Aviv Hadar’s Oregrown Industries has inked an expansive deal with an Israeli partner.

Suzanne Stevens Apr 19, 2018, 11:27am PDT

Aviv Hadar woke from a dead sleep at 3 a.m. in 2012 with the idea for his
next business venture: a cannabis company.

His first call was to his mom, who supported the idea. His second call was to his childhood friend, Kevin Hogan. Hogan said he was in and, in 2013, the two launched Bend-based Oregrown Industries. Today, the company operates an 84-acre grow in Deschutes County and retail stores in Portland, Bend, Eugene and Cannon Beach. It has 45 full-time employees, more during peak season.

Hadar has founded a handful of technology companies, including Think Brilliant Media Studios, which created the viral “I’m with Coco” campaign, and the content creation company SoulPancake.

He’s now applying that entrepreneurial energy to help grow not only Oregrown but the state’s cannabis industry as a whole. He is a founding member of the Oregon Cannabis Association, and a member of the National Cannabis Industry Association and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s Rules Advisory Committee.

We talked to Hadar about his global vision for Oregrown and his search for private capital.

How did you pivot from technology to cannabis? I spent a lot of time following around the band Phish … (and through that) my friends and I were involved in the (cannabis) industry. I met my wife, Christina, after Phish broke up. I went to school in Montana and jumped into computer science. I eventually dropped out and founded a software business. I had some success and some nice exits. Christina was from Oregon and when she brought me here, I fell in love, the surfing, the snowboarding, everything. The idea for Oregrown literally hit me one night at 3 a.m., right as Colorado laws were changing. I woke up from a dead sleep and started working on the business.

You started as a grow operation but soon added retail stores. Why? We realized people were not representing our products the way we wanted so we opened up the stores. Our Bend flagship store is one of the top performing in the country and has generated revenue annually in the high millions. We’re a retail beast. Given how crowded the retail market is in Oregon, how critical is product differentiation? Until there’s interstate commerce, this industry is in a box. You need to differentiate yourself in terms of the products, how you retain and acquire customers, and how you diversify your customer base. You need to appeal to people who are not the stereotypical customer.

How have you done that? We were early in not using marijuana leaves in our branding. Our flagship store, people think it’s an apparel store or a grocery store. We are right downtown in Bend. We are elegant in presenting our brand. There are a lot of people who want to shop discreetly and would rather come to our shop than to shop in one with a big neon green cross on the outside. We’ve also differentiated through our apparel line. We’ve brought in fashion pros. We’ve poached people from QuickSilver and LG and are working on our fall 2019 line.

Have you taken on any outside investors? We haven’t, but we are starting to explore it now. We know what we are worth, we have intense expansion plans, and that includes global. I was born in Israel and Israel has federally legalized cannabis. We already have a partnership with an Israeli company. We are approved, through that partnership, to export seven to 10 countries. It is a huge opportunity. If you look at Israel cannabis export news, you’ll see a couple hundred million dollars in deals have been signed in just the past couple of days.

What’s the biggest challenge for the industry going forward? Quite honestly, it’s capital. As the years continue to turn, you’re seeing a different level of consolidation or mergers. Every time … there’s bigger, more sophisticated money getting involved. In three, four years, who’s going to be entering the Oregon cannabis scene, it’s going to be nuts. We’re talking to investors who have made billions of dollars in tech. Now they want to know where to go in cannabis.

Source: Portland Business Journal

Posted in Oregrown at May 5th, 2018. Comments Off on Portland Business Journal: Oregon cannabis entrepreneur seeks investors, eyes global expansion (Oregrown).

As I looked over my ballot last week, I was struck by what is not on it, as much as what is, and what it means for the future of Deschutes County.

Last winter, even after the Deschutes County Planning Commission proposed reasonable regulations for cannabis businesses and strongly recommended that the county not opt-out of cannabis business licensing, a narrow but vocal interest group pressed for a ban on all cannabis businesses and tried to force voters into a “do over” on Measure 91, the 2014 statewide ballot measure that legalized and regulated recreational cannabis businesses in Oregon.

They very nearly succeeded. It would have been a hollow victory, to be sure. A recent poll of Deschutes County voters found that local support for legalization has increased since 2014, a trend borne out by this week’s election results in La Pine, where voters defeated a proposed local ban by a stunning margin.

But even a losing campaign would have been costly and divisive, and the extended delay would have further hamstrung the efforts of farmers and small-business owners to create jobs and economic opportunity in a thriving, well-regulated, local cannabis market.

Fortunately, after bringing stakeholders from all sides to the table through a Marijuana Advisory Committee, and after numerous public hearings and comments from hundreds of local citizens, county leaders wisely repealed the opt-out ordinance and allowed licensing to move forward.

As a result, local cannabis farmers and processors are now engaged in a licensing process that includes rigorous oversight by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Farmland that has been underutilized and in some cases neglected for years will be put to profitable agricultural use, fulfilling a goal of our Deschutes County Comprehensive Plan that has long eluded us.

Meanwhile, the economic engine that ground to a halt during the first half of this year is slowly cranking up again, and beginning to make good on its promise of renewal in Central Oregon. Investments that had been put off for months are finally moving forward. Businesses are growing. At the company I founded in 2013, we are building out the greenhouses at our 84-acre Tumalo farm and preparing to create at least two dozen new jobs in a major expansion of our downtown Bend dispensary.

In the wake of a string of election victories legalizing cannabis for adult use in California, Nevada, Massachusetts and likely Maine, it is clear that rational regulation and economic growth, rather than the violence and corruption of prohibition, are the future of cannabis. Central Oregon is well positioned, because of our geography, climate and permaculture, to grow some of the finest cannabis in the world.

In the coming years, we hope to see the laws and rules around cannabis evolve to allow Central Oregon to make the most of this economic opportunity. Licensing for on-premise consumption, and reasonable regulations allowing public “tastings” like we have for beer, wine and spirits would go a long way toward fostering the vibrant craft industry that Oregon’s cannabis industry is poised to become.

In the not-too-distant future, the federal government’s long, failed and ignoble experiment in prohibition will come to an end. When the laws banning sales between states come down, Oregon cannabis will be in great demand across the nation, and we will see a genuine economic boom. Just as with craft beer, our region is poised to reap both economic and cultural benefits. Look around. It’s already happening.

— Published in the Bend Bulletin on November 10th, 2016

Posted in Oregrown at November 14th, 2016. Comments Off on In My View: Deschutes Commissioners Made Good Choice on Marijuana [Bend Bulletin].

Click the link above and follow along with the Oregrown Army as we change laws and help shape the cannabis landscape globally.

Posted in Oregrown at September 26th, 2016. Comments Off on Stay Up to Date on Everything Oregrown.

Wow… What a summer.

When Phish first announced their 2015 summer tour dates I could not believe it. Being a Bend, Oregon local, I could not believe it was finally happening. Years in the making. Years of us begging the band and its management to come play a couple of shows in our gorgeous little town. A bit of context; over the past few years, every single year, the “Phish is coming to Bend” rumors would gain a ton of steam, only to never materialize.

Once, I personally handed Trey a letter — at his symphony show in Portland — that said “Please come play Bend, your phamily loves you out there!” (among other things). The letter went on to explain the town, and how even though it’s a tiny venue that’s in the middle of nowhere, it was worth the additional effort. The magnitude of the Bend announcement was especially potent since the Gorge was inconspicuously left off of the summer 2015 tour schedule.

The Bend shows were an especially tough ticket. The locals here eat up good music when it rolls through town and Phish is an enormous draw for the Les Schwab Ampitheater. Unsurprisingly, the show set a record for the tiny venue’s quickest-sell-out-ever according to a few friends who work at the theater.

Chrissy (my wife) and I got a chance to visit with Chris Kuroda on his tour bus before the shows. He is such a warm, genuine and grateful fifth member of the band. It was interesting to hear his perspective about them playing in such a small town. The words “this feels like 1994” were echoed by all of us! That awesome, psychedelic, glowing owl you saw on stage during the webcast is owned by the venue. Even with the early curfew and with only a handful of songs being played in full darkness (after a breathtaking sunset on both nights), CK5 plugged his rig into the whole house lighting system and worked everything in beautifully. Perhaps not so ironically, a slew of the band’s tour artwork, merchandise and ticketing also had owls on it, so the stage was set perfectly. Buffalo Bill was around.

It was absolutely incredible for the band to unveil so much original material at a tiny venue on the opposite side of the country. I had no idea what to expect, let alone four Phish original pieces — Shade, Blaze On, No Men’s and the other-worldly Mercury — and three solo project debuts, Trey’s Scabbard, Mike’s How Many People Are You? and Page’s Heavy Rotation. The entire atmosphere had an exceptionally rare and exciting vibe to it. People were genuinely at peace to see the band in such high spirits. The venue’s security was happy and relaxed. The band was stoked and everyone could feel it!

Phish in Bend, Oregon • July 2015

The tour continued along through California with a nice stop at Shoreline and a beast of a show at The Forum in Los Angeles. Tons of people are clamoring for Phish to play a New Years run at The Forum in LA. The weather is nice, it’s a big city so the ticket sales would please management, and it’d be a bit easier for people in the West and Southwest to attend given that travel delays to and from the Northeast can be brutal around the end of December. While Madison Square Garden in New York is arguably one of the best places you could ever see the band, The Forum seems like a West Coast version of Hampton Coliseum. Look up some pictures and you’ll see how much fun Kuroda has with that place. Not to mention, a little change is good every once in a while. Nothing wrong with a New York > Miami > Los Angeles NYE Run rotation!

Phish’s summer tour next found them winding their way down South with two stops in Texas and one in Alabama. Then came the Nashville show. If you haven’t read about the significance behind the Second Jam in Mike’s Song please find the time to do so right away.

At this point, the band is truly firing on all cylinders. The interplay between Trey, Mike, Page and Fish has been astonishing all summer. When they are focused and deep within extended jams, nobody is repeatedly dominating the direction of the improvisation. They are all communicating in a way that can only emerge from thirty-one years of playing together, getting to know one another and organically progressing as a unit. Trey seems a lot more patient, while at the same time being a lot more aggressive and attacking when he feels the moment is ripe for the shredding. Mike seems to come in at just the right time, every time, with layered melodies and bass lines that set a beautiful foundation for Trey and Page. His creativity and tonality is forcing Page to use more complex chord progressions, and it’s forcing Trey to open specific scales with uncharacteristic interval patterns played in minor keys. They are all pushing melodic boundaries by testing the limits of certain scales and harmonies very deep within their improvisational jams. This is impressive stuff that can only be achieved through a lifetime of playing music together.

Page has continued to shine. His song Heavy Rotation hasn’t seen another appearance since the Bend shows, so hopefully they rework the tune, bring it back to its original key and give it another go. The jam has incredibly serious potential to become a true launching pad. Fishman continues to impress me. His speed, intensity and ferocity has picked up tremendously since 2009. It once again sounds like he’s got eight arms.

This all genuinely equates to the band simply blowing people’s minds again and again. Night after night. Old fans and new fans alike. People have been left speechless, picking their jaws up from the floor all summer long.

The tour continued to roar through Kansas City and then Blossom (always an incredible place to see Phish) followed by a two night stop at Alpine Valley. One of my favorite venues. I’ve heard first hand stories about Alpine Valley having a hard time competing with venues like Northerly Island in Chicago. As of last August, Alpine Valley was listed for sale with an asking price of $8.44 million dollars.

Management argues that Chicago is generally an easier gig to pull off when the weather agrees. Phish can fully sell-out at least one of the nights and the logistics are easier for them to plan. However, as evidenced by Trey’s extremely welcomed Forbin’s narration about it being the band’s 17th show at Alpine — and him being shit on by a bird which is what inspired him to play Forbin’s — Alpine Valley and the shitting bird will always hold a special place in Phish’s heart. There’s a pit up front now and it feels like a private show when you’re down there. If you haven’t seen Phish play a show at Alpine, make sure you do before its sold and torn down and turned into a strip mall.

Next up were some absolutely heater East Coast shows in Philadelphia, North Carolina and Maryland. The band was back on its home turf and everyone was gearing up for what would surely be a blowout at Magnaball.

The town of Watkins Glen is really quaint and nice. The whole time you’re there you’re surrounded by lush farm lands and rural settings. The region is known for great wine making and has a slew of vineyards sprinkled throughout. My kind of place. The locals were extremely kind and accommodating. I love when a town/city/county acknowledges the impact that Phish has on the local tourism industry. Phish’s circus brings millions of dollars to these communities. Magnaball was on the cover of the local paper every single day. Also, Phish Concerts Boost Bend Tourism was a massive front page headline in our local paper when they opened the tour.

Chrissy and I flew straight out of Bend, Oregon across the country to Elmira, New York. Ever since we opened our first Oregon state-licensed dispensary (www.Oregrown.com) last January, life has been beautifully chaotic! This was a very welcomed vacation for us. We were elated to hear about all of the amenities that would be onsite.

The food and beverage options were incredible. There were bathrooms everywhere and for those of us that like to ride the rail up front, we had plenty of amenities very close by at all times. This was an extremely well planned layout.

The grounds at Magnaball were very inviting. Everything was within pretty close proximity to each other. The ferris wheel was lit up and ran well into the night. The security was generally very relaxed. Everyone was there to have a great time. Apparently Nascar was held at the same track in Watkins Glens the weekend prior to Magnaball — with Nascar drawing 100,000 people — so the staff was really happy with the Phish crowd and how polite everyone was being.

The weekend’s music started out with a BANG! Simple > The Dogs > TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY > Free got the crowd fired up. Avenu Malkenu is always such a special treat. Getting to watch the Red Haired Jedi Ginger sing in Hebrew will never, ever get old! Especially on Shabbat at sundown! The hebrew prayer/chant has a very powerful meaning:

“Our Father, our King,” is repeatedly chanted to invoke the gracious favor of a God who is conceived of as both distant and approachable, both stern and merciful; whose powerful nature can be portrayed as both Ruler and Parent toward the people Israel, who view themselves during the High Holy Day season as both dependent and unworthy of favor – “Deal with us graciously for Your own sake, since we can plead little merit before You.” Encapsulated here are the ambivalent feelings of we mortals toward the power in the world outside us over which we have uncertain or little control.

Next up was Mock Song which hasn’t been played in over 300 shows. An exceptionally standout version of Bathtub Gin closed out the first set. I cannot say enough good things about this Gin. Arguably the best of 3.0. Just listen to it. On repeat.

A solid combination of non stop jamming in Chalk Dust Torture > Ghost > Rock and Roll > Harry Hood > Waste > No Men In No Man’s Land > Slave to the Traffic Light lit up the second set, and a raucous First Tube that had Trey drooling brought the show to a close. Boy, man, god, shit does he love that song!

The second day got off to a great start with a beautiful Divided Sky to open the daytime set. The clouds were parting perfectly for a gorgeous pause. This was Phish in all its glory, raging the enormous stage they built for themselves on their home turf in the middle of nowhere. (I love when there are no enormous screens right next to the stage). A great Moma Dance and Mound gave way to another attempt at the intensely intricate Trey composition Scabbard. The tune itself is very ambitious for them to play and I’m loving that its made its way into the regular rotation. Another go at the rocking Mike tune How Many People Are You?, a beautiful Circus and a stampeding Antelope closed out a very high energy daytime set.

The band hit the stage for the second set of the day and laid down a six song masterpiece; Wolfman’s Brother, Halley’s Comet > 46 Days > Backwards Down the Number Line > Tweezer > Prince Caspian. Listen to the Caspian that closes this set. It’s undeniable platinum age Phish.

For the third set the band seemed to be moving through transitions with ease. Everything was flowing like butter. An astonishing Blaze On > Possum > Cities combination made way for a resonating Walls of the Cave. Being in this part of the country, with the depth to this song, you could feel the energy in the air.

“Written during a dark time for the United States, “Walls of the Cave” simultaneously serves as a heartbreaking allegory and a source of comfort following 9/11. According to Tom, Trey agrees with fans whom interpret “Walls of the Cave” as a tribute for the World Trade Center. Tom says “WoTC” is probably a somber homage to the WTC attacks, but it was “unintentionally on purpose.” Either way, “Walls of the Cave” is another emotionally charged tune that has attempted to console fans in the aftermath of a horrific tragedy.” ~from Eli over at Online Phish Tour.

Next up was the late-night, not-so-secret set/drive in jam. Again, if for some reason you still haven’t listened to this, please do so. Immediately. This is primal Phish. This is why we love this band. I’ll spare you a nitty gritty description, but needless to say, this was one of the best sets of live music I have ever seen in my entire life.

Sunday’s show opened with a ferocious Punch > Buffalo Bill. Buffalo Bill hasn’t been played in over 100 shows and is one my favorite rarities. We were having a blast yelling along with the band on the rail. A beautiful Limb x Limb and a standout Reba made way for a hilarious moment in Phish history. I Didn’t Know started off like any other acapella version, except when Fishman came out to play his vacuum solo, Trey pulled out a piece of paper and starting reading off a list of heart felt Thank You’s to the crowd. Every time he came close to mentioning a name Fishman would take a huge suck from the vacuum. It was thoroughly entertaining. Trey was controlling Fish’s sucking by using hand gestures and telling him to “stop sucking ” or “suck it.” Interpret it however you want.

The final full set of the weekend was incredible. I’m really digging how much the band is enjoying Martian Monster. That song gets Page, Trey and Mike deep into effects loops and it gets everyone grooving. The Scents and Subtle Sounds > What’s the Use? > Dirt combination had me eating out of the palm of the band’s hands. That version of Scents and Subtle Sounds contains some of the most beautiful melodic harmonies you’ll ever hear Phish play. They turn the beautiful and gentle jam into a masterful piece played with intent and conviction. A stellar Mike’s Song > Fuego > Twist > Weekapaug and then back into Martian Monster brought the second set to an end.

The encore was pure Phish jubilation. A twenty minute You Enjoy Myself with a full blown Chris Kuroda lightstravaganza accompanied by what must have been a half-million dollar fireworks show that the band put on for us.

After the Sunday show and the final set of Phish music concluded, an absolutely epic dance party ensued at the second stage/drive-in screen. The Montreal-based DJ Freeworm and Franky Selector that ran the setlist after the Sunday show deserve a huge round of applause. Kuroda told me that they hired a French Canadian company to do the screen setup and to do some of the effects. I can only imagine the size of the parties held oversees with screens like this. I’ve seen some pictures of enormous dance parties and raves in Israel, Canada, Brazil, Germany, etc. The whole place was getting down while some beautiful Pollock Phish prints with psychedelic effects were being projected onto the enormous screen in the background.

Ladies and gentlemen…

This summer was one for the ages. The band has been building some serious momentum since 2009 and it’s clearly showing in the way they’re playing. Two years ago at MSG — after a handful of us reached out to the band amid growing concerns that they would potentially split up again — we were assured that we had nothing to worry about. The band had the image below created and hilariously projected it on the overhead screen at Madison Square Garden during their 2013, 30th Anniversary New Year’s Eve run. The calm this has brought the entire scene is really magnificent.

The band inviting phans to a show in 2043.

At this point, Phish sounds as good as I can ever recall them sounding. The debates between fans are spirited and positive! The intricacy, musicianship and communication the band exhibits on stage is astonishing. And the simple fact that they’re having so much fun together is reason enough to drop everything you’re doing and make it out to Colorado next week for the fifth annual Phamily Reunion. Anything is possible at this point.

This is a magical time folks.

Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish at August 26th, 2015. Comments Off on Phish 2015: A Moment to Reflect.

It’s no secret how I feel about Phish. After the incredible display of masterful musicianship witnessed in Vegas on Halloween, I thought the band deserved a well-articulated Thank You from the Phish community. So, here we are exalted and shouting a collective Thank You Phish!!!! 🙂

Vegas 2014 was everything we could have asked for. While the MGM venue itself could have been a little more organized, in general, the grounds were welcoming and our triumphant return to Sin City was a resounding success. The Halloween set was absolutely incredible and the way you guys orchestrated that entire shindig was awww-inspiring. It looked like all four of you were truly having a blast together! Still! After all of this time! Again… Thank You!!!

As fans of your music, we are just so lucky. We cannot fucking wait to do it all over again next year!

Now, let’s talk a little bit about your Phish ticketing system. After all of these years, the current system is debilitating for the true fans among us. I’m being serious when I say the old days of filling out envelopes and sending off checks and waiting for our paper tickets was a better system than the spam-rigged, Stubhub/Ticketmaster disaster that currently runs the marketplace. For an innovative band like Phish — a band that has already pioneered countless technologies (HD streaming of shows, app services and catalog access, etc.) — the next big project should be to disrupt the Scalper/Stubhub/Ticketmaster stranglehold. The whole situation is an awful mess that us true fans have to consistently navigate every time we want to simply snag a few tickets, for a few friends and family, to a few Phish shows.

Let’s see if we can change this… Here are some ideas we’ve been tossing around.

First, develop a system called “True Phan Priority”, or something like that.

a) Since you just unveiled a brand new version of your Live Phish iPhone/mobile app — that allows for fans to sign up for a monthly subscription to the entire Phish catalog from 2003 – 2014) — one could venture to guess that those that sign up for that service are true loyal fans.

b) Some of us have been using the same email address for our tickets and accounts since before the first breakup. Seriously. I’m sure your Database administrator can look up the age of our email addresses + the amount of show tickets that we originally purchased. Then, develop an intelligent algorithm that could weight our email addresses or accounts with a point system or some value. Shit, I have genius friends that can even help here, but seeing where you’ve taken streaming lately, I’m sure you guys can figure it out.

c) In essence, simply give us true fans a way to have at least some priority over the current Scalpers/Stubhub/Ticketmaster fiasco. Why are we still having to navigate through either a broken lottery system or a scalping mess? This isn’t fair to do to those of us that enjoy planning ahead of time.

At this point, you guys have been touring for five years straight again. For many of your tours (which are getting shorter and shorter), it’s becoming more common for a very large percentage of the crowd to know each other. We all just want to see Phish and dance together.

You see, the constant stories of how hard it is to simply snag a few tickets is turning people off from even trying to come to shows. It’s turning people off from even trying to get tickets. Which is the part that frustrates me most. When ticket on-sale days come around, and some of my dear friends and family say “What’s the use, the whole system is rigged,” I know something has gone terribly wrong.

In case you guys are currently a little too removed from how it’s going down for us, here’s how it’s working in 2014 for the true fan:

1) Phish announces a tour. Yay!

2) We put in for the lottery (most times it’s as many tickets as possible for as many shows as possible). Thousands and thousands of dollars that we are expected to have just “waiting” in our account to be charged.

3) Most of the time, very few of us get what we originally requested. Since a large portion of the fan base is becoming closer as time goes on (again), it’s harder and harder for the true fans to get in to the shows.

4) Next, we have to navigate a system that is clearly setup for us to lose. There are literally software applications that professional scalpers are using that Phish fans are battling. It’s a huge uphill battle. A win is usually the result of simply getting lucky.

Scalpers are deploying scalping applications that clog up all of the bandwidth that websites — like Ticketmaster, Live Nation and local auditorium websites — preemptively setup to handle the onslaught of traffic, on days where expected high ticket sales will take place. This still does nothing for on-sale times of Phish shows. The systems always crash for us fans. And somehow, no matter what, there are immediately hundreds of General Admission tickets (if there is a GA/floor) and premium seats available on Stubhub right as the shows sell-out.

This raises a lot of red flags to me. It seems like the online ticket sales marketplace is going unregulated and true Phish fans are suffering as a result.

Phish, it’s time to step in and help us.

The lottery does not work anymore and scalpers are winning. Some of your true fans simply cannot get tickets to shows when they become available and that’s affecting the amount of music they get to enjoy. Then, a lot of the time, tickets are either $20 or free right outside the door. This creates a scenario where true fans that may be a bit older these days, have real careers or families, that weren’t able to snag tickets directly when the tickets went on sale, just don’t go to the shows. Only to hear that tickets were readily available outside the venue.

This is what we call a broken system. Again, what you guys have done for all of us continues to reverberate in a powerful way on a daily basis. We have a beautiful new Live Phish mobile app. We can access your entire catalog on demand. We can stream, buffer and play songs. You provide us with glorious HD webcasts to a lot of your shows. You have updated your website. Given us a music/track download manager. Let’s fix this ticketing issue.

Maybe it won’t solve the entire online ticketing marketplace issues we always see… Or maybe it will… Perhaps it will simply alleviate some issues the core fan base has.

And that may just be all that is needed.


Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish, Thank me later at November 8th, 2014. Comments Off on Thank You Phish! (Oh, and your ticketing system needs some work).

On October 29th, 2013, Phish dropped a legendary show in Reading, Pennsylvania. Being the band’s inaugural performance here, it was a historic night with an old-school vibe. Shenanigans ensued.

Arriving in Reading you could feel that something special was brewing. The town itself is tiny and entrenched in urban blight. Historically Phish loves these little towns in despair. Not to mention, any chance to avoid Philadelphia is probably a plus in their eyes. Perhaps most well known for carrying the nation’s “Poorest City” moniker in a ranking from the Census Bureau, Reading seemed like a good fit for the Phish from Vermont.

As showtime neared, the anticipation grew. This was a tiny, indoor, East-coast Phish show and everyone really wanted to let loose before Atlantic City. Even before the band played a single note, the walls were sweating. The venue truly feels like a high-school gymnasium. Upon first glancing the stage the intimate setting comes alive. There was only one way down to the floor. And generally while I dislike venues that enforce this crap, the place was small enough that it didn’t really matter. In fact, the dance space we had on the floor was dreamy. That people didn’t feel the need to sneak down to the floor emphasized the quality and size of this venue. The band sounded good from anywhere in the room, and in a space this size, Phish knows how to destroy.

Coming out swinging with a classic Page tune, Cars Trucks Buses really got things cooking. Just a few minutes into the sizzling instrumental tune and the band was firing on all cylinders. Stealing Time always feels right at the beginning of a first set and Ginseng Sullivan was a really nice treat. The first true highlight of the show was Wolfman’s Brother. Easily one of the best Wolfman’s in recent memory, we were treated to some refreshing, hard-thumping grooves. Trey’s guitar peddles were completely dialed in and he was throwing down some really addictive funk-delay-loops. Mike and Fish set a heavy rhythmic foundation. Next thing we knew the band was fully engulfed in a beautiful, wah-wah driven funk jam. Mike was thundering the bottom as Page tickled the top. Fish and Trey were communicating brilliantly. Snare and wah-wah snaps. Truly a masterful version of this song. As everyone looked around and realized how small this venue felt, Sparkle made us all smile and laugh. Walk Away was incredibly solid, yet things really were just getting started.

Divided Sky commands so much attention in a tiny, indoor venue. These days many newer fans have yet to travel out East to catch the band where they feel most at home. Divided Sky may seem most at home in an enormous, outdoor summer venue like Alpine Valley or The Gorge, but it’s hard to beat a sweaty, screaming indoor version of the tune that feels like it was plucked from 1994. Trey took more than a few deep breaths during the long pause. The crowd stared up at the rafters, imagined a sky and held up lighters. It seemed like forever, but the pause was beautiful, natural, and exactly what everyone needed at the time.

As the hugs continued and friends shared rumblings about how much fun the whole Phish organization was having, the band shifted into the sinister with an extremely heavy version of Split Open and Melt. In my opinion, with all variables considered, this is the best version of Split Open and Melt that the band has played since reuniting in 2009. This version of Melt deserves its own article. It is incredibly dark and twisted. The time signatures are complex. The jam gets so heavy that the band literally lifts off into another dimension, yet all four of them remain attached at the hip. Since the band reunited in 2009, every attempt at this song has led to the version played in Reading. Moving straight into Julius was not only understandable, it was a breath of fresh air. Shit was getting really, really dark. And while that’s exactly how we like our Melts, Trey knew we all needed to move on. Julius did his job and ushered us into another much needed setbreak.

Visibly excited the band hit the stage for the second set. A really nostalgic Pop Goes the Weasel tease from Mike gave way to one of the best versions of Down with Disease played since the band’s 2009 reunion (a common theme). A monstrous jam with multiple themes and peaks, this version stood out instantly. Touching upon some anthemic similarities with the Tahoe Tweezer, this Disease was captivating, dark and dirty, beautiful and filled with joy at the same time. Morphing into a thrashing rendition of Taste, the band was feeling good. Taste is a very complex arrangement. To see it emerge after a 21 minute Disease — placed as the second set pearl — demonstrates how confident the band was feeling.

As the crowd collectively caught its breath, Trey ominously started playing the opening notes to Twenty Years Later. An introspective Anastasio/Marshall tune, Twenty Years Later takes its listener on a gorgeous journey. Stories of peaks and valleys resonated through the venue. Some in the crowd grew nostalgic, others grew more intrigued. Then BOOM. In the middle of a fifteen minute version of Twenty Years Later Phish threw down a straight dopamine filled funk jam. A time-shifting Free-esque groove emerged and Trey threw down a supple lick that forced the whole room to move as one unit.

At this point, Phish had won. The band had all of us eating out of the palms of their hands. This is what we all wanted. Piper was up next and that red worm didn’t disappoint. Backwards Down the Number Line has grown into a song that I love. Another round of smiles and hugs gave way to yet another enormous surprise.

YEM. Out of all the shows, in all the states, and all of the venues. Here in Reading. Holy Shit! is what everyone collectively exhaled. We buckled our seat belts and tightened our grip. YEM, in such a tiny, indoor venue, at the end of a raging (and rare) Fall Tour, during Phish’s 30th anniversary year, at the end of a show of this caliber. It started clicking that they probably wouldn’t be playing a YEM in Atlantic City after dropping this one here in Reading. People hugged, people rejoiced, and then we all got down. The dance party was so intense, such controlled chaos. This was a prime Phish crowd. When Mike grabbed a hold of the jam towards the end, Trey nearly hit his face on the microphone as he completely lost himself to his bandmate’s earth-shattering talent. To see Trey dance like that just feels so, so good. Kuroda nearly stole the show with his work during the vocal jam and everyone laughed in hysteria as the band wrapped up a monumental version of YEM. Grind was a comical, tasteful closer to an other-worldly set.

With the crowd left reeling in outer space, Phish completely nailed the vibe with a Bouncin’ encore opener. That YEM vocal jam was a masterful piece of evil art and we all really needed to link back up in a similar groove.

And then. BOOM. Reba. A beautiful, delicate version that forced a few security guards to shed a couple of tears. This was something special. An epic, delightful treat at the end of a scorching show. We lost ourselves to the warm and fuzzy Reba jam and all was right in the world. The band then kicked into Good Times, Bad Times, and those of us with some fight left gave them a run for their money.

The crowd was left completely stunned and the band left the stage. I am honestly surprised that the place is still upright.

Photograph by my bud Jeremy Renda

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 • The Santander Arena, Reading, Pennsylvania

Set 1: Cars Trucks Buses, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Ginseng Sullivan, Wolfman’s Brother, Sparkle > Walk Away, Divided Sky, Split Open and Melt[1] > Julius
Set 2: Down with Disease[2] > Taste, Twenty Years Later > Piper > Backwards Down the Number Line, You Enjoy Myself, Grind
Encore: Bouncing Around the Room > Reba, Good Times Bad Times
[1] Unfinished.
[2] Unfinished; Pop Goes the Weasel tease from Mike during intro.
· Pop Goes the Weasel tease in Down with Disease
· Dave’s Energy Guide tease in Taste
Setlist from Phish.net
Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish at November 30th, 2013. Comments Off on My Long Overdue Reading Review.

Back in September, fresh on the heels of a raging summer tour and a third straight blow-out year in Colorado, I wrote an Open Letter to Trey. I explained some thoughts that had been percolating within the nucleus of my inner-most (and extended) Phish crew. In a nutshell, my letter was an attempt to reveal to Trey the significance that The Hiatus and The Breakup has played in all of our personal relationships with Phish.

Flash forward to Halloween 2013… A head-banging Fall Tour and a Thirtieth Anniversary Year filled with unbelievable music and positive energy. And what does the band do for us? They play us their own music. They trick and treat us all at once. They make an incredibly powerful statement; To us, nobody’s music is more important than our own.

Hey Phish, just a heads up… To many of us in the crowd, that statement echoes true, deep, all the way through to our soul.

What happened on Halloween 2013 in Atlantic City will go down in Phish history as one of the most special, emphatic nights in the band’s celebrated thirty years. Debuting more original material on this single night than any other night in the band’s career, each member was clearly demonstrating his own personal ambitions and desires for Phish. Some of those songs may never get played again.

The band has been delivering powerful messages all year. At this point, if you’re still complaining, if you’re still bitching, if you still think Phish isn’t as good as they once were… Stay at home. There are plenty of us who are ready to do this all over again.

In a huge way, it is absolutely clear that Phish is here to stay. I can confidently stop wondering if any individual show will be the last time I get to see these guys play together. That energy has been removed from the room.

The Phish I experienced in Atlantic City in 2013 reminded me of why I fell in love with this band. After a year filled with monumental jams and earth-shattering visceral moments of joy, the band blew my brains out this Fall Tour. They looked young, healthy and refreshed. They all have a spring in their step, they seem happy and genuinely stoked to be working on new material together. The debut of Wingsuit couldn’t have answered my questions any more clearly.

Personally, I’ll be following this energy to New York City come this December. There is no way I’m missing the upcoming New Year’s Run given what’s been happening so far this year. The band is on fire, they’ll be coming out of intimate tracking sessions in the studio and they are proud, confident and exalted.

See you in NYC.

Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish at November 6th, 2013. Comments Off on Phish: Wingsuit: Nectar From the Gods.

I have been doing a lot of listening and analyzing lately. I’ve spent time combing over Phish’s recent summer tour. I’ve compared all of the previous Halloween shows, from The Beatles ’94 to Little Feat 2010. I’ve tried to pull out any teases or clues as to what they could possibly play this year in Atlantic City.

Even with all of the rumors swirling around — Graceland, Chocolate & Cheese, Hunky Dory — I still just have no idea what Phish is going to play.

Personally, I would really like to hear them play Band of Gypsys, the live album released by the band Jimi Hendrix put together after he disbanded the Jimi Hendrix Experience. I think it’s perfect for 2013 Phish. Hendrix himself called it a “jam” album. The entire LP is fused together by complex guitar and bass melodies that weave in and out of each other in psychedelic harmony. It’s raw, dark, mind-bending Rock & Roll at its finest. Incredible drumming by Buddy Miles and passionate bass playing by Billy Cox. Tons of raw energy. Seems like an album the whole band could really get behind.

The official LP track listing lends itself well to a Phish Halloween set. The songs are all of reasonable length and the deep compositional sections all give way to potentially incredible jam launching pads. With a total running time of 45 minutes and 48 seconds, Phish could break-out some really intense improvisational work throughout the entire album. This could be legendary.

Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys, Official LP Track Listing:

1. Who Knows 9:39
2. Machine Gun 12:41
3. Changes 5:14
4. Power to Love 6:58
5. Message to Love 5:26
6. We Gotta Live Together 5:50

Previous Phish Musical Costumes:

1994: The Beatles, The White Album
1995: The Who, Quadrophenia
1996: Talking Heads, Remain In Light
1998: The Velvet Underground, Loaded
1998: Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon (unofficial)
2009: The Rolling Stones, Exile On Main St.
2010: Little Feat, Waiting For Columbus
2013: Jimi Hendrix, Band of Gypsys?

A guy can dream.

Posted in Opinions, Phish at September 22nd, 2013. Comments Off on Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys: Perfect for Phish Halloween 2013.

Quote sent to me a few days ago:

If you saw them back in the early and mid-90’s then you know that they are as good now as they have ever been. Older, more mature (unlike their fans, evidenced here), more soulful, and more intelligent. Only thing worse about 3.0 is the crowd. In that sense, I miss 1994.

Phish • Crowd Control lyrics (Anastasio/Marshall)

Listen now I’m talking
I’ve been here for weeks
Waiting in this growing crowd
Staring at my feet

The world around me’s turning
I’m just standing still
The time has come for changes
Do something or I will

I’m a feather in a storm
I’m a raindrop in the sea
If I don’t get enough of you
I’m a lighter shade of me

Sisters, brothers all around you
There’s a devil in the crowd
Meet his eye and it’s the end of time
If you’re praying don’t be loud

It’s crowded in the lowland
But the fools stay on the hill
You control us now
You have the reins
Do something or we will

So show us why we came here
Before we lay on the ground
Give it to us loud and clear
Make the devil turn around

Posted in Life, Phish at September 13th, 2013. Comments Off on Crowd Control.

Dear Trey,

Nobody loves Phish more than you. This we know. The band you started, the places Phish has taken us — both in this physical world and beyond — are hard to describe in words. The countless pure moments we have all shared together. The past thirty years have been bigger than any one of us individually. Bigger than you, Fish, Mike or Page.

Phish is a universal energy and we are all a part of it. The way you four came together so many years ago. It’s not an accident or a coincidence. It was meant to be. And we — your phans, your army — are meant to dance for as long as you keep playing that beautiful, indescribable music.

As we all grow older and more mature, the role Phish has played and continues to play in our lives has become a lot more clear and well defined. Phish is a beautiful, pure being that we have all created together. A true release from society’s stifling ways. Phish is an other-worldly launching pad for like-minded people to come together. A place for us to celebrate in the oneness of the universe. A place where we can embrace in each other’s common beliefs. A place where our souls can unite. A place we call home.

A Phish show transcends time and place. A single moment is all it takes for us. One small glimpse into the metaphysical energy that is released when you four walk on stage is all we need. Nothing else brings us such supreme happiness, peace and delight. To some, a Phish show may still just be an excuse to party. But for the real phans — those of us that want to see this train thunder-on well into our golden years — Phish is a beautiful, clean, honest and pure living organism. In an otherwise complicated and dishonest world driven by politics, greed and material possessions, a Phish show is perhaps the pure antithesis of all of that garbage.

So, perhaps we can make an arrangement. Maybe a small little deal.

Twice we have all let each other down. Twice, all of us have let the scene balloon out of control. Certain people (and groups of people) prioritized other things ahead of the music and everyone lost control. The organism got sick and it had to take a break to get healthy. No single person is to blame. And after all these years, for anybody to still be putting the blame on you individually would be pure insanity. This is an attempt to alleviate you from the pressures that (twice now) have caused hairline fractures in Phish’s otherwise rock-solid foundation. This letter is an attempt to put the past behind us and unite old and new phans alike. For all of us to enjoy in this very moment, in these happy and healthy times. And for us all to absorb the positivity being released by the Phish organism in this very moment.

This letter is an attempt to capture that, and for us all to keep this going for as long as possible.

Every year that goes by, I find myself truly wondering if this year’s shows will be the last time I’ll get a chance to see you guys play and share in that magical divinity. It’s a tough mentality to wrestle with given the joy and peace that Phish provides in this warmongering world.

We want to build Phish into our lives, into our careers, into the lives of our children. We all want to grow old together. We cannot imagine a world without the purity that Phish brings us. It’s depressing to even think about.

All of us, in this moment, have a chance to set a course for the future together. Let’s learn from those before us and not make the same mistakes we have made in the past. Let’s learn from the two previous break-ups. Let’s mature together. For we, the phans, and you the band, are really just a reflection of each other. Let’s continue listening to each other. Let’s continue charging through uncharted territory together. Only this time, with a wisdom and appreciation for the living organism we are all responsible for.

Phish breaking up is a dark and lonely place. Let’s stay away from there. Let’s give each other a little nod and remember that we are all in this for the long haul.

You keep playing and we will keep showing up to dance.


Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish, Thank me later at September 12th, 2013. Comments Off on An Open Letter to Trey.

Thirteen Shows Attended:

Chicago: July 19th
Chicago: July 20th
Chicago: July 21st
Gorge: July 26th
Gorge: July 27th (My 100th show)
Lake Tahoe: July 30th
Lake Tahoe: July 31st
San Francisco: August 2nd
San Francisco: August 3rd
San Francisco: August 4th
Colorado: August 30th
Colorado: August 31st
Colorado: September 1st
Read More…

Posted in Opinions, Phish at September 6th, 2013. Comments Off on Phish: 2013 Summer Tour Recap.

UPDATE: I was contacted again to clarify some facts about the Chicago Harpua. For what it’s worth I think the Phish community deserves to know, so I’m sharing the information I have. See updates below in the facts section.
Read More…

Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish at July 24th, 2013. Comments Off on Chicago Harpua: The Truth [UPDATED].

Perfect Menu came to fruition at Bend, Oregon’s Startup Weekend 2012. In just under three days we developed our entire application from the ground up. We put together a grassroots sales operation, and within our first 24 hours had one of the most influential and trend setting restaurants in Bend using our product. By the end of the event we had customer validation and commitments nationwide.

Posted in Uncategorized at November 25th, 2012. Comments Off on Perfect Menu Wins Bend, OR Startup Weekend 2012.

I’ve been meaning to share these thoughts for a couple of days…

Song names are secondary. Phish has again reached a creative level that rivals any era from their past. The level at which they’re communicating on stage reduces song names to nothing more than a way to keep count. Whether they sing here-or-there for a few minutes, their voices are really just being used as a fifth instrument. This is Phish at its purest form. Remember this next time you find yourself judging a show based on songs played or not played.
Read More…

Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish at August 29th, 2012. Comments Off on A Couple of Random Phish Thoughts.

The way certain people complain about Phish continues to astonish me. In particular, you, Mr. Miner. A relatively authoritative voice in the “online” Phish community, you run a very well known, highly respected weblog — where among other things — you reviews Phish shows.
Read More…

Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish at August 21st, 2012. Comments Off on No Thank You Mr. Miner.

Every single Phish show is chock-full of expectations. Some shows bring a lot more hype and excitement than others, yet more often than not, fans start buzzing with anticipation, hopes and expectations long before the band ever sets foot on stage. However, too much pre-show hype surrounding any single Phish show (or run of shows) often leads to a good amount of collective disappointment.
Read More…

Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish at August 8th, 2012. Comments Off on Expectations, Expectations, Expectations.