By Pauly (@taopauly)
Phish ran the gamut this year in Miami. Depending on whom you
interacted with, in the same breath the quartet from Vermont were
equally washed up and equally blazing new trails. Phish extremes. The
band has always been polarizing, which is what makes it so much fun
because you never know what you are going to get on any given night.
Like Hunter Thompson said, "Buy the ticket, take the ride."
attended the last ten NYE shows (dating as far back as MSG 1998 when
Phish kicked off the show with Prince's 1999) and caught all of the
SoFla NYE runs (Miami 2003, 2009, and 2014, plus Big Cypress 1999). Back
in the hazy days of 1.0 when Trey was off the wagon, South Florida was
an ideal locale with an abundance in opiates (I miss all those pill
mills from the 90s and 00s) and cheap, high-octane cocaine. These days,
it's a new world order Trey; Big Red is clean and healthy in 3.0.
Miami's balmy climate was a welcomed change of pace and the local cops
are easily bought off, whereas MSG had become stale and NYC is patrolled
by a militarized police. Phish just isn't in this for the love of the
game. Four nights of Phish anywhere generates an influx of cash. LeBron
James returned to Cleveland and the are Miami Heat floundering, so the
AA Arena was in need of a dire economic boost. Enter Phish and the
With nine previous Phishy NYE runs
under my belt, I had a good gauge on what to expect and what not to
expect. By definition in layman's terms, New Year's Eve is amateur
night. For the average non-Phishy civilian, NYE is a shitshow and the
over-the-top hype is insufferable, which is why NYE is often one giant
let down. That's why I prefer a concert setting on NYE instead of a lame
house party or a douchey club with a terrible DJ. Very few bands can
throws a raging party like Phish, especially on a random Wednesday
night, but no one can throw a festive NYE bash like Phish. At this
juncture, I have low expectations any earth-shattering music on NYE and
it's one of the rare times I'm at Phish for the social/party aspect. In
an optimal setting, the universe aligns to bring together friends,
face-melting music, and a bacchanalian evening. Perfection by the band
is near impossible with immense pressure due to our insatiable appetites
and lofty expectations. I arrived in Miami with a Zen mentality to be
in the moment and truly relax after a strenuous 2014. That was the theme
of the Miami run. Relax and reset and cherish the "now."
French friend Benjo is begging for an European run, but Miami is the
closest any of us will come to an international Phish show. Miami is not
America. Call it New Cuba or Los Miami or whatever you want, but it's
not the good old US of A. I was bombarded by a Latin vibe the moment I
stepped off the plane. I reminded myself, "You're the gringo, so try to
blend in and speak Spanish." My last regular beat as a poker journalist
was covering the Latin America Poker Tour in Central or South America,
so Miami felt like I was overseas. Without fail, every fucking country I
visited inquired about my ties to the CIA (the scariest was being
grilled by immigration in Uruguay when they insisted I was a CIA
operative). Between my girlfriend and myself, we covered events in Costa
Rica, Peru, Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and the Bahamas.
I spoke more Spanglish in the last week than I have in the last year...
and I live in Los Angeles. Even though my girlfriend/tour wife is
straight-up the whitest white blonde girl you'll meet, she grew up in
L.A. and speaks fluent Spanish, so much so, she freaks out the locals
when they try to pull a fast one on us and she calls them out in their
native tongue and I'm staring them down with the NYC stink eye.
crew. Elite special forces. Professional ragers. The couples crew.
Wildo and Piper got engaged on Christmas morning, meanwhile my
common-law wife Nicky aka @Change100 celebrated our 9th NYE together
(including 6 Phishy NYE and 2 MMJ). Wildo strategically booked a hotel
10 blocks from the venue. AAA was visible from our 27th floor balcony
including the Fishman donuts splashed on the outside of the venue and
the infamous causeway where the jacked up bath salts dude devoured a
naked guy's face.
The NYE's run was flipped; NYE
commenced the four-show run instead of ending it. Similar to Halloween
2014, the big show in Miami occurred on the opening night. Phish got all
that stress of NYE gag out of the way early, but then again, there was
no slow build up to the defining moment. Give and take. NYE first night
meant that 1/1/15 was the hangover show, but then again, if NYE was
scheduled last, then there would be no way we'd get a scorcher like
Despite the heavy patdown, I smuggled in
bottle of champagne and Colorado's finest herbage. We scored PTBM
100-level right behind the soundboard about 10 rows up. Small floor with
the soundboard against the back wall (versus ample room behind SBD at
the LA Forum or MSG). The only clue to the NYE gag was a zipline that
ran from the back of the stage to the top of the arena behind us. Was
the band going to zipline onto the stage at Midnight? Or was the Iron
Sheik and other masked wrestlers going to fly down to wrestle Fish in a
I sprinted out of the gate by getting "beam me to another planet" spun for NYE. I was excited with Train Song
and hoped for more bustouts, but as per usual, Miami featured the usual
suspects and similar batch of 70 songs spread out over a four-show run.
During an uber-mellow Waiting All Night, "there was someone in
my head and it's not me." Dosed to the gills! I immediately surrendered
to the flow and got sucked down the rabbit hole for Axilla and rocketed back out. I emerged a new man. Rebirth. When the lights became sentient during Ocean,
I knew I was proper fucked and it was going to be a rough, long-ass
setbreak. The lights were alive and could hear all our thoughts. The
machines controlled us, man, and not the other way around. Kuroda was
their puppet and the lights are the ones that play Phish. Considering my
ethereal and conspiratorial headspace, I prayed no one would talk to me
at setbreak, drenched in my own sweat and drooling with bizarre,
guttural sounds tumbling out of my mouth... "ZGZGYYYGZG AUUTTT AHHHAH
GEEELAHHH KAKKAK MMMITTZZTU KKSJOLPWPPP JSHSHHXK ZHGTTN HEEHYHHWUZZZ."
2 was the apex of NYE. Floor shaking. Asses grooving. To quote G-Rob,
"The boys were playing to my buzz!" As expected Phish snuck in some
Halloween stuff with a Martian Monster set closer. Ghost haunted by a Spooky
teases. The innocuous jam was cruising along slowly before shit got
"bitches be crazy" amped up it escalated from a 3 to a 9 on the jamming
meter. Theme > Cities stood out the most, which made sense because 2014 was a banner year for Theme from the Bottom.
Sometimes an older song goes through a renaissance and the boys fall
back in love with it again, so it sounds fresh and they can't wait to
play it every night. Saw a similar rebirth happen with Roggae at the Gorge a few years back. Theme got Page involved early before Trey took the opportunity to wank his heart out during the jam out. The pulsating Miami Theme bled into noteworthy Cities. Although Chalkdust also underwent a metamorphosis in 2014 as a reliable Set 2 launching pad, this one was short and sweet in comparison.
3 is always a blur. The 2014 gag was centered around Fish getting the
vacuum stuck to his face. The zipline was utilized to launch a gigantic
inflatable Fishman blow-up doll, which flew right over my head and I
swear the face looked like a cross between Hitler and Hannibal Lecter
from Silence of the Lambs. The low frills gag seemed kind of
cheesy, but Phish outdid themselves between Halloween and NYE stunts
over the years. The minimalist approach worked in my eyes, but it's the
laser show from Kuroda that was the LULZ. How cheesy could things get in
Miami? Add lasers. The Dogs (more Halloween stuff) got unleashed before the standard NYE Tweezer. The only thing that stood out was the Manteca
licks, or maybe I was hearing things. Oh, and I almost forgot about the
two furry, burner girls rubbing each other in a seductive way that
gives me a full-blown chubby just thinking about it. I didn't know two
women could do those stimulating things to each other... while standing
Anything on January 1st is rough. Even in the cocaine capital of the
world, a show on 1/1 was still problematic. I'm hoping they will end
this 1/1 experiment after this year's sluggish performance. After all,
NYE is a guaranteed late night. Plus, several friends never went to bed
and played through to rage it up for 45-48 hours. Somewhere around 4am
on the morning of the 1st, a wook stole one of Wildo's bananas. I took a
nap around sunrise but woke up to re-join the party on Wildo's balcony
that never ended. It was a boozy morning that morphed into a pre-party
for college football games. Even Shakedown was a bit weary. If the band
feeds off the crowd's energy, then that can certainly explain the
mellowness of 1.1.15 because everyone was dragging ass. Result? A
quickie show. One of the shortest shows I every saw. Reminded me of the
meh Grateful Dead shows in 94-95 when the Dead phoned in a 50-minute
first set before an accelerated greatest hits in the second set.
Got off to an auspicious start with Tube and Gumbo, both are among my Top 10 desert island songs. Seemed like Trey was trying to get everyone else involved with other songs like Lawn Boy/Page, Undermind/Fish, and Yarmouth/Gordo. After dishing the rock for three songs, an antsy Trey was ready to do some serious wanking. He picked Wingsuit which starts out slow yet builds up to a massive self-indulgent guitar solo. Full-blown Big Red wankage. Gin ended the erratic set and it's always bittersweet to hear Gin without the Joker in attendance. Aside from Gin, the other notable moment on 1.1 was a short-sweet-savory Piper.
Trey took off most of the show and engaged the auto-pilot aka Troy the
Hologram for a 30-minute hole of mellowness that plagued the second set (Caspian, 20 Years, Winterqueen and Velvet). Trey reset the manual controls for Antelope and a rare Rock and Roll set closer. Since both sets were barely an hour, Change100 assumed YEM was coming as the encore. Nope. We got Meatstick.
Yeah, Meatstick'd up the chimney instead. The band rushed off the
stage, which convinced me that Big Red had bet heavily on the
Alabama/Ohio State game and he wanted to sweat the end of the game. We
walked back to our hotel in time to watch the entire 4th quarter if
that's an indication of how early the show ended.
had 300 level near the back for the second night. We had a couple of
chatty SouthBeach hipster-type girls doing key bumps all night behind
us. But the Shit Bag of the Show was the drunk-ass annoying bro who
tried to hit on a couple of cute Phishy girls at setbreak. They ignored
him, but the persistent bro kept sweating them in the second set. To
make a bad situation even worse, drunk bro thought he could woo the
girls by singing both Caspian and Velvet Sea at the top of
his lungs. One of the girls grew so miserable that she finally took off
and danced in the aisle by herself, just to get away from the bro. Same
bro screamed "MARCO!" every few seconds during Antelope. I nearly punched him in the nuts. It only takes one schwasted bro in your section to ruin a show.
step in the right direction. It was @change100's 88th show. The numeral 8 is good luck in many Asian cultures. We had double luck, eh? Had floor the last two nights. Spacious.
90% full? Plenty of room to groove. The first set got stronger as it
went along, but any momentum dissipated when the band constantly huddled
to figure out what to play. Songs by committee, art by committee is
never the best. Trey made a shooting a basketball motion to Fish to
signal The Line. He looked baffled when Gordo ripped into Sugar Shack instead. After the Cactus Cock Block, Trey waited a song to get to The Line, which is a song about being anti-clutch and blowing a huge moment. Set 1 ended on a strong note with Coil. You know it has that line "Satan standing on the beach" but the best moment is when Coil
ends with a Page solo with the rest of band exiting the stage to leave
Leo up there by himself, so he gets to feel what it's like to be a major
solo artists like Elton John or Billy Fucking Joel.
behind us ripped deemsters during the second set. I dunno why anyone
would do such a sacred psychedelic gift in that manner, especially
during 46 Days. The second set was anchored by Mike's Groove with 46 Days lunch meat. The Weekapaug is what everyone is still talking about. Even this
jaded vet was impressed. My biggest problem with 3.0 Mike's Groove has
been the lack of substance in the Weekapaugs. Saw it happen all too
frequently... Phish shoots their load with the lunch meat(s), or a
piping hot Mike's Song... and they run out of steam by the time Weekapaug came around. Not in Miami. You've probably seen the video already and re-listened to it a dozen times. Weekpaug still holds up after multiple replays. Miami Weekapaug
included rotation jam hijinks with Trey jumping on Fishman's kit to
play around with the marimba, while Gordo picked up Trey's guitar, and
Leo was whooping it up with some bong-rattling bass grooves (but using
his own gear). Gordo played a few scratching Johnny Greenwood riffs
before they resumed Weekapaug with gusto. At the conclusion of Weekapaug,
the crowd showered the band its loudest applause of the Miami run (it'd
make Bill Nershi extremely jealous), and one of the loudest reactions I
heard in the 20+ shows I caught in 2014.
Nicky and I got our favorite songs back-to-back. The boys can never do any wrong in a show they play Slave, which I thought was being saved for late set 2 on the final night. And we also thought 2001
was being held off for Saturday Night dance party. Alas, both popped up
the day before we expected, which was our own personal curveball. It
wasn't on my radar, which made both a little extra special. Phish
finally woke up from its New Year's Day nap. Everyone (band included)
knew 1/1 was a lackadaisical evening, but 1/2 had a few glimpses of
greatness. Sometimes you have to bottom out in the valley to appreciate a
highest peak in the mountains. The encore was a little cheesy, but
Fishman was the MVP of 2014 and he's the Sleeping Monkey afterall. But at least it was a two songer that ended with Rocky Top. Tennessee had won their bowl game earlier in the day and Rocky Top kangfirmed
my suspicions that Big Red had bet heavily on Tennessee (-3 favorites
and they won by 17). Senor's brother Javier had a theory about Rocky Top
in 1.0, "If Phish played Rocky Top as an encore, then that's them
acknowledging they played an awesome show." I dunno if that's legit, but
to quote Hemingway "isn't it lovely to think so?"
restored. I caught the Randall's Island NYC run, which included one of
my favorite second sets from 2014. The final night in Miami included
another monstrous second set that will go down as one of the notables
the 3.0 era. As the saying goes... all killer, no filler.
seats again. LA reunion. We spotted different LA friends in the back of
the floor. Jovial, juiced up crowd for the final night, despite the
fact everyone was spent. It was the "do all your drugs show because you
have to go home tomorrow show." Plus, there was a noticeable influx of
professional party peops and music enthusiasts with Jam Cruisers popping
in for a single show before they embarked on their floating festival.
Plus, the night was also @PeteLikesPhish birthday, who was rocking it
NOLA style with dollar bills pinned to his chest. BTW... Phortin can be on my pickup basketball team any time. He was
boogieing down hard and in the process boxed out a trio of drunk-ass
bros who wandered over and a flailing Phortin cleaned out enough dance
space for our ladies.
Always a special night when the boys kick off a show with Maze. First four songs felt like a mid-90s gig... Maze, Bag, Divided Sky, and Cavern. That TAB tune Plasma got called up from the minors in 2014 and appears to be in the Phish starting rotation. Devotion was the obvious weak point and the crowd was giddy for the Everglades name check during Water in the Sky.
I planned on a sober show (lot was dry, WTF?) until a Colorado friend
handed me a happy pill during Mule. I doubted it would have any effect
on me after four shows in four nights, but at the least, it perked me up
Split Open and Melt could have gotten really dark and devious, but it stayed somewhat sane. Melt is the frantic off-the-rails song that can best be described as the scene from Boogie Nights
when Dirk Diggler goes to rob the coke dealer (Alfred Molina in a robe)
and there's the Japanese boy toy in his undies throwing lit fire
crackers while the coke dealer dances to Sister Christian and Jesse's Girl. That pretty much sums up the craziest Melt moments in my life. Luckily, Melt one barely scratched the surface.
Stealing Time opener was the only low point for set 2. I had a bad feel that we'd get Joy'd at some point, but we dodged that bullet. The DWD > Light > Sneaking Sally > Sand > Hood is why I chase Phish. DWD delivered. But you already know this. I'm partial to funkified Sally, so anytime that harlot is running around in back alleys it's going to a Filthy McNasty night. Good Times Bad Times
gave Trey one last chance to pull out his willie and wank it while the
band smoked the shit out of a bong-rattling Zeppelin cover. The second
set helped etched the Miami run into the record books. Dare I say, it
saved the run and made the trip to Miami worth while for all parties.
Sure, even if 1/3/15 ended up a snoozer, I still had a blast with
friends and doing cool stuff like going on an art walk through Wynwood
with Wildo, Piper, and Nicky. But the last set was the exclamation
point. The 26-minute DWD is the pure dope that lifelong Phish addictions are made of.
Miami dunzo. See ya in the lot this summer.
Pauly is a writer who currently lives in Los Angeles. His new novel, Fried Peaches, comes out later this year. Buy his other books on Amazon.