What a roller-coaster ride Fall 2014 has been so far! As many of you noted in your comments to my Eugene precap, the tour opener was (NOT) all about my high expectations and I completely assumed the role of Sisyphus pushing that particular boulder to the top of my stack of preconceived notions for the always portentous first night. Unlike the band on such evenings, I was not a bag of nerves, I was at home at the Matt Knight Arena in the warm embrace of friends old and new. As expected, and much like that exhilarating rush of the first plummet over the edge of the log flume, the Eugene show was fantastic, made a big splash, and got the seat of my pants wet. No, they didn’t play everything I had forecasted, and I didn’t in truth expect them to do that. I expected a great show and that is exactly what we got. Couldn’t be happier with the song selection and still can’t get “Plasma” out of my head.
Photo by @ebyron
As we made our way north to Seattle, my hopes remained high that the energy from the previous night would carry us and the band through day two. Those hopes were dashed the instant we walked through the doors of the Key Arena and my wife’s excitement to be alive in that moment was misinterpreted by venue staff as excessive intoxication. After ten minutes of interrogation, negotiation, and an invitation for the alcohol monitors to gargle on my nuts the happy vibe was taken down quite a few notches. The Seattle show was thereby destined to be the painful neck-snapping lurch at the bottom of that first rise and fall of the roller-coaster's run. Just to be sure it wasn’t all about my personal experience, I went back and listened to the Seattle show again and reached the same conclusion as I did during the (nod to Jimi Hendrix) experience. The first set is certain to be the nadir of this tour. The second saw a barely perceptible change in direction as we began our slow ascent up the next hill. The dreaded Saturday Night Special had occurred. Much like that day’s homecoming game at Autzen, Oregon just crushed Washington.
Photo by Rene Huemer, © Phish From the Road
Following the lines going south, we hopped off tour in the physical sense and retreated to the safety of the couch. Because the Phish ticketing system is so broken, heading to the Santa Barbara Bowl seemed out of the question. After seeing the images of the venue, both still and moving, and hearing that once again extra tickets were littering the ground unused (AT A 4,500 SEAT VENUE???) I felt blinding rage toward each person involved with the abject failure of the Phish ticket distribution system. There will be more on this later so I won’t steal that piece of future thunder, but seriously, it is high time to institute a ticketless non-refundable (you can’t scalp these or buy them to trade for other shows that also have artificially high demand you worthless scumbag) concert entry system. Other artists do it… our band should too.... get your shit together, Phish!
Santa Barbara 1, as noted by my esteemed colleague TheEmu, saw the band start to do that on stage again at least, the limp and lifeless Seattle show was no reason to start freaking out and throwing stuff. Go listen to Tuesday night’s “Chalk Dust” and “Ghost” again. That shit was proper and completely set the stage for what was to come last night. Sure the intimacy of the venue led to some awkward moments (see “Birds” and “Suzy Greenberg”), but ultimately the train was set back on the right track.
Photo © Phish From the Road
As we all know, Phish will occasionally offer us a glimpse behind the curtain and clouded visions of what is to come. In the days leading up to the most hallowed of eves, all eyes and ears are searching for a clue for the trick or treat that awaits in Vegas. With that in mind, if you were paying attention to @Phish_FTR yesterday, you were not surprised by the band’s invitation to last night’s “Soul Shakedown Party” at all. Happy, grinning ear to ear perhaps, but definitely not surprised. A great way to watch the sun go down on another day in paradise and a terrific start to what would be a wonderful night of music. The first set vibe was focused on the idyllic tranquility of (“Wedge”) Santa Barbara and the state of (“Undermind”) relaxation that arises from (“Horn”) a luxurious full body (“Ya Mar”) massage. The band clearly feeds off (“Jesus Just Left Chicago”) its environment and the warm glow of (“A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing”) the crowd. This first set (“Winterqueen”) had bucketfuls to spare (“My Friend, My Friend”) and a few of them dumped out all over my kitchen as I (“Split Open and Melt”) cooked dinner (I’ll spare you my braise recipe), my wife completed her security clearance documentation for a new job opportunity, and my daughter took photos of the swirling patterns that can be induced in (“Walls of the Cave”) a plate of milk inoculated with food coloring and a drop of dish soap. We ate during setbreak and settled down for set two.
Photo by Rene Huemer, © Phish From the Road
With the Pacific Ocean beckoning in the distance, we ran down to the beach and got absolutely “Drowned” in the chilly and chaotic surf that cascaded wildly onto the shore. Diving deeper beneath the surface we found the “Theme From the Bottom” to be quite pleasing, once again fathoming previously unimaginable depths. Unlike the powers that be vested with the weighty responsibility of determining when or if Phish consciously teases, quotes, or jams another song within a song and deems it worthy of being canonized into a given show’s setlist, I will state unequivocally that Phish played portions of the Pink Floyd song “Echoes” during both “Theme From the Bottom” and the “Steam” that billowed from this eruption of Pompeian lava onto the ocean floor. To borrow the words of another of my esteemed colleagues, this “Echoes” jamakinto is as obvious as two goats fucking in church and if you cannot hear it you are fucking deaf.
As I basked in the undulating flow of “Waves” I asked myself how sick would it be if Phish busted out Meddle for Halloween? About as sick as the strains of both “Stranglehold” and “Mike’s Song” that also reverberated through the “Echoes” in my brain as I fought with the reality that they would actually be covering Trey and the Undectet’s Original Boardwalk Style as a subtle nod to the place (Atlantic City) the old Halloween tradition died and the new one was born.
Photo © Phish From the Road
“Twenty Years Later” marks the thematic divide between the aquatic third and extra-terrestrial fourth quarter of last night’s show. As our kayak returned from the wild ride in thirty-foot seas, we were greeted on land by a menagerie of Animals to close out the show. “Scent of a Mule” found Mike ringing the fight bell like a champ as a frenetic Fishman played alien whack-a-mole on the marimba lumina. The UFOs of course unloaded their laser beams and departed with the monolith to the space disco funk of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (aka “2001”). Eugene’s missing second set “Mike’s Song” finally arrived with a faithful canine (“Runaway Jim”) as his companion and a blistering “Weekapaug Groove” which OFFICIALLY contained teases of both “Runaway Jim” and “2001” closed out a terrific second set. Not to be outdone, the two thirds animal encore, featuring Page as the jockey now riding “The Horse” into “Silent in the Morning” and a delirious “Run Like an Antelope” that included a festive yet no less OFFICIAL quote and tease of the show opening “Soul Shakedown Party,” took us to the very precipice of the hard 10:00 PM curfew. What a ride!!! Safe travels down to the Forum and beyond. Stay thirsty my friends… the best show of this tour is yet to come.
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