Sometimes you have one of those days on tour when everything works out because the stars are somehow aligned perfectly from the start of the day to the end of the show. For the first Deer Creek show, I originally got a lawn seat through lottery, which I miracled to some kid claiming to be seeing his first show. The karma was paid back immediately when I upgraded to the pav, courtesy of a cool guy named Tom B. He's just one of thousands of generous phans Ive encountered during my weird and adventurous journey following Phish over the years.
Our Deer Creek-Apline Valley run began when Mr. Fabulous picked up G-Money and I, and Mr. Fabulous was exactly one minute early. Good omen. When we swung by Iggy's horse farm, Iggy was also ready to go. I convinced Iggy to score horse tranquilizers from a local "large animal vet" whom we'll refer to as Dr. K. Anyway, we made an ice run that went super quick and were on the road without any delays. We didn't encounter any traffic from Cincinnati to Indianapolis, however, we were horrified at a massive drug sweep on the highway. Sad to see phans targeted by the fuzz. At least six or seven cars were pulled over.... all of them en route to the show including a huge white van with seven bummed-out Phishkids in zip cuffs sitting on the side of the highway. For some reason, everything was going right for us and we didn't get pulled over. Then again, Mr. Fabulous is our ship's captain who takes pride in getting us to our intended destination safely without any incidents with the local federales. Mr. Fabulous is cagey tour veteran from back in the his days following the Dead and always watches his speed (unlike the AC show and crazy Igor speeding on the Garden State Parkway while doing key bumps of mescaline).
Things could have gone haywire when we checked into our hotel (someone on their end fucked up the reservations, and my conversation was something out of a Seinfeld episode) but I sweet-talked the assistant manager and she hooked us up. It was waaaay too hot to hang out in the lots on the hottest day in Indiana in almost 80 years. We pre-partied at the hotel and watched the end of the Germany-Italy soccer match mainly because I had money on the game (I bet the over 2.5 goals and won, but lost on Germany).
We arrived to the vast Deer Creek lots without any headaches and ran into Snailtrax -- an old friend from Indiana (he's a rough and tumble Hilljack boy that I used to play online poker with but we met for the first time at Deer Creek in 2004). Snailtrax is fearless and will consume almost anything (especially pork products and any brown liquor). We offered him the horse tranqs. He gave most of it away to one of his Hilljack boys in the lot, and that unlucky focker fell into a nasty K-hole. G-Money found the Hilljack kid after the show wandering around Shakedown with blood stains all over his body, but shoeless and only wearing underpants and babbling about chewing the natty dreadlocks off of a random wook.
I swung by the VIP lots to pick up my ticket from Tom and he hooked me up with a wristband so I could go in the special entrance and didn't have to wait in line with the sweaty masses. The wristband was clutch because I had access to a much shorter bathroom line, just in case Phish decided to play something that I couldn't stand.
Tom also miracled me primo seat... about three rows behind the pit and dead center. I was behind a couple of people holding signs for "Harpua" and "Magilla" (with "We Love Page" on the back side). Meanwhile, Snailtrax was somewhere raging somewhere on Page Side, and the Cincy crew was hanging out in the "moat" (the DMZ between the lawn and the pav) for most of the show.
I got to my seat as the band took the stage at 8:08pm. I couldn't stop sweating as everyone huddled in front of Page's rig and belted out an accapella version of Birdwatcher. That was the first of over a dozen songs that were played for the first time this summer tour. Also, the "neon vagina" loop lights were noticeably absent at this show because the stage is kinda small at Deer Creek.
G-Money was impressed with Trey's playing on The Curtain With. I was impressed with Trey's short sleeve Flyers shirt instead of being usually clad in hipster plaid.
Iggy particularly enjoyed the instrumental, "The bonus is no bad lyrics... just four great musicians playing."
Fuck Your Face was a fun quickie. Some guy was carrying around a sign for Old Home Place most of this tour (but I didn't see him today). Mr. Fabulous was interested in hearing some Round Room songs. He got Pebbles and Marbles... something I really didn't like hearing in 2.0 but it's grown on me over the last couple of years.
A pair of old-school favorites were next with Weigh and Chalk Dust Torture, which included a high Trey wanking factor. By that point, my party favors kicked in and I was struggling for a few minutes.
The guy behind me was tripping balls and kept screaming, "Page's house!" Later in the show he'd relentlessly howled, "Tuck it, Fish! Tuck it, Fish!" Next time, try only eating half as much acid.
Even though Trey flubbed the lyrics, he made up for it later on in Wolfman's Brah, which might have been the jamming highlight of the first set. They patiently crafted a corn-funk layered jam and Trey sat back and let Page lead the way with some funkified Clav action.
"They got it off the ground," explained Mr. Fabulous. "Sometimes a jam just falls flat, but it took a while before Wolfman's took off flying."
Sometimes Phish feeds off of its natural surroundings and like Hemingway, they find inspiration in the weather. In 2009, we were treated to monstrous Drowned at Deer Creek when we got caught up in a freak storm. But on Thursday, Phish focused on the uncomfortable temperatures peaking out at 105 (man, that's Vegas-like weather) and so they played a couple of chilly-themed tunes would soothe the dripping wet audience. The Velvet Underground's Cool It Down appeared before a much-welcomed Tweezer. I have to listen to Tweezer again, but nothing Earth-shattering struck me in the jam.
Late in the first set, Phish served up a rare Tela, which set off a series of bad inside jokes with G-Money and Iggy. They were making Cartman-like voices and uttering stuff like "I think this song is off of 'Game-Hedge'. You know how I know? Because it sucks."
The all-over-the-board first set ended with Stealing Time. Sometimes I dig it, sometimes I think Phish stole my time for playing a mediocre version of the song. I enjoyed the first set because of Cool It Down (I picked it in my phantasy pool with the G-Vegas boys), but mostly because I got to hear a lot of songs for the first time this summer.
The second set kicked off with a promising, yet standard Mike's Song before an unexpected segue into McGrupp. Always a pleasure to see something different in the middle of a Mike's Groove, especially McGrupp. Page stepped it up during the McGrupp jam with some silky smooth playing. The second part of the McGrupp jam had the potential to delve into the dark side, but it never quite crossed the line into "evil jams" territory.
I had a personal epiphany during Back on the Train and the simplicity of the lyric "it took me a long time to get back on the train" had a profound affect on me. I couldn't have thought of anywhere else on the planet I'd want to be that sweating my balls off in the middle of Indiana. The jam out included lots or corn-fed funk and I thought I heard a couple of sullen whale calls, and plethora of teases including Five to One to No Quarter to 2001. G-Money was convinced he was hearing Psycho Killer. Instead of unleashing a 2001-ufo dance party, the band opted for Fishman hijinks and Page tooted out the intro to Hold Your Head Up.
Depending on your Phish palate, Fishman hijinks either make your show or it utterly ruins the vibe. I'm catching a bunch of shows this tour, so I didn't mind the hijinks. However, I totally understand if this was your only Phish show...then why you might be bummed that a chunk of the set was devoted to theatrics instead of getting your face melted off by the incendiary jamming we've heard thus far in the second sets all summer long.
Trey wanted Fish to croon the audience with a sexed-up version of Sexual Healing, but Fish didn't remember the lyrics. Instead he went to his old standby... Syd Barret's Bike. Fish's vac solo reminded me of jazzy flatulence.
Courtesy of @Phish_FTR
And yes, I drop everything in my life to travel long distances to watch a chubby forty-something dude in a muumuu whale on a household appliance. There's a fine line between art and insanity, and Fish flirts that line with his vac solos.
Gordo grew tired of the hijinks and tried to get Fishman to wrap things up when he slapped down the intro to Weekapaug. Instead of returning to his kit, Fish tucked in his dress and went right for Trey's axe. He slid it around his neck and gave his best Trey-wank face and noodled around for a few minutes. I couldn't stop laughing. It was atrocious guitar-work but it reminded me about some of my friends who hate Phish, because that's what they think Trey's most smoking solo sounds like.
Photo courtesy of Joshua Timmermans © Phish 2012
Fish ran back up to his kit, but Trey stuck around to help out in the drumming department before he settled back into his usual spot up front and finished off Weekapaug. When Phish has fun it's infectious because we all have fun.
An unfinished Caspian fit into the flow of the "mellow" vibe that Phish crafted with a breezy Waves and an uber-chill Bug. Ironically, Bug was Iggy's favorite part of the second set. I would have preferred an extended Waves jam because they were on the verge of a killer jam before it was pushed aside in favor of Bug.
I pointed at Trey during the "overrated" part. I think he smirked.
A short, but smokey Bowie ended the second set. I kept a keen eye on CK5's mastery because it's his favorite Phish song to light. I want to give the neon vaginas the benefit of the doubt, but I wasn't exactly missing them for this show.
We knew a Tweezer Reprise was inevitable, but what was going to be the first encore tune? It was a mellow night so I figured Sleeping Monkey might get the nod. Alas, we got a self-indulgent Show of Life. At least it wasn't the only encore song. Tweezer Reprise saved the day. As per usual, Tweeprise was all heat.
It was just too hot for Phish to throw down and have you dancing your ass off the entire show. This is one of those nights when Phish gave you a little bit of everything. Greatest hits. Hijinks. Acapella. Rare tunes. Hokey shit. Covers. Weather-inspired songs. Trey wankage. Whale calls. Page plinko. Fuck Your Face. Flubbed lyrics. Vac solos.
The first night at Deer Creek is in the books. One more to go here in hot-as-hell Indiana before the circus migrates north to Alpine Valley. With the "all over the place" show out of the way, I'm looking forward to an old-fashioned Friday night rager. See ya in the lots...
P.S. Thanks again to Tom for the ticket hook-up and thanks to Mr. Fabulous for his deft driving skills getting us to/from the show safely.