30 June 2010

Upstate NY Jamwich

Last Sunday through this Tuesday I served myself up two slices of Phish and stuffed it with a piece of Furthur... and also worked in a dollop of Tortoise of course. This sandwich contained more than the weekly recommended allowance of spun-out people, both of the mellow and entertaining kind (moreso at Furthur) or seriously whacked out schmucks (moreso at Phish).

Let's start with the bread. I made a last-minute trip out to SPAC for the Sunday night show, ditching my family on Father's Day. This show can be summed up quickly: Gordo PWNS FTW. The man was simply possessed for most of the evening. Roggae and Drowned were the standouts of the show, though in the 5 shows I have seen in the past 2 years, I have now seen Drowned 3 times. It takes a little of the excitement away, but nothing could drag this version down. Simply amazing. Roggae is a song I have always loved, and it just keeps getting better. Overall the setlist looks better on paper, still, this was a fantastic show, well worth the trip.

A week later I was back for more closer to home at CMAC. Other than finally getting to hear Reba again after all these years (and a fine version it was), the clear highlight of the show was Mikes>Simple>I Am the Walrus>Weekapaug. Mike's was the straight ahead, head-banging rocker it was born to be. Only thing missing was a stage full of smoke and crazed strobe lights. When it fizzled into Simple, my first thought was, old-school, which was directed at the Simple and not the Mike's. Simple, back where it was born. The end jam was gorgeous, approaching the Roggae from a week previous. They really did an amazing job with I Am the Walrus, and the jam was Tweeprise-esque, except better? I could live with this being a one-time occurrence, but could also see it living the life of a staple. After a solid Weekapaug, the set kind of went downhill, not precipitous, but it definitely peaked in the noise of Walrus. One of the best songs through the mid-90s, I would be happy to never hear another Harry Hood again, it just doesn't do much for me anymore, which is unfortunate. Another solid show, ranking pretty closely with SPAC, maybe a notch below.

2 years ago Phil Lesh played Highland Bowl. Last year Bob Weir did. This year they both played it. What next year? The show started with a lot of promise. The playing was good, the song selection was good. Then, what is essentially the best Dead cover band ever, became just a damn good cover band. I don't mind them playing non-Dead covers in and of itself, I in fact would count their Ryan Adams cover from Ithaca one of that show's highlights, though when you start throwing covers into the mix that just don't fit it throws the whole thing off, and did. Songs like Strawberry Fields Forever and especially Time were square pegs in a round hole. They handled Time quite well, it sounded good, the playing was some of the best of the show, particularly Joe Russo on drums, but it was totally out of place. On top of that, they decided to string the entire 2nd set together with meandering jams that jumped abruptly into the next song, there were a lot of awkward musical moments. Getting the kinks out on the first show of the tour I guess. As negative as I sound, it was still great fun, great venue, perfect weather, and overall good music. But when I leave a show with my highlight being the Death Don't Have No Mercy (which was stellar), I leave knowing the show could have been much better.

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