March 14, 2003

Strong Island Unbound

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

28 Feb 03

We met up with Spider and Gil at Penn Station and took the LIRR to the Island. Molly was shocked to see people drinking single cans of beer in brown paper bags on the commuter train. “It’s routine, in many ways ritualistic for the male suburban commuter,” I explained, “in the morning it’s coffee, in the evening it’s a Bud tallboy.”

While we waited for Spider to get his car, Gil took us on a short walk through historic Port Washington, and over to Long Island Sound. We got to the venue very quickly, and we were greeted at the entrance to the parking lot by dozens of kids looking for tickets for the show. Our seats were the best for all three shows, right next to the side of the stage, where Page plays. The bad part was the nazi, arrogant, yet ineffective old man security guard in our section. Crowd control was a problem at a couple of points before the show and during the first set, with everyone trying to sneak down to the floor, but it eased off after a while. I ran into several Japhamily at this show… Previn and Chris walked by us as we sat in our seats. I also got called Dave Grohl by some dosed out guy. And I was an asshole to two guys standing behind me who didn’t have tickets in the section. They were yapping during Horn, and I turned around and asked one guy what his name was.

Steve Edlestien? Good, Steve, cause when I write up the review of this show and post it on the net, I want to make sure I spell your name right, since you’re the ass face who talked about your boring personal life during the entire first set and ruined my show.”

He gave me a dirty look, but took the hint. I stood my ground and he took off as soon as the song ended.

Phish opened the show with a heady Birds of a Feather, and followed with a truly rare Destiny Unbound! This show was going to be all Mike, and that was a way to get it off right. A crusty Phishkid, who’d been to every show since Vegas, was twirling in the aisle next to me and said, “Brah, they haven’t played this song all this tour.”

“This tour?” I exclaimed, “They haven’t played this since you were in the third grade!”

The last time Phish performed Destiny Unbound was in November of 1991 in Virginia.

Molly was stuck in the bathroom for Horn and the beginning of Bathtub Gin, but she got back just as they were about to peak for the set, that is until the boys blew me away with Back on the Train. It was by far the best version I heard to date, and was the best Phish I heard since their return. It was Trey bluesy, Mike funky, Fish groovy, and Page mellow all rolled into one savory twelve minute song.

I bolted for the bathroom during Bouncin’ Around the Room, which was dubbed the Pauly Takes a Piss Song for the night. I also had enough time to buy a pretzel and a beer before the song ended.

Walls of the Cave closed the first set, and was the first repeat we heard this run. This Walls was a more solid version than at the Philly show, if it was hard to better that version. It was cool to be fairly up close to see Page’s piano intro.

“Listen to the silent trees…”

At setbreak this Guido looking Long Island guy walked up to me and asked me if I like vodka.

“Hey tough guy, yous like vodka?” he spouted.

“Why of course,” I muttered, as he handed me an airport bottle of Smirnoff.

Now we had booze to make vodka tonics, and Molly observed, “Do people always give you things at Phish shows?”

Counting the joint at the NJ show, the free hugs from the rolling girl at the Philly show, and now the vodka, I guess she was right. Random people give me cool shit all the time.

Second set opened with a 26 plus minute heavy ass Tweezer. In the beginning during the down parts of the jam, Chris Kuroda turned down the lights, and a couple of mini glow wars erupted on the floor during each down moment. Alas, Tweezer was long and dark, and all Mike.

Next up was Reggae Phish. I thought they were going to play two or three different songs before they bust into Bob Marley's Soul Shakedown Party. It was the first time they played it since Milan, Italy in 1997. Soul Shakedown Party is a rare song, only performed three times prior. The groove was there, the vocals were spotty, but it didn’t matter.

Phish had a spacey three-minute intro to David Bowie where I had hoped they would break out into 2001, but they didn’t just teased it once or twice before a solid Bowie, and of course Trey smoked the shit out of the end.

Harry Hood was the second repeat for us this tour, and again this night’s version was more solid than the one we saw in New Jersey. The last time I saw Phish at Nassau Coliseum, it was back in 1999, during the infamous Boogie glowstick show, when our favorite Buffalo blonde hurled a glowstick from our seats behind the stage, and it came crashing down onto Page’s piano. A large clacking thud, which forever immortalized Boogie onto bootlegs worldwide, was spinning in my ears the entire song, as my thoughts drifted to Boogie and that epic night. At one point during the glow war, I looked over at Page precisely at the moment a kid in the fifth row threw a glowstick at him. Page ducked to the side, not stopping his piano playing, and kept on jamming out. A small safety hazard, that I guess comes with the job.

Finally the pharmies kicked in. I traded a couple of nugs for pharmies with some kid in our row from Boulder during setbreak, and I eventually started to feel that nice, warm, faded feeling. The boys treated us to a three song encore: Contact, Mexican Cousin, and Tweezer Reprise. I became enamored with Mexican Cousin.

“I’m awful sorry you got pissed…”

At first I liked it as a joke song, but after hearing it live, I was hooked.

“And Tequila’s where that start’s and where it ends!”

The yellow lights on the crowd, and the way they reacted to the song translated to me as a special moment.

“Mexican Cousin again…
I wanna, wanna kiss your oooooooooooooh!”

I walked out of Nassau satisfied with the short three show run. I got to see my favorite song, Slave in Philly, and hear the boys play some solid new stuff. I saw two kick ass solid back-to-back shows, something I hadn’t experienced since Las Vegas or in Albany on the 2000 Fall tour, and got to share these shows with Molly, who almost never gets to see her favorite band.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from NYC.

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