"Sir, may I offer you some honey with your barbed wire?" When spitting out some of the most heartbreakingly personal lyrics ever written, it softens the blow when said lyrics are delivered by an artist with some of the finest pipes in the business.
Producer of the Year: Todd Terje
On It's Album Time, Terje manages to employ (and master) such an incredibly diverse array of sonic awesomeness that it's absolutely frickin' amazing the record doesn't sound scattershot and spread terribly thin. (It doesn't, and it's one of the year's best.)
Guitar Performance of the Year: Adam Granduciel (on The War on Drugs' Lost in the Dream)
Never flashy, always classy with his "beer commercial lead guitar shit," Granduciel manages to evoke both Tom Petty *and* Mike Campbell throughout The War on Drugs' sprawling masterpiece.
Best Album for a Lazy Sunday afternoon: Beck - Morning Phase
Much more appropriate for this purpose than, say, Midnight Vultures, which is only good for dispersing crowds filled with people who have good taste in music.
Best Workout Album and Best Driving Album: Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket - In a Dutch Haze
One track, 53 minutes; all manner of ridiculous guitar solos, mindbending riffs, and galloping rhythms. Perfect for my drive from Brooklyn to Long Island (almost to the minute), and equally perfect to listen to while crushing some cardio and losing some L B's, you fat slob.
My Most Listened-to Album of the Year, According to iTunes: The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream
It's only fitting that I'd award the Album of the Year trophy to the one with most listens (spoiler alert). Still immensely rewarding, 23 full listens in.
My Most Listened-To New Songs of the Year, According to iTunes:
1.) Guided by Voices - "Littlest League Possible" - 49 plays 2.) Guided by Voices - "Planet Score" - 47 plays 3.) The War on Drugs - "An Ocean in Between the Waves" - 41 plays 4.) Floor - "Sister Sophia" - 39 plays 5.) The Men - "Pearly Gates" - 38 plays 6.) Dum Dum Girls - "Little Minx" - 36 plays 7.) Mogwai - "Simon Ferocious" - 35 plays 8.) Beck - "Morning" - 34 plays 9.) The War on Drugs - "Burning" - 33 plays 10.) (tie) Bobby Bare, Jr. - "Don't Stand at the Stove" - 31 plays 10.) (tie) The Raveonettes - "Endless Sleeper" - 31 plays 10.) (tie) The Men - "Different Days" - 31 plays
Quote of the Year: Jon Fishman, 7/27/14 Merriweather
"The workers have come back from their day in the fields Jennifer Dances - and she cooks me a fuckin' meal That's all the words I know to this song Jennifer..... MY DONG!"
Assholes of the Year: Scott Stapp (and his fans)
Of course, the usual suspects (Dave Mustaine, Ted Nugent, Varg Vikernes, Exene Cervenka) would be worthy choices in pretty much any year, but Scott Stapp's recent descent into homelessness and insolvency is the freshest "what an asshole!" moment in our minds.
But should he be fully blamed? At best, he's a minimally talented, totally delusional, semi-literate Tea Party-level moron with a fucking messiah complex to boot. Mocking Scott Stapp is like stealing candy from a quadruple amputee. This is a man who would've never been anything without the legions of tone-deaf whiskey tango morons that made Creed a multiplatinum band.
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 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.
So, I'm still totally unable to adjust to west coast time - on Day 5 of Phall tour I woke up before dawn, totally unable to fall back asleep. No worries though, because I had a ton of stuff to take care of before the evening's show, although I'll spare you the gory details of a morning filled with laundry, solar panels, consignment agreements, and ticket transfers.
Today, I'd be joined by Beafvy, flying in from Chomperville for the afternoon / evening's festivities. Before 3 PM, we were comfortably hunkered down at The Tripel in nearby Playa del Mar, enjoying food from their trendy-ish menu (between us, we consumed a burger and three small plates - duck spread with grilled bread, roasted shishito peppers, shaved brussels sprouts salad) and beverages. They don't do liquor at The Tripel so I couldn't get a bloody, but the bloody beer the bartender whipped up was actually pretty good, considering how horrible the concept seemed to me before trying it.
Back to our ghetto-ass hotel by 5, cabbed it to the venue shortly thereafter. I have to say that The Forum was absolutely nothing like I'd expected it would be; I'd heard it was old, rundown and outdated, but it was none of those, apparently having just undergone a renovation completed earlier this year. By the end of the night, I'd come to the conclusion that The Forum was kind of like a West Coast Mothership of sorts, only bigger - very pretty exterior, spacious floor / plenty of room for everyone, great staff.
Met up with Salvador in the lot preshow, and it was ON. (Haha.) We'd heard that shakedown / vending would be largely non-existent which happily turned out to be the opposite of true (except oddly no food vending at all) - actually a pretty solid, joyously lawless shakedown, all things considered. Ran into several familiar folks preshow (NYC crew, Boston crew, guys at our hotel for SBB, Beafvy's buddy Pibz), and many new people who loved my shirt. Literally every single person with whom I had the tried-and-true "so, where ya sitting tonight?" conversation floor tickets tonight, as did we. Easiest floor tix for Phish ever - Salvador actually snagged floors day of for below face, if you can believe it.
After a mediocre show at SBB1 and a great one at SBB2, we were eager to see what the evening had in store for us. Mixed bag? CustieNoob show? Barn-burner?? The set started nicely with an energetic "46 Days" / "Tube" pairing, and only the fourth first-set "Ghost" of the 3.0 era in the cleanup slot. This "Ghost" was very short, at under 9 minutes, deviating from the usual "composed section > spooky weirdness > soaring rock and roll" blueprint so familiar from recent versions. Not bad, but here's hoping they don't start routinely giving "Ghost" the same treatment "Sand" has gotten over the past couple of years - Phish needs as many great second set jam vehicles as they can muster more than they do tasty first set tidbits.
The first "Divided Sky" of the tour was another major highlight. Drawing another parallel to Hampton, one of the highlights from Phall Tour '13 was the sea of lighters at Hampton3; at tonight's show, Kuroda surprised us by suddenly illuminating the ceiling dotted by small, bright white lights resembling stars. "It's Ice" continued its recent winning streak, bringing a freezer full of hard, nasty funk courtesy of Page and his clav. The set closing "Gin" was truly one for the ages, with a pair of extended "Low Rider" segments in a possible nod to LA's own Cheech and Chong, as well as an extended "Long Tall Glasses" jam. IMHO one of the finest 3.0 "Gin"s along with the 5/28/11 Bethel "Golden Gin-teca," Dick's '13, and the monster version from Randalls1 this past summer.
Second set began with an odd "555" / "Number Line" pairing, leading into an absolute monster of a "Disease," featuring several distinctly wonderful jam sections. In addition to the usual type 1 fireworks, we also got a lengthy rhythmic / atonal jam, as well as a huge rock peak in a manner similar to the legendary Northerly "Wedge" from this past summer. Is it "Paradise City"? "Roll With the Changes?" "Taking Care of Business?" Or just a familiar jam that Phish manages to knock out of the park every so often? Either way, it was totally hose-tastic - highest energy moment of the evening, rivaling the 8/1/14 Orange Beach version for best "Disease" of the year.
With "Fuego" and "Bowie" both benefitting from extra length, the improv kept a-flowin'. The "Hood" in the encore didn't take its detour into type 2 (as so many recent versions have), instead being just a classic "Hood" in its own right with a lengthy, patient intro and a wonderful peak. The boys are back indeed! Great, great night.
Post-show, we didn't really have any options other than to walk the two miles back to our hotel straight through the 'hood on Crenshaw. Happily, there were absolutely zero incidents along the way, and we wound up enjoying some late night tacos from a place near our hotel. Really, really hit the spot after racking up 21 miles on the pedometer throughout the day, haha.
OK, we're going to try to get a head start on the drive to Chula Vista if we can shortly, so I'm out for now. But suffice it to say these last two shows have totally reversed the course of this tour, and we're nothing but optimistic for these next seven shows (of which I'll be attending all of 'em). Tuddd out for now.
After a fairly late evening night one (including a noise complaint from our neighbors at the hotel, haha), we got up bright and early Wednesday morning and walked into town, enjoying an outstanding breakfast at Tupelo Junction Cafe. Later in the morning, we met up with a dude with the oddly familiar name of "Tudd" to hook him up with our SBB2 extras. We spent the early afternoon on the shore at Butterfly Beach, just a couple of miles out of town. Absolutely amazing, and I'm just going to let the next few pictures speak for themselves.
Afterwards, we returned to our motel so Salvador could catch up on some much needed shut-eye, while I baked in the sun. Chatted with a couple of our neighbors on the motel's elevated sun deck thingy while blasting Earthless and enjoying some Dale's. Not too shabby!
Hit the bricks walking towards SBB (about a mile and a half walk from our motel) by 5:15, finding our way to our seats by a little before six. I had lamented night one's lack of energy (as well as my own), and we immediately noticed a certain electricity in the air preshow on night two that seemed to be forecasting great things. By the end of the night, we'd be openly marveling at how incredibly different nights one and two were in every way - from the the overall atmosphere inside the venue to the enthusiasm of our seat neighbors, and most importantly to the quality of the music.
The first set featured great song selection and nice versions of several first set standards. "Soul Shakedown Party" opener (first one in over two years, although I was surprised to learn that now there have been more "SSP"s played in 3.0 than 1.0 and 2.0 combined) referenced the previous night's reggae-infused outing, and peppy versions of "Undermind" and "Ya Mar" kept the mood buoyant. "Jesus Just Left Chicago" showed up for the first time this year, offering steamy blues soloing from Page and Trey in a manner that was totally different than typical Phish blues-rock soloing. "My Friend" is an old personal fave and was actually the first Phish song Salvador and I ever saw performed at our first show ever just over 18 years ago. The set closed down with a pair of true first set classics in "Melt" and a tight, rippin' "Walls."
This first set really hammers home the importance of great song selection. Was there a ton of great improv in this set? Of course not, but nearly every song (*coughexceptWinterqueencough*) was something I legitimately wanted to hear. Again, so much of a different story compared to night one that we could barely believe our eyes (and ears).
At setbreak, we ran into one of Salvador's friends from Oregon, who promptly covered us with glitter - as of the time of this writing, about 12 hours after said beglittering, I can report that my beard, hair, clothing, and especially my sunglasses still bear many tiny, glittery specks.
Set two burst out of the gate with a massive "Drowned," the first one played since the excellent DCU2 version 361 days prior. This jam was incredibly diverse, wandering into and out of several distinct jam styles which in turn induced me to try out many different noodle-dance variations, haha. The second jammed "Theme" of 3.0 was the evening's highlight for me. "Theme" has long been a favorite of mine, and, along with other warhorses like "Free" and "Moma" it's one that I wish was afforded more opportunities to be an improvisational centerpiece. This one had a distinctly Floydish vibe - some folks are apparently saying "Echoes," which I didn't notice at the time, but which makes perfect sense. This "Theme" was very much different from the also-excellent AC '13 funk-infused version, but equally danceable and IMHO even better.
The rest of the second set featured song lengths and intensity often associated with "party shows" - no shame in that label when the boys are as "on" as they were on this night. "Steam" and "Waves" were sweet, condensed versions - all killer, no filler, although "Steam" did suffer from an abrupt ripcord courtesy of Trey. (Possibly a nod to the ripcord-fest during night one :->) The "2001" > "Mike's" > "Jim" > "Paug" run to close the set showcased the heavy hitters and still yet more stellar song selection. "Paug" was another of the evening's highlights for me, with "Jim" and "2001" teases, and with Mike shamelessly trying (and failing) to elicit "WOO!!" from the crowd during his bass solo. And the "Antelope" that burns this whole place down had everyone grinning thanks to the goofy "SSP" reprise tucked within. Really a wonderful show, with many water-themed songs as befitting our proximity to the ocean, and great enough to firmly put to bed the complaints of JadedVets (myself included) who were a bit underwhelmed by the tour's first three shows.
Post-show, we wandered back towards the State Street area downtown, encountering some great "tandem" acrobats (?!) the guy, lying on his back, balanced and twirled the girl using only his feet, and the girl contorted her body into impossible-seeming configurations above him. We then met up at Eureka Burger with some folks from our row at the show for excellent burgers and beers - the fig burger (Salvador's choice) gets a high recommendation from me, as does the Tortilla Burger I ordered. Headed back to the Presidio afterwards and encountered a few kind souls winding down after what waas
Love you Santa Barbara, and I'll miss you as I head back down the coast to LA - staying in the 'hood the next two nights, where neither the scenery, nor the food options, nor the people will be anywhere near as hospitable as what we encountered here. 'Till next time...
The logistics of Day One of tour went about as well as could be hoped. Got up at 5 AM, was at JFK by 7, and landed at LAX at 10:40 Cali time, about a half hour early. (JetBlue, you're the absolute frickin' best. Love ya.) Picked up my rental car (the sporty Hyundai Elantra!), snagged my homeboy Salvador in Pasadena (his parents have an avocado tree in their back yard!!), and made it up to Santa Barbara super quickly.
The drive to Santa Barbara was breathtakingly gorgeous. I'd never visited this area prior to yesterday, and having heard so many positive things about the scenery, my expectations were absolutely satisfied. Getting the hell out of high-strung, needlessly stressful, fugly-ass Brooklyn for a couple weeks will likely do the ol' soul a world of good.
Preshow, we drove downtown in search of some great fish tacos finding them at Tacos El Rey. Piled high with lightly fried fish chunks, cotilla cheese and mango salsa, these were the best fish tacos I've ever eaten, for reals. So good, in fact, that we ordered a second round after polishing off our first few. The el pastor was also excellent, and I highly recommend their peanut salsa.
(Therein lurks deliciousness!)
Walking through town pre-show was great, even if the laughably over-the-top police presence was somewhat unpleasant and completely unnecessary. Either way, there's just something inherently relaxing about palm trees and gorgeous weather, and it amazed me to find all manner of succulents planted throughout town in spots that would normally be occupied by small grassy knolls or the like in other towns.
Now, onto the music. (Apologies in advance if some truly JadedVet-level horsecrap spews out of me for the next couple of paragraphs.) This was my 134th Phish show, my 14th of the year so far, and it was (musically speaking) probably the least enjoyable show I've seen since MPP '09 #realtalk. The first set left a lot to be desired in the way of song selection, and contained little-if-any notable improv to speak of. And the second set was characterized by jamming similar to what went down at SPAC and Mann from early in Summer Tour - not a lot of huge peaks, and with none of the thrilling, high wire act leads that made last year's Fall Tour such a joy. Apparently there's been quite a bit of speculation about the horribly botched ending of "Birds" and Trey's subsequent banter (he said something like "how many of you wish that had ended differently?"), but who knows what was going on. All in all, the show was marked by many flubs (including the usually reliable "Stealing Time" and "Suzy") and there were too many ripcords for me to even recall all of them
To be fair, there were some quality moments, with the "Chalkdust" briefly approaching the soaring, uber-happy rock and roll jamming that Phish relied upon so frequently during the best jams from summer. The "Wombat" went briefly type 2, if I'm remembering correctly, which was probably the highest energy point of the evening. "Tweezer"'s jam was centered around a riff similar to part of Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good to Me." And the "Boogie On" encore featured some welcome extra length. But by and large, there really isn't much worthy of relistening, unless you're a huge fan of documenting awkward ripcords and flubbed transitions. If we're choosing a "band MVP" from last night, just give the trophy to Kuroda.
Regardless, for all of my complaints about the lack of cohesion and middling improv, we had a wonderful time. It's really a testament to this band's greatness that one can have highly critical feelings about a given Phish show and still admit that it was a great, great time. I felt that Summer Tour took a few shows to really get going, although once the band had picked up steam by Randalls1, there were enough stellar performances that the summer should be considered a smashing success. Hoping for some legit FIRE tonight, but even if there isn't, there's absolutely nothing I'd rather be doing (within reason) than seeing Phish play.
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....)