21 in 21 of 2017: #13 07/30/2017 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – Baker’s Dozen N8 “Jimmies” (Myke Menio, @LawnMemo)
Jam Selection: “Drowned>A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing”
It’s cliche as hell but hot damn is it true….Timing is Everything.
I had worked everything out so that 08/01/2017 (the 9th night of the Baker’s Dozen) would be my 100th Phish show. My original plans were to hit the first weekend and the last week of the Dozen. The last week of July was insanely busy at my work and my birthday is July 27th. I got asked to work on my birthday (which happened to fall on my usual day off) and agreed to if I could have Sunday July 30th off (usually a day of work for me).
My boss says to me “You want to work on your birthday”? He knows full well that in the summer I go see a lot of Phish and when he puts in my request off he writes “Groupie Stuff” in the computer. I said sure because that would allow me go another Phish show, which would be way better than anything else I was going to do on my birthday. Just like that my plans had changed. So after a hellacious week at work and working until about midnight on Saturday night, I got up early Sunday morning and made the trek from the great city of Buffalo, NY to New York City, or as some would call it, the epicenter of the jamming world for those two and a half weeks.
So my 100th Phish show would now be July 30th, 2017 on what turned out to be the “Jimmies” themed donut night. It was simply meant to be. “The flow” brought me to The Garden on that night for that milestone.
“Jimmies” Night was meant for me.
If “Jimmies” Night had been played for me at my first show, I am not sure what I would have thought. That night in 1997 at the Rochester War Memorial, I wanted my Phish hard, fast, and with as much rock and roll as possible. It certainly delivered all of that, and forever changed me. But in 20+ years, both Phish and I have changed a lot.
The biggest change in my life came in 2011 when, after a long toxic relationship (and two week engagement), I was free again. I never felt like myself in that relationship and, it when it ended, my true self began to come shining through again.
I saw Phish at Darien Lake shortly after the break up and Phish re-entered my world on an entirely different level. From the moment the “2001” from that show ended, I was a different person. I became a Phish sponge and listened to Phish 12 hours a day. Superball came and my small group became a massive 30 person posse. Phish (and more importantly, the Phish lifestyle) had completely taken over me. After Superball, I became LawnMemo.
I was an avid reader of the Phish.net Forums and one day, I saw a post for a Phish listening party taking place on website called Turntable.fm. I checked it out and a group of about 30 people were listening to Phish together. It took me about 10 minutes to realize this was exactly the place I wanted to hang out. Phish was played 24 hours a day on that site and we geeked about Phish, life, food and posted gifs all day long. It was, and remains to be, and amazing place. I was on that site all day at work, and that group of people who also frequented the site would become some of my best friends.
(The group resides at https://www.dubtrack.fm/join/thephish now if you want to check it out). In fact, Dianna (who wrote the previous post) and Noah (her boyfriend) met there and housed me for almost 2 weeks of the Baker’s Dozen. The guy who does all my website design (Love Ya Gooch!) and the guy who does anything sound-related for me (Love Ya Eamonn!) are from that group. Another guy introduced me to Aqueous (Love Ya Darren), who I now do a podcast with. Another member offered his floor ticket to me for my 100th show in exchange for my seat (Love ya Shane!) so I could rage the floor with everyone.
So, one day I thought it would be an awesome idea to listen to every “Ghost” ever played and take some notes while doing so. I told the group of my idea and they encouraged me to publish it. There was only one problem — I was a shitty writer. For some reason, that didn’t stop me and that was how LawnMemo.com and “The Daily Ghost” were born! I even had a guy volunteer to proofread every single post, which was an insane amount of work. (Love ya Mdawg!).
In no time, my little project became huge. Scott Bernstein (of @YEMBlog and @JamBase) pushed an incredible amount of people to my website. Shortly thereafter, Phish.net picked it up, put it on the front page and the traffic to the site increased significantly. And just like that, I had a pretty powerful voice in the Phish community. I think, despite all my writing problems, people realized the hard work and passion I was putting into my work. In an amazing community like the Phish community, that really means something.
I started wearing a helmet to Phish shows. People started recognizing me and every show I met more and more people.
I became aware of a group of fans who listened to and had full email discussions on each “Ghost” as I posted them. I met the group in Alpharetta and they were blown away that I was “LawnMemo”. I was more blown away that anyone knew who LawnMemo was. One of those people was Holly Bowling! About a year later, she blew the fuck up and it warms my heart every day to see her crushing it.
So as my good friend Ned Shipley would say….”What the hell does all this have to do with the price of eggs in China?”
Well let’s bring it full circle.
Everyone I have interacted with, everyone who tells me how much they appreciate my work, everyone that just shares their passion for Phish with me helps fuel my fire. I carry that with me at every show.
For my 100th show, I thought it would be a great idea to wear a tuxedo. A special occasion like this was cause for some formal attire. Remember how I said timing is everything? Well my new 100th show date came in 90 degree NYC heat. I took the subway with Noah and immediately regretted my decision. HOLY HELL. Luckily the air conditioning in MSG was world class and I ended up being fine the entire night.
My pre-show was spent taking pictures with friends, fans, and random people who told me I knew how to party. It was awesome. My heart was full before I even walked out of the concourse.
When I finally hit the floor, it was with an incredible amount of people in my now ridiculously-sized extended Phish family. It was also my good friend Sam’s birthday (Love You Sam!), adding to the celebratory vibe.
When the show started, none other than “The Curtain With” kicked things off. Here is the thing… Noah had stayed behind at his house waiting for my traffic delayed wook ass to show up. He had already housed me for a week at that point and taught me all about the Hell that is parking in NYC. Well, “The Curtain With” is his favorite song. I have known that for a long time and when it dropped, my smile was as big as his and he was standing right next to me.
As much as I want to hear the songs that I want to hear, there is nothing I love more than watching someone I care about get their favorite song. It is my all-time favorite thing. The moment that song starts, my heart melts. I purposely try and find out everyone’s favorite song just so that I can be ready to witness that moment.
The biggest reasons I see Phish (I wrote about them here) are for the jams and the community, but I think anybody who says that seeing Phish doesn’t provide an awesome sense of nostalgia is kidding themselves. Nobody wants to see Phish become the dreaded nostalgia act but for a lot of us, Phish is an important link to our youth, and in many cases, a much simpler time. Phish is able to transport us back in time while still blowing our minds in the present.
The first set of “Jimmies” with “The Curtain With,” “Runaway Jim,” “Esther,” “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent->Fly Famous Mockingbird” and the set closing “David Bowie” was a serious time warp. I was sitting there at show #100 and it felt like I was back at show #1. What a trip!
The second set began (which was an easy choice for my jam selection) with “Drowned” which also opened the second set of my first show in Rochester. Yet another time warp! It would then segue into “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing.”
21 years ago and 129 “Ghost” reviews ago, I wouldn’t have nearly appreciated the 40 minute groundbreaking, complex improvisational journey that is this “Drowned>ASIHTOS.” In my seven years working on projects and breaking down Phish, my ear and my understanding of jamming has improved exponentially. I can’t tell you how much working on a project like any of these will improve your listening ability. I was ready to give this the appreciation it deserved on the spot.
Whereas “hard” and “fast” is how I wanted my Phish 100 shows ago, now the unique is what I crave at shows. It is what excites me. I seek the different, and this jam is the most unique of the run I listen and love many other bands, but few every reach this kind of extra dimensional territory. I have listened to this jam literally hundreds of times, and I feel on another plane of existence whenever I get lost in this 40 minutes of greatness.
This is not for the casual Phish fan. You won’t find a cheap thrill here. In fact, my good buddy Josh (Love You Josh!) brought his girlfriend to this show (it was her 3rd show) and she said it was the most boring 40 minutes of her life. I told him, “Well that’s because she has never been with me…”
You can listen and admire the space each member creates in this jam. You can pick out every single note by each band member while still marveling at how experimental and fluid it is. What is truly amazing though is that somehow, while you are racking your brain trying to figure it all out, this jam sends your soul into a state of complete relaxation. You drift away and you are free to think about the things important to you and how much you love Phish. I was able to think about how lucky I was to be surrounded by so many people that mean so much to me, standing there in MSG and taking it all in. The super jams like this have the power on re-listen to take me back to the moment I heard it. I can relive those moments, re-feel those feelings, and in some cases, re-dance those nasty dance moves.
The end of “Drowned” features my favorite part of Phish — Page on the grand piano. After a little rocking section and amidst a smudge of chaos, the unmistakable sound of the grand’s heavenly melodies emerge. I always think of driving over a hill and seeing the entire horizon opening up when Page’s grand carves its space. The beauty is often overwhelming and man, does he bring the sound of angels into an almost dead quiet MSG.
Then, darkness and evil end this journey of “Drowned.” The last two minutes or so….WOW. From there, emerging from an almost completely silent MSG — a smooth segue into “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing.”
The thing about “ASITHOS” is that the composed section is under 3 minutes long. So with this being over 18 minutes long you have over 15 minutes of improv. Nasty Math! This is the “ASIHTOS” we have been waiting for since SPAC 2004. (Side note, would be cooler if the abbreviation was “ASHITOS”)
This “ASIHTOS” is pure exploration. It breaks down to almost nothing, Mike plays “Super Mario Brothers”, Jimmi goes on an evil death march, and finishes with one of the coolest groove marches ever. NO PEAK. When the last note hit, the entire arena was silent…. before it erupted in admiration. Pure magic!
You don’t need me to tell you much about the “Harpua”, it was pretty damn perfect.
What you do need to know about timing and how this show was meant for me is the “2001” that followed. My all-time favorite song to see in concert is “2001.” I wrote the jam chart for it on Phish.net. If you ever find anyone who can hold a candle to the moves I throw down during “2001,” I ask that you please send them my way. Just don’t send them too close. I need my dance space…
This show was everything right with Phish. It had it all! Old school, new school, exploratory jams, rarities, fun, and even Jimi Hendrix. Few shows have satisfied me in so many ways as the “Jimmies” night.
It was the perfect show at the perfect time for me. I traveled 20 years in one night. Everything about that show gives me the chills.
Somehow, it happened for me at the very last minute. The flow brought me to MSG for that night.
Timing is everything.
I wrote a lot about “Ghost” on this site and a bunch of other Phish related things. I wrote the “2001” jam chart for Phish.net with some diehard friends.
I run a Phish podcast called The Daily Soundcheck where I am giving history and fun stories while playing every single soundcheck that circulates in Phish history. Check it out!
My favorite up-and-coming band is Aqueous from Buffalo, NY who I created a podcast about at http://allinwithaqueous.com/. You can find me on tour at The Gorge, Atlanta, CurveBall, Dick’s, Albany, and Vegas this year.