The psychedelic circus moved to Alpine Valley, WI, a venue of mixed emotions for me and many old heads. Alpine Valley used to be one of the coolest venues to kick it hard in the lot, but since then it's been overrun by Draconian overlords who do what they can to limit the amount of fun, especially when compared to the free-for-all at Deer Creek.
Alas, the Deer Creek > Alpine Valley shows are a familiar run for many heads. It's one of those Phish things that you have to do once before you die... just don't be a noob and get stuck in Chicago traffic along the way. We did an end around via Rockford and bypassed a shitload of traffic. We also forgot about the time change and even though we got on the road an hour later than desired -- we quickly made up that lost hour. The crew for the Alpine run was much smaller after Meg went back to Cincy and my girlfriend Nicky flew back to LA. It was tough saying goodbye to Nicky, but that's a regular occurrence on tour -- you're constantly welcoming back friends while saying good byes to others. I had a few tough goodbyes already -- Benjo at Oakland airport last week, Joker & Wildo at the baller condo and later Jonas at Telluride airport a few days ago. Nicky was snug in bed as I left the hotel in Indy and hopped into Mr. Fabulous' soccer mom van. I could see in her eyes that she wanted to keep following the circus, but it was her turn to get off and return to real life.
The soccer man van was clutch with ample room for me to write in the back seat. I wrote as much as I could before the laptop battery drained. It's getting tougher and tougher to find proper time to write on tour because I'm opting for party time with friends instead. I can write anytime, but don't see these amazing folks very often.
We arrived at Lake Delavan, WI ahead of schedule, and met up with Daddy, who was the one who discovered the chill lakeside resort that we called basecamp the last two summers for Alpine Valley. Seven of us piled into two rooms and began the pre-party. The lot scene at Alpine is bunk and we decided to chill out at the lake as long as possible. Besides, if you get into Alpine too early, you get trapped in a lower lot and stuck in a long ass line to get out. Essentially, it's... last in, first out. Yep, it's often a clusterfuck at the Alpine lots and not a welcoming scene.
We got into the lot around 6:30 and set up a quick spot. I met up with Kari who had my pavs for Sunday. She was kind enough to fix me up a Pimms cup -- a popular gingerale and gin concoction popular among British aristocracy. I ran into Ziggy S. who told me about his hairy experience at Deer Creek when he ran into an overzealous guard who confiscated his stash and turned him over to the authorities. The cop went through his wallet, found some L, and then cuffed him. Apparently, there were bigger fish to fry for the po-po, so he let Ziggy S. go, but took his ticket and kicked him out of the show. Ziggy found another ticket for face in the lot and got into the Deer Creek show.
I had pavs, which are important at Alpine Valley because of that rigid sloping lawn which destorys your back and populated by sloppy frat boys. Iggy had never been in the pav for an outdoor show. That was a shocker to me, so I gave him my extra pav. Phil joined us. His last show was Bonnaroo with us and he had not been able to pull the trigger on Phish since then. Glad he picked Alpine for his first show back this year, because it was a rager.
We were chilling in Sec 201, which was a zoo with a gaggle of sorority girls and Chicago hipsters to our left who yapped the entire time, while the sorority girls did constant dippies and snapped photos for new Facebook profile pics.
My critique about show openers is that some quality songs get wasted, especially if I happen to love the song. DWD opener at Telluride was an utter waste. Phish could go up and bang on the triangle for three minutes and everyone would go ape shit. Tube is pure funk and it's a Top 5 Pauly tune that I could hear every show. Despite it as the opener, I was pumped to get it. Ok Kee Pah was up next and I mentioned to Iggy that they used to love playing Suzy Greenberg after it... and sure enough, it appeared on cue. Page was mashing up the huge tidal waves of funk in Suzy.
The worst part of the show was the shirtless drunk redneck in front of us. He had an equally annoying girlfriend who was pestering me to use a glass piece. I close my eyes and ignored both of them. Shirtless drunk redneck was screaming nonstop and "woooooohooooooo-ing!" every five seconds. He invaded the two spaces next to him and was crushing a guy and his girlfriend. They were irked and looked lost. They peeked up at our row, eying an empty space next to Iggy. I reached out my hand and pulled them up. They were relieved and got to dance without having to deal with the drunken dick for the rest of the show. I felt bad for the two hipster girls whose territory was the next to be invaded by the soused shithead.
I was content with a bluesy Funky Bitch and the crowd was reeling. I felt the pav ground shake during the opening riffs. Gordo tore it up, but unlike the Berkeley and Telluride shows, Trey was not chasing Gordo down. The roles had reversed. Something happened in Deer Creek night 2 where Trey got his proverbial shit together. I'm guessing he was just under too much pressure. He was pressing and trying too hard. Whatever issues they had before were ironed out for the moment. As a result, the second night at Deer Creek and first night at Alpine were hearty feasts.
Reba was fun and welcomed, but nothing special or out of the ordinary. The crowd was having a blast with a tune that Daddy called "a heavy hitter and fan favorite." The real gem was the seg into a fatty bombtastic Fuck Your Face. Shit, I thought that was just gonna be a one time thing when I caught it last tour, but they busted that out for the heads who missed it the first time.
If there was a lull in the first set, it was Alaska. The funk got cooking again with Back on the Train. Perfect jamming/driving/on the road vehicle.
"It's got a great train chugging groove," said G-Money.
Page shined on Taste. I never go into shows hoping to hear Taste. It's always a song that I initially would rather not hear -- yet Phish always wins me over by the end. Thanks, Page.
Circus Comes to Town used to be a "Pauly Takes a Piss Song" in the earlier incarnations of the Phish, but it's been since supplanted by other less than worthy songs. I thought Circus was fitting for the sloshed section around me -- sorority girls rolling their tits off, drunken rednecks, and random Phishkids tripping balls. Page crooned the audience with Lawn Boy and all of the Phishy chicks were deep into the monsoon season between the legs. If Page doesn't get laid on nights he performs Lawn Boy, well fuck, there's no justice in this world.
"Oh, no!" screamed Iggy.
At that point, the drunken redneck's girlfriend brought him another beer, a 24 oz. can of Bud.
"Maybe he'll pass out?" hoped Iggy.
"Nope," I said. "More booze is just jet fuel for assholes."
The ground was shaking once again for a happy Sparkle. The Gumbo made my first set. I friggin' love that tune and they gifted us a thick meaty version. That was the 13th song of the set and kept up the pace as the band tossed the crowd a savory bone with a filthy Antelope. Trey gave Marco Benevento shoutout instead of uttering Marco Esquondoles. Sizzling set closer after 14 songs.
I lost Phil and Iggy at setbreak, and was floored by The Sloth opener, which came out of nowhere. A devastating Down with Disease ensued. Monumental jam. It had a couple of rough peaks and spacious valleys, but also included a few definitive moments when I was like, "Holy shit man!" I'm critical of Phish sometimes because I know what they're capable of doing on a nightly basis, but they often fall short of that consistency night after night. Parts of the celestial DWD jam is why I follow around Phish from city to city.
Iggy found his way back to our spot. Have no idea how he pulled that off in his state of inebriation, but he appeared with a bottle of water for me. I heard a few eerie Crosseyed teases at the end of DWD, but they delved off into murky terriroty with an ambient jam that morphed into What's the Use?
The guy next to me, Kirk, was the guy that we rescued from the drunk guy earlier in the show. He told me that his birthday wish was to hear "What the Use?" Well shit, nice catch bro.
Wildo had been calling for Scent of a Mule since Berkeley, and we heard a few teases during Telluride but they saved the date for Alpine. Iggy was digging it, especially Page's menacing solo.
Two spun out chicks stopped in front of Iggy toward the end of Scent.
"I'm just doing a deal and buying some bud," she said before she ducked down with another girl. After a few minutes they stood up rubbing their noses. Gotta love the hotties doing key bumps during Scent!
Mike's Song is a monster blast off song. The Mike's Groove sandwich has been changing their lunch meat the last few shows. It used to be the standard Mike's > Hydrogen > Weekapaug or Mike's > Simple > Weekapaug, with very little deviation from those formulas. Berkeley's super sandwich included Mike's > Simple > Backwards, Show of Life, Seven Below > Weekapaug... while Telluride's lunch meat was the cat's balls with Mike's > Crosseyed & Painless > Hydrogen > Weekapaug. For Alpine Valley, the boys snuck in a mellow Dirt before an ass-shaking Sneaking Sally that eventually snaked into Weekapaug Groove.
"We got a sick Sneakapaug!" snickered Daddy.
Gotta say, that Sneaking Sally > Weekapaug had been dancing my ass off. It was a sheer body high versus the mental mind melt in DWD > What's the Use.
"I need a break," I told Iggy during the opening notes of Bug. I smoked a bowl and Iggy looked like a little kid on Christmas. Bug was the one song he really wanted to hear...and he got it. I thought that I could take off Bug to regroup before the closer, but the boys sucked me back into a tantalizing version, one of the best I had ever seen live building to a crescendo intensity. Emotionally charged. They walked off stage at the perfect moment. Always best to end on a supreme high note.
I was hoping for a Loving Cup, but the boys brought back Dylan's Quinn the Eskimo. Telluride's encore included a fun version, but this one was much tighter and refined with lots of singing along in the crowd. Even though it was a repeat encore this tour -- shit, I didn't give a fuck. Fun way to end a show, but a second song would have really capped off an already epic show.
When the show ended, I needed to sit down until we were asked to leave. I was so spent. Iggy too. We needed time to get our space together after a mind-numbing and booty-shaking set.
On our way out, I wandered into the bathroom and the janitor had just finished cleaning one of the toilets.
"Tips are appreciated," he screamed out to the near empty bathroom. I stood at a urinal next to another spun out dude. A schwilly guy jumped out of the other stall and confronted the janitor.
"Dude, some brah dropped a deuce in this stall. It's a two-foot long turd!"
The janitor's face dropped. He had just finished cleaning that one.
"Naww.... just kidding!" screamed the spunion as the panicked look evaporated from the janitor's face.
"Shit, you had me," joked the janitor. "I'm lucky you didn't film my reaction and put that shit up on You Tube."
"Two foot turd. Fuck your face, brah!" screamed the spunion, who ran out of the bathroom.
"Tips are appreciated!" screamed the janitor. I reached into my pocket, handed him a nug, and walked out.
One night down at Alpine Valley. One more to go.