This was the day that we had scheduled for Everglades exploration. Four years to the day of arriving at Big Cypress, I found myself not far south of there taking photos of alligators and flamingos. It was quite fun. Afterward, we headed back to the hotel quickly to get our tickets and head to the lot. Perhaps, as it turned out, a little too quickly.
Shakedown was different on this night. The lot across the street that had been the mad vending place was completely closed. Rumor in the lot had it that it was due to a fight over some nitrous tanks the night before that raged out of control. Needless to say, I hope that story isn't true, but it seems believable based on some of the behavior I've seen. I think some people hit Miami and think that they're playing Vice City.
As I was heading into the show, Elayne pointed out a disturbing discovery. My rush to get to the venue early caused me to grab my 12/28 ticket by mistake. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get back to the hotel on time. Before starting the walk, I figured I should try to see if I could get a cheap ticket first. There were still plenty of extras floating around, after all. Within a minute of looking, someone handed me a free ticket. After 2002's run it sure was nice to have a NYE run where you could get in even if you forgot your ticket.
After a quick (and unfinished) “Wilson” we got our first surprise of the show. “Sand” appropriately appeared for its first post-Hiatus appearance. Unlike many “Sand”s of the past, it didn't stick to the groove riff. The jam was much more exploratory before suddenly deciding to segue into “Shafty”. It was then that I knew that this show was going to be special. Not even the sloppy “NICU” could throw off that feeling. Even that song had something fun; Mike was playing the “Shafty” bassline under the second verse.
The show really became legendary for the end of the first set through the second set. It all started with the “Bathtub Gin” > “2001”. The jam had some very cool teases from the obscure (Steely Dan's “Show Biz Kids”) to the appropriate (“After Midnight” was played at Cypress after all) to what would turn out to be foreshadowing. This wasn't just some sort of tease-fest though. The last twenty minutes of the set were just amazing. It kind of snuck up on me some, but during the setbreak I was buzzing with the energy (and impatience) that only a great set can bring.
There was a funny bit at the beginning of the second set. Trey played something that sounded like the riff to “Chalk Dust” and the crowed booed. Perhaps that's why that idea was rejected in favor of “Tube”. (Author's Note: Later reflection made it obvious that this was a chant of "Tube," not a boo. The original line stands because that's how I wrote it right after the show.)
This “Tube” was nothing short of amazing. Containing a start/stop jam, a nice peak, and a Type II exploration, this is far from your typical version. However atypical it was though, I don't think anyone was expecting a segue into “LA Woman”. When people figured out what they were playing, the place went nuts.
"LA Woman" was a lot of fun, even though there was a sense that the band didn't quite know how the song went and was just running with a fun idea. That idea was reinforced when they went into R20;BirdsR21; before doing the bridge or the "Mr. Mojo Rising" section.
The “Birds” is notable for two reasons. The first is the long “LA Woman” tease that happened in the jam. The second is the completely botched ending. They didn't sing the final, "Birds of a feather," part, rather they just went directly into the ending chords. As soon as they ended though, Trey and Fishman sang, "Mr. Mojo Rising," and we were back into LA. While some people were hoping for a return to “Tube” to finish up all of the loose ends, we got “Makisupa” instead.
There wasn't really a keyword in this version. Instead of that, Trey explained that they were thinking about reviving the old version of “Touch Me” that they did in the Giant Country Horn era. Alas, they didn't remember how it went and they didn't have the horns. After a pause, Trey announced a different plan. George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic would come out instead.
I'm not a huge P-Funk fan, so a lot of the charm of this moment was lost on me. However, I could see in the bliss of a lot of people around me that this was a great moment for them and I enjoyed it second hand through them.
At the end of this segment - which was kept to a reasonable length unlike many recent guest appearances - Fishman started playing the vacuum. Eventually it was just him on stage. When he ended his solo, he left the stage too. There were a few minutes of indecision in the crowd. Was the set over? The band came back out though and picked “Makisupa” back up like nothing had happened. They did say, though, that they wanted to prove that this was indeed better than Fishman singing “Touch Me”, so they performed the first line of the song just to demonstrate that. Personally, I'm not convinced that the P-Funk section would have been better, but I'll go for either one really.
The set wasn't over yet. We still had a “Down With Disease” to go. There was a great moment toward the end of the jam. A pretty theme was played for a while. As I was wondering what it was and if it was another song, they slightly morphed it and it did turn out to be a song. What they were doing apparently was playing a slight variation on the main “Down With Disease” riff. Returning to it was an awesome rush and an incredible way to end a wonderful set.
While the encore - a slowed down “Contact” and a “WMGGW” where Trey couldn't hit the high notes - wasn't that impressive, few people seemed to care. This was the kind of show that keeps everyone up all night basking in the glow. Everyone I talked to afterwards was raving. The complaints that were raised were nit picky and even those who mentioned them pointed out that this was a superlative concert. If there's one problem with it, it's that it runs the real chance of completely overshadowing New Year's Eve.
I'm currently writing this review in my hotel room early on the morning of 12/31/03. You know what went down that night and if it met the challenge of New Year's Eve Eve. I can't imagine what could possibly top tonight, but that's part of the fun. Hopefully tomorrow's review will be just as glowing. You know something I don't know.