue itself was somewhat nerve-wracking. A Fundamentalist Jesus Freak of some sort was shouting insults at the gathered concertgoers, imploring us to "repent" and to admit to "the sadness in our lives." No thanks, fuckface! I'm here to boogie! Of course, the true abomination here wasn't this jackass, but his pathetic crony who was standing behind him, filming the whole embarrassing outburst. No authority on the matter I, but I feel confident in stating that Jesus would've hated both of these shitheads. Then, seemingly long lines had us convinced that there was no way we'd get into the venue in time, which, of course, we did. Ahhhhh, the power of negative thinking!
The venue itself, designed by Bill Graham, was pretty effing sweet. Our seats featured plenty of dancing room, and restroom and beer lines never seemed too unmanageable after the initial rush into the venue. Shoreline is apparently designed to resemble the Dead's Steal Your Face logo from an aerial view, which I can neither confirm nor deny because we were sitting inside the venue, not several hundred feet above it. :->
OK, onto the actual show, my *150th* ever Phish show. First set began puzzlingly with "The Line," which had me literally running at top speed towards the restroom. Made it back in plenty of time for "Moma" in the two-hole, during which we made nice with our neighbors with the assistance of said aforementioned PRJ. "Killdevil" featured a little extra type 1 length, "Yarmouth" sounded like shit (as per ushe), "Undermind" was snappy after some initial confusion as to which key Trey wanted to play it in, and "Free" was standard-good. "Reba" was played practically flawlessly until the "silent count" section before the jam (which was great), and "46 Days" closed her down. Standard, enjoyable first set, with solid song choices (for the most part) after the opener.
We took a brief walk up to the lawn at setbreak, and it seemed really pleasant up there. Not sure how the sound is, but view-wise there didn't appear to be a bad seat in the house. Thank you, Mr. Graham!
OK, second set. Batting first is a tune that seems to have polarized fans far and near, but if The Boys are going to consistently play versions of "Blaze On" as exploratory as this one, that should shut the haters up. Sure, at its core it may be a musically simple / lyrically idiotic l'il ditty that shamelessly ganks the melody of "This Land Is Your Land," but, by comparison, this version of "Blaze On" is a better listen than any version of "Fuego" that they've *ever* done. It funkily rocks along until about the 12 minute mark, when it goes fully spacey and type 2 for a few minutes.
"Twist" next, a/k/a one of the surest bets during our current era for outstanding jamming, and this one is a killer. Around four minutes in, Trey whips out the same muscular, dirty tone that made the first half of the Bend2 "Simple" so enjoyable. This continues in a funky, bluesy vein (with several returns to the "Twist" riff) until about 7 minutes, when Trey begins playing leads in a squealing upper register more common to "Twist." 8 minutes sees a halfhearted attempt at summoning a "WOO!" from the crowd, before another return to the "Twist" riff. Page's solemn piano seems to foretell an early end around 9, but Mike staves that notion off, countering with a helicoptering bass riff. More patient chording through about 10:30, when Trey picks up his leads seeming where he left off a few minutes prior. This isn't quite "soaring" territory - decidedly more chill - but this is still very, very pretty stuff. 12:40ish, Trey takes the reins in earnest and the intensity increases along with him. Flutter Trey by 13:20, and for a brief second it seems like an alligator mouth into "Disease Reprise" isn't totally out of the question. Patented glorious Trey ascending lead lick at 14:10 leads to more wonderful "Disease"-like jamming. A minute later and Trey trills us into a brief peak, before everything fades out into...
"Light." Well all ri-ight!!!! In case you lost count, set 2 has basically started with the best 32 minutes of the entire tour to this point. Trey's really feeling it - note him screaming out "AND THE LIGHT IS GROWING BRIGHTER NOW!" in this version. This jams along in a typical "Light" fashion until Fish switches up the rhythm, coaxing Trey into a brief "Manteca" tease. 7:35 has Page funking it up, and by a minute later it's safe to say we're entirely into Type 2 territory, with Fishman teasing "Timber"'s tom intro. At 9 it's pretty much a duet between Trey and Page on the clav, and by 9:30 Trey's playing a familiar 2-chord riff - uplifting, yes, but, again, not quite "soaring." 10:35 sees a near "Little Drummer Boy" tease, before going back to the two chord riff - gaining intensity with Fishman's cymbal crashes. They "soar" through the next couple of minutes - probably my favorite part of the night overall. Gradually, the intensity diminishes until around 14:30, when Gordo's the only one who seems to want to keep this jam alive.
My (internal) request for a pissbreak is granted by Trey singing about some *incredible* fucking clothes - naturally, a significant portion of the crowd wanted out too, meaning it actually took several minutes to get back to my seat. Fortunately, this version featured a drawn-out intro, so I was back in place with plenty of time to join in with the first "HARRY!" "HOOD!" As with so many 2014 versions, this one ducks into a dark, minor key, type 2 segment, which, to me, seemed to be a nod to the awesome "Hood" > "Dogs" > "Hood" played about 9 months ago during Fall Tour just 35 miles up the road at BGCA.
During "Hood," we were joined - seemingly at random - by one of Salvador's friends from Ashland, Chris. I first met Chris at SBB2 last fall, when he blew a handful of glitter in my face. (I was still picking pieces of glitter out of my sunglasses frames by the time I got to Vegas, haha.) Chris is a veritable bundle of energy, and - fortunately - the two-tripping-doofuses-and-a-hot-chick had deserted their spot in front of us, so I hopped downstairs in their stead to rock the eff out to "Hood"'s thrilling conclusion, the telegraphed "Cavern" set-closer, and the "Zero" encore. Good stuff.
So, in summation, we've had three very different shows over the opening nights of tour. Bend1 was... well, the best you can say about it was that it was the *first* show of tour. Bend2 was the first *good* show of tour. And Shoreline was the first *really, really good* show of tour. Gotta like this upwards trajectory as far as Forum is concerned! :->
It's always great when, while on Phish tour, the fun that's had *outside* the show is substantial enough to make the show itself seem like the cherry on top instead of the whole damn cake. However, it's also even *better* when the show itself doesn't suck donkey balls, as night 1 at least kinda did.
So, Bend2. We wanted to fuel up with a good breakfast before heading out on the day's pre-show excursions, but the hipster-ish brunch place that was recommended to us had a fairly long line, so we went next door to Super Burrito, eating a hearty-as-hell chorizo / eggs / beans / tortillas plate. Walked through Bend a little, scoring an incredibly potent flavymilxxx at a Vietnamese place. The downtown area seemed very pleasant!
Salvador had been skiing on Mt. Bachelor previously, and had the idea that riding the ski lift up the mountain when it's snowless would be pretty sweet. (It was.) We hiked around the volcanic rock above the ski lodge at the top of the lift for a bit, enjoyins some amazing views before heading back down. Next stop was the Deschutes River. We walked beside the river for a bit, and while Salvador hopped in and enjoyed a swim, I chased a bit further down the path where the river became rapids, watching rafting tourists scream for joy. After this, we hit up Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint in Bend proper, which offered views of all of the (relatively) nearby mountains, including Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters, and Fort Hood.
Quick stop at the motel before walking out towards the venue again. This time, we moseyed into the Silver Moon Brewing Co., each of us ordering a flight. Not bad, but truth be told we enjoyed Boneyard immensely more the previous day. Afterwards, we walked up through Wall St. (which seemed to be kind of the "main street" in town), which we'd partially explored earlier that morning, before winding our way up to the venue.
I may not have done an adequate job describing Les Schwab Amphitheater in my previous post, so let's do this. 8000 capacity, nice big lawn, great sight lines everywhere. A river runs behind the venue, close enough Mike side so that both nights people were able to row canoes / etc. up and watch the show. Venue concessionaires consist largely of food trucks, as well as a couple of local breweries. We found the sound to be distractingly weak night one, understandable because the venue basically sits in the middle of residential areas and as such volume is likely limited by local ordinances. Perhaps most importantly (to us, at least) there was a water station over by the port-o-potties, providing a refreshing mist for those who wanted to cool off, and faucets so we could fill our water receptacles.
With another early start on hand, we snuck all the way up Mike side before set one, finding a comfortable spot only about 10 people away from the stage. We were rewarded with way stronger, clearer sound than night one, and, overall, a far superior show.
Set one opened with a standard-good "Stash," before launching into one of the evening's many debuts. Mike's "How Many People Are You" is an urgent, straight-ahead rocker, probably his ballsiest offering since, well, "Mike's," and among his best ever compositions, IMHO. An extended "Winterqueen" was next, at 12+ minutes likely the longest version the band has ever played. I've compared this song favorably to Television's "Guiding Light," another gorgeous tune with great lead guitar, and this version lived up to that. The Phish debut of Page's "Heavy Rotation" sounded rather awkward until the tune's rockin' instrumental section. "Get Back on the Train," one of my favorite first set songs, was extended slightly, providing the evening's first infusion of funk (and an EXTREMELY stealth "Streets of Cairo" tease).
Another first-timer, Trey's "Scabbard," seemed kinda limp and TreyBand-y to me. Doubt we'll see much more of this one, although that could just be wishful thinking on my part. "Maze" featured the most energetic soloing of the tour thus far, and although the jam never really deviated too much from typical "Maze" themes, it foreshadowed several more scorching type I jams that would pop up throughout the early portion of the tour. Up next came "Mercury," another new song, and probably the most promising of the bunch. The song structure seems weave several independent themes together, pastiche style, with the highlight being a great composed Trey solo over an interesting time signature. I liked this one quite a bit, although I agree with my pal Beafvy that it would benefit from some editing. (Perhaps it's telling that at the time of this writing, a week and a half later, "Mercury" has still not been repeated.) Yup, "Possum" closer.
Salvador and I settled for the second set a little back from where we'd been first set, extreme Mike side. "ASIHTOS" opened the second set, a song I really don't usually care for because it so often utilizes a kind of despondent, plaintive blues mode (similar to "Stealing Time") that I think Phish doesn't really do all that well. This version, however, found itself in wonderful major key, "soaring" territory similar to so many memorable Summer '14 jams. "Waves" graced similarly uplifting ground in its jam segment, before a flubby (but still pretty) "Wingsuit."
"Farmhouse" next was odd in this slot, dealing us the dreaded second consecutive set two ballad. The subsequent "Simple" is an absolute must-hear for fans of chill jams. This one gets funky while staying fairly minimal, with Trey employing a beefy, ominous tone throughout. A stark contrast and counterpoint to the energetic, firebreathing Dick's '14 "Simple" (my vote for '14's Jam of the Year). A smokin' "First Tube" shuts down the second set, with a rare "Gin" encore (first since 1996) providing a welcome surprise. All in all, a WAY better show than night one, with a little bit of everything, except new stuff, of which there was a veritable fuckload.
Post-show, we decided to see if there would be be anything resembling a shakedown. All reports leading up to tour indicated that on-site vending would be strongly discouraged, but what we found instead was a minimal police presence that was both overwhelmed by the foot traffic and seemingly appreciative that these visitors were largely peaceful. Plenty of beer / water vendors, shirts, posters, etc. etc. etc. were on hand, but what caught my eye was a booth where a dude was selling "Ghetto Lot Kids." After some bargaining (and laughing my ass off at his products), I found myself a proud owner of a complete set. Yay!
After shakedown, we continued walking back to the hotel, coming across a Phan-friendly cigar bar, where we enjoyed a couple pints before toddling off.
So - in summation - a very enjoyable show, with dramatic increases in energy (both from the band and the crowd), wonderful sound, perfect weather, and a springboard to the remainder of tour. We'd be splitting town early the following morning... deets to come!
Summer breeze, makes me feel fine Blowing through the jasmine in my mind. --Seals and Crofts
Well, summer's here, and you know what that means - time to stuff every available nook and cranny with ungodly amounts of fun until it gets uncomfortable. And then cram some more. Time to see old friends, make new ones (if only often just for a few hours), do as much exploring of the natural world as humanly possible, eat like an idiot, and, of course, hop on tour to follow the musical shenanigans of the second greatest band in the world (behind Seals and Crofts, natch) - the one and only Assface.
OK, quick reset here. Prior to the official commencement of Summer Tour '15, I dun seen a grand total of 147 Phish shows. My Summer Tour '15 itinerary is to feature (if everything goes as planned) the pair of tour-opening shows in Bend Oregon, the Cali shows at Shoreline and the LA Forum, and the Texas shows at Austin and Dallas. That's one hell of a leg, and it will be followed in August by the Philly shows at The Mann, both Merriweathers, then Magnaball and Dicks. That's 16 shows. Sixteen shows. SIXTEEN. SHOWS. Deep breath. Now, smile. :->
At the first four shows (Bend1, Bend2, Shoreline, Forum), I would be accompanied by a gentleman who should need no introduction around these parts, the esteemed Salvador Sriracha. Another quick reset: Salvador was my bestie on our freshman year floor in college and my sophomore year frathouse roommate before our penchant for beer pong and class avoidance (and our ensuing atrocious grades) sadly intervened, sending us on our separate ways for something like fourteen whole years. However, fortuitously, Salvador contacted me pretty much outta nowhere in early 2012, and mere months later I was driving him upstate for the awesome SPAC '12 run. Over the subsequent years, I've had the incredible fortune to see a ton of shows and see a lot of great sights in Salvador's company, and this trip was planned with the aim of keeping both of those traditions alive.
So, after taking in some outstanding views Day 1 in and around Salvador's home in Ashland, we woke up for Day 2 of the summer jaunt fueling up with some bagels and flavymilxxx before hitting the road. Heading north with Bend as our eventual destination, we passed through an area north of Ashland dominated by a massive, blue basin of water and nearby rivers. Hoping to get a primo scenic overlook under our belts, we stopped on a whim at Mill Creek Falls in Prospect Oregon. A brief hike into the woods revealed the falls in question - pretty great for a casual little diversion along the way!
Our next stop would be Crater Lake, which... yeah. I mean, if you've been there, you know what I mean, but if you haven't, there's really no way for me to explain without breaking into a Mr. Miner-esque display of self-indulgent idiocy. I had purposely avoided over-Googling images of Crater Lake prior to this trip so as to not spoil the actual experience of seeing it in person, and boy howdy were we rewarded with some amazing views. I can honestly say that Crater Lake is the most incredible thingy / doohickey / whatzit I've ever seen.
We arrived in Bend before rush hour, knowing that we'd need to head over to Les Schwab Amphitheater unusually early due to the rumored 6 PM (!!!!) show time. We set out in earnest around 4:30, with about 2-1/4 miles between us and the venue proper. First, we stopped at Boneyard Beer, a tiny, somewhat badass brewery with its eenie meenie taproom manned by a cool metal chick. Now I'm not terribly well versed in beer-related terminology, but this place and its offerings were totes bitchin, brah. We each enjoyed a flight and some Lemmy-themed conversation with said cool metal chick before continuing along our way. Next stop was Atlas Cider Co., where we enjoyed a couple unusual flavors (nectarine or peach? Something like that? And the other was 2/3 apple, 1/3 blackberry) and some house-baked donut holes. Awesome!!
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We walked through the little strip mall style area near Les Schwab before arriving outside Les Schwab and getting our bearings. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and the venue would be packed, 8500 strong. Phans had been repeatedly warned that vending would not be allowed on site, but there were still a few scattered stragglers selling pipes, stickers, and shirts. The venue itself was wonderful - with the river as its backdrop, plenty of folks had rowed kayaks up to get a view.
I'm not going to spend too much time discussing the show itself, which tbh was pretty forgettable. Still enjoyable, of course, but literally nothing of any real re-listen value. You know you're in Mediocreville when the band members' getups are actually more notable than the music - Mike arrived onstage in a Let Trey Sing shirt, Fishman was rockin' some shades, and Trey was sporting a Bobby Rockstar-esque polo shirt. (I have to assume that Trey butchering "Horn" and "Rift" is also a nod to Bobby. :-> ) I should report that The Boys treated us to three entirely new songs, two of which have the potential to be keepers. "Blaze On" reminds me of "Fat Man in the Bathtub"'s funky, shave-and-a-haircut-two-bits Bo Diddley beat, although the lyrics are, shall we say, suspect. "Shade" is a typical crappy pissbreak ballad, likely replacing whatever repaced "Joy" and "Show of Life" in the rotation. "No Man's Land" (or whatever it's really called) is the real winner here, though, funky and powerful, with potential to be the first real jam monster Phish has debuted since "Light". (No, "Fuego" is *not* an epic jam.)
Aaaaaaaaaaanyway, post-show shenanigans were limited to walking to a nearby understaffed gastropub and basically waiting to be served for an extended period of time. Gonna post this entry now before my free LAX internet runs out. Holler atcha soon!