For our final recap before Dick's, we decided to invite forum regular and significant contributor of reviews, @n00b100, who has already listened to countless hours of Phish, but saw his first live performance just last night in Los Angeles, to be a guest recapper.
It wasn't the drive up from San Diego where it truly hit me that I was about to see my first Phish show after becoming a true fan. Nor was it when I met up with some very friendly .netters and actually got to chat about the band in person, hearing cool stories about first shows and seeing the Giant Country Horns in person and witnessing the Prague Ghost. Nor was it on the walk to the Hollywood Bowl (also my first time for that hallowed venue), seeing people of all ages wearing everything from sundresses right out of Monterey Pop to "Reba" t-shirts using the Reese's logo to a fellow in a full three-piece suit. It was only when I sat in my space on the long wooden bench that constituted my row in Section L2, that I realized it. Almost fifty years ago a young girl sat in my very space and screamed nonsense at The Beatles, and in 20 minutes (give or take) I'd be screaming nonsense at Phish. That is when it really and truly hit me - I was at my first show. All the tapes, the spreadsheet scouring, the LivePhish CDs - that was just spring training. I was in the big leagues now.
Phish came out to a hearty reception from the almost entirely full Bowl, and after a quick conference the band launched into a rousing “AC/DC Bag.” It generally makes for a nice, funky set opener (watching Mike slap his bass was a treat right out of the gates), and they put some extra oomph into the song's closing by speeding up the tempo. “The Moma Dance” helped keep those good feelings going; I'm one of the many that misses the razor-sharp funk workouts of “Black-Eyed Katy,” but the looser-limbed rock feel of “The Moma Dance” is a fine replacement, and live, I had no problem bopping along. Next up came “Sparkle,” which has never exactly been one of my favorite songs; that said, I couldn't help but get sucked into the crowd singing along and having a blast, as well as enjoying Kuroda projecting his lights onto the famous ribbed interior of the Bowl (this would happen all throughout the show - and yes, Kuroda's lights need to be seen in person to be appreciated). They then pull out “Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan,” and like the version in San Francisco on Friday it absolutely rips; sometimes you want a monstrous type-II jam (which...ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself), and sometimes you just want to hear Trey abuse his guitar, and this “Stealing Time” had no shortage of guitar abuse. Page then made his now-typical address to the crowd, then I saw a crew member start untangling his mic cord from its stand, which could only mean one thing - “Lawn Boy.” I always enjoy the goofiness of the song on tape, and in person, watching Page amble out on stage and soak in the limelight, my enjoyment was multiplied tenfold. Bless you, Chairman.
This quick breather led into a three-song run that I would consider the first set's highlight. “Wolfman's Brother” came first, and though they amusingly botched one of the verses (you could see Trey and Page grinning widely on the video feed, Fish smiling wryly, and Mike being Mike), they made up for it with another strong funk workout in what has been a pretty damn good tour for "Wolfman's" in 3.0. Page's piano work here is particularly delicious, a nice counterpoint to Trey's soloing. They then move into “Roses are Free,” which I enjoyed grooving and singing to (my dancing looks, to quote Karl Pilkington, like some kind of weird art, so I usually limit my concert movements to head bopping and bouncing on my toes), and from the usual outro it feels like the band might be heading into a bonus jam (cue the "WHY DON'T THEY JAM OUT ROSES ANYMORE?" screaming), but instead they go right into “Scent of a Mule.” “Mule” has been so much fun this tour, thanks to Fish introducing the Marimba Lumina, but this time they had something different in mind, as Trey's amp had gone out and the techs were working on it during Page's (elongated) solo, meaning that they couldn't go into the usual first Mike/Trey duet. Instead, Mike wandered over to Fish, who had pulled out his mallets, held up his bass like John Cusack in Say Anything... and Fish started thumping away on the strings of Mike's held-up bass, just like he would the Marimba, making for a wild percussive jam. It was crazy to watch live - I got a kick out of Mike making chord changes on his fretboard while Fish wailed away - and to add to the craziness, Trey and Page went over to Fish's kit and started tapping on his cymbals and toms. This went on for a few wild minutes, and I smiled at the end of it, having been gifted with my own slice of 94-level weirdness. “Mule” then wrapped up with its usual Klezmer-inflected segment, Mike holding a vocal note in the last verse for longer than I thought his range allowed these days; all in all, another fabulous version. “Ocelot” (which they took out for a nice long version, at least), “Cavern” (which rocks hard live), and the surprise return of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” closed things out nicely. A perfectly nice first set; you could hear a few bum notes here and there, but I don't mind that so long as the music was enjoyable, and the music was quite enjoyable, with that nutty Mule bass jam as the highlight.
“Chalk Dust Torture” kicked off the second set, and I got excited, as I really like “CDT” in Set 2 and had visions of Dick's and Alpharetta 1's stellar versions dancing in my head. But instead they played a standard, if thoroughly energetic version, a set-opening warm up like the old days. This then led into “Golden Age,” which seems to be divisive in the Phish community (especially the merits of the TV on the Radio). I like the song (and TVOTR) a good deal, so I'm always happy to hear “Golden Age,” even with a few forgotten lyrics here and there. They slide into the usual “Golden Age” jam (side-note: one nice thing about 2013 so far is how hard they've been nailing their type-I jams, from “C&P” to “Tweezer” to “Disease”), then make the also-usual turn into the minor-key jam that heralds a trip into the unknown, and Page goes to the synthesizer as things get spartan and quiet, Trey working his wah-wah and Fish throwing in some militaristic drumming. And then, with the jam apparently having exhausted itself, they kick into the explosive intro of “Birds of a Feather.” I like “Birds” more as a Set I high-energy rocker, and it felt a bit jarring to me to get it in Set II (especially early on); that said, this was probably the best “Birds” we got all tour, with a few mellower touches in between the hard rocking.
“Sand” made a welcome return to the second set, and it was here that I got my first taste of glow stick wars. All I can say is that I am amazed that people are okay with what is essentially culture-ingrained assault and battery, even if it's with dumb glowing plastic sticks. Nevertheless, it was brief, and I quickly got back into this more relaxed “Sand” and the weird notes Trey started playing. They then seemingly turned the regular Sand jam inside out, Mike exploring more with his basslines, Trey working some loops, Page going contemplative on the piano, as they work their way to the same conclusion as “Golden Age.” Then Mike flips on a different filter, and we enter a very familiar rumbling musical storm, which can only mean one thing - “Down With Disease.” They roll into the usual Disease starting jam, albeit a bit less smoothly than usual, and soon make thier way into a more upbeat, major-key jam, Fish holding down a quicksilver beat as Mike goes into "alien laser show" mode and Trey switches from soloing to playing chords. Things once again go quiet, then the band begins to climb out of the muck, with Trey leading the way, before a sudden left turn into the amusing false opening of “My Friend, My Friend.” I quite liked this song placement, and up to this point the “Sand” to “MFMF” run was my highlight of the show, even if the jam segments were all too brief.
Then comes "Harry Hood," which included another glow stick war, Trey quoting "Myfe" in the intro (he was thoroughly pleased with himself), Page going back to his talkbox, and (rather regrettably) the people behind me starting up a conversation during the regular Hood jam. What got them to shut up, though, was the band suddenly stepping out; a thrill ran through me as I realized that they were taking Hood out for a real walk for the first time since those crazed Type II “Hoods” from July 2003. Things began at a low simmer, as Trey started cranking out some sharp chords, then Fish starts picking up the pace and they rock out in a decidedly non-”Hood” way, with Page providing relaxed piano accompaniment as a counterpoint. They begin stop-starting, and of course the "whoos" come out, and I am not sorry to say that I participated in whooing. While not hitting the monstrous peak of the Tahoe Tweezer's stop-start jam, the band still whipped up some real power in that segment. Trey then took over and things headed to a quick, danceable jam (this is “Hood,” remember), before they quickly herded themselves into the land of bliss (Fish's sympathetic rhythms are invaluable to making this work). But they're still not done - Mike starts throwing out single wave-like notes, Page goes back to piano, and they play a really sweet jam that shows off their ability to interact and play off each other in a glorious fashion. The jam finally winds down (it is about here that I couldn't help myself and yelled "KEEP GOING" at the stage), and with perfect timing Trey starts up the Hood climax and we finish things up with a loop-laden climax. A massive singalong “Character Zero” and nice “Loving Cup” encore ends a great night.
Final thoughts, at-show version: (montage of me wandering around in a wide-eyed daze, yelling "They jammed out Hood!" to random strangers, then walking back in silence as I soaked up the experience I just had and would not trade for anything)
Final thoughts, listening back version: there are better shows in 2013, certainly, but the “Mule” is certainly worth hearing, as is the “Sand” > “Disease” > “MFMF” segment, and of course a true Type II “Hood” (especially one this compelling) demands a hearing or ten.
Thank you for reading this novella on my first Phish show. I'm so glad to finally have one under my belt. Hope to see you all out on tour next year!
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March 27, 1993
25 years ago
Set 2: Buried Alive > Halley's Comet > It's Ice > Bouncing Around the Room, Chalk Dust Torture, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Mike's Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Hold Your Head Up > Cracklin' Rosie > Hold Your Head Up, Poor Heart > Golgi Apparatus
 Beginning featured Trey on acoustic guitar.
 Fish on trombone.
 All Fall Down signal in intro.
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