Sunday, June 21, 2009

Alpine Valley Vol. 1: Ghosts and Probation Officers

By Pauly
Lake Delavan, WI

"LSD is fun... isn't it?"

"Those were low doses. Imagine if we had five?"

I love the morning-after conversations among my friends. Phish concerts are epic journeys in their own right let alone the effects of the party favors that send most people shooting down the rabbit hole at 120 mph. My buddies sat on rocking chairs on our porch over looking a majestic Wisconsin Lake, or a "watering hole" as our redneck friend Daddy would say. They recapped the events from the previous night. Even though those moments happened hours before, they recanted them with a semblance of glory like Vietnam veterans piecing together their epic war stories.

The hotel/lodge we're staying out is located on a golf course with swanky tennis courts. It's way too classy for our crew and it's definitely weird to see several members of the hippie circus invade a tiny little country club community. The influx of tour rats into this Wisconsin hamlet resulted from the spill over from the two Phish shows scheduled at Alpine Valley to end the first leg of their first summer tour since 2004.

We woke up in Indiana on Friday completely drenched at sunrise. We fought the perils of the mud, collapsed our drenched tent, and made the arduous trek from Indiana through Illinois and towards Wisconsin. We ate at Chaka Barrel and were utterly demoralized by Chicago traffic which cut our two-vehicle caravan into half. Mr. Fabulous had the navigation device and his computer took him on a wild goose chase through the back roads of Illinois and Wisconsin, while Iggy, GMoney, and I were caught on the highway to hell with nothing more than an old highway map and a several hits of liquid sunshine. Iggy was tilting pretty hard as he handled driving duties while GMoney and I smoked tuff through the graveyard of automobiles that slowly crept through the congested roads encircling Chicago.

Alpine Valley is a place of mixed emotions for me. Phish always performed some of their best shows at the venue, but the massive lawn sloped at such a tough angle that it really killed your knees and back by the end of a two-night run. Plus, the local federales are a bunch of overzealous Nazis. They sent out hordes and waves of undercovers (as one Disco Sister warned... some were even in dreadlocks because it was hard to distinguish between friend and foe). The long arm of John Q. Law curtailed any sort of vending at Shakedown. In addition, they revoked heads' party passes left and right by handing our tickets for possession of mary jane and possession of paraphernalia. Alpine Valley was always known as a hot spot... but with these depressed economic times, the local municipality had a reason to generate even more funds... which meant a harder crackdown on Phisheads.

Despite the Draconian measures at Alpine Valley, we decided to pre-party at our lakeside cabin. Daddy and his Indiana crew also stayed at the same complex. He brought over his banjo for a ripping jam session on our porch. We eventually loaded up the van and headed to the venue somewhat late. I had less than one hour to sell an extra lawn ticket. The night before, extra lawn tickets at Deer Creek were going for as low as (Free > $20). I wanted to get around $30 for mine since I paid $60.

One shirtless wookie offered me $25 or five Klonapins. Since most wooks were looking for a miracle, I almost sold it on the spot. I held out and ten minutes later, a different kid bought my ticket for $50. I was surprised when he handed me the cash, since there were hundreds if not thousands of extra lawns floating around the lot.

My girlfriend scored me a pavilion seat (in the same section as Daddy). The rest of my crew had lawn seats and I headed down front to rage out. Daddy arrived with one of his boys from Hilljack, Indiana. They are a rough and tumble bunch and know how to fuckin' party. One of his "Hey Bub!" crew dug through a bag of shrooms. He accidentally dropped a stem on the ground. A random guy walked by and stepped on the stem, crushing it into several dozen small pieces. Without even blinking, the Hey Bub guy scooped up the broken shrooms and popped them in his mouth. That's how the Hilljack Indiana boys roll.

"Make sure you blog that," said Daddy.
6/20/09 Alpine Valley, WI

Set 1: PYITE, Runaway Jim, Stash, Yamar, Bathtub Gin, Kill Devil Falls, Train Song, Farmhouse, SParkle, Antelope

Set 2: Waves, Sample in a Jar, Maze, Makisupa Policeman, Ghost > Lizards, YEM > NICU, Prince Capsian, Waste, Fire

Encore: Character Zero
The boys took the stage a good 45 minutes late as Gordo sported his trademarked sleeveless black t-shirt. For the first night against the green-shaded backdrop of Alpine Valeey, he went with the purple pants look.

They kicked off the show with a courtly version of Punch You in the Eye, both a delicious and tantalizing appetizer for the Alpine two-day feast. I took that song choice as a bold statement... Phish was not fucking around.

Jim and Stash were well-sculpted repeats for me. I caught them both a few times already on this tour, so I used both songs to smoke up, chat with Daddy, and watch the crowd. I get off witnessing the elation of fans who are seeing Phish for the first time. Brings a tad of warmth into my cold darkened heart which had been jaded by the decline of the Phish scene in the Phish 1.0 and Phish 2.0 eras.

I love to hear Mike belt out the tunes and I also dig the reggae and calypso side of Phish. Yamar is a perfect vehicle for both, and the beginning of my favorite part of the first set. The crowd favorite Bathtub Gin brought everyone to their feet and belting out the lyrics. I circled it on my set list because I couldn't stop dancing the entire time. Oh, and that's when everything I had ingested had kicked in.

I have caught several live versions of Kill Devil Falls and it's been getting better each time. Daddy calls the song "Chalkdust Torture, Jr." and he has a good point. The first part has a similar hook, but the second half gives the band plenty of wiggle room for improvisation.

"I love the jams the best," said GMoney. "Especially when they're jamming over different landscapes. I think Kill Devil Falls is played in a minor key, which is a sadder note. One note... a whole different world."

If we were indoors, the high-energy Antelope would have melted the walls. People were losing their minds as Phish closed out the set with a smokin' version. Some dude next to me was nearly jizzing all over the setlist as he looked over my shoulder and scribbled down a couple of notes.

"Best set of Phish ever!" he proclaimed long enough to take Trey's cock out of his mouth.

I rolled my eyes. Sometimes, fans have guzzled so much Kool-Aid that their heroes can do no wrong. It was a hot set, but no way the best ever.

At setbreak, Daddy and I headed up to the top of the hill to find his sister and the rest of the Hilljack Hey Bubs. My cell phone was water logged after the Deer Creek downpour and luckily GMoney gave me his antiquated cell phone to use as a backup so I could send Twitter updates. However, the reception was so shotty that I just gave up on entertaining the Twitheads and just accepted the fact that I couldn't receive or make calls/send messages. GMoney, Mr. Fabulous, and Iggy were on their own somewhere in the sea of humanity, while I hunkered down with Daddy and the Hilljack Hey Bubs.

Smokin' tuff on the lawn and gambling on the opening song for the second set? That's one of my favorite set break past times. Waves was not on my radar and a mellow way to kick things off.

"Perfect name for that song," said GMoney. "Waves has lots of swells. The song swells up in instantly as the song goes along."

"Sample in a Jar? It's the favorite song for Dave Matthews Band fans who are attending their first Phish show," explained Daddy. "The louder someone sings it, the bigger the Dave fan."

Maze was cookin' and out of control, like a bull jacked up on crystal meth inside a china shop. Hard-drivign jams, like back in the mid-1990s. A massive glowstick bombardment erupted on top of the hill as they rained down everywhere. A shitfaced Daddy stumbled around and spotted one on the ground. As he bent down to pick it up, a small figure leapt out from the darkness and scooped it up. Daddy, snatched the glowstick out of the hand of the child, who couldn't have been more than four or five years old. The kid sulked off.

"Dude, you're such a dick!" I screamed to Daddy. "You stole a glowstick from a tour kid!"

"A fuckin' kid? No way, that was a fuckin' troll. I saw the pointy ears on that fuckin' elf."

Makisupa is on my top 10 list of favorite songs, so I always love any show when they break it out. This version was the "call my probation officer" as Trey shared a bit of his self-deprecating humor. Big Red was able to joke about his former opiate addiction and previous troubles with the law in front of almost forty thousand shitfaced heads. I heart irony. Who's got my phamries?

Ghost is one of the songs that I could hear every night. Phish did not disappoint everyone at Alpine Valley and unleashed a pulsating rendition.

"Ghost was so evil, that I had to rub one out in the middle of the jam," explained Daddy on why he was spotted masturbating on the lawn during the second set.

I kept my penis in my pants, but I gotta say, I had a stiffy for Trey at that portion of the show. Thumbs up for the Alpine Ghost. Shit, the boys tore it up with Ghost the entire tour... Asheville, Jones Beach, and now Alpine Valley.

The segue from Ghost into Lizards made me smile. I'm pretty sure that's the first time they ever bridged those two songs. It wasn't the smoothest of transitions but kudos for brazen attempt.

The crowd on the hill was rocking for You Enjoy Myself and I always judged the intensity of the song by the frenetic volume of the fans chanting "Boy. Man. God. Shit!"

They boys skipped the vocal jam and drifted into a peppy NICU. Instead of Leo getting the nod, Trey called for a solo from "The Cactus." That was followed up by a more subtle and soothing Prince Caspian. It was fun to watch an imbalanced Daddy sing along to the lyrics while trying not to tumble down the hill.

During Waste a cute Phishy chick had lost her wallet. She scurried around the top of the hill with a green glowstick in a desperate attempt to locate her wallet. She returned at the end of the song with a more powerful flashlight and kept shining the lights near our feet.

"What are you doing?" asked Daddy as he checked out the curves on the heady momma.

"I'm looking for my lost wallet," she said on the verge of tears.

"Well, if you give me a blow job, I'll let you keep my wallet."

Only could Daddy get away trying to pick up Phishy chicks during Waste. It was her loss. He had over $200 in his wallet including a coupon for a free oil change at Jiffy Lube.

The cover of Jimi Hendrix's Fire was the cherry on top of the Phish sundae sprinkled in molly and rainbows. I loved watching the hypnotic crowd as they boogied down to the scintillating set closer. There's a fine line between Trey demonstrating his Hendrix groove and outright masturbating on stage, but he properly towed that line.

"I love that shit," said GMoney. "The folks lapped up that Hendrix groove."

Phish are show business pros and understand the mantra, "Always leave the audience wanting to come back for more." That's what sucks about a single song encore. They're teasing you and leaving you with just one more small dose of Phish before they take a bow and make their exit. In this instance, Iggy really wanted to hear Character Zero, so I was glad that he got to hear it live.

"It's hooky as hell," said Iggy. "I just fuckin' love it."

Overall, a fun show with a couple of valleys but tons of peaks. Leaving the lot was a nightmare. It took over two hours to exit the venue, so I took a nap in the back seat of Mr. Fabulous' vehicle while Iggy and GMoney drank heavily and befriended a group of wookies with a tour dog. They were grazing in a massive bag of rabbit food.

The boys from Vermont are having tons of fun. The more fun that they have... the better music that they play. And the better they play? The more fun that I have.

One more show to go, before the Mothership blasts off and whisks away all of these space kids, wookies, and Phish denizens.

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