It's always great when, while on Phish tour, the fun that's had *outside* the show is substantial enough to make the show itself seem like the cherry on top instead of the whole damn cake. However, it's also even *better* when the show itself doesn't suck donkey balls, as night 1 at least kinda did.
So, Bend2. We wanted to fuel up with a good breakfast before heading out on the day's pre-show excursions, but the hipster-ish brunch place that was recommended to us had a fairly long line, so we went next door to Super Burrito, eating a hearty-as-hell chorizo / eggs / beans / tortillas plate. Walked through Bend a little, scoring an incredibly potent flavymilxxx at a Vietnamese place. The downtown area seemed very pleasant!
Salvador had been skiing on Mt. Bachelor previously, and had the idea that riding the ski lift up the mountain when it's snowless would be pretty sweet. (It was.) We hiked around the volcanic rock above the ski lodge at the top of the lift for a bit, enjoyins some amazing views before heading back down. Next stop was the Deschutes River. We walked beside the river for a bit, and while Salvador hopped in and enjoyed a swim, I chased a bit further down the path where the river became rapids, watching rafting tourists scream for joy. After this, we hit up Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint in Bend proper, which offered views of all of the (relatively) nearby mountains, including Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters, and Fort Hood.
Quick stop at the motel before walking out towards the venue again. This time, we moseyed into the Silver Moon Brewing Co., each of us ordering a flight. Not bad, but truth be told we enjoyed Boneyard immensely more the previous day. Afterwards, we walked up through Wall St. (which seemed to be kind of the "main street" in town), which we'd partially explored earlier that morning, before winding our way up to the venue.
I may not have done an adequate job describing Les Schwab Amphitheater in my previous post, so let's do this. 8000 capacity, nice big lawn, great sight lines everywhere. A river runs behind the venue, close enough Mike side so that both nights people were able to row canoes / etc. up and watch the show. Venue concessionaires consist largely of food trucks, as well as a couple of local breweries. We found the sound to be distractingly weak night one, understandable because the venue basically sits in the middle of residential areas and as such volume is likely limited by local ordinances. Perhaps most importantly (to us, at least) there was a water station over by the port-o-potties, providing a refreshing mist for those who wanted to cool off, and faucets so we could fill our water receptacles.
With another early start on hand, we snuck all the way up Mike side before set one, finding a comfortable spot only about 10 people away from the stage. We were rewarded with way stronger, clearer sound than night one, and, overall, a far superior show.
Set one opened with a standard-good "Stash," before launching into one of the evening's many debuts. Mike's "How Many People Are You" is an urgent, straight-ahead rocker, probably his ballsiest offering since, well, "Mike's," and among his best ever compositions, IMHO. An extended "Winterqueen" was next, at 12+ minutes likely the longest version the band has ever played. I've compared this song favorably to Television's "Guiding Light," another gorgeous tune with great lead guitar, and this version lived up to that. The Phish debut of Page's "Heavy Rotation" sounded rather awkward until the tune's rockin' instrumental section. "Get Back on the Train," one of my favorite first set songs, was extended slightly, providing the evening's first infusion of funk (and an EXTREMELY stealth "Streets of Cairo" tease).
Another first-timer, Trey's "Scabbard," seemed kinda limp and TreyBand-y to me. Doubt we'll see much more of this one, although that could just be wishful thinking on my part. "Maze" featured the most energetic soloing of the tour thus far, and although the jam never really deviated too much from typical "Maze" themes, it foreshadowed several more scorching type I jams that would pop up throughout the early portion of the tour. Up next came "Mercury," another new song, and probably the most promising of the bunch. The song structure seems weave several independent themes together, pastiche style, with the highlight being a great composed Trey solo over an interesting time signature. I liked this one quite a bit, although I agree with my pal Beafvy that it would benefit from some editing. (Perhaps it's telling that at the time of this writing, a week and a half later, "Mercury" has still not been repeated.) Yup, "Possum" closer.
Salvador and I settled for the second set a little back from where we'd been first set, extreme Mike side. "ASIHTOS" opened the second set, a song I really don't usually care for because it so often utilizes a kind of despondent, plaintive blues mode (similar to "Stealing Time") that I think Phish doesn't really do all that well. This version, however, found itself in wonderful major key, "soaring" territory similar to so many memorable Summer '14 jams. "Waves" graced similarly uplifting ground in its jam segment, before a flubby (but still pretty) "Wingsuit."
"Farmhouse" next was odd in this slot, dealing us the dreaded second consecutive set two ballad. The subsequent "Simple" is an absolute must-hear for fans of chill jams. This one gets funky while staying fairly minimal, with Trey employing a beefy, ominous tone throughout. A stark contrast and counterpoint to the energetic, firebreathing Dick's '14 "Simple" (my vote for '14's Jam of the Year). A smokin' "First Tube" shuts down the second set, with a rare "Gin" encore (first since 1996) providing a welcome surprise. All in all, a WAY better show than night one, with a little bit of everything, except new stuff, of which there was a veritable fuckload.
Post-show, we decided to see if there would be be anything resembling a shakedown. All reports leading up to tour indicated that on-site vending would be strongly discouraged, but what we found instead was a minimal police presence that was both overwhelmed by the foot traffic and seemingly appreciative that these visitors were largely peaceful. Plenty of beer / water vendors, shirts, posters, etc. etc. etc. were on hand, but what caught my eye was a booth where a dude was selling "Ghetto Lot Kids." After some bargaining (and laughing my ass off at his products), I found myself a proud owner of a complete set. Yay!
After shakedown, we continued walking back to the hotel, coming across a Phan-friendly cigar bar, where we enjoyed a couple pints before toddling off.
So - in summation - a very enjoyable show, with dramatic increases in energy (both from the band and the crowd), wonderful sound, perfect weather, and a springboard to the remainder of tour. We'd be splitting town early the following morning... deets to come!
Summer breeze, makes me feel fine Blowing through the jasmine in my mind. --Seals and Crofts
Well, summer's here, and you know what that means - time to stuff every available nook and cranny with ungodly amounts of fun until it gets uncomfortable. And then cram some more. Time to see old friends, make new ones (if only often just for a few hours), do as much exploring of the natural world as humanly possible, eat like an idiot, and, of course, hop on tour to follow the musical shenanigans of the second greatest band in the world (behind Seals and Crofts, natch) - the one and only Assface.
OK, quick reset here. Prior to the official commencement of Summer Tour '15, I dun seen a grand total of 147 Phish shows. My Summer Tour '15 itinerary is to feature (if everything goes as planned) the pair of tour-opening shows in Bend Oregon, the Cali shows at Shoreline and the LA Forum, and the Texas shows at Austin and Dallas. That's one hell of a leg, and it will be followed in August by the Philly shows at The Mann, both Merriweathers, then Magnaball and Dicks. That's 16 shows. Sixteen shows. SIXTEEN. SHOWS. Deep breath. Now, smile. :->
At the first four shows (Bend1, Bend2, Shoreline, Forum), I would be accompanied by a gentleman who should need no introduction around these parts, the esteemed Salvador Sriracha. Another quick reset: Salvador was my bestie on our freshman year floor in college and my sophomore year frathouse roommate before our penchant for beer pong and class avoidance (and our ensuing atrocious grades) sadly intervened, sending us on our separate ways for something like fourteen whole years. However, fortuitously, Salvador contacted me pretty much outta nowhere in early 2012, and mere months later I was driving him upstate for the awesome SPAC '12 run. Over the subsequent years, I've had the incredible fortune to see a ton of shows and see a lot of great sights in Salvador's company, and this trip was planned with the aim of keeping both of those traditions alive.
So, after taking in some outstanding views Day 1 in and around Salvador's home in Ashland, we woke up for Day 2 of the summer jaunt fueling up with some bagels and flavymilxxx before hitting the road. Heading north with Bend as our eventual destination, we passed through an area north of Ashland dominated by a massive, blue basin of water and nearby rivers. Hoping to get a primo scenic overlook under our belts, we stopped on a whim at Mill Creek Falls in Prospect Oregon. A brief hike into the woods revealed the falls in question - pretty great for a casual little diversion along the way!
Our next stop would be Crater Lake, which... yeah. I mean, if you've been there, you know what I mean, but if you haven't, there's really no way for me to explain without breaking into a Mr. Miner-esque display of self-indulgent idiocy. I had purposely avoided over-Googling images of Crater Lake prior to this trip so as to not spoil the actual experience of seeing it in person, and boy howdy were we rewarded with some amazing views. I can honestly say that Crater Lake is the most incredible thingy / doohickey / whatzit I've ever seen.
We arrived in Bend before rush hour, knowing that we'd need to head over to Les Schwab Amphitheater unusually early due to the rumored 6 PM (!!!!) show time. We set out in earnest around 4:30, with about 2-1/4 miles between us and the venue proper. First, we stopped at Boneyard Beer, a tiny, somewhat badass brewery with its eenie meenie taproom manned by a cool metal chick. Now I'm not terribly well versed in beer-related terminology, but this place and its offerings were totes bitchin, brah. We each enjoyed a flight and some Lemmy-themed conversation with said cool metal chick before continuing along our way. Next stop was Atlas Cider Co., where we enjoyed a couple unusual flavors (nectarine or peach? Something like that? And the other was 2/3 apple, 1/3 blackberry) and some house-baked donut holes. Awesome!!
[h8 u, Typepad formatting]
We walked through the little strip mall style area near Les Schwab before arriving outside Les Schwab and getting our bearings. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and the venue would be packed, 8500 strong. Phans had been repeatedly warned that vending would not be allowed on site, but there were still a few scattered stragglers selling pipes, stickers, and shirts. The venue itself was wonderful - with the river as its backdrop, plenty of folks had rowed kayaks up to get a view.
I'm not going to spend too much time discussing the show itself, which tbh was pretty forgettable. Still enjoyable, of course, but literally nothing of any real re-listen value. You know you're in Mediocreville when the band members' getups are actually more notable than the music - Mike arrived onstage in a Let Trey Sing shirt, Fishman was rockin' some shades, and Trey was sporting a Bobby Rockstar-esque polo shirt. (I have to assume that Trey butchering "Horn" and "Rift" is also a nod to Bobby. :-> ) I should report that The Boys treated us to three entirely new songs, two of which have the potential to be keepers. "Blaze On" reminds me of "Fat Man in the Bathtub"'s funky, shave-and-a-haircut-two-bits Bo Diddley beat, although the lyrics are, shall we say, suspect. "Shade" is a typical crappy pissbreak ballad, likely replacing whatever repaced "Joy" and "Show of Life" in the rotation. "No Man's Land" (or whatever it's really called) is the real winner here, though, funky and powerful, with potential to be the first real jam monster Phish has debuted since "Light". (No, "Fuego" is *not* an epic jam.)
Aaaaaaaaaaanyway, post-show shenanigans were limited to walking to a nearby understaffed gastropub and basically waiting to be served for an extended period of time. Gonna post this entry now before my free LAX internet runs out. Holler atcha soon!
[Above is the top Google image search result for MiYEMi at the time of this writing.]
Well, day two of my New Years Run '14 voyage has begun, and, naturally, the most notable thing about day one was that I did *not* see Phish perform. So what *did* happen yesterday December 30th, other than the year 2014 being mercifully brought one day closer to finally expiring? All kindsa insignificant, uninteresting stuff. Let's talk about it!
First off, I need to make note of the most unusual thing about this run, namely that I will be seeing all four of these shows with *neither* Salvador, nor Bricer, nor Beafvy, nor Rumpo, nor Salsa in the building. "No big deal," you may opine, but you'd be wrong. In fact, if you add two more fellas to that group (the original guy who got me into Phish many years ago and a dude I'm unlikely to ever speak to again), 133 of the 143 total Phish shows I've attended have been in the company of one or more of those guys. To me, that's fucking crazy.
Granted, I have options on this run, some more promising than others, and yes, hopefully I wind up befriending a bunch of good ol' fashioned single-servers on this run, but it just ain't gonna be anywhere near as fun without those cats around any way ya slice it. *pours out last two inches of forty-ounce on floor*
Anyway, on to the actual trip. For reasons too boring to print here, I didn't get to sleep until 2 AM Monday night, slept badly, and was up for good at 6 AM for my 10:30 takeoff. Yup. The flight down sucked. A tiny, shrill monster spent the last hour and a half of the trip screaming out multipliction tables (*incorrect* multiplication tables, I might add, ARRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!) and kicking the back of my seat; an old Hemingway-looking dude held me captive by jamming his ass mere centimeters from my face for an unbelievably long amount of time while he wrestled with his luggage; the cute, weird British chick sitting next to me had less than zero interest in conversation; a stewardess slammed me in the head with one of her hambone-sized elbows. (To her credit, she apologized twice and seemed genuinely remorseful.)
I flew into Sarasota, which, as you may or may not be aware, is nowhwere fucking near Miami. Long story short, flying into Sarasota a day early (and out a day late) cut my airfare in half, sliced my daily rental car rate by nearly 2/3, and, perhaps most importantly, elongated my trip by the aformenentioned two days. Not too shabby, and as long as I don't tumble into a crippling spiral of loneliness over the next week everything should work out all hunky dory-like.
As I expected, Sarasota is bursting at the seams with pickup trucks and men wearing jean shorts and ammo stores (and lazy profanity), but I was pleased to discover that there are several well regarded pho spots within the city limits. By process of elimination (the two highest rated ones were closed, goddamn it) I wound up at Miss Saigon for a late lunch, and let me tell ya they serve up a damn fine bowl of pho. (The sausage spring rolls are great too, and the shrimp summer roll is good if a bit too heavy on the lettuce).
After a few more insignificant errands and minor logistical screwups on my part, I hit the road towards Okeechobee around rush hour, where I'd be spending the night at a cheap hotel. The drive was almost entirely on a two lane road through farmland, featuring thousands of cows and little else of note. After arriving in Okeechobee, I had a hankering for something light for dinner, and nearly soiled myself with schaden-joy when the top result in my Yelp search for "salad" yielded - wait for it - KFC. Bwahaahhahhahhhaha. No thx, pls, k bai. Instead I settled on a blackened mahi mahi taco and a lobster taco from The Tin Fish. Pretty good!
OK. So, I didn't see any Phish today. But what are the top 5 things I'd like to see over the next four days? Let's have at that.
1.) "Harpua." I've still never seen a full "Harpua." Yes, I got the song's "Jimmy?" "Yes, dad" section day one at The Went in 1997 (my second show ever!), but as that version was meant to complete the awkwardly truncated version from a year prior at Clifford Ball, I still have never seen an "oom pa pa..." / etc. live.
2.) A jammed "Mike's Groove". This one has been at the top of everyone's wish list since the dawn of the 3.0 era, but it still hasn't happened. Last month, I saw Phish tribute band The Lawn Boys totally nail a mind-bending 30+ minute version of "Mike's" at Fontanas, including the elusive "second Mike's jam" and an incredibly well executed Digital Delay Loop section reminiscent of the legendary 12/31/95 MSG version. Make it happen, Phish!
3.) Ditto a jammed "Bowie." I made the stupendously idiotic comment that "I'm kinda over 'Bowie'" after Dick's2 this past summer (seriously me, STFU. I'll never live that one down, nor do I deserve to), but "Bowie" needs to be taken out for a real spin into some true weirdness.
4.) Reappearances of material from the Haunted House set on Halloween in Vegas. Trey has said this is, in fact, going to happen during this run (YEEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!).
5.) "Guyute." No reason in particular. I just love "Guyute."
Although Fall Tour officially ended nearly a month ago, not a day goes by when I don't think about what stupendously fun-tacular times I had over the 2+ weeks I spent out on the road. And that's not only because I'm still obsessively listening to the Haunted House set (which I am). In fact, just simply thinking of Fall Tour lifts my spirits so much that I inevitably wind up typing in the annoying, upbeat, eminently punchable tone you're currently reading. BOINGGGG!!!!!
I chronicled my Fall Tour travails in (more or less) real time, day by day, here, but before I forget all of the other wacky stuff that happened along the way, here's one random memory from each stop.
10/21, Santa Barbara
Before the show, I picked my good buddy Salvador up at his parents' home in Pasadena, where he grew up. They have an avocado tree in their back yard, the first time I've ever seen one of those, uncultured yokel that I am. I was afforded the opportunity to pick an avocado using one of these. This gave me great joy.
(Oh 'cado tree, oh 'cado tree...)
10/22, Santa Barbara
While standing in line in the men's room upstairs, a slight miscommunication between fellow line-standers led to one guy yelling, at no one in particular, "red velvet cake is a scam! IT'S JUST FOOD COLORING!!" The things one learns on tour!
10/24, Los Angeles
Say it ain't so, Beafvy. My buddy Beafv had his troubles at this show, resulting in the spilling of many, many beers (and, uh, some other stuff). His behavior was so outlandish that finally one of our neighbors on the actually handed him a bright red card that read, "STOP." Oh, sweet, naive neighbor; if only it were so simple.
10/25, Chula Vista
Well, they can't all be winners. As explained in my writeup of this show, we visited a couple highly-rated breweries before the show. At one, Societe, Beafv and I were unpleasantly surprised to see an assortment of motorcycle fellows out front, several of whom were proudly wearing tee shirts with Nazi "SS" insignia emblazoned on them. Yikes, with a capital "go fuck yourself, you subhuman shitbags."
10/27, San Fran
After lollygagging our way up the coast from San Luis Obispo in the most enjoyable way possible, making several stops at Big Sur along the way, Salvador and I got nailed by rush hour traffic. (Totally worth it.) By the time we checked into our motel, we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a major time crunch. We bussed towards the venue, hopping out a few blocks away from BGCA with the aim of grabbing some quick grub at McDonald's so as to not start the show with empty tummies.
Ahead of Salvador in the line at McDonald's was an elderly man who appeared more than a little down on his luck. He ordered "20 McNuggets for $2.99," although after placing his order he was informed by the manager that, sorry, 20 McNuggets would be $9.99 plus tax. Immediately, Salvador stepped up and offered to buy the McNuggets.
The man was incredibly grateful for this, telling Salvador that "you're my angel, you've come down from heaven." A very nice gesture from probably the best guy I know.
10/28, San Fran
Make sure you read the bottom line.
10/29, San Fran
Anyone who knows what the hell they're talking about agrees that the first *great* show of the tour was SBB2. At BGCA3, we sat next to a dude who told us that he had it on good authority (the wife of the venue owner, apparently) that in the morning pre-SBB2, Trey was running stadiums up and down the staircases inside the venue. Whatever it takes, breh, whatever it takes.
Post-show, we were strolling through the casino towards the elevators, when we came across a gaggle of at least 20 phans performing the "Thriller" dance, synchronized to the song which was being played over the in-house sound system. "Did they all, like, practice this?" we wondered, before coming to the conclusion that, no, plenty of people actually know the dance. In addition to us, a decent size group of onlookers had gathered and were enjoying the revue.
So, I'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.
With no Phish show tonight, Salvador and I had the opportunity to spend the day first at the Santa Barbara pier, and then at the Botanical Gardens affiliated with the Huntington Library. As we were zipping along eastward on the freeway between Santa Barbara and Pasadena, it occurred to me that the trip to this point has been more about taking in incredible scenery, with the extra added bonus of getting see Phish play than the other way around, which is frickin' awesome. Once again, I'm going to let the pictures do the talking here. Enjoy!
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.