Editor's Note: I wrote this quickie recap on my Crackberry while riding shotgun while we drove from LA to Tahoe on Tuesday morning...
The attendance for Phish's sold-out show at the Hollywood Bowl was over 17,000. At $60 a ticket, that's $1 million from the gate. Phish is many things, but smack in the middle of the recession and on one of the worst trading days in the history of the modern stock market, the only thing that the bean counters in Hollyweird cared about was Phish -- their proverbial meal ticket for the day. I know the promoters much have been cursing themselves thinking -- "Why didn't we book the Phish for the whole fucking week?"
Welcome to show business.
Phish did everything in the power to evade the tentacles of the music industry octopus. For two decades they did things their way, often saying Fuck You to the establishment. They didn't need the industry-controlled press to sell out shows or get a record played on the radio. I've always been grateful Phish never reached the mainstream world because then their shows might be more like the crowd at the Hollywood Bowl... full of what my friend Otis described as L.A. Douchebagicus.
Yeah, the Bowl show had less than a 1% wook factor, but there were more douche and douchettes than I expected. The hispter crowd infiltrated Phish. sure, Phish will play Outside Lands Festival on Friday and fans/critics of hipster bands have already taken pot shots at Phish and Phisheads, but at least NoCal hipsters are cooler because they ingest significantly more drugs. SoCal hipsters just get drunk and talk loudly over the music, or angrily stand with their arms crossed while updating Facebook.
My girlfriend, Change100, grew up in West LA. She worked at the Hollywood Bowl as a summer job in high school. She always wanted to see Phish in the Bowl. Me? I live in LA and wanted a local show. I grew up in NYC and consider the MSG shows as "hometown shows" because all I have to do is hop on the #1 train and head downtown to Penn Station.
I'm feeling older than I'd like to admit. I'm the Brett Favre of the lot (minus the penis pics): my goatee is greying, I'm addicted to Vicodin, and I hobble around a lot. I can't crash on floors like I used to on 99 tour, so it really felt good to wake up in my own bed on the day of the show in my apartment in the Slums of Beverly Hills.
I live 1.5 blocks south of BH with my girlfriend. I loathe LA, but I have a serious gambling problem, so I can't live in Las Vegas full time, but I have a career as poker reporter and gambling writer, so I have to be somewhat close to the Vegas action. Besides, I've always had my eye on Hollywood. I'm a failed screenwriter and as one of my friends in the biz once said, "If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, you have to live in LA."
Going to bars is an arduous experience in LA and seeing bands is even more troubling due to L.A. Douchebagicus. Most of the bands I love happen to avoid LA like it's fucking Utah. My friends in San Francisco and Colorado (Denver-Boulder) are so friggin' lucky when it comes to music compared to LA. Thank God Phish decided to play the Hollywood Bowl -- just one month before I pack up my stuff and migrate north to San Francisco.
Phish. The Bowl. Seems like a match made in heaven, eh? There's zero lot scene at the Bowl. We had to park on Hollywood/Highland in a park/ride lot and take a shuttle bus. The Bowl has those park/ride all over the city. In theory, it's an amazing concept to decrease the amount of traffic. But in reality, it kills the lot scene. We noticed a crowd had gathered in Lot D -- mostly because someone busted out a tank and all the nitrous addicts flocked like starving pigeons pecking away at crumbs.
The show was sold out, but hundreds and hundreds of tickets were floating around in the lot. One kid was looking for a miracle. He said he had $11 to his name. I asked him where he was from. He said Bergen County, New Jersey. Rich college kids hustling for miracles in the lot....he definitely got his miracle because when the show started, people were giving tickets away for free.
I had to give Mitchell from the UK his tickets. I met him in Atlantic City during the Halloween run. Always awesome to meet European fans of Phish. I hope more come out of the wood work so Phish heads overseas for a Euro Tour. I converted my friend Benjo from France. I'm currently working on a new project -- Remko -- who is a work colleague from Holland.
The Bowl has an 11pm curfew so we knew Phish would be coming on only 30 or so minutes late. I usually set 37 minutes as the over/under. We scored terrace seats courtesy of Change100's sister Mandy. The terrace boxes have four chairs with fold up trays. Those are for yuppies to drink wine and eat picnic crap while listening to the Philharmonic. In Phishy terms, they left the trays out so you could roll joints or rail lines of molly in between slow songs.
The cool guys sharing our box drove from the Gorge. That was a rough journey. We flew, but were dreading the drive to Tahoe. At least we got the LA show in our backyard.
The crowd was a mix of normal Phish folk, older Deadheads in tie-dyes, and a smattering of hipsters in skinny jeans and ironic t-shirts. The hipster girls wore $300 designer sundresses and cheesy Fedoras. One of them sat in the box next to us, got crocked on wine and talked most of the show.
Tube is one of my favorite songs. I wondered if they would open with it? I never understood the lyrics until I lived in Los Angeles for a year or so and I was driving down the freeway and then a moment of clarity hit me.
But no Tube opener. The DWD show opener clocked in at seven minutes. No type II or Type 17 jamming in that little bundle of joy. That set the tone for the "greatest hits" show. Overall, the night was fun but safe. If you saw the Gorge shows, then I can understand how you'd be somewhat bummed about the repeats (only one or two matched or surpassed Gorge versions). But if the Bowl was the only show you saw, then you walked away with a fun evening with the Phish.
Cavern was rocking, but had the standard Trey flub. Possum batted third in the line up. The first cover of the night was a nod to the Talking Heads... Cities. London was on fire the previous two days due to riots and looters. I wonder if that was on their minds? "Think of London, small city..."
This version of Peaches was definitely a lot tighter than the other sloppy-choppy-dicey version I heard in 3.0. I love me some Zappa.
Page crooned the audience with Lawn Boy, despite the fact there was no lawn at the Bowl. Hipsters get confused with irony. I saw Lawn Boy as a ploy to get laid. Leo had all of the Phishy chicks eating out of his palm. The temperature rose a few degrees and all of a sudden it got extra humid south of the equator. Post-show hummer was locked up for Leo with a stellar performance of Lawn Boy.
Finally... it was time for some Tube funk. Wished it was longer. Gordo and Page fed off each other, but Trey cut it short. Gordo responded with a fight bell and they surged into Get Back on the Train. I dig the funk train and would ride that fucker into hell. Or Iowa.
The sun started to dip behind the Hollywood Hills and for the first time I got to see Chris Kurodas spectacular lighting work as he illuminated the inner ribs of the band shell. You gotta see videos just for the light work. The only other time I can recall something similar was in 2000 during the Radio City Music Hall shows. With the "safe" playing from the band I joked on twitter than Kuroda should be MVP of the set.
After the intro notes to Wilson, the drunk hipster blurted out, "I know this one!" Then continued to talk during most of the song.
Axilla was rocking and I thought they were finally getting their shit together, especially when Melt popped up in the set. The jam had potential, but they couldn't get any heat working. They had some smoke, but not pure heat because Trey cut it off short for a self-indulgent Backwards. That closed the set. If I had any disappointments (the drunk hipsters were expected), it was the abrupt ending of Melt in favor of Backwards. They should've opened with Backwards and closed with DWD.
My exact tweet after the first set ended: "82min set. Fun, but safe. Maybe all the music critics + snob-glitz-tards will go home at setbreak then Phish can get freaky freaky in set2?"
Maybe Trey was spooked out by the Hollyweird Machine and they played a jam-paralyzing first set? For a band bursting with talent that said FUCK YOU to the Man more times than I can count, why were they all of a sudden pandering to critics and industry types? Maybe it was as simple as Trey's ego doing everything possible to avoid negative press for "noodling to wastoids." Come on, Big Red. I've been living in LA long enough to know there is no such thing as "bad publicity."
At setbreak, I caught a white dude with dreads in white linen pants doing key bumps with one of the schwasted hipster chicks.
Anyway, after a safe/greatest hits-themed opening set, the second set was molded much more to my liking. Highlights included a loud-as-fuck Carini opener, Crosseyed and Painless (for the second Talking Heads cover of the night), and the Twist > Piper jam. Crosseyed had several moments of grandeur -- the definite peak of the night.
I also dug the Fish shtick -- sitting on a slimmed down drum kit up front and singing lead vocals on 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. We heard the band soundcheck that Paul Simon tune at the Gorge. Awesome to see that cover, but I was hoping for a vacuum solo to boot.
As per usual, Phish did a terrific job with the covers -- ranging from Zappa to Talking Heads to Paul Simon to Dylan. The double encore was better than my greatest Phish nightmare -- a single encore of Velvet Cheese. I wasn't in love with either choices for the Bowl, but they rocked out a compact version of Faulty Plan and the crowd lapped up all ofJulius. Hey, at least we got two tunes instead of Show of Life!
After the show, we walked down Highland to check out all the freaks stumbling back down the hill into the streets of Hollywood. We got caught in a pedestrian jam by hot dog row where a couple of tanks set up shop next to these tiny old Mexican ladies cooking up bacon-wrapped hot dogs. Random people were huffing down on balloons as the ladies hawked hotdogs.
"Fatties! Fatties! Get'em right here!" screamed one balloon vendor. "Who doesn't do nitrous at a fucking Phish show?"
I hoped no one stumbled out into Highland and got crushed to death. LA drivers are fucking crazy, man.
After the fun and safe Bowl excursion, I smoked a doobie and asked my girlfriend to drive us to In-N-Out Burger. I never crushed a double-double after a Phish show before. If I was in LA seeing Phish, then I wanted to take advantage of In-N-Out. Besides, who the hell knows if Phish will ever come back to LA again?
Three down. Nine more to go. Next stops... Tahoe.
Other Quickies... Gorge #1 and Gorge #2 - Phish Magic.