Phish summer tour kicked off on the Left Coast. This recap covers the two shows in Bend, Oregon.
7.21.15 BEND, OREGON
Johnnie Salami drove the windy roads through lushly green Willamette National Forest and got us into Bend a couple of hours before the show. Bend was a little weird because I thought it was going to be more like Telluride. That part of Oregon certainly had a Colorado vibe, but Bend was eclectic in its own way. Sean had found us a motel in downtown Bend, which was perfect location walkable to the venue. The front desk people and the town of Bend were not prepared for the cavalcade of party people who invaded their cozy little community along the Deschutes River.
Sean's roommates threw a curveball upon arrival: they brought both a dog and a pet wook without informing Sean. Cosmo the puppy was super chill and the motel let them keep the dog even though they rented out the only pet-friendly room. Alas, the motel did not have any wook-friendly rooms, so we had to be slick and sneak him in and out. We ended up adopting the pet wook N-Dawg for this leg of the tour. He was well trained, friendly, did not bite, and most importantly... had a vial of liquid on him. Of course, he did not have a place to crash nor any tickets to Bend or Shoreline, but N-Dawg managed to score a Tuesday ticket at the last possible minute. Johnnie Salami only had a Wednesday ticket but somehow found a trade for his Wednesday/Tuesday swap. Both got super lucky.
Bend was one of the toughest ticket I've seen (non-Halloween, non-NYE) in 3.0. Sean and I did all of west coast fall tour together and we witnessed day-of-show-prices plummet with plenty of tickets available for Eugene, Seattle, SF and Santa Barbara. We both assumed (incorrectly) that tickets would be easy to find in Bend. Boy, were we wrong. Tiny venue on a grass lawn that was wedged in between a couple of motels and condos, and the mellow Deschutes river wound around most of the venue. Bend seemed smaller than Tahoe, but we had grass to groove on instead of a blacktop parking lot of Harvey's Casino.
A couple of mini-Shakedowns sprang up. I saw a Deadhead sticker on a red Cadillac; even grumpy Don Henely woulda been proud. Plenty of shrooms, balloons and bud, but zero extra tickets. I scored molly from a PDX EDM kid, which just added to the fun because My Pet Wook had endless supply of liquid sunshine. We were stocked with WA-state medicinal bud (Lemon Maui, Berry White, Dutch Treat, and Space Candy). Best part about Bend? Bottled water inside venue only cost $2. Worst part about Bend? Water in shakedown cost $2.
Lot Prices Bend: $40 1/8 Dutch Treat, $25 1/10 Molly, $50 6-strip doses, $1 warm PBR, $70 mystery baggie from wookette, $5 Margaritas, $5 pulled pork sandwich, $5 shiny shit, $3 IPAs, zero tickets...
The show started early at 6:30ish because of a strict 10pm curfew. I heard rumors that the promoter pre-paid the fine for blowing the curfew, but it was only a rumor. The sun sets much later in the evening in the Pacific Northwest, so it was still dusk at the start of the second set. Friends who heard the soundcheck said they only recognized Rift because everything else was "new."
Laid-back crowd. Noticeable influx of older Deadheads checking out Phish for the first time, or returning to the scene after Trey kicked ass at Dead50. Sean and Anna and their Colorado crew posted up near the soundboard. My Pet Wook made it into the show and found us. CK5 had a much smaller rig for a much smaller stage, which included a gigantic bird/owl along the backdrop. The venue was all GA and felt crowded, yet we had lots of space. We were surrounded by chatty, drunk PDX hipsters and I had the urge to burn off one tool's curly handlebar mustache, but my molly kicked in so all I did was slam him on Twitter instead.
Sample in the Jar opener cued me into the lower volume of the venue's sound system, but I was pleasantly surprised with Trey's new (cleaner) tone. Sand seemed like an unusual choice, but the crowd indulged in the Tuesday afternoon dance party. Energy-lifting old-school tunes Rift and Horn were scattered between Fuego album songs like 555, Halfway to the Moon, and Devotion to a Dream. I have mixed feeling about the lack of evolution in 555, but it's still 1000% better than Gordo's Sugar Shack. Johnnie Salami was partying it up all set with a couple PDX hipster girls, especially during Moon. The first ninety seconds of Blaze On initially sounded like a Little Feat cover. It had a funky, swampy, Cajun vibe which is my wheelhouse. Sometimes it takes a while to hook me into new material, but I was into this one instantly. Little did we know that Blaze On would be the first of seven debuts in Bend. The set ended with a double-dip of funk: Tube and Wolfman's. As per usual, Tube barely clocked in at 4 minutes. Compact Wolfman's might have been highlight of the opening 10-song set, in which no song lasted more than 10 minutes.
Tour openers are always extra-fun, especially after almost a seven-month layoff. The first Phish show back in a long time is akin to eating for the first time in days or getting laid to bust a huge humping slump...of course you really don't focus on the "quality" of music because you're so damn happy to get anything.
Everything kicked in and I was super-duper spun by the time Ghost kicked off the second set. Slower, plodding version that never really got too spooky or broke the surface of insanity, but more like a chillax set 2 opener. The crowd went berserk for Birds of a Feather. CK5 unleashed the bird lights behind the band and Page dropped a sample of "They Attack!" Glad to see the Halloween stuff permanently incorporated into Birds.
I was not mentally prepared for Mike's. Kinda kicked my spun ass. Simple is Anna's favorite tune and I told her they might sneak a Simple into the Mike's Groove lunch meat because I wasn't feeling a Hydrogen vibe for Bend. Alas, Mike's eventually bled into The Wedge. told ya I got a Colorado vibe to Bend. The crowd lapped up Fuego, which segued into another new tune Shade, a dad-rock tune which really didn't stick with me or the crowd. Phish did not wait to debut more new material with a third new tune: No Man in No Man's Land. At first, I thought it was a new intro to Wombat, but realized it was another newbie. I really dug the funk-heavy riffs because anytime Leo stands up to play his clavinet, we automatically get down and dirty.
The Joker cranked out a Game of Thrones/Phish mashup that eventually got into the hands of Trey and Tom Marshall, who both dug the Joker's humor. Weekapaug finished off the Mike' Groove and it quickly tumbled into slam-funk and Boogie On (the first and only cover in Bend). Trey ended the first set with his favorite song: Chalkdust. Unlike last year's CDT's, this one was not a massive jam beast and returned to its roll as a quickie energy booster. Page brought the heat with Theme from the Bottom encore.
The Bend show ended before 10pm. We were back in our motel raging the after-party by 10:30. By Midnight our floor got five noise complaints from management, but they finally gave up and the inmates were in charge. The party raged on and the next thing we noticed it was 5:30am. One of those nights.
* * * *
7.22.15 BEND, OREGON
Barely slept after the after-after-party ended up in my room. Another wild night on tour thanks to My Pet Wook and the gacked-up Portlandia crew. Johnnie Salami was AWOL. We assumed he was partying with Portlandia-raver girls all night after I finally crashed at sun up.
Found a Black Bear diner within walking distance of the motel for my one daily meal (ah, the beloved tour diet). We reloaded on booze and rolled a bunch of doobies. I had miracled my Wednesday ticket to a friend, and Fink hooked me up with a ticket at the last moment. Friends were legit shut out. Both Johnnie Salami and My Pet Wook could not find a ticket to Wednesday. Luckily everyone who did not get a ticket to either night could hear the show from the parking lot.
Lot Prices Bend: $40 1/8 strawberry cough, $25 Choco-Peanut-Butter shrooms, $20 Tweezer/Top Gun shirts, $3 Fireball shots, 3 for $20 balloons, $2 waters, $5 ganja gummy bears, $20 Phare Thee Well shirt, $5 Bloodys, $20 Yoda "Rage I Will" shirt, $120 grams Molly from spun-out wookette, $20 unicorn tranquilizers, $1 Bud Limes, ZERO tix...
We posted up in the same spacious spot just near the back of the soundboard with Sean, Anna, and the Colorado crew. A grower from Oregon smoked me out with Sour D full melt hash and My Pet Wook made sure I kept the psychedelic groove going.
Stash kicked off night two of Bend. You know it's gonna get weird with a Stash opener. The first set had some inconsistent moments with the debut of four new songs... three of which were originated from solo projects. Those three got "called up from the minor leagues" for the first time. Dunno if any of them can make it to the show permanently compared to the dazzling rookies like No Man's Land and Blaze On. The Wednesday debuts lacked the same gusto as the new tunes from the previous night. But hey, two instant gems out of seven is a decent batting average. How Many People Are You is a new Gordo tune that he debuted earlier this year with his solo band. It definitely needed work and was dubbed a "Sean Take A Piss Song." Winterqueen always wins me over with the jam out. Alas, the crowd was noticeably restless (and drunkard bros/molly queens super chatty) during that half-hour stretch that included two new songs and WQ. Heavy Rotation, a Page solo tune, also needed some work. I really liked the jammed out second section. Trey and Page both acknowledge the kid with the PEACHES sign, but they also shot down the request, yet noted they loved Peaches album "The Teaches of Peaches." Funky Back on the Train and mind-shredding Maze were necessary veterans that helped woo the segments of crowd that they lost with new material. Scabbard whiffed and should stay in the minor leagues with TAB. Mercury was another noob tune and was probably the best of the four Wednesday debuts. Hey, we have to be patient right? It takes balls to debut seven new songs inside of three sets, but it takes time to mold these tunes into staples. Phish is feeling confident otherwise they would not have busted out so much new material. Oh, and killer Possum ended the set.
Shitfaced vodka-soaked Portlandia girls drank all my water at set break, but they gave me dippies. They also wanted a Lawn Boy set two opener. Johnnie Salami warned me about those PDX girls. Portlandia Drunkgirlicus. They're cute and cuddly, but unpredictably unstable and can turn vicious on you in a heartbeat.
I usually love those six-song second sets, but felt slightly shortchanged with a set that lasted under and hour. A couple of 2.0 tunes kicked off the first set: A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing > Waves. Bridger told me Waves was his favorite song to ski to! I always felt it was the closest thing Phish had to a Dead-like jam. I was tripping balllllllls so Winguit was playing directly to my buzz. Love those Pink Floyd tendrils. Anna wanted to hear a Simple and it was probably the biggest jam of the Bend run (and it's up there for best jam from the four West Coast shows). Dope-ass Simple. Got dark-deviant and sideways really quickly. Listen to it on repeat for an hour straight. Rocking yet self-indulgent First Tube ended the quickie set. Since we were all in close proximity to Mt. Hood, I expected a HOOD encore at some point in Bend. Nope. Instead we got a Gin encore. Man, that never ever happens, right? Rare occurrence for Gin, which is typically anchored at the end of Set 1. Alas, a short Gin all things considered. Hey, at least they played the Joker's song. If anything, it seemed like the Gin and First Tube should have swapped spots. Another quickie show. Night 2 felt like it ended closer to 9:30.
Post-Show Lot Prices BEND: $60 1/4 Sour Diesel, $15 Antelope in woods poster, $22 to sniff arm pit of girl rolling balls for 30 seconds...
Primary rule of showbiz: leave the crowd wanting more. Phish certainly did that in Bend. So much so, I wasn't even in the parking lot and I was checking flights on Kayak to see if I could squeeze in some East Coast shows. We walked home and returned to the motel by 10pm. Another semi-late night at our festive motel. I smoked hash with Japhans and listened to Dead50 shows until the wee hours, while My Pet Wook was DJing down at the pool with Portlandia drunk girls.
Two down in Bend. Two more in California. Next stop.... Shoreline (via Portland then San Francisco).