BGCA, San Fran, summer '13, day two. We managed to limit our night one post-show chicanery to a few beers at "shakedown" in Civic Center Plaza and a few more back at the hotel, so we were up reasonably early in the morning, eager to get some good food and see some sights.
My buddy Salvador had never tried banh-mi, so we set out for Saigon Sandwich on Larkin, just a couple short blocks away from Civic Center Plaza / BGCA / City Hall. I was surprised at how inexpensive the sandwiches were compared to their Brooklyn counterparts, and accordingly we each bought two (for me, a "classic" (or whatever they call the one with cold cuts and pate on the West coast) and a "roast pork"). We sat in the strong wind at Civic Center Plaza eating our sandwiches, amazed that a line of die-hards at least 50 to 80 strong had already formed at the gate, waiting to snag prime rail space inside the venue (it was barely noon at this point!).
As we sat and ate, we were joined for awhile by a wook who Salvador initially mistook for "the king of West Coast acid production" and his girlfriend, sharing war stories from the road with them - my favorite involved this dude's friend successfully making a fake "VIP Pass" out of a ripped up Miller High Life box at Northerly, hanging it around his neck, and being granted all access, haha. We were intrigued by the many flags that were displayed on flagpoles above the Civic Plaza - here's the fascinating story behind the "DON'T GIVE UP THE SHIP" flag.
We wished wook dude and his girlfriend luck on their search for tickets, and walked back towards our hotel, surprised that none of those in line had any interest in Salvador's uneaten second sandwich. We eventually found a drunk dude who we'd met the previous night, and he was more than happy to take the sandwich off our hands; we'd run into this guy several times more during the weekend, usually over late night Tecates somewhere nearby.
Today's day-venture was to be a trip out to Lands End, which I'd visited with my brother three summers prior. (Click here for my pics of the breathtaking views, since there's no way my words can do this wonderful place justice.) Truly a gorgeous hike, and perfect to get the ol' juices flowing before a night of Assface. On the drive back to the hotel, we stopped off in Chinatown for a wonderful, seemingly authentic Chinese meal at House of Nanking which wound up being the best meal we'd eat all weekend. I'm really no fan of day drinking, and listening to idiots yell about sports at a bar is like fucking torture to me, so this was probably the best pre-Phish show experience I've ever had.
After a quick stop at the hotel, we hustled back over to BGCA, getting inside in plenty of time to get a decent spot about halfway up on the floor, extreme Page side. For the most part, we once again had the great fortune to be surrounded by kind, enthusiastic folks, many of whom had great stories about the West Coast shows from the previous week at The Gorge and Tahoe, which Salvador had also attended.
I thought night one's first set was subpar and lacked flow; what would we get tonight? "Grind" starts us off, the SIXTH CONSECUTIVE version of this song I've been in attendance for. I figured they'd come back at us with a "Chalkdust" or a "Punch" or some such to raise the energy level, but instead we get the first "Weigh" since June '12, another oddball choice that follows the precedent of night one's many bustouts. This "Weigh" included the evening's first of many "WOO!!"s, beginning in the intro and continuing throughout the song. Unfortunately, "Weigh" was marred by the two loud, ornery, sunglasses-wearing, DMT-smoking meatheads behind us who were literally heckling the band. (What is it with people and this drug? You're aware that smoking it is *without fail* going to turn you into an overaggressive dickhead, right?? Anyway.) As always, the crowd appreciated the rarely-played and reasonably well-executed "Alumni" that came next - first version in over a year.
"Lengthwise" followed... uh, wtf? It's as though the band were purposely trying to keep this first set from establishing any real momentum in favor of giving n00bs the opportunity to check rarities off their bucket lists. Yes, another bustout, and only the fourth "Lengthwise" since 1998, but I'd obviously prefer a "Tube" or a "Funky Bitch" or a "Ya Mar" (or pretty much anything upbeat, for fuck's sake) in this slot. As it has in 9 of its previous 14 performances, "Lengthwise" segues into Fishman tapping out the "Maze" intro - finally some fire! Nothing groundbreaking in this "Maze," but it did what it needed to, essentially serving at the set's "real" opener after the parade of rarities. I'm certainly not too cool to enjoy rocking out to a well-played "Sample," although this selection did nothing to keep the set from heading back into below-average territory overall like last night.
"NICU" was a nice choice, although this one was tainted by some particularly ugly Trey flubs. "Mound" had me headed for a bathroom break, back in time for the beginning of "Jesus Left Chicago," one that I'll always remember for two reasons: 1.) Page forgot practically all of the lyrics, and 2.) Trey's solo was frickin' SCORCHING. The "Driver" that came next was reportedly a result of the fan-initiated "Driver Campaign" honoring a fallen Phan. Personally, it signaled my return to the urinals.
"Timber" instantly improves the set, turning in a tidy, enjoyable, standard 3.0 rendition, similar to all those brief-yet-warped '10 / '11 versions that established the song as a first set gem. "Axilla" of course is THE song in which Trey gives off the most exuberant vibes, and this was an appropriately rockin' version which (as per ushe) got me a little too carried away. I had hoped for another rocker to extend the set's newfound energy, but instead we get one of my favorite Phish ballads, "Bug." Apparently I wasn't the only one hoping for something a little more upbeat, as Fishman's lively pounding keeps this version as merry as any "Bug" I've ever heard. First set comes to a close with the summer's seventh (!) "Possum" and a rollicking "First Tube" which matched the earlier "Maze" for the title of "most danceworthy song of the set."
Nothing out of the ordinary to report during setbreak, other than us taking advantage of the opportunity to position ourselves more advantageously towards the center of the floor, away from the dreaded volume-killing balcony overhang, surrounded by a crew of incredibly cute, tiny, friendly girls who were blasting key-bumps of god knows what all night. Sure beats hanging around with aggressive Team Deemsters douchebags!
Second stanza led off with "Rock and Roll," and having skipped Jones Beach earlier this summer, I was VERY eager to hear a substantial, worked out version of this classic. The improv section starts out as per ushe, with "Disease"-style galloping rhythms and guitar heroics. Shit starts to get wacky around 7:45, as Mike and Page bring in some awesome space-funk. By 9:20-ish, a ripcord seems all too probable, before Trey picks up the reins and spurs on some nice full-band interplay. At 10:35, we're back to a familiar jam theme that we all know and love, heading towards glorious, uplifting territory just before the 13 minute mark. By this point, we're in the grips of a soaring, gorgeous, (and, perhaps more notably, wholly "WOO!"less!) major key Phish jam, gradually dissolving into space and, finally, "Steam."
"Steam" has to be the best song Phish has written since "Undermind," and this version includes some very nice soloing by Trey, who proves the old adage (?!) that "a little extra mustard goes along way towards improving one's steamed meats." Starting off around 25+ minutes into the set, "Number Line" kicks down a welcome bathroom break, and, as it does, deals some pleasant, melodic Trey soloing and a knee-jerk "hey, would you look at that, we're under the mistletoe..." opportunity to hug / high five your buddy (or buddies).
A solid "Mike's" features Page stepping to the fore while Trey remains mostly on the sidelines. "Hydrogen" into a standard-yet-fun-as-always "Paug" keeps spirits up, before another pissbreak materializes in the form of "Joy"'s incredible clothes. Next, HOORAY! A well-executed "Fluffhead" which inspires the crowd to rock the eff out harder than at *any* other point during the evening, and arguably hardest of the whole weekend, possibly only topped by the following night's "BOY!" during YEM. A short, raging "2001" keeps the 4th quarter awesome, finding time for still yet more "WOO!" in the intro, while the "Slave" set closer transports us all to delicate, pensive territory before the big Hollywood ending. Monster of an 87 minute second set! "Waste," then "Suzie" (complete with another several helpings of "WOO!") in the encore leads us back out to the Plaza.
All in all, this show was quite an improvement over the first night, and it puzzles me why it would rate lower than night one as per phish.net user rankings. Sure, there was very little Type II jamming, but the playing overall was much tighter and the song selection far better IMHO. Whatever, I'm the schmuck who thought SPAC2 was among the best shows I saw all year, and you know what they say about opinions. YMMV, as always.
Post-show, we cooled off in the Plaza again for awhile, plowing through a bunch of cheap Tecates and once again running into crazed transient brah who had so graciously accepted Salvador's sandwich earlier in the day. Starved, we opted for some "lot" food in the form of unusally spicy (and delicious) potato samosas. When the police finally swooped through the Plaza to shut down the nitrous vendors, we took that cue to get the eff out of Dodge. We sought out a bar near our hotel, at which a gay dude tried the old "oh, I bought these mojitos for someone who didn't show up, you want 'em?" trick. I was kinda flattered by this poor, misguided dude's attention, not gonna lie, although once he heard we were in town for Phish, he reared back his head, let out a self-effacing "you sure know how to pick 'em!" laugh, and departed hastily. Whatever, free mojito, amirite?
Bought StreetMeat from dude with a hibachi near the bar, and returned to the hotel. Not a bad day, eh? Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion of our San Fran weekend, complete with a jazz-inflected church service, great food, wonderful scenery, and, of course, the third and final night of Phish at BGCA '13.