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.
So, I've been back at home for over a week now, happily listening to my 'ween mp3s (:-D), and I can't believe how *good* I've been feeling. Being on the road for two-plus weeks, seeing *ten* Phish shows over that time, and generally speaking have more fun over that time than any human should ever deserve to have, I'd think that I woulda paid the price a little more than I did, health-wise. (Yes, I put on about 13 lbs, but that was predictable too, and I'll work that shit off before the new year.)
Am I still a bit tired? Hell yeah, but what the else is new on that front. And yes, I'm coughing up some weird stuff lately. But I have to say, coming off of an extended run on Phish tour and avoiding Wook Flu has to be considered best case scenario, no?
Anyway, here's my shot at finally finishing my tour diary.
Vegas3 began for us a bit late, despite us largely refraining from partying after night 2. By the time I met up with Bricer at Pub 1852 at the MGM, Rumpo had already flown home to Boston, and although it's a shame he had to miss night 3, it's pretty safe to say that he hopped on tour at *exactly* the right time. After all, 'ween was probably the best show I've ever seen, and after some initial jaded horsecrap on my end I'm pretty confident that night 2 stacks up pretty well in comparison to any other night on the tour prior to 'ween.
Anyway, starting in the early afternoon, Bricer and I crushed another huge order of nachos while enjoying Pub 1852's "all you can drink bloodies" deal and watching football. Naturally, naps came next, and we reconvened around fiveish to begin pregaming in earnest. Who knew that fireball and Sprite mixed so well?!
Our seats on this night were in section 202, directly facing the stage from the rear of the room. I still can't figure out the acoustics in this room, or moreover why the volume was kept so low nights one and two. (Although the sound crew did right the ship at least somewhat on 'ween, the lack of volume night 2 severely hampered our enjoyment of the show.) Fortunately, that wasn't a problem tonight.
The show began in a distinctly old-school manner, with the "Jim" > "Foam" pairing that opened 16 (!) shows in 1994 leading into the first "MexiCuz" in 110 shows. "MexiCuz" was clearly a tip of the cap to the tiny $42 bottles of Patron available in the minbars of all MGM Grand guests. Obviously.
Naturally, I have to listen back to tour when I get a chance to confirm this, but I can honestly say that I think the stretch beginning with "ASIHTOS" in the second quarter and continuing all the way thru the end of the show (um, except "The Line," of course) features the best playing of any show all tour, non-Halloween division. 2-1/2 hours of amazingness! Personally, I think "ASIHTOS" can occasionally sound a bit too much like "Stealing Time," but this one was FIRE. "Bathtub" was once again great (stealth MVP of tour possibly?), and "Free" was probably the best version in over a decade, incorporating the first of several "Martian Monster" quotes of the evening into the usually predictable "Free" middle section. The crowd went absolutely bonkers - once again, STRAIGHT FIRE. An incredibly high energy "Walls" closed the first set.
Second set was pure perfection, starting with 30+ minutes of awesomeness during "Chalkdust" > "Piper." The "Chalkdust" did what they do these days, gliding through several sections of airy improv, and what's perhaps the year's firemost "Piper" brought the RAWK. "Wombat" continued its run as probably the best Fuego song with its tightly wound funk, and the "YEM" that closed the set is on the short list for best 3.0 versions. No clue how the onstage goofiness - Trey chasing Mike around the stage, all four Phish playing percussion - will translate to tape, but ... yeah, I can't wait to listen back to this one.
So, yeah, other than 'ween, this has to be the best show of tour. Here's my rankings of the 10 shows I saw in person, with minimal listen-backs to the mp3s (except of course for 'ween set 2, which I've already gone through about 10 time so far):
OK, Tuddd out for now. I have to say that this little Tour Diary exercise was a very, very fun one, and I'll try to reprise it in Miami, which I just shored up arrangements for a couple days ago. Uncle Ebenezer next Friday, Lawn Boys Saturday, then an assortment of non-Phish shows between now and NYE, including Russian Circles, Bongripper, Interpol, Television, and probably some others I've forgotten. Life's a gas!
So, with Halloween night 1 in the bag, and with Phish having played what's IMHO probably the greatest, most daring, strangest, awesomest show in their history, what does Phish do on night 2? Easy, they just be themselves.
My day 2 began a little later than expected, due to some late night shenanigans both expected (LET'S ROCK!!!) and unexpected (room service apologetically delivered our order after 4 frickin' AM following a 2-1/2 hour wait, hahahahaha). Rolled out of bed late and met Bricer and Rumpo at Pub 1852 downstairs at the MGM Grand, where we had designs on splitting pulled pork nachos, chicken n' waffles, and a huge burger while plowing through some bloodies. Truthfully, the nachos (which were excellent) probably would've been enough, as we stumbled back to our respective rooms after the meal, exhausted and with the burger boxed up.
Following some much-needed naps, we began pregaming in earnest. Reports of a dreaded bottleneck outside the venue had proven to be totally false night 1, so we took our sweet time moseying in to our seats (sec 216, Mike side), once again finding ample room. I do have to say that the energy level in the arena seemed significantly lower than preshow night 1, but that could've just been due to my own state of mind.
After treating the crowd to absolutely *zero* Fuego songs at Halloween, night 2 would prove to be all about the band's newest album, from start to finish. As such, the first set was a bit weak, with the band alternating between Fuego songs, first-of-tour bustouts, and first set standards. The most notable bustout was "Dog Faced Boy," first one since June '11, and only my second time ever seeing the song in 142 shows, and the highlight of the set overall was an excellent "My Friend," during which the crowd reached deafening levels of appreciation. Great, great spontaneous moment. Another nice moment came when the band inserted part of "The Birds" (from the previous night's Haunted House set) into "BoaF" - we'll have to see how much love the Haunted House set gets from the band going forward, but here's hoping they continue to jam on those songs like this. Not much improv to speak of in this kinda songy / chomper-y first set, however.
Second set certainly did not lack for improv. The "Crosseyed" > "Light" > "Lengthwise" > "Twist" > "Manteca" > "Twist" sequence probably matches anything else from Fall Tour (not counting 10/31, of course). "Light" got good'n'weird, with the evening's second direct reference to the Haunted House set in the form of a "Dogs" jam. The "Twist" was frickin' great, with what sounded to us like extended "Oye Como Va" jamming along with the first acknowledged shoemouth action since MPP2 this past summer. A nice, old school-ish "Hood" contained none of the type 2-leaning weirdness of so many recent versions, and the encore featured a pair of Fuego songs (five total for the evening, dontchaknow) before an a capella version of our National Anthem closes things out.
All in all, a solid show that certainly falls more in line with the rest of Fall Tour than the craziness of Halloween. Our enjoyment of the show was hampered slightly by terrible sound in our section, so I'm particularly eager to give a full listen (or ten) back to the meat of this second set. I'll be back tomorrow with the conclusion of this road diary - getting back home to Brooklyn late tonight, although at this point, I wish I could just stay on tour FOREVAH.
Glad to finally get the chance to write something up about this ridiculously awesome, unprecedented show. If you follow the goings-on of Phish online, you've probably already read a ton of accounts and descriptions of the Halloween show, but if you don't, here are a few vital (haha) pieces of info to set the scene a bit.
After a really great first set, the band came out for the second set, ostensibly to perform a cover of a Walt Disney-produced sound effects record (Phishbills had been handed out with this info, although the album writeup was humorously exaggerated - see below). The set included sound effects from the album, each one woven into in a "new" Phish jam - otherwise wordless, instrumental fare that matches some of the band's best type 2 improvisation of the 3.0 era. I can't stress enough how great this music sounded.
They sure didn't skimp on the production values. The second set featured the band playing inside a haunted house structure for the first couple songs, which eventually fell away to reveal Trey, Gordo, Fish and Page wearing corpse paint and white tuxedos, standing closely together atop a platform (the remains of the hauted house) in a close-knit circle, in a manner similar to the 12/31/13 MSG truck set. The stage set included gravestones (one of which read BONO'S HUMILITY, haha), zombie dancers, smoke machines, and assorted other spooky effects. (Also - dont sleep on that third set. VERY eager to hear this whole show over again when I get back home.)
Anyway, here's a few (eleven, specifically) things I'd like to share about the show overall. Enjoy!!
1.) This was the best live concert I've ever seen by anyone, ever. It was also one of the happiest nights of my life. EVERYTHING went absolutely perfectly all night, top to bottom, front to back.
2.) After a tour characterized by a lot of good-not-great shows which were by-and-large lacking in the *FIRE* department, that second set showed just exactly how much Phish still has in the tank, which is A LOT.
3.) I had actually heard the sound effects record that Phish "covered" as a child - I remember in particular finding the Chinese Water Torture skit to be particularly terrifying.
4.) Really, really interested to see what they eventually do with the music from the second set, and if they shed any more light on the origins of these jams. Did some of these come from the Wingsuit / Fuego sessions, when they were actively going through their trove of improvisational pieces throughout their career to mine material for new songs?? Were they composed specifially for this show?? Will they release a new album based on this material?? Are they going to work some / all of these new "songs" into regular rotation?? Possibly they'll add lyrics to some of them or something?? WHO KNOWS!!
5.) I've listened back to the brief clips from the second set on LivePhish, and although several of the songs had a familiar feel about them ("Your Pet Cat" sounds kinda like a "Tube" jam, "The Very Long Fuse" sounds like it could easily be worked into TreyBand's body of work, "Dogs" sounds like a "Birds of a Feather," jam, "Martian Monster" sounds like a "YEM" jam, etc.), there are a couple pieces on here that seem largely unique to the Phish repertoire. "The Haunted House" is spooky and plodding, and "The Unsafe Bridge" showcases a surf-rock style which - correct me if I'm wrong - has never been employed by Phish in anything they've ever done before. "The Chinese Water Torture" and "The Birds" are amongst the real winners, IMHO. But there's not a clunker in the bunch.
6.) I'm continually blown away by the generosity of Phish fans. The people in our section (sec. 219, rear side-stage Page side) really made our night a more enjoyable one. A friend in need.... ah, you get it.
7.) For our Halloween costumes, (me, Bricer, Rumpo) went as Chompers, a reference to the YouTube videos of fzappa20. (If you don't get the reference... not gonna bother explaining it. Watch some of his videos.) It just so happened that we were sitting behind a couple from Minneapolis (Wisco Brando and his lovely wife) who MIRACLED FZAPPA20 into the show (!!!!). Very glad to hear firsthand that fzappa20 made it inside, and the type of incredible coincidence that only seems to happen at Phish.
8.) I literally have no idea how the band goes back to playing a "normal" show after a night like this. Along with Big Cypress, this show is largely in a class of its own - totally unlike anything that's come before it.
9.) As of this moment, this show is ranked #1 on .net's list of Greatest Shows Ever. Agreed.
10.) Fuck yeah, Vegas. I came to town thinking I would hate it here, but I think I kinda get it. This town really allows people to let their freak flag fly - it seems as though one can be a total frickin' weirdo here without being too harshly judged. That's a beautiful thing.
11.) This should of course go without saying, but a *HUUUUUUUGE* tip of the cap to the band. This show was the greatest treat that they could've given us, the fans, and it's amazing to think about the incredible amount of preparation that went into this. And another *HUUUUUUUGE* tip of the cap to Bricer and Rumpo for making this trip possible. Truth be told, I had initally planned to skip Vegas following the seven Cali dates, and holy schnikies am I glad I'm here.
Ok, heading downstairs for all-you-can-drink bloodies... See ya when I see ya!!