Our third day in San Francisco got off to a nasty start when the sink in Salvador's room overflowed with disgusting sink backup, the unpleasantness of which spurred us to get to the lobby of our hotel in time to score some of their wonderful complimentary chocolate chip muffins. Salvador had read me some info about the Church of St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church, and the concept of a religious service propelled by jazz improvisation certainly sounded unlike anything I'd ever witnessed (and potentially either awesome or hilarious or both), so we hopped on a bus and headed a couple miles west.
When we arrived at the church, we found ourselves in the presence of about twelve other tourists, several from abroad, as well as a handful of musicians who were hoping to perform in the service. After each of us in attendance introduced ourselves, the Archbishop arrived, and the church members briefly reconvened in a back room, pot smoke wafting out into the audience. I was intrigued by the iconography, and bought a pair of postcards depicting some of the Church's artwork.
We stuck around for part of the service, which included the ramshackle choir interpreting various hymns and bible readings, accompanied by the various musicians (saxophones, keyboard, bass, drums, harmonica), and a middle-aged woman solemnly performing a tap dance routine. Needless to say, this was quite unlike any "church" service I'd ever seen. The Archdeacon specifically requested that we not film the proceedings, so I'll direct you to their YouTube page for some videos.
Having already enjoyed Chinese, Burmese, and Vietnamese cuisine during the trip's previous two days, we wandered deeper into Japantown in search of a Korean lunch, deciding on lunch specials at Ssisso. Not bad, but not as great as Dokebi or Surasang back home. After our meal, we milled about at the street fair in the area for a bit. Salvador bought some cute trinkets for his kids, and I ate a delicious chicken teriyaki on a stick from a vendor. Hopefully some bunnies were saved, as well.
We bussed back to the Tenderloin and picked up Salvador's car, aiming to spend as much time as possible before the show at Marin Headlands north of San Fran across the Golden Gate Bridge. (Thanks to my buddy Salsa for the suggestion!) Again, I'll spare you my piss-poor attempts at describing the astonishing views of the coast we took in during our hike at Marin Headlands - instead check out my pictures here, here and here, if you'd like.
Drove back to the Tenderloin once more, dropped off the car, stopped off at our hotel, and hustled out towards the venue, briefly pausing some solid Mexican takeout along the way. While waiting to get into the venue, we met up with friends of Salvador whom he'd met at Dick's '11. This was the latest that we'd arrived to any of the three shows, and as such we wound up getting seats way upstairs, in the Page side corner at the back of the room. (We'd been very pleased with the sound upstairs night one, when our speaker worship tactics worked out great, but on this night we found that we were kinda shortchanging ourselves with the volume muted a bit.)
On to the actual show, finally! I can do without the vague, mealymouthed quasi-politicism of "Crowd Control," but "Divided" gives this first set a rock-solid set anchor not found during the opening moments of nights one and two. Trey always loves playing "Wilson," and I always love hearing it, especially early in the first set. A very, very well-executed "Foam" comes next, and, don't look now, but this is already far and away the best first set of all three nights. Fuck yeah! "Halleys" is another personal favorite and the punchy straight-up blues of "My Soul" maintains the energy already accrued in the set.
"Ya Mar" is another solid song choice, breaking out the night's first appearance of the "WOO!" and featuring a one-string guitar solo by Trey, before the first legit bathroom break opportunity of the show during "Army of One." The somewhat rare "Taste" (they haven't gone fewer than 10 shows between appearances of the song since late '09) shows off some nice tension-release chops, then a standard-good "Gumbo" before "Train Song," followed by a break in the action due to Trey's malfunctioning amp. Page takes the opportunity to thank the crowd, who in turn roar in approval. The opening stanza comes to a close with yet another relative rarity (and only my third ever) "Pebbles and Marbles." Nice little rendition here, this closely resembles a shorter type 1 "Disease" jam, with plenty of "flutter Trey" while Fishman gallops along.
So, yup, easily the best opening set of the three days, and by a sizeable margin. We were somewhat frustrated by close quarters and crappy sound in our seats, so we booked downstairs during "Energy"'s opening chords, finding a spot Fish - er, Mike - side about three quarters of the way back on the floor. (We immediately noticed the difference in sound quality compared to first set - *HIGH FIVE*.) This was my second "Energy" of the summer, after I saw the song's debut at SPAC1. I've heard / read a lot of negative criticism about "Energy," with many critics feeling that it's lightweight and mediocre. Personally, I think it fits in with the "Joy" era new songs, especially lyrically. (Note - these two thoughts are not necessarily mutually exclusive. :->) The improv in this version starts out with more of Trey's unusual, off-key, absent-minded-sounding scat singing (see night one's "Hood," in particular) before things head into very pleasant, rockin' type I territory. Around the 7 minute mark, Trey fires up his wah, which leads to some wikka-wikka-wikka funk, signaling an airtight full-band tempo shift, and suddenly, we're knee deep in a tasty, speedy "Birds" jam for a few minutes. Well, sheee-it! If they're going to regularly give "Energy" this kind of workout, I eagerly welcome it into the fold - the more legit jam platforms the better, of course. [Note - at the time that this review was finally posted, "Energy" hasn't been seen since this version, now 20 shows ago.]
"Jim" materializes out of the ether, and, along with night one's "Seven Below" and the "Rock and Roll" from night two, this "Jim" is in steady competiton for the title of Best Jam of the Weekend. By 6 minutes in, things have gotten verrrry spacey, prodded along by Mike's nimble bass licks. Bluesy soloing starts up in earnest before the 10 minute mark, and by 11 minutes, they're committed to a soulful, bluesy stomp, which, to me, is textbook "wheelhouse" Phish jamming. Very nice. By 13 minutes it's back to spaceyness, which continues for a few minutes before "Carini"'s jagged opening chords.
Of course, at this point in the year, it would've been premature to predict "Carini" as the Song of the Year (with landmark versions at Hampton, AC and MSG still yet to come), but this one's a "standard" pre-'13 3.0 "Carini" - still very enjoyable but nothing truly out of the ordinary to report. "Wedge" comes next, reminding me of my recently renewed appreciation for Rift, originally cultivated when Salvador and I first really started getting into Phish in October, 1996. At this early point in our phandom, we only had access to a handful of live Phish bootlegs, so we spent A LOT of time listening to the studio albums, developing an admiration for the band's songwriting skills up through the Billy Breathes era.
"Light" next, a song that really didn't spread its wings as much as could've been expected during summer '13 (except the incredible MPP2 version). This one is pretty standard-enjoyable on the strength of plenty of fluid blues-rock soloing, before Trey and Page duet on a weird, syncopated percussive theme starting around 11 minutes in. Similarly, a solid "Bowie" keeps the song selection stellar before another "Horse"less "Silent" starts the 4th quarter off with the set's first ballad. "Meatstick" = Boogie City, and "Quinn" emerges as the weekend's obligatory nod to Jerry. A relatively short, sweet "YEM" closes the second set, highlighted by multiple "Meatstick" teases and a few more outbreaks of the "WOO!". Fourth Junta song of the evening, too!
To the delight of the crowd, the year's first "Sanity" (*fifth* Junta song of the show! Fuckin' old school heady shit, brah!!) starts the encore - only my second time seeing this song played live ever - before a smokin' cover of Hendrix' "Bold as Love" shuts'r down as a tribute to the dude who was prominently holding up the BOLD AS LOVE sign on the floor all weekend (see below for a post-show picture of the grinning bastard).
Really a great show, top to bottom, with a nice first set, excellent song selection throughout, and some legit type II jamming in "Energy" and "Jim." Overall, *by far* the best of the three BGCA shows, and probably my third favorite show I saw during the summer, trailing only MPP2 and my all-time sleeper show, SPAC2. (This show hands down beats anything they did at Dick's a few weeks later, too.) Furthemore, I have to say that BGCA is among my favorite venues at which to see a show. Great sound (if you can get a speaker), all general admission seating, intimate setting (6000 capacity), friendly staff, and easily the best bathroom situation I've ever encountered at a show.
Postshow we chose to stick around Civic Center Plaza as long as we could, chilling out front with wooks ranging from friendly to irritating, all of whom seemed to want to bum a cigarette or five. Cheap-ass Tecates from the Mexican dude who was selling pizza were once again our fuel, although the lack of a public restroom was... problematic. We walked back towards the Mosser one last time, marveling at the abundance of spent nitrous balloons as far as several blocks away from the venue. Quick pit stop at some shitty dive on Market, at which the bartender decided *during my order* that they were no longer serving beer (fuck that!). Finished off the night with a few more beers in Salvador's room while we traded off selections from our favorite female-fronted weirdo bands.
Good times. Anyway - let's face it - I ain't getting any younger, and I'm hoping that going forward my pre-show routine can more closely resemble ours from San Fran - meaning taking in the local sights and getting some great local food, instead of just predictably day drinking and listening to dudes yell about sports. For me, summer tour would continue 4 weeks later at Dick's, where Salvador and I would be joined by Bricer and Beafvy. As for post-BGCA, I had a flight back to JFK, while Salvador would need to scurry 375 miles down the coast for the west coast leg-ending show at Hollywood Bowl later in the evening.