Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dispatches from AC: Whole Lotta Zeppelin

By Pauly
Atlantic City, NJ

Friday's rager and ensuing festivities meant a super slow Saturday morning, but somehow I rallied and sobered up enough in time for a proper diner breakfast before heading to the Trop to play in the Phamily Poker Classic. The guys at Mockingbird Foundation (Kevin and Charlie) hosted a kick ass charity poker tournament. The back of the poker room was filled with familiar Phisheads with proclivities to cards, and for the first time two of my worlds collided. I've played in almost a hundred charity events during my stint in the poker industry, and by far, the Phamily Poker Classic was one of the most enjoyable I've ever been a part of.

Space was limited and the popular event had been sold out for weeks. I was fortunate enough that the gang tapped me to be one of the bounty players. Before the tournament started, I chatted with Pete, Jim, Scotty, and Basher. Luckily, I got to sit at the same table as Benjo and Irongirl. Too bad I didn't last very long. I was not the first player to bust out, but I was the first bounty player to get knocked out. Poker is a bitch sometimes, something I know all too well. Cameron from the Pharmer's Almanac sent me packing. For successfully knocking me out, he won a Live Phish CD and an autographed copy of my book, Lost Vegas. On a cool note, I was able to get a cool poster by Erin...

Benjo and Irongirl didn't last much longer. While I waited for them on the rail, I chatted with Dave "ZZYZX" Steinberg and Mitchell, one of the few British heads who made the journey across the pond for the three-show run. ZZYZX was convinced that the boys were going to cover Little Feat on Halloween, as the swirling rumors shifted from Zeppelin to Genesis and now Little Feat. My buddy, the legendary AlCantHang, made a cameo at the Trop and he was ready to help us pre-party once everyone was knocked out of the tournament.

At the Trump, we noticed an incapacitated guy on a stretcher being wheeled away by paramedics. He was an old fat guy and not an overdosing noob. The lounge area (that had a DJ) just inside the Boardwalk entrance of Trump had been the place to be the last two nights. I ran into a guy from college that I had not see in 16 years. The area was swarmed with heads and more folks were in desperate search of extras with their index fingers pointed toward the heavens. More people wore costumes, which added a bit more flair to the evening. I found Gavin and he was attempting to sell his Saturday ticket for Halloween. He was unable to find anyone to hook him up.

In front of Boardwalk Hall

More undercover cops prowled the boardwalk area, especially the beach, where they broke up a couple of tank mongers and whisked away any other miscreants. In the seaside town of sketchiness, you really have to fuck up big time to get hauled away by local po-po.

We headed inside and about 40-50% of the crowd was in costume. Benjo had a theory that they were folks not going to the Halloween show, so it was their only chance to dress up. I thought he had a good point, but the actual percentages were lower, and yeah, it was definitely cool to see a few creative costumes.

We were rocking the second row of one of the 200 level sections and squeezed Gavin and Irongirl in our row. The lights went down and Phish kicked off the Saturday night show with Kill Devil Falls. They avoided playing a lot of newer material during the Friday show, but kicked Saturday off with one of their more harder-rocking songs from Joy. Unfortunately, my one-hitter got clogged and I had to perform emergency surgery on the glass piece.

Cavern is a turbo boost vehicle usually appearing toward the end of the first set, so this one popped up unexpectedly. I could tell that the techies diligently worked on the sound deficiencies from the previous night. Gordo could be heard in the mix much better in Foam and Trey was turned down a notch (but Big Red was still loud as fuck).

The show finally reached cruising altitude with Guleah Papyrus. The highlight (and one of my favorite moments of the run thus far) was the pause near the end when CK5 killed the stage lights. The crowd took advantage of the pause as the band stood in darkness, and a full aerial assault of glowsticks quickly filled the air and the crowd got louder and louder as more and more glowsticks were hurled around the longer that the band paused. They ripped back into Guleah and the crowd below me trembled.

Chalkdust started off innocent enough before things got really really really interesting. During the jam out, Benjo tapped me on the shoulder when we both heard a Zeppelin tease. I thought it was just that -- a Jimmy Page lick that Trey was taunting us with -- but it ended up a whole lot more as they tore into Whole Lotta Love for about ninety seconds of insane shredding. CK5 lit up the crowd with those bright light crowd lights and you could see everyone reeling in a collective orgasm with a little taste of Zeppelin, before they returned to Chalkdust like nothing had happened.

Ha Ha Ha was up next, which was Phish's way of letting everyone know that the joke's on us. No Zeppelin for Halloween.

Page took the lead with a cover of Walk Away, and he usually is the focal point of the jam out, but the Zeppelin interlude in Chalkdust lit a fire under Trey's ass and he just shredded the hell out of the jam (and dare I say, stepped on Page's toes and sorta nudged him out of the way for a bit of superfluous wanking). Little did we know that vibe would be carried out through the remainder of the show.

The crowd ate up Wolfman's and the usual high-octane funk was replaced with a more of a Latin-samba rhythm accompanied by an odd vocal jam that eventually morphed into Undermind. Fishman let loose his inner octopus and was drumming with what sounded like eight simultaneous arms.

Loved the frantic, menacing Page intro to Gin and the band was met with a superlative reaction to the "we all take a bath" lyric. Gin jam had a few juicy parts that I'm eager to hear again. The set ended with a poignant Squirming Coil. It was a song that I used to loathe in the 1.0 era and I eventually embraced it in 2.0, but now I'm digging it. Coil went from hate > tolerance > love in a decade's time. Fish, Gordo, and Trey snuck off stage when CK5 darkened the stage lights, save for two white spot lights hovering over Page as he pecked away a soulful solo. He took a bow and left the stage to end the set.

The second set kicked off with the funk and a Tube that I had been waiting to hear for a while. I had some phone issues at that point and figured out that the mothership was blasting the venue with an electromagnetic pulse which is one of the reasons my battery was getting drained in a matter of hours.

After a savory Possum (Gordo was the obvious MVP) that included a few more Whole Lotta Love teases, it was time for blast off with a ground-shaking Tweezer. The AC version will go down in Phishtory as the infamous "Zeppelin Tweezer" because of all the teases and medley that was snaked and peppered throughout the song. Unofficially, I had scribbled down Tweezer > Heartbreaker > Tweezer > Ramble On > What Is And What Should Never Be > Tweezer > Stairway to Heaven, but there were plenty of other bits tossed in there (that I also can't wait to listen to again). IronGirl thought she heard a Castles in the Sand tease toward the end of Tweezer just before they explored Stairway. Irongirl mentioned that the guy next to him was in tears during the Zep bustouts.

"Happy Halloween!" Trey shouted after they finished up. "See ya next year!"

If you were hoping for Zeppelin on Halloween, that Tweezer pretty much let you know where you stand. But as Benjo pointed out, "They played all songs that were not on Physical Graffiti. So there's still hope." Yeah, true, but it's a real glimmer of hope at this point.

The Zep stuff was so powerful and unexpected that it overshadowed what I thought was one of the better bits of the second set: Halley's Comet > 2001 > David Bowie. Figured that 2001 would have been saved for the third set on Halloween, but they managed to squeeze it between a ripping Halley's and a sultry erection-inducing Bowie.

They downshifted into a mellow Show of Life, which the guy behind me welcomed because he said that he needed a breather after all of the Zeppelin and the 2001 dance party.

Smoked tuff during Backwards. Trey rushed over to Gordo and whispered something in his ear and then bolted to tell Page. Trey called for another Zep audible, this time with a bong-rattling Good Times Bad Times. Man, talking about a smoking way to end a fantastic set of Phishy Zeppelin. As my buddy Bruce remarked, "Yeah, the Zeppelin songs were sloppy, but who the fuck cares. It was one of the best Phish shows I have ever seen."

The encore included a slow-starting but tension-building Sleeping Monkey, before the conclusion of Tweezer Reprise. Not to be outdone by themselves, Trey whipped his pud out one last time for a final bit of Whole Lotta Love shredding before they ended the show.

Whole lotta Zeppelin is what we got served up on a Saturday in Atlantic City. They definitely through hardcore Zep fans a bone with the Zep-heavy show, so fans won't be pissed (or "too pissed" as Benjo said) when they play something else on Halloween.

As Saturday night bled into Sunday morning, the rumors shifted away from Little Feat and headed towards Frank Zappa territory. I'm still holding out for Hendrix.

Eleven shows down this tour. One more remaining, including three sets for Halloween. At this point, I don't care what they play. It's gonna be a rager/throwdown/asskicking no matter what they play.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dispatches from AC: Welcome to Atlantic City

By Pauly
Atlantic City, NJ

Benjo got lost in the Bronx when he took the wrong subway and ended up deep in the hood. I told him that was the perfect workout for hanging in Atlantic City, the land of sketchy, for a three-show run with the Phish. IronGirl drove us from NYC to AC in record time. We settled into our hotel, picked up provisions for a 72-hour bender, and made our way down to the Boardwalk.

No lot scene, which was expected, but even a mini-Shakedown that popped up on a side street was shut down by the local po-po. The scene in front of Boardwalk Hall became a general Shakedown area as heads wandered back and forth on the boardwalk. Lots of extras floating around. Tanks were hissing on the beach, which also became a haven for pot smokers. The nitrous mafia even handed out fliers that offered up hotel-room delivery of tanks. Welcome to Atlantic City.

The venue was massive, and looked much smaller in pictures. The room was sort of a half-tunnel. The large rounded ceilings reminded me of subway stops in London or in Spanish Harlem in NYC. You could fly a mothership inside and have a pro football game on the floor. The moment I sat down I thought, "This would be an amazing place to hear Trey shred Zeppelin."

I popped a party favor before I got in line and it hit me hard.

"Like a ton of bricks," mentioned Benjo.

I was pretty schwasted and the show had not even begun. I barely survived a trip to the bathroom. On my way back, I struggled to stand up straight and confessed to Benjo, "Brah, I'm schwilly. It feels like that scene in Fear and Loathing when Hunter sniffed ether and they can't even walk through the casino."

Benjo knew exactly what I was talking about. I described the inebriated sensation to that amusement park ride that shoots you straight up into the air for a reverse free fall. Before the set started, I hung out with Branden and Dallas Dave.

The light went down and the band huddled in front of Page's rig. We new something acapella was upcoming, but didn't expect the Star Spangled Banner, but should have because of the gigantic flag hung up on the wall at the back of the venue.

My Soul was up next and the bluesy soul song was in Page's wheelhouse. It was evident from the get go that: 1) Page was going to be the man all night, and 2) Trey's guitar was jacked up way past "11" and more like 17. I struggled to adjust to the sound. I couldn't hear Gordo in the mix. We were spoiled with smaller venues the last few shows because Boardwalk Hall is one massive tube where Phish was conducting their mass group experiement.

AC/DC Bag popped up after My Soul. "A first set of show openers," remarked Benjo.

We got treated with an uppity version of Ocelot, compared to more faded ones earlier on tour. And yes, I was wearing an Ocelot shirt. The crowd sang along with Sample in a Jar, before things really got cooking with Light Up or Leave Me Alone. The Traffic cover has been getting lots more airplay in 3.0, and it's another vehicle to let Page let it rip. The layered and enthusiastic jam out was one of my personal highlights of the set that included lots of Trey's machine gun burst of notes.

I smoked tuff during Gordo's Sugar Shack. Seemed like the mix started improving around Timber Ho, and CK5's UFO lights made a triumphant return and Fishman did his best impression of five African drummers. If I had to piss, I would have bailed for Bouncin', but luckily I didn't go and caught a pulsating and ear-ringing Axilla. I really felt as though the show (and the three-night run) really began with Axilla, because everything before that was "spring training" or "pre-season."

A hard-rocking Rift kept up the momentum, which culminated into a trio of smoking tunes to close the set... Moma Dance > Cities > 46 Days. The boys brought the roid funk to AC with Moma, before it delved off unexpectedly into a rushed, yet high-octane version of Cities that included CK5 turning up the house lights along the side walls. A scorching 46 Days ended the 14-song set on a high note.

By setbreak, I sobered up a bunch and had a more calmer time than the frantic insanity that overwhelmed me before the set. Couldn't find any water. Benjo bought me a Bud Lime. yes, I was pounding Bud Lime, the official drink of Guidettes from the Jersey Shore.

We snuck Irongirl into our section and the second set kicked off with a crowd-loving PYITE, which was immediately followed up by a dirty dirty dirty Sand. My only complaint about the song was that I wish Gordo was turned up louder and Trey turned down a bit. A gritty-blues-funk jam got squeezed out of the end of Sand that eventually picked up steam and eventually blasted off into Carini. The floor below me was shaking the hardest of the night for Carini. Phish downshifted with Caspian and an even mellower Corinna. The pace picked up with an explosive Piper into a solemn Theme. Anyone that the band lost during Theme, was quickly brought back to life with Golgi.

Another epic Slave was followed up by a smoking Fluffhead. I don't think they did a doubled up on those two songs in 12+ years. Talk about a 1-2 punch to end the second set. Loud ovation for the boys as they took a bow, quickly exited the stage, and returned for a solo encore of Loving Cup. Benjo was psyched for Loving Cup and he admitted that the Rolling Stones version is the most played song on his iPod.

Overall, the first set had a few ups and downs but mostly the biggest letdown was the spotty sound mix and lack of Gordo's bong-rattling bass. If anything, it was a little too loud. Usually my ears are ringing when I'm leaving a show, but that not-so-fun sensation tingled in my head during the setbreak. The sound deficiency was improved toward the end of the first set and the boys continued the heat the rest of the night.

The first night of three is done. Got off to a smoking start, wish the venue was a little different, but I'm sure the band and sound guys will figure out how to make things smoother for the other two nights.

We made our way through the casino on the way back to our $30 parking space in the Trump. A couple of old people at the slots were freaked out by all of the dirty wooks asking them for spare change or attempting to decipher faint whispers of "molly."

Ten down this tour. Two more to go.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Live Free or Die

By Pauly
Manchester, NH

Phish had not played in New Hampshire since 1993, slightly odd considering it bordered its home state of Vermont. Alas, weird things like that happen, but New Hampshire made the cut for this fall tour as Phish continued their barnstorming of smallish venues through New England. In Manchester, Phish took center stage inside a minor hockey league arena and played in front of an unusual mix of Boston heads, curious locals, and lots of phamily from Vermont. The result? Another unpredictable night filled with bustouts, classics, deep cuts, and a couple of heavy jam vehicles.

Senor and I drove up to Manchester, or ManchVegas as some of my friends called it. Senor booked us a room at a hotel next door to a minor league baseball stadium. In fact, our room had a view of the entire field. We made our way down to Elm Street and found a sports bar to grab grub and booze up. Senor waited on one of his buddies from Boston and I met up with Nyna, one of the oldest friends of DiscoSis #1. I hooked Nyna and her hubby up with my extras and they were excited to see their first show since Coventry.

I randomly bumped into Kid Dynamite on Elm Street even though we were supposed to meet up. Wandered over to a mini-Shakedown, which had a totally sketched out vibe with tanks hissing in the shadows, Massholes huffing balloons, and lots of high school kids looking to get lit up.

A spaced out girl from Vermont wandered up to KD and said, "You're good looking. You should meet my friend." She darted into the crowd to retrieve her friend, who was just as spaced out. KD didn't know what to make of the aggressive Vermont girls in the lot.

Kid Dynamite scored us tickets four rows off the floor in section 106. Not too shabby, with handful of jailbait high school girls in our rowdy section. The lights went down and the night's journey began with an unexpected cover of After Midnight. I got flashbacks of Big Cypress and the Millennium show. Trey channeled Eric Clapton (yes, I know it's a JJ Cale original, but popularized by EC). The sound mix inside the venue was the most perfect, but Trey's guitar was loud and clear as he ripped it up.

A couple of older heads in my section picked up on Sloth within the first few notes. When it was finished, the audience gave the band a raucous cheer. They were even louder after the Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues bustout. A few friends sent me texts and said that was a sign that they were going to play Zeppelin for Halloween. I dunno if that's the exact case, but the crowd was fired up after Alumni. I have never heard a crowd cheer louder for Phish since the Hampton reunion shows.

Bob Marley's Mellow Mood included accompany background "Ooooooh ooooooooh" vocals from the crowd, even though Trey was a little late on the second verse. After a bit of reggae Phish, Trey consulted with Gordo and Page about what to play next. It almost seemed like a quick negotiation after Gordo apparently shook off one of Trey's songs. They settled on Access Me with Gordo on lead vocals and Trey noodled weird shrieking notes that sounded like dolphins fucking.

The crowd lost their mud over Llama, especially the Penguin Guy who was dancing in the aisle near us. Trey called out "Leo!" before Page delivered a sensational solo. All of These Dreams is a classic 2.0 Pauly Takes a Piss Song that seemed a bit oddly placed, but at that point, a slow song was due up anyway. Dreams was a definite slow down tun compared to the Llama heat. The boy picked up the slack with The Curtain With. I kept thinking about how that was the last song in Coventry...and at the time it was going to be the last Phish...ever. That versions sort of an emotional rollercoaster, but this one was tighter, sharper, and surprisingly beautiful. I dunno why I scribbled down that word (beautiful) in my notes, but that's what popped into my head at the time.

Scent of a Mule featured Page pecking away like madman Victor Borge. Senor went nuts over the Jewish section. The high-powered version did not too have too many flubs.

Light during Mule

I Heard the Ocean Sing cropped up out of nowhere. Had no idea how/why that got tossed into the mix. I wasn't really into the song and bailed for the bathroom. The hallways were super slippery and I took a slight tumble. Yep, I fell, but popped right back up to continue my sprint to the pisser. Fitting that Ice was up next as soon as I returned to my seat.

At the start of Walls of the Cave, one of the guys next to me called the second half of the set a trainwreck. I could understand how some phans would not jive on the disjointed set that included a few deep cuts and bustouts, but, I also understand how some heads could go apeshit over some of the rare songs that were played -- especially all in the same night. That's the beauty about Phish -- it is what it is and more often than not, it's never the same for you and me.

The best part of WOTC is the "Silent Trees" section which has always been the part that I eagerly await as Trey's "borrowed" Rock and Roll-like percolates into some serious thrash jamming. They ended their set (around 90 minutes) with a Silent Trees jam that accumulated into a volcanic eruption to end the first set.

I met up with Eric at setbreak, snuck Senor into our section, which was no easy task considering we had a Nazi for a security guard. He even muttered in a Bavarian accent, "Can I zee your paperz?"

If you didn't like the first set, well then the boys made it up to you after they really smoked the shit out of the second set. I couldn't find any lulls in that set -- it kept going and going -- from the moment they kicked off with a invigorating Possum. The Light jam had a couple of savory moments. KD and I watched the weird balloon guy, who kept blowing up those long ass balloons and releasing them into the air. The Light jam out got a bit funky and I was hoping for a Tube, but it raced right into Mike's Song. The crowd went berserk for a reason -- it was one of the better versions I've seen considering I thought was going to be impossible to top the Charleston smoker. Anyone with a glowstick hurled them as a miniwar popped up. Someone with a bubble machine flooded the air with bubbles, and CK5 lit up the arena with a series of sultry red lights. They didn't stray away from a tested formula and seged into Simple, which was smooth and super mellow with accompanying yellow lights complimenting the subdued jam. The mood quickly switched after a couple of familiar reggae licks that indicated Makisupa Policeman was waiting ahead. Trey made reference to smoking nugs and I wondered if Big Red dragging a little weed these days. Phish gave us a brief taste of Makisupa before they smoothly slipped into Night Nurse, and eventually jumped back into the end of Makisupa.

I got my first non-Colorado Wedge in a while. I'm sure that's not correct stats wise, but it just seems as though I hear it every time I'm at a Colorado run. KD pointed out the flasher toward the end of the song. She got up on someone's shoulders and showed her boobies to Trey. Anyone have a vid of that floating around?

A thick and richly layered Wedge morphed into a faded-funk intro for Ghost. I was really sucked into this gritty version, and I can't really say why, for some reason it just grabbed me by the balls and wouldn't let go. It drifted into a trancey jam and then jumped off into Mango Song. Page was the hands-down MVP of Mango while pounding the ivory keys with such force that I thought his piano was gonna break. The jam out of Mango seemed a bit off. I dunno if it was rushed by Trey or what, but they kinda stumbled into Weekapaug. Bottom line is that they got there. And man, what a stunning version that included more teases than I can remember (I heard "I'm a Man"), a mixture of some Ghost lyrics, and even an unexpected segue into something that was like a Llama Reprise. That jam out of Llama might have been the craziest of the evening. They ended the set on the crest of the highest wave of the evening.

I wondered if the After Midnight opener was an indication that they were going to be rocking out way past 12. Surely they'd try to top the evening with a duo or trio of songs, right? Nope, instead they played a single song encore of Show of Life. Both KD and Senor thought the second sets were incendiary but the encore was a let down. I didn't mind hearing it, but how could I argue against Show of Life along with a second or third tune?

Phish's return to New Hampshire was a mixed gift bag of goodies -- something for everyone -- especially several throwback songs geared towards some of their oldest and closest Vermont phamily. They ended the New England run hitting a dozen or so high marks during the four shows I caught, which bodes well for everyone heading down to Atlantic City for the Halloween shows. Last year, Phish ended a 10-week hiatus with the Festival 8 shows. This year, they are coming off of a slamming tour. I prefer to walk into Phish shows with low expectations, but it's gonna be hard to quell my frenzied anticipation as we all count down the hours til Halloween.

Nine down. Three more to go. Next stop... Atlantic City.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dispatches from Amherst: Yachting Rocking

By Pauly
Providence, RI

In Charleston, Otis tossed out a Brett Favre reference when describing how the Carolina crew felt on the morning after the Friday night rager. As much as I wanted to ignore the reality of the situation, he was correct. The one of the most difficult pitfalls to avoid while on Phish tour is the feeling of invincibility while partying in a magical utopia. My age caught up to me on Sunday morning, only a few hours after Saturday Amherst and my seventh show on this tour. I woke up in our Northampton hotel room with a sore back and a searing pain in my right knee (old hockey injury). I popped a Perc, which dulled the pain enough to get me through writing Saturday's recap, and then I settled in to watch football for a few hours. The pain got increasingly worse as the afternoon progressed. I knew that I was flirting with disaster because if I ate any more pain pills and I'd be complete luggage for Phish. I struggled to determine the proper dosage and decided to wait as long as possible to pop another Perc. I gutted it out all afternoon.

Senor drove Irongirl, myself, and his new girlfriend to the show. Once we arrived in the lot, I ate another Perc. Within 15 minutes, we were strolling down Shakedown and I couldn't feel a thing. Senor's new lady friend has only seen one previous show and never got a proper Shakedown experience. She compared it to a foreign market and was fascinated by all of the freaks, puppy pullers, and random girls with butterfly wings.

Shakedown was flooded with booze mongers. The lack of beer sales inside the campus venue forced kids to arrive to the lots early to pre-party, but it also meant that every third person in Shakedown was hawking some sort of liquor product. The marketplace was also saturated with dope peddlers. Lots of paper doses were going around. I turned down a 5-strip for an extra ticket from a pimply-faced kid who looked like he was 16. A shady mook in a green Red Sox hat whispered yay-yo but he looked like an undercover cop. One wook offered up deep discounts on Ketamine, something I had not seen on tour since Colorado. I found the one guy who was slinging pharmies, but he his prices were too high. Even though tickets were being bid for as low as $30, I managed to dump one of Senor's extras for $50.

We went into the show and settled into our seats 12 rows back on the side of the stage. Yep, Senor scored us Page Side Rage Side seats and the four of us sat together. The best part of the view was also getting lots of face time with Trey. In the 3.0 era, he's been spending much more time interacting with Page. There were times when Trey turned away from the audience and got off watching Page rip up a solo, and yeah, it was cool to be so close enough to see his reactions.

I noticed that a roadie stepped out onto the stage a few minutes before the lights went down. He taped a piece of paper in front of Trey's pedals and then slid another paper near Page's bench. I wondered if it were lyrics or the setlist?

Standard AC/DC Bag opener, which is the first one I've caught this tour. In previous years on tour with Senor, it always seemed as though Phish played AC/DC Bag and/or Wolfman's at every other show we attended. I looked around at the floor and tried to piece together the request signs and lots of phans wanted to hear LIZARDS.

The boys brought the disco-funk early on with Camelwalk. I spotted Dave Vann in the photographers well as he side stepped past thick-neck security guards in yellow shirts keep an eye on the stage. He snapped a few photos next to one of the two video guys (I have no idea the reasons why the show was being filmed -- for band's own amusement, documentary, future Phish DVDs?). Dave slowly made his way through the front trench cluttered with balloons only two songs into the show.

After a funky appetizer, Phish delved into the iconic Divided Sky. Indoor versions sound better than outdoor versions, but we don't have the natural soundings to compliment indoor shows. The section around me was calling for Tube, but instead, the band launched into an unexpected cover of Ride Captain Ride as Phish embraced Yacht Rock. Page took charge with the lead vocals and we got yet another cover where Page can let loose all of his chops. Considering that Ride Captain Ride had not been played in a long time, they nailed the jam.

After a bit of fluffy happy shiny yacht rock, it was time to get down and dirty with Stash. A couple of assclowns with laser pointers were on opposite ends of the venue and zapping each other, which drew the attention of security who quickly took out the troublemakers. One of the benefits of being so close to the stage was that I knew Fee was going to be played as soon as Trey wheeled around and bent over to pick up the megaphone behind one of his stacks. Page had a couple super smooth solos during Fee, which wandered off into a trancey jam that included a NO2 tease but eventually morphed into Time Turns Elastic. Yeah, it's my 10th TTE and the only good thing I can say about it is that a few of the stagnant sections sounded like they were played through much quicker. My theory about TTE is that it was played in Amherst because they'd be less angry drunks (with no beer sales inside the venue), so Trey wouldn't be pegged with glowsticks by soused and hostile fans. Whenever I hear TTE, I get visions of the scene in Blues Brothers when the band played the country and western bar and the crowd starts tossing beer bottles that crash against the chicken wire protecting the band from the ornery belligerent drunks in the crowd.

And in true Senor fashion he said, "Yeah, I don't like TTE, but I was still trying to rock out to it."

After the TTE set fart, the band finished up the set with a duo of high-energy crowd pleasers with Cavern and Antelope. I felt the ground below me shaking for both tunes as thousands of glowsticks filled the air. Impressive display.

Setbreak was when things got a little fuzzy for me. The pharmies caught up and I'd spend the entire second set struggling with anything that involved multi-tasking. Don't get me wrong...I was having tons of fun...too much fun in fact, but I could do only one thing at a time and focused mostly on grooving to the music. I shrugged off the commentary on Twitter and stopped taking notes altogether. Too faded to do anything except listen to the music play.

I was excited at the Seven Below opener for the potential jamming that would ensue. Didn't get too sinister like the epic Albany Seven Below > Ghost, and it almost seemed like they were holding back a bit and kept the song under ten minutes. They tossed a crowd a bone with Wolfman's, and Page stepped it up with some monster mashing as a bit of Roid Funk got injected into the crowd.

I got sucked into a blackhole during Backwards and Alaska. I sorta lost time and was falling fast into the abyss. I had never been that faded at a Phish show before (and the closest was the Nassau show in 2003 that included a scintillating Tweezer). Luckily, I got pulled out of the muck by a spirit enlivening Free. I was able to keep pace with a frenzied calypsoish Lizards and a loud raucous Brother, before I fell back into the void during Roggae > Taste > Waste. Once again, just as I was about to drown, I got tossed a well-needed life preserver with David Bowie, which got off to a rough start, but the boys pulled off a vibrant finish.

The Mighty Quinn encore arrived one night too late, but I was happy nonetheless that the Dylan cover is back in rotation. I was hoping for a dual encore, and we got treated to a double dip with a rare and unexpected Chalkdust. The last Chalk encore was at Shoreline with Bob Weir (I was at that show and they busted out El Paso, and think they played Chalkdust in consecutive nights on that tour).

The Sunday Amherst show looks much weaker on paper than it sounded. Despite my schwilly condition, I had a blast despite the bad back and bum knee. Seemed like I picked the right show to get absolutely faded.

Eight down. Four more to go. Next up... Manchester, NH.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Odd Balls, Screwballs, and Balls to the Wall

By Pauly
Northampton, MA

Back on the road with Senor. We geared up for the second of four shows that we'd see together thru Phish's meteoric run through New England. I got flashbacks from a decade ago when Senor and I dropped whatever we were doing at the time to chase a musical high, especially when it came to all things Phish. Life is different for both of us these days. After our roaring 20s, Senor opted for a traditional lifestyle (steady job, married soon-to-be divorced, and with two crazy little kids) while I continue the my path on the road less traveled. We live of opposite coasts and it's hard to see each other (LA to Providence is almost as far as you're gonna get in the States), but one of my favorite benefits of Phish tour is that I have a chance to party down with old friends that I would not normally see otherwise. Phish shows are opportunities to have reunions and I can never thank the band enough for hosting these important central gatherings for so many important (yet insanely busy) people in my life.

During the drive from Providence to Amherst outskirts, I was mesmerized by the vivacious colors of fall foliage because the intricacies of seasonal change escaped me after I relocated to Southern California. We arrived in the lot of the Mullins Center a little late due to traffic in/out of Amherst. We met up with Iron Girl, who introduced me to the drummer from the McLovins. He thought that there was a good chance that Phish covered MGMT on Halloween.

I wandered up and down a relatively strong Shakedown with two dense rows of vending mostly specializing in booze sales. The local po-po kept an eye on the inmates via observation towers (almost like a prison yard), but the scene was relatively tame and no one got shanked by a rival gang. I didn't see anyone with extra tickets (aside from a few trying to trade Sunday for Saturday). We ran into Pete (@phanart) hawking posters. I almost stepped on a puppy puller. Lots of angry dogs were roaming around this lot, and we almost saw a vicious dog fight. Gratuitous binge drinking ensued due to zero beer sales inside the venue. Sort of strange to attend a dry Phish show, which meant that anyone slinging jello shots, mixed drinks, or schwilly beer made a killing before the show.

Senor was in rare form and primed for a big night the moment that two lovely young ladies sat down next to us. Amanda was short and feisty and immediately introduced herself. "This is my 12th show and I'm very proud of that. By the way, my goal in life is to become and events coordinator and put on cool concerts like Phish, then get married, and become a real estate agent." She clearly had her shit together and knew what she wanted out of life, but at the time, she was savoring the moment and was elated to be at Phish. She introduced us to her best friend, Liz, who was bubbling over with excitement because she was at her first show.

The two 20-year old hotties were ready to throw down and were smitten with Senor's handsome looks. It was cool that we had a Phish virgin about to pop her cherry in Amherst of all places. Liz sheepishly admitted that her favorite song was Tweezer, and Senor told her the best part of Tweezer was that that guaranteed we'd hear Tweezer Reprise. Amanda wanted to hear "Maze into Ghost" and felt a Party Time coming along with some funky shit on the agenda like Boogie On. I dunno if I freaked her out when I told her myf irst show was in 1989 and she blurted out, "I wasn't even born yet."

Just before lights went down, I gazed up at the retired jersey for Julius Erving aka Dr. J, who played his college ball at UMass. Phish would be sharing the stage in the same arena that specialized in college hoops. They launched into a savory Meatstick to open the show. When Phish encored with Meatstick in Broomfield, it was met with a lukewarm reception, but the Amherst crowd gobbled it up with a jubilant reaction, especially the Japanese lyrics. It was evident from the moment that the band took the stage that they were about to take us on a unusual journey. Yep, this was not an ordinary Saturday night.

Party Time popped up out of nowhere, but accurately predicted by one of the hotties. Senor said he didn't know the song, but I told him to concentrate very hard on the complex lyrics. Next up on the menu was a satisfying Golgi, which perked up anyone in the crowd who was a perplexed with the auspicious start to the show. I always get a kick out of watching animated members of the audience at different intervals of Golgi, especially when Kuroda jackss up the house lights and phans have their arms thrust in the air like converts at a religious revival. Oh, and there's always one random schwasted guy waving a ticket stub during Golgi.

The hotties must listen to the Joy album in heavy rotation because they knew all the words to Kill Devil Falls and playfully sang along. At the beginning of Tweezer, I heard an orgasmic shriek pierce my eardrum. It sounded like the relentless wails from teenage girls who saw the Beatles at Shea Stadium for the first time and spent the entire show screaming in ecstasy at the top of their lungs. Yep, that was how Liz reacted to Tweezer as she got served up her favorite song at her first show. That's how Phish hooks fans for life. The Amherst Tweezer jam included sultry sensual undertones with a slow methodical intense build up, shying away from the slam-funk or sinister darkness of Tweezers past where they rush right out of the gate and sprint the entire way through the jam.

Page stepped out from behind his rig and channeled his inner Frank Sinatra for a tantalizing Lawn Boy. There was not a dry snatch in Amherst and Leo hit an epic high note with an extended "huuuuuuuuuuuuuuues" to end the original "Page Wet Phishy Chicks" song.

Senor's favorite song to see live in concert is Sparkle, a personal anthem for him from the moment he heard the song off of the Rift album. If by chance you loathe the "whoooo-hoooo" guy at Phish shows, well then you were probably bumming out if you were in our section because Senor unleashed a flurry of whooo-hooos during the Sparkle build up.

Big Black Furry Creatures from Mars continued with the oddball screwball theme for the night. BBFCFM is a song that might spook the hell out of you if you're tripping balls and not prepared for the dissonant mayhem. Any of the alien shapeshifters embedded in the crowd quickly stood to attention during BBFCFM and acted as antennas to receive messages from the mothership.

Trey made the "Henrietta" call and Page pecked away at the intro to Hold Your Head Up. That's sort of like hearing an air raid signal because a carpet bombing was imminent. But with HYHU, we knew that a vac solo and Fishman hijinks were to ensue.

"If Fish is gonna sing a Syd Barret song, well hell, he should've done Bike," commented Senor.

As is, Fish sung Love You, but admitted that he would probably forget the lyrics and just mumble his way through the muck. That's exactly what happened before he picked up his vac and went to town. Some phans can't stand Fish hijinks. I admit that sometimes the theatrics kills the momentum of a set, but appreciate the eccentric twist on an artistic level. However, in this instance, the theatrics were perfectly placed in a peculiar set that just got weirder by watching a fat guy in a dress play a vacuum.

A possum was one of the critters on the face of mail order ticket subs for the Amherst shows, so it seemed natural that they would play Possum (although a llama was on the Broomfield tickets and that gem got omitted from the Colorado rotation). The guy with the cannonfetti returned highlighted another high-octane Possum. Although the band reached the pinnacle moment and highest peak of the set, they still had time left over for a song or two and wondered what they could do to top Possum.

Enter a rare first set Tweezer Reprise. I wasn't expecting it until the encore, but Phish blew that fastball right by us. Got caught looking like a chump. Gordo dropped a bomb in the intro and I felt the ground shake below me, which was surprising considering this is not the balcony at SPAC or the bouncy floor at MSG. The Amherst version of Tweeprise featured an insertion of Meatstick lyrics, which bookended the meaty set.

During setbreak, the lines at the bathroom were much shorter due to the lack of beer sales. One spun out guy wandered the hallways screaming, "Who's got my Snooki? Who's got my SNOOKI!!!!??!"

Sticking with their unpredictable oddball shtick, the second set opened up with Down with Disease, which appeared in consecutive nights for yet another shocking rarity. Phish didn't back down from playing DWD again. Besides, we got an entirely different version compared to Providence's first set opener that was more compact and tighter, versus the more looser and stretched out second set opener where they had more wiggle room and leeway for exploratory jamming. Kuroda illuminated the arena with red-tinted hues before a strong presence of UFO lights returned and an ambient jam trickled into the mischievous My Friend My Friend. I have a list of "shroom songs" that have been known to drive people insane and My Friend is near the top of that list. On some nights, Phish's music is so powerful that they suck you down the rabbit hole even though you're not on psychedelics. My Friend is one of those vortexes to the other side.

The majority of the crowd sang along with Caspian, which also featured a bevy of bright lights illuminating the crowd, before the band took it down a notch with Halfway to the Moon. The new Page song has faded intro, which appeals to me on certain nights, but the boys are flirting with dangerous territory when Moon it's piggybacked onto a slower tune like Caspian. (which was one of the trouble spots for that jagged Colorado show). On a good note, the new songs are getting better every time its performed live.

If the band lost anyone along the way, they brought all the zombies back to life with an ass pounding Boogie On Reggae Woman. One of the hotties, Amanda, went berserk at Gordo's delicious intro to Stevie Wonder's funky cover, as the band injected a much needed dose of Roid Funk into sections of the crowd that had lost their buzz due to no booze sales. Too bad it was a quickie Boogie On. Amanda had been calling for a Maze > Ghost from the moment that I met her, and she got the first part of that wish list. Fishman went to his high hat and they ripped into a searing Maze. Page's pecking during a Thelonious Monk jazz-inspired solo was my personal highlight of the Maze jam. Oh, and the triggerman manning the canonfetti displayed perfect timing when he fired his blast at the precise moment that they pulled out of the jam. If I ever see that guy in the lot, I'm buying him a beer for his impeccable timing.

Velvet Sea cropped up out of nowhere, like that creepy friend of yours you've been trying to avoid and didn't invite to your party, yet he showed up anyway with a Latvian mail order bride and proceeded to smoke all of your drugs, drink too much rum, then pukes in your washing machine. I headed to the pissers for Velvet Cheese, but Senor stood his ground and he rocked out to the entire song. Senor disagreed with my sentiments.

"I happen to like all of the 'Pauly Takes a Piss Songs'!!" explained Senor. That tells you all you need to know about him -- he's a true enthusiast of the Phish and not a jaded vet like yours truly. Senor doesn't give a shit what other people think and he's gonna have fun at a Phish show no matter what they play, even if it's Velvet Cheese.

Piper featured a few intense moments with lots of "dirty tones" that would send Jonas into a tizzy. Piper was one of the few songs from Amherst that I wanted to listen to again as soon as the show ended. I got lost during one meandering section, but Fishman's inner octopus took control and he punched his way out of the troubled spot. It seemed like he had eight arms banging away at his kit. These days, whenever I hear Piper, I always think of Wildo's Piper trucker hat that the Joker got custom made (by Pep) for us in Telluride.

The Piper jam abruptly ended when they slammed on the breaks, and Trey teased a few Free licks before they delved off into Harry Hood. A heavy dose of glowsticks instantly filled the air during an uppity version. The guy on cannonfetti also nailed the orgasm part of the Hood jam. Awesome work, brah.

YEM lights

A gripping YEM closed the set. A few minutes into YEM, the foul and all-too familiar odor of vomit wafted by. Buzzkill. Someone lost their cookies, which was unexpected because the lack of beer sales contributed to a more subdued crowd than usual. Alas, one amateur couldn't hold his/her mud despite the booze prohibition. Man, think just how much potential revenue is generated by beer sales at a 10,000 person Phish show?

Trey teased Wilson during the heavy metal jam out and at one point he had put down his guitar and danced a jig while Gordo and Fish tag-teamed a drums-bass jam.

"Never seen Trey so happy," remarked Senor as Big red took a deep bow. In Japanese culture, the height (or depth) of the bow depends on how much respect you are paying to the person you bow to. Trey got down low -- really low. If you're a Phish nerd who reads into little things like Trey's body language onstage, then it was pretty evident that Trey was more than humbled by the Amherst crowd.

I wondered if we were going to get a double dip encore with a random bustout and a cover (like Buried Alive > Mighty Quinn which I had bet on and gotten good odds that they'd play at least one of those two, plus a bonus if they played both). Alas, Phish encored a cover song from Exile on Main Street and unearthed Shine a Light. The soulful Stones song was an appropriate end to an evening where Phish left all their emotions on stage after digging deep into their bag of tricks. Amherst didn't quite fit into the "greatest hits" shows that they had been playing on this tour, but they did not disappoint the crowd and whipped up a show that appealed to old school New England fans (who had been loyal to the band for over two decades), not to mention keeping it fresh for the newer generation and recent wave of fans.

I gazed at the wide smiles from Senor (he has to be closing in on 100 shows by now) and Liz (one of the hotties at her first show), which were a positive indicator and gauge that Phish did not let them down. I had not seen Senor have that much fun at a Phish show in over a decade. When he has fun, it's infectious, and I have fun.

Just when you think you got Phish figured out, they switch things up just a bit to keep you off guard, whether it's doubling up with songs (from the previous night like DWD), or switching up protocol (first set Tweprise closer), or screwing around with Fish hijinks (the band is named Phish after Fish for a reason), or even integrating new songs (Halfway to the Moon) in a set among the heaviest of hitters (Hood and Piper).

It's not easy being Phish trying to conjure up an unique and savory recipe night after night that will satisfy every palate in the audience. But despite those unrealistic challenges, they successfully pulled off a hearty feast in Amherst.

Seven down. One more to go Amherst, and five more shows remaining on this tour.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Funkin Go Nuts

By Pauly
Providence, RI

The Phish returned to Rhode Island.

I sat out the last two shows, recovering from the wook flu in NYC, while the boys tore it up in Augusta, Maine and dropped the sleeper of the tour in Utica, NY of all places. I was excited to get back on tour and finish up the last seven shows, including a quartet of shows in Phish's old stomping grounds and returning to their roots by playing college towns peppered throughout New England.

I began my journey in NYC, hopped on a train to Connecticut, and met up with Javier who drove me to Rhode Island. We were meeting up his big his bro, Senor, who has been my partner in crime for over two decades. I caught the 2000 Japan tour with Senor, not to mention countless other Phish and Panic shows in the 1990s. Senor lived in Providence, just one block from the Dunkin' Donuts Center, or the 'Dunk' as the locals called it. You can't ask for a better gift than Phish playing in your backyard. The Sunk was located in downtown Providence, which meant a bunk lot scene -- one of the few downsides to Phish in an urban area. Heads spilled into the various dive and hipster bars on the side streets.

Senor picked Cuban Revolution to pre-party and the tiny Cuban joint was not prepared to be slammed by ravished Phisheads. The scatter-brained waitress and inbred monkey behind the bar sent me on uber-service-tilt and Senor resorted to ordering two cocktails at once in order to catch a buzz. We met up with Worcester Bob, an old school Deadhead with almost as many Phish shows under his belt as me, and we instantly launched into some banter about the Dead. He couldn't stop gushing about the 1979 soundboards that have been circulating, especially the Cape Cod shows.

Shakedown was non-existent with a lot of shady characters lurking in shadows of the alley across from La Salle Square, where a band played in a white tent outside of Trinity. It was a bit of a clusterfuck getting into the show and the guy behind me was so schwasted that he puked on his girlfriend's Boston U hoodie. She wasn't pleased. I told her it could have been worse -- she could be standing in line for Dave Matthews with Sam Adams-scented vomit spewed across her hair.

Senor scored us 200-level seats and there really wasn't a bad seat in the Dunk, which held around 14,000 if you included the floor. This was not a GA show and the Nazi-like ushers were keeping the riff raff off the floor unless you had a legit floor ticket. I'm too old to jump over hockey boards when the lights went down, so I just settled into our seats and fired up.

Down with Disease was not your typical throw away show opener. We were treated with an innocent, pristine, and congenial version instead of a gritty mindfuck that they'd cook up as a set 2 opener. Page came out swinging with an eager solo in Funky Bitch. Much like DWD, they kept the Bitch short and tight, but ecstatic. Phish ignited a fire at the Dunk and were not about to let it smolder. They tossed a kerosene-dipped log with Fluffhead. I had to piss so badly and couldn't hold it. Although I returned in time for the "powerful pills" section, I got ambushed by a guy in a banana suit who wouldn't let me pass him on the stairs unless I danced with him. Once I escaped the grips of schwilly banana guy, I got rare goosebumps as the crowd roared the Fluffhead chant.

I could devour Roses Are Free at every show. It was hard to top the Charleston version of the Ween cover, but the vigorous Rhode Island sampling came close. The only low point of the song (and the overall show for me) was the wook dancing next to me (dancing is being kind, more like stumbling into me) who kept clapping out of rhythm during Roses. That dissonance threw me off a bit and I leaned in and asked him for a favor, "Hey brah, can you not clap out of tune?" And he apologized, offered me a hug as a mea culpa, and then returned to his malnourished clapping.

We got our first curveball of the night with a Rift bustout. Crowd lapped it up and Page tore it up, a little foreshadowing that he would be one of the unsung heroes of the evening. Instead of downshifting to a slower tune or a new song, Phish kept up the frenzied pace with a flashflood of lusty funk and Moma Dance -- it swelled up out of nowhere and carried off anything in its path. The boys slightly eased off the pedal during the Ocelot faded-funk jam -- the first time they downshifted and delved into an elongated jam all night. Just think of Sly and the Family Stone on Quaaludes, and that pretty much summed up the deep gut groove.

A speedfreak-reggae induced NICU perked everyone up before a crowd favorite sing-a-long with Sample in a Jar. They appropriately picked Julius to end the high-energy slammin' ass shaking set. From the moment Phish took the stage in Providence, they came out sprinting and didn't let up in the first set from start to finish (with a brief pitstop with Ocelot).

The second set was one of those journeys when I wish I was tripping balls. I was sober for the show, but I was envious of anyone on a head full of shrooms because the second set was geared for anyone that got sucked down the rabbit hole.

Set 2 opened up with Rock and Roll, a Velvet Underground cover which is a dual-purpose vehicle (Allows Page to shine and let's the band jam out for ten minutes). This one was a little on the short side as Trey took a step back and was jamming underneath everyone (as opposed to pulling out his crank and tugging away while everyone else had to catch up). Trippy glitchy jam out of R&R trickled into a sinister Carini, that included a maniacal mind meld and plenty of UFO lights from Kuroda. Talk about a 1-2 punch for all the acidfreaks.

My Problems has improved and is the newest song to get steady play on this tour. Javier called for Weekapaug because of Weekapaug beach in Rhode Island that inspired the song, and the band delivered. Glowsticks filled the air during Mike's Song. This Mike's sandwich included a Sanity mystery meat, 2001 tease, and a sinister vocal jam (with more UFO lights), but alas they didn't veer off too far from course and jumped into Weekapaug, therby abandoning any notions of 2001.

The crowd got another bone with Suzy Greenburg that included a mutant funk thrash jam. Light got pushed back deep into the set and I could have sworn that Phish opened up a wormhole to let a legion of aliens into this dimension. See below for proof....

I got juked and thought that Zero was going to end the set. The band had the crowd eating out of its hand at that point and could have easily walked off stage to end the show on a high note, but instead slammed on the breaks and launched into 2001, which definitely caught the crowd off guard with a compact yet ground shaking version. The set began with Page ripping up a cover and ended with a cover. 2001 and Loving Cup were unexpected gems at the end of the set. You know it's an intense set when Mike's Groove isn't the highlight. The top of the set (Rock & Roll > Carini) represents some of my favorite aspects of dark Phish (and yeah, I'll say it again, I wish I was tripping balls for this show), but they ended the second set with three heavy heavy hitters. How do you end a show after a frenzied first set and thickly layered second set? First Tube... of course. Trey jumped up and down as per usual as they tossed the final cherry on top of a well-balanced sundae.

We headed outside and the tanks were strewn in LaSalle square. Hissing sounds echoed everywhere as people rushed to get their hands on hippie crack, on sale for 3/$20 until the cops busted up the party. The random bars surrounding the venue quickly filled up, including a few strip clubs, something that Providence is notorious for. (By the way... remind me to tell you the story about the first time I went on Phish tour with the Joker and we ended up at a strip club in Canada. But I don't have time for that tangent, but I'll definitely include it in the Phish book.)

After the show, we ended up in the back of a dive bar and bore the brunt of one pissed off bartender who was struggling to handle the onslaught of lunatics, aliens, and other escaped patients from the local mental hospital. At that point the night got a little fuzzy and muddled. A few hours later, I woke up on the floor of Senor's apartment. I had to check twitter and my CrackBerry pics to piece together the last bits of Friday night.

On Saturday morning before I sat down to write, I headed out for coffee and wandered across a parking lot adjacent from the Dunk. Here's the aftermath of Phish...

As the song goes: "We're coming to your town...we'll help you party down."

Six shows done. Six more to go. Next stop... Amherst.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dispatches from the Road: The Quickie Breakfast

By Pauly
New York City

I just crushed an bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich from the Greek diner, and washed it down with a Dr. Brown's black cherry soda -- something that I could only do back in my old neighborhood. I've been reflecting on the quickness of the last two weeks, which happened so fast that I've been barely able to keep up. I'm lagging, and as a result, this space doesn't get filled up as much as I'd like. My morning writing sessions have been seriously diminished and I've even skipped a few days due to a hectic travel schedule and/or trying to recuperate from catching the wook flu in South Carolina. But, for now, I have a few free moments to just step up to the mic and just riff on what's been floating around my mind. Whatever I'll pick out of thin air will get translated into word form and magically get shit out by my fingers as they peck away at my tiny travel laptop.

Although it's Friday for everyone else, it's a travel day for me. I woke up early, slipped on an extra warm fleece hoodie, fired up a oney (wake and bake is the breakfast of champions), and then stepped outside. This is the part of the year that I miss living in SoCal -- the the brisk autumn air and the crunchy sound of a brown-yellow-tinted leaf underneath your shoe. The diner reeks of generic coffee, bacon, and really bad cologne from the old Jewish guys in the corner. The obvious Mets fan in the group moaned about the Yankees playoff woes, but as one die yard Yanks fan blurted out, "At least the Yanks made it to the second round of the playoffs. The Mets suck worse than... suck."

Yes, a 70+ year old guy with spots on his face said "suck worse than suck."

I'm on my first of three stop overs in NYC. This is the longest of the bunch and almost a week long before I reload, restock, refuel, recharge and disembark to another local port. Two weeks ago, I condensed a month on the road into two bags -- a regular backpack and a computer laptop briefcase. In the last few hours, I condensed that into one medium-sized backpack. Traveling is an amazing experience, but traveling light is the ultimate experience.

Our trip to Colorado was sort of a blur. It feels like two months ago and not two weeks. So much happened that I can't write about, so you can imagine how much fun I had if I was doing/seeing/hanging out with people/things/entities/aliens that I can't discuss in a public forum. On a good note, I think that Nicky agreed to live in Colorado for a year, a place that I'd like to check out for a brief stay. Ultimately, I'd like to return to the big city, but it's too pricey to live and living in Hollyweird has grown old on me. As soon as I finish my LA novel, I'll loose all interest in the city altogether, so I've been thinking about cooler and cheaper places to live. Colorado is definitely one of those locales.

We crashed with the Joker for almost a week and shared the downstairs bedroom with his feisty cat Emilio Estevez, who was not shy about wanting to play and hang out at 4am, at a time when I was trying to sleep. The Joker's ladyfriend brought her dog over on a couple of nights, so when I'd be attempting to write at the 5am hour, I had a needy dog begging me to play fetch, and a attention-whoring cat who wanted me to give it tons of affection -- when all I wanted to do was finish up writing up recaps/reviews of the Phish concerts that I had seen a few hours before.

One of my recaps was not well received, which didn't bother me on an ego level, rather it was an indication that other fans of my favorite band have been 1) brainwashed so much, or 2) so supremely wasted that they honestly can't distinguish a good show from a bad show. I was relatively sober that night in question and for a brief moment, I thought that maybe I was the one who was off, but I decided that all of the negativity was just that and I know my gut instinct was correct. A few days later, my assertions were validated by the band itself when they threw down hard for the first of two nights in Charleston. You would think that it would feel good to be right, but if anything I felt worse because its was blatantly obvious that Phish had an off night in Colorado, but it was even more distressing that some of their fans were unable to sense that.

Oh well. Regardless, I had a blast in Colorado with my crew out there and got to spend some one-on-one time with a few friends like the Joker, Jonas, Wildo, and Johnnie Walker. One of the best aspects about Phish tour is that I also get to see a lot of friends that I haven't seen in a while.

Nicky flew back to LA and I continued on with the journey. I headed South, to the deep south, to a place called Charleston. Lots of wealth. Old money. Back to the plantation days. Opulence. Weird to see the Phish splashdown in Charleston to play in front of a crowd comprised of a lot of well-to-do squeaky clean white college kids (as opposed to Trustafarians and old school burners, hippies, and Denver hipsters in Colorado). I hadn't seen that many high school girls at a Phish show in a long time, not to mention the surplus of sorority girls. You would have thunk I was at a Dave Matthews show, because that's what the crowd looked like. Regardless, they were lapping up every note that Phish played, but in a good way because the band was on fire and playing to the highest level of musicianship I had seen since they got the band back together in March 2009. It's an amazing and inspiring experience to witness and partake in a group art experiment as the band fed off of the collective energy of the Charleston crowd.

I got to hang out with two different groups of friends for the Charleston leg, including a few guys I met through poker who had sincere Phishy ties. The G-Vegas crew drove down to the beachy areas of their home state. We hung out at Folly Beach one night and played frolf on James Island the morning of the first Charleston show. Lots of water at this course, and I only lost one of G-Rob's discs. I came in last place in our tournament, but I hadn't played in months. It felt good to fling around the discs, but the next day, I paid the price of getting old as my pectoral muscles and my elbow were both inflamed. The one good thing about being on Phish tour --- easy access to pharmies because someone near by has a pill to cure what ails ya.

I barely slept in Charleston, but that's par for the course on tour. My weakened immune system was susceptible to the wook flu, and as I packed my gear late on Saturday as it bled into Sunday, I felt the first wave of attack. I knew there was nothing I could do and welcomed the fact that I was jumping off of tour for two stops to spend time in NYC for the week.

I was up for almost 40 hours before I finally crashed late on Sunday night. I made my 6am flight from Charleston to NYC with a two-hour layover in Miami airport. I landed at LGA, hopped in a cab, and went to my brother's apartment to watch the Jets. I discovered that his cable service, Cablevision, was in a pissing match with Murdoch's News Corp, which meant that News Corp pulled FOX-5 from Cablevision until they settled their dispute. Alas, while two gajillionaires squabbled over a penny, we were unable to watch the Giants game. Luckily, the Jets were playing on CBS and the Yanks playoff games were aired on TBS. However, if this dispute continues and the Yanks advance to the World Series, over 3 million New Yorkers will not be able to watch the World Series. What the fuck? The masses are once again pawns in a game of high-stakes chess among ego-maniac media titans.

As expected, the wook flu kicked my ass and I was down for the count on Monday and Tuesday. I slept almost 18 hours in two nights, which is like a week's worth of sleep (on a good week). I slowly nursed myself back to health and said, "Fuck work." I had a dozen or so work-related things I should have done, but I'm my own boss, so I made the necessary decision to enjoy my time in NYC and relax, instead of sacrificing sleep and family time for work.

I watched three Yanks games with my brother in addition to a couple of quarters of Knicks pre-season hoops. I also wandered around the city on a couple of occasions. People watching is one of my favorite past times. I also got one of those perfect days -- I woke up, ate some painkillers, rode the subway while listening to the previous night's Phish show in Maine that I skipped, wandered through the museum, took a long walk in the park, met my brother for a late lunch at Big Nick's, and then watched a late-afternoon Yanks game.

I'm running out of time. Have to catch a train to Rhode Island. I have four Phish shows on my plate over the next five nights and will be making my first trip to New Hampshire in many moons.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Museum Photo Dump

By Pauly
New York City

Here are a few pics that I snapped while roaming around the Met the other day...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Charleston Pic Dump

By Pauly
New York City

Here are some pics from Charleston (and Folly Beach)...

The view from our hotel on Folly Beach


Playing Big Deuce

After the Saturday night show

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Double Fisting

By Pauly
Charleston, SC

Photo of the second set via me aka @taopauly

Phish stepped up their game in Charleston and blazed their way to a weekend rager. The fire was sparked on Friday and burned through Saturday night culminating in a scorching second set that began with a voluptuous Crosseyed and Painless and included a sultry 2001 Dance Party.

I got a couple of hours of sleep early on Saturday morning, wrote the recap for Friday's show, ate two meals (versus the usual single meal while on tour), watched college football and baseball, played cards, drafted my fantasy Phish team, and properly pre-partied at out hotel. I hit up semi-dry Shakedown twice and successfully sold both of my extras for $50 and $60 even though I saw people asking $25 for theirs. That's how low tickets were going for on Friday, but Saturday was sold out, and I knew I could get as close to face as possible because no one wanted to miss Saturday's show after a greatest hits buffet from the night before.

I headed into the venue shortly after the doors opened to secure a decent spot on the floor. We hung out exactly in the center. I met up with Digg Dugg who showed me his Whale Call shirt. A couple of cool kids (Saxon and Emma) from Pittsburgh were nearby and ended up awesome people to be next to at the show. I accidentally knocked over Otis beer about 15 minutes before lights went down. I rushed off the floor, snagged a replacement beer, and returned with a few minutes to spare.

The boys took the stage and launched into Kill Devil Falls as an inflatable Godzilla crowd surfed for most of the song. G-Rob noted that the specific lyric "this time it's gonna be different" was a hint from the band that Saturday was not going to be like any other Phish show. He picked up on that subtle theme from the onset, meanwhile, Otis locked up the fantasy pool with a clutch KDF opener.

DiscoSis1 showed off her musical nerdness when said she liked Guleah Papyrus because it's a fugue. GP kicked off three consecutive tunes that could have come right off a setlist from the early 1990s with The Curtain With and Mango Song. The Curtain was fairly tight, while Mango Song had a few shaky moments, but they still pulled it off. The trio of "oldies" were just a set up for a bong-rattling Sand. We got a rare first set Sand and they squeezed as much funk-inspired jamming as they could into a ten minute spot in the middle of the set. During Sand, a spun out sorority girl asked me if she could have a toke off my one-hitter in exchange for a cigarette. I said yes, and I don't even smoke.

Limb by Limb featured Fishman doing another impression of three African drummers. Page continued to spread the funk with an inspiring Sneaking Sally, but it was the mini-vocal jam that really fired up the crowd. Gordon got to do a little country Phish with Uncle Pen, before a highly unpredictable turn (the theme since the show began) into Pebbles and Marbles. I was not the biggest fan of Pebbles in the 2.0 era, but definitely enjoyed the acoustic version at Festival 8. If they were going to lose any of the crowd -- it was going to be with Pebbles -- but the band pulled it off and convinced and skeptics that they were going to smoke the shit out of every song -- heavy hitters, crowd favorites, greatest hits, and even the stuff you necessarily did not want to hear. After Pebbles, we had a rager on our hands.

Expected Cavern to close the set, but we got thrown another curveball when Fish went to his high hat. I lost the coinflip (had Maze in my fantasy pool), and they ripped into David Bowie to end the set. It was good, but I dunno if it surpassed the one I caught on Tuesday in Colorado.

At setbreak, DiscoSis1 said that she say a few drunken frat boys were so schwilly that they ate fries off of the stairwell leading down to the floor. The floor and stairs were drenched with spilled beer -- the result of heavy drinkers for the majority of the crowd. The line to the men's room ran long and guys decided to take matters into their own hands and pissed in the sinks and the garbage bins in the corners.

The second set began at 10:10 with an unbelievable Crosseyed and Painless. I dunno if it'll translate well into the mp3, but the crowd's energy level spiked exponentially with the Talking Heads cover. Toward the end of the Crosseyed jam, a 2001 tease popped up, but that's all it was -- a huge cock tease -- before the ambient jam returned back into Crosseyed, which kept the crowd dancing hard until they downshifted with Dirt. On paper, that looks totally misplaced, but after that frantic and frenetic Crosseyed jam, everyone (especially the band), needed a breather for a few minutes before they returned to the mayhem with Fluffhead. The Charleston crowd lapped that one up. The entire weekend featured a selection of greatest hits and Fluffhead headed the top of the bill. After Fluffhead ended, I was shocked that the set was only three songs deep because seemed like they had been playing for much longer.

2001 was teased the day before and even earlier in the set, before the boys summoned the mothership. A dance party floor quickly spread on the floor, as a got doused by beer again. At least this time it was cold. If 2001 wasn't enough, it segued into Tweezer to maintain their momentum -- which seemed invincible at that point. Caught a few Crosseyed teases in a funky, yet not too deviant Tweezer. Just like Dirt, things had gotten a little too feisty, and they needed to simmer things down. Show of Life has been growing on me with every listen. It was a necessary compliment to the relentless dance party that had no signs of ending soon with YEM next up on the menu. The crowd, at least the floor, held onto every note of YEM as it anchored an overwhelming seven-song set.

Charleston was blessed with a three song encore. Everyone knew that Tweeprise was on its way, but would they play 2 or 3 total songs for the encore? Trey stepped up to the mic and said, "Hey Page...where've you been?" and they jumped off with I Been Around, and if any of the Phishy chicks weren't damp already, Page certainly took care of business. I was pleasantly surprised with Quinn the Eskimo, which insured a three-song encore. Page was kicking ass and taking names with his jamming on the Bob Dylan cover that re-emerged at Telluride this summer. As expected, Tweezer Reprise capped off the show on an ultimate high note and held to the maxim of the first rule of show business -- always leave the audience wanting more.

I walked off the floor ten minutes after the show ended, and still shaking from the intense, but highly infectious musical orgy. I arrived in Charleston with low expectations and an open mind -- and Phish melted my face.

I haven't seen a show this tour when I was more excited to listen to the highlights of the show immediately afterward. But that's the magic of Saturday's show, which is one of those examples that fall under that category of "more proof why you have to see Phish live."

Phish absolutely turned two Charleston greatest hits-slanted shows into a noteworthy rager. Saturday's show was one of the best I've seen in a while. The double dip in Charleston is on par with the pair of Alpharetta shows and the two up in Alpine Valley. Regardless of where it falls, Phish smoked the shit out of Charleston.

Two dunzo in Charleston. Five shows down and seven more to go. I'm skipping Utica and Maine, so I'll see ya in Providence, RI where I'll hop back on tour all the way through Halloween.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Barely Legal

By Pauly
Charleston, SC

"I've never seen so many hot 19 year old girls," commented one of my buddies (who wished to remain anonymous because he's married) about the bevy of soused high school and college girls at the show.

"Lots of drunk little blondes," remarked another.

They were right. I dunno if I've seen that many high school girls at Phish before (at least, in a very long time). And yes, 92% of the attendees were raging drunk, which meant that the crowd was rowdy and feisty, and lent the feel of a Widespread Panic show.

Welcome back to Southern fried Phish after throwing down for three nights in a row with Colorado hippies, hipsters, tree thuggers, and feral indigo children. Three or four of the best shows I've seen in the 3.0 era have been south of the Mason Dixon line (Asheville and Alpharetta), so it goes without saying that the double dip in Charleston had the potential to be a rager. My buddy Andrew joked that I was joining the "Married with Kids" edition of fall tour because most of my friends who made up the South Carolina crew were exactly that -- weekend warriors away from their wife and kids for a two-night bender. My journey began in Denver on Thursday and I flew to Charleston, caught a cab to Folly Beach, and met up with my crew. We drank, swapped stories, closed out one bar, played cards til the wee hours before we crashed, woke up early for breakfast (Otis raved about the shrimp and grits), then played a round of frolf on James Island.

I lost the above disc in a lake on a course had lots of water, and I'm surprised only one disc went astray as Bad Blood won the high-stakes Coventry Frolf tournament. We drove to North Charleston, checked into our hotel (right behind the coliseum) and noticed a college football team was sharing the hotel with us. No way they were gonna get any sleep with raucous Phisheads in close proximity. We pre-partied at the hotel and waited for the lovely ladies to arrive; Strawberry and Krista made the trek from Florida, meanwhile the eldest Disco Sister (aka my Southern drug mule) drove down from North Carolina. Once we had the entire gang together, we migrated to the lot.

A mini-Shakedown popped up in one of the parking lots and party favors were in high demand. I know it's a dry Shakedown when people are stopping me and asking me for molly. I didn't hear a faint whisper for any mind altering substances. Friday's show wasn't sold out and the marketplace was flooded with extra tickets. I ran into Disco Brett who said he sold one extra for as low as $20. He dumped another for $40, still way below face value ($72 or so with fees).

Photo by @twhims

We headed inside to the general admission show and found a spot on the floor in front of the soundboard and watched the floor quickly fill in. Lights went down at 8:03 and Trey unleashed the opening licks to PYITE, as the frenzied audience hooted and hollered as their adrenaline perked up. A rowdy Possum ensued with Gordo leading the charge and Trey making a big fat O-face.

"Trey is happy with himself tonight," said Andrew.

Yeah, hell yeah, because he didn't have angry heads chucking glowsticks at him. One of my buddies was in a trance while watching a couple of high school girls dirty dance with each other, and occasionally grinding up against him. We joked that he usually has to pay strippers hundreds of dollars in Vegas to get a similar arousing affect.

The party continued with the ultimate crowd favorite Bathtub Gin, as the boys kicked off the Charleston show with three powerful tunes PYITE-Possum-Gin. During the "we love to take a bath" section, I was doused by warm beer (drunkards were throwing around beer, well, at least I hope it was beer because if we were at Panic, there would be an 87% chance of urine showers during Chilly Water).

Page's dad joined the Phish for a rendition of Bill Bailey. The old coot was well received by the shitfaced crowd, especially when he did the silly knee dance (otherwise known as the "Charleston").

"Dance like a mother fucker!" shouted the guy next to me. "Dance motherfucker!"

"It would be fucked up if he had a heart attack on stage," mentioned Bad Blood about Page's elderly father.

"I hope to die at a Phish concert someday," I blurted out.

Bad Blood deadpanned: "You will."

Fatty Boogie On got all the high school girls grooving in salacious positions, and one of them even displayed eloquent stripper moves. She definitely has a potential future on the pole. Just when the funkified Boogie jam picked up momentum, it got cut short. Trey seemed a bit lost on Destiny Unbound, and my buddy Phil reminded me about the Destiny streak -- I've seen the last five times they played it. One of the college kids in front of me asked "Is this a new song?" I fucked with the noob and said it was a Madonna cover.

I prefer Backwards in the first set, but they jam it out longer when they play it later in the show. If the floor wasn't so tightly packed, I would have bailed to take a piss during Bouncin'. The Charleston version of Stash included an ominous presence of UFO lights and I was mesmerized on the silhouettes of a few people dancing behind the stage in the tunnels leading out from the seats to the hallways.

Joy was well placed in the first set, but had a little fuzzy distortion emanating from the sound system. That got cleared up in time for a Buffalo Bill bust out, followed up by Dog Faced Boy. Otis has been to three Phish shows and he seemed perplexed that he's seen DFB twice.

Plethora of glowsticks filled the air for a high-octane Antelope dance party. Not the most precise version, but energetic for sure with a "Mike-O" reference. The 90-minute 13-song set ended with a severe greatest hits slant, but that was definitely OK with me (even though I saw a few repeats from Broomfield) because they smoked the shit out of the building. After that lukewarm closing show in Colorado, the boys returned to basics and brought the heat with plenty of Trey wanking off jams.

"I had to wipe the jizz off my face," explained Disco Sister #1. "It was getting a little sloppy up there."

At setbreak, I caught up with Ziggy Stardust and my brother texted me that the Yanks were down 5-0. We improved our spot on the floor to center court and prepped for the second set.

Heavy, thick, and goopy Down with Disease opener. My favorite bits popped up around 7 minutes into the jam. CK5 turned off the spotlights hovering over the band and they played on a darkened stage as the rest of the lights on his rig scanned the audience. I heard a 2001 tease at the tail end of the ambient DWD jam, and that's all that was -- a tease, before Trey launched into Prince Caspian. The belligerent crowd sang along loudly.

Twist > Roses Are Free was one of my favorite moments of the show. They didn't delve off into too many elongated jams during the night (in which they played 29 songs), and instead, went for the machine gun approach spraying rapid fire bursts here in there -- still mightily effective with a high kill ratio. Twist included some of those machine gun jams, with lots of Gordo and Page interplay. In the middle of Twist, I took a drag off a one-hitter and felt someone rush up to my side and grab my midsection if almost to tackle me. In a millisecond, I thought that I got popped by an undercover cop. The powerful force kinda freaked me out because only a cop would tackle an assailant in that rough manner. I whirled around and saw Strawberry Shortcake, who gave me a huge hug. She had been hanging out in one of the upper sections, but migrated to the floor to find us. Thank God it was her grabbing me and not the fuzz! She told me that she was rip roaring drunk and that she had made out with a boy during the first set -- who then passed out after they sloppily locked lips.

Another @twhims pic

Had no clue that Roses Are Free was next up on the menu after they pulled out of the delicious Twist jam. The crowd enthusiastically sang along with the Ween cover and the band reached an energetic highpoint for the show (an apex that would later be surpassed). An unpredictable My Friend My Friend ambushed us and the boys took the crowd along on a quick sojourn down the rabbit hole into middle earth where all of the aliens, reptilians, hobbits, and wooks live (when Sound Tribe and Phish are not on tour). They did not finish up My Friend (no sinister giggling -- which always freaks me out when I'm tripping balls).

My Problem was much improved compared to the song's debut in Colorado. My other favorite bit of the show was the ass-shaking funk monster Tube and a scorching Mike's Song, which was one of the better version that I experienced in 3.0. The Mike's Groove sandwich was broken up a bit with Weekapaug as a stand alone dish. Mike's was followed up by a calming and soothing Horse > Silent. I'm a big fan of Mexican Cousin, which came out of nowhere. I've caught 5 out of the 8 times it's been played (which is a nerdy Phish stat that I'm more proud of than 9 TTEs and seeing 6 out of 8 Destiny Unbound).

Weekapaug was a bit flat and nowhere as mind-bending as Mike's, but the crowd lapped it up. Page went nuts on the Clavinet with a funky Suzy as the crowd jumped, stumbled, danced and sang along. I did not expect a Slave in Charleston, and was happy to hear it. Started out slow and built to a massive crescendo. Fishman's fills were astonishing and he sounded like three African drummers playing simultaneously.

They encored with a dynamic Character Zero with everyone on their feet, arms thrust into the air and chanting along. Predictable encore, but it still kicked our collective arses.

I headed to Shakedown after the show and the local federales shut it down around Midnight. The lot was dry...again. I returned to our hotel (a five minute walk from the venue) and partied it up in our room. Otis and Andrew switched off handling the DJ duties. Whatever booze was leftover from the pre-party was heartily consumed, until the booze ran out around 4am and the party was over.

Phish bounced back from an off night in Colorado with a greatest hits-heavy theme for the first night in Charleston -- which marked the first time Phish returned to South Carolina since Greenville 98. Fun night. Lots of drunks. And the schwasted high school girls were an added bonus. Man, these days I'm feeling a lot like Wooderson from Dazed and Confused... "That's the thing I like about high school girls...I get older and they stay the same age."

One down in Charleston, and one to go.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Off Night, Off Kilter

By Pauly
Denver, CO

Phish had an off night and couldn't connect to the crowd -- whether it was one of those group orgies or an intimate mindfuck -- they just couldn't make it happen. Plagued by poor song selection for the entire night, their reception for their last of three shows in Colorado was lukewarm at best and outright nasty on the opposite end of the spectrum. It's one thing to take a piss when you hear a song you don't like, but it's downright disrespectful to throw glowsticks purposely at the band -- and by the band, I mean 99% at Trey who bore the brunt of the aerial bombardment all night.

It's not easy being Phish because no matter what they do, it's going to alienate somebody. If they stick to their greatest hits, someone is gonna bitch that they want to hear something else. If they play new material, someone is gonna whine about missing YEM. And if they ever bust out an old tune that hasn't been performed in the 3.0 era, someone is gonna complain that it was a shitty version.

Phish's setlist are sort of like a lineup in baseball or a sports team in general. If the players don't mesh with each other and lack a cohesive chemistry, then it's going to be tough to win on a consistent basis. Last night's lineup looked like a bunch of bush league ballplayers that might never make it to "the show", who got thrown together with a handful of washed up over-the-hill vets.

On a positive note, 10/12/10 is an important date in Phishtory -- it marked a step forward in the artistic growth of Phish because the band made a clear decision to play new material, including newish songs from Joy that the majority of Phishdom loathes like Time Turns Elastic. If the public wants a nostalgia act (like what happened to the Grateful Dead in the 1990s, and even today with Furthur), then why bother learning new material? But if the fans want the true essence of Phish, then they have to accept the simple fact that Phish offered you the ride -- and you accepted. It wasn't the other way around.

A year and a half into the 3.0 era, Phish is struggling with what all great artists struggle with when the reach the crossroads between commerce and art. People are paying a lot of money in a shitty economy to see Phish, which creates an immense burden for Phish to carry into each show that they play, but at the same time, as musicians and artists they want to grow individually and collectively, but have to made concessions and sacrifices, otherwise they will alienate their entire fan base. It's a prickly situation, and I'm afraid it's going to get worse unless the fans either lower their expectations and give the band more slack to play new material. At the same time, the band is going to have to loosen up a bit and surrender to their own flow, which means allowing some of their jams to develop into behemoths, instead of playing it safe and keeping the song times shorter in order to play more songs per show.

The only way a song will improve is with play time, but therein lies the conundrum -- in order to play new material, older material gets sacrificed. And, in the case this summer, many jams were cut short in order to make time for new tunes. Gone are the days of four song second sets. Trey is no longer hooked on the pharmies, so the 20-minute Oxy Jams are extinct.

So, enough about spoiled Phisheads and the artistic woes of Phish. So how about the show? Was it that bad? At one point in the first set, the Joker sent me a text from the floor, "Is this worse than Deer Creek?"

I told him no. The setlist looks much worse on paper than it sounded. The band's level of musicianship is much better in Colorado than that trainwreck of a set 1 in Deer Creek this summer. Heck, even the TTE was a notch up, and better placed second in the lineup, which almost guaranteed that fewer jaded fans would head to the bathrooms. Jonas said it the best: "I don't have to piss yet."

Set 1's song selection did not bode well with most of my friends, although I found a few gems in the rough. Meat was one of the few bits of protein in the first set. Gordo-infused funk. What's not to like? Timber Ho! contained couple of dark grooves, but stopped before they got anything really cooking. On Your Way Down is one of those classic rock covers that allows Page to stretch out his range a bit (in a better way than the average Phish song, which is why so many of Page's best moments often happen during covers -- Loving Cup, Rock and Roll, Light Up or Leave Me Alone, Oh Sweet Nuthin, etc). Altough the set closer, 46 Days, legitimately saved the set, I wondered if it was that good? Or was it because the first set was that dismal?

During the setbreak, I caught up with the rumor mill (a.k.a. Wildo) and a story involving a wook getting tazed by police for doing a dippy in Shakedown. I love urban lot tales. Despite the gossip, I noticed a rapidly growing sentiment of hostility from the crowd that sprouted with TTE and continued to grow throughout the opening set. Half of the crowd was optimistic and awaiting a raging second set to make up for the first set hiccup, while the rest of the crowd was outright pissed off. I felt bad for my buddy Jesse, or anyone else who flew in just for Tueday's show.

The rager that everyone expected was on pace after a meancing Carini opener and a scorching David Bowie to open Set 2, but they downshifted a gear with Theme. At this juncture, Light has become the best jamming vehicle in 3.0 Phish, but the downside is having to dig through the muck during the first five minutes of the song to get there. They restored the energy level with the Light jam and kept up the momentum with a rocking Free that featured a few chaka-chaka-chaka Trey riffs.

Alas, more song selection woes killed the rest of the show. The boys shot their load with the Carini > Bowie opener. I'm ambivalent about Joy and know that it's getting played in a late second set every fourth show or so. But, piggybacked with Halfway to the Moon, the band took two much of a risk and lost their connection with the crowd at one of the most crucial moments of the show. To compound the fractured relationship, they played Bug, which isn't exactly the best way to whip the crowd in a frenzy, or taking them from 0 to 100 in six seconds, like a dozen or so other songs in their vast repertoire would have easily accomplished. Yeah, I saw a spectacular Bug at Alpine Valley, but that was after a smoking set 1 and set 2. The set up is as important as the execution.

Summer of 89... was the final nail in the coffin. That right there perfectly explained the show -- poor song selection. Wrong time. Wrong place.

Split Open and Melt was dirty, dark, and sloppy to all hell. I had another one of those moments where I couldn't tell if the crowd was genuinely turned on by the song, or if they were happy to hear anything decent after a four song blackhole of Joy-Halfway to the Moon-Bug-Summer 89.

I expected a multi-song encore to make up for the blah evening, but at that point, I dunno if anything could have really saved the show. Meatstick contained Japanese lyrics, but at one point Trey forgot if they were singing the chorus in Japanese or English. The best part of the song happened when the band walked off the stage, and the audience continued to chant the chorus (acapella and in English) a couple of times while Kuroda's white spotlights scanned the crowd. The house lights went up and a few people continued to sing. It wasn't quite the same effect that Trey and Mike had during their duo acoustic set for the Fourmile Benefit show on Sunday, when they finished their set with Bathtub Gin and walked off the stage as the crowd chanted.

We got an off night, but at least I got to hang out with some cool friends, many of whom I would not have seen if Phish were not playing in Colorado. Our theme of the night was Yacht Rock, which was well embraced by our crew. By the way, many thanks to Jonas and Katie for setting up a 20-person party limo for all three nights. And as always, thanks to the Joker for letting me and Nicky crash with him.

Overall, I had a blast in Denver, like I always do, mainly because this is the Joker's backyard and we always have fun with Phish -- even on an off night. After four shows at Red Rocks last summer and two at Telluride this summer, I realize that I'm lucky that I got to see Phish nine times in Colorado.

Three show down. Next stop... Charleston, SC.