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
Whew. Whatta year, amirite?! Yes, new music may have been a bit lacking, but fortunately the one constant that remains is that there's a shit-ton of great live music coming through NYC year-round. When I moved to Williamsburg in '08, I did so almost entirely because of the proximity to so many music venues; nearly 6 years later, that remains my biggest motivation for sticking around.
In fact, my show-going affliction reached new heights this year - I did a rough count last week, and if I wind up going to the New Mastersounds afterparty following the Phish show on December 29th, I will have seen a robust *98* distinct concerts in 2013. According to Jalepzerz' / MeatBox archives, that's a personal record (although I've eclipsed 90 shows in several other years), and as proof, I uploaded literally hundreds of videos to my YouTube channel, effectively documenting my own crime spree.
So, here I sit on Christmas Eve, workin' on my final post of the year for this blog; a post that focuses solely on the highlights of my showgoing for the year. In 4 evenings, Phish NYE Run starts, and if some notable, epic shit goes down, several of these lists could be (at the very least) a bit out of whack and (at most) completely irrelevant. I welcome that. :->
See you in the new year, everyone!
Best Live Show of the Year - Phish at Hampton Coliseum, 10/20/13
Top 10 Phish shows I personally attended this year:
10.) 10/25/13 DCU 9.) 11/1/13 AC 8.) 8/4/13 BGCA 7.) 11/2/13 AC 6.) 7/6/13 SPAC (fuck off, I loved this damn show) 5.) 10/19/13 Hampton 4.) 7/14/13 Merriweather 3.) 10/27/13 Hartford 2.) 10/26/13 DCU 1.) 10/20/13 Hampton
The best three non-Phish arena shows I saw in 2013:
16.) Split Open and Melt at SPAC, July 6 15.) Rock and Roll at BGCA, August 3 14.) Crosseyed and Painless at Holmdel, July 10 13.) Twist > Under Pressure at AC, November 1 12.) Theme from the Bottom > Shaft theme at AC, November 2 11.) Drowned at Worcester, October 26 10.) Harry Hood at Merriweather 9.) Runaway Jim at BGCA, August 4 8.) Stash at Merriweather, July 14 7.) Carini at SPAC, July 6 6.) Carini at AC, October 31 5.) Golden Age at Hartford, October 27 4.) Piper > Taking Care of Business at Hampton, October 20 (yup, this is cheating) 3.) Light at Merriweather, July 14 2.) Seven Below at BGCA, August 2 (in spite of the butchered composed section) 1.) Carini at Hampton, October 18
Day 2 at Merriweather began with us searching for some decent grub. After discovering that our first choice was closed on Sundays, we settled on a random place tucked away in one of Columbia, MD's 8,723,432 strip malls called Pub Dog, an establishment that seems to possess two distinguishing characteristics: 1.) all-day two-for-one drink specials, and 2.) a massive collection of identical Grand Marnier bottles displayed throughout the bar. (If you find yourself at Pub Dog, don't bother asking the waitresses "hey, what's the deal with all the Grand Marnier bottles?" because 1.) they don't know and 2.) they seem pretty justifiably weary of being constantly asked that question.) Fueled up on decent 'za and drove back to the hotel for some pool / ssf / sports action.
Preshow, we made our way to the phan-friendly Union Jack's once again, enjoying some decent sandwiches, fries, and cheap-ass beers. Our tickets for this show were in the pit, and this would be only the second time I'd ever had pit tickets at a Phish show (last summer at Jones Beach I being the first). We entered the pav area through the far Mike side, and after having heard wildly contradictory stories about how crowded the pit was during night one (every person we spoke to seemed to say it was either "totally packed" or "pretty chill"), we were pleased with the amount of room we were able to stake out down front.
First set began with a standard, awesome "First Tube," which got the party started on the high-energy tip. If this song doesn't get you hoppin' and a-stompin', check your pulse, Broman Polanski. "Moma" next, and, yes, I'd love if they took this one out for a real spin every now and then (or even if they'd surprise us dealing a "Black-Eyed Katy" every so often), but eff it, this is one song that I'm capable of appreciating in its standard form - 7 mins of ass-shaking goodness, nothing less. "NICU" and "Roses" came next, both well-played classic early Set I songs which kept the mood festive. "Chalkdust" next, hearkening back to the previous night's first set tension / release showcase.
At this point, the boys knew they needed to either deal us a pissbreak-friendly snoozer or do something totally spectacular. Right on cue, the subsequent "Stash" is the first hint that this would wind up being a truly special show. Easily the tour's finest "Stash," and also on the short list of the summer's best jams overall. This "Stash" jam atypically weaves in and out of some glorious major key segments, continuing the summer's precedent of Phish injecting uplifting improv in spaces normally inhabited by darker stuff (SPAC 2's "Melt" and "Carini," notably). It's welcome surprises like this that keep us coming back for more, and make intent listening so rewarding.
"Scent" comes next, with Mike (on "lead bass") trading licks with Trey in the "duel" segment, and also including Fishman's world premiere turn on his new marimba lumina. Heheheheheh, goofy stuff right there. "It's Ice" follows, another song that I have newfound apprecation for, mainly because of the increased attention they've been affording the jam section. This one seemed on the verge of breaking into "Manteca," which I'm of course a huge sucker for. (The version from Dick's later in the summer was equally great.) The Saga of The Incredible Shrinking "Tube" continues next, and although this one isn't quite as, uh, terse as the sub-4 minute versions at Toronto and Tahoe later in the summer, it reminds me what a rare treat the SPAC 2 version was. A standard-hot version of "Antelope" sends everyone to the pissers with big, toothy grins plastered to their faces.
This is a first set that truly deserves some recapping of its own - probably the summer's finest opening stanza overall, with all of the trimmings - nice jamming, great pacing, excellent song selection, and the best "Stash" I've seen since.... when... either 8/14/09 Hartford (need to relisten to that when I get a chance), or, before then, the monster 4/2/98 Island Tour version. STANDING AMONG GIANTS, WE ARE!!!
After we found a spot near our first set digs, set II started off with eleven minutes of "Golden Age" (including a couple bars of "Third Stone From the Sun") before segueing into "Twist." Bigtime ripcord in this "Twist," but truthfully the jam wasn't really going anywhere. The opening chords of "Number Line" can be considered the ultimate pissbreak signal, because if you hustle you can make it back just in time for a hot Trey solo.
"Light" came next, and... holy shitballs! Locks into a really nice groove around 7 mins or so, which leads to some legit Type 2 craziness - I have to say, with this show being 2+ weeks before the mammoth "Tahoeezer," it honestly seems at points as though the band is trying to goad the crowd into doing the "WOO!" thing, stopping and starting at will amongst walls of itchy atonal funk. Deservedly, this "Light" is widely accepted as one of the highlights of the whole tour, and the year's finest version of the song overall.
After 12 minutes, "Light" comes to a close with an extended, Mike-led segue into "Boogie On." Not to harp on this, but I still have no clue how SPAC 2 is so unfairly maligned - to me it was one of the three best shows I saw all summer. I think the SPAC 2 "Sand" > "Carini" includes some of the year's tightest jamming, but most folks don't seem to agree, for whatever reason. But, it's to my understanding that in general folks really don't care for "Boogie On" being played in Q4 / whatever. If Mike's Meatball doesn't turn your body into one a huge mass of *SPROING*ing rubber bands, then allow me to suggest that an armada of Q-Tips be dispatched to your ear area forthwith! Weird l'il tension-release thingy in here by Trey... but, yeah, at 5 mins, this "Boogie On" ends too soon, IMHO.
The high energy version of "Julius" that follows pretty much cements my newfound love of this song. (Anyone want a shirt??) I have nothing against straighforward, blues-rockin' Phish as long as they maintain a level of intensity that's, say, greater than your garden variety 3.0 "Possum," and this "Julius" does just that. "YEM" set closer simply can't be beat under any circumstances IMHO. Sure, there was a "Loving Cup" encore, but I'll always remember this "YEM" as the capper of a wonderful weekend of music.
Postshow we hightailed it back to Union Jack's one final time for some over-excited shop talk and many, many more cheap beers. (Am I remembering incorrectly, or were they doing $3 24 oz. mugs? Man....)
So, to recap one last time, this was the best show I'd see all summer on a docket that included SPAC, Holmdel, Merriweather, BGCA and Dick's, and I'm glad I got to share the experience with a bunch of my favorite humans. It seemed that literally everyone I met during this trip was kind and friendly, and excited about Phish's future as much as the band's storied past. Bring on Fall tour!!
I'd known for some time that my 100th Phish show would be going down early on during summer '13 tour, but I had no intention of attending my 100th show solo, which would've been the case had I chosen to go to Jones Beach. As the narrative goes, at Jones Beach Phish played a million-song first set, including a "Reba" (which I always seem to be chasing, and which may or may not have been facilitated by the suggestion of Lawn Boys guitarist / vocalist Darren, who ran into Page at a restaurant before the show and specifically requested a "Reba.") Second set featured a long "Rock and Roll" which I've yet to hear, but, "Reba" or no, the whole situation seemed to be one I'd rather skip - throughout the remainder of summer tour I had many conversations with phans who were at JB lamenting the heavy downpours that plagued the evening.
I got on the road towards Maryland a little after 10 AM with the aim of picking up my buddy Rumpo at BWI Airport around 2:30ish. Yadda yadda yadda terrible traffic, yadda yadda yadda fuck the BQE, yadda yadda Jersey can go to hell etc. Smooth exchange at BWI, and we found ourselves in lovely, historic (hahahaha!) Columbia Maryland in no time flat. I won't bore you with the details of Hotels.com clusterfucking us out of half of our reservation, but suffice it to say that whatever money they saved by (illegally) cancelling our reservation and jacking up the price of the room to the next poor sucker, we easily made up for it with about $200 worth of future room credits on their dime. Cram it with walnuts, Hotels.com!!
Pre-show, we began walking over towards MPP from the Sheraton while it was still early, sharing a half-gallon of Bricer's famous "to go" vodka beverage along the way. Set up shop outside on the deck at Union Jack's, which we would wind up returning to many times before the end of the weekend. Knowing that anything resembling a "shakedown" in the Merriweather lot is pretty much non-existent, I shuffled over towards the venue earlier than my compadres, needing to find a dude in the lot so I could trade an MPP2 pit ticket for a BGCA Saturday ticket - found the guy in the lot and stumbled into the venue early, finding my seats in the pavillion, extreme Page side section, right on the inside aisle.
Many in the crowd (including Rumpo and Bricer, who were sitting with me) were surprised by the early start time, and as such there were still a lot of empty seats when the boys started up with "Kill Devil," which I'd also seen open SPAC 1 just a few days earlier. This was a very nicely peaked version, and overall "Kill Devil" is a song that I'm enjoying more and more as an energetic early show rabble-rouser. Up next was Phish's first performance of "Destiny" since 61 (!!) shows prior at Superball (at which I was also present). I recently featured a somewhat subpar offering of "Destiny" as my "Song of the Week," and this version was definitely their most well-executed rendition in god knows how long. The "Taste" that followed did exactly what "Taste" should do, providing solid Type I jamming that matches the ideal early-set vibe. This momentum was stalled briefly by back-to-back bummers in "Halfway to the Moon" and "Twenty Years Later." What sets "Halfway" apart from the typical awful Phish ballad is the fluid, nimble solo that Trey appends to the songs last few minutes, although if you're looking for a representative version you're better off checking out the one they cranked out at BGCA from later in the summer.
After two straight ballads, we were all looking for something uptempo, and "Maze" answers that call (with gusto!), frantically working the tension / release dynamic and peaking nicely like it so consistently does. Unfortunately, just when it seemed they'd recaptured the promising energy level from earlier in the set, the awkward-as hell "Yarmouth Road" appeared. Put bluntly, they really should throw this shitshow back on the shelf until 1.) Trey learns how to play it properly, and 2.) Mike comes up with a melody that's more suitable to his vocal range. (Right about this point, during the set, we noticed that it was ABSOLUTELY FUCKING POURING on the lawn, and rain was streaming down off of the pav roof. Along with the excellent sound inside, this made me very glad that we'd ponied up a little extra money to get these loge seats.) The first set came to a close with "Melt," likely looking to capitalize on the tension / release success of the "Maze" from earlier in the set. While not as mindblowing as the version from SPAC 2, this "Melt" was still pretty damn solid / standard-good. Uneven first set overall, with a few legit highlights, as well as some downright puzzling song selections.
Happily, the rain had relented by setbreak. Walking towards the restrooms, I was reminded of how treacherously steep the walkways are at Merriweather, and I was amazed (and relieved) not to see anyone wiping out on the still-slick surface.
Second set began with the now-obligatory "Disease" opener (thru the Gorge, "Disease" was played in this exact slot 11 out of 14 times!), which was a welcome treat for those of us looking to sink our teeth into some real improv. This "Disease" is definitely one of the show's highlights despite remaining almost entirely in Type I mode throughout its 14+ minutes. It also featured a segment that I was sure was going to segue into "Psycho Killer," although no dice... very little time wasted in this jam, and the clean transition into the return to the "Disease" theme at the end was fist-pumpingly awesome. "Free" followed, varying little from a typical 3.0 version. (Holy schnikes, at the time of this writing I've seen 6 of the last 7 "Free"s that they've performed, so it's no wonder I'm finally getting a little weary of what was once one of my favorite songs.) I really, really miss the elongated middle section of "Free", which back in the day was based heavily around Mike's "Meatball" effect, as captured on the 6/17/94 Brooklyn DVD. "Bouncing" up next, was "Bouncing."
"Birds" led off Q4 with some more nice tension / release action, reminiscent of the best that tonight's first set had to offer, and the evening's true musical apex took shape in the "Hood" that came next - just excellent. The general consensus seems to be that this "Hood" and the "HollyHood" were far and away the best versions of the year, and for totally different reasons: the Merriweather rendition stakes its claim on some gorgeously melodic "Hood" improv reminiscent of great "Hoods" past, while "HollyHood"'s claim to fame is the lengthy, noodly Type II segment that deviates dramatically from what the typical "Hood" offers. Both are fantastic versions in their own right.
I had seriously misjudged the set time at this point, and thought the end of the show might have been nigh before they boys went into obligatory pissbreak "Architect." Not for nothin', but these lyrics are possibly the most insultingly insipid, mealy-mouthed faux hippie horsecrap that Tom Marshall has shat out since "Spread It Round." (Rant over.)
But let's not dwell on that. Instead, let's talk about the ensuing "Mike's Groove," arguably the summer's finest version. The "Mike's" dips into more tension / release, becoming positively pogo-tastic by about the 7 minute mark, and remaining that way until the nice, key-shifting segue into "Simple." This "Simple" seems faster-paced than most, giving the brief improv a nice "Disease"-lite type feel - beginning around 7:30 Trey seems to even tease a return to the "Disease" theme before things abruptly twinkle out into "Weekapaug." Nice "Paug" featuring a generous helping of Page on the clav starting at around 2:45 in, followed by some sweet, noodly Trey licks... around 6:15 Trey seems to dare Mike to step up, although he defers, and the jam continues (and ends) in a manner similar to many other solid 3.0 "Paug"s.
Met up with our pals at Union Jack again after the "Waste" / "GTBT" McPhish encore, enjoying cheap brews and humoring some poor schmuck who was loudly bragging that he "just KNEW they were gonna go into 'Weekapaug' after they played 'Mike's'! I JUST KNEW IT!" Hehehehehehehe, what tipped y'off there, Dirksen? ;-> Our night took us back to the Sheraton, which had a lively, talkative post-show scene still going on the pool deck. The scuttlebutt seemed to be that this show was very solidly above average for the tour, and I have to agree with that at the time of this writing, nearly two whole months later.