I had no plans on writing a review of this show since there’s plenty of people out there that write reviews for a living. The internet, as expected, was littered with them this morning. I definitely won’t be reviewing these show by show but after reading the first 3 or 4, I felt like I wanted to participate on this one. Maybe nobody really wants to have a laugh or read anything other than a play by play review of every song that was performed. I found myself thinking, nobody brings up the stuff that sits in the back of my mind. Here’s my 4¢. I know it used to be considered 2¢ but everything costs at least twice as much this time around. I don’t have to tell you who was on the stage or where it took place. How the hell would you not know that already??? And if you didn’t know that already, why the hell would you give a shit about the article anyway? The guys that were scheduled to perform actually did. Shapiro has one up on Normal Bean for that!
I’m not in Santa Clara so I opted for the mlb.com stream due to the ability to REview the show for the next 30 days. The biggest problem I encountered was that it’s impossible to REview something until you view it first. That never happened with mlb.com. It seemed like the folks that run TicketMaster were in charge of my mlb stream. More spinning balls with absolutely no results. I never made it past a black screen with a spinning circle. I immediately grabbed an audience audio feed thinking my HD feed would appear at any moment. It was like when the power goes out and you continue looking at the blank TV waiting for it to come back on. While I appreciate the effort put in by those that send their audience feeds online, Cheers to taperrob for being EVERYWHERE, if a HD feed exists, I’m going with it every time. I taped for a few years so I have nothing but appreciation for what that community does on a nightly basis to help others get the music. It’s really like having a full time job that pays nothing. What interests me more than anything is wondering what kind of batteries those cats have on their cell phones. I play a few games of Hearts and I’m at 50% life before ya know it… Anyway, I kept a phone on hold with mlb support for nearly 2 hours and never got anything other than some Air Supply and Kenny Loggins music. I won’t use mlb again. After switching to YouTube I was treated to a near perfect streaming experience and was quite relieved.
On with the show!!! I was a little disappointed that earlier in the evening, the entire set list was posted on Reddit. Whoever posted it was absolutely flawless, even including the information that Bruce was singing Casey Jones for the encore. Whoever posted it is also an asshole. Why post it even if you know? Some other folks made sure they reposted it to make it seem as though they were cooler than everybody else. The show was obviously 100% scripted in advance and someone on the inside is a rat. I can’t stand spoilers… I guess it doesn’t matter… Anyway…
The first set rocked and who would’ve guessed that the youngest song of the night would be the opener, Truckin? Seems like they may approach these shows somewhat chronologically. It must have felt as good for them as it did for us to finally get to making music. Phil looked happy as a man that got laid twice before lunch. His smiles were endless and illuminating. Weir looked as cool as a man can look while wearing sandals. Hornsby seemed like he was trying to fight aggravation and I don’t blame him. You couldn’t hear his piano at all the entire night. He seemed like he was struggling with his neck as well. I’m a Chiropractor and I can Adjust you a few times in Chicago, Bruce! Jeff was much happier than Bruce even though you couldn’t hear him for shit either. I’m not sure he was even plugged into anything other than the moment. Trey is no stranger to big moments and while I’m sure the butterflies in his stomach were on treadmills, he hid it well. The old school run through some of our favorites was a blast. Alligator is a tune I used to request from The Phil Zone regularly long ago. Reminded me of that scripture that says “Your words won’t return to you void but will establish what they’re set out to accomplish”. While I’m out of context with it here perhaps, It’s worth reading. It’s a favorite of mine. Isaiah 55 is like the Cream Puff War of Bible chapters. There’s a bible in your hotel, check it out. Not tryin to be preachy, just a cool read and that’s all I’m gonna say about that. I never realized it would take so long for those words to be established but it was great to hear! All that “Let Phil Sing” chanting all those years… Who knew how those words would return to us accomplished like they have 30-40 years later???
The Viola Lee really stood out for me. It was outstanding and I personally smiled every time I heard Trey’s flavor throughout the night. While he’s credited Garcia for being a huge influence on him, you wouldn’t know it from his sound. His sound is completely and uniquely identifiable. It seems like Jon Fishman was more influenced by Bill than Trey was by Jerry according to their styles. There’s really nothing about Trey’s style that would make one think of Garcia in my opinion. I loved seeing him up there and as a long time listener of everything he’s done, it was a proud and joyful moment for the entire Phish community. YOU DA MAN Trey!!!!!
In a manner fitting of recent current events and being in the San Francisco area, creative Gay people arranged for a Rainbow to arc over the stadium as the first set closed. It was the kind of magic that has followed The Grateful Dead around throughout their entire career. It’s as though the wind and rain, the light and the dark, things seen as well as those unseen bow in approval at their gathering places. We’re so lucky to have been born in a time to experience all of the serendipitous circumstances that have been a hallmark of our treasured community! Even Billy, who has never had a microphone near his face on stage in 50 years, took the opportunity to express himself at the close of the night. He’s a reborn man and it’s great to watch from the sidelines as he recreates himself in total alignment with the foundation that he settled upon over the years.
As the band came out for the second set, Mickey put on oven mitts and played with these things, made by Betty Crocker, that you use to put barbecue sauce on ribs.
I wish he had at least one cymbal for Pete’s sake. You know, the one that he used to back hand the hell out of to his right. The mix I had made it difficult to hear what he may have been doing but he sure as hell was doing it! Bill was absolutely outstanding! In our world, drummers definitely get more respect than they typically do elsewhere but if I was gonna give a game ball out on night one, it would go to Kreutzmann. Stellar playing all night long. The song list was tremendous and the hiccups were few. While I would’ve liked to see a few tunes get a more thorough treatment, like St Stephen, my expectations were definitely surpassed. I’ve begun to just smile happily when my favorite bass player in the world sings. Phil going for high notes is like a fat, short guy trying to dunk a basketball. Speaking of dunking basketballs, the shots of Bill Walton’s smiling grill were great! I couldn’t help but to think, some poor bastard has the spot right behind him. Hope he didn’t have the Veggie chili backstage… Hornsby was outstanding on the Casey Jones encore and I personally wish he sang more than he did.
Overall, I was absolutely thrilled to see my favorite musicians on stage together. One of the biggest things that jumped out at me was how much they had to look to each other to communicate. They used to be so linked to one another, almost as if sharing one combined soul. The direction they traveled musically didn’t require them talking or pointing much at each other, it just happened as a result of their innate connection, the hive mind as it’s been called. That’s something that required the type of intimacy they shared for many years and have struggled with a little bit since then. All in all it seemed as though they were genuinely happy to be playing with each other and the moment seemed to begin healing much of what had been lost. When these guys play together it’s as though parts of me I didn’t realize were wounded begin to get better. I felt as though I was better internally for having experienced all of it in some way. I’m glad the Santa Clara shows were added to give everybody the opportunity to shake off some rust and get deep into it over the next 4 nights. I expect to experience more indescribable magic as the shows go by and am so glad that we’re all in the thick of it right now. In the blink of an eye, it will all be history…. I’m enjoying every second! Onward and Upward my friends!!! Love y’all!!!
Dead To The Core,
Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)
*New image courtesy of Josiah Babcock and Julian Tenney