I want to tell my story and my experience of this show. So mind-blowing. Reflecting on the show brings me to tears. Struggled so hard at this one.
Why is August 19, 2012 so significant to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium and myself?
First, what may come to mind is the fantastic Other One performed by the Grateful Dead on August 19, 1989 across the bay at the Greek.
More significant to me was on August 19, 2001 in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium when we had a great Buddhist peace festival created and hosted by every Bay Area member of SGI-USA, sharing our community with more than 7,000 friends for free admission, with the theme centering on Beethoven's Ode to Joy.
This was the one show where it was necessary for me to attend. My favorite band in the room of a significant turning point in my life on the anniversary of that event (also on a Sunday). Since Nichiren Buddhism is the Buddhism of True Cause, I knew that this Phish concert was DESTINED and CERTAIN to manifest an effect from the former event. I needed only to attend, and here I was; my favorite friend finding a ticket for face value and offering me the miracle so that we may attend together.
Driving in, pondering that the Buddha and Devil arrive side by side, so to speak (if I were Fee, and she Millie, we had only to watch out and avoid Floyd. There was a close call, but it never happened). In this context, I was thinking that Crowd Control might be a good song to being with.
Walking into Bill Graham Civic and seeing those halls once again... how profound. The building is like an old friend I spent years visiting. From the remarkable Garcia Band show around Christmas 1990, to the first local Skate contest, to String Cheese Incident, and on and on. And of course, the Rev It Up festival, in preparation for the youth "Rock the Era" movement to follow, this building contains nostalgia like you wouldn't believe. Entering, I declared aloud: "Tonight is a Celebration of the Ode to Joy!" And then we went to the beer lounge.
Patron with Red Bull; much better than expected. A shared treat for a rare psychedelic encounter and the intense gravity in my life towards fearful circumstances of the heart, and the possibility of something far more wonderful I have never before known... it all seemed very appropriate. Either I would Split Open and Melt, or else I would stand up and catapult myself to a profound shift.
We went upstairs, and the lights went down, the band came on, and Trey cued up Crowd Control. We're in rhythm here. I sang that like "Make the devil turn around" like I was gonna do it myself.
Party Time. Now that the Devil has retreated, it's Party Time. Good standard version. The Civic needed a little more mono for both sides of the speaker stacks. We sought for good sound and views, and it seemed that the left tack had the left speaker mix, and the right, the right speaker mix. The stacks were far apart, so you'd only get the sound of the side of the room you were on. Beyond that, the room is like a big box with a high ceiling, so the sound gets lost in many ways throughout the room.
Axilla was above average for me. Rhythm section perfect. The band exploring the idea of nuance, stretching at the seams, adding various dynamics. If you don't listen close, you won't hear it, but it was quite good.
We crossed to Page side for Reba, the sound wasn't as good. but we danced some, and enjoyed a perfectly executed version, the highlight being a particularly great whistling segment.
Trey starts strumming that D. What is it? I called Free, and although it didn't really sound that way at first, it was. We took to the hallways and ran around Fishman side, and down a balcony stairway to some improved sound. Closer to the ground, it actually sounded quite good, so I think we say on the stairs. Funky Mike, and Trey was creative with his entry to his portion of the solo.
And then Mound. One thing that sets this Mound apart? The clapping intro. If you listen to Rift studio performance, the hand clapping of the intro is very steady, and the final clap happens in a moment of silence free of drums. Trey and Mike demonstrate where that clapping falls, and the audience started rushing. I did my best to follow them in holding it down, and others in the room did so as well. And then we nailed that clap in the silent moment. Almost. But hell, it was superior to nearly every other live version I've heard. A sign of the unity to come.
Walk Away was good, if not unexceptional. Maybe the sound was better on the floor. NICU has some great rhythmic nuances during the guitar riff where the band showed off their unity. Back On the Train was a cousin to the great 2/28/2003 performance, with a very similar jam. With respect to the past, I chanted 3 hearty Nam-myoho-renge-kyo's, that fell perfectly in place with the peak of the jam, and now we're looking forward.
Gotta Jiboo begins, and then the cookie crumbles, and I turn on. Hard. Sensory overload takes me, and it's time to find a place to cool down, get some fresh air, a drink of water, maybe a beer, roll a J, and... well, find a seat where I can sink in, turn off my mind, relax, float on air, listen to my soul, get in tune with the altered perception, and re-emerge on the scene with renewed confidence and energy. Of course, the only fresh air at a concert venue is the smoking section. How bout an outdoor non-smoking section as well? Wouldn't that make the concert venue a little more complete?
I tell my friend to go her own way for a little bit, and I sit in and relax. The beer lounge has speakers, and is showing the simulcast. I catch a minute of the Jiboo jam that is more pure than usual, some Roggae, and a very tense segment of Bowie that seems to be derived from Fluff's Travels. The band hits the end of Bowie with a little extra dynamics, playing the legato and staccato against each other for added impact.
Set break. Still in my seat, relaxing, beginning to feel like myself, writing a necessary text to ease my mind of personal matters that must be addressed in the most respectful and sensitive manner. I am back!
I get up, find my friend, who nearly had an encounter with Floyd and a quick escape. We are truly happy to be united, and I am smitten like nobody's business for the remainder of the night.
We begin talking, and under the fungus, I have a tendency to get very philosophical and I say a lot. My previous fungal experience at Phish was at the Gorge in '97, when I talked myself into a knot, stood up and observed that I was watching a band that reminded my of the Grateful Dead at a venue that reminded me of Shoreline. The next day, the fungus passed, and I suddenly spoke my first word.
Tonight, I was more disciplined, more knowledgeable about what I know, and I knew when to stop. I think.
We talked in the hall, just grooving on each other, grooving on the band in the background, and I told her that the music going on was of legend. As if to make that point, when I reached the end, and said, "and that's that" or whatever the conclusion was, the band fired up from mellow to triumphant, and we entered the floor in the back corner of the spinner section, just as the band dropped into Sneaking Sally! And we danced joyful, creative, as free as the music, and man! This music was happening! Mike was just layin' down the grooves. We couldn't see the band, but the sound was perfect, and we were into each other, into our favorite band, into sharing the groove of our favorite band together. And dancing close, the band began "Still Waiting" and surprised us by reprising the whole damn groove, not just the quote. Man, one mention of Trey's mentor, Ernie Stires, and Trey explodes with appreciation. He nailed every aspect of Theme on this one! And if that wasn't enough, cap it off with Rocky Top for my Tennessee friend.
Boogie on Reggae Woman, another for my girl, and although short, the jams are timeless. That could have been 10 minutes for all I knew. Seemed to go on forever, and yet it's actually quite short. But I never felt happier in many a year. Meatstick is great fun, and just as I talk too much again, and say: "It Doesn't Matter," the band drops into Bug. Pure synchronicity. The solo is exceptional, and then... YEM.
This YEM has all the love and joy imaginable, and the Trey solo follows the theme of the orchestral variation, with the quiet jams. Mike introduces his solo on the heals of a quote of Herbie Hancock's Chameleon (Leo was Leon on this San Francisco night). We bolt to the center of the floor just in case Herbie happens to show up. I cannot tell you the feeling in the room at this point. Mike nailed his solo. The vocal jam is like nothing you've heard before, with the voices circling around the room on the p.a.
Hell I was high, so I thought Bug was the encore, and I hadn't seen the stage, so when the band came back, I thought we were witnessing the second encore. Page lets us know how much fun they had this evening. Ride Captain Ride, and a genuine San Francisco reference. It all felt right, and then here comes the Tweezer Reprise, with a conviction like you would not believe. Glowsticks fly. We gather glowsticks off the floor and throw them back into the air. Streamers go up, and we step into the Freezer together! The final riff before the grand finale is played with a conviction and confidence that roars with certainty and force, as though to declare "DAMN RIGHT!" from Trey's guitar.
Hugs and hand slaps all around. People walking silently in the halls, bursting into cheers, glowing with this warmth and beauty collectively permeating... I mean everyone was glowing, stunned, moved.
Listening back, you can hear Trey holding back tears of joy as he sings Light. This was that kind of show.
I take my sweetheart on a tour of the city, reminded by that Herbie quote to play some Herbie for a smooth landing, and then Wayne Shorter Quartet for that Grimm's Tale vibe as we coasted slowly through GOlden Gate Park, over Twin Peaks, to the Pacific Ocean, past the Cliff House, into the Haight, talking and indulging our joy and gratitude and appreciation.