I had a slight panic attack that I was going to get pinched, but put on my best poker face and kept walking. After about a dozen or so steps, the cop did not say anything, but I was convinced that he was going to contact the cop on the next corner, who was going to take me down. I found a large group of other heads and I embedded myself in the middle, hoping to blend in. It worked. My paranoia subsided by the time I reached the fairgrounds.
Talk about a close call. After two nights raging hard in AC, I didn't want to miss the third and final show because of a random K-9 unit on traffic duty. I made it to the lots without any other potential heart attacks and quickly celebrated with a couple of Jello shots.
Shakedown reeked like stale beer, teriyaki sauce, and wook shit. Everyone looked hungover and/or sunburned to all hell. Extras were going for around $30-40 for a non-sold out show (office tix were $70). A few spunions were "woooooooo!"-ing it up in Shakedown, while several lot comedians were making cat calls like, "Who's got my bath salts??"
Shakedown was crowded but the it was nothing like Saturday's mayhem. I know a lot of friends had to work on Monday, so they skipped the Sunday show. Javier had to work so he returned to NYC. I never saw Igor after he attempted to pick up the sassy Russian jailbait that worked in one of the pizza shops on the Boardwalk.
I met up with Bruce and Fred and hung out with them at the show. Bruce is a drummer and visual artist who was responsible for doubling my Dead bootleg collection in the mid-1990s. I saw my last Dead show with Bruce at Giants stadium in June 1995. Shortly after that I tried to get him into Phish. He was reluctant at first, but sometime during the first hiatus, he really caught the itch for Phish. By the second hiatus, something had clicked... and he was hooked. Phish is like that for many people... it's an acquired taste.
I saw Gordo and his family navigating the lots in a golf cart. I asked him to play Waves because I had it as one of my Pick 4 tunes for a fantasy pool I'm doing with the G-Vega$ boys. I was in first place going into the last night and I was feeling good about my selections: Brother, YEM, Waves, and Melt. By the end of the night, only one song would be played and many phans walked out of the show thinking, "Where the fuck was YEM?" I had a similar feeling when I left Superball last summer. I was baffled at its omission then, and I was baffled at the omission after the AC run.
Much like the previous Fathers' Day gigs, Phish kicked off the show with Brother and some of their kids jumped into an old-school metal bathtub at the center of the stage. This is a weird Phish Stat... only one male heir in the Phishdom... Fish has a son and the rest of the band all has daughters.
Jim popped up in the second spot and would have been the opener if it weren't Fathers' Day. I used to go apeshit for Jim in the late 90s, but in 3.0 it seems as though Jim has become a throw-away opener.
The first bustout of the night was Dog Stole Things. I was hoping to see more random (non-slow) songs played and DST fit the bill. A surprising Boogie On batted clean-up... but this compacted version was nothing like the incendiary funk-monster from Worcester.
I dig NICU because of it's subversive lyrics and because it puts everyone around me in a good mood. I thought Foam put everyone to sleep, which is why Trey needed to wake everyone up with a eardrum shattering Wilson.
Javier was calling for Timber Ho on Friday and Saturday. Of course, he skips Sunday's show and they play it. Trey put me on ripchord tilt after he bailed from Timber. For the first time in the show, the boys really got something cooking, but as soon as the song reached the 6-minute mark, they rushed the ending and it finished up less than seven minutes. The only saving grace? Stage banter ensued.... including some Phish geekery. Trey asked the crowd if they could name the songs with a Tarzan-like scream at the end.
"The correct answer is three," said Big Red.
The songs are: My Friend My Friend. Rift. Brother. Trey lobbied to add a fourth.
"Today's a special day. Timber will now end with BWAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHA."
He then tried to up-sell Page into ending Lawn Boy with the yell. Yes, I missed Phish stage banter... but it came at the expense of a potential rocking Timber. Less chat and more jamming, please.
Fluffhead got the crowd whipped up in a frenzy. It also marked the high-water moment with peak energy for the first set.
One of the cooler things about last summer was the re-introduction of Walls of the Cave. I just wish they practiced it more and that Gordo did the "Thhhhh-gooooooooooooooooooosh" song effect before the "Listen to the silent trees" segment.
The boys ended the first set with a predictable rocking tune... Character Zero, which included predictable high Trey wanking factor.
I was kinda let down in the second set. It lacked the fluidity and failed to blow the hinges off the door like the previous shows. I let lofty expectations get in the way of reality. After Friday and Saturday's monstrous second sets, I assumed Phish was going to repeat that theme and go off the deep end with some serious melt-your-fucking-face jamming.
2001 lot sticker design by Pauly
Sunday's second set kicked off on a positive note with yet another cover song -- The Who's Drowned. Gordo led the charge, but it seemed as though Trey was stealing Gordo's thunder a bit. I heard the first few teases of 2001 but the band shifted into full-blown extraterrestrial mode. One of my favorite versions in a while. Page was throwing down with some serious clav action.
I should have seen 2001 coming. After all, Phish was playing on Bader Field which is essentially an airport. On Saturday, planes were spraying chemtrails like crazy. Plus, you had built-in tarmac. The landing strips were there for a fucking reason... the Mothership.
Sure, the casino conglomerates and local political machine threw tons of cash at Phish to play a festival in AC, but, there's something mystical about southern New Jersey, which has had its fair share of UFO sightings. And how about that mischievous Jersey devil? Weird shit goes on in that part of the country... and we were all part of the grand experiment. CK5's lights sent out specific messages to the Mothership. It's 2012. We're all itching to make contact already. Seriously, where does all that liquid sunshine and molly come from anyway? The Greys cook it aboard the Mothership and then flood the lots with their cosmic intoxicants.
Sorry for the tangent. 2001 > Reba might have been the highlight of the set. It was all downhill from there. I had tons of fun, but the band only had a couple of moments of jamming grandeur in the second set. Part of me felt the band had run out of gas, or maybe they were trying to fill too many requests for friends and family? Or perhaps Trey stopped listening to everyone else during jams and just went full-blown jack-off Trey?
I like Ween. A lot. But this version of Roses Are Free felt more like a first set Roses. It was short and tight, but lacked the ooomph of previous Roses. Dare I say... they phoned it in.
Chalkdust is Big Red's favorite tune and busting it out in the middle of the first set gave them the opportunity to open it up a bit. CK5 flashed evil red sinister lights during CDT. Kinda scary.
I had a rough time during Caspian and Bug. I got stuck in between two of the worst types of concert go-ers. To my right was the schwasted guy doing the loud "Wooooo-hooooo!" To my left were three shitfaced hipster girls who talked the entire show. I had to re-locate in order to preserve my sanity. The drunk guy was screaming every thirty seconds, even during the slow parts to Caspian. Every. Thirty. Seconds. It was a loud, deafening primal scream and reminded me like a baby deer getting speared by a rhino.
I finally found much better dance space by the time Bug slipped into Silent in the Morning (without The Horse). After the energy was sucked out of the place by the slower songs, the boys opted for yet another cover to inject some life into the audience. This time it was the Beatles A Day in the Life on the eve of Sir Paul McCartney's birthday.
Courtesy of @Phish_FTR
A rare Down with Disease ended the first set. It was a curveball for sure, but it's lack of juiciness felt like a first set opener rather than a potential set closer. DWD is one of the big guns. Use it like a big gun! That last song of the set is what anchors the entire show. DWD on paper looked "sick" and even though it was a solid yet modest rendition, it was nothing like the jam vehicle we're used to. It didn't blow me away... at a time I was expecting a YEM or something else that was going to make me say, "I'm dropping everything I'm doing to see them in Virginia."
Yeah, I'm skipping the next two shows and jumping back on tour in Cincy, but if Phish had just absolutely smoked the shit out of the second set, I'd be having a rough time making a decision on whether or not I should just say fuck it and go to Virginia.
Anway, I think everyone around me was expecting a YEM encore, except the one schmoo-tard who wanted to hear Waste. I shot her the stinkeye and put the vibe out for YEM like everyone else.
Anticipation was building during the short break. The boys took the stage. What would be the song to cap off a magnificent three-day run? Yes, you guessed it... Gotta Jibboo. Wait, what? It seemed out of place. It's a tune better suited for earlier in the set. I didn't expect to hear it as an encore. Friday night was Big Red bopping up and down to First Tube. Saturday night was the bong-rattling Good Times Bad Times. Sunday was... Gotta Jibboo.
By the way, what the hell is a jibboo anyway? Is it a baby wook?
Luckily, the band turned to Bob Dylan's Quinn the Eskimo to save the encore with a second song. I dig two song encores because now the Jibboo selection wasn't that weak sauce. But, I'm starting to get a little concerned that the band relies too much on cover songs when they get in trouble. By the way... about the Mighty Quinn... it was good to see Gordo sing anything and I was pumped that Quinn played its way back into the rotation a couple summer ago (the Telluride version still gives me chills).
So the band fizzled out a bit in the third night, but as a whole, the AC run was a magnificent weekend of Phish, fun, and mayhem. Phish cranked out a couple of epic jamilicious moments that I hope will be surpassed in the coming week(s). AC is a sketchy place, but I'd definitely return for another multi-day festival... it was so much easier to get to than Superball! Plus, there's something about the vibe of AC that makes me kick it up a notch in the party department. I raged pretty hard and had a blast.
I might be critical of the band when I write about them or poke fun at them on Twitter, but I always have a kick ass time at Phish. That's why I go see so many shows. Ordinary life is... well... ordinary. I couldn't think of any other place I'd rather be than seeing Phish three nights in a row.
In case you missed it, here's my recaps from the other AC shows: Night 1: Satan Standing On the Beach and the Birds Orgy and Night 2: Manteca-Light Sand-Funk Fiesta.