Wednesday 10/22/2014 by TheEmu

SB1 RECAP: FREAK OUT, COUNT OFF, WORLD'S GREATEST BAND

Before we get into the play-by-play of Tuesday night’s show, a quick editorial comment. You can say what you want about factors that would drive attendance at these shows down: a smaller fan base on the West Coast, a Tuesday night gig, and the difficulties of getting through Los Angeles traffic for a 6pm start. Phish should be able to fill a 4,500 seat venue, regardless. Instead, under-face tickets were said to be plentiful, and as of this writing you can score great seats for tonight’s “sold-out performance” on Ticketmaster. Of course I’m not breaking any news here, but the culture of ticket speculation is obviously out of hand and keeping away fans who would otherwise attend if the process were more straightforward. But enough of that. On with the Phish.

What a beautiful venue! From my seat on the couch (well, recliner) 2,500 miles away, the Santa Barbara Bowl looked warm and intimate, and I would have loved to have been there to score some of those last minute seats. On top of a smoldering orange sunset and the beckoning wonder of the Pacific Ocean, the band continues to play with a joyful synergy that makes the current era one of my favorites in Phish history. For those of you fortunate enough to have been there last night, my meager words will doubtless be but a distorted reflection of the experience. But I’m going to write them anyway.


© Phish From the Road

I expected to hear some laid-back song selections to match the size and setting of the venue, and was delighted by the choice to open with “Stash,” a jazzy but slightly twisted way to light the burner. “Possum” brought some swamp-boogie down from the top of the mountain to get dancing feet moving before “Ocelot” crept in, strolled around, stretched, roared, and curled up for a nap. The ebb and flow of the first set continued with the reggae swing of “NICU” followed by some more down-home dancin’ music in the form of “Back On the Train.” This “BOTT” is peppy and quick, but take just a moment to listen to the precision of Fishman’s fills. Amazing.

Limb By Limb” was another appropriate choice for the evening, keeping the tempo upbeat without becoming overly boisterous, and a beachside sunset seems like a perfect backdrop for “Waiting All Night.” By now, the gentle sway of the night was firmly established; smoothly to the upbeat side with “Yarmouth Road,” and then serene again with “When the Circus Comes,” a song which I think would set the mood for later in the evening via Page’s focused, soulful tones. Prior to the pendulum swinging back to the shuffle of “Heavy Things,” Trey took a moment to praise the gorgeous venue, then admitted that he didn’t remember being there to open for Santana in 1993. Maybe that’s just because it was actually 1992, but no matter. It might be fitting that “Stealing TIme,” the only real gritty rocker of the first set, was first awkwardly wrenched into place before closing the first stanza on a high note.


Photo @PhishNQuips

I honestly don’t care how many times Phish wants to open a second set with “Down with Disease” or “Chalk Dust Torture.” If they are going to continue to use these standards as launch pads for mesmerizing improvisation, they can do it every night. Much like the Randall’s version from the summer, the entire band moved as one into the unknown. My ear was drawn from instrument to instrument during the ensuing jam; Fish propelling the music with superhuman dexterity, Mike filling in the foundation with billowing, bubbling tones, Trey sprinkling notes and spraying chords with measured abandon, and Page draping the entire assemblage in a melodious cloak. When it’s all said and done, this might end up being my second favorite “Chalk Dust” of the year, but it is nonetheless a marvelously beautiful example of 3.0 Phish.

As the “CDT” jam pulsed and fragmented to a close, the approaching footsteps of “Ghost” were apparent, and we would be treated to a second jaw-dropping segment. Allow me to reiterate how collaborative this music is: the level of both talent and communication these guys have is mind-blowing. The last 3½ minutes of “Ghost” are absolutely sublime, and as several have pointed out, reminiscent of the TAB song “Valentine.” This was the highlight of the evening for me, as the band reached across the continent to lift me out of my chair, floating on the breeze of their creation. Truly moving.


© Phish From the Road

Ironically, “Birds of a Feather” brought me back to Earth. Like “Stealing Time” in the first set, it seemed a touch out of place, with the abrupt transition from “Ghost,” a chaotic jam, and rough landing that Trey said was “weird” and “freaked me out a little bit.” Page took a quick baseball poll, and Trey further mocked the end of the “Birds” jam before introducing “Wombat.” My favorite quadrupedal marsupial stumbled a little bit out of the gate before finding the herky-jerky crepuscular funk groove I love, then spun himself into a flailing, distorted haze. An odd “Wombat,” to be sure, with more unusual antics on the way. A mid-set “Tweezer” is always welcome, and this version marched determinedly onward, missteps be damned. An emphatic theme from Trey and Page, complemented by massive rolls from Fish, dominated the jam, which dissolved into a spacy section of repeated “Julius” licks that finally gave way to the song itself.


Photo by @stim_buck

Piper” followed close on the heels of “Julius,” and flirted briefly with “L.A. Woman” before making a beeline back out to space, falling away, and leaving Page to work slowly into “Wading in the Velvet Sea.” Trey actually played with some “Curtis Loew” type licks that I think would actually be a nice add to “Velvet Sea,” but only a few times at the start of the song. To close the set, good ‘ol “Suzy Greenberg” started with another stumble, prompting Fish to chide Trey with the lyric “I wish you’d look at me before you count off the song!” And that’s why even the flubs at a Phish show can me make me giddy. “Boogie On Reggae Woman” > “Tweeprise” proved more than just your obligatory encore, with a strong jam out of “Boogie On” punctuated by dizzying echoes from Trey.

It’s still early in the tour, and things are only going to get tighter and more impressive as Halloween draws near. This was a thoroughly enjoyable show, with a one-two punch in the second set that simply demands that you don’t miss one of these shows if you don’t have to. I sure as hell wish I was out there to see what happens next. Be safe and have fun, everybody!


Photo by @ebyron

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Comments

, comment by ucpete
ucpete Nice work Tim! Love the embedded photos. I'll jump straight to CDT > Ghost. I'm hoping for a terrifying 10/31/98 type Ghost on Halloween in Vegas this year (without Trey having diarrhea this time) -- sounds like it's in the realm of possibility!
, comment by Mergz
Mergz Nice review. That "theme" you mentioned for Tweezer was basically The "Runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway" part from "A song I Heard the Ocean Sing."
, comment by fluff_hen
fluff_hen Thank you for the great review- joyful synergy is what it's all about, and you sure wouldn't know that from pt!

"the culture of ticket speculation is obviously out of hand and keeping away fans who would otherwise attend if the process were more straightforward. "

So what do we do about this?? I would have attended last night's show if I could have found tickets for face in September.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS Nice review. Like the way you accurately captured the way the flow felt without being too technical.

Thanks.
, comment by elephantus
elephantus Thank you for the recap! It sounded incredible from the pit, and was awesome to see Trey looking out over the crowd toward the top of our beloved Santa Barbara Bowl. Having the boys in our backyard for the first time since '92 is beyond epic for me. Stoked for night 2 tonight!
, comment by CarinCarpenter
CarinCarpenter The CDT was awesome. If they can find 'that' place seemingly at will during that song, why can't they find it for an entire set? Do they know what jams are great and which aren't?
, comment by phreedomdesignz
phreedomdesignz The deal with west coast Phish is this: All of the scalpers actually think Phish is like other major rock/pop acts where you can mark up the tickets for crazy prices. That's why all of these shows sell out so quickly...Then they realize that no one in their right mind would pay hundreds of dollars to see them when they webcast every third show and when we all know that if you don't pay for them at those high prices, they cannot sell them. By showtime last night you could into the pit for face value and anywhere else for much much less!! Phish fans need to stay hard and true on the thought on selling your tickets for face value if you aren't using them, period end of discussion. This band isn't doing anything to help US on the ticket front, so why don't we all make sure that the actual fans are getting into the shows that they want to go to for face value, it's really not that hard. But hey, I'll gladly keep going to all of these west coast shows with no tickets and then get into every single one by paying less than face!! Lat night my girl and I got in for less than the price of just one ticket! Take that scalpers!! Be the same tonight, the next 2 in SoCal and all 3 nights in the oh so super sold out Bill Graham, psssh!!
, comment by Egeffy
Egeffy I live in LA, put in for both nights of SB but was denied. Saw the second hand market and decided to pass. SB is such an amazing venue I hope I get a second shot but that seems unlikely...
going to the forum phish ticket sales sold me an absolute CRAP ticket... I mean really terrible... and 10/31 where I got a ticket sitting behind the stage from TM..
I wish phish ticket sales gave some priority by zip code location
kind of a bummer I guess I should have made something better happen for me on the ticket front but was not feeling very inspired after being shut down in my first effort. I guess that is the diff between west and east more east coasters would not stop trying.
amazing how cheap tickets are for the forum on stubhub I saw 9 dollar ticket and that includes fees now still under 20
, comment by Ready4wine
Ready4wine No kidding! I'd be in SB tonight had the tix not been listed at $300-$400. When I saw face value and less last night it made me sick! I'm 7 hours away. A bit too far for a quick trip this morning. At least I'll catch all 3 BGCC next week. Btw I'll be sick if I see the Vegas tix drop in price after deciding to skip this bucket list show due to the $400 tix.
, comment by benny
benny Great review Tim!! I live in SF and I also got denied for both SB shows. The two nights then sold out super fast and I was unable to get my hands on tix. The venue looks amazing and a perfect place to see phish... Reminds me of watching them in Desenzano Italy back in the day :)
, comment by HenryHolland
HenryHolland The deal with west coast Phish is this: All of the scalpers actually think Phish is like other major rock/pop acts where you can mark up the tickets for crazy prices. That's why all of these shows sell out so quickly...Then they realize that no one in their right mind would pay hundreds of dollars to see them when they webcast every third show and when we all know that if you don't pay for them at those high prices, they cannot sell them

You nailed it, that's exactly the situation.

I'm another one who got shut out from the SB tickets, despite having me and three non-phan friends trying to get them from TM the second they went on sale. When I saw that they were already $200-$400 per SB show on StubHub, I got all three BGCC shows for $300. Luckily I got the Forum and Chula Vista shows at face value......

Looks like a great setlist, will give it a listen tomorrow.
, comment by mikh2wg
mikh2wg Great write up. I also caught the LA Woman moment in Piper. I like how they brought it up a little, then down into the LA Woman thing, then right back up. Kinda like what they've been doing in Harry this year. Very lyrical playing from Trey. And Ghost was also great.
, comment by MartianMOMster
MartianMOMster @Mergz said: [quote]Nice review. That "theme" you mentioned for Tweezer was basically The "Runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway" part from "A song I Heard the Ocean Sing."

I was so sure that was next....it seemed to me that Page was really pushing for it but Trey was all.."back off Chairman!"
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