We got up fairly early in San Luis Obispo, hoping to take the scenic route north up the coast on Highway 1 in order to visit a Big Sur along the way. Initially the plan was to make just a few quick stops, enough for me to get a feel for the area, making it up to San Fran before rush hour. Needless to say that didn't come close to happening; we stopped several times along the way and probably wound up doing about six miles or so worth of hiking in the process. Not gonna lie, the Big Sur region is probably the most gorgeous part of the planet that I've ever seen.
We finally made it into San Fran during rush hour, getting to the venue a little before seven. This would be my second BGCA run, with the first coming last summer when I flew out to meet Salvador for the run in early August. Met up with a buddy from Boston's "SteelCrew" who was flying solo, and got inside the venue, staking out our spot pretty early - Page side, about 2/3 of the way back on the floor. Chatty, eager preshow crowd, including more than a few first-timers based on the people I spoke with.
The first set was chock full of bustouts, the most notable of which was the first "Walfredo" since 2010 (only Phish's seventh performance of the song, and my first one ever), with the band possibly swayed by the twin WALFREDO signs hung at the rear of the bowl (and, as we later found out, a *third* sign held by someone up front on the floor). Also played were several relative rarities, such as "Brian and Robert," "Camel Walk" and "Axilla."
Very little improv to speak of in the first set, however. "Maze" was pretty badly botched, with Trey and Fishman having trouble synching up during the song's last few minutes. The "Stash" was a typical first set "Stash," and the set-closing "46 Days" was standard but still very enjoyable. We relocated to Mike side floor during setbreak, just in front of the
The second set-opening "Sand" was a treat, pairing "Sand"'s normal thumping funk groove with some cool atonal dissonance. A little later on, the "Ghost" > "Bug" > "Seven Below" sequence was easily the highlight of the evening. The opening of "Ghost" was extended, with Trey seemingly arbitrarily changing the key several times during the intro, and Page seemed very amused attempting to keep up. The jam traversed several distinct sections, getting very weird and trippy at times with full-band textural / ambient improv. "Bug" showed how great this song can be with the proper placement, in this case allowing for some peaceful reflection between the night's two deepest improvisational forays. And "Seven Below," also outstanding at last summer's BGCA night one, included what were likely the most rockin' moments of the night.
The fourth quarter began with "I Didn't Know," bearing the tour's first vacuum solo. Short form versions of "Chalkdust" and "2001" brought the most raucous crowd reactions of the evening before the band treated us all to "Slave"'s glorious healing power (quoth Salvador). The encore began with an instrumental take on "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," referencing the hometown Giants' run to the World series. "Winterqueen" in the encore fulfilled the request of phans who had hung a large banner from the balcony Page side, drawing the ire of many (including the guy behind me, who pointed towards the banner and shouted "THEY F*CKED US!!!"). And the first "A Day in the Life" since Hampton3 over a year ago brings the show to a grand conclusion.
Overall, a really fun mixed-bag type of show, with a little bit of everthing - bustouts, standards, some type 2, and plenty of boogie fodder. Postshow, we walked back out to Civic Center Plaza, pleased that the mild weather offered a respite from the steamy conditions inside the venue. We found the vendor whose pizza and Tecates we had enjoyed after each of last summer's three BGCA shows, this year making hot link tortillas with grilled onions. Don't mind if I do!
Anyway, I've proabably already conveyed this at some point along the way during this Tour Diary, but you know you're in a good place when a Phish show - and a super fun one at that - is the icing on the cake after a gorgeous day of perfect driving weather and incredible hikes. It makes tour SO much more enjoyable when we're actually getting some sightseeing in before the show instead of just sitting around and waiting to head to the venue.