Thursday, July 05, 2012

Jones Beach #2 Recap: Head Up High

There's something about Jones Beach in 3.0 that rubs me the wrong way. Any NYC-area Phish show is going to get a little extra hype and in doing so, the shows are automatically set up to fail by the masses, even if you have modest expectations.

In 2009, I was thrilled to see Phish return to the stage but the Joker and I were drenched on two different nights at Jones Beach (they made up for it with a monstrous Drowned). Alas, braving the elements is just one of the prices to pay for seeing Phish outdoors. But, in 2010 things were a little off during that particular JB run. By the time the circus reached JB, the boys ran out of steam. Plus, let's not forget the black cloud that was cast over the venue because of the "jumper." Yeah, the last time I saw Phish at Jones Beach in 2010, some moron jumped off the top deck during Antelope... and wasn't even the best version of Antelope that tour.

So I had less-than-stellar shows at JB in 3.0 and I was hoping to break out of that slump. I went into the July 4th show with the lowest expectations I ever had for Phish. No matter what happened... it was going to be gravy. I skipped the first JB show because I was flying into NYC on Tuesday evening, but I got back to my brother's apartment just in time to rock it out on couch tour. Man, I was pumped because I got to have the Yankees game on in the background and pull bong rips on my bro's couch while I watched Phish's webcast. Someday, I really hope the band offers up webcasts of EVERY show.

The first night at JB fell into line with Phish's formula for this tour... first set is loaded with bustouts (Skin It Back is the ultimate bustout) and the second set is packed with greatest hits and some jamiliciousness. The second night at JB started out very similar, but I felt as though they really didn't open up any jams in the second set.

Considering how sensitive phans are these days, it's impossible for Phish to play a perfect show. No matter what, someone is going to be pissed off about something. But right now, the band is doing the best they can with this game plan -- 200 songs, bustouts, greatest hits, and a little bit of everything -- in an attempt to make everyone happy and challenge themselves by digging deep into their repertoire.

I've seen enough Phish shows to know that on any given night they can create a small thermonuclear detonation, but then again, I've seen several instances when I walked out of a show utterly disappointed because I felt that the boys phoned it in.

I got absolutely obliterated at the last night in Alpine Valley and I wanted to be in much better head space for JB. I was probably a 4 or 5 (out of 10) at the most on the fucked-up meter... which was perfect on a lovely summer night at the beach. At Alpine Valley, I was a 14.

I hitched a ride with Javier and the Connecticut boys. There was no traffic leaving the city and we zipped out to the beach in record time. We arrived at the lots just before 4pm and I had at least three hours to sell 2001 and Ancient Alien stickers.

"Do you know where I can get a VIP pass to the Mothership," said the adorable spunion in Shakedown when she saw the 2001 sticker.

"I do, but you can't tell anyone," I said after handing her a 2001 sticker. "Just give this to the tall grey ET with the clipboard and he'll escort you to VIP seats."

"Fuck yeah!" she screamed while simultaneously hugging me. "Mother-fucking-ship VIPS!"

Man, some days I fucking love hanging out in the lot. I love to watch people. It's the writer in me, curious to observe creatures in their natural habitat.

The Jones Beach lot is a mixed bag. There's usually two or three dense rows of vendors, but the state police is omnipresent and they try to shut down food sales, for some random reason. But if you party smart and drink beer in plastic cups, the police leave you be.

I met up with UNOlker and his crew, who were busy making LUSHINGTON signs. I wanted to wish UNOlker a happy 150th show.

"You know, Coventry was my 150th and 151st show," I told him. "I guarantee you're gonna have a much better time than I had!"

I found Nigel, a British phan, who had my ticket. He's such a cool guy that he even miracled it to me. That's the second miracle I got this tour (Tom hooked me up in Deer Creek) and the generosity of phans never ceases to amaze me. I first met Nigel during the Halloween run in Atlantic City. He makes the hero journey across the pond to see Phish. That's dedication. He was catching his first show this summer... JB #2 and then will finish it out with the SPAC run. We're roughly the same age and in a previous life, Nigel experienced one of the most luscious scenes (London post-punk) in the history of music. Nigel has a very rich musical pedigree and I was excited to see the show with him and chat about music. That's one of the most amazing aspects of Phish -- being able to meet cool people from all walks of life.

Nigel and I had seats on Page side just underneath the upper deck. We had a perfect view of the ocean behind the venue. Later on in the night, we'd be able to see a spooky orange harvest moon rise, not to mention all of the amateur fireworks that were being shut off intermittently during the show.

I was floored at the Manchester, NH show when the boys busted out Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues. So these days, I've seen it a few times and it packs less of a punch than before. I thought it was a better option for later in the first set, but Phish opened up their show with it. Coach Pauly would have called TMWSIY > Avinu Malkeinu > TMWSIY to open the show instead. Anyway, I grew up McCatholic and went to Catholic school for 13 years so "Avinu Malkeinu" doesn't appeal to me as much as it does my friends who are members of the tribe.

I'm a huge fan of Velvet Underground and it's been a sincere joy to hear a plethora of songs from "Loaded" this tour... especially ones they do not play often. Head Held High was a deep deep deep cut from "Loaded" and I listen to it a lot back home in California. I love belting out the falsetto lyrics "head held high" much to the dismay of my girlfriend who rolls her eyes whenever I do so.

Kill Devil Falls was really when the set finally took off. A trio of high school girls were rolling their tits off behind us. They were so cherry that it was adorable. They knew all the words to songs off of "Joy" and were confused by some of the cover tunes. The high school girls sang along to KDF with unbridled enthusiasm.

Bittersweet Motel always makes me think of the Phish documentary, especially "Page's New Shirt." Man, I'd love to see Trey bust out a Page's New Shirt Reprise one of these days.

My favorite part of the set included the stretch of Moma Dance, Gumbo, and Bowie. The boys injected a little funk into the set with Moma Dance, which got everyone grooving. After hearing that 18-minute Gumbo off of Live Bait 7, I'm spoiled and want to hear a version with a double digit jam.

And on cue, the high school girls behind us knew all the words off of Alaska too. Sometimes Alaska is hit or miss with me.... that instance it hit.

I haven't heard too many versions of Gordo's Suskind Hotel, but it seems as though it's getting better every time they play it. I definitely dig it 4000 times more than that weak-sauce Sugar Shack.

It was during Suskind when I first noticed the orange-reddish moon slowly rising up from the horizon behind the stage. Man, I didn't know CK5 could control what the moon looked like. That guy is a fucking genius. I hope that CK5 adds an orange moon to every show. Orange moons trump neon vaginas any day of the week.

We got some Fish hijinks in the first set... which I prefer because I think sometimes Fish hijinks ruins the momentum of the second set. Fish belted out Purple Rain but not before he warned the crowd that he was most likely going to butcher the lyrics. The band is beating the "tuck it in" horse to death this tour, so Fish also tucked in his muumuu before ripping off a tucking-inspired vac solo.

An a capella version of Star Spangled Banner ended the set while a group of rowdy frat boys started a boorish "USA! USA! USA!" chant.

I went into the show without any expectations, so I didn't mind the first set, but, I can understand why some friends were a little let down because the set was all over the place.

I heard the all-too familiar squishy bass at the start of the second set and for a second I thought DWD was coming. Instead, Phish launched into Stevie Wonder's Boogie On Reggae Woman. The guy next to me was pretty wasted and joked, "I wonder if Stevie Wonder would be pissed at how CK5 is lighting his song?"

Boogie On had some plinko-pecking from Page, but the jam was cut short in favor of Tweezer. I caught back-to-back Tweezers at Blossom and then a few days later at Deer Creek. Out of the three I saw this tour, the Blossom Tweezer sticks out as the one that fries my brain the most. The JB Tweezer wasn't as "in-your-face" as usual and a bit on the mellow side. I felt that set the tone for the set... it was going to be intense and mellow, but not as thrashing as some of the sets I had just seen in the Midwest. The Tweeze-jam trailed off into a bit of spacial cosmic jelly with a humping whales effect. At that point they could have gone in several directions. I was hoping for a little "Siket Disc" action and would have lost my mud if they busted out Quadrophonic Toppling, but they pulled out of the spin with Twist. Over this summer tour, Twist has become the launching pad for some serious jamming (with the exception of the super-short Deer Creek Twist). The AC Twist still gives me memory burns and the Cincy Twist has been in heavy rotation on my iPod. Whenever they play Twist, you know they are eager to jump off the deep end. The JB Twist was a melodic dessert, but definitely a few steps down on the mellow scale compared to where they were in the jam-out of Tweezer. It felt like the boys eased off the gas in the middle of Tweezer and were coasting thru Twist before the eventually arrived at Taste. Page also shines on Taste and the build up to the crescendo is always my favorite part.

After dragging the energy level down, they tried to perk it right back up with Quinn the Eskimo. The Dylan cover has been getting tons of play time the last couple of years. It's a quick shortcut to getting everyone up, dancing and singing along. It was actually one of the few covers that the high school girls knew the lyrics to.

Julius seemed out of place in the middle of the set. Usually Phish relies on it later in the set to inject a shit-ton of energy back into the crowd after playing a slow tune.

Rock and Roll has been dropped in the lineup a used to be a reliable set two opener, but it's interesting to see that Velvet Underground cover appear later in the set. My biggest gripe about set 2 was that the RR jam was ripchorded in favor of Horse > Silent. Look, I get it... as much as I want to hear a four or five song second set, that is a thing of the past. But it's hard to get any serious jamming done when Phish is trying to squeeze in a baker's dozen of songs.

After getting tilted by the slowdown, things perked up with Hood and the Stones' Shine A Light. What the hell was Show of Life doing in that set? They achieved what they wanted to do with Shine A Light (slowing it down and letting Fish catch a breath before building up to a glorious crescendo). Piggybacking SOL onto Shine A Light is nothing but self-indulgence. SOL added nothing to the set, if anything the set was on pace to finish up strongly, but SOL was a buzz kill once again.

At least they made up for it with Slave. It's my favorite Phish song and I never have a bad show whenever they play it. Javier suggested that Slave was indicative of the night... "It started out sloppy but they pulled it together and jammed it out perfectly."

On an other night, Loving Cup would have been the right pairing with Tweeprise, but it was a mellow night and Loving Cup seemed too rocking of a tune as compared to a much more laid back Sleeping Monkey. Oh, and Tweeprise was smoke. It always is. Too bad the end of the show did not include fireworks like we've seen at other July 4th shows. We had to wait until we stumbled out to the lot to catch the amateur fireworks.

As soon as the show ended, Nigel said, "Sooo cool."

He was spot on. During the second set I kept thinking about how much fun I was having on tour this year with different groups of friends. We were the luckiest ones on a planet of seven billion people. So many people are utterly miserable out there... which is why I was grateful for yet another opportunity to see the quartet from Vermont.

JB #2 was my 11th show this tour and 257th overall. I'm super pumped because I get to see three more shows to close out this leg. Hope to see ya in the lot at SPAC. Drive safely and party smart.

* * * *

Check out my previous recaps from this tour:
AC 1: Satan Standing on the Beach
AC 2: Manteca-Light Sand Funk Fiesta
AC 3: Mothership Extraction
Cincy: Can You Still Have Fun?
Burgettstown: Tweakpaug
Blossom: Tweeze Away
Deer Creek #1: Heat Wave Hijinks
Deer Creek #2: Master Blaster
Alpine Valley #1: Float With the Flock
Alpine Valley #2: Gotta Get Out of This Maze
Also, don't forget to check out our master index page of all of our Phish summer tour 2012 coverage.


DoctorRon said...

Another PERFECT show review done only the way the Doctor of Pauly can do it!! Hehehe, I wondered why I didn't see you at AV! Now I know--you were visiting the Central Galactic Suns during a Total Ego Meltdown! Even THAT wouldn't have pumped me for Sunday's "phoned-in" show alas...

Thanks Pauly. People actually COUNT ON these writeups, you know--and you rarely disappoint. Glad you're having fun.


Kid Dynamite said...

glad to hear the lot scene at JB was good - I remember the State Police being beverage Nazis and searching our car on the way in a few years ago!

Pauly said...

Thanks Doc RON!

Trent said...

Nice Pauly! Although I beg to differ RE: "Orange moons trump neon vaginas any day of the week." But then again I'll take a vag over an arse anyday ;) BTW Neon Vaginas? Is that a Flaming Lips reference?