MSG Night 2. Heat. Smoke. Fire. Whatever. No gimmicks. No lettered-themed high-concept song shtick. No mind fucks. Just the heat. Phish came. They saw. They conquered. Everyone got their money's worth. You bought the ticket, got mesmerized watching Phish smoke the shit out of MSG, and even a few jaded vets, like myself, walked out of the Garden with a little less to gripe about.
The evening was juiced-up with high-octane energy. Sometimes you can tell it's going to be a crazy night by just walking into a venue and soaking up the scene for a few moments before you realize you're in the middle of a feisty crowd on the verge of a riot. Usually it's because someone flooded the lot of bombastic party enhancers. But in this instance, the buzz was all natural. You could smell something in the air at the Garden. And it wasn't Diesel. About half the people around me went to Wednesday's show and the other half were seeing their first show of the run, but bubbling over with uber-excitement so the entire Garden was buzzing with an abundance of nervous energy -- just awaiting to be ignited. The band feeds off crowd, and vice versa. It's infectious -- the energy, the vibe -- which in turn nurtures and nourishes a symbiotic organism that's been conjured up by the band and the audience.
During the second of a four night stint at MSG, Phish manipulated the crowd's frenetic exuberant energy and unleashed the monstrous, fire-breathing beast that nearly burned the whole fucking block to the ground. Sometimes I chase the dragon for an entire tour -- from city to city, indoor arenas and outdoors in amphitheaters -- only come face-to-face with the elusive beast once in a blue moon. I last caught up with the beast at the UIC shows, the last time I saw Phish smoke the shit out of a joint.
I attend Phish shows with an open mind and minimal expectations (aside from my daily prayer: "Dear God, don't let today be the day Trey woke up, got his palm read by a gypsy who told him to bust out TTE"), but the reason I try to see as many shows as possible is that I'm essentially a junkie chasing the dragon.
The view from Sec 227
I pre-partied with Senor and his brother Javier. Senor doesn't get to too many shows these days, but he picked one hell of a night to come down from Rhode Island to see Phish. When Senor sees shows with me the band usually plays one of three songs: Wolfman's, AC/DC Bag, and Mexican Cousin. I wagered on all three Senor standards and came out with a big fat donut.
On my way into the show, a sketchy older guy stopped me on the escalator. He asked me if I wanted to blast off. I thought he was slinging DMT, but he wasn't trying to get me digital, rather he just had run-o-the-mill shrooms. He looked like a tweaker but he had all of his fingernails. Something about him was not right, so I shined him on and wished him a good show.
I settled into a cozy section on the bend near the back in the 200 level. Everyone looked like professional party people, although, the guy next to us was seeing his first show and had no idea Phish had a piano player. Wow, a total true cherry. Someone get him a Margarita, a blunt, and a hit of liquid sunshine. He needs to be properly indoctrinated into the cult of Phish.
Sloth opener appealed to old school fans and it's not just a song about a bowl of spaghetti. I was expecting some sort of throwaway opener like AC/DC Bag or Runaway Jim, but the Sloth pick was the first indication that the night was going to be a a little different. My seats were on the aisle and a trio of high school girls rolling their tits off on molly decided to camp out next to me. One of the girls wore what I thought was a zebra jacket, but it was more like a snow-leopard outfit. I didn't investigate any further. She was jailbait and nothing but trouble. After all, I was at the show with my girlfriend, who was snookered after polishing off a nice amount of Chivas Regal during the pre-party.
The first few notes of YEM hit the crowd's ears and everyone unleashed a collective "Fuck yeah!" Yep, a scorcher was brewing. I figured the third or fourth night would be better suited for a monstrous YEM, yet never expected it as a second song in the first set. My buddy Girtz sent me a text: "45 minutes of fun." I figured a first set YEM batting second would clock in about half that time, and we were served up a turbo version (under 20 minutes), not that it mattered because the crowd fed off the band and the band fed off the crowd and etc and etc. Usually it takes the band an hour or so before the get everyone inside all jacked up, but it only took 10-15 minutes to get the crowd from simmering to scalding. I get goosebumps thinking about the crowd's cascading reaction during the release point before Boy-Man-God-Shit. That precise moment is always a cherished moment for me during a show. It's impossible to replicate hairs on the back of my neck standing straight up while listening a recording of YEM.
For the funk portion of the show, the boys treated us to a few savory blues/funk numbers including a city-funk'd up version of Back on the Train, the typical wild funk-rumpus in Moma Dance and a whaling Funky Bitch. By the time Funky Bitch ended, we had been dancing for 45 straight minutes.
My party favors kicked in by the start of Maze. I closed my eyes and got sucked down the rabbit hole and eventually lost in the jam. I forgot what song they were playing, which is a good sign because the band is transporting me to a different dimension. The second half of Maze is where you just want to let go... and get lost. When I heard the "chasing up the ladder" jam, I realized, ah... we're still lost in Maze. When the band gets a little lost in jams, Fishman comes to the rescue. Fish punches his way through a wall in the labyrinth and everyone follows him back into safe territory. They stumbled a bit getting out of Maze, but made up for it with Roses Are Free, one of those crowd sing-along cover songs.
The Halley's Comet jam has been savagely rip-chorded for all of 3.0. Just when things get cooking in Halley's, Trey bails and rushes the band into some other self-indulgent ballad or crowd-pleasing tune instead of letting a jam organically grow into a 18-minute orgy. Halley's was a little longer than usual (over seven minutes compared to those 4-5 minute appetizers), but they eventually aborted the jam and snaked into a scintillating Antelope. The anthem is an inspiring reminder of why I'm at a Phish show in the first place. Everyone else? They're sheep and will eventually get slaughtered. But Phisheads? They're antelopes all jacked up and sprinting out of control with unfettered freedom. I spent the last ten minutes of the set drenched in sweat after an 80-minute set comprised nonstop gyrations. I needed a towel at setbreak. Heck, I needed a cold shower. Some of those high school girls had stripper-esque moves. Hard not to get aroused after Phish set a fiery, sultry undertone to the show.
At break... I chugged water, scoffed at my girlfriend dropping $10 on a Jack & coke and tried to get scores on Bowl games, even though the Joker kept tabs on the Baylor-UW game for me throughout the show.
Sometimes the dragon gets unleashed for just a set, but rarely does it stick around for an entire show. Second set opener should've been another huge warning sign that the fire was going to linger. No sense in letting up, right? Crosseyed and Painless, a Talking Heads cover, has become a clutch set two opener in 3.0. Best example... opening the second set as a jam vehicle in Charleston last fall, in which they maintained peak momentum during one of those rare dragon shows. And the boys called Crosseyed's number again at the start of the second set at the Hollywood Bowl, which was the sparkplug the band needed to get back on track after a stressful first set at in the hills of Hollyweird. Phish relies on Crosseyed and Painless when they're running good and turn to it as a savior when they're running bad.
The Crosseyed jam narrowed into an ambient jam that was peppered with No Quarter teases. But, the boys already did that once before this year at UIC. Instead, they launched into Simple and created one of those miniature nuclear detonations when the crowd went apeshit bonkers during the skyscraper section... We've got skyscrapers, and it sings a pretty tune. Every band needs skyscraper too... What is a band without skyscrapers? Ooh ooh skyscraper is grand!
After almost thirty minutes of the dragon torching the room and melting parts of the skyline, the band eased off the pedal and coasted into a soothing Lifeboy. It was the only lull of the show, but well placed, considering a Mike's Groove mega-sandwich was about to be delivered. But... not before a sinister Guyute. My buddy Gil was also at the show and he also doesn't get to see too many shows, so I was pumped he got to see/hear a Gilyute.
Mike's Song initiated a carpet bombing of more nukes from Gordo as the ground shook most of the song. With Simple already served earlier in the feast, I Am Hydrogen became the favorite to appear as the middle meat of the Mike's Groove party sub. We got a knuckleball with Chalkdust, which is usually a first set song for Trey to show off his rockstar persona. Chalkdust featured such a high wanking factor that MSG's staff should've had one of the NY Knicks towel boys working the concert -- to run out and wipe up the "thick strawberry goo" left over after one of Big Red's monumental masturbatory moments.
The Weekapaug Groove was a thick-hearty gumbo of Page infused funk, Gordo launching a few bong-rattling bombs, Fishman channeling six African drummers, and Trey insisting on teasing Crosseyed and who know what he could squeeze into his superfluous noodling.
They could have walked off stage at the end of Weekapaug after reaching the emotional pinnacle of the set, but they stayed put for another song -- Show of Life. I think SOL and Bug are similar in that they are slow, plodding songs that eventually build up to a crescendo. They can definitely become black holes in a set and suck all of the lifeforce out of the show. That's what kinda happened on Thursday -- Bug ended the second set and I felt a little -- cheated. I was hoping for a bigger payoff. I guess the band learned their lesson because they didn't cheese out with SOL. Instead, they opted to blow some more shit up with Character Zero. The crowd knew that they got thrown a bone, so they gave Phish a gushing response with extra thrashing, grinding, and pogoing up and down like an irate British punk rocker smoking chocolate-dipped crack. Oh, and by the way... that towel boy? He was definitely needed after Zero because Trey went a wee bit overboard with an excessive excretion of bodily fluids. Alas, that's Trey being Trey.
I felt a Loving Cup coming last night, but I was just off one night. It's a safe choice. Page shines on covers. The band knows the song backwards and upside down, but that's also a knock against them because it's not as challenging as other Rolling Stones' covers. How about Monkey Man (which they busted out in Superball IX)? And I'm always chasing the dragon along with Torn and Frayed.
Solo shot encore. They nailed it. Rushed off stage. Left everyone wanting more. When the lights went up, everyone around me said something akin to "Fuck yeah!" Fun night for all. Just ask the guy at the urinal after the show who was doing keybumps while singing, "Ohhhhhh, what a beautiful buzzzzzz.... what a beautiful buzzzzzzzz!!"
MSG 2 was another evening of greatest hits with the Phish, but served with lots of hot sauce. The result? Nonstop dancing. Steamy. Sweaty. Sweltering. Smoldering. We shouldn't be allowed to have this much fun. That's why we're friggin' lucky.
Trey kicking the shit out of a balloon on Night 1
If Wednesday night was the "cold open" then Thursday was raining fire because the boys unleashed the beast. Why hold back? Chase down that dragon. Sometimes I wished Phish played with that same level of intensity every night, with the mentality of being the house band at an apocalyptic end of the world blowout. Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Party like it's 1999 before Armageddon. You know, fire and brimstone type of shit during the last night on Earth before the Mothership decides to CRTL+ALT+DELETE all of humanity.
Two down. Two more to go.