Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dead 50 Recap: Santa Clara Sunday

Here's Saturday's recap.

Up before the dawn hanging out in the hotel lobby. I asked the trio of older heads ('78-'83 tour rats) what they thought of Trey. They weren't into Phish, but the overall consensus was Trey did his homework and sounded good, yet restrained. We ate brunch with random Raiders fans in the East Bay, then re-upped at a San Jose dispensary with a tasty hybrid Animal Cookies (Fire OG x Girl Scout Cookies). We headed to Santa Clara shortly after the lots opened. Traffic flowed slightly better. We had a parking pass in one of the rare lots that let you tailgate and we pre-partied it up without hassles. The Kentucky crew stopped by with their own whiskey. Our base was adjacent to the Blue lot where mini-Shakedown was located, which was nothing close to a proper Shakedown from stadium shows of the past (where it resembled more a bazaar filled with carnival merchants versus a few easy-up tents and half-assed tie-dye shirts piled on a tarp). Compared to Saturday, the lot scene significantly bigger and more vibrant, yet still relatively dry on the liquid sunshine department. My pipe dream about scoring one last hit of 60s LSD was never going to happen. We found someone slinging Oregon Blueberry cartridges (hash oil for vape pens). Saw few wooks walking around with plastic bags filled with light-green popcorn nugs "Medicine. Get your medicine. $10 a gram!" Luckily we came across the choco-shroom guy.

For a second night in a row, Senor was the man and scored us great tix a mere four rows off the floor in the back corner. Perfect vantage point for rainbow/UFO holograms and great spot to watch amped-up security guards try to catch wooks jumping the wall. Johnnie Salami had tix on the floor but he managed to toss me a headytreat over the heads of two ushers. Touchdown. My girlfriend and I sat in a mellow section filled with older heads. Most of the fans I chatted with did not see the previous night, so Sunday was their only show. The only knuckleheads in our section were a skeevy couple behind us puffing on some sort of meth/bathsalt concoction (he spent most of the show with his t-shirt over his head and huffing on his pipe).

Sunday was a tad smoother on the logistical front, but Levi's Stadium was still understaffed and overwhelmed. Inmates ran the asylum in most parts. Piano/keys section (Bruce and Jeff) sounded louder in the mix. I went in with minimal expectations but everything flowed better musically. The highs were a little higher, while the lows were not as cringeworthy. Trey continued to be the pawn between Bobby and Phil's ongoing cold war power struggle. Seemed like Phil wanted Trey to let it rip and kick it into high gear, whereas, Bobby ripcorded a few potential mammoth moments.

Show started an hour early because the venue had an 11pm curfew. The entire first set occurred with the sun still out. Something special about that breezy Sunday church-vibe being in the sunny outdoors with the ministry of the Grateful Dead. Feel Like A Stranger kicked off the first set. On both nights, Weir had a commanding vocal presence before he ran out of gas and petered out by the end of the show. Weir was on point with Stranger and New Minglewood. Jeff and Trey got lil mini solos at the onset of Brown-Eyed Woman. Bruce Hornsby sang lead vocals on BEW and you wondered why he didn't sing more. Alas, this is Phil/Bobby's band and not The Range. Loose Lucy was a personal favorite. Made me wonder who would be a better lot-girlfriend? Loose Lucy or Suzy Greenberg? Got to hear Bruce sing again on Loser. The more he sang, the more the crowd wanted to hear more of him. Row Jimmy was an "Andrew Takes a Piss Song" but it was also one of the more sullen moments all weekend. Sometimes you can't acid confronting the pain of missing Jerry until you hear someone else sing  Jerry ballads. The first licks to Alabama Getaway created a huge jolt of energy that ignited the crowd. Trey sang lead and I could see Phish busting out that uppity crowd pleaser this summer. Black Peter was another tough one to listen to. Tepid version and the severity of the nostalgia was too heavy to handle on a head full of shrooms. Some days, bittersweet Jerry ballads can really put a lump the size of a basketball in your throat. Hell In a Bucket was the highlight of the set... perhaps the show... and perhaps the run. We finally got to hear what Trey can do when he doesn't drive the bus on cruise control with a quick burst of classic machine-gun Trey melded with Jerry's UFO riffs.

Another long setbreak, but another chance to catch up with friends. It was a family reunion for the bulk of fans that had not seen each other in years, or decades in some instances. Again, if you had a wheelbarrel of Adderall you would not have gotten ten feet before selling out. I need a little halftime pep speech in the form of a 15mg Adderall. To quote Dock Ellis, "I was high as a Georgia Pine."

Sun dipped down at setbreak. No rainbow holograms. Mississippi Half Step kicked off the final set in Santa Clara. What happened to Donna Jean? No invite to DJ? Wharf Rat melded into cosmic jam that really coulda took off into deep space, but they eased off the pedal and slid into a bouncy version of Eyes of the World. Buoyed by sweet playing by Jeff and Trey, just when Eyes got cooking Buzzkill Weir pulled the plug. He's Gone was rough. Too many bad memories. Jerry Garcia died in 1995, yet many Deadheads will agree that Jerry's spirit died many years before. I followed the Grateful Dead during their death rattle years (92-95), when the band was on auto-pilot during those tours that were primarily for lifestyle maintenance. Hey, it was one helluva party that had a couple of sincere moments every night. Felt a gentile cool breeze during the crowd sing-along toward the end of He's Gone. More Mickey EDM madness during Drums. More people watching. Super spunions and young kids grooving down hard to the rhythm devils. Got sucked into the video screen and the images of Jerry's hand (with missing finger) looked like ginormous tarantulas. They pulled out of Space with I Need A Miracle. I pulled a MacGyver and used my shoelace to unclog the one-hitter. Bobby went all bluesy with Death Don’t Have No Mercy. Decent job, but how about a Dead tune instead of a cover? Or if you do a cover, how about Dear Mr. Fantasy (with Trey shredding the Dave Mason parts and Bruce Hornsby singing the Winwood parts)? Sugar Magnolia induced a crowd sing-along. Stadium full of happy people. Hard not to feed off that collective positive energy. Even the few folks still sitting down got up and danced away for the the last song of the set.

Phil did his donor rap speech and Weir asked for a moment of silence for the guys who were not there. The solo encore of Brokedown Palace was sung by Weir. As a teenager at Dead shows, I'd watch in bewilderment at grown middle-aged men weeping when Jerry sang Brokedown Palace. I never fully understood it... the lyrics... the embodiment of the song until now. Hard not to get washed away in emotions when you hear the lyrics... "Mama, Mama, many worlds I've come since I first left home." I got two decades of living under my belt. Hard living. Balls to the wall, full speed ahead. Logged lots miles on the road less traveled. Millions of memories and more heartbreak for seventy lifetimes. I'm someone who tries to live completely in the present, which means I don't get stuck in the past too often. I don't re-visit those memories too often, so when those memories come back... they hit me hard. I completely under estimated the overwhelming power of the Dead 50 weekend... smashing the dams in my brain that held back decades-worth of memories... spent the entire weekend flooded with old memories of being on tour and enjoying the Dead with friends from all walks of life. When I first went on Dead tour, it was really the first step in my journey as a writer, so it was a mind-trip to come full circle. Intense moments. Flashbacks within flashbacks. Vibrant, rich, crystal clear memories flickering through my brain. Really tough to sleep after that astounding experience.

Final thoughts... with each show the band sounded better and Trey got a little more confident. You gotta re-listen to Hell in a Bucket. This bodes well for the Chicago run despite the small sample size. I'm with the consensus sentiment that I wanted more of Trey pushing the envelope on jams and utilizing Bruce Horsnby on the Jerry tunes instead of Phil/Bobby. I doubt the vocal arrangements will change, but hoping that they unleash Trey. Grateful Dead, much like life, was always about what you make of it. The location and musicality of Dead 50 were nothing close to being perfect, but for many of us, it was one last chance to spend time with old friends and get reacquainted with the warm, indescribable, yet infectious vibe of one final Grateful Dead show.

 Here's Saturday's Santa Clara recap.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Dead 50 Recap: Santa Clara Saturday

I saw the first flash of tie-dye at LAX. My flight to San Jose on Friday night was sprinkled with Deadheads. Johnnie Salami picked me up, we hit up a local San Jose dispensary, and scored  Phantom Cookies and The White. Roamed around Walmart late night to load up on supplies for the lot. My girlfriend had her birthday the night before and flew in from LA on Saturday morning, so we were celebrating her birthday weekend with Dead50. We headed to the lots soon as they opened. We had a parking pass but it wasn't the stadium lot and looked like we parked in front of Hooli or Aviato in a tech office park. Rent-a-cops wouldn't let us party in the lot and directed us to the Blue lots. We dragged the cooler and camp chairs to Blue and set up shop. Found the Kentucky crew and they humored my girlfriend's cinnamon-flavored whiskey. A mini-shakedown popped up and for a stadium show, the lot scene was kinda weak. Lot of aimless wandering by everyone  seeking mood and mind enhancing substances, but the lot was dry except for cheap weed, edibles, and extra tickets. Even the molly-heads were parched with the molly cartel printing money at Electric Forrest. I had a pipe dream that the last-ever manufactured batches of Owsley's white lightning would come out of a vault somewhere and flood the lot for one last time at Dead50. Nope. Everyone was on their own. Saw wookette slinging foot-long joints for $15. Seemed like every fifth person in Shakedown had an extra ticket they couldn't get rid of. Even GA floors were going for $50. Wook-heavy crowd. Like hard-core Alpha Wooks seeing civilization (south of Humboldt/Mendocino Counties) and descending from ganja plantations for the first time in twenty years. "Why is everyone staring at their palms?"

Tours were always about the "hurry up and wait" variety. Figured the lines to get in would be massive. You only got a patdown if you set off a metal detector. Everyone got a complimentary rose at the entrance. Finding our seats were a clusterfuck. We finally met up with Senor who hooked us up with tickets. Poor crowd control. The ushers were overwhelmed. The inmates were running the asylum from the get go. Forgot how massive stadium shows were, especially with spun-out hippies taking up every possible space to dance. The band started tuning up and we got to our seats seconds before Truckin' kicked off. I went in with minimal expectations because the Grateful Dead were notoriously famous for blowing/choking their biggest shows (e.g. Monterrey Pop, Woodstock, any NYE gig, etc.). Since Jerry died, any incarnation of Phil and Friends, Ratdog, Furthur, Other Ones always had the appropriate vibe, but musically it was hit or miss. I figured they'd shake off the rust and nerves on Saturday and bring the heat on Sunday.

Truckin' opener was fitting on a personal level. First-time I ever heard the Dead was Truckin' on classic rock radio in NYC in early 80s. When I was 18 during my first year of college, a group of us on my college dorm were obsessed with Uncle's John's Band blasting it at all hours. Two songs in and the memory flashbacks were intense... random stuff I had not thought about in decades. Ah, the power of music jogging the memory banks. The night before, I saw the leaked setlist on Reddit. By the third song, my girlfriend confirmed the leaked setlist was 3 for 3. Too bad I didn't bet on it. Felt the band took it up a notch on the energy level with Alligator > Cumberland Blues. First time they really opened up a jam. When I couldn't score anything in Shakedown, I relied on my own personal stash. Everything kicked in during Cumberland. Went way back in time with Born-Cross Eyed... wondered how many in attendance caught the original acid tests? The Illuminati approved of Trey singing on Cream Puff War. I'm hoping that one of the songs Trey sung from Dead50 run will pop up on Phish summer tour. Viola Lee Blues was the song that sealed the deal for me 16 years earlier when Trey and Page joined Phil and Friends in April 1999. They absolutely crushed Viola and I knew Trey could at least hold his own with Dead material. Certainly the Dead50's version of Viola was a different, mellower beast, but one of the standout jams from the first set. Just when everyone got cooking...the set ended. Short first set. Seven songs. What happened to the rumored two-hour opening set? Then again, toward the end of their run, the Dead could pull a 45-minute quickie on you and rush off stage before you could light a doobie. Initial impressions: planes flying overhead super trippy! Trey meshed well, but seemed passive. Bobby's vocals started out sharp. I couldn't hear the piano/keys in the mix. Only time I could distinguish Jeff C or Bruce Hornsby was during one of their solos. The drummers looked like they were having the most fun. Oh, and every time Bill Walton appeared on the video screen, the crowd applauded.

The rainbow conspiracy. We had scattered clouds and I felt a few drops throughout the first set. I went to Japan to see Phish in 2000, and an rainbow appeared over the outdoor show (in Tokyo's Hibyia Park) during the Character Zero encroe, and the usually reserved Japanese crowd went berserk. I went to Lockn last year and Jeff Tweedy got all surly because a rainbow appeared during Wilco's set and he got upstaged by Mother Nature. The crowd at Dead50 went nuts over the rainbow. One woman in front of me squealed, "It's Jerry smiling down from heaven." Big LULZ to whomever trolled Billboard about the rainbow hologram. If you gonna blow 50K on special holograms, they shoulda paid a little more cash for a bloated Pig Pen taking a swig of a jug of cheap wine or how about a 1977-era Jerry Garcia with an afro full of black hair? Then again, there's a part of my brain that flashes me a warm-fuzzy image of the end of Return of the Jedi with the ghosts of Yoda and Obi Wan watching the party from afar with Jerry Garcia, Pig Pen, Brent, and Keith.

Long setbreak. Over an hour. Reminded me of the shows I saw in 92-95 when the break was usually longer than the first set. Alas, setbreak gave me more time to catch up with friends, watch home videos of Jerry Garcia scuba diving, and soak up my favorite past time -- people watching.  I could write 50K words on some of the unusual characters, extra terrestrials-hiding-among-us, and waaaaay-gone acid casualties I encountered this weekend. When I'm at Phish, I'm definitely one of the older fans... but with the Grateful Dead, I was always the Gen-X teenager who hung out with middle-aged hippie Baby Boomers. At this point, I'm their age now. There was a nice collection of younger college-aged fans at Santa Clara, but for the most part the majority of the tie-dyed-clad crowd was older than me. That meant lot more sitting down for lengthy parts of the show. You'd make a killing slinging Adderall during the Drums/Space segments. Hey, I'm not making fun of old people... I was gobbling 15mg Adderalls like candy to turbo-charge my own depleted energy reserves. Besides, Bob Weir had a stool onstage so he could rest just in case he doubled-down on his Vicodin and started to nod out in the middle of Dark Star.

Cryptical was another throwback that kicked off the second set. The background video screens stood out more when the sun went down. Dark Star might have been the first intergalactic jam vehicle. The Dead had been using it to contact the Mothership for almost half of a century. I was most excited to hear St. Stephen... like a kid on Christmas morning. I never caught St. Stephen in 46 Grateful Dead shows. They stopped playing it four years before my first show. Trey whipped up a reserved solo and it seemed like Phil was encouraging him to really open it up and let it rip. The first big flub of the night worth mentioning occurred during The Eleven and it did not have anything to do with its weird time signature. Bob Weir threw his arms up at one point after mixing up the lyrics. I burned down a fatty joint during Lovelight in honor of Pig Pen ("Get your hands outta yo pockets!") Drums were the perfect opportunity to patch those old bones. Pretty much everyone sat in our section who wasn't born after 1987 or was dosed to the gills and dancing their ass off. Kinda funny to watch creepy old guys ogle scantily-clad Burner girls getting down during Mickey Hart's EDM express. After segueing out of Space, Phil sang a gravely What’s Become of the Baby. I'd like to meet the few folks still alive who saw it the one time the Dead actually played it. I'm a bad Deadhead because I did not recognize that song. I texted Andrew, who was on fleek with his Dead knowledge, and informed me about its appearance on the B-side of Aoxomoxoa. One particular lyric from the Other One summed up a lot of our initial forays into the Dead subculture... "The bus came by and I got on, that's when it all began." Morning Dew still held its emotional poignancy, but felt like everyone ran out of gas by the end of the set. Bruce Hornsby sang lead vocals on Casey Jones encore. Really the first time felt Bruce's impact on the show. He still has great pipes. It's always a good show when your favorite band encores your favorite song... Casey Jones

Top 5 song I can't wait to re-listen (in order of appearance): Viola, Dark Star, St. Stephen, Lovelight, and Casey Jones. As I was walking out with my girlfriend who was clutching her rose, I thought about what Senor said, "It's been a while since I saw so many happy people gathered in one place."

Here's Sunday's Santa Clara Dead 50 recap.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dead 50 Setlist: Sunday 6/28/15 Grateful Dead, Santa Clara, CA - Fare Thee Well

Another evening of Dead 50 celebrations concluded with the second of two night-run in Santa Clara.

For updates from inside the show and from the lot, follow @CoventryMusic via Twitter. As always, any updates are "weather dependent."

Custy up your couch tour and buy the webcast over at Nugs.tv. You'll be able to watch it On Demand for 30 days.

 Here's what you missed on Sunday...

6/28/16 Dead 50 Setlist, Fare Thee Well, Santa Clara, CA

Set 1: Feel Like a Stranger, New Minglewood, Brown Eyed Woman, Loose Lucy, Loser, Row Jimmy, Alabama Getaway, Black Peter, Hell In A Bucket

Set 2: Mississippi Half Step, Wharf Rat > Space > Eyes of the World, He’s Gone > Drums > I Need a Miracle, Death Don’t Have No Mercy, Sugar Magnolia

E: Brokedown Palace

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Dead 50 Setlist: Saturday 6/27/15 Grateful Dead, Santa Clara, CA - Fare Thee Well

We migrated up the coast to Santa Clara for the first of two shows in Santa Clara to celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead. Both of my worlds are colliding -- Grateful Dead and Phish -- with Trey Anastasio playing the role of Jerry Garcia for these shows.

For updates from inside the show and from the lot, follow @CoventryMusic via Twitter. As always, update are "weather dependent," but that's part of the charm with unpredictable, half-baked, spun-out tweets.

If you want to custy up for the webcast, head over to Nugs.tv.

So here's what you missed on the opening night...

6/27/15 Dead 50 Fare Thee Well Setlist, Santa Clara, CA

It appears the leaked set list is legit. Check it out:

SET 1 Truckin’ , Uncle John’s Band , Alligator > Cumberland Blues, Born Cross Eyed , Cream Puff War (Trey singing) , Viola Lee Blues

SET 2 Cryptical>Dark Star> St. Stephen> The Eleven> Lovelight> Drums>What’s Become of the Baby>Space> Other One>Morning Dew

E. Casey Jones (Bruce Hornsby singing)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Phish Amsterdam 1997 Box Set

The latest Live Phish release includes three full shows from Amsterdam 1997, during one of the band's most prolific years.

Phish performed at historic Paradiso in Amsterdam three times in 1997 during two separate trips to Europe that year. The first show was a single gig in February 1997 during a 2-week tour of Europe to support the release of the Billy Breathes album. Later that year, Phish returned to Europe for an extended summer tour and played back-to-back shows in Amsterdam smack in the middle of their 4-week sojourn.

Amsterdam was a little crazy in the 1990s. This was before the Euro took over as the unified currency, and the Dutch Gilder had a great conversion rate and your US dollars went a long way in a town that catered to all of your darkest vices. You could still buy magic mushrooms at "smart shops" and get loaded to the gourd on Moroccan hash at a local coffeeshop. The nefarious weirdness that lurks in the shadows of the canals combined with the harmonic vibrations cramped into every nook and every cobblestone of Amsterdam fostered a fertile creative environment at the Paradiso. As a result... we were gifted with three explosive shows. 

The first show from 2.17.97 includes two debuts: first-ever Carini and a cover of Marley's Soul Shakedown Party.

Overall highlights from this box set includes... 30-minute Stash, 24-min Cities, 22-min Ghost, 21-min Carini, and 17-min Reba.

Phish Amsterdam Setlists....
2/17/1997 Paradiso, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Set 1: Soul Shakedown Party, Divided Sky, Wilson > My Soul, Guyute, Timber Ho > Billy Breathes, Llama, Bathtub Gin > Golgi Apparatus

Set 2: Squirming Coil -> Down with Disease -> Carini -> Taste -> Down With Disease > Suzy Greenberg > Prince Caspian

Encore: Sleeping Monkey > Rocky Top
* * * *

7/1/1997 Paradiso, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Set 1: Ghost, Horn, Ya Mar, Limb By Limb -> Ain't Love Funny, Saw It Again, Dirt, Reba, Dogs Stole Things

Set 2: Fishman Piano Jam -> Timber Ho > Bathtub Gin -> Cities, Loving Cup > Slave

Encore: When the Circus Comes to Town

* * * *

7/2/1997 Paradiso, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Set 1: Mike's Song > Simple -> Maze, Strange Design, Ginseng Sullivan, Vultures, Water in the Sky > Weekapaug

Set 2: Stash -> Llama -> Wormtown Jam -> Wading in the Velvet Sea

Encore: Free
Encore 2: David Bowie
Pick up your Phish Amsterdam box set today via Phish Dry Goods.