29 October 2009

Haunted, Taunted and Shoved: The Ringmasters Have Arrived!

Let the games begin!

First, apologies to anyone I may have *offended* with my vitriolic bile-spewing the other day, re: a possible Phish cover of Exile on Main Street. Don't get me wrong: I still think doing a Stones album would be a squandered opportunity to hit new and different heights, covering a highly-regarded but (in my rather strong estimation) overrated album that's not very challenging for the constitution. And I was serious about never being too into the Stones, too.  The force of my ire surprises even me.  Ironically, many of the best versions of Stones songs are ones played by other bands (Phish's "Loving Cup" and Devo's "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" being but a few).

In retrospect, I can say I was being super-provocative and silly largely on purpose. In the spirit of the season, ridiculous contradictions were drizzled throughout the post, like how Exile is dumb and old, while Larks' Tongues In Aspic (released...yup...the next year) is definitely more worthy of covering (and not because it's old, obviously). 

Either way, Trey created some controversy on Los Angeles radio yesterday, with a cryptic chortled clue, "Look at me. I'm the circus in the middle of the ring," in an interview with 100.3 FM The Sound's Mike Powers. Powers queried Trey about the finer points of Halloweens past, and put his feet to the...well, not a fire so much as a maybe a hot towel... Here's my quick interpretation of possibilities:

Exile on Main Street? "When you're trapped and circled with no second chances..." -- Ventilator Blues (noooo!)

Genesis -- The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway? "At the top of the stairs he finds a chamber. It is almost a hemisphere with a great many doors all the way round its circumference. There is a large crowd, huddled in various groups. From the shouting, Rael learns that there are 32 doors, but only one that leads out..." (hmmm, probably more on this tomorrow)

MGMT -- Oracular Spectacular? = Oracle = Oracle Arena in Oakland

Then...this just in...lyrics to King Crimson's song "Cirkus" -- while not Larks' Tongue, still a strong clue among the collective canon of remaining contenders: "Elephants forgot, force-fed on stale chalk, ate the floors of their cages. Strongmen lost their hair, paybox collapsed and lions sharpened their teeth. Gloves raced round the ring, stallions stampeded, pandemonium seesaw...I ran for the door, ringmasters shouted, 'All the fun of the Cirkus!'"


Clearly, the circus bit could be a sidelong nod towards Larks' Tongues in Aspic. Trey's orange-beardy face could well greet us from the center of the austere-Camarillo-Tarot-kinda-esoteric-Masonic-maybe-insane sun/moon dyad on the album's cover, illuminating psychic vibrational mysteries only apprehensible at many thousands of inhuman feet, perhaps ad all the little Phishy Larks of a Feather fly West for the winter.

Haunted, taunted and shoved by the title track's opening installment, I wonder where Page is gonna land in this mix. In a sweet reunion article from today's Yahoo! Music, Page's Phish-breakup-time classical training forays could contribute to increased ability in adding rich, cushiony in-fill, in lieu of the blurry, psycho midranges in Larks' Tongues Part I. Then in moments of frenetic percussion, I see Page approximating the persistent guitar washes, while Trey attacks the percussion rack in an assault with Fish, and Mike beats the crap outta the Modulus, adding to the chase. Trey or Page could take the vocals on "Book of Saturday" (hmm, Halloween Saturday?), and its arcane, contemplative sophistication, like molten lipstick the color of blood.

Suddenly, David Cross's violin rises from the thickness...I don't see violin in a Phish version but have heard tell of (a) horn(section?), so think strings could be sacrificed for winds..."Exile(s)" could be a better use of the word than in "that other album" -- really, though...typical, wrenching prog overdubs yield quivering layers of sharp, aerated guitar sustain underneath a drizzle of acoustic guitar...and suddenly bassist Robert Wetton's vocal register goes somewhere way more high, perhaps a cool, frosty Mike, than buttery Trey or creamy Page.

Telltale woodblocks tumble out during another hunting by mutant forest animals (mutant forest or mutant animals, take your pick), in "Easy Money." I hear the band having both a real challenge (and a possible crapload of fun) with Bizarro-World crashes, glurgs, rips, creepy laughing-box outro, and other decidedly Zappa-esque (of that era, even) nonsense / provocations. The "doo-doobiedow" harmonies would make fine use of the whole band's vocal spread...they could make up for axing Pink Floyd's The Wall with Crimson's "Easy Money" alone.

Proto-Giorgio Moroder echoes and light bongo fury pepper "The Talking Drum," possibly invoking the more feral of serpents, might mobilize the bones of the King of Pop (yikes!). As the gypsy viols turn and writhe, driving saints and scum alike to their edges of sanity, causing the good to falter and the I'll to become angels... The now overheated boil causes brains to gel into a burst of shrill, disturbing avian delinguifications...

The whole of Larks' Tongues is an appropriate, chilly-terrifying skin for Phish to inhabit for it's slim 45-ish minutes. In contrast, the dizzy, almost gluttonously self-involved Genesis progtastic masterwork, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, could me more along the lines of a wetsuit crossed with a straight-jacket, in terms of its translucency to allow Phish to shine through the material.  Larks' Tongues is a journey of a thousand miles through a wormhole fast enough for it not to get too hot and weird, out of which Phish can step triumphantly back onto the stage, as themselves, menacingly brilliant jokers renewed. 

Through the tongues of larks, they can even express through the eerie nightmare world a broad interpretation of the trials and tribulations of the last decade, in an enigmatic enough way as to not bog down the vibe. From the title track opener to it's closing second installment, we are spun around a strobe-lit metallic mindspace, interwoven with satin ribbons streaming across an ashen ballroom, fraying at the ends, a frenetic ballerina in black lace, a tribal tympani trio and a catastropic, metamorphic passage into the thin of eternal, unearthly vibration that is All Hallows Eve.

Heck, I don't know if I'm just psychic or what (yeah, who's got my heady clairvoyance?), but quite a bit moreso than MGMT, Larks' Tongues hits all the points of my "8-Point Sonic Costume Checklist." It's got:

1) Homage
2) Challenge (to spare)
3) Heppage (i.e. breaking off new shit on fans that they wouldn't expect)
4) Crowd-pleasin' -- if you like Phish, you'll like...or maybe you like Phish, you might like to hear Phish *doing*...)
5) Self-pleasin' -- What is prog, after all, but ably self-indulgent?!
6) Controversy -- Hayy, wha' happen to "HunkyDoryThrillerZiggyExilePurple"? What's this "dark horse" bullshit? I was sure Carol was right about MGMT and went and listened to that buncha shite...?!
7) New -- What is also prog but shape-shifty and ungraspable, even in its studio incarnations, and a thousand times magnified live? And finally,
8) Noteworthy -- Err, Fripp & Co. only kinda, uhhrr, redefined rock music composition and instrumentation with this album; the Stones can go take a nap!!

The album is gender-neutral enough in a classical sense, to be likable, even danceable, compelling, and absorbable by pretty much anyone, without causing too much furor or bias (less someone look like a major douche for slagging King Crimson at a Phish show...like crowd surfing Fish-side while screeching, "ZAPPA SUUUCKS!" during a Night 2 Set II "Peaches En Regalia" bustout (first since ___); it just...wouldn't...be a hettie thing to do, even if that IS the way you feel. 

The King Crimson garment is a damn cool, confrontational but accessible enough cloth  (moreso as loosely worn by Phish), from a commonly undersung band-most-likely-to-be-consumed by uber-fussy, ultra-masculine, sci-jazz-rock elitists. It'll make for an excellent takeaway, along with the original, tour music, paper-writing music (save it for your Hegel, Kafka and Delouze & Guattari, kids), house-painting, baby-making, demon-exorcising, self-realizing music.

It's challenging in a way that Trey referenced somewhat appropriately in the LA radio interview; it bespeaks the band, with room enough to climb inside and replicate and emulate themselves from an honorary perspective, but as and from a place truly like themselves: a bona fide "musical costume."

27 October 2009

Oracular Craptacular: AN OPEN LETTER TO PHISH (and its phans)

Dear Phish (and Phish phans), 

(HOT RATS!) I'm all, "WHAAAAAT?" There are these (Fleetwood Mac - Rumors) going around that you're going to really dampen the (Nirvana) of your reunion so far, by digging up an old chestnut in a lame repudiation of creativity and your well-known audience-challenging, by playing The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street. I personally think this is bullshit, and I'm sincerely hoping this is "news" you've planted, false information injected among the "ranks" and the tastemakers to throw the curious masses off your scent, and make everyone feel better about not possibly (UGH!) having to (GASP!) stand through some (EWW!) ***NEW MUSIC*** during your soon-to-be-real, Festival 8 Halloween Costume set. I'm praying to Baby Jesus that this is another of your golden stunts, and you're gonna knock us all on our asses by flipping the script this Saturday.

I'm completely (Black Sabbath - Paranoid), and really hoping I don't end up wishing I was in (Duran Duran - RIO) next weekend. Here's why (and much of the following rant is lifted straight from an email I sent to Richard Gehr last night):

The Rolling Stones would be such a de rigeur choice. I wanted to think you'd do otherwise, not what seems to be the crowd fave. I, personally, could live without it! I was hoping you'd push the envelope. Upon recovering from the axing of Mr. Steely Dan (hisself), I cajoled myself into finally giving MGMT's slithery chip of a 2007 breakthrough, Oracular Spectacular, a good fair listen, with Phish in mind. It's the choice that seems to be striking terror in the hearts of most phans by this time, cf. the widely-circulated, gut-bustingly hilarious "Hitler Hears the Halloween Costume is MGMT" video...

(Note: I'll have to link to it later because I'm at a High School in the South Side of Chicago that won't let me access YouTube, awaiting a chance to finally install game software on ~200 machines, which I should've completed yesterday, except being stonewalled by some seriously non-cooperative male PC technicians being condescending and preventing me from doing what I was flown out here for 400 bucks to do, which I've done on hundreds and hundreds of machines for many companies, and last, the country's largest securities industry regulator, in the offices of the effin' New York Stock Exchange.  Stay tuned for links later, when I'm at the airport later or something, can't believe I'm missing sleep before 8 for this crap, grumble.).

Whaddya know: while trying to console myself from the Death of the Dan, I decided to suck it up, and limber up for the premonition I was starting to have that we could be in for something new and uncomfortable. So I got my hands on a copy of the MGMT album. Believe it or not, I can't freaking stand most new music. I'm a fussy listener with bizarre, almost Aspergerian tastes, that latches onto anything I hear and really plug into, bleeds every ounce of cultural and psychological meaning out of it into my weltanschauung, to the utter exclusion of anything else (excepting, of course, the LAST music I plugged into and came to adore). That's how my music appreciation works. But I was sitting in the Chat 'n' Chew diner one Tuesday night in early 2008, and heard this scrapy, liquidy withering coming from their speakers, and actually deigned to ask the bartender what it was. "Em-Gee-Em-Tee" he replied. I'd heard of them, some young hipster upstarts. Hmm! Suspicion!

I shelved it, in characteristic fashion, until the very evening after the axe came down on Pretzel Logic, and my heart, in some ways. I also was emerging from a head-clearing few days away from Phish. Upon pressing play on Oracular Spectacular, though, I came to realize that my stuck-on-stupid mindset had again jammed me into a corner. It's happened so many times before. I wait, and wait, and wait, even AFTER I hear something that is reported to be great (that I even have a taste, to confirm that), then listen, and wonder, "What the friggin' hell was I waiting for??"

From repeated experience, new and uncomfortable musical experiences can often end up being ultimately rewarding for having had the experience, and even become new classics and staples. After the Halloween sets from 1996 and 1998, you can't walk around a Phish lot without hearing Talking Heads or the Velvet Underground issuing from a hatchback somewhere, certainly more the former than the latter, but still. It's the smashing of the old and reworking into the new that keeps the thrill in music, that gives vital definition to the term, "popular music."

A bunch of weeks ago, when people started making some pat preferences known in #Phish, compiled a shortlist of reasons/criteria for your rationales in possibly covering an album:

- Homage
- Challenge
- Heppage (i.e. breaking off new shit on fans that they wouldn't expect)
- Crowd-pleasin'
- Self-pleasin'/Controversy
- New and/or Noteworthy

A Halloween Exile would return you to the original concept, which, fair enough, seemed to be Homage at the time this all started, with The Beatles and Quadrophenia, then moved into the Heppage/Challenge idea with Remain in Light, and self-pleasin' (with Homage & Heppage teases) in choosing Loaded. Any Homage album that you guys would play would likely be something that the majority of the Phish audience would dig, probably already actively listen to, and feel "comfortable" with.

I just don't sense you guys being in Homage mode right now, which is why Exile seems like such an unlikely choice to me. It would be too easy; not technically and musically, for sure: four sides of music is kind of a stretch. But it kind of seems wrong, in the spirit of Phish, and from a logistical standpoint. I ponder these two quizzical points...I guess you can do the same over Sunday morning coffee, after at least couple of phans (me and this other kid from Twitter) are brought to the infirmary from being bored to tears and nauseously resentful about the previous evening's sappy musical decision that rendered the Empire Polo Club a frat party of horrifying proportions:

- Trey! Why would you want to pay homage to Keith Richards at the peak of destroying himself? Sure, it was musically some of his best stuff, but that doesn't really make for a great message, i.e. you can be soused up on the junk and still make fine music! It can't be nostalgia, and surely, it's not celebration...I dunno. Can't be analysis, since there's not much to analyze...it's an old record that everyone loves, a rock 'n' roll "standard" party-time thing.

- Why would Phish play an album featuring a song they already cover? Like I said, it seems way too "easy" -- actually, almost lazy to the point of seeming uninspired. Listening to Oracular Spectacular, it's evident it would be an awesome choice from the first modular gurgles and provocatively pointed synth melody of "Time to Pretend,” an incredible starting Halloween theme, to begin with; others appear throughout the album, haunting, alchemy, ghostly conjurings. This record, I thought, could be something ass-kicking that Phish could pull off. After getting jazzed up by a stomping backbeat, the slouching whiskey whine of acoustic-stippled "Weekend Wars" conjures Ween's finest, creepy early moments...this is something Phish could sink its teeth into; raw, fresh meat that, more than being technically challenging (which it kind of is, in parts, for a band that only consists of two people), actually hints on so many of the other albums that were killed off in its midst. Ha, that seems to be something like (wow, time warp) Homage, but by way of young MGMT themselves! The old-become-new (Phish) covering the new (MGMT) evoking the old, in support and encouragement of the new (??!)! Hell-to-the-yeah!

It's certainly a better equation than the old-become-new rehashing the old-rehashing-the-old-become-really-old and not hitting on anything really new at all.To be brutally (and controversially honest), I have never really, really gotten into the British Stones-recreating-rootsy-American blues all that much, not in college, not in high school, not now, not ever. It’s just never struck me as controversial enough! Sure, MGMT, like I said, are sending up a lot of their forebears, including the Stones (heavily), which continues throughout their record with the drippy glam of "The Youth" -- "We could flood the streets with love or light or heat...whatever..."

I could go on into a full substantiating review of the album, but I won't, because you knew you could play it, but may have chosen not to. UGH!!  This is also an open letter to Phish phans, and even to myself, as I was two weeks ago, when championing an old (favorite) dingleberry of a record by, granted, one of my favorite bands ever (that is, Pretzel Logic). How could we let this happen (if it does)? Why didn't we listen sooner, think sooner, change sooner? The psychedelic, synthesized jams and spiralling thunder-funk you guys have been playing just doesn't say "Rolling Stones" to me very much. It shocks me that you'd include such revolutionary and obstinate albums as Nevermind, King Crimson's Larks' Tongues in Aspic, and naturally, Zappa's Apostrophe (from one confrontational impresario who loathed the drugged-up Vietnam era indulgences) among your possible picks, then bow to exile in the mainstream, which, let's face it boys, the Rolling Stones now are. My stomach keeps curdling at the thought.

God, "Rocks Off" makes me wanna puke, for more reasons than just one. What about MGMT's fuck-you-serious-ironic-"Gimme a break!" party hoot, "This is our decision, to live fast and die young. We've got the vision, now let's have some fun! Yeah, it's overwhelming, but what else can we do? Get jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute?" Of course Hitler should be pissed off! He had to commit suicide and relinquish the Reich, and then a bunch of drugged-up Brits took over his precious stealth bunker, and made a record that four progressive, recently-and-joyfully re-invigorated psychedelic improv-rockers would decide to cover THIRTY SEVEN YEARS LATER, when most of their newest phans are within 10 years of that age. Shit, I’m even younger than that old-ass crap!

To think, you could've once more solidified yourselves as innovators, busted out some shit that, yeah, would've made a lotta phans (and Hitler) aggro and squirmy, but at least, again, you’d have defied the logic of the predictable, and given your detractors and supporters alike something to scratch their heads about, rather than just serving up some "GOOD TIME ROCK ‘n’ ROLL FUN," and seeming like a bunch of old, bad-reunion tour fuddy-duddies.

OH GOD PHISH, PLEASE!!! PLEASE DON'T TURN Festival 8 into a middle-aged sports bar! And please phans, don't encourage this band's bailout into something so middle-of-the-road, you can turn your brain off and just expect this inventive, daredevil band to lie down on Main Street and get railroaded by complacency. I just don't buy it, and if it's true, then I'll show up for work, bosses, but I’ll be really surprised, not in the best way. I can only tell the truth, because as a phan, I know you’d wanna hear it, nay, expect it; it is not our job as phans to champion mediocrity!

As MGMT says, “The youth is starting to change, are you starting to change? Are you together?” Are you together, Phish? We know you’re experienced, but are you gonna stay the same, and play an album with a song on it that you already cover??? What happened to 9/13/90 Wetlands, the "Everything New" show, where you pummeled your phaithful NYC punters with new song after new song after new song?  Where's the gumption, Phish?  EPIC PHAIL, Phish! EPIC…PHAIL!!!

Your Disgruntled Phan,

Carol Wade

[Editor's note:  Okay, okay, I know Nellcôte wasn't Hitler's proper bunker, Der Fuhrerbunker, just another one of his Gestapo peeps' local hangouts -- I just needed a way to tie Hitler in with the Stones and MGMT because of that crazy video.  OKAY?]

24 October 2009

All Things Reconsidered #1

Before I begin, along with letting myself off the hook for the whole Summer Tour recap thing, I've decided I'm going to post more often, i.e. whenever I effin' feel like it. Since I'm always experiencing bursts of garbled insight when listening to the Phish tunes I've gratefully reintroduced into my life, why not post whenever? To invoke Eddie Murphy, "It's my blog, and if you don't like it, you can get the eff out!"

It's a crappy Saturday morning, and I'm poring over the Festival 8 Work Exchange Team guidelines, e-signing the bits where I'm signing my life away (or 18 hours of it, anyhow) to Phish for three days. Sort of liberating, actually. It's all crawling closer to being an actuality, rather than a far-off fantasy. Worked last night on my costume a bit, which is going to be sorta hilarious. I'm glad I paid close attention to temperature-appropriateness for being in the boiling hot SoCal desert, so to assure the maximum boogie factor. All in all, it's gonna be APESHIT.

Also, I wanted to get a couple things off my chest:

1) Festival 8 is going to be my phirst Phish Halloween experience. Let's examine: 1994 was a Monday, and I think at the time I was taking a Tuesday 9AM English Lit class, so that wasn't going to work. I was pissed when I heard what they pulled. 1995 was a Tuesday in Illinois; and they did it again with the playing of another band's album thing. Dayyyumm...guess that's gonna be a thing they do, huh! Ingenious bastards. Don't even get me started on 1996; I almost pooped myself when I heard what they did that year. I was broke in rainy NYC that night, pathetically fumbling through my jangly pittance from post-collegiate slavery at The Strand bookstore; I also wanted to go to see moe. in Old Bridge, NJ that night, which didn't happen, either. By 1997, I didn't have school or abject poverty to use as an excuse anymore, so, naturally, they decided to eschew a Halloween show that year (bleeuuurrgh!).

It should be said, too, that between 1996 and 1998, I managed to stay sober through sheer bloody-minded will, after waking up every...uhh, afternoon...towards the end of my junior year in college with my liver in a sling from the perpetual keg I had in my apartment from the perpetual party I made sure was always happening. By Halloween 1998, my resolve had toppled, and, in some part due to the enormous sense of self-applied pressure from being recruited to write for Jambands.com, I swiffed down half a bottle of Bacardi White, while raking over an interview with Schleigho (remember those guys? they ruled!) with perfectionistic mania, and began a three-year downgrade to the bottom of the rabbit hole.

(FWIW, as it applies to me, the experience informed me I cannot stay sober by way of my unaided will...I need a lot of help, from other people with the same problems trying to do the same thing, and trained professionals...a veritable panel of experts, as it were. Today, I avail myself of that help [when I am humble enough -- or get myself into enough psychological pain -- to ask for help], which is good, and has helped me stay sober for 6 years & counting...today.)

Digression alert! To continue, 1998 was the Velvet Underground Loaded year. VU is not only a favorite, but a primary influence of what I humorously refer to as "My Real Favorite Band," Pavement, which is also a notable a fave of Mr. Trey, though the inception of my appreciation surely prefigures his, haaw haaw, aren't I cool. Again, livid pissyosity descended at the news. Either way, as a function of my renewed fervor for booze, which, despite three years of abstinence, seemed to pick right up as though it had never stopped, I don't even remember what I did for Halloween 1998! Much the same can be said for the Halloweens to follow. 1999 was spent seeing the Disco Biscuits at Hammerstein Ballroom, then a little bit of moe., for whom they opened (and I was so over by that point, excuuuuuse me). I probably promptly got more wasted than I likely was already. 2000 saw no Phish 'Ween, either, and the rest is sorta history.

Hmm! Having gone over the history of that, I don't feel so bad that Festival 8 marks my inaugural Phish Samhain. And I don't feel so bad I decided to work the festie, either. Truth of it is, I'm blessed to be in a position to have been able to afford the $240 for a three-day pass (which I had to submit as a bond to get my ass to work, for real). But I'm not doing it for the admission...it's 100% labor of love, which is, for me, without a granule of doubt going to make 2009 not only a memorable Halloween *period*, but one of my best Phish experiences ever.

...and 2) Though generally seeming to have an awful lot to say about them, with a great deal of detail, there's still SO MUCH about Phish that I still haven't absorbed, and am so consistently flummoxed and amused by, that each time I encounter them (lately, daily), it's like the first time. Thus, I end up feeling like a perpetual newb! Well! It stands to reason, doesn't it? A band one could see and listen to over and over and over again for years, with an enormous body of songs (something like 700, both originals and covers, that they've ever played live, according to Mike in the April 2009 issue of Relix magazine) is a never-ending font of unceasing pleasures of the senses. But, to get really honest, I've shied away from the Phish phan community, proper, in the past decade and change, because I've always been afraid of being ridiculed for missing, forgetting, failing to fully absorb or otherwise fudging some essential, well-known nugget of Phishtory that all the "Real Phans" know.

Really, I shit you not. This is the kind of thinking that has kept me off r.m.p, Phish.net, and all the old-school communiques, though I've been on the Internet since a little bit after I first saw Phish (1993), and would go onto getting pretty damn far into the jamband scene. I read r.m.p back in 1994! Why didn't I just post, when I did later post (and post, and post, and pooooost) on the moe-L so far as to be plucked from its pages for my Jambands.com stint? One reason may have been that I started seeing moe. when they were still playing shite bars like Old City Hall in Oswego, NY. I was an Amy Skelton-like figure on their scene, though I didn't have a pot to piss in, or a porthole to toss it from, much less an effin' farm...I lived in a drafty Upstate NY lakeside college-student shanty (but had an oven, and a recipe for great vegan banana bread, though ;-).

Another thing is I can be self-absorbed, stubborn, and sometimes (maybe mostly inwardly) tend towards arrogance and know-it-all-ism: i.e. the same thing I was afraid of encountering in others, go fig! I like to hoard bands I love, so I can love them in my own way, and not be interrupted by your opinions, which I have been sensitive enough to in the past, to allow to shade my own, both darker and lighter. This is odd with Phish, given the rabidity and volume of their fans, and the viscosity of their following. How could I manage to avoid being subsumed by the greater torrent of ardent communal phandom this whole time? But if anyone would manage to pull off such a feat of isolation, it would be me.

One of my college housemates caught the fever in 1995, and got fiercely into Phish. So touchy was I that her fervor eventually rankled me to the point of lividity, though I did enjoy having someone else to go shows with other than my good buddy, Nile (such as my first show at SPAC). I dunno what it is. At the time, I was almost more willing to step back and "Let her have them," than to share. It's a little bit nutty. I never promised you a rose garden, but there are sure lots of thorns.

Having grown up a little (a lot, in some ways) since those days, and been given the gift of perspective, I'm better able to accept now that I am just another bozo on the bus, neither bigger nor smaller than anyone else who loves Phish, who goes on Phish tour, on r.m.p. or whatever. I am who I am, and heaven knows the Phish circus tent is big enough to allow a little dry patch beneath for little ol' me, from the terrible storms of "The Real World" (LOL!). We are, as it says, all in this together. And hey, do you love to take a bath? Whaddya know? So do I!

I'm taking it slow. The glorious 140-character limit of #Phish (the "room" or "tweet stream") on Twitter has been my preferred outlet of choice since Summer Tour began; signal-to-noise is high, just what I need, in order to maintain a life and do my stressful job, while still staying phully inphormed. Big up, technology! I also (FUH-INAL-LY?) signed up for r.m.p (wow, amazing) and have been lurking.

Actually (no offense r.m.p'ers), it reminds me why I didn't choose to participate in the first place. Whereas with moe. I desired the community, conversation and confabulation (probably because I was growing with them), entering the Phish stream at a crucial turning point of their existence from regional cult to growing sensation, I (wrongly and rightly) imagined the phanbase to be a gnarly battleground of sweltering music acumen and heady opinions. From the very beginning, I came to realize I didn't enjoy talking about Phish with just anyone (and the same, for the most part, remains true).

This brings nothing to bear on a particular person; it's more about the conversation, and the angle of trajectory behind it. If it's coming from a sensibility that thinks, knows and feels the same about Phish as I do, then it works. If not, then it doesn't, and I can get anywhere from sleepy and bored, to irritated and even wrathful. Irrational, I know...hey, it's why I started a blog about them. This way, I can just talk to myself, and if you want to listen in on the conversation, then it means you and me will probably become great friends...hit me up! (LOL!)

The Phish.net (which was indeed utilized for setlists in the past, but not much for communing with the glides) now has me signed up, which is good, because now you can sign up on it! See? It's all evolving, and so am I. That's how I console myself that I'm getting better, less afraid of others, more open to change and participation.

Finally, despite whatever, and with no offense to the many, many "jambands" (there's that WORD again!) I've supported in the past, but Phish has, with their reunion quite frankly changing my life, proven once again to be the "Alpha and Omega" (as I remarked recently to Dean Budnick) of my involvement with the modern improvisational music scene. All the interest rose out of Phish, and now all the interest is pouring back into Phish. I've been around to some local shows since the reunion, to see some other of the "scene" bands. But it hits me every time...this is where it started, and this is where it's ending...but this "ending" is actually an incredible, exciting, delicious new beginning that has been long in coming.

(*sigh*) Finally, to return to the relatively brief original point of today's segment, I will now begin a (hopefully) long tradition of eating my own words. Walking through Soho in the rain last night, I got a sudden hankering to listen to "If I Could," so I dialed up 6/2/09 Jones Beach I on my iPhone. In Intermezzo, my post-Trey-at-Carnegie installment, I haughtily intoned about how Anastasio/Marshall's more dulcet tunes would be best eschewed from Phish shows, in favor of permanent installment in a symphonic context.

What?! This particular "If I Could" contains a soaring, swelling, extended...whatever you call a "jam" that happens in a ballad. Whatever it is, it's orchestrated beautifully by Phish, in an exceptionally tasteful update on the "arena rock" slow song. Though totally not a raging coil of bombast, it is warm, touching, vigorous, powerful and, thus, very Phish-appropriate in its own right. Naturally, the quotient of impatient punters on line for the bathroom while this quietly stormy Trey-fest was occurring was likely much higher than those in the amphitheater, but it's not my fault some people miss the wealth of nuanced opportunities for a variety of Phish enjoyment. (*sniff*)

What the hell was I thinking about with the whole, "Take it to the orchestra!" commentary? I dunno. It's All Things Reconsidered...

22 October 2009

"Pardon Me For Living, but the Graveyard is Full"

What I Learned on my Pre-Phish Vacation Vacation
By Carol Wade, Grade 8

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." -- Hunter S. Thompson

1) I love Phish. I really, REALLY love Phish. I love the music they play. I love that I didn't even know how much I loved them when I first realized I loved them. I love them as people; although I don't know them personally, it's like meeting someone you know you're going to befriend, because you just like the way they think and how they act. It's like that. Such friendship is inherently vertiginous, though, as being friends with something/someone that isn't really "there" in a corporeal sense (i.e. music, or musicians) becomes weirder the more you realize you love them.

2) That said, I'm coming to understand loving Phish is a lot like spirituality: how do you know there's an overarching force, a guiding principle? Is there one? Why must there be? Who the hell cares? Why do anything? (Big up, Opher.) It's as as simple as being alive, as feeling; either it's there or it's not, you are or you're not, and even some other times, when life, the feeling, is there (or if it's not), things become diffuse and inelegant, and not something you'd want to write home about. Love, beauty, harmony, relationships -- between notes, moments, ideas, people -- don't always conform to symmetrical concepts of order. If I find a means by which to a) relax the sphinter of my judgmental mind, and b) get safe and feel okay, grounded in my body and my world (without making things worse by, say, getting drunk and falling down a flight of stairs, metaphorically or not), then I can return to the central core.

At bottom, fundamentally, things can often be beautiful just because they *are* -- that is, they exist. Phish is beautiful because they *are* -- and keep becoming. Sure, well aren't we all "becoming"? Actually...no, we're not. That is, not everyone and everything *IS* in the way I am, and has qualities that make me more able to tolerate my reality. A lot of things (working in an office everyday, no matter how effin' cool it might be) and people (eg. Our Ex-President) make my reality feel a lot worse and harder to bear. However, things and people like Phish make my life a richer, more fascinating place, no matter how weird and uncomfortable the experience might get sometimes. It's a rare person or thing that can achieve that, for I can be one helluva sensitive, anxious, fearful fussbudget. But I've also lived through a lot of crazy-ass shit that would make a lotta people run away screaming, including dozens upon dozens of Phish shows, both sober and very well not, which also, like merely standing on a skateboard, can be too much for many people to do without immediately busting their asses.

3) I say what I do in #2 because, in my most recent plunge into the "underdeep of perceived overexposure," I became deeply self-conscious and nerve-wracked, expecting myself to be able to approach Phish Summer Tour 2009 like many of the Phish blogs I've linked to at the top right of this blog. To be honest, I don't read any of those blogs religiously; I dipped into all of them during tour, and pop in one here and another there occasionally, and will probably do so a lot more when tour begins again.

When I started this blog at the end of August, I was on PHIRE, having just started to cool off after my first out West run, the conflagatory 8/8/09 Gorge (aka: Quite Literally Best Phish Show Ever in My Biased "I Was in the Front Row" Opinion), and worse, still blazing with ire over having missed the possibly *slightly* more epic shows of the East Coast run. Then...I started a new job. I've been in technology support for the past five years, having failed in my attempts at "rock journalism" due to succumbing to the demon spirits. It takes up a LOT of my time and mindspace. It's how I've managed to survive. Frankly, I'd rather be writing about Phish. And seeing Phish. And following Phish. And if I could somehow make a living doing that, why, I sure as hell would.

So, why should I feel insecure about having a blog unlike other peoples' blogs, which is not so much a blog but a magical, ever-shifting, ever-filling trough of silliness and secret slivers of myself? Do I have a life like other peoples' lives? Hell-to-the-NO.

4) I am not a DUDE. I am not going to write about music, about Phish, about ANYTHING like a dude, or do anything else like a DUDE, unless it just kinda emerges from my "yang" side, or I force myself to do so, because...I AM NOT A DUDE. I may act like a dude sometimes -- it happens at Phish shows a lot, when I accidentally forget it's not "ladylike" to gutterally bawl "YEEAAAGGHH!" upon the first strains of, say, "David Bowie" at 8/5/09 Shoreline. I say the word DUDE, quite a lot, actually. And some say i sound like a dude on the phone, because of my sonorous voice (which is a bit more alto than your average CHICK, which I am not one of, either).

So to recap, I'm not a DUDE, I'm not a CHICK...I'm a WOMAN. I do things differently than men, boys, girls and dudes. I can often move close to doing things dudettes do (especially when I'm riding my longboard). But these days, I mostly just try to live like an ADULT WOMAN. The Phish scene (I dunno if you've -- *snrrk* -- noticed) is full of DUDES. They're everywhere. The band (as evidenced in the infamous "Chicks in the Front Row / Page's New Shirt" sequence from the band's energetic 2000 roadumentary,
Bittersweet Motel, 45:46) is not fond of their preponderance in the front row...speaking of Gorge II, one of them actually stampeded his way into my space in the front row, because he simply had to warm the rail, worshipping at Mike's silver-sneakered feet. In my infinite generosity, I imagined either he's a CHICK, or he has seen way less Phish shows than I have, and though it was the closest I'd ever been to them, it is my spiritual imperative to sacrifice whenever possible (except if I'm, like, shooting myself in the eye).

It's sorta like how no one in Phish dresses like a w00k, but somehow a good 70% of their fans do...Phish are not prototypical DUDES; in fact, they seem pretty far from being dudes, to me, anyway, insofar as a DUDE (Phishhead) could be defined as a male entity who endlessly dissects Phish's
music with formulaic intellectualism until its holistic meaning is pulverized into senselessness. I really wanted to do that, because I can (and do) obviously enjoy that level of statistical and logical analysis of Phish (Big Up, Mr. Steinberg.). But there's also a huge part of me that must weave the experience of phandom into my existence as a writer, as someone who simply cannot NOT jive with Phish. This was evidenced in a little experiment I did this week, after being flicked last Sunday from the nose of my soaring rocketship of adoration.

When Day 1, Set I of the Clifford Ball (8/16/96) DVD showed up from Netflix on Tuesday, I was freaked out, raw from twisting myself into pretzel shapes, trying to figure out how to lightly trample through a linear assessment of Phish's now passed Summer Reunion Tour. I had ordered the DVD on Netflix before I hit the brick wall I was smashed up against, with this blog shuttered via password-protection (which, FYI, is what I do when I doubt the efficacy and sanity of having my "relationship" with Phish visible to humankind...color me extreme!). But I was forced to watch the damn thing, because of the big love I mentioned above. It beckoned from the kitchen table like a flat, forbidden ruby lozenge...

I had also, by then, taken to silencing the notes and words in my head, placed there by endless days of listening to shows, over and over again (joyfully, but with all the rapture of a demented maniac), by concentrating on street sounds, and attempting to assume a posture of complete neutrality in mind, body and spirit. So, I decided to take the same tack with the Clifford Ball DVD. Mind you, I was at The Ball, but I barely remember any of it, go fig, even though I do believe I might have been trying to stay sober at the time. Did I mention that Phish, in itself, is an intoxicant? Hmmm, tricky....

Anyway, in my bizarre Live Phish Meditation Experiment, I got my mind quiet, my body still and upright, my breathing steady, my ears heavy, and my nose light. When settled enough, I fired up the DVD player and watched, and listened. I listened, and watched, breathed, not singing, tapping my feet, judging, even thinking of lyrics or notes, not smiling, not laughing...believe you me, it's not until you try NOT laughing at "AC/DC Bag," that you realize what a frickin' hilarious song it is.

What came out of me was pure heat, my temperature rising and my heart rate quickening. My body turned into my heart, my torso and lower back beating, my brain vibrating, the floor of my soul trembling, my mind and organs oscillating microscopically in the dance I was stepping back from. I saw the force with which Page pounds his keys, the speed of Trey's fingers and the way he sings into the crowd, surveying the thousands, unblinking, the look of blank, intense, knowing focus on Mike's face, how every person in the audience has that central point of clear light and heat dancing at their core, and how Phish just illuminates it such that their bodies can't help but mobilize...and I saw the way Fishman's body is like a thick tree trunk equipped with subtly-oiled mechanical arms and feet, rooted solid into the earth, hands as quick as rain, a waterfall, a monsoon, cold water to the face, and his face...puckering, as he swims through the sea of sound before him.

"It can be scary to feel so connected to something," my friend James said the other night, when I shared my meditative Phish experiment. Indeed, I thought. To the original premise, this brand of "analysis," in my book, cannot be termed "analysis" but "witnessing" -- at its best (as I experienced it) it is the dispassionate, damp, slow, immovable presence of the feminine
yin principle, to the opposing pointed, forceful, aggressive, masculine yang. Phish's entire arrangement and cosmic construction makes for the constant swapping of these energies "interamongst" (Big up, Cactus.) each other, the "bowl" of sorts that Page and Fish form, earthy solidity and fertilizing fluidity, in which Trey and Mike swirl and boil, the forceful, direct convection currents of air and fire.

To be so exposed, so nude to reality, and opening that rawness up to the eyes of my phellows, for good or for bad, sometimes I just want to hide out. It's too much to let people in that much, and sometimes it's so painful, I have to shut it all down, just shut it down! But clearly, this is a part of who I am, and what I'm meant to do. So thanks to @PhishTom for revealing himself as the third fan of my rambling observations (@mdubno and...well...me, are two others), I'm gonna keep giving this yet another try.

"It becomes more cumbersome as virtuosity increases..." -- Jan-Marek Pakulski (ex-bassist of The Fleshtones)

5) I realized this week (again!) that I am not effin' perfect. I realize that about 1,590 times a day, from the minute my eyes crack open to the sound of loud NPR, to the minute I lay me dreadlocks down, and thank the invisible powers for keeping me vertical another day. I am as imperfect as 6/14/09 Bonaroo II, Set II, where, to me, it sounds like Trey had some kinda nervous break because he managed to a) stay sober long enough not to die, and, b) as a direct result of having stayed alive, ripped out a few tunes at a massive rock festival with one of his boyhood heroes. It's like...what next? Once life gets that perfect, or even seems that perfect, is it really that great, and why the hell bother? Oh! Because it's life, and it's meant to be lived, not conquered, and enjoyed, not endured. Yeah, oops. Trey played "wrong notes," "bad tempo," "off kilter" and (seemingly) almost to the edge of causing the band to grind to a halt. But instead, everyone adapted. They rolled with the tide. And it all got wrapped up in a "Tweezer Reprise." Beautiful.

To some extent, everyone alive today is spiritually sick. Too much of everything, not enough of nothing. Danger lurking at every turn, our tiny, fleshy forms but infinitely vulnerable specks of jelly hurtling through space at thousands of miles per hour. We hurt. We get hurt. Then, we hurt each other, and hurt because of it, and then we hurt ourselves. Such is life, brutal, ugly, traumatic, sketchy and often totally and completely lame. However, sitting still in a neutral space of remove, aligned with what is quiet, still, and infinitely greater, I can, and I do, come to a place of acceptance about these things in myself, and in others. And, depending on the weather, and the support and love of others who I allow in to help, to comfort, to understand...I can and DO forgive, and forge ahead.

"Just for today I will be unafraid. Especially, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful, and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me."

6) Besides loving Phish, and living in New York City (though I live poorly and never seem to do anything that interesting), and loving music, and being sober, there are lots of things I really don't like, and can't actually effin' stand. Here are a few that will sometimes intersect (and have already collided head-on) with writing this blog:

- Being seen
- Being invisible
- Pressure (internal or external)
- Aimlessness & disorganization
- Blithering
- Rigid logic
- Not knowing
- Knowing too much
- Feeling alone and misunderstood
- Feeling like another sheep in the herd
- Feeling like I know what's up
- Feeling unsafe and afraid
- Feeling out of control
- Feeling dry and brittle from overcontrol
- Feeling
- Numbness
- Confusion, and not knowing what to do
- Blinding clarity

As you can imagine, a lot of these issues come up in what I'm trying to do here. And a lot of what I'm "trying to do here" is not doing anything, but talking about my life with this band that, for years, was a central figure of my life, and now, like a pack of prodigal minstrels, have returned to sing and play 24/7, outside my bedroom window. But getting some distance from it all this week, I understand that, though it may often seem significantly and exquisitely horrible (for me; sensitive, intuitive, piquant me), it's not a "school" in the sense that I need to teach or learn anything in particular. It's "school" in the sense that the imperative is showing up for the experience, whether I learn anything or not, say anything at all useful or productive (or even comprehensible), or even talk directly about Phish.

Like it or lump it, as long as Phish are around, they'll be in my life. And with their having returned, I'll probably continue to get to know them from where I took my detour towards oblivion, in 2000. I'm coming to know them in a whole new way, and am willing (despite my fear, which was not the case in, say, 1998) to get deeper, closer, more real and meaningful. To show up. To become open.

"If you become naked..."

[pic by James Stephens; The Rhombus, aka "New Piece" by Tony Smith, Institute of Advanced Studies campus, Princeton, NJ, 1998]

09 October 2009

Clear Your Cache and Shake That, Asheville! Themes From the Bottom of the Second Inning

First, I should say with great joy and import that, finally, long-awaited Phish 2009 Fall Tourdates have been floated onto the breeze, and like a mighty wind across the land, dreams of sweeping strobes and stampeding snare riffs have hijacked everyone's thought-streams for the next month and a half. Coffers are quickly being emptied, trust funds desiccated, grannies manipulated and gas pumped.

Without even thinking, I put in for ONE TICKET (the Loner Wolfe[TM] lurks again, as per usual) at Phish Tickets, for the 11/18/09 tour opener. As was speculated (now confirmed true), the 2009 Fall Reunion Tour opener pops off a scant 24 hours before Father Time belches me into my 35th year. Yes, if Phish can kick out the jamz till after midnight, on 11/19/09, I'll be ringing it in right, lettin' it all hang out, whatever "IT" may be at the moment... I, again, before them and they before me, flying supine on soundwaves, as I throw my life away gleefully, in an onrushing torrent of song. I recalled the other day that I was listening to Phish on the stereo at home, minutes before my 25th birthday.

Topping it all off on a muggy Friday 10/9/09 (BTW, Happy Birthday, Jesse "The Walrus" Jarnow!), was my initial tumble into a savory morsel I'm just now tasting: 6/9/09 Asheville Civic Center, Asheville, NC. Yeah, slap me around as it might, this struggle with the Summer Tour '09 beast refuses to cease. I thrash and kick and bite, and not so much fight, but desire to properly channel it, as it punches me in the eye. I skipped on 6/4 and 6/5/09 simply because I'd listened to them so many times, they turned to goo in my head. 6/4 wasn't as monumental a show as I once thought, and was trying to re-elevate it to, outside a propellant "PYITE" and a lively "NICU" pepper-pot stew.

Lesson #177: don't bother with the minutiae in shows if the whole of the show makes you too sleepy to discuss it. A hard-won lesson, the only way of knowing is to wring the living shit outta the show until you know. If you haven't written about much, then there probably wasn't much to write about...at least not for now.

You can compare it to a century egg, ages-old Asian delicacy crafted of an avian ovoid (chicken, duck or other pregnant hen, whatever), wrapped in straw, salt, spices, lime, and other gross stuff, buried underground and preserved for months, even years, cured, refined, pickled by time, then cracked open to be found black and gelatinous, to be savored for culinary effect. All Phish shows, to my mind, have something golden in them, I don't care what it is -- it could be a moment of belly-shattering banter, or one mellifluous measure -- but it doesn't all come at once.

6/5/09, by contrast to 6/4, was the moment the band cracked open the egg of reunion nerves, portent, sturm and drang, to reveal their squiggly, giggling core, assertively furtive hilarity that's kept me coming back to Phish. It's a big cake to squeeze into conservative prose, and an ass-kicker in that I missed it due to rain and admitted aural oversaturation -- standing in a life-sized bong three days in one week, for the first time in 6 years sober, was a lot to fathom at the time. 6/5/09, being the first show I wasn't there for, was the origin of what I have endearingly come to refer to as "V-TOOR," or "Virtual Tour" -- the 21st Century, wherever-you-are, armchair, bus stop, pajama-clad equivalent of Phish tour, online and on-demand.

"V-TOOR" meant I could be (and was, once) at the show in my head, while at the Duane Reade on Broadway and Houston St. on a Friday night, to check Twitter and have @Phish tell me they just started playing "The Wedge" in Indiana, making me freak out and nearly fall over a stand of cheap sunglasses. Believe it or not, in some aspect, I went on V-TOOR for every Summer 2009 Tour show. I had Twitterific fired up on my iPhone 24/7, clued into time-zones and show-starts, eventually jacked by the spine into Hoodstream.com, and many other popular outlets with shaggy rogue leaders out in the teeming trenches, surreptitiously holding phones aloft to snap blurry pics and transmit hettie streamage, sharing the groove through the Ether-tube as never, ever before possible.

Thus, I'm trying to keep on this train, but not squeeze myself too tight in it. I can't lose the fun, otherwise, after all, what's the use?

I Know You Driver

I had a dream the other night. Trey left a plastic shopping bag at my house with a selection of items in it, most prominently (I couldn't help but peek) a stack of button-down shirts of different colors and styles. He told me he'd be back later, and to be there because he'd need my input.

He returned later, and, to my surprise, people began trickling in after him. He grabbed his plastic sack and disappeared into a back room, smiling.

It was late, nearing 2AM, and I found myself squeezed into my couch as a few more strangers appeared, taking seats around my apartment, awaiting an upcoming event I wasn't aware of. I looked to my right, wondering who had just begun crowding me; it was CK5 himself, Phish photon guru, Chris Kuroda. (FYI: my apartment is NOT that big. I live in New York City. Duh.)

Suddenly, a hush came over the room. Trey came ambling in before the assembled muttering onlookers, wearing a pair of white jeans, and a white button-down shirt with sky-blue vertical stripes. His hair and beard looked ashen. In fact, he looked like an albino. He threw his palms up and said, "Well? Whaddya think?"

I frowned, appalled. It appeared he was testing new stage outfits. Exasperated, I said, "Definitely not. It makes you look even more pale than you already are! No way, definitely not."

"Uhh-huh"s and "Totally"s circulated around the room. He nodded vigorously, stroking his beard, and bolted off into the back room again. What was happening? Had I become Trey's "style advisor"?

Confused as all get-out, and waiting for him to re-emerge (from a pause as long as the ones in the 6/9/09 Asheville show), I got impatient and walked out the front door into the dark. I seemed to have moved to a sparsely-populated suburb, but at that moment, decided to walk all the way to Manhattan, reaching the Sheep's Meadow in Central Park just by sunrise. There was an assembly of w00ks and weirdos quickly gathering in the park. It was the vision of a phestival in the phormation: Jawa-like dreadies in earth-hued patchworks, coagulations of homegrown hemp-necklace-vending-glass-amassing crunchies under trees, etc. Further down the pitch, an enormous projection screen had been erected.

As the sun whispered over the horizon, the crowd settled before the big screen, whooping madly, and, with hilarious recognition, I watched as it began to show Trey modeling his next shirt, as simulcast from my apartment, in full Technicolor, before thousands of phans in the park. As if I hadn't just been there hours earlier, I wandered around the Meadow, anxiously looking for just the right watching-spot, only to find many of the choicest angles occupied by gnarly pockets of hard-partying heads. In one area, I glimpsed some old acquaintances, who figured in my past endless, microbrew-swilling (etc.) rage-fests throughout the mid- to late-1990s. Not prepared to deal with such reunification at that moment, with various loud aromas and grandiose vibrations issuing from their midst, I wandered onwards.

Then I remembered: I really didn't have to worry. After all, though a disorienting disconnect was making me see myself as through a pair of 3D glasses, the "main event" was being broadcast from
my house. And you know what they say about houses in dreams. It was not going to be missed, but as always, enjoyed, from a series of intriguing, engaging angles.

It reminded me, strangely, of the first Jammys ceremony at Irving Plaza in 2000, when I was slated to present the "Community Service" award with Benjy Eisen. When came time for my appearance, I was yuckin' it up, going big with some headz at the top balcony bar, in of one of my favorite NYC venues. I felt larger than life, and was not doing the best job handling it, on the heels of a couple of noteworthy musical onstage appearances, and also being on the roster for Writer of the Year for "Innerspace," my Jambands.com column of 2 years. Out of a fog, I heard someone saying my name, and noticed, with further nervous urging from the people I was chillaxing with, that it was time to make my presentation, and they were calling me over the effin' venue P.A...

Booking downstairs in a floor-length black velvet and red satin gown with metallic-blue Pumas (same ones I wore to Phish at Radio City that year), I made it to the podium just in time to mimic, in realtime, my shoddy deadline performance for pretty much every month I'd written for Jambands.com: always just a moment late.

Humbly, I look back on those days, fun for what they were worth amongst pleasure on a quick decline, and look forward to clearer, brighter times.

Havin' a Good Time, Vishnu Were Here

Like the Hindu god of Creation, Phish is reshaping itself, so why shouldn't I do so along with them? After a wrenching week of self-examination, near-ecstasy and more incipient agony, I hit some kind of Phish bottom, and seem to have (yet again) popped out the other side. It remains near-impossible to explain the portent of the band's return in my life. It's like teleporting into the past, your present body and experiences intact, yet the past seems quite a lot like now...how do I know that it's the past? All feelings, sounds, impulses are the same -- nay, intensified -- but nothing looks the same. I'm clearer, and in many ways, more self-controlled (thus, quizzically, more free) than I was then. I have a bit more knowledge of my inner experience, what I like, want, need, and would be better off without. To be catapulted backwards standing here, as an expression of an ever-evolving future-now, is a daily thrill-ride I simultaneously want to share and shout, and hide with in my darkened room, marveling childlike at it all, a novelty of new, glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling.

Getting back to V-TOOR, I spell it (and call it) "t00r" because it's the stupid l33t way me and some of my friends referred to following bands back in the day. Because I'm a rationalzer by nature, I could acronym "V-TOOR" "Virtual Technological Ontological Online Roadtrip," but V-TOOR sounds like "detour," and I swear, Phish has put my life on a big-ass one of those time and again, sweet victory, God bless 'em. I'm not surprised V-TOOR and I get along so well. I'm also a heckuva multitasker, and appreciate Phish on the mental plane as well as the physical, emotional and spiritual ones. Phish 3.0 is doubtlessly the iteration of the band I'm most fully plugged into, and thus most fully involved in, having a more (slightly) mature perspective on all that's come before. I was much too impatient to get into tape trading. [Ed. Note -- Not to say I didn't try -- there's a large box crammed full of tapes attesting to that fact -- but it generally bored and aggravated me.] I wanted to go to every show possible, to download the whole package right into my backbone, but I had to survive, as a (seemingly perpetually) single twentysomething girl in NYC. And I seem to have done a fine job nearly killing myself *without* up and going on Phish tour, thank you very much.

From a tech perspective, Original Phish (1983-1985) is Colossus, America's Nazi-code-breaking, war-winning juggernaut that was the world's true first computing device. Phish 1.0 (1985-2000) is like Windows 98, a VAST improvement on DOS, or Windows 3.1 (i.e. a world without Phish, or a proper GUI, say). Phish 2.0 (2003) is like Windows Me (i.e. a lateral shift only just short of a total disaster), and Phish 2.5 (2004) is Windows Vista hell; slick on the outside, but in the interior, a flaming-hot mess. By contrast, Phish 3.0 has been likened to "your cool high school teachers" (by some fool in Hoodstream chat).

My karmic arc is flying in just the right trajectory to meet that of Phish, in a midair bisection of human technological history. Let's face it...without V-TOOR, I couldn't have felt the excitement of a "Maze" in the moment, before I heard it, which itself happened only hours after I saw it appear in their setlist. I spent HOURS on V-TOOR this past summer. The minute I couldn't make shows anymore, I was on Twitter, swimming in the #Phish feed, phollowing @Phish (the band's official Twitter presence), and as people at the shows sent out the setlist, blurting realtime commentary on the show, from the show, on their portable communication devices.

Widely-available public Internet connections didn't exist in 1989. Cellular phones weren't commonly used in 1993. I signed up for my first personal email address the day after I got home from the Clifford Ball in 1996.
Networked PDAs weren't prominent in 1998. Video streaming was still kind of a bitch in 2000. Twitter didn't exist in 2004. See where I'm going with this? Outlets like rec.music.phish and Phish.net [currently in a Beta-version overhaul -- get in there y'all MySQL coders and help 'em out!] have been around forever, as well as IRC #phish and a zillion other phan endeavors on the Internet. But this is some new shit altogether. It's real-deal, 21st Century Phish, the counterculture turned on digital.

Phans, by dint of their mere existence during this massive ~15 year groundswell evolution of human communication, have always been on the bleeding edge of new technology. As Phish has been a part of my life, so have they been filtered through all the new methods. Analog taping went digital. CD-Rs replaced cassette tapes. And now, we grab shows, setlists, images, commentary, tickets, rides, the whole nine, like fly balls out of a sky blue as Mike's right eye. I know a lot of the old-schoolers wonder about this, how it's "changing the scene," and possibly draining vibrant, provocative, scrappy DIY Phishhead culture that rolled over the Interstates of America after the band, throughout the 1990s. Have we all just become a big pack of abhorrent custies?

To my mind, if there's anywhere to look for that spirit these days, ironic as it may seem, it's V-TOOR. From 6/5/09 onward, I spent hours online being with and observing my phellow, often hilarious-to-the-point-of-sociopathic phans in action, tapping the well of electronic participation with the band they couldn't be with, but couldn't help continue to follow to the last. First, the #Hey Phish chat room on USTREAM.tv was where I ended up, directed from #Phish on Twitter, to a page where on lucky nights, you could catch some slob holding up a jailbroken iPhone, resulting in a bad, scratchy video stream, and if we were
really lucky, some half-decent audio. And I'm not being facetious...the e-droplets, scanty and ear-blasting as they often were, were like manna from heaven. I cried laughing time after time, as streams dropped and the chatroom would explode with "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO"s, and sundry other outlandish expletives.

As tour nights passed, an elusive, ragtag crew of touring cyberphans began meshing, to arrange as many nightly streams as they could manage. Dog_Log, the Butter Room, Secret Leaky, PhishTwit on Qik.com...the combined efforts of these itinerant techno-mercenaries kept us cheering on a whole new level, for the band, and those who strove to bring the show to us. Thus, Hoodstream.com was born. Over the 2009 Summer Tour, it became one of the more reliable, catch-all repositories of online video & audio streaming headz across the country, linking us all to the band we couldn't see in the flesh.

Just for laughs, and since it's been a while, what with work and grappling with this damn blog, I just kicked over to Hoodstream.com to dig the scene. I'm only too happy to see things are as they have been, with 7/15/98 Portland Meadows, OR "Harry Hood" streaming, and a couple of heads tuned in, chillaxing, discussing their Fall Tour plans in the chat room on a Saturday afternoon. The Hoodstreamers have set up a Facebook page, and there's a button on the page to become a fan. I click it, and do, because I am. Blunt, aggro fuzz of "Hood" with loud, harassing symbol clangs ceases into a post-"Thank You Mr. Miner" jam, beginning with all barely audible, rising gradually (from a chirpy Trey solo) into a bright, confident semi-tropical crescendo. This is
exactly why I've had to take a Hoodstream.com hiatus...I go there, and I don't ever leave. The closest show I saw to 7/15/98 was three months earlier, 4/3/98, the second show of the two I saw from the famed four-show "Island Tour," at Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY.

Hoodstream.com is run by some people I don't really know. I thought about trying to make inquiries to the faceless aliases for this post, Joephus (and his epic brother, LookItsAbe, if memory serves), CostaPete, kari108, meatmeetdebar -- many of whom are responsible for the downloads I've been listening to -- but decided against it. Not that it doesn't matter, but it's just like any other excellent, anonymous encounter you have on tour, it's Phish phans foregoing personality and prestige to offer up fruits of the band's work, through the channel of their own labor of love. And if I keep coming back, I'll probably meet them anyway.

To briefly track the progression of my Phish '09 Summer Tour obsession, by 6/9/09, I had not yet dug deep enough to find online streams, and was settling for tweaking while reading setlists delivered via Twitter. By 8/1/09, I was on Hoodstream.com almost 24/7, going to bed at 2AM EDT (12AM CT), awakening at 5AM EDT to hear the end of the show I missed the night before, which had been up on Hoodstream for about two hours. I was soon West Coast-bound for the first time to see the band in CA, then WA, having met a dude named Marc (aka mmmphish) in Hoodstream chat, who offered to let me camp with his AZ posse at the Gorge a week later. I can be a pretty shy and conservative lass, believe it or not, but this stuff (along with being sober enough to not fear harm) pulls me outta my shell with the quickness. His girlfriend made some KICK-ASS blueberry pancakes the morning of 8/8/09. That I commited rampant "pancake-a-cide" that morning, savagely murdering serveral innocent pancakes, remains an in-joke between my new friend and me, to this day.

When I first found the Hoodstream.com chatroom, I didn't know how to join the chat; when I learned you needed to contact them for a login, I emailed the webmaster directly, immediately, and started whining and kicking up a fuss. Within 10 minutes, I was shooting my mouth off with the muckety-mucks, and within two weeks, they made me a mod.

This is the spirit of Phish. I've said all this to say that, from what I can tell by listening, that spirit returned in earnest on 6/9/09 in Asheville, NC. This is the first show of the tour I'm really getting into which I wasn't at, but it's the first one of this kind that has captivated me enough to feel like I was (or could've been, at least). Everything that makes Phish Phish was in play at this show: a big old coal-fired pack of Southern Fried phans, and the true-skool knowledge that Phish was back on tour, led the band to split open and belt out their tunes, in an evolution of euphoria that surpasses that of 6/5/09, Jones Beach III (which was plenty fun for Phish, maybe, but not so much for their rain-soaked phans), the nervy aimlessness of 6/6/09 Mansfield, MA, and the cool guardedness of the pre-long-haul launch 6/7/09 in Camden, NJ.


6/9/09 Asheville Civic Center, Asheville, NC

Set I: Kill Devil Falls, The Moma Dance, Sample in a Jar, Stash, Dog Faced Boy, Gumbo, Tube, Lengthwise, The Divided Sky, When the Cactus is in Bloom, Bold As Love

Set II: Backwards Down the Number Line > Ghost > Fast Enough for You, Halley's Comet > Maze, Alaska, Theme From the Bottom, Golgi Apparatus, Possum

E: Loving Cup

After "Kill Devil Falls" sparks the burner, the Phish Summer Reunion Tour 2009
officially begins, by way of a drippy, slithery, elastic episode of "The Moma Dance," which immediately sets up Asheville's mood; something like an edgy, tongue-in-cheek, costumed cocktail hour-meets Appalachian rent party. At 7,200 capacity, The Asheville Civic Center is not much more than a tiny, glorified collegiate basketball arena, with a seething, slobbering, Phish-hungry sold-out crowd jammed in so tight, you can hear every-thing. From the jump, "Moma" borders on sexually aggressive, as Mike skins back a few attitude-heavy bass runs in dirt-grinding Southern fashion. Fish's vocals are slightly sinister and sly. Trey ups the rigging, then rasps out his "Ohhhh ohhhh"s, panting hoarsely like the night is dirty and young, and so are they. He then asserts that he means it, notes bending, poking and squawking. Someone in the audience replies, sends out a high, long-ass whistle, and in minutes, they wrap it up and skate right into "Sample in a Jar," cooling the tones, moving the crowd out of hip-cranking into a triumphantly sandal kicking, Dixie dirt-flicking fist-pumping jam.

Phish is on the road again, and Southern soul-charged, in their first NC flyby since July 2003. In comparison to earlier '09 shows, there are only fleeting fumbles, all matched by triumphant readjustments, almost as if for every slip there's a righting of posture followed by a leap, proving mistakes are truly the launchpad to mastery.

The closed-in crowd is raunchy, an element of the performance all its own. This one dude begins at 13:17 in the very, very long pause out of "Sample," bawling mournfully for "Tela," which he continues to do, heart-wrenchingly throughout...the entire...show...during...al...most...every...pause. Poor fucking guy! Who can blame him? Right there witcha buddy. I'll be a urine puddle at Fest 8 when they play it. Yes, I said "WHEN THEY PLAY IT AT F8"...

You know something's happening when "Stash" boosts the venue into the stratocumulus on a warm-breathy, in-unison cloud of "Ohhhhoohhhowww-whoa!"s. Fishman soaks up Gordon's attitude, or maybe they're trading it back and forth; Fish's woodblock, splash and hi-hat signatures are generously drizzled over "Stash" (and the entire show). Through his bits of wrist-wriggling prestidigitation, my tremoring armhairs sense the gladness Fishman derives, stitching together the ornate, inter-band communication. They're being injected with a warm jelly-embrace from a grateful, pulsating audience, resulting in simmering-turned-flaming sterno. Nearing 9:20, we're suddenly teleported to 1950s Morocco, a brief whirling-dervish, Casablanca desert jazzfest, thick with the scent of sticky jam hash, witnessing a sometimes mechanical staple rise to an evolutionary "Stash."

In the pause, the "Tela"-Screamer begins to literally plead, hollering, throaty-voiced, "PLEASE...PLAY...TELA!!!" His wailing, in a way, becomes a version of the song itself...

Prior to the "Dog-Faced Boy" serenade to Fishman, Trey goes on a "Four Second-Long 'VH-1Storytellers'" with a lighthearted -- though alarming, or touching, depending on your interpretation -- retelling of his scandalization of Fishman's privacy by mining lyrics from his journal, during Trey's and Fish's period of co-habitation. You can probably tell, from context, how I feel about it; there's a quizzical "Ohhuuuhhhh?" from the audience, followed by screeching (from the women, mostly) when Trey stammers, "One day [Fish] left his journal...on the, um, table in our living room, and I picked it up and wrote three songs out of his journal without him knowing it."

However, it's also clear to see how brotherly love bonds these guys so tightly together, that what would normally be considered a grievous transgression becomes another facet of humorous, boundaryless breath of artistic dialogue between these two old friends.

After Trey substantiates some lyrical intervention in "Dog-Faced Boy" to avoid "an angry phone call" from Tom Marshall, he launches another of the co-ghost-written Fish tunes, "Gumbo," which sashays, clamors and clangs with several swell moments of Page's pointed piano palpations.

Then, a crowd fave, the indeed ridiculously-worded "Tube," scrambles out in a skunky hurry. One may become a little aware here that there's a decisive Page storm a'brewin...he's tossing out hot shredded wah like cheddar melting in midair and landing on a hot, jalapeno potato. The soul food analogy begins to steam at about 3:00 in mid-gravy...then wraps in a vampy method carefully practiced in "Tube," a warm beignet of sweet spicyness dripping with a strange grease that can't be good for you, but sure tastes like it is.

When "Lengthwise" popped into the Twitterific stream on my iPhone, I was aghast. Seriously? Yeah, it happened, Fish's tender, fuzzy falsetto sending its plaintive warble into the fray, which responded in unison. It is followed by "The Divided Sky," distinguished by pre-existing jaunty electricity already all over the stage. If the sass I'm hearing is plain show-offery, then it's damn good to hear, since Phish 3.0 up to Asheville (save Hampton) sounded, at times, anything from tentative and loose, to terse and nervous. Asheville brought lockdown and hookup in their truest senses; the band's individual instrumental journeys snap through and construct a smoldering, musical "man-love" framework, the results of which almost audibly crackle from the crowd's swiveling joints. Phish, simply put, did it to Ashville in their earholes. Lucky you, Asheville!

These coital analogies really only get worse starting here; the Center starts to really sizzle, and it's young love all over again. Tonal foreplay in "Sky" turns to a happy-slappy twang-grass debut-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoooo, "When the Cactus Are in Bloom." Bold, exhilarated Gordon yodels ring across the walls and hills...until...Holy shit! We round second base, Jesus, with a G# bustout into hot crème fraiche of Page's voice, detonating the first words of cataclysmic spectral Hendrix opus, "Bold As Love." (deep breath) I'm gonna stop right there, because we haven't even gotten to the second set.

Let's take it back to first base, and savor the first blush of this road relationship rekindling, "Backwards Down the Number Line" Set II opener. You could call it a lucky breaking ball, but I don't think so...I've already cheated and listened to the first couple songs from Knoxville, and it only gets hotter. I'm normally not one to go in for overuse of the term "peak" to describe climactic moments, jam- or otherwise; I'm more a believer in the plateau theory, where planes of pleasure slide around laterally whilst rising along a steady, invisible incline, felt only in the amount of blood vessels exploding along one's anatomy. However, I must say the situation at the end of 6/9/09 "BDTNL" demands the description "peak" -- Trey stretches and kneads the winding phrases, just nailing all the high points, and quite like a leisurely traverse of first base, judging by the audience's reaction (self included), it is pure pleasure that makes you make that kind of pained, wild, amazed face upon finding the jewel to your crown.

The strata continue to slide, the pulse already riding high, as the radiant apex of "BDTNL" becomes rearranged, turning the dimmer down to a frisky, planetarium dark, Mike's pizzicato cranium-fizzing with Page modulations, a random, driving Fish drumbeat in the ears pushes, then fades...

Meanwhile, Trey sneaks out the back door, shifts to the solid key of G, and starts tossing out chunky chords, while everyone's still slipping around in the primordial sauce. A few far-flung, hair-trigger setlist heads in the audience catch onto what's happening -- word and feeling spread; you can hear some girls' high-pitched squeals, as he-phans and she-phans still coiled up in the futuristic froth are kicked into "Ghost". Masters of puppets with justice for all, but mercy for none during this show, Phish has this batch hooked, Southern-simmered and hangin' high. Slide-thump-thump, slide-thump-thumping, dragging Asheville along with them, after the unearthly "BDTNL" outro, the band floats straight into the unlawful, B.B. King(ston)-tinged, clavi-wah paranormal.

How we got back to second base again, I'll never know. The band thoroughly uncivilizes the Asheville Civic Center with rattling, prattling Trey solos in "Ghost," Mike prodding insistently through a synthesized cylindrical core, bursting into thin air dancing with happy phantom frequencies. Someone in the crowd crumbles, shrieking, as the air slowly thickens again, and the "Ghost" lightning storm comes undone to take it down a couple, into a tune perfect for pulling into third, if you're shafty.

Another bustout (and heart-melting girl-crusher) comes through "Ghost > Fast Enough For You." Rarely played live, 6/9/09 marks only the 10th time "FEFY" was played in the new century. Again, he-phans and she-phans alike are fondled equally during this interlude of the seemingly endless Asheville love-fest.

Just when you thought he'd gotten too drunk to keep it up, "Tela"-Screamer has begun taking hostages by guilt-tripping surrounding phans to scream for the song with him. "PLEASE!!!" he begs loudly. Either he's harassing onlookers to join him, or they start screaming with him, just in hopes that Phish will comply and play the song, so he'll stop screaming. They don't. Mike begins matter-of-factly "deep-joop-ba-ba ba-jimboo"ing into "Halley's Comet," scatting in his impassive baritone throughout the celebratory ode to the elusive celestial body.

Things lighten up a bit here in Set II, and hands seem to have been restored to their less-naughty stations with "Halley's." Back somewhere between first and second, a good, clean fun time arises as everyone does a bit of "whoopee!"-style rejoicing at their good fortune, ending up at the first bona fide amazing Phish show of the tour. The otherwise mundane one-down one-up, one-up one down, two-note progression is tossed about with Mike's insistently deadpan "deep-joops," jokey, jubilant Trey/Page harmonies, and even a couple of sneaky Fish syncopations flipped into the Party Mix, which he later spices up further with some generous, faux-obnoxious cowbell.

"Halley's" here holds a lot of truck because of what's come before it, and what everyone knows remains...more of the same. One can speculate as to the theory of "persistence-resistence," as someone I know discussed with me at the Bob Weir show Friday night, e.g.: the final set of night two of Bonnaroo. That is, when an otherwise unbelievably good show gets dashed to hell in a handbasket, in order to -- who knows? -- preserve its own previous awesomeness through lemming-like self-sacrifice, to the aural horror of the punters assembled.

This would NOT be the case in Asheville. Call it uninterrupted crowd-band power-supply, the program running smooth as black ice, or the nebulous alchemy of artistic transience nabbing the band like a fairy-dusted catcher's mitt, as they flew the coop of the Northeast. Asheville just kept reaping the rewards of Phish's first pure-tour show.

On a roll of crazy, nonsensical segues anyways, they shimmy their way out of a G-rated > PG-rated "Halley's" outro, into a darker R-ified air within a few moments, the menacing hi-hat of "Maze" in full pursuit. Cutey-pie time is over, at least for the moment. Hey lady, hey man...are we gonna get down to it and just slide home? Uhhh, let's go for a jog! Oh no! We've gotten lost in the forest! This is not sexy, this is sorta like a horror movie! Zombies! Ghosts! Kinda like "Thriller" but a little more extra-innings hectic, gospel, overtime jazz...Page is chasing you down with his Hammond organ, Fish and Mike are galloping on your chest...this is kinda sexy but it's not because it's so EERIE, so MINOR! Trey is twisting flashlights in your face! Friends or foes?! Eeeek! Holy crap! Where the fuck are we?! GAAH! Run for your LIFE!!!

At 6:05 "Maze," I can't tell; are Fish's splash cymbals muffling audience members puzzlingly demanding "HOLY SHIT" very loudly? It's possible. Gals and/or dudes now realize their not-so-sweet significant other has chased them into the forest under false pretenses to some log cabin shack in the middle of Whiskey Dick, North Carolina, to get 'em all hot and bothered and stirred up enough to (end of "Maze") POUNCE! POUNCE! Har har, my sweet one your ass is MINE...

...umm, nope! Nice try! Instead, we've found ourselves After Midnight (as it were) in a freezing cabin, somewhere in the Great White North, starting all over again from first base, because our mate is PISSED at us for trying to pull such a stunt, exciting enough as it might have been. The frustration is such that, at 11:14 in the gap after "Maze," at least on my recording, a tortured yowl so dire and intoxicated issues forth from the crowd, "WeeeWoooOOOGGGH!!" This quickly (naturally) reminds "Tela"-Screamer that he's falling down on the job, and he brays, "TEEEEEE-LAAAAAAAHHHHHH..." which is quickly punctured by a flirty one-horse saloon-type Page tumble across the keys, sliding into the pokey, Zappa-punny, eskimo honky-tonk of another debut, "Alaska." There's another drumstick for yer Page repast, buddy...are ya happy yet?!

What's odd about "Alaska" (and understandable in my relationship with Phish) is I was convinced upon encountering its debut in these first listens to 6/9/09, that I'd surely heard it before that point on tour. Like, BEFORE before, and I don't know what that means. I just realized I could be confusing it with "Ocelot," whose slouchy vamp it does indeed resemble. But they're not the same tune, the latter being somewhat more playfully G-rated than the former, which is definitely heading back in old-fashioned-winking-bedroom-eyed direction the girlfriend/boyfriend is urging us in...when are we gonna melt those icecaps, already? Plenty of time, too...it's a hella long Alaska at almost 8 minutes. Ah! I finally remembered -- when I first saw the setlist from 6/18/09, I was thoroughly compelled to seek the show out, partially intrigued by this new Aleutian tune. So I did, and I guess I listened to it so many times, with its hokey poetry just so, that it felt like an old friend.

Can I keep up my "boy-meets-girl-meets-Phish-in-Asheville-foreplay-fest-2009" theme? If you pick up right here, at about 6:20 in this first "Alaska" jam, the truncated text message answer is "O HL YS!" -- fantasy images that dare not speak their names shall be left in the ears of the listener. More peaking that yes, I once again will uncharacteristically deign to refer to as such, because there's something unutterably scintillating about one's loved one yowling, "I'll stay right here!" (to me, anyway). Of course, according to my (meta-insane) fanciful fantasy analogy, one's loved one can't go anywhere, since they're marooned in a cabin at the North Pole. But duh! What do you think is gonna happen if they both stay...right...there...? (hyulk, hyulk) And it's not just for laughs, kids, because by the end of "Alaska," I'm about ready to swoon.

"Tela"-Screamer is very upset now, having been subjected to an 8-minute new song, as is some dude down front hassling, "Play something old school!", while some freak about mid-floor is screaming for "Ocelot," which is kinda funny, considering what I just observed a couple paragraphs ago, and as the song starts, some by-the-book jackass yells, "Freebird!"

"Theme From the Bottom" might as well be continued "...of Our Simultaneously Beating Hearts," the audience satiated by Page and Fish's metronomic intro, crooning along to Mike and Trey's hypnotic, synchronized thrumming. Here's where you could've lost me, since all other "Theme"s were spoiled for me forever by the 3/6/09 Hampton version, in my opinion, not only one of the best of that song in existence, but one of the best renditions of any of their shorter songs, EVER. I must've listened to that "Theme" a thousand times, memorizing (just through repetition) every note and aspect of Trey's and Page's standouts. It starts slow, very cautious, but comes to palpitate with a tremulous elation of walking after having been asleep for...oh...five years?! Could be the sheer emotion of it all, but I think emotion's not the least of the reasons versions of some Phish songs can kick substantial ass.

Subjected to the Baseball Analogy, you'd have me doddering between second and third right about here, heading forward fast so as not to get pinched! Nahh, this "TFTB" isn't nearly as much raw emotive goodness as 3/6/09 "Theme," but for the sake of analogy, "Theme From the Bottom" is a mesmerizingly sensuous tune, surging forth in such operatic splendor you'd be hard pressed to achieve coyness at this point. "Theme" is a sinus-opener, a throw-your-hands-up-and-sway-er, representing in its own way sloppy moments of sweaty, crowded frenzy, a chorus of elbows and hair and the messiness of ecstasy. I can only imagine what the so-called "Civic Center" must have looked like by this time of the show. People are losing their minds. Gurgling, vibrating, uprising -- this show can be filed under "F" for..."Frantastic!"

Before "Tela"-Screamer himself gets a chance to get going (he's too distraught, and has one of his hostages has take over), some enraptured fellow declares his outright adoration, "I still loooove youuuu!" The band is like, "Jesus!" in spite of themselves, and waste zero time roaring into "Golgi Apparatus." It might as well be the opener, they come at it with such energy.

My fingers are tingling as I write this, I'm typing so fast; the editing is gonna be hell, but my God has it been fun. A "Golgi" like an opener penultimate in the second set...what did Asheville do with it on a TUESDAY NIGHT? They went to bed happy, at least until after a "Possum" follow-up essentially kicked the shit out of them some more, driving them WAY past home, over the wall, into the lot, and all the way to Knoxville. Is it the mountain moonshine? That hettie musk of the hill-people? Asheville is the hotness from bottom to noggin. The audience is a major part of the show! I feel Trey's gonna drop a "Destiny Unbound"-tease (which is a segue that would sorta kick some tail someday)...what is a phan to do, when their band of choice has thoroughly scandalized them, taken them to the hilt then beyond, and, perhaps, just a little further? Well, simply put...it's kinda next-level, is all. When you hit the high and you think there's nowhere left to go, when you thought they were gone and so did they, off spins the top and chance comes in, an almost obscenely spiritual wind of fortuity forcefully exhaling gusto back into some old souls that really never aged.

Splayed across the bearskin rug, torn up hillbilly shirt lying nearby, cigarette smoke wafts (it's virtual smoke...I don't smoke...and nor should you...hah) in dizzy, dispersing post-coital mayhem. Even "Tela"-Screamer has been silenced. It's pointless, you think...but his proxy does manage to get one last yawp in before Page (again) shuts him up with the first pounding heartthrobs of the H-bomb "Loving Cup" show-closer. Dirty sandals lie askance, logs blaze in the hearth, the cold Inuit winter wind is a mere memory. Actually, everything is but a memory, at the head-pounding, finger-tingling, relentless end of a crusher-show, in that "I feel your mouth kissing me again" kinda way, the "where do I start and you stop?" sorta way...and we've only just begun. Or is it ending? Or...have we even...? They drew further away, and, via phone lines, cable and satellites, I only crept closer. Oh, what a beautiful buzz, what a beautiful buzz.

Now, I make my way over to phiSHows.com, to cue up the deep, smooth 10/14/95 "Tela," and call it a night.

[Freakin' sweet pics from another V-TOOR discovery -- what can I say, I've been outta touch -- TheButterRoom.com, C. Taylor Crothers, from the the cover of June 2009 Relix.com, and 6/9/09 by Dave Vann...I love you, man! Thanks also to phiSHows.com for the streamz]