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
Although Fall Tour officially ended nearly a month ago, not a day goes by when I don't think about what stupendously fun-tacular times I had over the 2+ weeks I spent out on the road. And that's not only because I'm still obsessively listening to the Haunted House set (which I am). In fact, just simply thinking of Fall Tour lifts my spirits so much that I inevitably wind up typing in the annoying, upbeat, eminently punchable tone you're currently reading. BOINGGGG!!!!!
I chronicled my Fall Tour travails in (more or less) real time, day by day, here, but before I forget all of the other wacky stuff that happened along the way, here's one random memory from each stop.
10/21, Santa Barbara
Before the show, I picked my good buddy Salvador up at his parents' home in Pasadena, where he grew up. They have an avocado tree in their back yard, the first time I've ever seen one of those, uncultured yokel that I am. I was afforded the opportunity to pick an avocado using one of these. This gave me great joy.
(Oh 'cado tree, oh 'cado tree...)
10/22, Santa Barbara
While standing in line in the men's room upstairs, a slight miscommunication between fellow line-standers led to one guy yelling, at no one in particular, "red velvet cake is a scam! IT'S JUST FOOD COLORING!!" The things one learns on tour!
10/24, Los Angeles
Say it ain't so, Beafvy. My buddy Beafv had his troubles at this show, resulting in the spilling of many, many beers (and, uh, some other stuff). His behavior was so outlandish that finally one of our neighbors on the actually handed him a bright red card that read, "STOP." Oh, sweet, naive neighbor; if only it were so simple.
10/25, Chula Vista
Well, they can't all be winners. As explained in my writeup of this show, we visited a couple highly-rated breweries before the show. At one, Societe, Beafv and I were unpleasantly surprised to see an assortment of motorcycle fellows out front, several of whom were proudly wearing tee shirts with Nazi "SS" insignia emblazoned on them. Yikes, with a capital "go fuck yourself, you subhuman shitbags."
10/27, San Fran
After lollygagging our way up the coast from San Luis Obispo in the most enjoyable way possible, making several stops at Big Sur along the way, Salvador and I got nailed by rush hour traffic. (Totally worth it.) By the time we checked into our motel, we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a major time crunch. We bussed towards the venue, hopping out a few blocks away from BGCA with the aim of grabbing some quick grub at McDonald's so as to not start the show with empty tummies.
Ahead of Salvador in the line at McDonald's was an elderly man who appeared more than a little down on his luck. He ordered "20 McNuggets for $2.99," although after placing his order he was informed by the manager that, sorry, 20 McNuggets would be $9.99 plus tax. Immediately, Salvador stepped up and offered to buy the McNuggets.
The man was incredibly grateful for this, telling Salvador that "you're my angel, you've come down from heaven." A very nice gesture from probably the best guy I know.
10/28, San Fran
Make sure you read the bottom line.
10/29, San Fran
Anyone who knows what the hell they're talking about agrees that the first *great* show of the tour was SBB2. At BGCA3, we sat next to a dude who told us that he had it on good authority (the wife of the venue owner, apparently) that in the morning pre-SBB2, Trey was running stadiums up and down the staircases inside the venue. Whatever it takes, breh, whatever it takes.
Post-show, we were strolling through the casino towards the elevators, when we came across a gaggle of at least 20 phans performing the "Thriller" dance, synchronized to the song which was being played over the in-house sound system. "Did they all, like, practice this?" we wondered, before coming to the conclusion that, no, plenty of people actually know the dance. In addition to us, a decent size group of onlookers had gathered and were enjoying the revue.
So, I've been back at home for over a week now, happily listening to my 'ween mp3s (:-D), and I can't believe how *good* I've been feeling. Being on the road for two-plus weeks, seeing *ten* Phish shows over that time, and generally speaking have more fun over that time than any human should ever deserve to have, I'd think that I woulda paid the price a little more than I did, health-wise. (Yes, I put on about 13 lbs, but that was predictable too, and I'll work that shit off before the new year.)
Am I still a bit tired? Hell yeah, but what the else is new on that front. And yes, I'm coughing up some weird stuff lately. But I have to say, coming off of an extended run on Phish tour and avoiding Wook Flu has to be considered best case scenario, no?
Anyway, here's my shot at finally finishing my tour diary.
Vegas3 began for us a bit late, despite us largely refraining from partying after night 2. By the time I met up with Bricer at Pub 1852 at the MGM, Rumpo had already flown home to Boston, and although it's a shame he had to miss night 3, it's pretty safe to say that he hopped on tour at *exactly* the right time. After all, 'ween was probably the best show I've ever seen, and after some initial jaded horsecrap on my end I'm pretty confident that night 2 stacks up pretty well in comparison to any other night on the tour prior to 'ween.
Anyway, starting in the early afternoon, Bricer and I crushed another huge order of nachos while enjoying Pub 1852's "all you can drink bloodies" deal and watching football. Naturally, naps came next, and we reconvened around fiveish to begin pregaming in earnest. Who knew that fireball and Sprite mixed so well?!
Our seats on this night were in section 202, directly facing the stage from the rear of the room. I still can't figure out the acoustics in this room, or moreover why the volume was kept so low nights one and two. (Although the sound crew did right the ship at least somewhat on 'ween, the lack of volume night 2 severely hampered our enjoyment of the show.) Fortunately, that wasn't a problem tonight.
The show began in a distinctly old-school manner, with the "Jim" > "Foam" pairing that opened 16 (!) shows in 1994 leading into the first "MexiCuz" in 110 shows. "MexiCuz" was clearly a tip of the cap to the tiny $42 bottles of Patron available in the minbars of all MGM Grand guests. Obviously.
Naturally, I have to listen back to tour when I get a chance to confirm this, but I can honestly say that I think the stretch beginning with "ASIHTOS" in the second quarter and continuing all the way thru the end of the show (um, except "The Line," of course) features the best playing of any show all tour, non-Halloween division. 2-1/2 hours of amazingness! Personally, I think "ASIHTOS" can occasionally sound a bit too much like "Stealing Time," but this one was FIRE. "Bathtub" was once again great (stealth MVP of tour possibly?), and "Free" was probably the best version in over a decade, incorporating the first of several "Martian Monster" quotes of the evening into the usually predictable "Free" middle section. The crowd went absolutely bonkers - once again, STRAIGHT FIRE. An incredibly high energy "Walls" closed the first set.
Second set was pure perfection, starting with 30+ minutes of awesomeness during "Chalkdust" > "Piper." The "Chalkdust" did what they do these days, gliding through several sections of airy improv, and what's perhaps the year's firemost "Piper" brought the RAWK. "Wombat" continued its run as probably the best Fuego song with its tightly wound funk, and the "YEM" that closed the set is on the short list for best 3.0 versions. No clue how the onstage goofiness - Trey chasing Mike around the stage, all four Phish playing percussion - will translate to tape, but ... yeah, I can't wait to listen back to this one.
So, yeah, other than 'ween, this has to be the best show of tour. Here's my rankings of the 10 shows I saw in person, with minimal listen-backs to the mp3s (except of course for 'ween set 2, which I've already gone through about 10 time so far):
OK, Tuddd out for now. I have to say that this little Tour Diary exercise was a very, very fun one, and I'll try to reprise it in Miami, which I just shored up arrangements for a couple days ago. Uncle Ebenezer next Friday, Lawn Boys Saturday, then an assortment of non-Phish shows between now and NYE, including Russian Circles, Bongripper, Interpol, Television, and probably some others I've forgotten. Life's a gas!
So, with Halloween night 1 in the bag, and with Phish having played what's IMHO probably the greatest, most daring, strangest, awesomest show in their history, what does Phish do on night 2? Easy, they just be themselves.
My day 2 began a little later than expected, due to some late night shenanigans both expected (LET'S ROCK!!!) and unexpected (room service apologetically delivered our order after 4 frickin' AM following a 2-1/2 hour wait, hahahahaha). Rolled out of bed late and met Bricer and Rumpo at Pub 1852 downstairs at the MGM Grand, where we had designs on splitting pulled pork nachos, chicken n' waffles, and a huge burger while plowing through some bloodies. Truthfully, the nachos (which were excellent) probably would've been enough, as we stumbled back to our respective rooms after the meal, exhausted and with the burger boxed up.
Following some much-needed naps, we began pregaming in earnest. Reports of a dreaded bottleneck outside the venue had proven to be totally false night 1, so we took our sweet time moseying in to our seats (sec 216, Mike side), once again finding ample room. I do have to say that the energy level in the arena seemed significantly lower than preshow night 1, but that could've just been due to my own state of mind.
After treating the crowd to absolutely *zero* Fuego songs at Halloween, night 2 would prove to be all about the band's newest album, from start to finish. As such, the first set was a bit weak, with the band alternating between Fuego songs, first-of-tour bustouts, and first set standards. The most notable bustout was "Dog Faced Boy," first one since June '11, and only my second time ever seeing the song in 142 shows, and the highlight of the set overall was an excellent "My Friend," during which the crowd reached deafening levels of appreciation. Great, great spontaneous moment. Another nice moment came when the band inserted part of "The Birds" (from the previous night's Haunted House set) into "BoaF" - we'll have to see how much love the Haunted House set gets from the band going forward, but here's hoping they continue to jam on those songs like this. Not much improv to speak of in this kinda songy / chomper-y first set, however.
Second set certainly did not lack for improv. The "Crosseyed" > "Light" > "Lengthwise" > "Twist" > "Manteca" > "Twist" sequence probably matches anything else from Fall Tour (not counting 10/31, of course). "Light" got good'n'weird, with the evening's second direct reference to the Haunted House set in the form of a "Dogs" jam. The "Twist" was frickin' great, with what sounded to us like extended "Oye Como Va" jamming along with the first acknowledged shoemouth action since MPP2 this past summer. A nice, old school-ish "Hood" contained none of the type 2-leaning weirdness of so many recent versions, and the encore featured a pair of Fuego songs (five total for the evening, dontchaknow) before an a capella version of our National Anthem closes things out.
All in all, a solid show that certainly falls more in line with the rest of Fall Tour than the craziness of Halloween. Our enjoyment of the show was hampered slightly by terrible sound in our section, so I'm particularly eager to give a full listen (or ten) back to the meat of this second set. I'll be back tomorrow with the conclusion of this road diary - getting back home to Brooklyn late tonight, although at this point, I wish I could just stay on tour FOREVAH.
Glad to finally get the chance to write something up about this ridiculously awesome, unprecedented show. If you follow the goings-on of Phish online, you've probably already read a ton of accounts and descriptions of the Halloween show, but if you don't, here are a few vital (haha) pieces of info to set the scene a bit.
After a really great first set, the band came out for the second set, ostensibly to perform a cover of a Walt Disney-produced sound effects record (Phishbills had been handed out with this info, although the album writeup was humorously exaggerated - see below). The set included sound effects from the album, each one woven into in a "new" Phish jam - otherwise wordless, instrumental fare that matches some of the band's best type 2 improvisation of the 3.0 era. I can't stress enough how great this music sounded.
They sure didn't skimp on the production values. The second set featured the band playing inside a haunted house structure for the first couple songs, which eventually fell away to reveal Trey, Gordo, Fish and Page wearing corpse paint and white tuxedos, standing closely together atop a platform (the remains of the hauted house) in a close-knit circle, in a manner similar to the 12/31/13 MSG truck set. The stage set included gravestones (one of which read BONO'S HUMILITY, haha), zombie dancers, smoke machines, and assorted other spooky effects. (Also - dont sleep on that third set. VERY eager to hear this whole show over again when I get back home.)
Anyway, here's a few (eleven, specifically) things I'd like to share about the show overall. Enjoy!!
1.) This was the best live concert I've ever seen by anyone, ever. It was also one of the happiest nights of my life. EVERYTHING went absolutely perfectly all night, top to bottom, front to back.
2.) After a tour characterized by a lot of good-not-great shows which were by-and-large lacking in the *FIRE* department, that second set showed just exactly how much Phish still has in the tank, which is A LOT.
3.) I had actually heard the sound effects record that Phish "covered" as a child - I remember in particular finding the Chinese Water Torture skit to be particularly terrifying.
4.) Really, really interested to see what they eventually do with the music from the second set, and if they shed any more light on the origins of these jams. Did some of these come from the Wingsuit / Fuego sessions, when they were actively going through their trove of improvisational pieces throughout their career to mine material for new songs?? Were they composed specifially for this show?? Will they release a new album based on this material?? Are they going to work some / all of these new "songs" into regular rotation?? Possibly they'll add lyrics to some of them or something?? WHO KNOWS!!
5.) I've listened back to the brief clips from the second set on LivePhish, and although several of the songs had a familiar feel about them ("Your Pet Cat" sounds kinda like a "Tube" jam, "The Very Long Fuse" sounds like it could easily be worked into TreyBand's body of work, "Dogs" sounds like a "Birds of a Feather," jam, "Martian Monster" sounds like a "YEM" jam, etc.), there are a couple pieces on here that seem largely unique to the Phish repertoire. "The Haunted House" is spooky and plodding, and "The Unsafe Bridge" showcases a surf-rock style which - correct me if I'm wrong - has never been employed by Phish in anything they've ever done before. "The Chinese Water Torture" and "The Birds" are amongst the real winners, IMHO. But there's not a clunker in the bunch.
6.) I'm continually blown away by the generosity of Phish fans. The people in our section (sec. 219, rear side-stage Page side) really made our night a more enjoyable one. A friend in need.... ah, you get it.
7.) For our Halloween costumes, (me, Bricer, Rumpo) went as Chompers, a reference to the YouTube videos of fzappa20. (If you don't get the reference... not gonna bother explaining it. Watch some of his videos.) It just so happened that we were sitting behind a couple from Minneapolis (Wisco Brando and his lovely wife) who MIRACLED FZAPPA20 into the show (!!!!). Very glad to hear firsthand that fzappa20 made it inside, and the type of incredible coincidence that only seems to happen at Phish.
8.) I literally have no idea how the band goes back to playing a "normal" show after a night like this. Along with Big Cypress, this show is largely in a class of its own - totally unlike anything that's come before it.
9.) As of this moment, this show is ranked #1 on .net's list of Greatest Shows Ever. Agreed.
10.) Fuck yeah, Vegas. I came to town thinking I would hate it here, but I think I kinda get it. This town really allows people to let their freak flag fly - it seems as though one can be a total frickin' weirdo here without being too harshly judged. That's a beautiful thing.
11.) This should of course go without saying, but a *HUUUUUUUGE* tip of the cap to the band. This show was the greatest treat that they could've given us, the fans, and it's amazing to think about the incredible amount of preparation that went into this. And another *HUUUUUUUGE* tip of the cap to Bricer and Rumpo for making this trip possible. Truth be told, I had initally planned to skip Vegas following the seven Cali dates, and holy schnikies am I glad I'm here.
Ok, heading downstairs for all-you-can-drink bloodies... See ya when I see ya!!
Day three in San Fran began a bit later than had the first two, and not just because of our unexpected late night at Toronado the night before. This was the first day during which we didn't really have any grand plans during the day prior to the show, other than to eat a meal at House of Nanking, which I'd first eaten at last summer with Salvador. With the weather in the city absolutely gorgeous, we decided to start off at the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District, walking a few miles through the marina to the restaurant.
We arrived at House of Nanking, meeting up with a girl we'd met the previous night at Toronado. She wanted to try the Nanking Chicken, and Salvador and I just told the waiter to just bring us whatever he wanted to suggest, which wound up working out great. As we expected, the Nanking Chicken was basically like a higher end General Tso's, and we also got a scallop dish with vinegary greens and a fried lamb dish with bok choy. Oh yeah, also a crisp fried knish-shaped egg roll thingy with fresh vegetables and noodle filling. Splendid!
After stopping by briefly at the famed City Lights Bookstore nearby, I walked back to the hotel for a nap while Salvador met a friend elsewhere in the city. Started getting ready for the show around 5 - ate a grilled falafel wrap (kinda meh, but improved dramatically by liberal squirts of sriracha) from the aptly named Food Cafe on Van Ness and drank a couple iced coffees to fuel up.
Once again, the city was showing the baseball game (Game 7, wooooo hooooo) on a huge screen at Civic Center Plaza, only unlike the previous night the game was super competitive and the assembled Giants fans were watching intently. For the first time, I realized that there could, in fact, be a riot after the game, and I was eager to see what the reaction of the city would be post show. We headed inside BGCA early in order to get seats extreme Page side again, a few rows lower than where we'd been the previous night. Between the excellent sight lines, ampleness of space and sound quality, I have to say this is the best place in the room to be.
The show itself was another solid outing, in line with night one at BGCA and, say, Chula Vista earlier in the tour. The "Moma" > "We Are the Champions" > "Moma", was great with the band going into "WatChampions" just after the conclusion of the baseball game - the Giants won, and the crowd absolutely ate this up. Nice gesture by the band, even though Trey outed Page as a Mets fan after the song, hahaha. The set-closing "Wolfmans," the set's other high point, featured knee-deep chunky funk and a great peak.
Second set began with "First Tube," which is definitely my favorite song to watch Trey play. He was all smiles during this version, hopping around enthusiastically and playing powerfully throughout. The "Disease" that came next had some nice type 1 jamming, eventually dissolving into the ambient / spacey type of improv that's been employed so frequently during this tour. On the heels of the great "Theme" at SBB2, this one was back in the realm of being a fairly standard version. "Light" was probably the highlight of the set, getting really atonal and rhythmically unsual in a manner similar to the great version from summer '13 at MPP2. And closing the set was probably the rippin'est "Possum" I've heard in ages.
After the show, we were surprised to find practically no evidence of post-World Series mayhem, walking to our friend's hotel room at the Days Inn nearby for a few beers after chilling in the Plaza area for awhile. We decided to call it an evening fairly early, as Salvador needed to get on the road super early the next morning to drive home to Oregon. Not to mention that we were both very, very much spent.
So, this ended the California portion of the trip for me. By the time I'd get to SFO to drop off my rental car the next day, I had racked up about 13 miles of driving between LAX > Pasadena > Santa Barbara > Pasadena > LA > Chula Vista > LA > Pasadena > San Luis Obispo > Big Sur > San Francisco. Jeez frickin' Louise, what a trip!
With all of the moving parts and variables that were at play, from logistics to tickets to accomodations to just general travel anxiety, I feel incredibly fortunate that things went as smoothly as they did, and that we were able to have so much fun not only at the shows, but before and after. I'm getting a bit misty-eyed here with gratitude - for Salvador, who is pretty much the greatest tour guide (and friend!) I could ever ask for, for Beafvy, who flew in for the Forum > Chula Vista portion of the run amidst terrible stress (HAHAHAHAH!), for Bricer and Rumpo, who I'll be seeing the Vegas shows with, and the general Phish communnity overall, with / amongst whom I've had nearly entirely positive interactions along the way. Oh yeah, also Trey, Page, Mike and Fish. Can't forget them. You guys are the frickin' best.
OK - time to start pregaming in earnest for Vegas1. WOOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Day Two of BGCA began with us dropping off laundry (verrrry necessary) before getting an excellent meal at Burma Superstar on Clement Street. With this being my seventh day on the road, and after having eaten plenty of great food along the way, this was probably the best meal I'd eaten thus far. The rainbow salad was exquisitely arranged, with about fourteen different fresh ingredients; the pork and pumpkin stew balanced the sweetness of the pumpkin with succulent pork chunks; the catfish chowder was quite unlike anything I've ever eaten. Oh boyyyyyy... getting really hungry just typing this.
Stopped for a minute at nearby Green Apple Books, where I scored a copy of the infamous Sonny Barger's autobiography for a cool five bucks and change. Next, we hopped back in the car and headed across the Golden Gate Bridge towards Muir Woods National Monument, hoping to do a little hiking and sightseeing - in particular, this would be my first time seeing redwoods up close and in person. After receiving questionable advice from a puzzlingly uninterested park ranger ("Yup, all the trails are the same." Uhhhhh what?? No, they aren't!), we set off on what turned out to be a very brisk five-plus mile hike up the mountain and back, taking the Ocean View trail to the top and the Sun and Dipsea trails back down.
We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge again back into the city, grabbing banh mi and summer rolls at Saiwalks on Steiner Street. Although these were probably the priciest Vietnamese sandwiches I've ever seen, they were also quite possibly the *best* I've ever eaten - plenty of meat, complemented by crispy veggies. (Also, who knew that sriracha came in packets?) Highly recommended.
The City of San Francisco had announced that they'd be showing game six of the Giants / Royals World Series on a huge screen at Civic Center Plaza, right in the midst of where phans would usually be wandering around at "shakedown" preshow, and Salvador and I were eager to see what the interaction between Phish phans and baseball fans would bring. By the time we arrived in the second inning, however, we were met by a largely despondent fanbase; the Royals had jumped out to an early 7-0 lead from which the Giants would not recover. We noted a much stronger police presence in the Plaza, and decided to head in early to get good seats upstairs, extreme Page side, speaker worship.
The show began with "Crowd Control," one I *always* seem to get (I've been in attendance for the last *5* versions), followed by - SURPRISE! - a rippin' "Mike's Groove." This one rocked harder than anything from night 1, with a little extra mustard in comparison to an average 3.0 version, and had us thinking that tonight would be special (it was). Later in the set came my first ever version of the TreyBand standard "Plasma," a song debuted by Phish at Eugene. I like this as an addition to the rotation - it certainly has jam potential.
The closing "Gumbo" into "Sanity" into "Antelope" was probably the best first set sequence seen during this tour - Page absolutely owned his solo during "Gumbo" in a manner reminiscent of the excellent 12/29/13 MSG rendition. "Sanity" was the year's first version (first since BGCA2 last summer, actually), met with screams of approval from the sweaty crowd. And the "Antelope" incorporated a "Gumbo" tease from Trey, while bringing the room to a fever pitch at its climax.
All in all, probably the finest first set of the tour overall to this point, with great song selection and scorching playing during the classics. And after spending night one on the floor, we were loving having plenty of room to rock out upstairs. Sweet mother of mercy, is BGCA a great venue!
Second set led off with only the third "Kill Devil" second stanza opener ever. This was the longest version I can remember seeing, and probaby the best one, too. The type 2 ambient spaciness was quite unlike any version I've ever heard - always good to hear them putting a new twist on the standards. "Fuego" in the middle of the set was once again fine, clocking in at over 12 minutes, but as I've said before, the next essential version of "Fuego" will be the first one the band has played. Sorry, but that's just true. "Julius" next, and once again, I'm going to remind anyone reading this blog that this exists.
After a year in which "Twist" re-ascended to the status of supreme jam launchpad in 2013, the song has had few truly memorable versions in 2014 thus far. This one, however, clocks in at over 14 minutes, emphasizing the full-band jam style that was employed so frequently during the SPAC and Mann shows from the summer, if yer into that sort of thing. A rockin' "Jim" benefited from extra length as well as the element of surprise song placement-wise. Nice! And although several '14 "Hood"s have taken dark, type 2 detours not necessarily associated with the song in years prior, this one goes deeper than any I've heard before. Really an incredible version, and even though I need to re-listen after tour to confirm, this might just be the greatest "Hood" I've ever witnessed live (apologies to the Went "Hood").
Following a quick "Loving Cup" encore, Salvador and I walked back outside to the Plaza, hanging out in "hot dog alley" in front of the Wells Fargo for awhile before taking off towards Toronado. We both noticed that we felt oddly charged up after this show, especially considering how much we'd exerted ourselves while dancing. This sort of post-show-adrenalized feeling happens every so often after truly special shows - especially unusual considering that we were stone cold sober, although that would change shortly at Toronado, haha.
Really, really loved this bar. After night one, we told our cabbie to take us to an area that has bars; he dropped us off on a block that had four *closed* bars. Toronado reminded me of some of my favorite Brooklyn dives, with an awesome heavy metal soundtrack, great beer selection, and bartenders / staff that are total assholes, haha. After a few pints, we befriended a girl whose hilarious tour stories had us literally doubled over with laughter. Eventually cabbed it back to the motel after what was, top to bottom, just a great frickin' day.
One of my fears about this tour was that I'd find myself getting (still yet) more jaded. This is the most intense touring schedule I've undertaken, the first time I've been away from home for more than two weeks at a time, and I could've seen myself losing some excitement over Phish with all the inevitable "The Line" and "Wingsuit" repeats. But, much to my delight, the exact opposite has happened. These guys are the best. Bring on night three!!
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.
Although the drive from LA to Chula Vista would be just over 120 miles, pretty manageable, Beafvy had designs on sampling the wares at a couple breweries north of San Diego before the show, so we didn't dilly dally getting out of town. Stopped for evil chicken sandwiches near USC then got on the road, stopping briefly along the way for coffee and delicious donuts (best apple fritter I've ever eaten) at Surfin' Donuts in San Clemente.
I may have taken exception to some of Beafvy's behavior the previous evening, but that's nothing that a couple flights worth of beer samplers can't soothe. He's the resident Jalepzerz beer-ficianado, so I'll let him take over briefly here.
For our standard “tour within the tour” of local breweries, we hit the Claremont area of San Diego, which had at least 4 craft breweries spotted by us during the drive within a several block radius.
Started off at Societe, which was rated a 98 by beer advocate and definitely justified the ranking. The highlights were the Apprentice and the Pupil, both 7.5% ABV IPAs. The Apprentice was a true standout, with a great resinous, hoppy west coast IPA quality with all of your standard tropical fruit flavors. A great blend of hoppiness and flavor made these beers competitive with ANY west coast IPA I’ve ever tried. Also enjoyed was the Butcher Double Stout, which was just a nice smooth milk chocolate bomb. Societe also poured some pretty quaffable Belgian beers.
After Societe, and after some directional miscues by me, we made it over to Council, which was set in what appeared to be an office shopping center. Council featured a law and government theme with gavels for tap handles and we sampled some very nice beers in a calm, chill setting with very friendly staff and fellow patrons. Highlights here would be the Pirate’s Breakfast double Oatmeal stout, the Bully Pulpit IPA and a nice Porter. Whereas Societe was a tad “proud” of their establishment, while not overwhelmingly so, Council doesn’t take itself too seriously and has a very nice vibe.
We checked into our hotel and I attempted a brief nap while Beafvy wandered out to buy beers for post-show. Arrived at the venue lot before dusk, fortunately parking just a few short rows from shakedown, where we'd spend the next couple of hours before going in. I had attended the previous show at Chula Vista with Bricer (my first California show ever) in July 2003, when it was named the Coors Amphitheater, and I'd forgotten that the lot is apparently adjacent to a water park.
Shakedown was really fun and comfortable if very dusty. Again, just as at the Forum, there was no food vending, but everything else seemed to be in abundance. We randomly hung out with some fellow East Coast kids, sharing stories and generally laughing like jackasses for about 20 minutes before realizing that they were the same group who were so eager to take a pic of my Fuego / Fireball shirt the previous night, haha.
After one last trip back to the car to make sure we remembered where we were parked (smartest thing we've ever done; we'd probably still be stomping around that dusty-ass parking lot if we hadn't), we headed into the venue. On this night, we had great seats in section 103, four rows from each other, extreme Page side. Although our seats were singles, we doubted that we'd have much trouble sitting next to each other with the show likely being undersold (we were right). Much to our delight, we noticed a couple members of SteelCrew from Boston sitting just a few rows ahead of us. Great stuff, because we'd hoped to run into them preshow but hadn't.
The first set started relatively early, just a couple minutes after 8, with much of the crowd still filtering in during the "Devotion" opener, a tour debut. (I have to say that I'm pleased that they've dialed back the overplaying of the Fuego tunes thus far on Fall Tour, although the absence of "Monica" is somewhat troubling.) The first set continued with standard, enjoyable versions of several first set classics, such as "Bag," "Moma," "Halley's" and "Bitch." "Wolfman's" was easily the improvisational highlight of the first set, with a slow, funky groove and some fireworks late.
The rest of the set continued with a "Destiny" bustout (yay! My personal pre-tour pick for bustout I'd most like to see!), which got very funky before a somewhat awkward transition by Mike into the final verses. My first "Tela" *ever* after 137 shows knocked my "most common unseen" song off the top of my wishlist; at this point "Sweet Adeline" is the most commonly played song that seems plausible to return (last played in 2011). I'd forgotten how beautiful this song can be. "Timber" is always nice, then "Wingsuit" shuts the set down after Trey's dramatic solo.
So, a fun first set, if a little bit chomper-y. Our enjoyment of the set was amplified by the enthusiasm of some of our seat neighbors (including an adorable mom-dad-two young daughters family who gleefully danced in the aisle), our proximity to the stage, and the absolutely perfect showtime weather.
On to set 2. "Free" opened things up, and I had big (if ultimately unreasonable) hopes for the first extended version of 3.0. With "Theme" getting similar treatment at SBB2, it seemed plausible, but it wasn't to be. This more or less set the pace for the rest of the set - great, great song selection and overall tight playing, but not much improvisation. I find this similar to the reports I heard from the Seattle show; man, dat setlist, but many truncated versions. I mean, just look at it - "Golden Age" > "Jibboo" > "Carini" > "Piper" came after "Free," and a "Tweezer" > "Rock and Roll" followed by "YEM" seems on paper like a formidable way to end the set, right? We enjoyed this set immensely due to the great song selection, although the "Piper" (really nice peak with great playing by Page) likely contains the only jamming that has true relisten value. Of course, if you're judging a show based solely on that criteria, you're doing it wrong. Fun as frickin' hell, and we left the venue feeling very much satisfied.
Anyway, back to the bustle shakedown post-show for a bit, before getting on the road and retiring to our hotel. With Beafvy flying out at 6 AM, we stayed up and rocked out a bit until he left for the airport at 4 AM. I would be heading back up the coast the following day, with plans to see my friend Andy in LA before picking up Salvador in Pasadena and driving up to San Luis Obispo that night. Time to hit the road!