Struggle, Fight, Joy and a Wook Kid Losses His Shoes
by Denver B
We rolled into the lot and Max and my wife ran off to find him a cheap ticket. They returned about ten minutes later, ticket in hand. Max said some girl offered him $20 off face for a MPP night one ticket if he would show her his cock. The stupid thing is he passed it down. I know he's got a girlfriend, but my wife agreed: if all I had to do is show some trouser snake to get that big of a discount, I'd drop trou in a second.
It was already 7 p.m. by this time, so we hung around the back of the car drinking cheap beer and sneaking one-hits of middies as security buzzed by on their little golf carts. Self-important assholes. I"m not used to having to hide my puffing anymore, and it ads another level of sketchiness to the whole Camden thing. I know we're way progressive about our herb out West, but you east coasters put up with too much fear and paranoia over a simple plant.
Some little teenies were down the row from us, super chatty and passing a few cans of Miller Light between them. Down the row from them was shirtless douchebag liberty spike guy. There's nothing more punk than being the most punk'd out dood at a phish show...
Max had brought a few packs of smokes in Virginia for $3 and was slanging them on lot for $10 each. He made a quick killing on our way into the venue while the rest of our tiny crew followed along behind. Security getting in was a joke, as I doubt the Camden High School freshman patting me down really cared what I had in my pocket. The security was again wonderfully bad at their job of checking tickets to get down into the pavilion, which was a good thing since we were all gambling on using a copy of the same ticket to get everyone down. It worked, and we crammed everyone in towards the back of the Fish-side pavilion.
Phish came on around 8:15 and teased the theme from Rocky before going into Rocky Top (maybe a nod to Bonnaroo starting that night?). Solid bluegrassy jam with Page taking the lead (at least, to me). Mike's followed with a mediocre movement into Hydrogen that quickly drifted to a slaphappy Weekapaug. The band looked like they were having trouble hearing on stage, with a few missed cues.
Stash was Stash, and I spent a lot of it thinking how much more reserved people on the east coast are about their drug use at concerts. If it were Red Rocks, you'd see people dipping, dabbing and bumping everywhere and with everyone -- friends and strangers. Not in dirty Camden though. Ducking to smoke bowls was constant and there wasn't anybody sharing their party. No big deal for us, as we were staying mostly straight this show and saving our energy for MPP.
Max yelled for and got his TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOB, which was dirty funky and Clavi-Page heavy but very short. Such a shame too, seeing as how fucking nasty Page's House has been. Before the Tube Trey made the pig hand gesture for Guyute so we knew it was coming. I ran out during the Guyute intro to the pisser, which led me to....
The Barefoot in the Bathroom Kid. So, I had been warned about the Camden bathrooms before going. I was told horror stories and warned of pukey toilets, overflowing troughs, pissy floors, sharks, AIDS and even the fucking boogie man. What I saw mid-first set wasn't near that level, but it had approached 7-Eleven-in-the-Ghetto levels -- including one urinal spewing water OUT onto the back corner floor. So while I'm busy trying not to touch anything after taking a leak and leaving one of the stalls, in comes this young wook -- baby faced and freshly tie-died -- slipping and sliding BAREFOOT on the grimy, piss-covered floors.
Me: That's fucking wrong dude. You're nuts.
Wook: nah man, it's RIGHT. It's not that bad....
Me: yeah. It is. Make sure you get a hep shot tomorrow, brah
Made it back for the raging part of Guyute. I love this part and Trey was loving it as well. Guelah Papyrus was great, and the little girl behind us with her dad loved the goofy dancing at the end. Kids at shows near you can be a crap shoot. Sometimes you get the asshole parents who chide you for being drunk or smoking a bowl near their child, others you get the parents who realize what they are bringing their kids into. We luckily ended up with the latter, and watching dad with his daughter dancing and singing together was great to see. My wife gave her a green mini LED flashlight between Guelah and the (rough) Scent of a Mule and the girl played with it the rest of the night.
Mule was choppy and more of the sound issues seemed apparent as Mike and Trey struggled to find each other in the song. It culminated in a very abrupt and unexpected drop out of the band before Page's "Russian" part of the jam. Things seemed to reset after that point for the rest of the song. Cavern was loud and in-your-face and I don't remember any stumbly lyrics. Sloth started out strange as well (more sound issues on stage?) but by the time the band got into the first verse things got back on track. Curtain didn't have any issues and must have been decent, because my notes are pretty blank on that.
At set break Max asked the little girl behind us to draw a picture of the stage. She smiled huge at the opportunity and spent the entire set break doodling all four band members, the speakers, lights and the audience in his set list book. I didn't move around at set break too much due to some back pain that required some self-medicating.
Lights dropped for the massive Down With Disease opener, and my wife pulled out the bottle of Crown Royal we had bootlegged into the show. I walked around during the jam in Disease, getting a good view of Philly, Camden, the venue and the spuntards on the lawn. One little girl no older than 4 was walking her stroller to the top of the concrete path, sitting in it and then shooting down the hill and steering into the grass to stop. Her parents were noodle dancing and passing a joint. I grabbed a slice of shitty pizza during Free and made my way back to the seats for Possum, which was decent but completely overshadowed by the Big Black Furry Creature From Mars. I drank Crown. BBFCFM is one of my wife's top three phish songs, she went into freak-out mode and probably hit the roof she jumped so high. Metal hardcore to the core, Trey fucking SHREDS the wank-rock fretboard tapping and screamingly distorted solos and all. During the second break of the song, Trey jacked his mic stand up to at least 10 feet, staring up at the mic as he played. In contrast, Mike dropped his mic stand, sat down crosslegged and kept up the song. I downed more Crown.
Photo by Dave Vann © Phish 2011
Contrasting the metal insanity of BBFCFM was the beauty of Swept Away. Billy Breathes as an album was so perfect in part because of this amazing 'middle section'. Live, it becomes a breathing point for the band and audience before going back to the strange tempo and overall weirdness of Steep. On the album the track is all ambient noises and studio tricks -- live last night, it became one of the most beautifully textured, soft-but-dark jams I've heard all tour. I wrote down "Mazzy Starr" in my notes, trying to convey the moody, reverbed 'shoegaze' style of the jam -- but that doesn't really do it justice either. Just download it. What sounded like could become the new track "Steam" just kept drifting until Fish picked up the high hat intro of Bowie. I downed more Crown Royal. A very precise and exact version of the song through the composed part -- solid. The jammy section kept a solid groove, but it didn't ever go anywhere outside of the normal boundaries.
Julius was solid as fuck though. Ripping version of a ripping song -- though earlier in the day I used it as an example of a song that 'dates' phish. to me, the song has this 90s-band-sounding-like-70s-rock band feel at times and I said it sounded 'dated' to me at times, not unlike mid-90s jamband crap like the Spin Doctors or Blues Traveler did. The Phish gods must have been listening to my asinine comments in the lot, because the band delivered a head-ripping rocking version that made me second guess my comments earlier in the day (aboutPphish, that is... i still think the Spin Doctors suck). Similar to Bowie, Golgi was exact and solid, though the highlight for me was out of it into FLUFFHEAD. I can't go to a show or run of shows without seeing this tune anymore, and while it had nowhere near the energy of two years ago, the version from last night was one of my favorites since Hampton. A slower tempo helped un-muddle the sound in the shed that is SB Center and the band was near perfect in the composed middle section. The climax of the song -- all of the energy and emotion -- spewed out in the last section with everyone around us screaming "FLUFFHEAD" along with the band. I sloppily poured Crown Royal down my face.
Joy to close out the set was a bit on the weak side, but the pairing of this song (about losing someone to cancer) with Fluffhead (a song about a guy with cancer) gave me pause. Intentional or not, the combination of the two together tell a story of struggle, fight, joy and loss. The depth was a lot for my drunk ass at the time, and I got misty eyed thinking of how I'd only hope to be able to write something half as deep as Joy if I had lost someone I love. Axis to close the show was insanely good, with page pouring his heart and soul into the lyrics. Passed out Brandon (the kid in front of us) clearly recognized this tune and sprung up from his slumber in the seats to jam out hard on the air guitar. Lights up, high fives all around, see you at MPP tomorrow night....
In the lot afterward my wife and I searched for food, ending up with one of the best chicken ranch burritos I've had in a long time. Suspiciously absent was the raging hiss of nitrous tanks -- disappointing for a Colorado guy who has heard oh so much about the legendary Camden nitrous scene. We shuffled around half-assedly looking for balloons until we got back to the car to meet up with our crew. I sat on the back tailgate and was bitching about not finding gas when some random kid walked past holding six balloons
"I'll buy one of those off you."
"Sure. It probably looks like I got more than I can handle anyway, right?"
Quote of the night:
(driving out of Camden through the ghetto)
Me: Just look at all these abandonded factories. what the hell do people do here?
Max: I think they manufacture something here....
Me: What the hell would they manufacture here?
Wife: Hookers. They clearly manufacture hookers.
Random point of interest: except for Joy, the setlist could just as easily have been straight out of 1995...