Left Coast Phish. 9 shows in 12 days. LA > Reno > South Lake Tahoe > Reno > Seattle > The Gorge > Seattle > San Francisco > LA. Planes, casino buses, cars, bikes, and UBERs. Throw in a couple of 40+ hour benders and it felt like 9 shows in 10 days. I just finished my novel, Fried Peaches, that took me almost 4 years to write and I was ready to go balls to the wall to celebrate. I raged solo the first five shows before the wife jumped on tour in San Francisco for the last four.
I expected sloppy Phish in Tahoe and knew it would take 4 or 5 shows before Phish shook off the rust.
Didn't think twice about ski season in Tahoe. That slippery slope escalated fast and one innocent toot turned into an avalanche. The plate&straw friends from San Francisco were raging like rockstars and old habits reintroduced themselves. Lord knows last time I was jacked up and tripping balls, which is like sitting in the first car of the rollercoaster without a seat belt.
A burner friend handed me a toot box and we were off to the races during Carini. I was sweating like Patrick Ewing in the 4th quarter and waaaay too gacked up to enjoy Slave. Trey flubbed it and I remembered to let it go because it was still the start of tour.
How bad did the Tahoe bender get? I handed a coke straw to a cocktail waitress. She looked at me and fake-smiled. This was on camera too. Somewhere in a CIA safe house there's a digital copy of that embarrassing scene at Harvey's. I used to live in Vegas and shoulda known better. Total rookie move. Eye in the sky sees everything. Never leave the room with paraphernalia.
Gambled it up in Tahoe. Wildo and I won bets on the AL in the All Star Game. Wildo played blackjack at Harrah's after the first show. A wookling passed out in Seat 1 and the dealer woke him up. He hit on a 17... and busted. Phishheads in Nevada casinos? Printing money.
Crashed with a bunch of Cheesekids from Colorado. Their cabin was haunted. The shower was busto, the light flickered on and off like a scene from The Exorcist, and the adjoining door was stuck. When the maintenance guy came up to fix it, he flat out denied any paranormal activity, which convinced me he was lying.
Tahoe trash fiasco blown out of proportion. Nothing crazier than usual. Shakedown was not located behind the casino on the Nevada side of the state line, like it was in the past. This year, Shakedown vendors set up on the California side of the border, which meant the trash and excess balloons fell under the jurisdiction of South Lake Tahoe Police. Two states, two different police departments. One got the bucks, the other got the trash.
By the end of Tahoe, it was clearly obvious the band didn't practice as much as last summer. Phish didn't have the Baker's Dozen to whip themselves in shape. Plus, Trey and Gordo's own bands played the early summer festival circuit and they were meshing with other musicians not named Page and Fish. Tahoe was the preseason. So long as the band improved every night leading up to Curveball, that's all that mattered. Right?
I saw every Phish show at the Gorge, but this was the first three-night run. It was definitely the weirdest/darkest of all the runs (97-98-99-03-09-11-13-16-18). The wildfire set the tone for the run. The logistical nightmare getting in only complicated matters.
Getting inside the Gorge campground has always been problematic. After a redonkulous wait last time, I vowed to go in as early as possible to avoid a massive delay. And that was before the fires threw a monkey wrench into things. I woke up with reports of an apocalyptic fire that even jumped the interstate. Luckily, it was burning away from the Gorge. There was a simple detour in place where you could see huge swaths of burned land.
We bailed Seattle early on Friday and arrived at The Gorge before noon as the last batch of easy arrivals before shit grew out of hand. Reports from the front line were horrendous. Traffic backed up and didn't move for hours. The venue was understaffed and ill equipped to handle the rush. The gate workers had a meltdown according to LawnMemo. Fans took over the entry process at one point. One group of Deadhead friends from Cincy arrived in an RV at 3pm and were stuck in line all afternoon. They were still setting up camp when Phish took the stage.
It was so bad in 2016, Phish trolled LiveNation with a bombastic Crosseyed and a "Still Waiting" theme weaved into the set. You figured they'd learn from their mistakes and have a smooth operation this year. But, they didn't give a fuck. I chalked up all of the fiascos to under-staffing, which is a travesty when you know how much money LN rakes every year on us Phishheads.
The Gorge was off to a contentious start and Phish had yet to take the stage. By the end of the run, there would be two fans viciously attacked during one of the shows and white supremacists wandering the lot, with a rumored territory beef between the East Coast crew and the locals.
I camped out at the Gorge with Benjo from Paris and Sean from Colorado. Benjo made me a rockstar in France when he translated my book Lost Vegas into French. I turned him onto Phish at Festival 8 Halloween and he's been hooked since. The Gorge shows synced up with his work/vacation, so he was able to cross off a bucket list venue. Sean and I both lived in Seattle and had been to the Gorge before, but Benjo was the lone Gorge virgin in the group. I didn't want to ruin the surprise so I purposely did not send him any pictures.
"It's like a painting," an awestruck Benjo remarked upon seeing the Gorge for the first time.
I hung out with a pair of Europeans all weekend. Mitchell from London and Benjo from Paris have spent a lot of time in the USA on business trips and holidays, but they're still amazed by the vastness of America, especially the West. I kept emphasizing that we're throwing down with Phish in the middle of nowhere.
I scored mushroom chocolates in the first few minutes upon arrival. Those did the trick all weekend. After a snowy Tahoe, I was eager to go on a natural kick with lots of legal weed and shroomage. I scored Sass in Shakedown from a crunchy couple and it was so good, I wish I bought more. Someone else gifted me Fluff, which was mellow... almost too mellow.
First night I cleared security and a WA state trooper pointed to me and said "Make good decisions tonight!" I was on the verge of tripping and rolling my balls off and told him, "Yes sir!"
Gorge N1 featured some of my favorite playing of tour.... Simple, Sand, CDT... and there was a YaMar in there too, but those four songs spread out over the end of Set 1 and the beginning of Set 2 was sensational 53-54 min batch of Phish. That's probably favorite "hour" of Phish all summer.
Gorge N2 had several heavy hitters, but Phish kept Mike's Groove, Piper and Antelope on a short leash. Caspian/Velvet Sea in the same set sucked the air out of the floor.
So MPI. The Memo Pill Incident. @LawnMemo camped a couple spots down from us in Premier. Memo rolled up while I was in the middle of "show preparation", one of the the most crucial parts of Phish. I was sorting out my nightly stash, when I asked Memo if he needed anything.
"Cool take this. But only a half."
It was the last of what I refer to as the "pornstar molly" from L.A. Perhaps, I should have emphasized half, but I figured Memo could handle his mud. He's from Buffalo and those upstate NY boys on the border are tough as fuck with all that lake effect snow, drunken Bills fans, and the like. Besides, he wore a helmet, so how bad could it get?
Well, shit went sideways. These 5 tweets chronicled Memo's descent into schwillidom...
- Pill is fireI realized something was wrong mid-set 1 when my phone blew up with a flurry of concerned messages from different groups of friends. Most of the texts were similar to what the wife sent me: "Did you give Memo drugs?"
- Forgot I was at the Gorge.
- Blasted atrhe gorse. Amaxonln pwllleapke
- Vruemts fce. Nrugh.. Lobe you all
- Thik i wsd saoppwd to ne itd a
I often send out tweets, but avoid reading Twitter when I'm at a show. I missed all the Memo schwilliness. Okay, so we found out the hard way that Memo is a lightweight and thank Jerry that Dianna and Noah and friends took care of #SchwillyMemo. We've all been there at one point or another. Thank god I didn't give him any liquid. He'd probably end up tweeting gibberish for the rest of the year.
I found Memo after the show and he looked fine. I expected him to be humping a trash can, but he was coherent and grinning ear-to-ear. We took a late night stroll through Shakedown. Memo gave G-Money and I a tour of "Wook Shakedown" which was the red light district or Hamsterdam of Gorge gen pop. Memo does not do gas (despite the helmet), but he pointed out the balloon mongers were slinging their wares for 4 for $20. In Wook Shakedown, you could dance in the middle of a mini-rave with 100 or so people blasted out of their mind and a dozen more stuck in a K-hole for eternity. It was like the apocalypse version of an end of the world party with bathsalt zombies and other riff raff who boofed vodka-ketamine-soaked tampons for breakfast.
Final night of Gorge felt the most cohesive of the first five. I was rooting for Phish to put on a good performance to get everyone back on psychic track. N3 S2 was bookended by two of my favorites of the run: Crosseyed and Split Open and Melt. I hiked out of the Gorge satisfied with the performance and sorta impressed they had yet to do a repeat.
It was a weird weekend that got weirder as it went on. Maybe three nights at the Gorge was a stretch? The cracks started to show as early as Saturday, but by Sunday morning, everything devolved into a dingier scene, or what you'd expect after people have been up for three straight days drinking and drugging. The deeper into the binge, even the simplest tasks could lead to utter craziness. One minute you're walking to the toilet and the next you're in the back of a van snorting deemsters with a offshoot of a Rainbow family from Oregon, that may or may not be a cult and you swear the beer they offered you was tainted with an unidentified psychotropic drug that makes you donate all your money to the Leader and engage in daily naked yoga and wear orange robes to shows and only answer to your new name, Raji Europa.
I was super thrilled to get the fuck out of there on Monday morning with minimal injuries. Someone N1 had stepped on my left hand and fucked up my pinky, I slammed the cooler lid on my middle finger, and dislocated my right pinky finger (old football injury) and had to pop it back in. The overall security was a nightmare. Don't get me started about security line to get into the venue. I had easier TSA experiences. I watched a kid go through every nook and cranny in my wallet (it's a slimmy too, or half-wallet) presumably looking for hard drugs. He pulled out $100 bills and I barked, "I ate all my drugs for breakfast. Stop wasting our time. You're not going to find anything illegal in there. Only cash." No wonder it took so long to clear security with these nitwits. They gave us a thorough screening short of a body cavity search. Yet with all that enhanced security, two fans were still beat down (by locals most likely).
I saw the trashnado swirling winds gobble up tents and the wildfire scorch the Earth. Overall, everything I experienced at the Gorge was positive and my neighbors were pro ragers. It was rather unusual that things didn't get as crazy as it could have. It was impossible to escape the gossip and social media. Scores of friends not at the show were texting me about Nazis and violence. The rumors and darkness hung over the final night of the Gorge. The overall Gorge happiness came at a cost. Whenever you open up a portal, its gonna attract negative entities. Something was slightly off. Call it survivor's guilt. Nothing can compare to the horrors of Altamont, but surviving the Gorge was the closest you could get to flirting with the dark and deviant side of the psychedelic circus.
Indoor summer Phish is my favorite Phish, but it was a sauna inside Bill Graham. My pants were soaked until the next morning. Energetic crowd from the opening note. Any time you get a McGrupp, Gumbo and Axilla in the same set, it's a special one. Phish pulled off another set with no repeats, but they had to go back to square one with the start of Set 2 and MOMA. Still an impressive feat with 100+ songs to start a tour without a repeat.
SF N1 had one of my favorite second sets of the run anchored by ASIHTOS > Mercury > Carini. Mercury has been growing on me and they won a lot of other people over with the jam out. Carini was dank and dark as fuck. The boys were playing to my buzz on that one. Had to huff two doobs to come down from the Carini high.
At the Gorge, I met a hockey goalie from Montana through a common friend. The goalie saw his 9th show at The Gorge. I fed him shrooms and he had a blast. He had a work conflict and asked me to sell his SF tickets. I never intended to sell them because I knew he'd ask me for the tickets back. Sure enough, he texted me the day of the SF show wondering about the tickets. I knew he'd want to go. You always want to go to more shows. The goalie from Montana was pumped I didn't sell his tix and then caught his 10th and 11th shows at Bill Graham.
Things went from normal to fucking weird for the goalie when he met one of my Colorado friends, who assumed the goalie was a seasoned day tripper. The goalie was still a beginner in that realm, but somehow was on the receiving end of a double hit of liquid sunshine. The kid from Montana was a goalie, which required a ton of agility and mental toughness. I hoped he could handle the trip, otherwise we'd have to give him the emergency Valium if things got too weird. There were a few moments when I thought we'd have to pull the goalie. I thought he was gonna lose his mind (caught in that stage of laughing and crying simultaneously during Ocelot), but he regrouped and got his shit together at setbreak and was all smiles for the second set. The goalie survived the running of the Denver Bulls and passed the Acid Test.
Wildo stayed in a baller suite in Union Square, but his afterparty was shutdown by Google nerds, who were in town for a big convention and booked most of the hotel. The tech dorks complained about the noise and my phone hasn't worked right since we were booted by security.
Who woulda thought one of the biggest jams of the Summer of 2018 is from Set Your Soul Free? It was a 24-minute monster. Only Chalkdust from the Gorge can compare to SYSF, which kicked off N2 S2. Lizards encore sorta saved the show.
Someone was smoking DMT all of the second set in close proximity to us. I eventually figured out someone was ripping deemsters out of a vape pen. Butters and I almost went sideways digital from the abundance of second hand deemsters.
After hitting it hard for two shows in SF, the wife pulled a hero move and woke up at 6am to fly to LA and then work a full day. I dunno how she did it, but she managed to board a flight to Burbank and roll into work by 9am. By the time she finished her first meeting of the day, I was still in SF, sitting in the bathroom all sparkly, watching colorful drops of water trickle down the shower curtain.
Before we bailed SF, Sean and I went to brunch at one of our favorite cafes in the Tenderloin. We walked in and the hostess was wrestling a homeless woman after the panhandler refused to leave the joint and wiped her nose on a cook's towel. A group of European tourists were horrified and I blurted out, "Welcome to San Francisco."
Flew the Phish shuttle from SF>LA. Spunions flooded SFO. A wookette in flatbrim rolled into terminal blasting Phish on portable speaker. She celebrated clearing TSA successfully with the dank Carini.
Probably the only reason I survived this run was the final two nights of west coast tour were (adopted) hometown shows. Every drug dealer in town I knew was going to at least one of the shows, including my shrink from Beverly Hills.
Spent the first afternoon riding bikes with Sean from Venice Beach to Santa Monica. We avoided a dozen accidents with idiot tourists on Bird scooters.
I had low expectations for the Forum shows based on the questionable crowds in LA. Plus, bands often get caught up in the Hollywood moment and either try too hard or completely choke during LA gigs. In the past, I've witnessed Phish rise to the occasion and crush it at the Forum, but I've also seen them fall flat on their face at the Hollywood Bowl.
Strong Shakedown. Some of the best shows I saw had a hopping Shakedown before the show. If people are properly lubricated, then the band feeds off that energy. And there was no shortage of goods flowing in the Forum lot. Heck, even balloon mongers were slinging their wares in the middle of Shakedown.
Thought it was funny that the jam of the night originated from one of the newer songs Everything's Right. I was amazed that the boys went that deep so early in the show.
I lost my stash (actually I left it on my desk and never packed it) and was about to embark on a sober show until I was on the receiving end of a gift from a long-time reader. Never underestimate the gift of kindness from strangers at a Phish show. My new pal from Arizona sorted me out and I was ready to let loose for N1.
A skater bro from Costa Mesa tried to hard sell me an 8-ball during Everything's Right. I was thrilled when he finally moved onto someone else.
Bumped into my shrink with a man-bun. After an awkward exchange I hit him up for a script to Modafonil.
My back was killing me for most of the show. My age was showing after 7 shows in 9 days. I couldn't take it anymore, bolted off the floor and headed into one of the 200 level sections. I found an entire row to myself near the top. I sat down and huffed a doob to Mike's Song.
I thought about rushing back to the floor with everyone else for Slave, but held my ground. I rocked out solo for Slave and enjoyed my favorite song without having to shush a chatty cokefiend from Laguna Beach.
Irving Azoff does not oversell the floor at the L.A Forum, which is perfect because everyone has ample dance space. The area behind the board was a hilarious mix of spinners, schwasted souls, and key bumpers.
N1 felt like it was waaaaay more heads than locals. Seemed like everyone who wanted to be there... was there... while the scensters skipped Friday. Influx of California heads from SF and SD, along with significant amount of out of towners. The double show facilitated more out of town guests, which was cool.
The locals often frown upon Friday concerts because they have to bolt out of work early and fight rush hour traffic and find expensive parking while somehow grabbing dinner/drinks and meeting up with the sketchy dealer because the main guy is always busy of Fridays and won't drive crosstown to drop off $50 worth of blow. Traffic and parking are huge deal breakers in LA, which is why you never throw a party on a Friday and opt for a Saturday night blowout. A Saturday show is less of a hassle and the good coke/molly guy is restocked and happily making house calls, which is why I expected a bigger crowd for Saturday. At the same time, a bigger crowd equated to more chatty cokeheads to drown out the music. If Phish opted for slower tunes or mellow dad rock numbers, the hipster-cokeheads would win the face off.
Phish sacrificed Chula Vista for a second night at the Forum. I like Chula as a venue, but it felt great to not have to fight traffic down to Chula, past San Diego to the Mexico border, and then drive back to LA after the show.
Phish pulled off a strong show on Saturday in LA despite leaving several heavy hitters off the setlist. We were lucky and found an ideal spot just in front of the soundboard where the schwilly dancers outnumbered the chatty cokeheads. Your show neighbors can make/break a show, especially in LA.
On N2, I got lost three times in jams at the start of S2. Anytime you get lost once is a good thing, but I got lost twice during the Jibboo jam and I had to ask Change100 what song they were playing both times. I was also lost during Fuego. And for a second night in a row, the big jam of the night came out of nowhere from one of the newer songs. I'm a total Soul Planet hater and encouraged everyone to change the lyrics to CAT PLANET to make it a funnier song. But hey, they jammed the fuck out of it.
The Coachella girls with the $1,000 purses seemed out of place at the show at first glance, but as the night went on, they really got into it. They were super slick and could snort a line off the back of their phone and post a selfie in one single fluid motion. You'd be amazed at some of the talent in this town.
With the LA shows in the books, I survived the West Coast run. 9 shows in 12 days. I'm skipping the next nine shows and resting up for the playoffs. I'm hopping back on tour in time for Curveball and Dicks.
Tahoe N1: Moma (~14), Ghost (16), No Man's (17)
Tahoe N2: N/A
Gorge N1: Simple (14+), Sand (~11), Chalkdust (24)
Gorge N2: Tweezer (14+), Golden Age (13+)
Gorge N3: Wombat (11+), Crosseyed (18), Melt (18)
SF N1: ASIHTOS (14+), Mercury (16), Carini (14)
SF N2: Set Your Soul Free (24)
LA N1: Everything's Right (13), Wolfmans (14), DWD (14)
LA N2: Jibboo (14), Fuego (17), Soul Planet (16)