In celebration of Phish's 13-show run at Madison Square Garden, the Mockingbird Foundation is announcing 13 unsolicited "miracle grants" supporting music programs across the country. Each board member identified their favorite Phish show, and we found a worthy music education program nearby, part of the Foundation's long-standing Tour Grants program. We're presenting these 13 special grants chronologically, based on the dates of those favorited shows. Board member Peter Skewes-Cox picked the 8/19/12 show in San Francisco, CA:
Phish came to San Francisco for the first of four (and counting?) three night runs at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in 2012. The only other time any members of Phish had played BGCA previously was more than a decade prior, when my friends and I hopped the BART to Civic Center to get our Trey fix during the hiatus (12/31/02 wasn't announced until later that summer). [side note on 5/24/02: check out that Mr. C.] When the 2012 run was announced, I was beyond ecstatic; not just because I'd be seeing my first multinight run back in my hometown (and the band's first three night run in The City since Warfield '94), but because the third night was my birthday. Talk about total convergence of all things amazing: Phish playing a show 10 minutes from home on my birthday! What could top that?? It'd have to be something pretty epic...
The first two nights of the run were... less than special. Marred by indecision and dreaded 'r******s,' it was as if the band was having a tough time getting comfortable. There were even murmurs across the e-Phish-o-verse about the band not being as loose during webcasts due to the cameras making them self-conscious. Don't get me wrong: we still had a blast, and the band was all smiles, but it definitely left us wanting more. The saying "Never miss a Sunday show" exists for a reason – I'm not sure if it's because the band has the benefit of hindsight to see what's still on the table and how best to put things together, or because it's a shot at redemption (not that they have anything to feel bad for), or if it's simply because the casual fans are tucked in bed on Sunday night, but this run really drove the saying home for me.
The first set started out with "Crowd Control" – which at the time no one knew would be the first of three consecutive years playing the song at the venue, each time opening the best show of the run. "Party Time" and the "Axilla" that followed whipped the crowd into a frenzy, and when "Reba" batted clean-up, you knew shit was about to get real. And who doesn't like a "DEG" tease in "Reba"? The next bit of the set was typical first set fodder, though "Mound" is always welcome, and "BOTT" had a little extra juice. The set closed with a stunning "Roggae" and a strong "David Bowie," packed with dissonance and some nimble fretboard work by Trey. If you haven't heard this show before and you've read this far you're probably thinking "cool story bro" – but like nearly every great show, the second set is where the magic happens.
When the band retook the stage, Trey made the International Phish Hand Signal for one of their most rocking covers: "Crosseyed and Painless." "C&P" did its usual peaking thing, but instead of fading away and making way for > another song, the band threaded the wormhole to a contemplative, deep space. The darkness eventually faded and yielded to "Light," replete with "stiiiiiiiill waiting" wails from Trey's guitar. Like "C&P," the "Light" jam was brought to a simmer, but unlike "C&P," the simmer was quickly brought back to a rolling boil before blowing the lid off the stove and melting many faces onto the kitchen floor. (The band liked the simmer so much that they later worked it into the debut (but no other) version of "555.") Before anyone had a chance to gather themselves, "Light" veered seamlessly into "Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley," which kept the energy of the set pinned at 11. After that much hose, the only logical way to signal an imminent breather was to finish the "Crosseyed and Painless" that started the whole segment. To that point, "C&P > Light -> Sally -> C&P" was arguably the most well-constructed 45 minute stretch of music played in "3.0." The rest of the set was fine with a solid "Theme," a few victory lap tunes, and the "YEM" everyone had been waiting for all weekend. "Ride Captain Ride" in the first encore slot was an apt choice for the location, and it's great when the band plays "Tweezer" on the first night of a run and saves "Tweezer Reprise" for the last song on the last night of the run – whether it's two shows or twelve (!) shows later...
Thinking back on that night, I remember receiving what seemed like 100+ text messages throughout the show, which is bizarre behavior for my friends. The messages earlier in the night was typical stuff like "happy birthday!" or "where are you?", and as midnight approached it was either "DUDE" or the classic "!!!!!!!!!!!!." To be clear: 8/19/12 isn't actually my favorite show (I don't really have one, but 12/30/97 and 6/14/00 come to mind) – in fact, I didn't even attend the show that night. I was too worried to head out for the third and final show of the 2012 BGCA run, because my wife was nearly nine months pregnant and our twins weren't even two years old yet. I was lucky to even be able to hit the first two nights – I stayed sober and parked right outside the venue, while my sister-in-law flew up from LA to help with the kids. "Fam AF," as they say (I paid for her flights at least). But she had to head back Sunday, and all I really wanted to do for my birthday was to have dinner and spend time with the family in the waning days before #3 came. Turns out we had twelve more days of waiting: Danny was born during the 8/31/12 show – he'll turn five at the end of this month. I still haven't told him what the birthday show he didn't make it to is all about...
In honor of August 19th, 2012, a real Phishy San Francisco treat, we're sending a $1,500 grant check to the nearby San Francisco Community Music Center.
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The Mockingbird Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Phish fans in 1996 to generate charitable proceeds from the Phish community.
And since we're entirely volunteer – with no office, salaries, or paid staff – administrative costs are less than 2% of revenues! So far, we've distributed just about $1,500,000 to support music education for children – hundreds of grants in all 50 states, with more on the way.