New York City
Show #181. The second night of Albany will forever be known as the Seven Below > Ghost Jam Session.
We parked in one of the darkened lots by the sketchy bus station near Shakedown Street. Perfect place to do a heroin deal during off-hours, but during that 48-hour stretch the area was invaded by Phisheads and their naughty habits such as public urination, wearing ironic t-shirts, and deviant usage of nitrous oxide. The parking decks housed the tanks as hissing sounds echoed from above. A couple of policemen rode horses down the street but for the most part they stayed away from the mayhem.
Shakedown expanded by 10-20% from Friday night and as per usual, the narrow walkyway was packed. A few entrepreneurs took advantage of the nippy weather and hawked wool hats and gloves. One guy set up a hot chocolate stand for $2 while a wook held out a bottle of Jager and offered swigs for a buck. Plenty of ganja goodies for sale. I was offered DMT the night before and the marketplace was over-saturated with molly on Saturday. A couple of guys were pushing doses but they looked like undercover cops. I raged on some lot food including a zesty garlic grilled cheese. One older hippie was trying to sell some sort of ganja-icing that I assume you put on cinnamon rolls and cupcakes.
"You only need a tablespoon to change your world," he promised.
Mostly everyone was looking for tickets under $30. I bumped into a scalper and he offered to buy IronGirl's extra (206 section) for $20. He said he was selling all of his tickets at face including a couple of 100 level. He showed me a thick stack of 20-30 tickets. It looked like he was ready to take a bath after the Phish ticket market bubble imploded. We knew that it would be tough to get face for our extra. Luckily we found someone who offered us $40. No hassle. No haggling. No problem.
We had tickets on the side of the stage again but not as close as we were the previous night. I was pumped to be raging on Page side. As our section filled up it was very evident that we were hanging out with hardcore drinkers. That would set the tone for the evening.
Rowdy. Drunkards. Feisty.
One young girl sitting next to IronGirl was already sloshed and slurring her words when she took her seat. She was already pounding a beer when she returned a few minutes later with three beers which she carefully lined up on the floor in front of her. That's a blatant display of hardcore alcoholism and devotion to Phish. She loved the band so much that she didn't want to miss any of the music, but knew that it was gonna take her three beers to get through the first set. Chicks from upstate New York know how to party.
11/28/09 Albany, NYJust when I thought I was too critical about the band's performance on Friday,... I quickly stood my ground after the first set on Saturday. I had high expectations for Phish because I knew they could play better -- regardless of their song selection. The second set on Friday and first set on Saturday reminded me of the high octane brand of Phish that the boys were capable of delivering some more significant that Friday's sloppy jizzfest.
Set I: Party Time, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Uncle Pen, Sanity, Foam, Walk Away, NICU, Alaska, Split Open and Melt, Joy, Vultures, Backwards Down The Number Line
Set II: Seven Below > fry my brian jam > Ghost > kick me in the nuts jam > Cool It Down, Gotta Jibboo, Let Me Lie, Wolfman's Brother > Julius
E: You Enjoy Myself
The first set on Saturday included a healthy balance of newer songs from Joy and 3.0 jam sessions for heads in thirst of novel material. Meanwhile, the boys tossed out a couple of bustout covers, Uncle Pen and Walk Away, which catered to the jaded veterans. I dug it but was happy to hear a tighter sounding band from the night before.
Somewhere in the middle of Walk Away everything sort of clicked and Phish had finally hit their groove -- similar to the magic they were unleashing in Cincy. Although I didn't necessarily dig the song selection for the remainder of the set -- they quality of playing was top notch. To me, that's how I can tell if a band is on or not -- if they can win me over with a song that I'm on the fence about. OK, they couldn't keep my attention during Joy. I hit the head and attempted to buy a beer, but it seemed as though everyone else had a similar plan and the beer lines were backed up.
I almost got dinged in the head with an empty beer bottle at the end of set break. Good thing I stood up at the moment the bottle plummeted from the upper deck. My section also smelled like puke. I couldn't help but wonder if one of the drunks in the adjacent rows couldn't hold their mud and yaked up in the middle of Vultures?
I expected the second set to kick my ass but never saw it coming. And by "it" I mean the 50-minute span that left me speechless and made me wet my pants. As I explained to IronGirl, the Seven Below > Ghost and their ensuing jams were the primary reason why I went to see Phish -- and more importantly, why I dropped everything I was doing and traveled long distances and spent more money than I should on a single show. You never know what you're going to get. And in that case, you never know where Phish is going to take you ... and drop you off.
It's a different experience for different people. Even for me, it varies from show to show. But it's been a while since Phish beamed me back onto the Mothership. Sometimes you close your eyes and drift off... sometimes you break on through to that other side. Sometimes you get transported to the other side of the universe. Other times you get sucked into a blackhole and tapped in suffocating alleys inside your brain. That's the brute power of music... it transports you places that are not of this world, in this realm, and in this consciousness. Most spiritual people have to pray and meditate for hours to achieve that. Some druggies ingest different herbs and chemicals in order to transform their minds. For Phish, you simply have to allow yourself to be swept away (sometime it's easier with mind altering substances which help you cut those anchors which have been holding you down) with the music.
I lost myself twice on Saturday; during the Seven Below dissonance jam and the other time with the Ghost jam. I was so faaaaaaaaaaded during Seven Below that I almost face-planted into the row in front of me during an out-of-body experience. I had let everything go and got dragged around by the melodies. Luckily I caught myself at the right time and snapped out of my trance just as Fishman was pushing the boys towards Ghost.
And the Ghost trip? Shit. That's too heavy to describe. The Mothership metaphor is the best that I can do. Plus I wasn't even on psychedelics, which is why I was initially perplexed when I got snatched away for a few minutes. It had been a while but man, I was so happy to be back to "that" place. If you've been there, then you understand what I'm talking about. And if you don't, then I hope you get pulled down the rabbit hole one day and get to see it for yourself.
The jam out of Ghost into Cool It Down came out of nowhere. It was one of my favorite songs on Loaded and Phish preferred to play other Velvet Underground covers. Since Shoreline, Phish looked as though they scaled back the frequency of Rock and Roll and opted for Oh Sweet Nuthin'. Pleasant surprise to hear Cool It Down but it seemed as though Trey was teasing Gotta Jibboo and no one could figure out how to properly segued into it so they abruptly ended Cool It Down and started Jibboo. Sloppy, but it didn't matter. Trey did everything possible to keep the frenetic energy going.
The last three songs? Smoking as expected. There was one of those peak-crowd moments during Julius that was similar to Fluffhead from the night before. But I'm afraid those moments will be overlooked by the Seven Ghost Jams.
I could write on and on and on about the first hour of the second set of Saturday Albany, but what's the point? Go listen for yourself...