That's the best word to describe the opening night at the Greek and summed up the music, the song selection, the scene, the vibe, the venue, and the crowd. Mellow. And not in a bad way. We had fun. Believe me, we all had fun and raged it up, but with mellow undertones.
A friend of the Joker's, J-Law, lives in Berkley and she summed up this town the best, "Berkeley is totally not what people expect. It's not as big as a party scene, with not as many hippies as you think. "
But if anything, it's mellow. The Greek is nestled in the hills on the campus of UC-Berkeley. Simply put, there's no parking lot scene. No Shakedown. Just a lot of wastrels wandering around windy streets in the hills. Any of the university parking lots were closed off until the work/school day ended. As a result, the tiny streets surrounding campus were packed with clueless people in cars stuck in traffic while looking for anything remotely resembling a parking lot. Our crew settled on street parking. Carrie and the Joker scored a premium spot 2 blocks south of the Greek on Hearst. My girlfriend lucked out with a spot a block around the corner.
I have a theory about the lot: the lot scene directly affects the vibe of the show. For example, the Miami lot scene was a vast wasteland of fuckedupness. With people arriving at the Miami lots in early afternoon, they had five or six hours to get really cooking and sauced. It also gave dealers an opportunity to flood the scene with their illicit drugs. The crowd was rocked to the tits and rowdy in Miami and affected the shows. It reminded me of Phish trying to be a beastmaster and taming the monster (crowd).
At the Greek, the lack of the lot scene meant it was a mellower crowd. It seemed like without much of a pre-party scene, heads got in line earlier than usual. After all, it was a GA show, but without anything to do, fans went with their only option -- wait in line. The show was scheduled at 6:30 to accommodate an early curfew -- anywhere from a 10pm to 11pm curfew. It was going to be an early start and early night for Phish, which contributed to the mellowness of the night.
Carrie didn't have a ticket, so the Joker stood in line for a Pollack at 2pm. He was one of the last people to snag a poster and within minutes, he traded a Pollock for a ticket. Carrie was set. We arrived shortly after and it felt a little weird drinking in a parked car on a random hill. I ate a batch food from a joint on Shattuck and almost soiled myself. Luckily I found a cafe with a toilet. They were out of TP, so I had to use industrial sandpaper paper towels to wipe myself. As a result, I clogged the shitter. That's how I ended my first night of pre-partying. A clogged toilet.
We waited in line which slowly inched up. Little to no sales. Lots of Kush going around. Grams of DMT were selling for $150. Extra tickets were $200-250. One guy was holding up a bunch of $20 bills. That's not going to work. You need to be holding up three or four Benjamins. That's what gets people's attention.
After a light search, we got inside around 5:40pm with most of the key spots filled up. By 6pm, the inside of the Greek looked almost packed to capacity. The Friedmans saved us spots on Fishman's side about four or five rows up. The only bad spot in the Greek are parts of the sloping lawn.
"The last time I was here (for Cheese)," said Wildo, "There was a naked guy up on the lawn, and he was jerking off."
Before the show began, I took note of a few signs like "Sweet Jane" and "Chalkdust Reprise." A few guys were holding up stuffed fished while a handful wore togas, including Fink and the Wookie. Benjo and I drafted first set songs to gamble on, while folks in my section were speculating if the boys were going to cover any Dead tunes.
They took the stage at 6:50, only 20 minutes after the posted time on my ticket. They are usually 35-40 minutes late, but working under duress with a strict curfew. Possum opener was a big wet sloppy welcome back kiss. It was warm and nice, but definitely a lil wet and sloppy. Wolfman's included a little more groping, but I sensed the boys were still shaking off any rust that they acquired during the four-week layoff. I always think of church during Divided Sky with lots of converted souls thrusting their arms into the air.
Funky Bitch was a standout. I wasn't expecting it, which made it a pleasant surprise. In the late 90s, Funky Bitch was probably one of the Top 3 songs that I wanted to hear at every show. It's a sincere treat these days and as the show progressed, it stood out as a personal highlight.
All I recall about Kill Devil Falls are the blunts that kept getting passed my way via one of my industrious friends who rolled three during the first set. I was irked at Halley's Comet. For the first time since the show began, Phish finally got on a roll and rediscovered their groove. Alas, just when their jam was taking off, it was abruptly halted by Trey who pushed everyone into Sample in a Jar. It was like having hot a sweaty sex and then all of a sudden your girlfriend tells you to stop because she wants to cuddle. Trey tried to make it up to everyone with an over-the-top ending jam in Sample, but I was still salty with the direction of the set. Why play Halley's if you're not gonna let it rip? That's a vehicle for some serious booty shaking.
NICU was fun, and as expected Bouncin' was the "Pauly takes a piss song" of the set. The boys smoked the shit out of Antelope, but just when things were grooving, it was time for a set break. 80 minute first set. Good, yet mellow.
The sun went down during set break. Benjo and I drafted new songs for the second set. We debated the effects of mixing uppers and downers, while smoking tuff. If anything, there was a ton of heavy weed toking going on in the crowd. It's NoCal after all, but the excess herbage added to the mellower crowd.
Bathroom lines were ridiculous. "Did y'all piss on the fence?" wondered the Joker, since that was what mostly everyone had resorted to doing to alleviate the stress of holding it in.
Down with Disease was a mixed bag. They took a shot at a jam and missed. I'm happy they took a chance, but they definitely got a little lost.
"Is this an Oxy jam?" wondered Benjo when he looked a little perturbed with mindless Trey noodling.
"Naw," I reassured him. "They just made a wrong turn and got a little lost."
Free set everyone back on track. I took notice of the jittery lights for the first time all night. Thumbs up. Noticed Mike sounded spectacular in the sound mix. Sometimes you can't hear him enough and he gets drowned out.
I just recall smoking a ton of hash during Alaska. The next batch of the show was my favorite with Get Back on the Train and Maze. Funk, then smoke. In that order. I jotted down in my notes that Get Back on the Train was the first time all show when I felt that Phish had finally got their proverbial shit together. Maze was a rollercoaster of emotions. Parts of the jam were tight and sloppy, which is always an interesting combo. But whoever was manning the "confetti canon" was spot on with the release of the confetti bomb because it exploded on cue when Trey pulled out of the Maze jam. Even Wildo noticed that bit. "Perfect timing," he added.
I had already taken a piss, so during Joy I looked up pizza joints for the post-show party back at our hotel. My girlfriend was giving me shit about it on Twitter. Wildo thought that I was a genius. "I'm hungry and I got cash," is what he said to me. I tried to order three pies from North Shore Pizza online, but ran into a connection issue and my order was killed. By then Joy was almost over, so I just bookmarked their phone number.
Tweezer was all Mike. Nothing more to say than that. Listen for yourself.
Fluffhead is/was/will always be a crowd favorite. My only gripe about Fluffhead is that it appears a little too much in rotation. Maybe if they just scale it back and play it every fifth or six show instead of every third or fourth, it would pack a more powerful punch.
Benjo, my buddy who is French and has now seen seven shows enjoyed Fluffhead, one of the songs he was looking forward to hearing. "They were building up to that peak," he mentioned. "It was tight and well executed."
For the encore, Trey grabbed a sign that read "Stage Banter" and he asked everyone to thank Paul Languedoc for building him a new guitar -- his fifth. Trey had it for a week or so and was so fucking pumped to have a new toy. Now I understood why parts of the first set were a little reticent -- Trey was still feeling out his new axe. He waited until the second set to finally let her rip.
Once Trey finished talking about his new badass guitar, they tore into an Exile on Main Street cover which Phish has been playing for years -- Loving Cup. I'm not complaining, but I'd like to hear Torn and Frayed enter the rotation more frequently, or some other tunes from Exile.
Tweezer Reprise ended the set with Trey hoisting his new Languedoc high over his head in true rock star fashion. He loves it too much to smash it to pieces a la Pete Townsend or Jimi Hendrix.
And that's was it. The show ended. Trey had a new guitar. We had a fun, but mellow show. One night down at the Greek. Two more to go.
Epilogue... we returned to our hotel. We partied it up. The Wookie almost passed out in Wildo's bed. The pizzas finally arrived. We bough almost $80 worth. The driver almost balked when I handed him a $100 bill. "Take it. It's not a fugazi. It's from the poker room at the Rio in Las Vegas."
As we were winding down the night, we heard the ruckus in the hallway. First of all, our hotel has like five buildings and it reminded me of a college dorm on a Saturday night with plenty of people hanging out, smoking up, blasting music, and wandering around wasted. I guess our building was the pet-friendly one, which meant that random tour dogs were all over. The suite next to us had two huge ass dogs. I think they were Shetland ponies. With the dogs around, it was easy to spot one older surly guy. When I was paying for the pizzas he was making a scene and kicking one of the doors down the hall. An hour later, the local police had him in handcuffs and were dragging him outside. In all, five squad cars were outside. We peeked through our blinds and saw two guys slumped against the back of one car while handcuffed and a group of four officers were huddled trying to figure out what to make of the scene. We stuff a wet towel in front of the door, double bolted the fucker, and stayed in our room. Who knows who else got hauled off and for what offense.
At the July4th show, we had a crazy scene at our custy hotel in Alpharetta. Two sets of tanks were up on the third and fourth floors. The local cops shut that down and dragged out a wook in handcuffs, but allowed the Joker to have his dance party in the lobby.
Never a dull day on Phish tour. The last two night's I've been on tour, the police showed up at the hotel at 4am. Let's hope that doesn't happen again!