Monday, December 29, 2003

Miami Phish Night 1: My Name is Henrietta!

What a show...slow start, hot finish!

12.28.03 American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL
Set I (1:14): David Bowie, Sample in a Jar, Tweezer, Bouncin', AC/DC Bag, Frankie Says, Llama, HYHU > Love You > HYHU, Tweezer Reprise
Set II (1:30): Gotta Jibboo, Suzy Greenberg > Miami Jam> Theme from the Bottom, Water in the Sky, Friday, Harry Hood
Encore: Sleeping Monkey, Loving Cup

What to expect? I had been in Miami less than two days and I have enough material for a novel! I got a feel for the city... the city of sunshine, plam trees, plenty of neon, hordes of Cuban exiles, and those old folks 'just waiting to die'... a city cut off on one side by the thunderous Atlantic Ocean and the swamps on the other side, led to an odd mix of freaks and miscreants. I wondered whether or not that would seep into the minds of the boys during the show. I knew the night would be interesting. I pulled out of Jerry's driveway and three blocks later, I found myself at an intersection with some asshole shining a spotlight at me. That asshole was a Miami Dade Police cruiser and the guy was checking me out. He pulled up and we were face to face. He looked like a bad ass. It was dark outside and he still wore sunglasses.

Miami Cop: "Your lights are too high. You didn't like it when I shined my light at you. So lower your high beams."
Pauly: "Gee whiz, Officer. This is a rental car, my first time driving at night. I'm sorry. But I don't think the high beams are on."
Miami Officer: "Well you better get the company to adjust the strength of those headlights. It's blinding drivers."
Pauly: "Yes sir."

And that was it. Man, I got lucky. It's always interesting when you are out of your tits stoned and are semi-interrogated by law enforcement figures. Those were the same night stick weilding yahoos who were beating up protestors weeks before. I knew what I was up against and I wanted to play it safe. All I had to do was blurt out, "I'm heading to Phish," and I would have been royally screwed and thrown into jail with some real criminals.

Spooked from my run-in with the cop, I carefully made my drive from Miami Shores to downtown Miami via historic Biscayne Blvd. and drove past the truly infamous Vagabond Motel. I drove through a couple of shady parts of town. Slowly, I eventually saw small pockets of Phisheads walking to the venue. Traffic began to build and I found myself right in front of the venue. The American Airlines Arena is a huge new building with plenty of neon, concrete, and it reeked of corporate sponsorship. A traffic cop forced me to go left and I found myself pulling up to the arena parking lot. I drove along side the arena and saw thousands of kids trying to get in the front door. The lines were long, the security checks were tedious, and everyone was restless trying to get to their seats. I followed the arrows to the parking garage and was relieved when I saw a sign "Parking $15" which to me was not too expensive considering I parked underneath the venue in a slightly more secure spot than some empty lot run by a surly ex-Vietnam vet with a huge flashlightand a cooler filled with warm MGD. I found a back gate to enter the show and avoided the huge surge of people up front. Security was taking too long and my bladder shrunk while I was in line. I met two kids in front of me from Riverdale. Too wierd. They're in college but they both went to SAR and live in North Riverdale. Small world, eh? Over the rest of the night, I realized that I did not meet one single Phishead from Miami... let alone Florida. It seemed like everyone I chatted with was from the East Coast.

The venue was fan friendly with plenty of space to walk and tons of vendors and bathrooms. I had a seat behind the stage and the security was lack. Instead of going to my seat in row 34, I walked right down to about fifteen rows behind the stage. Phish usually throws together a no-frills setup, and aside from lights, there are no other props. The view was clear, and I was very close. The best part... I sat right behind Page. I could see him play all night, which was my plan. I hoped I would not get kicked out of my seat. A group of eight folks sat down. We started chatting and I discovered they were from South and Central Jersey... Philly and Delaware. I met my first Icelandic Phishead! Sven's an American, but his parents are Icelandic and he was born in NYC. They guy was huge... like the size of an NFL lineman, but he was a gentle giant. You can't miss the guy... he was so big! He was my "historical landmark" which I used when I bolted to the bathroom... all I had to do was look for Sven and I knew where my seat was. A few minutes later, a hot chick wearing a Superman shirt sat night in between us. "This is my seat" she said and pointed between me and Sven. I nodded and smiled. From her accent, I detected a Boston native. Sure enough, she introduced herself. Maggie was a school teacher from Boston. Just like me, she had a single ticket and her friends were randomly dispersed throughout the arena. Her mother worked for American Airlines and hooked her up with a first class ticket. She told me an interesting story about her flight to Miami from Beantown. She sat next too a woman who was coked up the entire time. When Maggie went to the bathroom, she saw the leftovers of a sloppy cokehead... not just a couple of grains sprinkled here and there... but a shitload of poorly cut cocaine was all over the counter and the floor of the bathroom. Maggie was not happy because for the rest of the flight, the chick yapped her ear off the entire time. She told her about her husabnd who was 25 years older and complained the entire time about him, despite the fact he sat in the seat in front of them! They had also two kids back in coach which she described as "little monsters" and Maggie was bumming! When the cokehead trophy wife headed to the bathroom, Maggie pulled her sweater above her head and prenteded to fall asleep. It was a great story and I told her she needed to write it up for the next issue of Truckin'! All in all, I was happy with the people in my section. Everyone was cool and I had no problems. Usually I always got stuck nest to the "passed out kid", or the "drunk girl"... but for the first night in Miami, I had a solid crew.

Set 1... The boys from Vermont came out just around 8pm and noodled with a spacey jam. I wondered what the fuck they were doing and slid right into David Bowie. It was sloppy, but I wa spumped. I racked my brain to recall any Bowie openers... and I could not think of any. The jam out was nice and Page was funking it up. Sample in a Jar is a classic Phish tune and I'm a fan, but happy they got it out of the way in the first set. Trey was doinf his "rock star" licks and although I coul dnot see his face, I could see him jumping up and down. I was plesantly surprised with Tweezer. Something I once told Gil... "the best thing about Tweezer... is you know they'll play Tweezer Reprise!" echoed in my head. Tweezer was solid and they had a couple of good moments there. But I was still adapting to my surroundings and spent a lot of time checking out the people dancing in the first few rows. In the middle of Tweezer I had to take a wicked piss so you can imagine that I grew anxious with their jam out. I was hoping for a break... a nice slow song so I could bolt to the bathroom. Luckily, they broke out Bouncin' Around the Room... the classic "Pauly's Gonna Take a Piss" song. Judging by the lines at the men's room, everyone else had the same idea. The bathroom was closeby. I scored a quick $3 water and made it back to my seat to smoke up before the song ended. Perfect timing! AC/DC Bag was smooth, but nothing too special. The kid next to me was going nuts dncing around barefoot. He banged into me a few times during Bag, but he was having a good time. Frankie Says is a perfect "sit down and smoke song" and Llama was a high energy tune that got everyone back up and dancing again. Then it got interesting!

9:03 pm... Page starts the beginning of Hold Your Head Up... which means one thing... Fish Hijinks!! Since we sat behind the stage, before the show, Maggie pointed out the vaccuum adjacent to Fish's drum kit. I kinda forgot that there was no appearance of the vac during the Thanksgiving shows. Trey put down his guitar and sat in on drums. Fishman picked up his vac and headed to the front of the stage. He belted out Love You and began his vaccuum solo. All I could think about was... What the fuck am I doing in Miami, listening to a really short guy wearing a Moo-moo and playing a friggin' vaccuum cleaner solo?" It's moments like that which make me enjoy the oddities of my life. I smiled and applauded. Before they ended, Page, Mike and Trey kept playng HYHU and Fishman began running around like a hellcat! He was making his laps around the stage. He would run counter-clockwise and from my seat I could see all of his hijinks. He almost tripped on a monitor and waved when he recovered. He'd stop at the mic and wave to the crowd and continue running around the band. Fishman was beeing goofy as he rolled around in the deep puddles of Miami cheese, yeah he's the namesake behind the band. Afterall, the band's not called Phmike or Phtrey, right?" He introduced the band and told everyone, "My name is Henrietta."When he sat down, they smoked out a sick Tweezer Reprise and I was bumming because the band just got cooking!!

Setbeak: Zobo called me and he was up in Section 308. I saw him waving when he called and I made my way up. He was hanging out with some freinds from Atlanta and all of our Japanese friends were sitting at random places. It was good to see him and we made plans to meet up after the show. Emi wanted to see me and the last time we hung out was at the NYE show last year. She's good freinds with all of my Japanese friends from Tokyo, the guys from Horse; Kohei, Yuh, and Jun. I scored a $6 beer and wandered back to my seat after I spotted Sven. Maggie told me that her friends called from the upper deck. She invited them to come down, since there was plenty of room behind the stage, but they were too wasted too move!

Set 2... I called it! Gotta Jibboo is song that they boys nearly played out to death during the 1999 Fall Tour (I saw it every other show with Angela it seemed that year), but I had a great time and the jam out was some of the best Phish of the night. Suzy Greenberg got the arena rocking! I'm always a fan, and I really dig the "funk-out" jam in the middle lead by Page! The jam out, which I dubbed the Miami Jam was a free formed bluesy jam. Chad, Zobo's buddy, said he called it a Jesus Left Chiacgo Jam. He's right, Trey's guiatr was heavy laced with low blues licks. I liked parts of the jam and got restless at other points until they sugued into Theme from the Bottom. I appreaciated the tempo changes in Theme, which is one of my favorite songs when they boys do a great job on it. Again, I was happy to watch Page play during Theme. I got to see Trey a zillion times, but it's always a treat to watch Page at work. The jam out was sweet and mellow and I thrilled with the song selection at that point. Aside from Bouncin, I was content with everything. Water in the Sky was up and the crowd cheered during the "filter out the Everglades" part. Friday was next and I really like that tune a lot, so I was pumped to hear it. Mostly everyone sat down to smoke and Maggie was poiting out the "really wasted" people. One guy took his shirt off and was waving it around. Another girl was spinning around in circles, and one guy kept yelling "Thank you!" after every song. Harry Hood to close the set was perfect way to end the night. It was a solid 15 minuted version and I had no complaints. I did not expect a good encore so when they broke out a rare Sleeping Monkey and when Fishman belted out a vocal solo, Trey turned his back to the crowd, but faced us and everyone in our section. We could see him cracking up with laughter. Trey wa shaving a ball and Fishman was being his weird self. If they just played Monkey, I would have left without any complaints, but they added a smoking and sizzling Loving Cup, a song I love to hear. Page was marvelous and Trey was being his "rock star" self as they busted it out and ended the show at 11:30 on the nose!

Afterthoughts... The day after I'm still smiling from the night before. It wasn't the best show they played this year. It wasn't something that people are going to look back and say "Wow, talk about an epic night!" But I had a great time, hung out with some interesting folks, and saw a Fish vac solo! The best part of last night was that it was just the first night of four shows! Yeah the boys were warming up and I didn't have to travel to another city to see them again tonight!! Anyway, I met up with Emi and her friends from Japan. They were all excited to meet me. Emi was explaining to her friends who I was and she spoke quickly in Japanese until I heard her say, "Tao of Pauly!" And the rest of her friends giggled and said, "We know your website!" Right on, I thought. They don't read very good English, but they visit the Tao anyway. To all my Japanese readers... Domo Arigato!

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