March 14, 2003

New Jersey Blues

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

24 Feb 03

It was cold and I realized that we wandered through the parking lot, right next to the security line to get in the show and decided that since that’s where we have to eventually be, we’d might as well just wait there. I made small talk with two guys behind us who drove down from upstate New York. One of them was a Deadhead and he ventured to many of the Dead shows I saw in the Southeast in 1994.

“Hey man, do you have stuff to smoke for the show?”

I thought he wanted to buy some from me. “I have just enough,” I answered.

“Well, then I have something for you.”

He dug into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out a joint. He handed it to me.

“I wanted to give it to someone who had a smiling face. And you seem to be that guy.”

Surprised, I quickly thanked him. I took the joint, sniffed it, and handed it to Molly for inspection. I later found out that he sprinkled some hash in the joint.

Our seats were decent, right in the middle of the venue and in the middle of the upper section on the Continental Airlines Arena. The first set had some good moments, the jams in Wolfman’s Brother and Limb by Limb were the strongest moments of Phish in the set. The added bonus of almost an hour of B.B. King sitting in with the band, the unexpected appearance shifted the focus of the show. The first song was sloppy, the second was kick ass, and the third jam session tired out the restless crowd. But Phish didn’t care, they were having a blast, and that’s all that mattered to them.

At setbreak, Molly bought cheese nachos and was especially surprised to find out they had jalapenos in New Jersey. While I waited the standard twenty minutes to take a piss, I looked at the setlist. Phish played four songs, then had three jams with B.B. King, for a set that lasted well over ninety minutes. On my way to the men’s room, I slowly waited in line with the rest of the fucked up people. Some of the funniest things I ever overheard happened while I was waiting to take a piss at a Phish show. Just two hours before, in the same bathroom, I saw the Mike Gordon look-a-like that I met in Japan. I see him at every show, and we chatted while we pissed. But this time, some drunk guy was the source of amusement.

“Hey man, I hear Avril LaVigne is coming out to play the entire second set.”

The line burst into laughter.

His buddy offered up, in the most fucked up, faded voice, “Duuuuuuude, I am sooooooooo looking forward to that, ehhhhhh!”

That’s when I lost it. Canuck urinal humor at a Phish show. Nothing quite like it.

I found the rest of my friends, and wandered over to their section. The gang was in slight disarray after losing their smoking utensil. Gil was a little disappointed with the first set, but I assured him that he had three more sets of Phish (including Friday’s show) to make it up to him.

The second set began with two heavy hitters, a not so frequent Halley’s Comet, then a crowd pleasing Harry Hood. The highlight of the second set was during one of their new songs Waves, which I got hooked on at the New Year’s show. The jam out of the chorus kept building and building with more layered energy, and it’s just flat out fantastic Phish letting loose, which is why I became enraptured with their new song. The set closed with two old standards, Sample in a Jar and Chalkdust Torture, and it occurred to me that the second half of the set was all Trey. First set was B.B. King and his backup band, Phish, but set two was Trey and Phish.

Molly was utterly disappointed with the encore. Before they got out three seconds of the song, I knew she disliked Farmhouse. But I consider it one of my favorites, and I hadn’t heard them play it in a long time. The return of Phish was sloppy at times, tight as hell during other moments, and refreshing and soothing most of the time. But their vocals, which have always been weak, were the last thing to come around, and they still haven’t shaken the rust off of that. But, they nailed Farmhouse vocally. No mistakes, which made it sound even better.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from NYC.

No comments: