In bed at 4 a.m. Blinked open at 11:15 a.m. Game day.
We had a quick jump in the pool, rallied up with friends, and finally went to a well-deserved brunch at the Treasure Island buffet. Plate after plate of food, coffee, juice, and some unnecessary but fun champagne.
Back to the Vagabond by about 1:30 p.m., time for cocktails by the pool and to regroup and forge the night’s plan. I was part of the go-early group this day.
I talked to my friend Melissa (Bubbles) at about 3:00 p.m. and she got me completely fired up. This girl should be a motivational speaker. She wasn’t even going to come to Vegas, but when some tickets became available, she said screw it, flew out from New York, solo, hooked up with some friends, and did Vegas up in style. On Sunday morning she made a helicopter ride over the city, and that afternoon she was seeing Siegfried and Roy before skipping over to the Mack for the show. She was just talking it all up like Tommy Lasorda, and got me so fired up that any residual fatigue
Finally took off for the lot at about 4:00 p.m. or so. Cory G, Cletus and I hit the line (good position!), Rick and Leigh Ann cruised the lot to sell more of their license-plate frames (perhaps you bought one? “Slave.....to the Traffic Light). Gates opened early this night, around 6:00 p.m., and as planned we secured the same amount of space, on the same side but closer: section 105, first section off the stage, Mike’s Side, around 20 rows up. Sweet.
The group slowly filtered in and by 7:30 p.m. we were all assembled. Suddenly someone noticed the rafters : the “Ghost” sign was back. But now they had cut off the “82” from it so it read “1 Days Since Last Ghost”. We never saw it because we were on the Mike side, but apparently at the corner where the stage met the loge seats on his side, someone had a sign that said “Mike’s Corner.”
I gave away a lot more CDs and got all sorts of stuff in exchange; a sweet green Dancing Bear necklace, a small chocolate, something else similar. Shortly before the lights dropped, the crowd energy (again palpably high) erupted into the wave. It can be cheesy at a ballgame, but it was dead-on this night.
As show time approached, we all wondered whether Saturday’s energy would carry over; would they just pound us again? The answer, to be revealed immediately, would be a resounding “YES!”.
“Bowie”> “Catapult”> “Bowie”. Any questions?
The high hat started up, and a few people thought “Maze”. I even gave our first-song pool money to Laurie, who had picked “Maze”, only to take it back (yoink) quickly when I knew it would be “Bowie”.
Song one. Check.
The highlight of the “Round Room” later in the set was the long outro jam that was ambient and groovy and, if we hadn’t been steamrolled by an “Antelope” the night before, I would have sworn was going to lead into “Antelope” (reminiscent of the “Fee”>outro jam> “Antelope” from Champlaign in Fall ‘97).
According to the Phish Companion, as Phish prepared for the first Halloween “costume” show on 10/31/94, where they played the fan-voted Beatles’ “White Album”, what they really wanted to play was Innervisions. They worked up “Golden Lady”, soundchecked it a couple times, and performed it exactly once. Until 2/16/03 at the Mack Daddy! Very hard to go wrong with Stevie. Ah, but we were still just getting started. Poor Heart was next, and Greg won our pool (first of our first-song picks to be played).
Set II opened with the dissonant wah-wah that can mean only 2 things: “2001”, or “Down With Disease”. It was the “Disease”, and a beauty. Then a tasty segue into “Seven Below”, This built back up into a good jam, and at some point they rammed it back into “DWD” and the place went ballistic.
At this point, on I.Z’s command, he and I fired our streamers together, and they worked great opening up over the crowd like twin jet trails. Meanwhile, Cletus had out the large bag of shiny confetti that I had taken to NYE ( and failed to use, passed to Iffi and Mitch, who passed it to Cletus in Hampton, who used a little at the Col. Bruce aftershow, but then brought the balance to Vegas!), Throughout the show, Cletus would occasionally launch a big handful of confetti over our group.
When the “DWD” madness finally ended, and the Mack Daddy was again safely back on land, it was time for a tasty break, and “Anything But Me” fit the bill. I’m a sucker for a nice ballad, when well placed (a well-placed “Lifeboy” is still one of my favorite things). And I’m also a big fan of a certain type of Phish lyrics; the bizarro ones are fun to sing along with, but I really like a clever turn-of-phrase that gets you thinking (I like anything that gets you thinking) by creating an image. One favorite has always been in “Guyute”, picturing the Ugly Pig he lectured me in a language strange, then scampered quickly out of range. “Anything But Me” has some nice ones, and in Vegas on this night I had fun with this one: “I am just a raindrop that accelerates without control, losing bits and pieces in descent 'til I'm no longer whole”. Nice.
After I heard the NYE show back and heard the Piper opener, I started a discussion with some friends by saying that the NYE Piper was the best that I had ever seen live. This sparked all sorts of “best Piper” discussion, and several people pointed to the 7/6/98 Prague version as being their favorite. Indeed, it is quite solid, with a long jam that jumps all over the place. (It was this discussion that got me the 7/6/98 CDs for free that inspired me to burn a bunch and hand them out in Vegas).
Well move over, there’s a new sheriff in town. This Vegas Piper is immediately in the discussion. It was freaking ludicrous. It ended in a long, spectacular funk jam that just kept going, and topping itself, and building, and breaking down into wah-wah guitar, then ripping off again. It never lost its momentum. It was only fitting that it would segue back into “Down With Disease” (third time) for a spell, then jam off in another direction, before finally settling down into a crowd pleaser, “Makisupa Policeman”!
Somewhere around here, as we were throwing all our remaining confetti all over the place, I got a big confetti flake directly in my left eye. We saw it in there but couldn’t pull it out, so we resolved to deal with it later.
Even as the “Friday” encore ended, we were hoping for something else, but to no avail. Hey, we can’t complain in light of what went down in Vegas for two nights, but still, the moment called for a triumphant encore, even just a “Funky Bitch” or a bustout “Viva Las Vegas” cover, or something. But that was really the only miss of the whole two nights.
We spilled out of the Mack, called our limo, and in about ten minutes we were sitting in the stretch, drinking vodka on ice (no mixers to be found) and listening to the 1993 soundchecks disc that I had brought.
Because most of us had been in Vegas for two days and had not yet gambled, our group decided during the show that we would rally up at the Vagabond and head just up the Strip to the Frontier, where some friends had discovered $5 tables the night before. Got back to the hotel, and while waiting for everyone I went next door to Subway and grabbed a foot long sub and inhaled it.
Finally we headed over to the Frontier at about 1:00 Am. or so, and we quickly commandeered a blackjack table, with about five of us sitting and playing.
And then it happened. In what I can only figure was the crescendo of this weekend full of magic and madness, I briefly turned into Rain Man. We were playing blackjack, and at one point I was dealt an ace first card. I casually asked the dealer, “Gimme the Jack of Hearts”. Bang: Jack of Hearts. It was a big laugh, everyone was shaking their head, myself included, and the next deal came around and my first card was again an ace. People looked at me. “Oh, this time it’s the ten of. Clubs.” Can it possibly be right this time? Bang: ten of clubs. OK, this is weird. And now the table is freaking out, myself included again! It takes several minutes for the game to resume. People are yelling and cheering, “He just called another card!”.
I really can’t explain why it happened, just total random luck. And I really can’t explain why it happened a third time, about ten minutes later, next time I drew an ace first card, people looked at me and I just said, “Uh, Queen of Hearts”. Bang: Queen of Hearts. Somewhere during this time I’m told the floor manager came over and replaced the pit boss to oversee things, and we were all yelling and laughing. I asked the dealer (same guy all three times) if he had ever seen anything like this and he shook his head in disbelief. But that was it. The casino must have known it was a fluke since I was playing little money at a $5 table, and after less than an hour in the casino I cashed out (won $20, woo hoo!) and hit the sack.
Mia and I had to fly back to LA in the morning on an 8:10 Am. flight, alarm clock going off at 6:20 a.m.
Monday was a very long day. Flew back to LA, hung out with family for a bit, then piled the girls into the car and drove all the way back to the Bay Area. Arrived about midnight. Ouch.
I had to be back in the Bay to appear in court (I’m a law-talkin’ guy) on Tuesday afternoon. The court of appeal, no less, very formal and quiet. It was quite a culture shock, going from screaming-confetti-thrower to suited-legal-arguer in about 36 hours.
Oh, and that morning, driving to San Francisco, I finally pulled that piece of confetti out of my eye.