Monday, July 29, 2013

The Gorge Recap: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes - Phish 7/26/13 and 7/27/13

By Pauly

The Gorge. Nothing quite like it on tour. The Gorge is like a mini-festival spread out over two days of bacchanalia. I have never seen a bad show at the Gorge... and I've caught all 14 of them.

Sure, it's a hike to get to George, WA and only the most motivated phans make the journey to visit one of the most solemn venues on tour. It's totally worth the time and effort. When I moved to Seattle in 1997. I missed all of Fall 97 tour. On the flipside, I caught a plethora of West Coast Phish including the first three runs at the Gorge (97-98-99). Although I had seen 30 or shows by the time I graduated college, Phish was probably my third or fourth favorite band (nothing could top the Grateful Dead in my eyes). But something colossal happened during my first sojourn to the majestic Gorge in 1997, and I was instantly hooked on Phish. I remember driving back to Seattle after the shows totally bumming that I couldn't stay on tour. By 1998, I was ready to become a full-time tour rat. A monstrous four-song second set on 7/17/98 (anchored by a 24-minute cosmic-space-funk version of 2001) stands out as one of the Top 5 sets of Phish I've ever seen (includes one of my fav Mike Song as well). I've been chasing that high-water mark for the last 15 years. As a result, I'm happy to brag that I caught every Phish show at the Gorge including 2003 and their only appearance in 2.0 and all three throwdowns in 3.0 (2009, 2011, 2013).

We wised up and opted for premier camping in 3.0. This year we were invited to join Uncle Ted's Seattle friends at "Camppossum." We all met up in Seattle and my girlfriend and I joined a caravan to the Gorge. We raided a Safeway in Cle Elem on the way (looked like the wookpocalypse in there) and finally navigated a clusterfuck of a line to get into the camping area. Our basecamp was 20-25 strong and everyone was a veteran of Phish tour and/or the Gorge. We had everything set up (including shade tarps and an Ez-Up to combat the 100 degree temps) within an hour and were ready to preparty.

The ladies decorated the campsite with these furry things

Friday 7/26/13 

I cruised Shakedown and noticed hundreds of fans with their finger thrust in the air. I had not seen so many desperate heads at the Gorge scouring for tickets since the late 90s. The Gorge was not a sellout, but they were hoping to find cheap tickets. In this case, extra tickets were close to face (compared to 2009 and 2011 when I saw extras going for under $20). Washington state has legal weed (plus Cali and Oregon had medical weed) so Shakedown was flooded with nug-mongers. I sniffed some of the dankiest dank Lemon kush from a grower in Humboldt. I traded our SoCal nugs (XXX Kush grown in a former house used for porn shoots) for a couple shroom caramels.

The floor is where the party is at. We got a comfy spot near the soundboard and I was boomin' already before the boys took the stage. Standard Bag opener "Let's get this show on the road!"). Knew they weren't fucking around with a Timber Ho jam. Trey looked like a kid in a candy store and loved showing off his chops during Wolfman's. It was CK5's birthday and the band played a few notes of "Happy Birthday." I expected Bowie at some point (because Trey once mentioned that Kuroda requested Bowie every night because it's his favorite song to light). Trey pandered to the crowd of Seattle locals and revealed his Russell Wilson jersey and launched into a thunderous Wilson. He hopes the Seachickens play Wilson at home games this season. We finally got an extended Tube! They keep getting shorter and shorter (Chicago was under four minutes) but you know it's been bad ripcord city when I'm gushing over a 5:44 version of Tube. Yeah, Secret Smile is one of those weird 2.0 songs that never stuck. I caught all but one version of it and really dug the acoustic version at Festival 8, but electric? Not so much. At that point, I was outta my tits shroomin' and caught up in a fit of the giggles. Everything G-Rob said to me was fucking hysterical especially his reciting of the Secret Smile lyric "hold on..." G-Rob kept whispering "Hold on! Hold on!" and I lost it. He was dispatching sound advice considering I was on the edge of the abyss and radically gacked up so much that I was ready to topple over. McGrupp is an old-time favorite for sentimental reasons. They were rocking hard all set until the mellow pairing of Smile-McGrupp, which let a ton of air out of the show. As my girlfriend add, "Secret Smile makes Show of Life seem heavy." Love Leo on classic rock covers like Curtis Loew. The Melt to close out was the highlight of the first set. The sun had just gone down and it was time to freak out the acid heads by bringing out the Gimp for some after-dark occult shit. 

The Joker sent this to me...
The second set might seem a little disjointed on paper, but it was a true journey and an emotional rollercoaster. I fucking love tripping balls at shows when Phish kicks off the second set with a mammoth Crosseyed and Painless. This punishing version clocked in at 18 minutes and contained a couple of smaller jam bursts during the last 15 minutes. Toward the end of the jam, Phish reached a four-way fork in the road. Phish was giving a multiple choice test and they could have segued into a) Ocelot, b) 2001, c) Slave, or d) What's the Use. Of course, it was... e) None of the Above... and they ripped into Twist, which was intertwined with tons of Santana licks and teases. Steam was dark and dirty. Too bad I was slightly tilted during the middle when a couple of schwasted wookettes yapped the entire time and took like 50 selfies during the jam. I dug the insertion of Waves into the rotation. Man, someday I love to hear a 20-minute Waves jam, but I'll take what I can get. Waves kicked off four mellow songs in a row including Twenty Years Later > Mango Song > Bug. I was on the downslope of the shroom trip, so the serene vibe fit my mood. Bowie finally popped up (for CK5) and I thought they'd end the set with speed-grass Rocky Top. Felt like Fish was drained at that point and holding on for his life. It was humid and hot and stifling, and Zoe and I saw two people pass out and have to be taken off the floor by paramedics. A reeling Zero closed out the set, and Trey asked CK5 to turn down the lights so they could focus on the moon that was creeping over the huge hill that forms the lawn. Trey asked CK5 to do that during Hood at my first-ever Gorge show... talking about coming full circle. At the end of Zero, Trey ran amok with tons of feedback. We got treated to a double dip encore with a "sublime" Hood and homage to Jimi Hendrix with Fire.

Saturday 7/27/13

You can't sleep past 7am at the Gorge. I always say I'm gonna go to bed early, but I never do. I got up and restocked ice for the coolers. Glad I went early because the line a few hours later in Shakedown looked like bread lines from Soviet Russia in the 70s. I snagged a breakfast burrito and watched Miller/Ashu/Chad jam out in our campground. Awesome way to ease into the late morning than an impromptu jam session.

Furthur II bus parked in Shakedown
Phishy humor in Shakedown
Word was out that JJ Cale passed away. Everyone expected After Midnight at some point on Saturday night. I slung 2001 stickers in Shakedown and told everyone it was coming. Scored choc-shrooms. I saw a beer vendor refuse to sell to a kid in an OKC Thunder jersey. Man, those Sonics fans are bitter! The central WA fires got out of hand and we could see/smell smoke from miles and miles away.

Saturday before sundown (pic by @change100)

I liked the variation to the start of the set with Architect opener, then Golgi (which usually appears later in the set), and Curtain With. Things got cookin' with Moma Dance. As G-Rob said, Maze was the boys playing to his buzz. Totally understood. Peppy version of Roses Are Free had the crowd singing along. I originally thought Say Something was an obscure cover from JJ Cale, but it's an original Gordo tune (with Scott Murkawski). The funk back beat plus a falsetto totally sounded like something out of Laurel Canyon early 70s like Little Feat welded to the Eagles. Another faded-bluesy Ocelot (I wasn't wearing the shirt), and then we got the After Midnight we were waiting for. It gave me flashbacks of Big Cypress.

Set 2 was anchored by DWD. A giant beachball came crashing down from the lawn, which whipped the crowd into a frenzy. The boys got a lil bored and a lil lost with the DWD jam and slid into Undermind. They really stretched that out over the last couple of years. I guess they weren't prepared to play it in 2.0, but I dig Undermind because it's one of those rare songs when you can get almost anything (and go almost anywhere) with the jam out. Trey saw an opening after dragging everyone into the furthest cosmos and took an escape route through a wormhole with Light. The 2009 version at the Gorge still stands out as one of my favorites. I had one of those magical Gorge moments that time and have been hooked on the Light jam ever since. But we got a rare quick hook with Light. Gasp! A Light ripcord. But they went for a more funkified route with Sneaking Sally. Wise choice. Full-throttle funk. We got a quickie 2001 dance party but loved the UFO lights by CK5. The guy next to me was singing along to Walls of the Cave, especially the poignant moments, which brought him to near tears. Love seeing that at shows... when someone gets a song they rarely hear like WOTC. The last two songs of the set were plutonium -- Fluffhead and Antelope. I feared that they'd cheese out with a Show of Life encore, but the thunderous Good Times Bad Times hit the fucking spot. Big Red spooge factor was at its highest readings.

We left the Gorge on Sunday morning with a huge smile chiseled into our faces. Man, I fucking love seeing Phish at the Gorge. Too bad they didn't do three shows, or they played every summer instead of only in odd number years. I caught up with old friends and made some new ones (especially the phans from India... amazing to see Phish turn on folks in Asia). I was even more thrilled knowing I'd catch six more shows as we headed south. Shows #278 and #279 in the bag. Next stop... Lake Tahoe.

Watch the Gorge shows here. And for every setlist from this summer tour, plus links to vids and recaps, click here.


Chris said...

Great review Pauly. I always feel like I'm there when I read your reviews.

MeToo said...

I hate the Architect. Send that back to TAB Nation.
Fishman should of been like: "nah dog, that track is super lame T-Bone.
Trey would of been like: " FIsh, how bout a new hipster cult classic ? This flannel says we are going to play one or the other and you know I do what the flannel says."
Fishman walks back to the drum kit carrying his dress so it doesn't drag against floor while Mike twirls his scarf in the breeze.
Backstage with a mouthful of a foot-long sandwich Page yells out: "CJ3!"

and end scene.

tomahawkcounty said...

Hey Pauly... I live in Bellevue, and my next door neighbor and friend is the guy who designed and runs the sound system inside Seahawks stadium. The head honcho of sound and video there - a Zappa fanatic, and he likes PHiSH...

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