5.14.05 Hammerstein Ballroom
Set 1: 18 Steps, Oz Is Ever Floating, Alive Again, Sway (new song), Sitting In Limbo, Sand > Cincinnati > Low
Set 2: Simple Twist Up Dave What's Done > Goodbye Head, It Makes No Difference, Night Speaks to a Woman (with Jen Hartswick on vocals), Black Dog (with Jen on vocals), Old Habits Are Hard to Break (solo acoustic w/ Mike Gordon), Back on the Train (solo with Mike), Waste (solo with Mike)
Encore: Wolfman's Brother > I Am the Walrus (both with Mike and the band)
Notes: Trey performed 2001 with Particle to close their opening act set.
I met Bruce early again and we went inside Hammerstein just as Particle took the stage. We had mezzanine seats and I didn't mind. I actually like the upper mezz at Hammerstein. You have a seat (as opposed to standing only general admission on the floor with no seats) plus the lines at the bar are not as long, and the sound quality is pretty good.
At one point the keyboard player for Particle announced that they were bringing a friend onstage. Trey walked out and they broke into 2001 right away. Not a bad version either. Usually during an opening act the crowd's attention is not 100% focused on the band onstage. People are talking, drinking, and trying to find their friends. What a difference one person makes. The second Trey took the stage, the place erupted. You could see cell phone lights go on as people called their friends and the Trey single handedly lifted the enrgey level in the room.
I went into the show expecting the night to be not as good as Friday's show. Trey pretty much shot his load and played some of his more popular songs the night before. I figured he'd be playing new slow songs and that the energy level would be a notch below Friday's show. I had a gut feeling that Mike or Page would show up for a late cameo and make up for the lackluster night. Did I call it or what?
I was pretty drunk by the time Trey opened the first set with a new song, 18 Steps, that I caught in Cincy. I smoked during that entire song. Next up was an Oysterhead song, Oz Is Ever Floating, which sounds a little better with Les Claypool on bass. Yeah that's my biggest complaint with Trey's new lineup... I can't hear the bass player. Skeeto... fuck, you can hear Skeeto dominating the drums. But Mr. ??? is hard to hear. Trey's new line up gives him the backbone for a harder, edgy, rock like sound. When he plays loud, its fuckin loud. Skeeto is more of a rock and roll drummer than Trey's old drummers. Shit, Skeeto is the most talented guy on that stage besides Trey. I walked away impressed with his skills. As Bruce mentioned, "You have to be pretty fuckin' good to be considered the fifth best drummer from Detroit."
One of my favorite songs from Trey's old line up is Alive Again. It started off sloppy but they got their shit together mid way. I smoked during the debut of Sway. Bruce told me it was a Rolling Stones cover. I called Daddy during Sitting Here in Limbo, a Jimmy Cliff cover that he really wanted to hear at Cincy. Mellow Trey. I have a killer version of Jerry Garcia Band covering that song.
The highlight of the first set was Sand. I hit my peak "fucked up-ness" of the night there. I was ripped drunk by then and digging every bit of Sand. I told Bruce that Trey would most likely bust out Sand and First Tube. I went 50% of my Phishy predictions.
During the next song, Cincinnati, my buddy Chris tapped me on the shoulder. He was also in the mezzanine a few rows up and over. When Trey started the song he remembered that I caught Trey in Cincy. He happened to turn around and saw me near by. He had to stop by and say, "Hello." Awesome randomness. He's a good egg.
I never heard Low but I read some good things about the song from friends who caught it. I was digging it for sure. The last three tunes saved the set, in my opinion. Out of the five sets I saw Trey perform up until that point, the first set was probably the fourth best out of five, the worst being set one in Cincy and the best being the first set on Friday.
I got another $7 drink at setbreak, bumped into a guy I knew from California, and had to deal with a clogged bowl. Luckily, I had a paper clip in my wallet.
Second set started with Simple Twist Up Dave and man, Trey tore the hell out of it. He must have been ripping a few gagers at setbreak because he came out on fire. He's been playing long enough to know if he played a shitty first set. It wasn't shitty per se, but way below standards. I pretty much sat down and smoked during the new Trey songs. I don't have an opinion on them yet but they are momentum killers for sure. I heard Good-bye Head in Cincy and I like that new one. Trey also played a Band cover song It Makes No Difference. A lot of Phish kids have no clue who the Band is and that's sad. The Last Waltz might be the best rock-umentary films of all time.
At that point, Jen Hartswick came out and Trey played Night Speaks to a Woman, the only repeat during his two night stint at Hammerstein. In October 2000, I caught Phish perform Chalkdust Torture in consecutive nights (Irvine then Shoreline... and the second version was an encore featuring Bob Weir.) Man, I realize how much of a vocal presence Jen Hartswick is/was/alsways will be. She can belt it out. The energy level of the crowd picked up immensely. The version was different from Friday's and featured a Trey and Jen guitar/vocal jam.
It appeared that she was going to leave the stage but Trey brought her back. They busted out Black Dog, another Led Zeppelin cover. Man, Jen can wail on the Robert Plant lyrics! Makes me wonder why she wasn't added to Trey's lineup. Trey is an amazing guitar player with a below average voice. Sorry if I'm stating the obvious. The crowd was buzzing at that point because of Jen's cameo. Too bad Trey wasted his time with his new songs because that was the big difference between Friday and Saturday. Some of his new stuff is great but some of it missed.
Some of the other websites like Phantasy Tour and Trey's website insist that the set ended there with Black Dog. I disagree. Trey never left the stage. His band, including Jen, left but not Trey. If Trey exits stage right then in my book it's the end of the set. In my notes, I list the next three songs as the end of Set 2.
Mike wandered on stage to a boisterous crowd and Trey picked up an acoustic guitar. They chatted for a bit while the crowd tried to conatin it's enthusiasm before they finally played Old Habits Are Hard to Break. I dunno if it's a Willie Nelson song or a Johnny Cash tune. Then they got back to old habits and played two Phish songs... Back on the Train and Waste. Both were repeats for me since I caught them in Cincinnati. Again, I'm not a huge fan of Waste but since it was Trey with Mike... I'll take what I can get. At one point some during Waste, a dude up in the mezzanine yelled, "Holy shit, it's Gordo!"
50% of Phish ain't too bad. I expected Mike to come out for the encore. The rest of the band walked on the stage minus the bass player. Mike stood in for him. He talked to Trey for a few seconds and they jumped into Wolfman's Brother. I got a few goosebumps during the first few seconds as the crowd went from giddy to frantic. Man, that was fun. Pure smoke. Trey looked like he was having a ton of fun. Without a doubt, that moment was the highlight of the three shows I caught. Wolfman's with Gordo? Unreal.
I also had conflicted feelings... Phish should still be playing. Mike always felt that way. We're on the same page. He might have been the one guy who was seriously against the break up. He knows that Phish could have worked through their problems (Trey's addiciton to his ego and Oxy) and that they had a couple of good years left. Last night proved that they should take some more time apart and think about getting back together to play on a smaller scale. Perhaps a New Year's run and a summer tour? 20 shows a year is not unmanageable. How about monthly podcats from Trey's barn with those four guys playign whatever the fuck they want? I'd pay $100 to hear three hours of Phish every month.
Maybe Trey will get bored with his new lineup and sit down to discuss getting the band back togther. They can pull it off. It's not like they are aging baseball players with no zip on their fastballs. They call all still bring it. Perhaps that's just wishful thinking on my part. Yeah. Phish is done. Accept it and move on. You'll just have to ctach glimpse of the magic from time to time. During Wolfman's Brother... I caught the wave again, if only for a few minutes.
Trey closed the show with I Am the Walrus with Mike and his bass player both on stage. Trey was doing his jumping up and down rock star thing while the lights focused on him. The guy has talent. He knows how to play and put on a good show. I dunno if he's a little lost trying to do his own thing yet still throwing out Phishy covers to keep the crowd pleased. He's been playing a lot of Beatles covers and has this Eric Clapton thing going on. But shit, he's not EC. I wonder how he's going to absorb the fact that the biggest peak moments of his shows were during cover songs, including Phshy covers?
At any rate, I'm super pumped for ZoomaTour. I still dunno if I bought tickets (I think I did), but I know that the Joker scored me one for Red Rocks at the end of July. I'm pumped for that show. Trey Band. Ben Harper. Galactic. Sickness will ensue at Red Rocks.
That's it for now. I hope Trey releases the first night of Hammerstein on livephish.com because you need to add that to your collection.