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Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Mason-Dixon Line Run: Camden/Merriweather Review

   After a barn burner in Darien Lake - no pun intended - they boys headed to Camden, the sight of last years musical explosion. The city heat was nothing like last years 103 degrees - the same went for inside. Shakedown was at its normal fever pitch; in fact, the crackheads were even sucking down balloons hours before gate opening. At least they used to wait until darkness fell. As we made our way to our 4th row Fishman-side seats we walked past a girl that exclaimed - totally out of blind faith - that Phish would open with Rocky Top. We settled in as her friends clowned her for predicting a seemingly most improbable opener. The clowning ended quickly with the first Rocky Top (3:41) opener since 10/7/99. The second Mike's Groove in as many shows bummed out many of the touring phans in attendance, especially considering the magical Mike's > FEFY > Weekapaug from Darien the night before. Regardless, we'll always take a classic Mike's (7:17) > Hydrogen (2:59) > Weekapaug (10:01) any day. Smoke billowed from the crowd as they blasted into a decently psychedelic Stash (14:07) before...dude, who is requesting this song? Is it a joke I'm unaware of? Is it a Fishman joke? Is there an unwritten 2011 rule that says "If we hear it, we must play it"? Are phans actually requesting this fucking song?? Something is up, because Tube used to be the shit. People use to yearn for this funk fest. Now I dread it. And this Tube (3:31) was especially horrible. Not just short, horrible. A standard Guyute (10:34) followed. Just as my head began shaking in disapproval, the boys brought the phaithful right back in with an always sick Guelah Papyrus (5:31) > Scent of a Mule (8:04), and Cavern (4:32). The sick song choices continued, but unfortunately they BUTCHERED Sloth (4:50) and played a sloppy, but eventually sick Curtain With (15:00), the longest song of a show that included several standard suites. 
   Set Two opened with the second DWD (13:07) of 2011, paling in comparison to Gordo's birthday Disease. DWD > Free (7:02).  The FOURTH Possum (10:33) in 13 shows followed...kill me. The energy spiked during BBFCFM (5:11), which melted into the third Swept > Steep (7:40 total) of 3.0, and only the second since SPAC 6/20/10. The FOURTH, and horribly short, Bowie (10:51) of 2011...HA, they played it 1/1/11 - you were about to correct me weren't you - and the THIRD of this tour followed. I'm telling you guys, I complained about this in my last blog, and here we went again. Is Phish reading my blog and shoving these songs up our asses? Doubtful...there are some theories, but I'm not in the mood. I think it's just a bread-and-butter type thing. Julius (8:21) popped off, and seemed like a set ender, but the first Golgi (4:41) since AC followed and > Fluffhead (14:12). A very strangely placed Joy (6:46) ended the set. The boys played what a good friend, Phish vet, and unbelievable musician called "a drunken bar-band" version of Bold As Love (5:46) for the encore, and I have to say, I agree. Camden had it's moments - and trust me, after Phish's second hiatus I vowed to NEVER turn my nose up at another Phish song, let alone a show - but for those of us hoping for a return to the style of play we saw in Camden in 2010, we were disappointed. But it's not 2010, it's 2011. If I had to apply one of those ridiculous 1-out-of-10 ratings, I would give this show a 5.5. The highlights were Rocky Top, Guelah Papyrus, Scent, Curtain With, Swept Away > Steep, Julius. Other than that it was a conglomerate of oddly placed sometimes sloppy standard tunes. Hey, they can't all be gems.
   Next up was Merriweather, and the last show in Merriweather in 2010 ended up being one of the best shows of summer tour, if not the entire year. Temperatures and humidity were up - the weather, although mostly sunny, was miserable. The cops and other security were more lax than usual, but then again we showed up "late" and ended up in the furthest lot from the venue we could possibly be in.  Well, it was a mile. It seemed like the furthest lot from the venue. We had lawn tickets for this show - our only lawn tickets of the summer just happen to be ON THE WORST FUCKING LAWN IN THE COUNTRY - so we were immediately looking for our way down. The reason I make this point is because the sound is terrible out there and you literally can't see the band. At least other terrible lawns - SPAC for instance - have decent sound. This place sports three stacks smaller than what Hendrix used to rock on stage and they're placed on the left, center, and right directly facing straight. Absolutely ridiculous. Compound it with the fact that EVERY OTHER FUCKING PERSON TALKS DURING THE ENTIRE FUCKING SHOW AT THIS PLACE and you have one shitty situation. The first Daniel Saw The Stone (2:53) of 3.0 (137 shows, 8/3/03) set the place off, although I could barely hear it. We had to move over during AC/DC Bag (6:38) because these douchey yuppies were double fisting 4-packs of Bud Limes and talking louder by the second. Guys, you're at the wrong show. I don't know what show you should be at, but it's not ours. Go talk about the frat days at the local bar. Ocelot (10:11) followed, then the fourth Access Me (4:04) ever, and the first since 10/26/10 in Manchester. A slightly butchered Vultures (7:04) was still well received, and by the time we got into the pavilion for the real sound, the band was neck deep in a Wilson (5:29) > Sand (10:24) segue. A short but rocking Roses Are Free (5:54) > a bomb Reba (11:55), which was followed by a sick On Your Way Down, before continuing the Repeat Party with the THIRD Antelope (11:04) of the tour. At least the Antelope had On Your Way Down teases.
   Second Set opened with Birds (6:04), and then a dark and popping Tweezer (10:18), which > The Horse (1:02) > Silent In The Morning (5:14) > Waves (7:13) > Chalkdust (6:17). Some amazing moments in that half-hour, including Fishman and Trey blasting BOAF teases during Chalkdust. A rarish middle-of-the-second-set Rock 'n' Roll (5:06) blasted > Columbia jam (5:58) before harmonizing the third Albuquerque (4:02) of 3.0. It was beautiful and > a sick Piper (10:34) > Wading In The Velvet Sea (6:15) > the third 2001 of tour (I'll take it EVERY DAY) > a sick STFTFP (5:26) > Suzy Greenberg (8:22). I hate, if you can even hate a Phish tune, Suzy Greenberg. Still, Page slayed it so it worked. The only break after Birds came after Chalkdust. Speaking of Birds, it was teased throughout. The set had it limp parts, but the set blasted off for the most part. The boys encored Show Of Life at the Saturday show for the second year in a row, which > TweepriZe (3:49). This show had some flubs, a few oddly placed songs and more redundant repeats - is that saying the same thing twice? Is it an accidental pun?? - but on the whole was a pretty rocking show. Still, many of us wanted a little more as we sat around the hotel partying after the show. Ask and ye shall receive...
   An actual pavilion ticket that belongs to you is a beautiful thing at Merriweather. This show had to blast off. The weather was nicer, the cops/security were nicer, the lot was quasi-clackin', and we were with friends we hadn't seen since last summer and fall tours. As my boy Swenson and I walked in, he kicked a pipe that someone had dropped on the ground right over to the five cops that were working extra security at the gate. They looked down, then looked back up at us. As if we had been through it a thousand times, we both put our hands up in unison and exclaimed "That's not ours, man, we swear"...just as the cop who was closest laughed and said "You might want to pick that up and put it away"...WHAT?!?! Every cop was smiling, even after some wook went over and "claimed" the pipe. Wow, I never expected that from the local cops. Much respect...this time around. Trey asked the pit people to lower their signs so that everyone could see them blast off into Buried Alive (4:02) to open the show, the first of its kind since Charlotte (7/2/10). Then Lonesome Cowboy Bill (3:01) for the first time in 3.0, only the second since 2.0 (7/30/03) and the seventh time EVER! This show was launching off. HA HA HA (1:47, only the third since 1.0)!!! Holy shit! For some ridiculous reason Phish decides to play Sample In A Jar (4:57) when no breather was yet necessary, but it > Divided Sky (15:18) and shit got crazy. Wolfman's Brother (8:01) followed before Mike popped off Boogie On (8:02) > a THICK Gumbo (4:26). A too short Halley's Comet (5:47) still brought us to the central part of town right > Bathtub Gin (10:51) > Jesus Left Chicago (8:37). said it, man. Character...meh...Zero (8:20) to end the set. Three bust-outs and some deep, sick jams. We were back to business.
   Set Two opened with the first Party Time (5:49) since Amherst (10/23/10) and it was on.  BLAST OFF: Crosseyed And Painless (10:15) > Steam (10:19) > Light (9:35) > The Wedge (5:43). Dude, WHAT?!?! Almost 36 minutes of mayhem. With a nice breeze no less. Alaska (9:59) was followed by a predictable Hood (9:32, with an INCREDIBLE lawn AND pavilion glow stick war) > BDTNL (7:11). A rockin' Loving Cup (7:28) finished the set. The encore was something out of this world. Sanity (5:10, for only the second time in history - 3/11/92 Colonial Theater, Keene, NH; sixth time since 11/30/98) > Makisupa (4:14, a little sloppy, no real jam, but some funny dialogue about blunts and bundt cake) > First Tube (7:29). UNBELIEVABLE. There is an 11:00 curfew at Merriweather and it was 11:24 by the time Phish's spaceship launched off to go home. Considering the show started ~7:50, we're talking at least three hours of HEAT. And a hefty fine. Thanks, boys, we appreciate the love. This show immediately injected itself into the "one of the best show of the summer so far" conversation - and deservedly so. 
   So although we got off to a slow start, by the time Phish wrapped things up Sunday night the place was on fire. For the second Sunday Merriweather show in a row Phish busted out and popped off. Old school and new school. Just think: The First Set included Buried Alive, Lonesome Cowboy Bill, and Ha Ha Ha...and the Second Set included an EPIC Steam > Light. Old and new...just like we like it. The take-home message? Never miss a Sunday Merriweather show. Phish heads off to Alpharetta next, the site of last years First Leg finale. Last year we got some of the best Phish in history, and this years shows were some of the first to sell out - although that's starting to look like the work of scalpers by the looks of StubHub. Either way, Phish blasted off from Merriweather Sunday night and it seems they won't land until Tuesday in Alpharetta. See you there.

- Trigger Treinta Uno

Thanks to LivePhish & for set list help and the Courtyard Marriot-Columbia for being so cool. And the cops, too, you guys surprised us.

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