Tuesday, June 22, 2010

SPAC Part I: Step Into the Tweeprise

By Pauly
New York City

SPAC is an amazing state park, but the majority of the lawn area blows due to the elaborate construction of the "shed" which includes a balcony hovering over a covered section with reserved seating. The acoustic inside are amazing, but the lawn is another beast. The balcony shakes and sways depending on the song. That's when you know if the crowd is having fun -- by how much the balcony rattles.

I drew lawn seats in the lottery and luckily found a pair of pavilions at slightly above face. Someone was cool enough to trade three lawns for two pavs. We still had plenty of lawn seats to sell and headed to the lot early. I went to the shows with Irongirl. The rest of the Coventry crew had sit SPAC out (resting up for the last four of this run and most of the second leg). Last summer, we hooked Irongirl up with a pav seat for her first ever Phish show. Like many Deadheads, she slowly warmed up to Phish, and now she can't wait until they blow through town. She let me crash with her during the Albany shows which had one of my favorite moments of 3.0 -- Seven Below > Ghost. Irongirl is the perfect tour buddy with many years under her belt as a veteran of Dead tour. She also acted as the designated driver -- which allowed me to get shitfaced both nights, particularly Saturday.

Word got out that the police would be out in force for the Phish shows, thanks to Jonas' post. Because Irongirl doesn't drink, we weren't going to have a problem with cops searching her SUV for booze because they'd find none. Since she's a local, she knew the back roads into the park. We opted for the west lot (across the bridge) because that's where Shakedown was set up and where, according to Twitter, the po-po activity was rather light.

After a delicious stop at PJ's for BBQ, we made our way over to the west lot and passed through one of many sobriety checkpoints. A K-9 unit was circling a Subaru, while an officer tore through the back and trunk, and a little wookete in handcuffs was being led into a squad car.

We parked a couple of rows back from Shakedown. Within thirty seconds, Irongirl had a buyer for her Sunday lawn tickets. Two scalpers buzzed me and offered $25... then $30... and finally $35 for a ticket before I told him to fuck off. I found a frat boy who wanted to pay me face, but a hipster with a funny-Canadian accent tried to undercut me. He looked like a tweaker and said he was from Montreal. I cursed at him in French (called him a pig fucker) and told him to undercut the scalpers instead.

Within a half hour, I sold all four of my lawns; 2 for face and 2 for 80% market value. Not bad considering $30 seemed to be the standard buying price from the public. I passed by a guy my age who had a little kid with him wearing a Jeter t-shirt. I couldn't tell if he was a head or a scalper trying to dump his load before the show starts. One of the kids I sold my extra to told me one of those "close call" stories that become urban myths on Phish tour. He was riding with a friend of a friend, whom he described as "wookish" which almost got them screwed. The kid was riding dirty with a couple of zips of Diesel and 100 rolls. They stopped at a police checkpoint and the cop asked, "Do you have any liquor?"

The wook driver answered, "Well, um.... um.... um.... (pause)... no."

Wrong answer. The cop was dubious. In those instances you give up the booze as a "tax" for safe passage into the show, considering what everyone else was holding. The wook fucked up (and he was a walking "probable cause" and asking to get searched) and the kid in the back seat was shitting bricks. He assumed that he was going to jail -- K-9 wouldn't smell the rolls, but the weed would tip them off. The wook asked the cop if they poured out all the beer would they'd be free to go. The cop said no and asked for everyone's IDs. Luckily, he returned five minutes later, confiscated the booze, and told them to go. The kid got super lucky and sucked out without a thorough inspection from the K-9 unit. Meanwhile, he said he kicked the wook in the nuts after they parked the car for losing the booze and almost getting them tossed in jail.

The lot slowly filled up, but most of the vendors were keeping the beer sales on the ultimate down low. It had been a while since I wandered through a crowd and I heard the faint whispers of doses, molly, and headies.

Irongirl's mother had leftover expired generic lortabs, which I inherited. I popped a half in the lot to see what would happen. I couldn't tell if it had kicked in, so I popped a Perc and made our way to Sec 9. We were about 2/3 back on Page side. Not too shabby, but the folks around us were chill thrillseekers which always enhances a Phish show. The lawn is always tough because you almost without fail get stuck next to some moron at some point during the show that won't shut the fuck up or is too wasted that you fear he's gonna hurl all over you during Lawn Boy.

I spotted a guy with a FUNKY BITCH sign. The Joker had mentioned that Phish had turned into a request band, so it's in everyone's best interest to bring witty signs to shows in hopes of hearing your favorite (obscure) song.
97 - Year of the Funk.
98 - Year of the Cover.
04 - Oxy Years.
10 - Year of the Request.
The Phish closed out the second night in Hartford with a pair of Tweezer Reprise encores -- the second to make up for the Hershey show when Phish was short on time. Ah, the old Phish would have said, "Fuck the curfew, we'll pay the fine!" But 3.0 Phish features company men who honor their contracts. They left Tweeprize off of the playlist that night and tried to make up for it during Hartford's encore. I've seen a Sneaking Sally reprise at MSG in 1997 and the infamous Chalkdust Torture Reprise during the Deer Creek shows in 2000 (the indirect origins of why I often refer to the band as "the Phish" when Trey is quoting Peter Jennings). Alas, I was bummed that I missed out on the back-to-back Tweeprise.

So how could Phish top that? By kicking off SPAC with Tweezer Reprise, which had instantly set the tone for the night - we're funny, we're Phish, we can do whatever the fuck we want. After whipping the crowd into a frenzy, Chalkdust Torture added fuel to the fire. Talk about a hot start with two uplifting crowd favorites. At that point, I was so thrilled to be at Phish and not working inside a casino!

I wondered if the band saw the sign because Funky Bitch came in at third and kept up the high-energy first set. I scanned the crowd for more signs and spotted a guy with an orange sign with "Shaggy Dog" on one side and "Crosseyed and Painless" on the other. I was putting out the Crosseyed vibe.

During Yamar, two guys in front of us left their seats for a beer run. Within thirty seconds, a wook jumped from three rows back into their spot. Beware the seat jumpers during summer tour. The second you snooze, they will gobble up your seat until the see a new opening. Normally I don't care (unless it's my seat) but this wook happened to unleash a trail of farts during Fluffhead that almost suffocated me. Think Sadam unleashing mustard gas on the Kurds -- it was on that level of foul play.

By the end of Yamar, the 1+2 punch of the pharmies had kicked in and that warm fuzzy glow had ignited to a small forest fire. I was feeling no pain. In my notes, I scribbled down: "Axilla. Wasted." Yep, I had reached my peaked fuckedupness of the night, but I listened to the set a couple of times since then and the moment I reached my apex of insobriety of the weekend was the exact time that I thought Phish kicked it into a new gear with Axilla and Fluffhead. Page stepped up on Fluffhead and unleashed a bid for MVP as he seized the charge on both parts of Funky Bitch and Fluffhead. The energy level during the Albany Fluffhead was intense and as strong as I had personally witnessed last year. That was hard to replicate, but the crowd was still glowing. At this point, it's time to admit that Fluffhead needs to be skipped a day or three in the rotation. It needs to be one of those songs that appear once or twice a tour in order to retain an explosive response from the audience... much like Suzy Greenberg. Less is more.

I was tripping out on the funnels of light that Kuroda unleashed during Fluffhead, which was just around the time that it had gotten pitch dark outside so the lights finally had their full effect. I got hooked on watching the lights during Bathtub Gin, and listened a lot to Page's solos during the last part of their jam out.

The glowsticks were unleashed on the lawn during a raunchy Suzy Greenberg. Impressive display of glowing lights that pierced through the blackened sky. It was a matter of time before the sticks rained down into the pavilion and smacked me in the head. At setbreak, we saw a young bride in a gown with a bouquet. I assumed that it was legit, if not, it was one convincing (yet frightening) costume.

I must have been having a really good time because I don't have any notes written down during the first three songs of the second set. I was just having a good time and enjoying the music. I had been working so much the previous three weeks, the last thing I wanted to do was have to document every single thought.

I got to see Phish because of the music that they make up on the spot a few times a night during extended jams in specific songs that are vehicles for the unknown. Rock and Roll has morphed into a cover song to feature Page's chops but it also allows the band to open up and explore new territory. The jam out got off to a proper start but fizzled out. Phish took a shot and miss, but that's OK. I'd rather see them take those chances than play it safe... or even bore me with TTE.

Halfway to the Moon needs work, but I always love Page songs. Is it really about Manute Bol? All I know is that I was still floating up in the atmosphere at that point of the night. I was far from my peak, but still out there. I dug the segue into Caspian but they never finished it, which is the best part of the song. They continued to mellow out the set with Joy. That was the first time all set that I sat down to take notes. David Bowie saved the set. I caught a few disasters last summer and fall, but this one was definitely above average. I finally got to see Show of Life, which I expect will be in rotation all summer. Songs need work, at least a dozen times before they really take on a life of their own. I'm not gushing over the tune, but I have a feeling that it will be one of those songs that will improve the more they play it.

When the boys opened up the show with Tweeprise, I joked around that they might close with it -- the only way they could top themselves. Well, after hearing the first few notes to Coil I figured that it was not going to happen, especially when they followed it up with Character Zero. At that point, I estimated the chances at less than 1%. Phish rarely plays a three-song encore, so I was floored when they busted out the opening notes to Tweeprise. The crowd went berserk. Apeshit. Bananas. Trey was jizzing all over the crowd for a fourth time in 24 hours and they were lapping it up, me included.

I walked out pretty pumped to have seen any Phish. I knew it wasn't the best show I had ever seen, but I wasn't really paying too close attention. I was simply happy to be there, and as such, had a blast by just being able to hear Phish. Because I wasn't doing most of the tour, anything they had played was fresh for me -- no repeats even though they had begun to recycled some of the more popular songs since the tour kicked off.

We made our way out of the show and someone had the bright idea of selling nitrous on the bridge. First of all, it's dangerous to a bunch of hippie crackheads who might stumbled the wrong way and take a head dive into oncoming traffic. Plus, there was nowhere to scatter if they got caught by po-po. As we made our way to the other side, a couple of cops were racing trough the crowd to bust the tank. Location is the key to any successful business venture, but you also have to plan for suitable escape routes, which those balloon slingers failed to incorporate.

One show down, one to go.

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