Heheheheheheh. Ah, 2014: another year where I tell myself 'this is the year my obsessive show-going addiction ends;' another year where I see more shows than anyone I know who isn't employed at a performance space / venue. WHEEEEEEEEE!!!!
A quick list of locations where I've seen shows this year:
--Brooklyn (double natch)
--on a boat circling Manhattan
--Commerce City, CO
--Miami (in 7 days!)
As of this very moment, I've seen 93 concerts this year, and I've got at least three more coming up - Uncle Ebenezer at Knitting Factory Saturday night, Television (first time seeing them) at Irving Plaza on 12/28, and a little up-and-coming rock band who I think are called Assface in Miami on New Year's. The following is my totally subjective, largely meaningless, and wholly amusing (to me) recap of the best stuff I saw in '14.
Oh, and Happy Holidays to all!
The Ten Best Phish Shows I Saw All Year:
1.) Phish, 10/31/14 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
2.) Phish, 7/13/14 Randall's Island, NYC
3.) Phish, 7/27/14 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
4.) Phish, 8/29/14 Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO
5.) Phish, 11/2/14 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
6.) Phish, 10/22/14 Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara
7.) Phish, 7/26/14 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
8.) Phish, 10/28/14 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Fran
9.) Phish, 7/11/14 Randall's Island, NYC
10.) Phish, 8/31/14 Dicks Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO
Although Fall Tour officially ended nearly a month ago, not a day goes by when I don't think about what stupendously fun-tacular times I had over the 2+ weeks I spent out on the road. And that's not only because I'm still obsessively listening to the Haunted House set (which I am). In fact, just simply thinking of Fall Tour lifts my spirits so much that I inevitably wind up typing in the annoying, upbeat, eminently punchable tone you're currently reading. BOINGGGG!!!!!
I chronicled my Fall Tour travails in (more or less) real time, day by day, here, but before I forget all of the other wacky stuff that happened along the way, here's one random memory from each stop.
10/21, Santa Barbara
Before the show, I picked my good buddy Salvador up at his parents' home in Pasadena, where he grew up. They have an avocado tree in their back yard, the first time I've ever seen one of those, uncultured yokel that I am. I was afforded the opportunity to pick an avocado using one of these. This gave me great joy.
(Oh 'cado tree, oh 'cado tree...)
10/22, Santa Barbara
While standing in line in the men's room upstairs, a slight miscommunication between fellow line-standers led to one guy yelling, at no one in particular, "red velvet cake is a scam! IT'S JUST FOOD COLORING!!" The things one learns on tour!
10/24, Los Angeles
Say it ain't so, Beafvy. My buddy Beafv had his troubles at this show, resulting in the spilling of many, many beers (and, uh, some other stuff). His behavior was so outlandish that finally one of our neighbors on the actually handed him a bright red card that read, "STOP." Oh, sweet, naive neighbor; if only it were so simple.
10/25, Chula Vista
Well, they can't all be winners. As explained in my writeup of this show, we visited a couple highly-rated breweries before the show. At one, Societe, Beafv and I were unpleasantly surprised to see an assortment of motorcycle fellows out front, several of whom were proudly wearing tee shirts with Nazi "SS" insignia emblazoned on them. Yikes, with a capital "go fuck yourself, you subhuman shitbags."
10/27, San Fran
After lollygagging our way up the coast from San Luis Obispo in the most enjoyable way possible, making several stops at Big Sur along the way, Salvador and I got nailed by rush hour traffic. (Totally worth it.) By the time we checked into our motel, we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a major time crunch. We bussed towards the venue, hopping out a few blocks away from BGCA with the aim of grabbing some quick grub at McDonald's so as to not start the show with empty tummies.
Ahead of Salvador in the line at McDonald's was an elderly man who appeared more than a little down on his luck. He ordered "20 McNuggets for $2.99," although after placing his order he was informed by the manager that, sorry, 20 McNuggets would be $9.99 plus tax. Immediately, Salvador stepped up and offered to buy the McNuggets.
The man was incredibly grateful for this, telling Salvador that "you're my angel, you've come down from heaven." A very nice gesture from probably the best guy I know.
10/28, San Fran
Make sure you read the bottom line.
10/29, San Fran
Anyone who knows what the hell they're talking about agrees that the first *great* show of the tour was SBB2. At BGCA3, we sat next to a dude who told us that he had it on good authority (the wife of the venue owner, apparently) that in the morning pre-SBB2, Trey was running stadiums up and down the staircases inside the venue. Whatever it takes, breh, whatever it takes.
Post-show, we were strolling through the casino towards the elevators, when we came across a gaggle of at least 20 phans performing the "Thriller" dance, synchronized to the song which was being played over the in-house sound system. "Did they all, like, practice this?" we wondered, before coming to the conclusion that, no, plenty of people actually know the dance. In addition to us, a decent size group of onlookers had gathered and were enjoying the revue.
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.