Date: Fri, 20 Jul 2001 21:17:12 -0700
From: Mike Powers
Subject: 3 years later a Ventura '98 review for the Review page!

7/20/98  Ventura, CA - Ventura County Fairgrounds

I: Gin, Dirt, Poor Heart, Lawn Boy, MY Sweet One, Birds, Theme, Water in the 
Sky, Momma Dance, Melt

II: Drowned ->Makisupa, Maze, Sea & Sand, Prince Caspian, Hood

E: Sexual Healing, Halley's Comet

Sitting here in San Francisco on a mellow night with a gorgeous sunset going 
down and just realized it^s been three years since Venutra ^98.   Three 
years since ^98???  Three years to me seems like it should be ^95 or 
^96^time keeps on slipping.   Anyhow, I^ve got the discs flowing right now 
for this hidden gem of the West Coast ^98 run and it^s bringing back some 

Ventura was the final show of my Gorge > Shoreline > Ventura run with 2 
buddies from the east coast and and a fellow LA^er at the time. I recall 
driving back to LA immediately after Shoreline to make it back for work on 
Monday^and then cutting outta work early to get back up on the 101 and head 
up to Ventura County.  As we pulled into the lots of the Ventura County 
Fairgrounds and found a fairly large, but tame west coast scene.  Walked 
into the old dust bowl where there was actually a pretty extreme depth 
difference from the dirt floor to the stage^ we were maybe about 15 rows 
back  Trey / Fishmanside^.^98 old skool set up^haha.

An absolutely magnificent Bathtub Gin soared straight from the beginning.  
It may have actually been my highlight from that west coast run of shows.  
This Gin took off into the Pacific and kept on climbing.  Trey threw the 
funk/wa-wa and had us in an ambient boogie.  This Gin is at least 20 minutes 
long and I highly recommend tracking this one down folks.  It^s a 
beauty^nice west   coast secret.  As this Gin was reaching 35,000 feet, Trey 
pulled her back in.  An appropriate Dirt was the number 2 hitter tonight.  
Lots of venue/environment themes during this whole show^dirt was definitely 
part of the scene at the Fairgrounds^people do bag this venue, but man you 
are so close to within reach of the smiling Pacific and palm trees at the 
Fairgrounds.   Next up was a Poor Heart that didn^t want to end^lots of rock 
endings to this one, with a "Mike Gordon^Poor Heart^.Mike Gordon," from Trey 
with a chuckle.. The band was having fun and it was apparent with the mellow 
vibe of a sunset Lawn Boy ("Page McConnell^Lawn Boy" ^Trey) and My Sweet 
One.  Trey was especially talkative with the audience too all during this 
set.  The crowd was shouting our for new material and I recall Trey saying, 
"You want something new?  Ok.  How about Birds?"   We were all psyched for 
the Birds of Feather^very young version.  Next up was Theme.  Always love a 
Theme^little did I know that it would be the last Theme I^d get for the next 
three years.  (so badly wanted a Theme the last week of 2000^oh well).   
Water in the Sky, newly sped up than the ^97 ones, graced us next continuing 
the chill So-Cal vibe.   A baby Moma Dance hit us again for the 3rd time in 
4 shows.  It was obvious that was to be a band and fan favorite.  A ripping 
Spit capped off a fairly long playful 1998 summer first set.

As the sun went down and set II was near, I don^t think anyone anticipated 
the type of set we would get.  Another killer, not really well known set 
from the West Coast.  Drowned kicked things off^.once again extremely 
appropriate for the proximity of the Pacific and the beach.  Hadn^t heard 
Drowned since NYE ^95..and I was psyched and ready to cherish this one.  Out
of the Drowned comes a smooth seg to Makisupa.   A good time right there.  
The next thing we know, there^s a Maze kicking in rocking the dust bowl.   
More flashbacks to NYE ^95^Sea and Sand.  I believe it was the first Sea and 
Sand since NYE too. A very nice tip of the hat from the band to the 
surrounding environment^continued some good old holiday run memories for me 
from the east coast days.  Don^t really remember the Caspian^it probably was 
the one slug of the second set.  Hood closed set II off with a minor glow 
stick war and everyone overall was smiling.

For the encore Fishman walks out with one of those "Phish ^ Temple of Fire ^ 
Summer ^98" flyers^.you could tell he had lyrics written on it.  He kicks in 
with Sexual Healing and the crowd erupted.  Looking back, Sexual Healing may 
have kinda been the kick-off of all the random covers of ^98.  Didn^t really 
expect another tune in the encore^but low and behold^a powerful ferocious 
Halley^s.  The ending of this Halley^s just echoed and echoed and 
echoed^lots of just hanging spooky feedback.  Silly phish and dark sly Phish 
for the encore.  I^ll take it.   It was the end of a mini-summer vacation 
for most of us.  Some carried on to Phoenix the next day^I almost called in 
sick, but didn^t.  A very good show here in Ventura.  As everyone says, I 
encourage you to seek out this show^it is a gem.  The Gin and Set II make 
this special.  The discs and tapes have your classic outdoor wind hiss^just 
like Sugarbush.

Crazy to think three years later we all just saw Trey here in Berkeley.  
Hope in a couple of years we possibly get Phish back at the Fairgrounds or 
(in a perfect world) a multi night run at the Santa Barbara Bowl.  Thanks 
for reading.

Mike Powers | San Francisco

From Sat Sep 12 23:35:41 1998 Date: Wed, 22 Jul 1998 16:02:32 GMT From: To: Newsgroups: Subject: *REALLY a Ventura 7/20 Review* Thanks very much to Dave Donohue for getting me down to Ventura, and to Dan Purcell for getting me back to San Francisco!!! I haven't read any reviews of Ventura, yet, so read all the reviews you can get your hands on to get all the details (because you won't find them all here!!!). DISCLAIMER: I have been seeing Phish off and on since 1989 and have heard a majority of the shows in the Helping Friendly Book. I still LOVE Phish, but am jaded, having liquidated nearly 500 Phish tapes within the last three years. If I were to list out the Phish songs I never want to see again *live*, the list would probably be more than a page long. I prefer several of Phish's newest songs to the vast majority of their older songs (which I think is really, really weird.. this band is incredible! =^). I think it is wise to distrust all opinions on music, regardless of experience, until you hear something for yourself, because your opinion is all that matters. I nevertheless also think it is important to contextualize your opinions on the Internet, for greater hermeneutical harmony. 7/20/98 Ventura County Fairgrounds, Ventura, CA This venue is a dump. If I remember the person who told me that this was a nice venue, I'm going to have to throw them up against a wall and shoot them. Yes, this "venue" is next to a beach and the gorgeous Pacific ocean. Yes, palm trees were visible about 50 feet or more behind the band members. But this "venue" is in fact -- RACE FANS AND HOT RIDERS -- a RACING PIT!!!! It is a DIRT DUMP!!! A CRUD-FILLED-FENCED-OFF HOLE!!! SO WHAT if it is near the beach, though, if all you can see around you from the pit are dirt & advertisement splattered walls and fencing. The Greek Theater is much nicer (near L.A., which Phish played on 9/29/95, I think) as is that place in San Diego (which was *beautiful*, imo, and REALLY next to the water..where Phish played on 9/28/95, I think). The sound at this dump was also not very good (muddy), unless you were in front of the soundboard (then it was fine, but not even vaguely as impressive as Shoreline's sound from that vantage point). The show opened up with Bathtub Gin, which I really enjoyed hearing. It went nowhere for a long time, though (or what seemed like a long time), at the beginning of the jam segment, until Trey finally started leading the groove into Hose Everyone Off Mode. A really fired-up Gin, which reminded me of other Hose Everyone Off Gins, like 8/13/93 Murat and 8/17/97 Went. It didn't last as long as I'd hoped, though. I nevertheless look forward to hearing it again sometime. Dirt, Poor Heart, Lawn Boy, My Sweet One, Birds, and Water in the Sky followed. (get it? lots of soil & water songs at this show.. because.. we were on dirt.. and really near the water.. (!)) Poor Heart had an enhanced, FREEBIRD ending, which reminded me and Chris Bertolet of the 7/9/97 Lyon version (which also ends MIGHTILY!). Lawn Boy and MSO also had endings that were a wee bit dragged out (the band was clearly having a great time.. Trey kept saying stuff like "Mike Gordon on Poor Heart, everyone" and "Page McConnell on Lawn Boy!!"). Birds was worthless. This is a great song, but it has no business being in a set unless the band rips it up like a good Crosseyed and Painless. It wasn't nearly as good as the Providence version from April 1998, for example. Phish apparently has yet to truly take this jam places, which makes little sense in light of the song's obvious similarities to C&P, and, say, the 11/2/96 must-hear C&P. The new, upbeat version of Water in the Sky is ok, imo.. I'm not very fond of this song. I think I might actually prefer the original version, since it would give me more time to go take a leak or get a beer. Theme from the Bottom rescued the set, in my opinion. It was an excellent version (I love this song), which -- though it didn't really get OUT THERE as much as I wish this song WOULD sometime -- was nevertheless strong. MOMA DANCE came next, and well, I love this song.. they can play this at every show I see. Unfortunately, though, what I'd hoped would become a FUNKASAURUS that would kick dirt up into everyone's faces, was about as BLAH a version of the song that there could be. Even the 6/30/98 version, which features a lot of banter from Trey about *the* moma *dance* itself, is a more groovy version. The Shoreline version was faaaaaaar better than this Ventura one.. I was bummed by this, but still pleased to hear it again. I love the song. Split Open and Melt was huge. Just huge. Not an unusually "experimental" version, but there was an exciting, thrilling jam that you'll just have to hear for yourself sometime. Easily one of my personal favorite versions of the tune. Just LOVED IT!!! It ended the set on a real high note, I thought (which the set really needed, imo). Second set BLASTED OPEN with an SHREDDING version of Drowned. I prefer the 12/31/95 version to this one, easily, but I still loved hearing this tune again (I also thought this version was much more inspired and impressive than the Fall 1997 versions.. except maybe 12/11 Rochester). Drowned segued spacily -> into Makisupa. Makisupa featured a cute little noodling solo from Trey, but was otherwise too slow and dead for my tastes. It wasn't even half as cool as, say, most Fall 1995 versions (e.g., 10/7/95 Spokane). Maze came next, out of a segue which sounded 2001-esque (I thought for sure we'd be getting Also Sprach..). I'm really no longer amused by Maze at all, but this was a tight, decent version. (no, it wasn't nearly as good as 11/8/96 Champaign.. a must-hear Maze, imo!) Sea and Sand was next, and seemed to surprise everyone except Mark Toscano, who almost called it pre-show. It wasn't even competitive with the brilliant, almost flawlessly-executed 12/31/95 version, and well.. I think Page knew that (he didn't seem too happy about the performance). He flubbed a lyric and his voice was cracking. He probably just hadn't rehearsed it, but he may have also been *very* ANNOYED (as many folks were) by the NASTY ECHO.. which was heard 'round the venue, beside and behind the soundboard, during this tune. Fuckerpants came next and well, to be fair, it was the most profound version that I'd ever heard or seen. Trey's soloing was wonderful (once he dropped the repetitive chords). I'm looking forward to hearing it again sometime, to see if it really was as great as it sounded at the show.. Harry Hood came next, and yes, there was a glowstick war (which was amusing for about a minute, and then very distracting). And yes, some people still yelled out "Hood" after Trey's "Harry"s during the opening segment. (Note to Self: find Darius Zelkha and kill him for starting this obnoxious, stupid gimmick) I enjoyed the jam segment of this Harry, even though it doesn't hold a candle to truly awe-inspiring versions like 11/12/94 Kent State and 10/7/95 Spokane and 7/1/95 Great Woods. I love the song. Great set closer, even though I expected them to cough up Cavern next. The encores were, well, very bizarre. Sexual Healing was hysterically funny, and I was holding back tears while laughing. Many people seemed to take it very seriously, though, which I found very, very disturbing (where do you people come from?!?). Fish made a complete jackass of himself and it was very refreshing. I think the version would have been improved by a vacuum solo, but others seemed to think that Fish did just fine making an ass of himself without need of the vacuum. I miss the vacuum. :-( Anyway, this encore was a real treat and Fish's "sexual" dancing made it all the more amusing!! (and no, it didn't jam) The Halley's encore was exciting at first (it was a Halley's encore, after all), and I LOVE this tune.. but this version was, well, Questionable, At Best, in my opinion. Trey started the jam segment out with a funky vibe, which I found very encouraging. I was hoping that they would whip this small funk vibe up into a MONSTROUS FUNKALICIOUS ASS-SLAPPING BOOGIE, but instead, it just sortof farted around repetitively for awhile and then fizzled out. Trey left the stage very hurriedly after setting off some digital-delay loop effects. I wasn't close enough to see his face, but given the basic BLAH-ness of the Halley's jam, well. I assumed the worst. Fish wasted little time before he left the stage, and then Page and Mike promptly followed suit. ANYWAY, despite how cool "HALLEY's" as an encore was at first (especially after an amusing "Sexual Healing," with HYHU after it), this Halley's was probably the lamest ending to a Phish show that I'd ever seen, outside, of course, of the 8/7/96 Bouncin Golgi. I'll be interested to hear it on tape again, though, to see if I'm forgetting something. I would be really interested to know, though, if any of you were close enough to the stage to have been watching Trey shortly before he left the stage.. because I'm wondering whether there was some bad vibe in the air that he picked up on, and then hurriedly split. What I thought might easily have become the most amazing Halley's that I'd ever seen or heard, quickly went nowhere, and then became the most depressing Halley's that I'd ever heard. As a whole, this show had some very high points (Gin, SOAM!!, Drowned, Fuckerpants!), and was fun (and worth the drive!!!)... but it can't touch 7/19 Shoreline musically, imo. I would still recommend hearing it for yourself, given the highlights (which are HIGHLIGHTS, imo). The band was clearly having a GREAT TIME (at least until Halley's, maybe(?)) at this gig! Check it out! two cents charlie
Date: Sat, 30 Dec 2000 01:07:08 EST From: To: Subject: Review: 7-20-98 Continuing down along the California Coast on a wondurous begining to the tour of 98... We find tonights show literally on the ocean front, yards from the Sea & Sand... Schwaggy venue, though trully a Dirt show... Long journey from the previous night in Shoreline... With added vibe from local phriends, the evening takes on a soulfull, laidback apeall, the goo is begining to ooze... The Bathtub Gin envellops the moment, splashing Phish Goo everywhere, a fantasticly phun jam. Into Dirt, perfect fit... Couples hand in hand, a nice love vibe seems to permeate the vibe... Poor Heart, Lawn Boy, My Sweet One, Water in the Sky, Moma Dance ( Again ) all in the first set... felt wonderfull, Birds was nice to hear again, the Theme refrenced the ocean and the Split was great! I could feel the energy above the band in Split, I was saying! ! to myself, Trey the energy is above you guys man, you've summoned it once again... Towards the end of the song, Trey raised his hand high in the air and looked above him, waiving his hand straight above him while looking up in the air, I was like saying; That is sooo cool!!! A nice moment of connection to the moment.... Drowned ~ Makisupa was laidback with "Skunk" which is typical West Coast style. A tease Maze emerged and Sea & Sand felt mystical. A nice Caspian floated upon the waves and Harry was phun to hang with, a soft soulfull evening of Phish.... The encore was a godsend, with a humorous Sexual Healing, Phantastic Fish!!! My girl called a Halley's in the first set... I was like get real.... Then they play Halley's after the Sexual Healing, WOW !!! This tour is alot of phun, and it has only just begun!!! Come On, lets make Luv tonight,,, Ohhhh Baby!!!! Phish Rules !!! ~ Peace ~
--------- From Sat Sep 12 23:35:41 1998 Date: Sun, 26 Jul 1998 14:57:46 -0400 (EDT) From: Mark Hutchison To: Newsgroups: Subject: So Far... 7/20/98 Ventura, CA I: Gin!!!, Dirt, Poor Heart, Lawn Boy, MY Sweet One, Birds, Theme, Water in the Sky, Momma Dance, Melt II: Drowned!!!->Makisupa, Maze, Sea & Sand, Prince Crapstain, Hood E: Sexual Healing, Halley's Comet The Gin was great! Honestly, really good. Kind of like the Went's, but not. Birds was good again, as was the Melt. And then...Drowned! Drwoned AND Sea & Sand in the same set? Bizzare...this show must've been the wierd one of the tour with those two and the encore. Fishman came to the front to sing Sexual Healing in his frock (which he's been wearing the whole tour, not at just Shoreline and Ventura, FWIW...) with the words written on the back of a Phish "Temple of Fire" poster. Halley's was strange again, as I thought there'd surely be another tune, since Halley's has no ending. But, they just kind of fizzled it out like NYE '95 II or the Ball or the Went's encores. But now I have to go up to Dallas. I'm sorry I can't talk about Pheonix right now, because I think it was the best so far. Houtson and Austin were both kind of "ok" (meaning good.) See y'all in a week, - Mark ("Texas is hot") ah ---- "It's kind of silly when [fans are] making pie graphs about set list openers. But then, I always liked a good graph." - Mike Gordon in an interview with the Detroit Free Press December 5, 1997 7/20/98 - Ventura County Fairgrounds, Ventura, CA The lot scene: I don't like talking about this part much, but on a brief note, it was mellow. Yes, security was present, but it was definitely an improvement on Shoreline the night before. I didn't see any kids get busted for vending, and staff didn't do a full pat down at the gates as they often do at many venues. The venue: I hear people ranting about what a horrible place the Ventura County Fairgrounds are to see a show. Personally, I like this venue. True it is a dustbowl, but you don't go to a Phish show to floss your new threads. Besides, I was dirty enough from being on the road that a little dirt couldn't hurt. It is located right on the beach so the climate was nice. And best of all, it wasn't hard to find good seats; no matter where you were, you were fairly close to the stage. The crowd: Hmmm...I met some cool pholks and rapped with the dude who brought the funk bus to the Gorge. He said Mike dropped in for a short while and that I should look for the funk bus in Maine. There were a lot of drugged out people there who seemed like they belonged more at a rave than at a Phish show, but this is the reality that we all must deal with. Especially in southern California, no offense to those of you from the southland. Now onto the show........ I. Bathtub, Dirt, Poor Heart, Lawn Boy, MSO, Birds, Theme, Water in the Sky, Moma Dance, SOAM II. DrownedMakisupaMaze, Sea and Sand, CaspianHood E: Sexual HealingHYHU, Halley's The Gin opener was, in one word, PHAT. Clocking in at over 21 minutes, it was extremely long, and I loved every minute of it. I'd been waiting for a Bathtub the whole tour thus far and felt this one coming. I love this song as an opener. In the middle, the boys launched into a massive funk jam and on my setlist, I actually had it labeled as Ginfunk jamGin. Amazing. Dirt was a very fitting song given the venue. I think this is a beautiful song and was afraid that maybe it had been dropped from the lineup. Poor Heart was phun, nothing special, except for the crazy Crosseyed&Painless tease at the end. Well, then again, maybe it was special... Lawn Boy is a cool little song. I enjoy the lyrics My Sweet One was next. After Poor Heart, this one came completely out of left field. Again, it is a phun song and got the crowd dancing, but I was fiending for some jamming. At least it was short and sweet. Birds of a Feather are flocking outside! Yes!!! This is one of my favorite new songs. I was very happy to hear it after a string of really short tunes which highlight the personality of the band and who they are, but don't necessarily bring out their amazing musical capabilities, IMHO. Theme was good as usual. I really like it and I called this one. It was another that I'd been waiting for. One of the highlights for me. Water in the Sky. To be honest, I liked the old version better. Don't get me wrong, the new H20 is very danceable and all, but somehow it doesn't seem to fit. The old version I thought was a very pretty tune and this new one is well, uh, kinda strange. It was followed by the Moma Dance. Without a doubt my favorite of the new songs. Big improvement on Black-Eyed Katy. Katy was a sweet instrumental, but the Moma Dance is on a completely new level. This was the 4th time out of 5 shows so far, and each time it got better. This one started off really slow and methodical and built up into tremendous energy. Split Open and Melt closed set one in style. It wasn't as long as some of the versions from last year if I recall correctly, but it was definitely well played. Set two opened with Drowned!!!! I love this song, what a treat. Not quite on par with NYE 95, but then again, what is? Nothing but smiles here! Out of drowned emerged the familiar notes of Makisupa. Very phun song, a crowd favorite indeed. I wasn't expecting it at all, having just heard it at the Gorge a few nights before, but no complaints here! Key word was "skunk." Makisupa segued nicely into Maze. This is a nice pairing. I think these two songs go well together, even though they are of a completely different style. Apparently the band thinks so too, because they have done nice transitions from MakisupaMaze in the past as well. Maze was ok. It was shorter and tighter than many versions I've heard, but this one didn't quite do it for me. The space jam in between though was phat. Sea and Sand. Nice work by Page here. Sort of killed the momentum, but nonetheless a wonderful song. I just thought the placement coud have been better. Prince Caspian is one of my favorites. It's a beautiful song and this one had to have been one of the best versions ever. Caspian segued into Hood!!!!! This was a repeat from Portland so I didn't see it coming, but I can never get sick of Hood. As usual, Hood was beautifully played, one of the best Hoods IMHO, an improvement on Portland. Real long at about 18 minutes. The ending was absolutely beautiful. What a way to close the set. Sexual Healing!?!? Go Fishman!!!! Totally hilarious, Fishman did a funny dance, you had to see it to believe it, and then started walking around the stage like a robot. Hey, that guy Trey isn't too shabby at the drums! -- HYHU. No surprise here. Me and everyone else were a little surprised when the boys picked up their instruments again. Halley's was a shocker. I had never heard it before, so needless to say, this one sent me into ecstacy. At the end, there was this low buzz which I can only describe as stoney, and one by one, Trey, Mike, Page, and Tubbs exited the stage. Overall thoughts: Set I: 8.5-solid with some definite highlights (Gin opener comes to mind) Set II: 8.8-the boys were really playing well this set, so much energy, and the encores were wacky This was a very magical evening. Perhaps not as powerful as the 2nd night of the Gorge, but this show was probably my favorite of the west coast. Get the tapes! Four quick Ventura notes : 1) Split Open & Melt was noticeably slower and slightly funky (....imagine that). The jam gets crazy (i.e. non funky), but then returns to the ending segment of the song with a big slowdown in the beat. I love a good Melt, and you sure as heck can't beat some slowfunk Melt. 2) Lawn Boy was the "sunset" tune. With the pacific ocean directly behind the audience, the band was treated to a sweet sunset, and Kuroda didn't put on the stage lights until it was basically dark. I was like 15 yards back from the stage and could hardly see Page cheesin it through the barely-there sunset light. 3) Trey seemed a bit tipsy on the alcohol early on. He took a shot of something out of a clear plastic cup (I'm guessing it was some quality tequila) right after the crazy 22 minute Bathtub opener. After Poor Heart, Trey introduced Mike as "Poor Heart". He then repeated the humor after Lawn Boy and MSO, by calling Page "Lawn Boy" and calling Fishman "My Sweet One" after each of those tunes were done. 4) The lot scene was killer, with a beautiful public beach literally running alongside one part of the parking lot. Gotta love that they kicked down 7 songs at this show with water imagery (Bathtub, Theme, Water in the Sky, Moma Dance, Drowned, Sea and Sand, Prince Caspian). Oh yeah, there were a bunch of hotels REALLY close to the venue, so I imagine the killer scene just moved over there (and to the nearby, beachside campgrounds). ======WATCH THE SAIL======== " t h e m o m e n t e n d s " ============================ webersan Ventura has always been my favorite place to see a show. I love how you can get as close as possible and not have to pay outstanding prices. And who can complain about the scenery, can't get any closer to the water. I like the old jams, so i was psyched to hear bathtub to start it off, but it took me a little while to get through the set till an incredible Split open and melt finished it off. Out of all the funk that they are playing now, Makisupa Policeman is fast becoming my favorite. Which madfe me happy when the jammed it in the second set. When they ended that, and went right into Maze, i didn't knoiw how things could get any better. Maze has always been an intense song live for me and i think most audiences. Yet the most enjoyable part of the night came when the flowing jam of Harry Hood started, and the lights when out. The audience turned into a sea of glo-sticks jumping out and falling through all the people. For a while this went on, and i'm sure the band enjoyed the visual stimulation from the crowd. This ended the second set, and i'm sure most were thinking how this could possibly be topped? well, fishman took care of it by serenading all the ladies in the audience and making all the men laugh by grooving to sexual healings. what a night! mike pettit California Disclaimer: Ventura was my 18th Phish show since 1994. I've heard about 300 hours on tape. My wife's cat has heard approximately 200, which means that even our pet probably knows more about Phish than you do. But I digress. This was to be my only Phish show of the summer, and my expectations going in (especially after seeing Shoreline's stellar playlist) were minimal. The setlist, as best as I can recall and from Eric Burns' recollections, went like this: Set One: Bathtub Gin, Dirt, Poor Heart, Lawn Boy, My Sweet One, Birds of a Feather, Water in the Sky (not sure about the placement of this one), Theme, Moma Dance, Split Open & Melt (approx 80 min) Set Two (aka the Beast that Ate the Beach): Drowned - Makisupa Policeman - jam Maze, Sea and Sand, (something here, and I'm bummed I'm forgetting it), Prince Caspian, Harry Hood e: Sexual Healing, Halley's Comet (II + E 90 min) The scene was the same as last year -- very chill despite cops on horseback. Some fellow insisted that he saw a horse throw his badged rider...I may have paid to see this, as the guy wasn't hurt. We went in as the gates opened, and quite easily dropped a blanket on the cracked dirt surface about halfway between the soundboard and stage -- perfect seats, imo. I called GIN, and was quite happy to hear it, though I prefer it as a mid-set jam setpiece instead of an opener. Well, this Gin wasn't as glorious as the Went version (my personal favorite), but it quite easily bested the Gorge's Gin opener from last year. It was very exploratory as I recall, with Fishman and Page really shining. I had no idea until Eric Burns told me so that this was a 20-minute version. Honestly, I got so lost in it that time really meant squat. It was perfectly apparent that the boys were on, and that I'd picked the right show to see. Probably the strongest opener I've ever seen next to Sneaking Sally on 12/30/97. DIRT was perfectly played and very appropos given our dusty surroundings. Nice song. Nuff said. It started a stretch of tunes that most people out there will read and say, "lame." I can't really put into words why it wasn't, but it wasn't. Honestly, who knows whether the energy from this run will translate to tape, but it was crackling. The POOR HEART saw Fish more than his usual animated self, and Mike's solo drew props from Trey -- who, by the way, was having a fucking *blast* all night. They rawked out the ending, and then coda'd with the closing licks from Freebird much as they did in Lyon last year with Bela. At this point, the crowd was going bananas. The LAWN BOY was well-timed, and rendered in typical supercheese fashion. I always like to hear this tune, though I think some folks think of it as Yawn Boy. MY SWEET ONE was a surprise, given that they'd already played Poor Heart -- two songs I speak of in the same breath. It came out of the gates sounding like Mule, which was due, but MSO was a nice treat for a west coast crowd that hasn't heard that tune in a long, long time. Energy was still popping, but momentum had sagged the slightest bit. Time for a recharge. BIRDS OF A FEATHER was my first and, along with Moma Dance, the new tune that I most wanted to hear. This version did not disappoint. Jenn turned to me as the jam began and said, "this sounds a lot like Talking Heads." Bwahaha...indeed. If Phish is wearing their influences on their sleeve a little lately, they're doing it quite well. This BOAF ripped. Straight-ahead, type-I dissonance groove. By this point, the crowd was on its heels, and Phish was charging right at them again. I don't think this is where WATER IN THE SKY was placed, but if it was, it was terrible placement. The new arrangement of this song is certainly more "Phishy," but it's really not appropriate to the lyrics. I rather liked the lullaby version, but I suspect I'll get used to this one. Regardless, two minute tunes don't really get in the way much. THEME scratched an itch I didn't even know I had. The last few versions of this song I'd heard live were a little uninspired, and this one had it. All I remember is grinning ear to ear, and the fact that it was very *loud* by the end. The MOMA DANCE, SPLIT combo to finish the set seemed to me like a great dichotomy. Here we had a song that epitomizes Phish's "new sound" -- a total showcase for the new mode of simple, focused and thoughtful playing -- and the complex wackiness of old-school Phish. I agree with most of Darius's remarks on Moma, except for his assertion that it sounds like MMW. To me, it sounds like Phish...a much spacier tone than MMW typically grooves to, and less earthy. Anyway, I turned around as this tune began to see Dirksen grinning like a cheshire cat, and turned back around as it ended...same grin. I called the Split seconds before it happened, and as Splits typically do, this one screamed. Trey especially was on fire for this one, just kneeding the lower registers of his 'Doc patiently. Very meditative groove a la many 1994 Stashes, which just then detonated at the end. I was seriously impressed. Long set break as I recall. Perhaps a full 45 minutes. Discussion at the break was very positive, but a little reserved. I was maybe more effusive than most, seeing as how I'd heard the two tunes I called, and the two new tunes I wanted to hear. The second set was gravy...and what gravy it was. Let's be honest...has Phish ever played a "bad" version of DROWNED? This was my first, and I'm a huge fan of the Who, a huge fan of Quadrophenia, and a huge fan of some of the jams it's produced (12/31/95, 12/11/97). It was also appropriate because, as you all probably know, Quadrophenia is the story of rival factions of teens who live near the beach...much like the West Side Story of industrial Britain. Perfect for the venue. Anyway, I jumped around like a maniac as Page rang out the first licks on his grand, and my enthusiasm was rewarded with a *scorching, heartfelt, hosedown.* This was, to my ears, absolutely titanic type-II Phish jamming. Of course, I'll have to hear the tapes to know whether I'm blowing smoke, but I was moved. This must have been twenty minutes long, and it segued seamlessly and melodiously into MAKISUPA. What a great breather. "Woke up in the morning....ssssssssskunk." As my wife and I have a family of them living under our house, skunks are sort of a theme with us. They're all over the place in SoCal, and I wake up to the smell of them all the time. Though...wait...maybe Trey wasn't talking about that kind of skunk...;-) Anyway, he played a terrific little solo at the end of this tune, playful and reminiscent of the post-Hood jam from Darien last summer (though not as developed). segue (more of a meltdown, really) into MAZE. Short version. Crackling version. Page just shredded the Rhodes. I can't comment enough on how *together* this band is right now. Synched up, lean and mean. This was an "old school" Maze -- far, far tighter than some of the disasters that were played last year (Utah, NYE anyone?). Major, major props to Chris Kuroda for his work last night -- he just took this song to another level. As Eric Burns has noted, this Drowned - Makisupa Maze combo clocked in at about 35 minutes. Yesssss. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard Page start to play SEA AND SAND. Not only was it completely in keeping with the beach theme of the show, but I never thought I'd hear it. Ever. Beautiful version -- a perfect example of how a ballad can sustain the energy of a crowd if it's played with heart. Does Page's voice sound more practiced and steady to anyone else, or is it just me? My apologies if I'm missing something in here... Make no mistake about it, fans...this PRINCE CASPIAN was no Fuckerpants. While I was afraid it'd vacuum the vibe right out of the bowl, I was dead wrong. Trey simply shone on this extended version, leaning into the 32nd notes, smiling and dancing around the stage -- it was just a real treat to see them nail a tune that's been so uneven and fairly maligned. Saul...hear this. Around this point I was thinking Slave, which I'd have preferred over HARRY HOOD at the time. I'm (1) not a fan of glowstick wars and (2) not a fan of the Trey-takes-the-backseat versions that this song seems to have spawned since 1996. Honestly, I find 12/30/97's Hood to be almost unlistenable. Well, the composed section of Hood was really nice and clean, with a playful little high-end flurry from Trey right before the "Harry!" I got doinked in the head by a glowstick as the whole thing was petering out, but was pleasantly surprised at the thoughtfulness and patience of the jamming to that point. Then, the jam got serious. And to make a long story short, sports fans, Trey is back in the SADDLE on this song!!! It wasn't what I'd call a teary-eyed version, but rather extended, scorching and purposeful. Really, really beautiful, and it didn't suffer at all for Trey's showmanship. Bravo. I sort of figured on a long encore, as we were at around 67 minutes. I did *not* expect SEXUAL HEALING. Who did? I think someone once suggested this one, maybe a year ago, on r.m.p. Now, I've seen Fish do Cryin'. I've seen him do Suspicious Minds with Elvi. I've seen him do Purple Rain in the purple rain over Red Rocks. And this topped them all. Not only was he dancing around at the front of the stage like a drunk muppet, but he actually lifted the mu-mu and wagged his ass and private parts at the front rows (someone who was on the rail, please remark!). If it went on a little long, who gave a fuck? No one near me. There was one moment in the HYHU fanfare where he ran to the front of the stage and pumped his arms on the one as the band came down on the same beat -- and Chris *jacked* the bright whites. And for a moment frozen in time, Greasy Fizeek was the biggest rock star on the planet. I was sort of surprised to see them going back for their instruments after that one, and absolutely floored by Doop-Choop... HALLEYS was, as best as I can describe it, stoney. It descended into a super-goop funk jam, maybe four/five minutes long, until Trey started to bust off some loops. "I hope they just walk off now," I said to Burns, and they did. What a magnificent show. Apart from some fantastic bust-outs, the playing actually surpassed the setlist. The band had a raucous blast onstage, and seemed to truly appreciate the crowd. I sit here this morning sated. Thank you, Phish. -- "You remember what happened to the boy who suddenly got everything he ever wanted, don't you?" chris bertolet Just a short note to let everyone know that it was a great show. For those of us paying attention, Mike Gordon and Fishman could be seen darting through the crowd on the ocean boardwalk outside the venue on an electric cart right before the show. They were going fast enough so that by the time you realized who was ripping by you, it was too late to stop and talk. With Fishman at the wheel, there was of grave danger to limb and life in attempting to stop that maniac. The first set was not an easy space for me to get into. New songs and a new sound and poor positioning in the audience on my part kept me less than fully satiated. Don't get me wrong, the stuff is good, but I really hope that this "funk" sound is just a part of the overall growth of the Phish sound (as I'm sure it is) and not something that they're firmly sinking their teeth into for the long term. As you can well imagine, the majority of these songs will be around for a long time, but I believe that they will be representative of one aspect of the many-faceted Phish. The second set was more old school. I placed myself in front of the soundboard and the sound (for me) improved dramatically. The songs were familiar and the band and the audience were having fun. The Ventura County Fairgrounds is a great venue for these guys and I hope they continue to play there forever. General admission is the only truly democratic form of concert attendance. You want front row positions, you make damn sure you get there early and stake out your place...all of you comped ticket holders can take your chances like the rest of us. Peace, Marty great show monday nite! the bathtub gin went off. it could've gone on the whole set, but trey pulled it back in for us. i was glad to see a pretty solid theme from the bottom and finally get a split open and melt... drowned and sea and sand were unexpected (but quite fitting for the surrounding environment). brought back memories of new year's 95 to me... great transition to makisupa as well. pretty fulfilling show. they boys seem to be kicking it into gear now. where's runway jim? phoenix? First of all, I had a blast. The proximity of the venue to the ocean is paradise, and obviously the band was inspired by their view from the stage to do a "sea set." Lots of water references - a great thread running through the show. There was a time when nitrous balloons and beer in the parking lot would be my stadard M.O., but last night I decided to walk on the beach and skip rocks into the surf, and look for whales and chill to get in the mood. Sort of communing with the surroundings...and the show was right in my stride. I was pretty psyched at the prospect of a Gin opener - I have been watching the setlist rotate, and excited to see this tune back in action. I have not seen a show since last year here - I can't give accurate comparisons to other shows. But I can say that I like the new tunes. Dirt and Drowned were interesting lyrically. And I danced and dug on Birds of a Feather as well. The vocals sound good, and I was in a good spot in the crowd - for the first time I had enough Mike in the mix, and that was pretty perfect. Great job on Lawn Boy solo and driving Melt to close the set. MakisupaMaze was spectacular. Huge rock and roll showmanship right there, with the backdrop of palm trees and a few stars in the mist. Sea and Sand was a nice short nugget that I liked alot. I am not and cannot be a Caspian fan. Sorry. Then a fat Hood. Fun encore - Sexual Healing is perfect for Fishman. I have to say that Ben Harper has been closing shows with this too, and his version brings me to tears. But Fishman is a charmer too. Then Halley's Comet was groovy and I was happy to be kicking up the dust one last time before hitting the road. Trey is driving the wah-wah into the ground. The jam in the middle of Bathtub sounded an awful lot like Moma Dance to me. Was that a tease or just a rut he is in? Still the subtle playing of Page underneath the drone of the wah works well, and Fishman is great at mixing it up and driving it harder. I think I already mentioned that Mike Gordon is a god. I left in a great space. Cheers guys! How about playin the Greek again next time through?!? Peace Aric