Thursday, December 29, 2011

MSG 1: The Feeling I Forgot

During breakfast at a diner in the W. Village, my girlfriend peeled off a HOOD creamer for her coffee.

"It's a sign," she said. "Just like when I saw the ROSE toilet paper in the condo's bathroom in Telluride, and later that night, they played Roses Are Free."

Sometimes when you're looking for a specific sign, you'll find them everywhere. It's your mind playing tricks on you, or rather, your imagination stretching the elasticity of reality. You can connect the dots any way you want, but the HOOD creamer was something that stood out. I even tweet'd about it at 10:30am. The creamer indicated that HOOD was coming. But, HOOD on the first night? The creamer never lies.

Breakfast creamer foreshadowing the future

NYC. MSG. Phish returned for four consecutive nights of sheer madness in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Kicking it old school with a Holiday run from the 28th thru the 31st. No gimmicky show on 1/1. No other winter tour dates. The boys ended their 75-day hiatus with a triumphant return to the refurbished MSG.

MSG is like a show in my backyard considering I grew up in NYC. All I had to do was take one subway to the show. My girlfriend loved the fact that she could take the subway and not have to worry about driving after drinking and partying all night. Public transportation facilitates inebriation.

The downside to a Phish show in the urban jungle of Gotham is a serious lack of a 'lot scene' and Shakedown -- the subsequent bazaar in which to procure party favors and other hippie fare. On summer tour, the UIC lots in Chicago were a free-for-all. Same can be said about the lot across the street from AAA in Miami (with hundreds of homeless people awaiting on the fringes) during 2003 and 2009. But MSG? The lack of a traditional lot scene meant that you saw hundreds of ticketless phans wandering around on 7th Avenue with their index fingers in the air, or they were downstairs in Penn Station sidestepping harried commuters while hoping to score a miracle.

We got a semi-miracle courtesy of my girlfriend's sister, Mandy. Mandy is not much of a Phish fan, but she scored us tickets to tonight's show via mail order/lottery. We couldn't believe our luck after looking up the seating chart.

Pic by Change100

Sick score considering it was lottery. The tickets said third row but when we got up front, we were technically in the second row. A few folks in front of us were in wheelchairs, but there was plenty of space between the seats and the rail.

The kid next to me in a Phillies hat couldn't believe how close he was to the stage. He couldn't sit still before the show started. I knew that feeling. Butterflies on steroids. Sort of like trying to go to bed on Christmas Eve when you just want to rush downstairs and tear open a present. In this instance, Phish was sitting in a box with a neatly tied bow. All I wanted to do was rip the fucker open and get down to business...

I felt a Possum opener in my loins. I even bet it, but we got thrown for a curveball with a Free opener (with an instant bombardment of glowsticks), followed up by Glide. The band conveyed a message to the audience in the lyrics -- "I feel the feeling I forgot" and "We're glad, glad, glad that you've arrived." The crowd unleashed a raucous cheer during the "feeling I forgot" moment. The ground was shaking and bouncing, which is one of those cool things about seeing at a Phish show at MSG that you can't really describe unless you felt the floor rattling below you.

"Just like riding a bicycle!!!" the guy next to me screamed.

Of course, both songs were mere foreplay while they eventually tore into Possum. The guy with the cannonfetti returned with a timely release during the apex of Possum. Being so close to the action allowed me to read faces of band members. Trey looked like he was having a balls out time, but it seemed like he was trying too hard during Possum. Meanwhile, a stoic Gordo looked rather bored and unamused with Trey's early wankery.

The boys got cooking with Cities, the first cover song of the night. You knew it was coming. NYC and Cities is synonymous. Gordo unleashed a few bombs -- THWWWWOOOOOONG -- and I could feel every bit of it rattle around my insides. Gordo was turned up so loud that I could barely hear Page in the mix, but Page eventually got his moment to shine with an influx of funk-induced melodies during the Cities jam -- one of my favorite moments from the first set. Oh, and I got hit in the head with a dreidel. A balloon dreidel. Only at Phish.

Treated to two consecutive covers with Curtis Loew. It was a quickie Curtis, but it gave Page another opportunity to croon the crowd. He always kills, slays, destroys cover songs. All hail Leo... King of the Covers.

I couldn't tell which was sloppier -- Stash or the schwasted guy in the 'Peace Now' shirt that kept flailing his arms while playing air guitar and banging into an old guy in a wheelchair. I felt bad for the old guy -- not only was he confined to sit the entire show, but he couldn't get the drunk guy from invading his space. At one point a security guard warned the drunkard to get his shit together, however, drunk guy continued his annoying, stumbling antics. Toward the end of Stash, he fell into a sneezing fit and sneezed like 12 times in a row, but every time he had a wretched look on his face that it appeared as though he was gonna hurl after each sneeze. Everyone around him braced themselves for a puke shower. It never came, but instead he kept sneezing and spraying. He must have a shitty coke dealer, because no one sneezes that much unless they are trying to flush lingering baby laxatives out of their nasal cavities. The security guards 86'd him and you really have to be really, really all kinds of fucked up before you get escorted out of a Phish show. Fucking amateurs. Hold your booze or find someone with better nose candy!

The sloppy Stash and schwasted guy threw me off my mental game. I had to re-group during Contact. The boys threw everyone a bone with a crowd-pleasing double dip of Contact, followed by a Sample in a Jar sing-a-long.

Crowd during Sample

Sample is one of those songs when you can become mesmerized by the entire crowd singing along to the chorus as Kuroda flicks on the house lights and you see everyone going nuts. I love those moments.

Kill Devil Falls jam contained a few flashes of grandeur, but it got cut short in favor of Bathtub Gin. The Gin was heavy on all accounts and one of the highlights of the first set. If there was any rust, it had all been shaken off by the time Gin ended. The savory jam "hit the spot" but just when things got really grooving... it was time to go. Phish reached the 80-minute mark, took a bow, and rushed off stage.

Ten-song set. Cities and Gin. Good stuff to kick off MSG run.

Before the show, I was arguing with G-Rob over second set openers. "It's friggin' cold today in the City," I said. "It's gonna be a Tweezer. Book it."

"No way," said G-Rob. "They only play Tweezer on Saturdays. It's gonna be Rock and Roll. Take that to the bank."

Well, we were both kinda right in that Phish played each song, but we were dead wrong on the placement. The set opener nod went to... Birds of a Feather. Far-fetched choice because it was completely off the radar, but an interesting selection in the same vein as the show opener of Free.

The floor was shaking, rattling, swaying again during Carini. The jam-out had a few notes that reminded me of Simple-esque noodling, but it was the groundwork being laid before an unleashing of Tweezer that was lathered with dirty tones. I love my Tweezers dark, sultry, and outright sleazy -- sort of like the emotional fragility and sensual stability of Angelina Jolie at the tail end of a three-day coke bender. Trey was ripping up Tweeze with deep knee bends and 'chaka chaka' riffs, meanwhile, Gordo was slapping around his bass like he was a stern, non-nonsense, ball-busting dominatrix working an S&M club in Amsterdam.

My Friend My Friend is one of those songs that was written about your crazy friend from college who lost his marbles during an acid trip. You know who I'm talking about -- the demented guy that you hide sharp objects from whenever y'all dabble in psychedelics or drink grain whiskey. The haunting image of your emotionally distraught, deranged buddy holding a sharp object on a head full of acid is one of the scariest things you can imagine, especially when you're tripping balls yourself.

Dark set. Deviant set. Carini > Tweezer > My Friend. Hide your knives.

Rock and Roll popped up at least thirty minutes into the set. The Velvet Underground cover has a lyric about NYC, so that always gets a hearty cheer from the hometown heads. Rock and Roll was blazing fast. Trey was shredding, but Fishman and Page impressed me the most. I dunno what the hell they were doing at set break, but the frenetic, high-paced manner they were playing suggested that Page had sat in Fishman's dressing room and the two railed lines and lines of Adderall. They burst out of the gate in the second set, peaking during a feverish, speed-induced rendition of Rock and Roll.

Usually Phish has to pick up the pace to play NICU, but in this instance, they had to slow it down after the tweaker version of Rock and Roll.

The creamer never lies. Harry Hood appeared right after Bouncin'. Hood had its peaks and valleys, but it delivered at the right moments. Another guy in a wheelchair was getting a lap dance from his girlfriend during Hood. It was hard not to watch them. Grind city.

I dunno why I was feeling a Show of Life, but the band was on a similar wavelength because they toned it down a couple of notches and down shifted into Bug. They needed to ease off the pedal a bit after their speed-freakout, but Bug wouldn't have been that bad of a choice... if it didn't end the set, but... it ended the set. Whaaaaat? Overrated, indeed.

Fishman's spooky drum kit

At least they made up for it with a three-song encore, specifically omitting Loving Cup. Earlier in the show, Trey made hand gestures indicating Tube but either Gordo or Fishman shot him down. They didn't deny his request for the first encore song even though it was a rapid burst of funk -- barely over three minutes -- but a welcomed effort nonetheless. The second song in the encore, Rocky Top, also came out of nowhere. I think everyone was expecting something less... um... less... country. I channeled my inner hillbilly and got hokey. Senor's bro Javier once told me his theory that Phish only played Rocky Top in the 1.0 era when they felt as though they had a kick-ass night. Was that the case at MSG?

The first night featured a few peculiar song placements, but we essentially caught a formulaic "greatest hits" show with a veritable potpourri of quintessential Phish: a few classics, a few covers, a few crowd pleasers, and a couple of heavy hitters.

On cue, Tweezer Reprise ended the encore and completed the Tweeprise tandem. Trey jumped up and down like an ADHD kid with a million fire ants in his crotch, meanwhile, a cool and calm Gordo launched a couple of thermo nukes. Four hours later and my ears are still rattling.

Like true show business savants, Phish left the crowd wanting more. Sure, it had been almost three months since the last time they played, but the starving crowd would've lapped up anything they threw at us (insert your own pissing in ears joke here _____). Alas, they didn't phone it in like so many other bands would have. They didn't take the money and run. They always aim to please and gave a tough-to-please audience a little bit of everything. It wasn't perfect by any means, but considering the first night at MSG was a "cold open", Phish actually set a couple of highwater marks (Cities, Gin, Tweezer, Rock & Roll) that they'll be chasing the rest of the run.

We got a taste. Can't wait to indulge in more mayhem.


bcdigiart said...

they should have TOSSED IN...... a "TASTE" before or after "BUG" and I woulda been happier....decent show overall.... 1st FREE opener.... EVER.... slight variation.. on the theme...LOL..

jonas0tt0 said...

Great recap Pauly!!!

chirokevo said...

love your recaps and tweets pauly! hate/jealous of you cause you go to every show

Phishentine said...

Superb, as per usual.

Thanks Pauly.

Enjoy tonight...though 12/30 is where my heart is/will always be.


tomahawkcounty said...

BATR is a COOL SONG! There I said it. I like it after 20+ years since I first heard it. There are still NO piss-break PHiSH songs for moi.

Rick Silver said...

You're an excellent writer. You took me right back to two nights ago like I was there again. Thanks so much.