5-24-02, Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA

review submisions to me at dws@netspace.org or dws@gadiel.com

Date: Sun, 26 May 2002 00:27:39 -0700
From: JC McIlwaine real-ize@earthlink.net

    The Trey Anastasio Band show at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on
Friday, May 24th was magical.  I say this because the night played out as if
Providence was tossing silver coins left and right all night long.
    I got to the Civic just as Papa Pretty was welcoming Michael Franti and
Spearhead onstage.  Spearhead, as always, played a great set, complete with
rockers like ³Rock the Nation² and more thoughtful pieces like ³Bomb the
World².  They ended their set with the song ³Sometimes², with a little help
on guitar and vocals from Trey.  The whole crowd was hopping and getting
down low.  It was quite a sight.
    Trey and his band opened the first set with ³Money, Love, and Change².
After setting up the song with a couple of verses and choruses the band
launched headlong into the first jam of the night, a rocking funk jam.  Trey
bobbed typically from side to side.  You could tell he knew it was a hot
jam, as he surveyed the crowd with a smile and licked his fingers as if to
cool them off.  Hot!
    The second song of the set was ³Burlap Sack and Pumps², during which
Trey played a screechy note on guitar that must have lasted close to thirty
seconds, and was met with cheers from the crowd when it ended.  I think it
takes a Phishy crowd to appreciate such screeches.  Next up was
³Mozambique², a little Latin number with high school marching band horn
riffs.  At one point Trey put down his guitar to dance to Dave Grippo¹s
saxophone solo.  I smiled, remembering the days when my friends had music
lessons with Mr. Grippo at my high school back in Vermont.
    Still smiling and looking around, I noticed a man I know from a few
years back, Gray.  He was standing there in the same old spot he¹s always
in, aswarm in a sea of itty-bitty pretty bitties, surveying the scene from
underneath his fedora.  I said hello but I really don¹t think he remembered
me.  If he did, then I¹m just not female enough or pretty enough to
captivate his attention.
    Anyway, the band played a slow intro. into ³Flock of Words², a song I
found to be rather painful on the ears.
The band played ³Last Tube² to end the first set.  As prophesied, the ³Last²
became first (or, at least the end of the first).  The song was funkier than
I¹ve ever heard it, replete with two or three false endings, each time but
the last leading back into the funk.
    We headed outside into the sea of smokers, where one of the security
guards was nice enough to pull out the barriers so we could stand more than
an inch apart and smoke without burning each other.  There we met a guy from
Sebastipol, who told us he¹s lived with a girl named Cinnamon, a guy named
Sunshine, and people ³named after every rock you could think of².  As I
looked around, my gaze settled on the cliché image of the American flag
flapping in the breeze against the background of fog encroaching upon the
golden dome of City Hall.  Typical.
Heading back inside from the sea of smokers we met a girl who called herself
Bikini Top Tina, and commented that: ³Smoking is so f**king toxic.  Just go
do some coke or something².  Then, realizing that coke may not be the best
either, she said: ³There¹s just a time and a place for everything².  She
wore no bikini top.
    The music started and we rushed into the room, this time heading for the
left side of the auditorium (stage right), where all the freaky and fun
dancers congregate.  Even without McConnell around, Page-side is still
    The second set opened with ³Small Axe² with a little help from Michael
Franti of Spearhead on vocals.  It was the first and last song of the night
with any real revolutionary content or sentiment.  It was great.
The next song wasn¹t so great.  It was a weird tune with bells and sitar and
weird horns and even weirder vocal grunts and mumbles.  Then the flute came
out and the song got a little better.
    Picking up the tempo a bit, the band launched into Mr. Completely,
replete with great guitar riffs and some of the funkiest organ of the night.
It was on.  Trey was pumped and you could tell.  It was almost as if he was
masterguitarbating.  He had the face of an angry Ninja bunny, nose all
scrunched up, eyes squinting, just laying it down in true badass form.  It
was as if he knew just how hard he was smacking it down.
    And he¹s not the only one.  If you¹ve seen this incarnation of the band,
you know how tight and together they are.  Finally Trey has his own gig, his
own band to orchestrate.  There is the robot drummer, the rocksteady
bassist, the keyboardist, five horn players (one of whom is the only female
in the band): one trumpet, one trombone, and three saxophones (and an
occasional flute substitute) to round out the full horn section.  (Trey
finally does have a saxophone.  Now for the skyscraper.)  Rounding out the
ensemble is the newly added percussionist who, with his slew of rhythmic
devices, keeps the sound fresh all night long.  Did I mention the flute?
I¹ve never heard a flute solo at a Phish show.  Rock on.  Right on.
    The orchestration is really quite incredible.  The band responds to the
smallest hand signals from Trey.  He stands with his back to the crowd,
rippling his fingers like colors in a fractal pattern, the band members
responding to his every little nuance of hand motion.  After doing this for
a little while on Friday night, Trey picked up a stick and was conducting
with that.  He turned to the crowd, musical triangle in hand, and let out a
perfectly timed, delightful ³ting².  With a huge grin, he turned back to the
band and continued.  Trey these days seems a good heir to the Zappa
³throne², if you know what I mean.
    Next the band started into an acoustic ditty.  Looking around again, I
spied Gray standing nearby, surrounded by his ever-shifting sea of
itty-bitty pretty bitties.  As I looked up from my and paper, having
recorded the synchronous oddity, I found him standing right there next to
me.  I almost fell over from shock.  Not really wanting to try in vain again
to initiate conversation, I closed my eyes, clasped my hands, and bobbed my
head to the melody.  Suddenly the band sang an awful note and I felt a
whoosh of cold air.  I opened my eyes just as Glenn passed by me, headed
toward the exit.  It was somewhat freaky.  I¹m glad to have the whole
experience over and done with.  The same can be said for the acoustic tune
the band was just then ending.  It was a pretty song but the lyrics were
atrocious.  A note to up and coming songwriters: never use ³discern² to
rhyme with ³learn² unless your intention is to provoke grimaces and
    Trey and the band then launched into a great reggae song, which more
than made up for the previous tune.  Next came ³Push On Til the Day² and ³At
the Gazebo².  At this point I ran out of paper, took off my shoes, stopped
taking notes, and started dancing.  I figured the set had been so good so
far, and that it probably wasn¹t going to get much better.
I was wrong.  It did.  As the night came full circle, Trey and his band
encored with ³First Tube², one of few Phish staples to make it into this
band¹s repertoire.  In fitting manner, the ³First² became last.
    All in all it was a fabulous night for all.  Myself, well, I couldn¹t
have come away happier.  I got a free ticket, got to thank Trey and shake
his hand, put the boogie back in J. Boogie, saw friends I haven¹t seen in
year(s), ground-scored forty bucks on the way out the door, and walked to
the car a happy man, ³phatty² veggie burrito in hand.

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