Thursday, September 8, 2011

Untimely Reviews: Phish, Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO, 09/03/11, Part II

With my people still gallivanting around the Front Range and my interviews complete, it was time for some leisure, which I obtained via the company of the following: Lorin, and her pals Lara and Ari (Viking horns), a couple of other Connecticut-ers, Thomas and Adam (a.k.a Surfer Steve) from the University of Arizona (who Lorin adopted for the weekend), Mean Guy, BizarroJeff -- not to be confused with DiscoBiscuit Jeff -- and Dakota Fanning’s doppelganger. It’s ridiculously unfortunate that I did not seize the group-photo opportunity, but what’re you gonna do.

BizarroJeff and I made the nine-foot trek over to their shelter, and there was no shortage of comedic gems offered in the two or three hours hanging with them. For starters, Lorin, Lara, and Ari had shirts made with the Phish logo, and below it, two phrases: “Girls Gone West 2011,” and “Dude, You’re Gettin’ a Dell.” I didn’t get the Dell part, but now I do. Apparently, these dude-you’re-gettin’-a-Dell commercials ran all the time back in the day. I missed out on that, but what I did not miss out on was the approximate 1,376 times the phrase “Dude, you’re gettin’ a Dell” was uttered.

If you’re confused, here’re a few examples:

Surfer Steve: “Do you think that guy could possibly be any more fucked up?”

Ari: “Dude, he’s gettin’ a Dell.”

BizzaroJeff: “I can’t really remember the conversation which led you to begin calling me Fake Jeff (which later became BizarroJeff).”

Lorin: “It doesn’t matter, man. We’re all gettin’ Dells.”

Pick your own variation. It happened.

Anyhoo, we sat around and swapped stories, such as the pig-roast benefit turned chicks-with-dicks oddity that Ari got conned into attending or the best-hurricane-party-ever gathering Lorin had (everyone got Dells). Best of all, however, was the sheer presence of Dakota Fanning. Picture Dakota Fanning dressed in ‘90s grunge attire with an inside-out Vans baseball cap, mirror sunglasses, a straggly beard, and the dingiest, scarecrowiest dirty-blond hair you can imagine. Now insert 17 kinds of psychedelic drugs into his system, and if you’re not equal parts entertained by the words coming out of his mouth/concerned for the functioning level of most of his major organs, then there’s something the matter with you.

His presence in the shelter tent kicked off with a scary attempt to walk across the circle of chairs and sit in one; here was not much to be said for Dakota’s coordination on this fine afternoon. Once he was seated, though, he began uttering one-liners while clutching his hat and laughing hysterically. Some of the more token of his statements were:

“Dude, you guys are so crazy. How is it possible that this is all happening?” After this he probably tore his abdomen with a three-minute laugh. There was also:

“Do you guys have any idea how the world made this all work?” And:

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sleep with the commissioner’s wife that night in St. Louis, but it is how I became the commissioner.” Finally:

“Man the only way you can figure out what’s goin’ on is to hide under cars and jump out as people are coming so you can look into their eyes and see if they’re lookin’ into yours.”

Dakota claimed he’d never seen Phish, and didn’t have tickets to any of the two remaining two nights. He continued to ponder the likelihood of “making it all happen” and I foolishly tried to explain to him that he needed to get to the box office and buy one, but he wasn’t interested.

A collection of substances circulated throughout this shelter, and while initially Dakota was skipped in the rotation, it was ultimately decided to include him when he kept reminding everyone that sometimes people tell him he looks like Gary Sinise. It was then protocol to get a Sinise line out of Dakota every time something was passed to him, which was nothing shy of priceless.

Finally, someone mentioned that their mother had Restless Leg Syndrome, and he probably laughed for two straight minutes about how much that would suck. He then bent his legs at the knees and raised his feet above his waist and flailed his legs about as an interpretation of what RLS looked like. He physically could not keep his arms from flapping, though, and about a five-minute ordeal was made trying to get him to keep them still. Not a dry eye in the house.

Anyway, we had a few more drinks, heard some random songs from Ari’s iPod -– which was attached to this mini, handheld stereo –- and she imitated this girl she saw at a wedding who carried one around above her shoulder, pressed to her ear at a wedding reception while hired music was played for attendees. We were led to believe that that girl had already gotten a Dell.

As show time approached, we separated back into our appropriate troops, and headed towards the venue. Hanging out with that pack, though, on that Phish-weekend Saturday, was one of the best times I’ve had in ages.

More shenanigans at the entry, as the staff had figured out the hole-punch catastrophe from Friday night, and folks with seats were angling to get their floor wristbands. In one of my efforts, my phone flew out of my hand and broke into three pieces on the sidewalk, which always makes for some good, embarrassing times. Device reassembled, I made a beer-inside deal with the dude –- name escapes me -– I stood behind, and voila: wristband. While procuring said beverage, however, I lost my people, and was again solo on the floor for first set.

I made it a point to stop moving forward where the crowd thickened, and stood behind a pair of gents who, at lights, retrieved some of the contents of what appeared to be an entire cigarette pack full of doobies. They were select about sharing, but not shy about it.

I’ve really enjoyed listening to TypeIIcast since they began (Editor's Note: If you haven't checked them out, do so. Now.), but it’s done a weird thing to my head in terms of Phish criticism. I tend to love what gets hated, and get a little too meta overall when setlists are developing. There’s probably not more hate for one particular song than “Possum” right now, largely due to the frequency with which it’s been played this tour, and most of it comes from Stephen Olker. When the first notes of “Possum” rang out I thought of his commentary, and made a fleeting effort to be open about the band’s selection.

Frankly, I thought they crushed it. It’s only been two years since my last “Possum” and based on my commentary from Friday’s show, I should’ve been agitated at getting another one so soon, but this version had great energy, and for my money, was a fine second-night opener.

“The Moma Dance” had some nice Trey funk/Page clav, and, on the whole, admirable syncopation amongst the four. It segued right into “The Wedge.” I was super-stoked for this number as, at its roots, are some down-home, feel-good vibes that come out of -- at least in this version -- a studio-similar beginning. Phish did an excellent job of building into a mellow-yet-high energy jam in “Wedge” and returned, spot on, to the melodic refrain just a few beats before its end. Loved it.

I had the same feeling I mentioned with “Stealing Time,” that I do for “Ocelot.” It’s a little hokey, but still a very digable song. This segued into “The Divided Sky.” Forget the Eric Wyman hate. This song has its place, and its place was as sandwich meat atop the bread of “Ocelot.” The crowd was rewarded with a great solo, and again going against the grain of my feel for Friday night, I’ve seen “Divided” eight times, but I can’t recall a version I didn’t enjoy.

“Funky Bitch” is never a letdown in my book. Gotta love Mike on vocals in this one as well as the way they undeniably shred it nearly every time out. Page destroyed his early solo, and he was also lights out during Trey’s end-of-jam segment.

Up next was “Axila.” In the relationships-with-songs vein, I feel inclined to mention that Hoist has always had an odd flavor on my palette, as, having really developed relationships with the first four studios by the time it dropped in ’94, it totally through me for a loop; it was definitely not what I expected. This is always a good thing with Phish, and I dig the album, but it still caught me off guard, even though, album-to-album, the previous four were completely different from one another.

“Axila, Part II,” to me, has a place between “Riker’s Mailbox” and “Lifeboy,” and little elsewhere. I’ve never seen it live, and probably wouldn’t be all that moved by it if I did. That said, this was my third “Axila” and I always equate hearing it to giving one’s self the Stranger. It segued into “Llama” with a wicked-high energy right out of the gate. It’s never been one of my favorites, but I was getting into it and then the jam went atonal/stupid-fast for a few, which threatened to mess with me bad. Luckily, it was short-lived.

This was probably a good time for a slow song, and “Fast Enough for You” is one that’s –- along with “Horn” -– always been highly crankable when rocking my copy of Rift. “Wolfman’s Brother” is another one of those Phish-criticism conundrums in that I’ve heard a bunch of them, it’s never been one of my favorite cuts, but it always seems to be solid live. This version was no exception as Mike, Trey, and Page dug deep and early into their disco pockets for a filthy tube of Soul Glo. I mean, I actually heard the high-pitched cavitation of propellers from afar. Trey did some crazy picking after the halfway mark; it sounded like he was running a broken comb across the high end of his fret board, and it all culminated in a fantastic finish. A really solid close to a really solid first set had me amped for second set, and to top it off, I reunited with my people at intermission to finally actually be at the show with them.

Before moving on to set II, though, I have to share a brief story. It's the story about a couple positioned directly to my right throughout set I, a couple by the names of Zach and Danielle. Zach looked like your typical middle-of-the-road male Phishhead. He had the backpack, the baseball cap, the gleam of party time in his eye. Danielle looked like she'd left the house anticipating White Zin and sushi, but instead got a night full of Dick's. The short-and-sweet version was that she looked bitterly unhappy to be there, and I kept trying to ignore her energy. I could do so no longer, though, when I heard them talking in almost-arguing fashion.

"I mean it," Danielle said. "They. Suck."

I decided not to look back at them for a while because this was troubling. She could've meant any number of things, but the most obvious prevented me from ignoring any longer.

"I'm sorry," I said. "Who did you mean when you said that someone sucked?"

"Phish," she said, without hesitation. "They suck."

Now, she kind of smiled for a millisecond when she said this, but I felt like she was serious.

"How many times," I leaned back in, "have you seen Phish?"

"This is actually my first time," she said.

"I was gonna guess that," I said, "but then figured you'd correct me with some larger number."

I went back to successfully ignoring the energy, but couldn't help but look over as Zach made multiple attempts to cuddle-dance with Danielle and smooch her. She returned the efforts with deadpan denials and sidesteps to get out of his backpack-encumbered reach. A few minutes later, Zach tapped me on the shoulder.

"Dude," he said. "My girlfriend thinks you're pissed at her for saying Phish sucks."

"Whatever," I said. "To each her own."

"No," he said. "You don't get it. She doesn't hate Phish. She likes listening to them, but wanted to see what their show was all about. Really, though, she likes listening to (Note: He listed two or three electronica bands, each of which name escapes me. For all I know they were Swimming with Dolphins and Love is Electric.)

Danielle quickly interjected.

" I do not like Love is Electric," she said in my ear, then murmured something at Zach through gritted teeth.

For the next six or seven minutes, she incessantly texted people from her BlackBerry, as though she were making plans, letting them know how the show could not end soon enough. One thing that was cool, though, was that she had this inflatable pig with her, and at one point I told her I wanted to get a picture of her pig at setbreak so I could send it to my wife.

"My wife loves pigs," I said.

"Great then," she said. "We'll get a picture of the pig so you can send it to your wife."

"If you're still here," I said.

"I will be," she said.

This was the perfect indicator that she would not be, but nevertheless, after a while, some dude turned around and began dirty dancing up close on Danielle's nice jeans. She kind of shoved him away and he came back for more. This repeated a couple more times.

"Do you know him?" I was curious.

"Yes," she said. "He's a friend of my boyfriend's."

The friend reappeared for a quick grind on Danielle's clean jeans, and she tilted the pig, which was vertically positioned, its back to her chest, hind side up, fingered its anus and pointed at the friend.

I didn't know if this meant that Danielle wanted her boyfriend's friend to later sodomize the pig, if he'd already done so, if it meant that she was looking forward to some post-concert double penetration, or if she simply thought the friend was an asshole.

Zach and Danielle then stood face to face for five or six minutes, clearly, based on the intermittent flapping of Zach's arms, arguing. I'd finally had enough of them, when Zach put a hand on my shoulder.

"Man," he said, "it's my birthday, and she bought me these tickets last minute, and wanted to make me happy."

"She should've suggested you bring a friend, then," I said.

He shrugged, and when the house lights came on for intermission, Danielle was nowhere to be found.

“Down with Disease” started off the second half of the evening, and starting set two with a “Disease,” even though set one left me feeling high, was a bit curious to me. It seems to be getting a ton of play lately, and, like I said about the previous night’s “Sneakin’,” I didn’t imagine they could do much better –- ever, really –- than the “DwD” --> “What’s the Use?” from last year’s first night at Alpine. And then, not too long into it, they dropped the tempo big time, went into this space groove, and took that right into “Tweezer.”

It’s no secret that this is one of their -– pardon the Phish cliché –- big jam vehicles right now, and I have no problem with that whatsoever. Gone, it seems, are the days where “Tweezer” would go into the atonal abyss and destroy the minds of youth, and here –- hopefully to stay -– are the days where “Tweezer” can channel its inner “ground control to Major Tom” and go deep in the oddity of space.

This “Tweezer” promised to do just that as it featured some fat, bubbly Mike plucks while Page rode a rickety tricycle that had untuned xylophone planks for spokes. Crazy good. It ranked up there with the most beautiful of "Tweezer"s I've ever seen, and near the end, made its way into a dance-with-your-wife kinda groove.

I’m not familiar with TV on the Radio, but the TypeIIcast crew played a portion of a “Golden Age” jam a few episodes back, and it sounded like a mess of psychedelic wind chimes in a tornado. They hyped the shit out of for reasons I could only deem as that it was unique. TotR was in Kansas City a few Friday nights ago, and it seemed like a lot of folks were pumped for that show. I haven’t spoken to anyone about it, but this was another one of those song beginnings where I was plain-faced and limply dancing, a la "Sparks" on Friday night.

Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t not enjoy it; it simply surprised me as the segue spot that began with “Disease” --> “Tweezer.” It did have a good energy about it, though, one that appeared Trey-inspired, and in all honesty, live music doesn’t get better with the Chairman of the Boards laying a bed of bloated-organ riffs. Well, it actually does when it’s followed by a quaint solo from said Chairman, but who’s counting.

I’ve talked about relationships with songs a ton, and in this series of reviews, Hoist songs have been a theme, but now it’s time to give The Story of the Ghost a little attention. “Golden Age” went into “Limb by Limb,” which I love. As a matter of fact, there’s probably not a Tom Marshall-penned lyric that I don’t love, and probably not a cut from Ghost that I don’t highly admire either.

This “Limb” featured a heavy-noted-but-gorgeous Trey solo with Fishman thundering away at the kit. I typically don’t have much to say about Fishman but this has always been a strong song for Greezy Fizeek. I’ve also never dug “Kill Devil Falls.” In fact, if I’m listening to Joy, I’m prone to skip it. I was bummed when they opened with it at Toyota Park for my first show in over six years. My sister loves it, though, thinks it reminds her of “old-school Phish,” which is a baffling notion to me. I did, however, love that it got play at the 2020 Winter Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Games and during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs (all occasions at Rogers Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia), and the TypeII crew did play a clip of it recently that had some impressive jamming in it, so I tried to be open-minded about it when it began.

That said, some delicious Page tickling opened up a nice “Falls” jam, and when things are firing on all cylinders for these guys, it’s hard to go any direction but heavenly. The solo that Page so succinctly started levitated this jam and propelled it into the night Colorado sky. One of the eight billion reasons I love Phish: They can make you an instant lover out of a song you’ve previously avoided. always lists it as “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” but to me it’s always going to be known by its moniker: “2001.” I could write 5,000 words about the awesomeness that is this jam, what it does for sets regardless of placement, and how I’ve never met a version I didn’t like. Instead, I’ll keep it to two: dancin’ shoes.

I lied. More meatballs from Mike, Trey skankin’ like he’s trying out for a ska band, and Page warming up the rocket boosters really got this one moving in a booty-shake style that segued nicely into “Light.” This track, as the TypeII kids say, is another new jam vehicle for the band. One day it might move me, but a) it’s one of my least favorites from Joy (maybe tied with “Falls”), and b) this version was almost over before it did anything –- Page synthing out -– for me, which is fine, really, as it served as a stepping stone back into “Disease.”

The return to “Dw/D,” however, was here one second, gone the next, but it stayed Hoisty and went into “Julius.” I heard the opening and felt an immediate 50/50 split: one part –- really?; one part –- could be badass. It was the latter. Very dancehall, massive energy, one of those picture-perfect studio-to-live translations of which other musical acts can only dream. Phish, of course, added an even larger momentum push and extended jam to this studioesque rendition.

“Julius” bled into “Cavern,” and I’m not sure any cut from the band’s archive has ever left me so opinionless. I did dig the rubber-band slaps from Mike, though, and it’s usually short-lived, in this case, a segue into “Run Like an Antelope.” “Antelope” is up there with “Split Open and Melt” in terms of always wielding a heavy might-scare-the-shit-out-of-you sword. When I hear it start, there’s a part of me that wants to hide. There’s also a part of me that wonders if they’ll go fun and face melt with it. I thought I’d stick around and find out and the end result was that I must apologize for what is heretofore emitted from my keyboard as I’m still trying to piece together the remnants of my melted eyeballs.

It’s possible that this “Antelope” was the perfect mix of not-too-long (therefore lower end of the potential-danger fulcrum) and spewing-lava intensity. Chris Kuroda (Editor’s Note: Sorry to quote The Social Network here, but…) –- “you better lawyer up” because I’m holding you responsible for these two jars of liquid retina I brought home from Dick’s.

For the encore, it was “Sleeping Monkey” – soft spot; ‘nuff said, and “Tweezer Reprise,” which is always fun, and as a few of my friends who no longer prioritize seeing Phish used to say: “Crescendooooooooooooooooo!”

Amazing night. Two strong, strong sets. Left the venue feeling very happy, already sad that it would end tomorrow.


Tiffany said...

Ugh, I'm so annoyed with Danielle and the least she could have done was let you get a picture with the pig. I do love Kill Devil Falls, and I'm stoked that you enjoyed it, at least for one night. I have to say I'm always torn with Tweezer. Feel like I've seen it too much. Wonderful writing again sir. Lots of laughs. The time before the show sounds like the kind of fun seeing shows is all about.