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.