Heheheheheheh. Ah, 2014: another year where I tell myself 'this is the year my obsessive show-going addiction ends;' another year where I see more shows than anyone I know who isn't employed at a performance space / venue. WHEEEEEEEEE!!!!
A quick list of locations where I've seen shows this year:
--Brooklyn (double natch)
--on a boat circling Manhattan
--Commerce City, CO
--Miami (in 7 days!)
As of this very moment, I've seen 93 concerts this year, and I've got at least three more coming up - Uncle Ebenezer at Knitting Factory Saturday night, Television (first time seeing them) at Irving Plaza on 12/28, and a little up-and-coming rock band who I think are called Assface in Miami on New Year's. The following is my totally subjective, largely meaningless, and wholly amusing (to me) recap of the best stuff I saw in '14.
Oh, and Happy Holidays to all!
The Ten Best Phish Shows I Saw All Year:
1.) Phish, 10/31/14 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
2.) Phish, 7/13/14 Randall's Island, NYC
3.) Phish, 7/27/14 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
4.) Phish, 8/29/14 Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO
5.) Phish, 11/2/14 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
6.) Phish, 10/22/14 Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara
7.) Phish, 7/26/14 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
8.) Phish, 10/28/14 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Fran
9.) Phish, 7/11/14 Randall's Island, NYC
10.) Phish, 8/31/14 Dicks Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO
Day two in Commerce City began in a manner similar to many previous day 2's over the years, with us replenishing needed supplies (mostly cheap beer, Red Bull, Gatorade, fiber bars because I'm old, and sweetbreads), then hopping over to Jimmy Johns for sandwiches. (Not for nothin', but the Northeast really gets the shaft with regard to crappy fast food options, amirite? The South gets Chik-fil-a; the West gets In N'Out; everywhere else gets Hardee's / Carl's Jr. and Jimmy Johns. The Northeast gets, what, Dunkin' frickin' Donuts? Eff that noise.) Rather than lie around the Best Western Plus like schmucks, Bricer and Beafvy had plans to visit several local breweries during the day, and Salvador and I drove about 23 miles southwest to check out Red Rocks.
I can honestly say I've never seen anything at all like the scenery at Red Rocks and throughout the surrounding area - I'd driven through mountains similar in size during a trip to Idaho in 2010, but never green mountains like these, and of course never anything like the massive rock faces jutting out seemingly everywhere across the landscape. After Red Rocks, and with several hours left before shakedown-thirty, we decided to check out nearby Morrison. Cute little town! We ate a meal and drank martinis at The Blue Cow, and although I hesitate to place the sole blame for the intestinal malaise that later befell the both of us on said meal, I'm'a go right ahead and let their Yelp rating speak for itself. Plus the server was a douchebag.
Sped back to the Best Western Plus to begin pregaming in earnest before cabbing it over to Dick's. After more cheap beers at shakedown and still yet more grassy knoll, we entered the venue and walked down to the field area, pleased to find that Mike side was much more spacious than Page side had been night one. This was very much unexpected because this show had been announced as sold out (Friday was not).
The show begins with typically tight versions of "Free" and "Moma," two first set standards that get the boilerplate "man, I wish they'd stretch these out for a change" comment from me, but both of which I enjoy in any format regardless. "Halley's" in the three-hole features some unusual playing, with Trey employing his wah during the choruses and Page later mirroring Trey on the clav. A little extra length at the end of this version had me super excited for what would be the first type 2 "Halley's" in ages, but alas it was not to be. Nonetheless, we get some really nice solos from Trey. Not a big "Stealing Time" guy although once again Trey's guitar work in this version is pretty nice.
The twelfth (thirteenth, if you count Letterman) "555" of the summer comes next, and if we're choosing between "Yarmouth" and "555" I'm going to pick the latter every time. Of course, I'd love it if they'd mix things up with a "Destiny" every now and then, but that decision obviously ain't up to me. This "555" is super funky, which suits it well. "Rift" next. During the excellent pre-tour Fishman interview on Maine public radio, Fish pinpointed "Rift" as a song that has had its tempo slowed through the years as the band has aged. Well, nobody bothered to tell this version, which gallops along at a hellacious clip. "Sample" continues the parade of standard first-set staples, and Trey nails this solo, too.
"Devotion" is the first legitimate stinker of the set. When a longtime non-phan (sometimes vocally so!) friend accompanied my crew and me to Randalls2 in July, he remarked that "Devotion" sounds an awful lot like an '80s sitcom theme song - generic, smarmy, lightweight and limp. That may be true, but let's not damn the many great'80ssitcomthemes by association with this turd. A typically awkward, unpracticed-sounding "Yarmouth" follows, giving us the rare Double Mike treatment in the opening stanza. (This is, in fact, the first time both "555" and "Yarmouth" have been played in the same set.)
I am not among the many "Sparkle" haters, and this one is plenty quick, although Trey seems to lag at times. In a set full of songs ideal for a bathroom break, "Wingsuit" stands out as perhaps the most ideal of times to hit the head; the composed section is just godawful and the singing is always cringe-inducing, but if you can make it back in time to witness Trey's gorgeous, emotive solo, both you and your bladder are winners. Trey's guitar work on "Wingsuit" reminds me so much of the epic "Billy Breathes" solo (argubably my favorite "composed" solo in Phish's formidable arsenal) that it just makes me wish they'd play "BB" more often - only four total performances in all of 3.0 :-/.
At 70 minutes in by this point, I felt "Wingsuit" could've easily shut the first set down, but instead we get "Bowie" with a bonus "Cavern." Truth be told, I wasn't really feeling this set, so I left the field area, instead choosing to wander along the upstairs concourse, where I chatted with a dude who I've run into exactly once every year for the last 3 summers, haha. With hindsight, the song selection was slightly underwhelming, but, as I mentioned earlier, it's likely that my discomfort was at least partially caused by our meal earlier during the day in Morrison - I caught up with Salvador later during setbreak, and he also reported feeling similarly out of sorts throughout this show.
(Let's hear it for a more creative use of glowsticks! Some enterprising souls jammed these into the field surface extreme Mike side next to the fence, about 1/3 of the way back on the floor.)
Anywho, what better way to put an end to the Slightly Subpar First Set Blahs than by leading off the second stanza with a rippin' "Disease?" This one stays type 1 - but boisterously so - through 10 minutes, with Trey pulling off all manner of remarkable trills and runs and [other impressive-sounding guitar technique terminology]. A bit after 10 minutes in, Trey starts into a happy riffin' jamboree, with Page lending support on the organ. By 11:30, the momentum has been dialed back a bit, but the overall timbre remains sunny and carefree. By 12:30, the jam has taken a pensive turn, with Page twinkling lightly on the organ. At 13:10, they've picked up steam again, returning to the uplifting jam from earlier, in a vein similar to much of the summer's soaring improv (see: the best part of Randalls3 "Chalkdust", last night's "Simple," etc.). Around 15 minutes in, Trey teases "What's the Use" briefly before Mike echoes that for a few bars, signaling a full "Disease" fadeout into the first "What's the Use" in over two full years, 77 shows ago. This "WtU" is majestic and gorgeous.
"Carini"'s jagged dissonance jerks us back awake. This version gets pretty damned noisy after the final "Carini had a lumpy head!", stomping along malevolently until Trey flips the "anthemic!!11!" switch by 6 minutes in. At 7 minutes, the jam has fully morphed into major mode, as have so many incredible "Carini"s since early summer '13, and before 8 minutes in, we're back in similar territory to what we heard during the "Disease," only peppier. This is truly some soaring rock and roll, ladies and gents! 9:45 in sees the boys change course slightly, with a lot of Fishman on the hi-hat, Page on organ, and Trey cranking out some uber-happy licks. This great stuff continues until a slight fadeout before the first "Light" chords after 11:30.
The jam in this "Light" stays pretty much type thru about 7 minutes, again, with a sound similar to what we've heard earlier during the "Disease" and the "Carini," only with still yet increased intensity. At 7:30, the jam takes a decidedly funkier bent, and at 8:40, Trey starts working around a catchy, funky lick while Page compliments perfectly on his clav. This is insanely danceable, and these few minutes here are probably my favorite segment of the evening. 9:10 sees Trey starting an energetic ascending lick, and by 9:45 they're in some atonal, arrythmic stuff. The rhythm has totally shifted by 10:10, although Fishman regains a more typical cadence soon. At 10:10 the boys pull their patches off, shamelessly trolling for WOO with a familiar start-stop riff, and the crowd reluctantly obliges - hahahahaha, this is hilarious. While many '13 jams (Tahoeezer and the BGCA "Seven Below," in particular) featured some genuinely thrilling improv directly following the "WOO!," this "Light" returns to chaotic spaciness (let's call it "space junk" before "Fuego" starts up at 11:20.
I have conflicted feelings about "Fuego." Practically everybody pegged this song as the clear standout from the batch of Wingsuit / Fuego songs, and as a result, big things were expected of it as potential jam vehicle. It seemed like happy foreshadowing when Phish played "Fuego" as the first song of the new year after the balloon drop at 12/31/13 MSG. Right? Anyhow, eventually, many phans drew conclusions about "Fuego" (or, more specifically "F U EGO") being a mission statement of sorts, emphasizing equal roles within the band and a more democratized overall dynamic. This directly manifested itself in several different ways; the emphasis on crafting many of the Fuego songs around chunks of full-band improv; the newfound reluctance to play covers; and, for better or worse, the lack of "big RAWK solos" during the early part of the tour, especially the SPAC and Mann shows. (If "ego" indicates Trey soloing like a man possessed, then chalk me up as a big fan of "ego." Harumph.)
Phish has pushed this song like none other in recent memory, playing it once per city (except Oak Mountain, which actually featured a Renault Fuego sports car on its gig poster). Although the aforementioned SPAC and Mann shows probably featured the most notable versions of the song ever performed, clocking in at 20 and 26 minutes respectively, I can't with any honesty say that the band has ever actually performed an "essential" version of the "Fuego." To me, the jam section sounds an awful lot like "Roggae," a song which I absolutely adore as a tasty first set tidbit, but which nobody in their right mind would mistake as a crucial part of a second set. If you've heard one "Fuego," you've heard 'em all, and this one is no exception. Rant over.
Next up, another 2014 appearance of "Slave" outside of its traditional closer role. One of the most gorgeous songs composed by anyone, ever, and the possessor of what Salvador refers to as "the healing power of 'Slave.'" Indeed. "Meatstick" brings back fond memories of the FUCK YOUR FACE show, and a slightly awkward-sounding "Bold as Love" ends the set, the first version since Hampton 3 last fall, and second since it closed out the 2013 BGCA run. (Remember this guy?)
If the Dick's run can offer a summation of the summer's shows, the encore certainly hearkened back to the incredible combination of goofiness and ferocious playing at MPP2. Here, the band faked us out, at first seeming to play "Horse" with no "Silent," referencing the fact that the previous nine "Silent"s had been played without a "Horse" intro (they had only done this three total times in the past 20 years prior). After "Silent," Trey lets the crowd in on the joke, before explaining that old-time Phish song "In a Hole" was basically only written and performed to give the band the opportunity to end a song by singing, "I'm an a-hole." The crowd roars with approval, and Trey gets some mild ribbing from Page and Fish, haha. Seemingly as a reward for the crowd appreciating the gag, "Fluffhead" ends the night on a glorious note.
So, another night at Dicks, another great show that easily tops anything from Dicks '13. Sure, the first set wasn't great, but the first 45 minutes or so of the second set brought the fire, indubitably. Not much improv in the fourth quarter, but I liked the song selection. And the encore brought laughs *and* a "Fluff." A little bit of everything.
In terms of the other shows from summer '14, I'd place this one somewhere in the third tier, amongst such shows as Randall's2 and the tour closer at Alpharetta. Ya know what? Why not rank 'em all right here, right now, right? [Note - I haven't heard all of the shows, so this ranks the ones I have heard. A * denotes a show I saw in person.]
Today marks the 18th anniversary of my first Phish show ever, and in two days I fly out westward to hop onto Fall Tour, where, if everything goes right, I'll be seeing the final 10 shows of tour. Salvador will be joining me for SBB (and hopefully BGCA), Beafvy's flying in from Ebolaville for Forum and Sleep Train, and Bricer and Rumpo are doing the Vegas run. Not only would this be the most intense Phish run I've ever done (10 shows in 14 days, hooooo boy), but the longest I've ever been away from home. I intend to document as much of the tour as it's happening as I can - hoping to put up a full update and pics each day. Frickin' excited as hell. Wish me luck!!
(Oh, you better believe I bought a shirt from this guy.)
Of the many treks I make to see Phish every year, the annual pilgrimage to Dick's is the one I look forward to most. My first time flying out to Denver for the festivities in 2012, the band strung together their finest 3-day run ever; many (myself included) consider the opening night's legendary FUCK YOUR FACE show to be among the top two or three Phish shows of 3.0 overall. And although the music during the Dick's run in 2013 may have left a bit to be desired, me n' my crew managed to have enough fun before and after the three shows that the trip was absolutely, positively, totally, unquestionably, 100% worth it.
Actually, the very idea of calling Phish Dick's a "pilgrimage" is kind of funny in and of itself. To outsiders, referring to a run of a few concerts in the same terms as a "religious voyage" might be laughable at best, blasphemous at worst. But to me, the music of Phish (and the euphoric atmosphere that surrounds the traveling Phish circus) is, for better or worse, probably as close to any kind of true religion as I can personally tolerate. I would wager that this sentiment rings at least partially true for many among the thousands who make this trip every year.
Of course, with Labor Day comes the death of summer, and with that, the end of tour. Prior to this Dick's run, I was lucky to catch ten shows during Summer Tour, and I "couch toured" nearly all of the others thanks to the miracle of HoodStream and the official webcasts. Although for me tour got off to an averageish start with the SPAC and Mann shows, the high level of playing at Randalls and MPP proved that Phish is truly in the thick of an extended renaissance period (stretching back to Summer '12 IMHO).
My crew for this run would consist of my good friends Salvador Sriracha, Bricer, and Beafvy. This would be Salvador's fourth consecutive summer at Dick's; Bricer and I joined him in 2012 and 2013, and Beafvy finally threw his (Jets) cap in the ring last year. This year, by the time I arrived at our hotel (the Best Western *Plus* on Quebec St., same place we stayed the previous two years) I was greeted with delicious hi-ABV beers and a festive scene at the hotel bristling with people ready to RAWK.
(Apparently the "Plus" in "Best Western Plus" implies that there will be bonus cockroaches in your room. Jealous?)
Before long, we were cabbing towards Dick's, slugging down Bricer's new scrumptious LotBev / RageFuel formula (Gatorade, vodka, Red Bull, Pedialyte, sweetbreads), and stomping around shakedown like men possessed. I ate a bacon-wrapped hot dog (excellent) and Salvador scored some tacos from the dude who was passionately advertising an astounding "TWO FOR THE PRICE OF TWO!!" special (decent). Talk in the lot (or LotTalk) centered around whether or not the band would attempt another gag in the tradition of first night shenanigans at Dick's - night one '11, Phish exclusively played songs starting with the letter "S," night one '12 was the FUCK YOUR FACE show, and night one '13 the boys performed a sequence of songs that spelled "MOST SHOWS SPELL SOMETHING" in reverse.
(not gonna lie, cheated a little. This pic is actually from last year.)
With security considerably less aggressive this year, we made our way down to the field quickly, Page side, up fairly close for the time being but also prepared to hustle back towards the back of the floor for some good old fashioned speaker worship if / when it got too crowded. (Ultimately it took me a grand total of four songs to move to less populated environs.) With ample time before the show, more beverages were consumed, more smack was talked, and a brief wrestling match may or may not have broken out.
Just before 8:20, the show got off to a supercharged start with the first "Llama" of the year; at under four minutes, this one moved quickly and was done before we knew what hit us. After "Llama" concluded, I noticed a few phans near me referencing the previous year's MOST SHOWS SPELL SOMETHING gag, specifically that they felt the sheer quantity of songs it took to pull the gag off hampered the band's ability to go deep in jams. Needless to say, we were all hoping that the shortest "Llama" since '09 wasn't foreshadowing more of the same. (Spoiler alert: it wasn't, and not by a long shot. :->) Next up, not only is "Undermind" one of the very finest 3.0 songs,* but it has also served as a vehicle for some of the best improv of 3.0 as well - the 8/15/11 version is absolutely on my shortest of short lists. Of course, in the two-hole, it's unlikely that "Undermind" will get a major workout, but it's always a fun one nonetheless.
First set stalwart "Stash" follows, providing the first improv of the run. This one doesn't stray far from recent standard-ish versions, but if you're interested in listening to a wacky, type-2 addled "Stash," check out the awesome 7/10/94 version, included on the most recent Live Bait compilation. Of course, with an L song followed by a U and an S, some of the more alert in the crowd had already put two and two together - on the LivePhish mp3s, you can clearly hear a pair of excited fellows screaming "LUSHINGTON! LUSHINGTON!!" following the conclusion of this "Stash." Hahaha, awesome. [On the off chance you don't get why this is significant, read this.]
So, with the cat now out of the bag, we know the letter H offers a lot of intriguing possibilities (classics like "Harry Hood" and the ever-elusive "Harpua," rotation staples like "Halley's" and "Heavy Things" and a seeminglyneverendingcacheofcovers), but instead we get the year's seventh "Halfway," which continues in its role as a tasty first set tidbit with its neat little Trey solo. "I Didn't Know" comes next, during which Trey first cracks up uncontrollably during the verses, then later issues a spirited intro to Fishman's vacuum solo to boot: "here to suck at Dick's..." hahaha. After the final "well you can give me his hiiii-iiii-iiiiide!" "Nellie Kane" deals us the weekend's first bluegrass tune.
Trey's chik chikka-chik chik chikka-chik intro presages two things: 1.) the first "Guyute" in over a year, and 2.) me pogoing like a maniac. YEEEEESSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!! I've seen 52 (!) Phish shows since my last "Guyute" at 12/29/11 MSG, and it's pretty safe to assume that I've obnoxiously screamed for this song at the top of my lungs at least once at each of those 52 shows. It might be fairly easy to come to the conclusion that the ugly pig has been taken out of regular rotation due to Trey preferring "Guyute"'s orchestral arrangement (Phish has played it only four total times since the beginning of 2012, compared to seven orchestral versions during that time), but who the hell really knows. Regardless, this is a tight, crisply-played "Guyute" that does this great composition justice. (For the record, Bricer and I would both wear this shirt the following night.)
"The Line" is up next, and the oft-heard early-tour rationalization that "I haven't really heard this song enough times to dislike it" no longer rings true after this, it's *tenth* performance of the year. "Ocelot" is another tune that I wish they'd really let off the leash at some point, but until that happens it can never be anything more than the poor man's "46 Days." (It's not as though "Ocelot" is totally irredeemable as a potential jam vehicle; I've seen several scorching versions by NYC-based cover band The Lawn Boys this year alone.)
The set's second N song is "No Quarter," one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs ever, and possibly my favorite overall Phish cover (or at least in the very top tier along with the usual suspects, "Crosseyed," "Sally" and "Rock and Roll"). This version is marred by several awkward spots, notably when Fish totally jumps the gun in the intro, but as always "No Quarter" is a highlight of any set. Naturally, this completes the spelling of LUSHINGTON, prompting Trey to cheekily remark, "see? We played it!" Just when the "spelling" set routine was getting stale, the boys breathe new life into it with their trademark goofy humor. Cheers! "Ha Ha Ha" formally wraps up the gag before Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman are invited onstage, adding the horn parts to "Suzy" as originally played on the Giant Country Horns tour back in July 1991. Cool stuff.
Overall, this set is a strong, above-average first set, bolstered by a pair of beloved rarities and incorporating plenty of both Phish's trademark nutty sense of humor as well as their penchant for stylistic diversity. The only element of the band's arsenal that was somewhat lacking during the set was, you guessed it, THE JAM, but we wouldn't have to wait long for that to materialize.
The second stanza leads off with "46 Days," a song that I've long wanted to hear stretched out again. Of course, there's no reason to routinely go all "It" on us with an endless feedback-laden freakout or anything, but there's no reason "46 Days" shouldn't be utilized more often as a prime jam vehicle, amirite? This one goes type 2 before 6:30, immediately settling into an incredibly chill blues-funk groove - Mike lays down some tasty licks, Page compliments gorgeously on organ, Trey subtly employs his wah. By 8:30, Trey leads the boys into more upbeat, wonderful group improv as the jam winds its way to some great space funk. The jam finally dies out just after 10, at which point Trey starts right into "BOTT." I find myself coming back to this version of "46 Days" over and over again - it reminds me of some of my favorite moments from Fall Tour '13, with all four band members locked into a tight, delightful groove.
"BOTT" next. My previous "BOTT" (or actually "BOTT"s, plural) was a different beast entirely, coming during the incredible MPP2 seguefest earlier in the summer. This one is a fairly standard version which would more frequently be found spicing up a first set.
Trey begins the riff to "Simple" immediately after concluding "BOTT," in a manner similar to the "Wedge" > "Mikes" transition later in the weekend. This version begins inauspiciously, with the first hints that it will be departing typical pleasant / soaring "Simple" jam territory around 6:30 in, with Mike, Page and Fish at the fore while Trey holds back. Trey starts a nice descending lick around 7, grooving around in this neck of the woods for awhile. At 8:35 Trey begins another riff and Fishman steps the beat up accordingly. Soon, we're in a familiar place characterized by comfortable, full-band improv, similar to the best jamming from the SPAC and Mann shows. Very danceable - made only moreso by Fish's brief hi hat disco dalliance at 10:30 and Mike's sweet, helicoptering leads. Trey squeals into some nice classic rock-oriented riffs - similar to the best of the Northerly "Wedge" et. al - you can say it's "Roll With the Changes," or "Paradise City," or even "Taking Care of Business," but either way this is some very satisfying rock n' roll real estate: the soaring awesomeness continues. They settle into this jam until 13:40 when Trey rocks out again with more gorgeous, uplifting soloing. Fade out a bit by 14:50 as Page switches over to clav - Trey again lightly toys with his wah and Page on the clav takes us into basically THE SAME GORGEOUSLY SOARING JAM as earlier, only this time in a funk mode. Absolutely love this stuff. Goes kinda plinko-y by 16 mins, and suddenly Mike is just killing it on lead bass. 17:20 Page delves into wikka wikka funk on clav - super groovy. 18:30 Trey breaks into some of his now-famous "Dick's delay" (see the 9/1/12 "Light") briefly. Back into funky wikka wikka territory thru 20, when Mike and Page step out of the picture briefly before regrouping. More delay from Trey at 20:50 - Fish speeds the tempo up a little, then things get truly spooky before a straight segue into, appropriately, "Ghost."
Although I haven't yet listened back to all of the summer shows, to me this "Simple" is clearly the jam of the year. I was standing next to Salvador for the entire 22 minutes, and apparently I kept interjecting with superlatives of increasing intensity. "This is the best 'Simple' I've ever seen in person." "This is the best 'Simple' I've ever heard, period." "This is the best jam they've done this year." And finally, "this is probably the best 'Simple' they've ever done." While I can't with any intellectual honesty declare this The Greatest "Simple" Ever (haven't heard enough of the highly regarded versions from the '90s to really weigh in), I can say that this is definitely among the very finest 3.0 jams. (Not for nuthin', but IMHO it's so much better than the Randall's "Chalkdust" that it's not even funny. If you like your jams active and animated as opposed to subdued and somnambulent, you'll probably agree.)
It's been a summer of really enjoyable "Ghost"s, many of which (whom?) have closely followed similar blueprints, starting with a spooky section in the jam segment and leading into glorious major key improv. In this version, we get the final "...the story of the ghost!" lyric at 3:20 - what follows is said typical minor key "Ghost" jamming thru 7 minutes, with the full metamorphosis into major mode by 7:30. Soon, we're back into soaring jamming territory not dissimilar to the first big section in the previous "Simple." Big rock guitar solo at 9:20, leading into some patented "wheelhouse" Phish rock and roll jamming (think a "Rock N' Roll" or "Disease" jam, for example). More soaring Trey leads at 10:50, with a positively HUGE peak before 11:30 - this could go right into the ending solo from "Disease" at any point and nobody would be surprised. This "Ghost" comes to an end with the walloping repetition of a massive chord. Really a nice jam - in fact, it's only due to the relative excellence of so many other Summer Tour "Ghost"s that this one isn't absolutely a must-hear.
"Number Line" starts up immediately after "Ghost," inducing long restroom lines; by and large, the educated 3.0 phan is more than "happy, happy" to miss out on the composed section of this song, hoping to make it back in time for Trey's often entertaining solo.
"Hood" follows, a song that was my first true crush in the Phish catalog, due not only to a few tasty '90s versions I had access to (on tape, natch) during my nascent fandom, but also because I was fortunate enough to witness the legendary Great Went "Hood" in person at my second show ever. Although "Hood" is always great filling the same role as "Slave" (namely second set closing tear jerker), many phans have felt that in the 3.0 era the song has often lacked the joie de vivre of those great 1990s versions; as I've mentioned myself, "Hood" these days tends to catalyze inner reflection more than it does, say, gettin' down. However, 2013 produced a few notable versions, with 7/13/13 MPP (my 100th show!) including several teases and (IMHO) the best "Hood" peak in years, and with the monster 8/5/13 Hollywood Bowl version going wildly type 2.
It's been especially encouraging, then, that the band seems to be affording "Hood" some extra special attention in 2014, as each rendition so far this year has been outstanding. This version is majestic and crisply played through the composed sections, taking its sweet time getting to the initial "Harry!" lyric. "Thank you Mr. Hoooood" comes at 5:15, and the early part of the ensuing jam finds Mike unusually active as Trey coaxes some heavenly tones from the 'doc. It creeps into typical "Hood" places by 6:40, and by 7:30 the jam starts slowly increasing in volume, bordering on tension / release thru 10:15, when the peak proper starts accruing... at 11 we're all reminded who we can all feel good about. Indeed!
Nice little piano segue by page into "Velvet Sea" - the carefully done little links between songs (like "BOTT" into "Simple" earlier and the "Wedge" > "Mikes" from night 3, among others) would prove to be one of the cool little subplots of the weekend. "Antelope" shuts her down as she does, with a standard, rippin' 3.0 version. "Zero"'d in the encore, just as last year's closing Dick's show.
So, where does this show rank? Well, for starters, it's considerably better than any of last year's Dick's shows, and that's not even frickin' close, haha. In the context of other Summer '14 shows, I would place Dick's1 below the twin towers of MPP2 and Randalls3, and in the same general league as the second tier of great shows, among them MPP1, Northerly3, Portsmouth2, and the ridiculously underrated Randalls1. As we hobbled out back towards Quebec Street looking to poach a cab along the highway, we could be nothing but optimistic when thinking towards the two remaining shows of the weekend, and that's a great place to be.
* Although "Undermind" was (obviously) on the 2004 Undermind album, it wasn't actually performed until the Hampton '09 reunion shows, so I'm counting it as a 3.0 song, as if anyone gives a hairy rat's ass.
(imagine my surprise during second set when I looked down and notice what my beverage was named....)
When you think about the answer to the question, "what's the best thing you've ever eaten?" what comes to mind? A great steak? Perhaps a decadent dessert? Maybe something exotic that's quite unlike anything you've ever eaten before? For me, not gonna lie, it's probably the bacon-wrapped jalepeno poppers at The Berkshire in Denver. Honest.
I've flown out to Denver to catch Phish's Labor Day weekend shows at Dick's the last two years, meeting up with a few good buddies both times. Both years we ate at Berkshire, and both times it was totally awesome. As such, the photos above were taken a year apart. As one may ascertain from the name of the restaurant, Berkshire is devoted to "all things pig." Founded by "a self-proclaimed hamthropologist," the orignal ideas for Berkshire's pork-tastic menu came from discussions about "bacon-this and pork-that," and "has been appealing to diners with its playful, pork-infused menu ever since."
As mentioned before, the bacon-wrapped jalepenos are pretty much perfect. They utilize whole, fresh, hollowed-out jalepz in their recipe, frying 'em up in a manner that keeps the jalepeno crisp yet moist, the bacon meaty and rich, and the cream cheese filling delightfully on the verge of molten. I can also highly recommend the Porky's Inferno sandwich (not pictured) - slow-cooked pork on a challah roll with BBQ sauce and pickles. The Big Berk Bloody (pictured above) is worth every penny of its $12 price tag, sizeable enough to get your day started on the track towards Party Town, and, naturally, accompanied by a slice of delicious bacon. Just plain excellent.
Hopefully Phish makes their way out to Denver for Labor Day again in '14. If they do, you can bet me and my crew will be staying at the Best Western on Quebec, plowing through Jimmy Johns sandwiches, spending way too much time at shakedown, and finding *at least* one meal during which to feast on pork and / or pork products at Berkshire. (Confidential to Phish: also, if you could do another 24 minute "Light," it would be frickin' awesome. Thx.)