Bill is an old friend of mine, I know him now for almost twenty years and he and I have done many a Grateful Dead show together, including many road trips. Bill, like me in my previous incarnation, is a huge fan of the GD, but never had the opportunity to give Phish a real good listen to. When I found out that I scored 9th row center seats for last night, I knew I had to take Billy with me, it;s always a great experience to be so close at any show, but for his first time exposed to the band live, I thought it would help him to "see the light?" Well, the light IS shining brighter now (not only for Bill, but for me as well, I just get further and further immersed in what these guys do on a stage every time I see them).
We arrived at the arena oh I guess around 4pm, 4 hours to show time. Parking. Holy cannoli, FORTY BUCKS to park! I felt seriously violated. Anyway, we forked over the loot and parked the Jeep it turns out next to a very nice couple. Jessica grew up in Laramie Wyoming and had recently moved down to Delray Beach and teaches high school. My guess is that she's probably ten years (maybe more) my junior, very cute girl, she looked a little like Nicolle Ritchie in the face, lol, but I digress. Her friend/boyfriend Matt, had made his way down for the shows from North Carolina.
Only in the lot . . . my buddy Bill, who also teaches, coached boys baseball at the high school level in Boca Raton, where Jessica teaches. As it turns out, a lot of the players on Bill's team were also students of Jessica's What a freaking coincidence that was, so needless to say they had plenty to kibbutz about. Matthew is a med student, but he's not trying to be a doctor, he's a medical researcher, developing drugs and all sorts of other cool things. What a nice guy he was, and unbelievably intelligent, as you might imagine from what he does. Just had some great conversation with him while Jessica and Bill were still OMG-ing about how they know all the same people, etc.
Our lot was relatively calm, but the next lot over from us was where all the action was . . . food vendors (had a delicious BBQ chicken shish ka bob in a wrap with some ranch dressing, shirt sellers, all the glassware you could want to look at, crystals, lots and lots of dogs, some great shirts, mostly being worn, didn't see too many cool shirts for sale, all in all a very colorful scene.
Did some walking and talking and then went in to see the show. If you had floor seats and/or taping tickets, there was a special gate set up to enter through, they really took steps to make sure that if you don;t have a ticket on the floor - you weren't getting on the floor. Not only would you have to show your ticket to obtain entrance to the floor, but they also wrist banded you upon entry, no wristband, no floor, so that prevented people from "stubbing" their friends down, etc. and kept the crunch to a minimum. That was a nice development as I barely fit in the very small space n front of the floor seat to begin with! ;-)
The lights went down almost at exactly 8pm . . . the audience energy was high . . . and then those first few notes of Sample in a Jar and we were off! Surely not a bad version, and a brief stop at the end before busting into NICU, one of my favorite songs to catch, and it didn't disappoint, real funky, everybody was bopping. Another brief, very brief, stop, and then BANG! Right into a smokin' hot version of My Soul. Trey's guitar sounded great, and you could just tell he was on tonight, he was movin' around, playing with his guitar, it was so obvious he was having so much fun! After a minute or so break, they break into Roggae . . .let the spacey jamming begin! And this is where the lights started to really get inventive, what a nice job all the way around, the arena was awash in color, unbelievable psychedelic!
Brief pause, and then the opening notes of Undermind . . . man I really like this song, another one of those tunes that I DARE you to listen to and stand still at the same time . . . it's impossible! And then before and now once more I was Bouncing Around the Room!
Pause . . . and oh man . . . those first notes of Poor Heart . . . and then what I like to call the "Yeehaws!" . . . oh man, this song really drove the crowd into a frenzy, SUCH a fun tune, complete with a grand finale type ending . . . and then . . . and then . . . and then . . . STASH!
My friends, there are no words. EVERY time I catch this song live, it seems like the best version ever of the song, and last night was no disappointment. Stash has become one of if not my favorite songs to catch live, I mean, it just epitomizes what these guys stand for musically to me! During Stash was when I starting realizing that I was not just at a good show, (they're all good lately), but a GREAT show and I started thinking to myself, how the hell are they going to top this over the next three nights . . .
About 15 minutes later, Fishman made his way out from behind his kit, and out came the electrolux . . . Bill looked at me and said, dude, is that a vacuum cleaner? And what is he wearing? LOL! I just smiled . . . before Fish made his way to the front, Trey says. "Ladies and gentleman, be prepared for the final, this is the last vacuum solo you will ever hear in the Aughts . . . are you ready for that, the final vacuum solo of this decade, incredible, incredible, here it comes, brace yourself, stand up, everyone stand up, brace yourself, the final vacuum solo of this the entire decade, are you ready Henrietta? . . . Give it to us . . . !!!! The harmonies were beautiful, SO much fun!!!
Paging Mr. Page, paging Mr. Page McConnel . . . Beauty of a Broken Heart. Now don't get me wrong . . . we're just about an hour in, and of course I danced and boogied the entire hour without a break, man, I was aching just a bit, took a seat for a few minutes, tended to ummm, some, ummm, lets say personal stuff, lol, and rested my aching muscles, muscles I hadn't used since Halloween, I'm no spring chicken ya know . . . as the song was winding up, I arose again, and then IT happened . . . I mean, it's always a great song, a GREAT song, but I dunno if its me or what, but POSSUM, seemed to have a very extended intro, and just kept building and building until I thought it was going to explode! And explode it did . . .
So is there ANYTHING not pure and holy about a second set Mikes opener? I love Mike. Mikes into Light . . . quickly becoming one of my favorite tunes . . . and the light is shining brighter now . . . and man did Kurroda really shine here, and then into Hydrogen, beautiful, into, of course Weekapaug . . . again, seemed like one of the best versions I've heard . . . seemed to be a lot of that gong on last night, seemed like many songs were best ever versions . . . but I realize that's influenced greatly by being there, especially where I was up front and center . . . but still, I mean my face actually hurts from smiling so much!! Pause . . .
OK, Page breaks into that awesome piano intro and we're off to Alaska . . . pretty ironic, I guess, being in Miami and all, and the song was good . . . at the beginning . . . please, I implore you, check out Alaska from last night as fast as you can . . . they jammed that mutha fucka OUT! One of my favorite new songs, BDTNL, love the sentiment, love the riffing . . .and again, this was no studio BDTNL .. . they jammed the SHIT outta this one too . . . pause
A very nice treat . . . Makisupa Policeman . . . again, run don't walk and listen to this as soon ASAP . . . as many of you know, I'm less experienced than many of you all . . . but Trey changed the words (I dunno, does he do this all the time?) from policeman came to my house, to policeman came to Mike's house . . . it was ALL about Mike, trey started chanting, "Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, . . ." turned his microphone in the audience's direction, and the whole arena started chanting "Mike, Mike, Mike . . ." I feel like a kid, again, just SO much fun!!
Now I'm not going to even try and find words to describe the Hood that followed, it was Harry Hood, it was stellar, it always is, the crowd loved it, I loved it, Bill loved it, a beautiful 18 minute reading of Hood. Big FAT grand ending to Hood, as if the set was over, and then trey leans over to Mike, then Mike to Fish and trey to Page, and they break out another fun tune, Contact . . . so we went from an unbelievably energetic Hood, to a slow-ish small-ish but oh so fun Contact, and then, perhaps no surprise, but awesome just the same, a second set ending Character Zero . . . ladies and gentlemen . . . Trey went fucking bananas on Zero . . He was dancing, he was leaning, he was doing funny things with his guitar, and the song was just so LOUD and FAST,and what a fucking way to end the set!!!
So . . . what to do for an encore . . . I know, I know, I've said this before . . . but without a question, the best version I've ever heard of First Tube. And the lights at the end . . . by the time the house lights came up I was simply awestruck.
Really hard to believe I have three more nights of this . . and tonight . . . 2nd row center.
They want me to be happy . . . I am SO fucking happy!