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
Both nights at the Gorge.
The Gorge weekend was quintessential Phish, with both nights exhibiting peak Phish experiences, yet catering to completely different musical palettes. In regards to which show was “better,” for me it’s a toss up between the intense psychedelia of the first night, and the perfectly flowing, dance-party grooves from the second night.
With the ever-growing Phish crowd constantly yammering for “funk, dance parties,” it was really nice to see the boys put on a psychedelic monster of a show. If they tempted to open Pandora’s Box with Split Open and Melt at SPAC, they blew the lid wide open with Split at the Gorge. The band played a special Happy Birthday for Chris Kuroda, a surreal Moon Jam in Character Zero, and simply thrashed the Hendrix classic Fire, giving a nod to the raging forest fire happening not far from the Gorge Amphitheater. This was one for the ages. A beast of a show.
Night two was as musically pleasing to the ears as it looks on paper. The grooves were solid, the band interplay was tight and the band members were locked in. Reflecting back, the entire show’s flow was pretty much perfect. It was a classic example of Phish walking out on stage, locking in on the vibe from the crowd, and flowing with it for the rest of the night. After all of the 2001 teases during the first night, it was a joy to hear this one bust open the seems oozing out of a nasty Sneakin’ Sally. Perfect placement, perfect transitions, perfect flow. This entire show was as mindful as it gets. A true work of art from the band.
Tweezer > Tela from Lake Tahoe. As it currently stands, this is the best jam they’ve ever thrown down during the Phish 3.0 era (of course Fall tour is right around the corner). The band and the crowd really did create a song together during this legendary Tweezer. The impromptu song was called Woo. They’ve played it at a lot of shows since Tahoe, but it’s never been the same. The fact that it all flowed magically into a beautiful Tela was just insane.
Is it the best Phish jam ever? I wouldn’t go that far. Best Phish 3.0 jam? Easily.
Energy from Chicago
Crosseyed and Painless from the Gorge
Down with Disease from the Gorge
Sneakin’ Sally from the Gorge
Bathtub Gin from Tahoe
Runaway Jim from San Francisco
Energy from San Francisco
Rock & Roll from San Francisco
Down with Disease from San Francisco
Harry Hood from Los Angeles
Chalkdust Torture from Colorado
Carini from Colorado
My beliefs still stand. The best outdoor music venue in the country is The Gorge Amphitheater. The best indoor venue in the country is Hampton Coliseum, although the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium sure does feel like a mini-Hampton in the heart of San Francisco.
The three-night Chicago run was pretty intense (for all the wrong reasons). The first night being canceled, the second night three-setter, the third night hell-storm of a set-break, the Second City Harpua. In all fairness, none of the crap we went through was Phish’s fault. They did everything they could to make it a good weekend. However, the venue staff, the management, the planning, it was all a disaster. From the lack of garbage cans amounting to piles of trash on the dance floor, to the lack of shelter during inevitable Chicago waterfront storms, it was a horrible place to see Phish perform. I hope the biggest lesson learned from Chicago was for Phish to NEVER come back to the LiveNation FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island. No matter what they end up calling this terrible venue, just don’t come back here.
Chrissy and I had plans to meet some friends at the Gorge shows. We would all hop in my car, drive down to our place in Bend, Oregon together for some R&R on the day off, drive to Tahoe, then San Francisco and back up to Bend. Our goal was to recreate the old days. Leading up to the Gorge shows, one of my best friends — who I was trying to convince to come with us — repeatedly told me he couldn’t make this trip happen. He kept saying there was just no way he could make it. He got most of our friends in on it as well, so when I asked other people if he was coming, they said “No, we tried to convince him, but he just can’t make it.” Then, first day of the Gorge, I’m standing on lot, feel a tap on my shoulder and I hear this voice “Excuse me, can I borrow your lighter?” I turn around and it’s my asshole buddy. He hopped in our car and traveled with us through San Francisco. Well played buddy. Well played.
On the night off between the Lake Tahoe shows and the San Francisco shows we decided to go see Warren Haynes perform with the San Francisco Symphony. It was an extra special show being held on Jerry Garcia’s birthday and Bob weir joined Haynes and the Symphony on stage for the second set. Unfortunately, during set break while going back to the car to put our posters away, we saw the back window had been smashed and a few of our bags were stolen. Long story short, it took the SFPD 90 minutes to arrive on the scene and the only reason they helped us was because I was using “Find My iPhone” to track an iPad that the thieves had stolen. They unknowingly had it inside of a duffel bag they stole, and I was able to track the location of that iPad from my iPhone. In a karma-filled ending, the police were able to locate the thieves, who were on an ongoing robbery spree. When I arrived at the police station in San Francisco there were a number of other families there — some with children — all collecting their belongings. My recovered iPad seemed insignificant and I was happy to have helped these other people get their stuff back.
Current State of Phish:
There should be no debate. 2013 Phish is the real deal. The jams are heavy, the playing is intricate and the setlists are thoughtful. In my personal opinion, the band hasn’t sounded this good since the late 90’s.