This run was a trip. I saw these two shows right after catching 8 out of the 9 Grateful Dead shows at Vegas, Shoreline, and Cal Expo (hey, I had to work ONE day). I was lucky to still have a job when I got back into town. I saw the Laguna Seca Dead shows in '88 and '87, so I was pretty familiar with the camping drill. The stage was set in the middle of a big dirt field that might have had grass there at one time. One difference between these shows and the Dead shows 5-6 years before was that Fort Ord was shut down by this time and was not blasting off ordinances between songs.
I liked this show overall better than the next night, but to be honest, I was already exhausted and a little burned by the time the music even started. This felt a little like in 1987, when day after the Dead run here at Laguna Seca, I got dragged to a Billy Idol concert at the Cow Palace. I was pretty fried.
Anyway, the one-set show was pretty solid with highlights including the vacuum solo in Cavern and the Big Ball jam. YEM> Jim was pretty good too. I remember thinking during the Big Ball jam that ABB, Shawn Colvin, and Blues Traveler probably thought these guys were pretty weird. It was all good fun, tho. The crowd was mainly there for ABB, but they seemed to appreciate Phish's playing.
This was my first Phish show. I went to LSD having never even heard of the band. The people I was meeting up with were arriving later in the day, so I caught this set alone. Well, not really alone. An instant community of super welcoming and super happy phriends manifested around me. And Phish, as far as this new-to-it guy was concerned, absolutely killed it.
Obviously, I can't review this show as a Phish connoisseur, because at the time I was ignorant. But, what I can say is that I was instantly hooked (to use a tired, but absolutely accurate cliché). I had a blast, danced my butt off, and was just so pleased and impressed with what these fours guys were putting out there, both musically (the chops were undeniable) and extra-musically (just a great vibe, so fun, so silly and playful, so life-affirming). It's still one of the best times I've ever had at a concert.
From there, I headed back to Phoenix, where I was living at the time, and went straight to a used record store. Snagged used copies of Rift and Lawn Boy in short order. And it was on from there. The process from newbie to true-blue phan was underway.
I'm writing this on my 22nd Phishiversary (thanks for the reminder, Mockingbird!). 48 shows in, across the country. Dick's is on deck (my first Dick's/CO experience, which I cannot wait for).
No band has given me so much, elicited such feelings of joy and awe and wonder and appreciation and delight. I owe my career, in a very real way, to Phish. I ended up getting a Ph.D. and actually wrote my doctoral dissertation on the Phish phenomenon. I'm the first to have published academically on Phish, theorizing what it is they do onstage, advocating for a fuller understanding of the power of music, live music, and especially live improvised music; and what it is that intense, deep fandom is and does and means...
After a couple of weeks off, and surpassing Page’s birthday, the boys headed back out to California for their first couple of single set shows at the Laguna Seca Raceway. This seemed like a soundboard quality recording, but it is actually a great audience source. It was very fun to listen to.
A rocking Chalk Dust opens up the affair and Page’s volume is overpowering the mix, which wasn’t bad unless you want to hear Trey. It was high energy from the get go and almost a little rushed as Fish kind of blows the ending. Bouncing was good and pretty standard, also a little rushed. Rift continued the super fast tempos and sad to say the timing was still a bit off during Page’s solo and a little off in Trey’s as well. Stash had a few off notes here and there, but had a good jam. Coil also had a few off spots, but not too bad. Page cleans it up nicely, as usual. Sparkle was good and pretty standard. Cavern was a little messy, as Trey seemed to have trouble with the lyrics again. I’m not sure why he’s been doing so poorly singing this one this year? And I believe this is the first time I’ve heard the end stop for a vacuum solo since 1992. Then the Balls come out to jam briefly as I’m sure there was no way in hell they were going to wait for a huge crowd to shoot baskets. So instead we have a pretty solid YEM. Maybe a few parts were a little loose, but not bad overall. They did kind of blow the ending of Mike’s part going into the vocal jam. Fish had a rough time getting into Jim and they showed a little rust on this one, but the jam was good. Grace was fine, not the best I’ve ever heard, but just fine.
GTBT gets the call for the encore tonight and this one is pretty well played overall.
Well done tonight, though there were some rough moments, I don’t think the casual listener will notice. I’m going with three stars just to bring the average down a bit on this one.
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