Phish returned to San Francisco for the first-night of a three-night run at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. This is a slightly unusual SF run because these show are at the start of the week (versus a weekend run in 2012 and 2013).
Phish 10/27/14, BGCA, San Francisco, CA
Set 1: Walfredo, Ocelot, Camel Walk, Axilla, Rift, 555, Maze, Brian and Robert, Stash, Party Time, 46 Days
Set 2: Sand > Birds of a Feather > Waiting All Night > Ghost > Bug > Seven Below > I Didn't Know, Chalkdust > 2001 > Slave
E: Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Winterqueen, A Day in the Life
** Official poster by Pollock
* * * *
Editor's Note: Fink hooked us up with amazing tickets for Chula Vista. He asked me if I could write a review of the show. I told him I would, but... I didn't. I got stuck in a bad habit over the last year or so because the last 20 or shows I went to I said I'd write something but when it came down to it, I did not write anything. The main reason is that I got bored writing recaps but coupled with inherent laziness and lack of motivation compounded by the fact I really didn't have anything important to say that I had not already said many times before. The obvious and secondary reason for lack of on-tour recaps is that I'm a known drug fiend who prefers partying with friends (many of whom I rarely get to see these days) than sitting at my laptop cranking out cliches and half-baked inside jokes -- which I do for a living -- but Phish is my vacation and I need a reprieve from writing. But you know, Fink asked me to write a recap and he's such an awesome person that I didn't want to let him down. So instead of Chula Vista (a safe show with solid playing but lacking big jams) I decided to whip something up about the first night in San Francisco and dedicate that to Fink instead. So here it is...
S.F. BGCA1 Quickie Recap: Monday Night SF Rager
By Pauly (@taopauly)
I skipped most of summer tour in order to pull off an entire West Coast fall tour. Dozen shows in the Pacific time zone. It's weird that I currently live or used to live in 4 of the cities on the docket (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Seattle). So in many ways, I'm experiencing pseudo-hometown shows. Out of all of these cities on fall tour, San Francisco is by far my favorite. I wish SF was not so damn expensive and I didn't blow all my poker money otherwise I'd live here full time.
After six shows in nine days in five different locations, I was pumped for the first three-show run this tour. I'm an old, jaded vet and these one-off shows are a bitch on the body when it comes to traveling long distances between shows. In fact this week is the biggest week of the year for Phish with six shows in seven days including Halloween in Vegas. This is crunch time. The boys shook off the rust in the PacNW, had a couple of rough patches in Santa Babs, but finally emerged from the SoCal bubble seeking vengeance. Enter San Francisco... a vivacious city of redemption and inspiration.
SF run was not over a weekend like previous years, so demand for tickets were very low. Heck, the entire West Coast was the $20 ticket tour with extras floating around for $20 to Eugene, Seattle, SB, LA, and SD. ure, LA and SD were massive venues, but SF's BGCA is small and intimate. Last couple years, extras for BGCA shows went north of $100. Yet, on this tour you could get one for face or a few bucks below face. The masses were focusing on Halloween and the Vegas run, so everyone that wanted to be here... really wanted to be here. You had to make an effort to see Phish in SF on a weekday night. But like I said many times before... I'd rather rage it up on a random Monday in SF than any weekend in LA.
My girlfriend stayed behind in LA because of work and we would reunite in Vegas. Joker and the Colorado crew skipped all of fall tour but we going to hop on in Vegas for the last 3 shows. It was just only me and Sean W for this leg. Sean had never been to San Francisco before. I couldn't believe it. We had a SF virgin who was a huge Deadhead. Upon arrival, we first hit up my former dispensary to acquire Romulan then we headed to the Haight to visit what my Japanese friends dubbed "The House of Jerry" at 710 Ashbury Street, where Jerry Garcia, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Neal Cassady lived during the height of hippiedom in the 60s. We also wandered around Golden Gate Park, where I saw my first-ever Phish show in SF in 2011 Outside Lands. That where we saw the geese and ducks and they called a Birds opener.
There's no lot scene in SF, but City Hall shares a big lawn in front of BGCA. That's where everyone sort of hung out and a mini-Shakedown popped up. Old deadhead was slinging white fluff (legendary LSD), which I have not seen in over a decade. We went inside close to showtime and settled into whatever pocket of space we could find on Gordo side, hoping to avoid chatty Californians. It seemed like the entire tour was plagued by drunk, coked up, schwilly scensters who loved yapping during the show. Luckily we avoided any overly chatty stragglers. I guess the brown boot mafia Marina girls don't like going out on Monday nights.
Tight space on the floor. Not much room to move. Crowd was an interesting mix of older Deadheads, Burners, hipsters, NoCal wooks, and tour rats. Saw someone carried out during Ocelot. Wow... losing your marbles on the second song? That's rough, but extremely amateur.
Walfredo opener. Saw two Walfredo signs hanging over the balcony. Supposedly Adam Berger, the webmaster from Walfredo.com, passed away and the band played Walfredo in his honor. I caught the Walfredo in Vegas 2000 (Trey b-day show) and much like that version, the band opened with the show with it and took the stage but picking up different instruments: Trey sat behind keys, Page jumped on the drum kit, Fish picked up Gordo's bass, and Gordo was playing the Languedoc. Musically it was what you'd expect but Gordo was the only one who looked most comfortable. I missed Phish hijinks, but on a deeper level, Walfredo was a nod to their past and recognition of their fans.
I'm the only I know who loves Ocelot, but Camelwalk was well received by the crowd. Sean was chasing the desert-funk since Broomfield/Telluride 2010. These days Camel pops up once or twice a tour.
Axilla was all Fishman. Loud as fuck. I love indoor shows because I'm a bit of a sound snob. My ears were buzzing all night. By the fourth song, it was obvious that both the band and the crowd were overflowing and oozing with abundant energy. The crowds in Eugene and Seattle were buzzing mainly because Phish had not played up there in a very long time (sans the Gorge), but the band was still shaking off their own rust, so their energy did not sync up with the PacNW crowd. The band's energy levels felt forced in SB2 and when the band finally got cooking at the LA Forum, they were fighting against a huge wave of tepid energy from the schwilly LA crowd that was gacked up to the gills. Never saw that much blow at a Phish show before and I've seen 320 shows.
Alas, SF was a perfect Tinder match between the infectious crowd energy and the band's delirious energy. We have a symbiotic relationship with the band that becomes nuclear when both parties are fired up. No coincidence that there was plenty of Lucy and Molly going around, which proves my theory that the best shows coincide with high-quality party favors matriculating throughout the crowd. The band picked up on the audience's loaded-vibe right away and they picked tunes to match the raging party atmosphere. Too bad it takes a completely soused crowd to get Phish pumping.
First night in SF was Jon Fishman Appreciation Night on tour. Fish was jacked up. JACK'D UP! I suspect he was hanging and pre-partying with Barry Bonds before the show. Have you seen Phish's backstage rider recently? They feed Fish only raw meet and BALCO. As a result, he was a caged fucking animal that was finally unleashed. The boys brought out the GIMP and he properly fucked all of us.
Maybe it's just me, but I think I'd like 555 more if they didn't play it so much. It was really the only lowlight of the show for me. Ripping Maze, kinda sloppy as per usual, yet fueled by volcanic energy and the tension/release was orgasmic. Brian and Robert is rare these days... only 10 times played in 3.0 but I've been fortunate enough to catch 6/10. Stash jam seemed rushed, but it did not have to anchor the set. Fish was in full-on beast mode. Trey was tossing him chunks of raw meat and he was gobbling them whole.
Enter Party Time. If you had an orange pill, it was time to eat your stash. I took a blue pill before the show began, but doubled down on the orange pill. Holy shitballs, Batman. I was shithoused fried to the tits the rest of the show. The jubilant girl next to us was doing some sexy-ass dancing, dropping it like it was hot a few times. Serious advanced stripper moves including the hippie-twerk a few times. Sean was in love. I was impressed and popped a half-wood.
46 Days jam was all sizzle and no steak. Fishman ate it all. No meat leftover, but it was smoking sizzle. Turbo-charged set ender.
The hipsters in the crowd left at setbreak so we had little more space to dance for set 2. Everyone's party favors kicked in and Phish provided an appropriate accompanying soundtrack. Thumping and pumping opener with Sand, followed by a much tighter version of Birds (versus the abortion in SB1). Even the slow songs were well inserted because sometimes Trey kills momentum by calling a ballad or slow tune that sucks the life out of the room. Yet, Waiting All Night popped up at the right moment and it's been growing on me.
Then came the Ghost that I told all my friends about. I missed the slow, plodding intros of 1.0 Ghosts. Those days are dunzo. But this Ghost started off awkward. Mike Hamad clued us in that they were playing in the wrong key... which is par for the course these days with Ghost. They finally corrected the ship a few minutes in and then it was blastoff time. The last 10 minutes of Ghost is why I chase Phish around everywhere, but they can't get to those moments without some deep-space exploration. They dove into the cosmic abyss and pulled out some fun-psychedelic-astral jams. Ghost works when the entire band wants to play it and not just Trey forcing it on the other three guys (e.g. SB1 and Mann1). Definitely the highwater mark of the show and perhaps all of tour.
Bug is the band poking fun at themselves. Trey might forget sometimes, but at that moment they were self-aware and acknowledged that they are indeed overrated yet cashing their paychecks anyway. But we love them anyway despite their flaws and underachievements.
Seven Below delivered the goods. I forgot what song they were playing, which is always a good sign that the boys have taken the road less traveled. The 7-jam out was neck-and-neck with Ghost but I have not re-listened to it yet.
I love Fish hijinks accented by vac solos. Trey jumped on his kit, which meant that Gordo was the only member of the band not to play drums last night.
Short and sweet Chalkdust was a speed demon. We have been getting monstrous Chalks since it's taken on the role as a set 2 jam vehicle, but I kinda liked the old-school Chalkdust. Viable short cut to injecting much-needed energy into the crowd.
2001 was all echo. Man, if you were tripping balls and having auditory hallucinations, then you were in for a treat. One of the most joyous reactions to 2001 I have experienced in a long time. Felt like a sweaty orgy and the entire crowd was dancing, grooving, and getting down. Raver Phish. Even the stripper-burner girl was humping the floor. It might not translate well onto tape, but you cannot replicate the volcanic energy of being in the middle of the Monday night dance party versus rocking it out n couchtour.
Slave is my favorite song and thought I'd get it in LA or Chula Vista. But Slave always tickles my soul, even though the ending was rushed. But Slave really was the cherry on top of the Phish sundae. Any time Phish plays Slave, I consider it a good show.
The SF Giants are one win away from winning the World Series and Trey never passes up a chance to pander to the crowd so for the encore they busted out an instrumental rendition of Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Winterqueen was played for the folks who made the sign. Luckily, we got a Beatles cover to beef up the encore. I expected a big cover to end the show (like Loving Cup or GTBT), but A Day in the Life delivered.
Nearly sprinted out of the show into the cool San Francisco streets where the balloon mongers were waiting. One of the mafia capos was screaming "Pump it! Pump it!" That's how I felt about Phish all night. They were pumping it all night. I usually wait a day or so to let a show sink in before I can determine it's significance, but Sean and I were in agreement... SF BGCA1 was the best show this tour (albeit a 7-show sample). This bodes well with 2 more shows in SF and Vegas Halloween looming. Alas, as Fink put it best... we all know what Phish is capable of doing yet they still have not brought the heat. For whatever reason, they are holding back. Hoping that Monday night in SF was a large leap forward.
Quick links: 2014 Fall Tour Setlists (ALL)