Monday, August 14, 2017
Baker's Dozen Beat Sheet: Glazed Memories
Brevity is wit, but I'm not that smart. Here's most of the stuff that missed the cut in the daily 420-word recaps. Plus a couple of other fleeting and vivid memories that popped into my head while revisiting the Baker's Dozen...
Dunno how many people I talked to walked out of MSG with the feeling, "I really needed that!"
Phish is an cathartic experience. I couldn't count how many friends were having a rough year or two, whether work was kicking their ass, or dodging health problems, or their relationship went sideways, or their kids were driving them nuts, or they were drowning in other family problems, or on mega-tilt from the election, or constantly feuding with internet trolls, or simply struggling to keep their head above water with mental health.
Phish is what you make it. Baker's Dozen became a reward for many who made sacrifices to pull off as many shows possible. For friends and strangers, Phish became an anti-depressant, if only for a couple of hours a night.
BIGGEST PHISH EVENT IN 3.0?
I went to Big Cypress and nothing can ever top the Millennium and Phish playing until sunrise. But the Japan 2000 trip is the one trip I think about every single day of my life. Will Baker's Dozen will be like that? How long can the after-glow last?
TAKE ME HOME...
I flew from SoCal to my hometown of NYC for the three-week sojourn. Summers in LA are a paradise compared to NYC's sweltering humid-as-fuck summer. I forgot what summer Phish was like back east vs. wintry NYE runs.
Living in LA is problematic for a New Yorker like myself. Plasticized, sun-baked LA is like the complete opposite of a Phish show in many respects, so I was eager to jump back into the fire.
I saw my first Grateful Dead show at MSG when I was 15 years old. I was so fucking clueless then, but felt like I stumbled into a time machine and flew back to the 1960s. But as a 40-something New Yorker in exile in LA, I eagerly returned to NYC to celebrate Phish and reconnect with friends from different circles in life, many of whom I met through Phish at random points on my journey. In many ways, Baker's Dozen felt like I completed a full circle.
IT'S ONE LONG PHISH SHOW
After your 100th show, everything starts to blend into one long Phish show. Add psychedelics and memories become swirly blurry images of Phish lights and aliens. It's impossible to see recall each Baker's Dozen show as its own (flavored) entity. Personally, the BD13 shows are fractured into these three personal categories:
Behind the Stage/NOT-Behind Stage
Raging Solo/With Friends
Shit didn't go sideways until friends from California arrived with gifts. We're all glad they didn't show up until the second weekend, because if I ate mind-bending substances every night, I'd be zoomb'd out of my gourd and living in a tent underneath the Manhattan Bridge in Chinatown with a colony of Shanty Wooks from Grass Valley. #StayWookPham
I rarely drink at all these days, let almost never at shows. The only way I can survive a tour is to be hangover-free. Besides, all that money I saved on overpriced drinks could be spent more judiciously: nitrous.
LA COKEHEADS VS. NY COKEHEADS
NYC cokeheads discussed David Foster Wallace in a sincere scholarly manner.
DISCLAIMER: They were Ivy Leaguers, and I know what you're thinking...it's gonna be high-brow lit chat among the NYC Literati... and you're right... but... every Ivy Leaguer I know in LA is a full-blown coke fiend and smurfing three Beverly Hills shrinks at once for Adderall scripts... and any reference in LA to David Foster Wallace involves themselves, their half-written screenplay, and a self-serving desire to snort rails with DFW.
PAGE AND JAMES MURPHY THROW IT DOWN A WHILE
During the 2016 Vegas Halloween run, I imagined an entire scene backstage during setbreak. Something akin to Fishman being massaged by highfalutin courtesans, Trey whipping himself for flubbing Walls of the Cave and listening to Leonard Cohen in the darkness, Gordo hanging out with his Euro-boy-toy fashion consultant Hans, and Playboy Page evoking his inner Frank Sinatra, with an entourage led by his new BFF James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem. [Read: Vegas, Part 1: All These Dogs Just Wanna Play]
The song that @change100 dubbed "Page EDM" was inspired by frenetic 5am bandito blanco jam sessions with James Murphy. Page will forever be a Beta and always the B to Trey's Alpha. Page's Tubbs to Trey's Crocket. The A/B dynamic continued with Page's blossoming friendship with James Murphy, the Alpha-music-nerd-scion and self-proclaimed King of the Hipsterfied North (a.k.a. Brooklyn). BTW, we can't wait for Page's new album with produced on Murphy's untz-heavy DFA label. Tentative title: "Penocha del Tastyo."
I Been Around is an anthem to Page's off-season partying with Murphy and lesser-known members of Arcade Fire. Meanwhile, Page EDM sums up Page's anxiety doing to much nose cardio with millennial ladies, who only converse in hashtags/emoji. Page went on an epic bender during an 60-hour whorgy hosted by Murphy in various Air BnB pop-up rage houses throughout his realm. The bacchanalia was fueled by bricks of Peruvian Oro, shit so pure that it contained zero adulterants. Leo the Lion, clad in a red dragon kimono, smushed a dozen SnapChat models/influencers while tinkering with forty different synths.
"I missed the good old days," waxed Page. "Feels like it's 1999."
Murphy chopped up biker rails on a vintage copy of Liquid Liquid's self-titled album Liquid Liquid, before he revealed his lightning in the bottle idea for upcoming Baker's Dozen.
"You know (SNOOOOOORT, SNIFF) what, Leo? (SNOOOOORT, SNIFF SNIFF) I think the guys in your Sushi band should (SNOOOOORT) play that loungey Lawn Boy (SNIFF) like for an entire set (SNOOOOOOOOORT)."
"Ahhhh, beep-beep. Toot-toot," replied Page. "Let me run it by Jill Lesh and get back to you."
Page has been stepping up his synth game and gaining oodles of confidence along the way. French pal Benjo noted that he liked the electronic additions to Page's contributions/fills, albeit baby steps. I don't see Page donning a sparkly space helmet and spinning a set of old-school Chicago house beats, but then again, no one ever expected the Spanish Inquisition and to see Gordo wearing neon lipstick. Maybe we'll see DJ Page spinning sets at untz-centric festivals in Europe and spinning at moon parties for all the pretty people in Ibiza.
This Baker's Dozen run would be weird because none of my immediate friends were doing all 13. In fact a good amount were seeing none. My tour wife @change100 was back in LA cranking out reality TV for Hollyweird. My partner in crime the Joker was back in Austin raising two little birds.
Different circles descended upon NYC for a couple of shows at a time, or a mix-match over weekends. And for local friends, they tried to squeeze in random weekday shows while keeping an eye on that 11:40pm train to Port Jefferson.
A select few pulled up a single-hero trip... in which they made insane sacrifices and called in favors/called in sick just to catch one night of Phish. I mean, that's fucking nuts. Phish shows have become a huge gamble in 3.0. Then there's a prevalent saying in Vegas, "The house always wins." But Baker's Dozen? If you tossed the dice for even one night, you got paid back immensely while a boxman shouted, "Winner winner, chicken dinner!"
The upside to raging solo for BD was the ability to mix it up with friends and see the entire run from a different spot every night. The downside was that every other day someone new was coming to NYC look to rage it up for 2-3 straight days, when I desperately needed a day to recover (hashatag gettingold).
The rumble in the jungle cycle repeated itself. Fresh troops rotated in and out every 2-3 days. New England. Colorado. California. Vegas. Chicago. Atlanta. Ohio. Friends were all fired up upon arrival for destination Phish. So odd to feel NYE-level of excitement for a random weekday show.
The first order of business dealing with visitors usually fell on me to procure all necessary party favors, vitamins, herbal remedies, and other things that turn your mind upside down and shake your ass til dawn. Part of the ritual of hopping on Phish tour is akin to the beginning of Fear and Loathing in Vegas when Hunter is loading up the trunk of his car with various party favors for the weekend. Except at Baker's Dozen, we were loading up a trunk stocked with goodies before every show.
PHISH CRACK, WMDs
After the third show, I woke up on Monday morning with 75+ texts inquiring about the rest of the run from friends who initially had zero intention of going to MSG. I told one friend to start driving from Denver ASAP and he'd get to NYC a few hours before the JAM show started. The Monday morning frenzy was like that scene in The Wire when East Baltimore got flooded with a supreme-near-lethal-dank-as-fuck smack called The WMDs. Every fucking hop-head within a 100-mile radius flocked to the projects to score their super-fix. Phish unleashed their batch of WMDs the first weekend, and I woke up to find a couple hundred Phish junkies begging me to help them find their fix.
WHAT CIVILIANS THINK OF THE PHISH?
I had a couple non-Phish friends from NYC (including my brother) join us for pre-game at one of the local Irish pubs. A lawyer friend from Brooklyn said, "The only thing I don't like about Phisheads is that they are too friendly, which means they will talk to anyone. And I'm just a jaded New Yorker who wants to sip my drink without having fourteen people ask me if I liked which version of Molly Hoods got played last night."
Benjo, who translated my book Lost Vegas into French, scheduled a couple of Phish shows around a work trip to the States. What originally was supposed to quick side trip with 2-3 shows, blossomed into 6 shows. I'm really shocked he flew back to Paris when he did. He was having so much fun, that I thought he'd stay the rest of the run and never return home to France.
Here's the thing about European vs. Americans... Euros are extremely passionate about many things, but they not as demonstrative as us. Euros kept their emotions in check... but when they let loose, they went fucking nuts (e.g. World Cup football a.k.a soccer). Euros often display their stone-cold poker face when it comes to all things art/culture. That's one of the reasons why the guys in Daft Punk hid behind their robot helmets.
Our celebrity-obsessed culture dominates every aspect of our lives, which is why we've become a nation of fame whores. We reward fanatics in America, but Europeans are way more chillax when it comes to that stuff. However, I caught Benjo getting down and singing along to a couple of songs... a sure-fire indication he was having a balls out time.
THE FEELING I FORGOT
The palpable excitement and the buzz inside MSG on N1 reminded me of shows in 2009 when everyone was fucking pumped to see Phish again. The entire crowd was jacked wherever you looked from hotel elevators to outside the venue to the hallways and bathrooms.
I forgot what it was like to be surrounded by positive vibes. Like being inside a cathedral of beaming light. Living in California, especially LA, is its own bubble. But even inside of paradise, you couldn't escape our fractured society and all the noise created by the thundering stampede of the masses brainwashed by fear and hatred.
Living in the moment for 3-4 hours a night with 20K strangers is such a huge fucking deal because we spend every breathing moment of our waking lives tethered to the machines and addicted to likes, loves, and validation.
Phish crushed MSG because the room was a perfect venue for them to create and explore. Felt like going to see shows in 2009. Abundance of gratitude all around. Phish took more risks and returned to places I never thought were possible to see again. You could see their confidence jumping multiple levels as the run went on, especially with Page. Those Leo the Lion vibes were infectious.
I'm a sponge and soak up my immediate environment. Being inside MSG every night recharged my batteries. Life batteries. Soul batteries. Creative batteries. CTRL-ALT-DELETE. Jumping on tour is like resetting your soul. And nothing gives you a quicker/intense reboot than Phish. The feeling I forgot. The prime directive. What the fuck is the mission objective anyway? Ah, that's right. I forgot. Every night I walked out of MSG feeling more committed to promise I made to myself on N1... to be a better version of myself.
HIGH ON CHRIST; PHISH IS MY SAVOIR
N4. JAM'D. I had been chasing a show like JAM Night that for 13+ years. I told the Joker the last time Phish played like that was SPAC Piper 04. I caught over 200+ shows in 3.0 alone and the boys came close several times to revisiting previous high-water marks, but never pulled it off for an entire show, let along multi-day run. I knew they still had the hammer inside of them, but it required special circumstance for them to be in a proper "safe space" for dropping the hammer (a.k.a. Storage Jam, Drive-In Jam).
After the JAMILICIOUSNESS, I was so jacked up on adrenaline that Benjo and I speed-walked from MSG to Irving Plaza for the Turkauz after show. By the time I sprinted through Union Square, my eyeballs were like the size of softballs and I was sweating like Patrick Ewing at the free throw line.
SPACE L, VOL. I: MATRIX
The space L was heavy on the visuals without overpowering and overloading the senses. That's the most difficult aspect about eating L in big (dark) cities like Vegas and NYC. But this batch of cosmic sunshine fit in perfect harmony with the city.
For a thirty minute period when I peaked, everything around me turned into the Matrix and I saw trickling lines of green code everywhere. What's real? What's been programmed? What was engineered? Can they really hack into our thoughts? How do I know the sun's not yellow and it's really chicken?
That's the first time I realized... the parking meters are alive and spies for the Mothership.
And MSG? It's really a Mothership parked on top of Penn Station. We literally walked into a UFO every night to see Phish.
4 AM TEXTS: CAN U FIND FROSTY THE SNOWMAN, BRAH?
The after-parties were always a "let's see" situation. I called lots of audibles and did my best to make token appearances at American Beauty and Pennsy. A couple of nights I bailed early to rest my back and write. Didn't matter if I was home, or out and about, I'd get a dreaded text at 4am from desperate friends in search of supplies... either marching powder or landing gear, or both.
I'm the man who brings you Valium when you ain't got none.
That's the thing about the city that never sleeps... there's ski bums everywhere. But the quality of this flake was terrible. Complete chowder powder, or "dust on crust" as my Colorado friends would bemoan.
SPACE L, VOL. II: CK5'S LIGHTS ARE ALIVE
At some point, the lights became sentient. (Yeah, it was really that fantastic L.) That's when the horror script started writing itself out in my head. I sat behind the stage for the first two night and saw the new rig up close.
The lights were soul probes and integral part of a massive super computer that downloaded samples of all of us during Phish shows. Phish brings out the best/worst in people and you can't lie to the lights reading our auras. Every time I saw one of the MSG house lights or CK5's terminator-rig scanning the audience, I thought there's another soul about to be judged. At some point the lights were going to determine if we were worthy enough to be saved...or terminated for liquidation. The next mass extinction will come at the hands of the machines, much like you'd seen in the trope of films like The Matrix and Terminator. When AI achieves full-blown sentience, it will be impossible to ignore that humans are the biggest threat to humanity, Earth, and the universe itself. Dunno when the machines will turn on us, but CK5's terma-lights scanned every single person inside MSG. Scanning our souls. Some of us will have eternal salvation and the rest? Turned to mush in a mass liquidation off schwilly wooks, custies, and parasites.
Yeah, I know... I'm McCatholic and Judgement Day was supposed to look a lot different. Didn't think it would involved a bunch of bright yellow lights that focused overhead in the middle of Water in the Sky.
At another point in the show, I realized each light represented an alien on a distant planet that was checking in on the live stream of the show. It's how they spied on us. Every time a light flickered and changed color or pattern, it represented another alien. Ya, millions and millions of them. Wondering what the fuck was going on with so much radiant energy shooting out of the roof of MSG. Human brains create wavelengths and when we're all crocked on psychedelics, it's like steroids for our brainwaves, so we had several thousand people every night unleashing batches of ginromous-bundle of brainwaves into the universe. And couple of curious entities saw the flashes and wondered, "What the fuck is going down on Earth?"
Then the aliens started contacting me during the show. Through the lights. Happened couple of times. During Fuego jam, the phalanx of lights freaked out until they said, "We've always been talking...you haven't been listening!" The Lizard aliens attempted to discuss strategy during Lizards, but I was too schwilly for any conversation. They got pissed and I didn't hear from them the rest of the run.
N3 setbreak. I stood on deck, but the guy in front of me at the urinal took forever to piss. Like five plus minutes... but I didn't hear the gushing stream of urine. I heard a grunt or two, and that's when I realized he was rubbing one out. For fuck's sake, mate! If you gonna garfuckel it out, do it in a fucking stall! These fucking amateurs, Donny.
N5 so many little things got overlooked by the bigger picture during Powder night. Like Cars Trucks Buses, Gumbo, and Tube all in the same set. Yes, we got a dank-ass jammed-out Tube. Caught the jammed-out Tube in Chula Vista in San Diego last summer and another golden dong at MSG.
And the 1999 came out of nowhere. With so many other covers on the tip of everyone's tongue (and Twitter feed), the Prince anthem flew waaay below the radar. It makes total sense now. Old-world Phish would be railing lines on gold-plated mirrors en route to the stage. These days in post-Empire Phisdom, it's green juice and gluten-free enemas. Except for Page. Leo's been partying like it's 1999 since 1988 and he hasn't stopped since.
Out of all the covers played on N5, Zeppelin's No Quarter was definitely overlooked by the other covers: 1999 smack in middle of set 2, the Powderfinger encore, and WWH a capella opener.
N12 I was so pissed they ended the Boston Cream show with Joy that I rage-huffed $100 worth of balloons on 29th Street. I felt bad for the AA meeting in the basement of the nearby church. Then again, if you can stay sober thru a sea of gluttonous Phishkids sucking down hippie crack, then you can stay clean thru anything.
DAT'S BEAUTIFUL, WHAT'S DAT, VELVET?
N3 Velvet night. The band had come a long way from that night in Coventry, Vermont when Page lost his cookies during Velvet Sea and couldn't stop crying. Fishman tried to carry his fallen brother through the rest of the song because messy Trey was utterly useless at that point.
Music/memory is a powerful entity. And it was impossible to enjoy any Velvet Sea post-Coventry without getting instant flashbacks of Page crying.
Something happened during N3's Velvet Sea. I gotta thank CK5 for lighting the entire interior of MSG in velvety red. We sat only a couple rows off at the back of the floor, so I had a perfect vantage point of the entire Garden. CK5's red velvet lights shall be an image I'll never forget. A true memory burn. Page's tears at Coventry are starting to fade. I now have something positive to think about whenever I hear Velvet Sea in the future. Finally.
STRAWBERRY DISEASE 23
I sat behind the stage (in my actual seats) with @LawnMemo for the second set of N2 Strawberry Night. In between songs, he demonstrated his slick Lothario movies on Staten Island girls. The DWD jam is nothing out of the ordinary, but it stood out as an early highlight for me. Don't forget, it was still night two. What happened sort of set the tone for the all of BD... Phish returned to DWD and jammed it out in an entirely new segment. They committed to jamming it out and properly finishing it off.
Strawberry Letter 23 might have been my favorite cover of the entire run. I hope it stays in the rotation and the boys polish it up because the jam out has tons of potential. Hey, anytime you can add Shuggie Otis to the mix, it's a good thing. My favorite Galactic cover back in the 90s occurred when the Houseman crooned Ice Cold Daydream.
N12 Boston Cream setbreak. I 'm not a real doctor, but I play one on the internet and at Phish shows. I talked a college age kid down from a bad trip. He got separated from his friends and sorta cowered behind a curtain that separated my section from an area with stand-up bar seating. His flying-saucer eyes revealed everything. Homey was fryballzing bigtime. I simply advised him, you control the trip.
"It's up to you to determine if it's gonna be good/bad or light/dark."
He looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. That's when I said, "Hey brah. Give me a high five and you're gonna snap out and have a great time the rest of the show." He sorta half-assed a high five. I laughed. He laughed. I said, "High-five it like you mean it."
SMACK! He insta-snapped out of his mind-funk.
I spotted him mid-set 2 getting down Lizards. Goodybe, hashtag bad trip.
I befriended a security guard on the first night. He was a Russian guy that looked like Kevin Spacey. Apparently bunch of sparkleponies and fratdaddies were giving him guff every time he tried to keep the aisle clear. I intervened once, "Be smart brahs. Dance in the aisle when he is not doing a check. Scatter when you see him coming." At the same time, I chatted up the guard at setbreak and told him "Phish phans get super excited, but it's like floating cancer that will fill up any space possible." He appreciated the explanation and the $20 handshake.
I spotted Russian Spacey the next night running one of the security check-in lines in the lobby. He walked over to personally shake my hand, which baffled the rest of the staff and even me. For the rest of the run, I made sure I went to his security station.
Sometime in the middle of the run, a Deadhead friend attended a show with me. He's a legit first-ballot hall of fame stoner with a gajillion joints and a vape and back-up joints. Essentially he had small dispensary in pockets. I told him how to life-hack the system, but he was still a little paranoid. Then I took him to my special security guy. Russian Spacey shook our hands and waved us through.
I saw some stealth smugglers. Couple full-on dab rigs and someone must've boofed three light sabres. One wookling (he had just one cheez-doodle dread, clearly he was pledging) had a small Altoids tin filled with white powder. A rotund security guard quizzed him about the metal container. Wookling said it was his protein powder, like vitamins that he adds to water. Security gave him guff. "I'm gonna let you in, but you fucking white kids are fucking stupid trying to smoke that bath salts shit."
ESTHER, BURNERS, AND BOWIE MAN-BUN
N8. Second Sunday of the run. I scored Sect 120 a few rows off the floor and sat next to a couple from SF. They dressed like Burners and my read was spot-on. Stephy had been seeing Phish since 99 and her gay BFF was a new convert. Bodie, a pro-raver ginga from SF, sported a bad-ass man bun that sparkled. He totally pulled off strung-out chic with an uncanny resemblance to David Bowie (just after Young Americans but before Station to Station). He showed me a bunch of Burning Man photos of himself dressed as Bowie during the burn. I told him he shoulda been in Vegas last Halloween for Ziggy Stardust.
Bodie only started seeing Phish a few years ago, but what he loved about Phish, "It's the perfect soundtrack for a group psychedelic experience."
Stephy gave a running commentary/narration during Esther's musical moments. I dunno if it was for her gay bestie, or she was yipper'd up, or it was some shtick she did. I thought it would ruin the moment, but she was fucking awesome. I want her to record it someday because it was funny as fuck. She used interpretive hand movements too.
"Here's the point when Esther hates herself and her fake-ass friends but she hates herself way more so she eats ice cream from the carton and gets addicted to coke so badly that she starts dating a crack dealer."
Bodie Bowie Man-Bun did Burning Man thrice but started seeing Phish with Stephy the last few years on various West Coast tours. He said he felt like a noob even though he saw almost 20 shows in a short span.
"I don't know the entire catalog or couldn't even tell you which studio album Fuego was on."
I told him, "Don't get intimidated by super-nedry Phans. So long as you dig it... it's cool."
"Thanks. But it can get intimidating, ya know? Super phans..."
"Super phans are weird. I get it. I'm just a casual phan and I don't mean to jamsplain this to you, but Fuego is on Phish 12th studio album titled Fuego, which came out in 2014. Fuego debuted in Atlantic City, NJ for Halloween 2013 and has been played 46 other times since then. Everyone has a hard-on for the Philly Mann Fuego, and it definitely is a scorcher, but the one you caught in San Francisco last year is highly underrated. Fuego was the first studio album in nearly five years since Joy in 2009, and only the second actual studio album in the 3.0 era. Fuego is the opening track on Fuego album and clocking in at 9:15, it's the longest track of 10 on the album produced by Bob Ezrin. If you recognize the name you know he produced Pink Floyd and had become a polarizing figure in the Phish community. I've written 73 blog posts about Ezrin alone, plus I wrote a spec manuscript about Fuego album for 33 1/3 publishing company. I'll send you the PDF. Oh, and you should come on as a guest on one of my Phish podcasts. I have 12 total, but only take 9 seriously. We tape three shows. Daily. But ya, I feel you brah. Super phans are fucking weirdddddddd."
N6 Double Chocolate... Did Trey not think we noticed he squeezed Mercury in after Chalkdust > Sexy Thing? Clever move by Big Red. He got everyone all geeked out over that 24-minute orgy of a Chalkdust, then distracted everyone with Gordo crooning a one-hit wonder before blowing the fastball by us. Either we're all starting to like Mercury (it's been growing on me), or everyone was so fucking schwilly they missed it.
POWDERFINGERFREAKS, KITTENS AND SHOVELS
N5 Powder... The freaks came out in numbers. Loud guy from Long Island (think Dave Attel with hair) brought a coke-spoon to the show and was shoveling the entire third base line from Yankee Stadium up his nose during the second set. He seemed tame compared to the crystal-wooks burning deemsters. They blasted off during Mr. Completely and kept on topping off every 10 minutes after.
And I forgot which night... N5 or N10... but a young couple wearing space cat fanny packs and capes were doing key bumps of K all night, but she would say, "Here kitty kitty. Here kitty kitty!" before hoovering it up.
MILLENNIAL COKEHEADS VS. GEN-X COKEHEADS
Millennials have no shame about doing bathroom drugs in public. As a Gen-X, I grew up in the Nancy Regan JUST SAY NO era, where Len Bias died from doing cocaine one time. If/when we did cocaine, we kept it a huge secret. Just like the Ghost lyrics. It's all about cocaine. You know, "My little secret how I get ahead."
Cocaine represented 80s excess/greed, so us 90s kids turned to a different, less bougie drug... HEROIN. And you all know how that worked out for us. RIP Kurt. We fucked up big time.
I came from an era when you could get popped for taking one hit off a joint, which is why I still look both ways before I even take a bong hit on my couch... in fucking California. I'm a paranoid android for life. So you could only imagine the levels of paranoia whenever I see kids brazenly pull out powders in public. Like maybe do a legit key bump in super-stealth mode inside of cutting up lines on the back of your phone during Meatstick?
I GOT A COOL WIFE WHO LOVES RADIOHEAD
The wife didn't see Baker's Dozen due to work obligations, but she was super cool with me flying out to NYC without her. The fact I got to do all 13 is a testament to the awesomeness of @change100, and the strength of our relationship, that has now spanned over a decade.
Luckily, there were only two nights of of 13 when she was really pissed. N4 JAM and N11 LEMON. Shit was frosty those nights and I had to wait until morning until things thawed down. Night 4 was the first weekday show of the run and I forgot about the time change between NYC/LA and I finally scored five-star party favors, so I was sending her schwilly texts filled with cat emojis while she's in the studio on mega-tilt dealing with network suits. I got the "BRRR ITS COLD IN HERE" cold shoulder and rightly so. N4 was the only time I sensed she didn't want to hear from me. Everything went back to normal the next morning.
Oh, until the Radiohead cover on N11. Then I was back in the dog house. I'm pretty sure @change100 loves Radiohead equally if not more than Phish. To miss the only time Phish ever busted out a Radiohead cover was utter torture for her. She told me she started crying the moment on the webcast when Page started the arpeggio intro.
YESTERDAY I WOKE UP SPUN ON A LEMON
I got so spun-cookies that I thought Page sang Everything In Its Right Place. When I scanned my ticket for the LivePhish app and played it back, I heard Fish singing and had one of those moments like, "Can I trust my memory of anything that happened in the last 12 hours?"
I've been chasing a Radiohead cover since Festival 8. Between 2005 and 2009, I had endless conversations with the Joker and BTreotch about which potential albums Phish could pull off, and which ones would be too difficult due to the sonic depth. We all agreed that Page would obliterate a cover of Everything In Its Right Place.
I saw Radiohead a couple of times the last two years. Whenever they drop into Everything In Its Right Place, their usually subdued crowd goes apeshit. The thing about Radiohead is that you will meet people traveling from all over the world just to see one show. RH's global fanbase is just as rabid, but nowhere as schwilly.
The Radiohead cover did not hold up on a re-listen. I'd say about half of the covers at BD felt like that. When you're in the moment, it's fantastic to hear something familiar they never played before. You're not focusing on what's missing, and instead just going along for the ride.
Hardcore Radiohead fans were easy to spot on N11. They were the ones losing their minds. One guy smacked himself in the head like he was stuck in a k-hole or something and wanted to make sure he was really seeing something that seemed impossible.
Should have seen a Radiohead cover incoming. The band sent emissaries to MSG NYE run. Thom Yorke would love to a Radiohead-only festival and studied Phish's playbook. He thinks a Lemonwheel-like festy would be the best way for a spaceship to pick him up and take him home to his planet.
Thankfully Slave got played early in the run, which prevented a possible visit to the loony bin at Bellevue. If Phish saved Slave for N13, I woulda curled up on the sticky floor like a sobbing infant and eventually carried out on a stretcher in a straitjacket with 200mg of Thorazine injected into my veins.
Yet on N13, Starman became the battleground for all of my emotions. After 13 shows in 17 days, my guard was let down and I got flooded by nostalgia overload.
Bowie imagined Ziggy Stardust as the house band for the apocalypse. With so much fear and hatred swirling around outside MSG, it legit felt like I was watching Phish taking on the role of Ziggy and his Spiders from Mars. Would we all be here five years from now? Or is this the beginning of the end?
Ah, the feels. That's what all the kids call it today. Insert prayerhands emoji and heart fluttering emoji here ___.
TRAINING IN VEGAS FOR BAKER'S DOZEN
Starting in 2005, I covered the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas every summer for seven straight years. I almost died twice during my assignment. No bullshit. Two car accidents. I somehow got a second chance at life and didn't want to waste it living in Vegas anymore.
Summers at the WSOP were grueling and I'm not just talking about the 115 degree weather. Six to seven weeks of nonstop poker action wears you down.That was the most physically laborious and mentally taxing experience I ever did in my life. And I did it multiple times. Without a doubt, partying/living/working/surviving the WSOP in Vegas prepared me for 13 Phish shows in 17 nights at MSG.
When my friends expressed concern over me attempting the entire run, I just had to blurt out "WSOP" and they were like, "You totally got this. Three weeks in NYC is a breeze compared to seven weeks of hell in Vegas."
The revitalization of Phish lit a fire under my ass. On the final night, I ran out the Garden jacked up on 13 different substances, but riding high on Phish. I could feel the fire in my belly for the first time in years. I couldn't wait to go back to LA and lock myself in the office and finish off a novel that's way overdue.
Stumbling down the locked-escalator, I had what acidheads would call a moment of clarity. I knew I had enough material for a Phish book, but never had a good ending until Phish pulled off the Baker's Dozen run.
I thought Phish had hit their peak and were coasting downhill for the back nine of their career. Then Fishman kicked me in the nuts and I realized that my favorite band still had gas left in the tank.
I missed going to Phish and exploring all the creative thoughts that rushed through my head. All of them were silly or downright terrible, but it had been a while since I access that rushing stream of creativity. Started out as a trickling brook with a couple of goldfish, but by N13 it was a massive ocean teaming with creatures. Turns out that ocean was there the entire time. I just forgot where to look. I doubted myself as a writer and felt like I lost my touch, but Baker's Dozen helped me conquer the paralyzing self-doubt.
YOU CAN'T HANDLE THAT SHIT ON STRONG ACID, MAN!
On the Monday after the run ended, I had yet to sleep. I tried to watch Game of Thrones, but it was too disconcerting to deal with dragons on acid. I walked outside and noticed a gentle rain falling upon the city. A gaggle of spunout Phishkids mingled underneath an awning while the glistening rain sparkled primary colors. It sorta slowed down, like in the Matrix, and I could see each droplet pass by my eye-line before they exploded onto the sidewalk. This happened for only a few seconds, but it felt like it lasted a couple of hours. The residual effects of 13 shows allowed me to speed up and slow down time.
I should probably get some sleep I thought as I barreled past a swift pack of robo-commuters in the middle of their Monday morning march of malaise. I did what any sensible person would do... I ducked into a bodega, ordered a bacon egg cheese sandwich, and then went back to my room so I could jot down as much about MSG BD as I could before I forgot everything and the maid showed up to kick me out of the room.
Sometimes the experience blends into one long blurry Phish show. It hasn't even been a week, and it's hard to remember the individual nights.
Which night was Double Chocolate? And which one was Powdered? Was it Strawberry Glazed? Or Coconut Holes? And what night was the Everything Bagel show?
Can I ever fully explain the entire impact of Baker's Dozen? Is it even quantifiable?
Is this still Lawn Boy? Are they really playing NYE MSG again?
I looked totally different after shedding 17 pounds in 3 weeks on the DUSPMP Diet (Defense-Up Smoothie, Pizza, Molly, and Percosett). When it's time to trade skyscrapers for palm trees, will my loved ones and wife recognize me upon my return to LAX?
Maybe this is the last hurrah? Maybe so? Maybe it's the beginning of a new direction? Maybe not? Who knows?
Just the fact Phish pulled off no repeats and jammed the fuck out of Baker's Dozen... was good enough for me.