21 in 21 of 2018: #4 07/21/2018 Gorge Amphitheatre, George, WA (Pauly McGuire @taopauly @CoventryMusic)
2018 Gorge N2: Lobe You All
By Pauly (@taopauly and @CoventryMusic)
I’m at the age when I think a lot about slowing down. Then I see a Phish show in the middle of nowhere and hear the lyrics to Antelope and say to myself, “Slow down? Fuck that shit!”
I lived in Seattle in the late 1990s and caught the first wave of Gorge shows in the summers of 1997 and 1998. The Gorge ‘98 run hooked me in to Phish for life. The juxtaposition with nature created a fertile ground for improvisational music. Aside from MSG, the Gorge is my favorite venue to see Phish, which is why I’ve never missed a Gorge show. The Gorge has always been a sanctuary for me; a place where I come to reboot, recharge, and remind myself about the important things in life.
Camping out at the Gorge is like being at a festival without the grandiosity of a festival. I hopped on tour with Colorado friends and pair of European phans (Benjo from Paris, France and Mitchell from London, UK) who had never been to the Gorge before, but they had a propensity for adventure.
Fridays at the Gorge are always hectic with a massive traffic jam to squeeze through the toll booths. Venue security is tighter than an airport with a phalanx of drug-crazed fans submitting to a near-cavity search to enter.
The Gorge is not an easy show and you must endure a lot of bullshit just to get in. But once inside, the inconvenience is always worth it with inspiring scenic views.
“It’s like a painting,” said Benjo when he stood at the top of the lawn for the first time to gaze out at the Columbia River.
Saturdays at the Gorge take on their own warped life. By that point, everyone is settled in and lubed up. If there’s a place to get weird, it’s Saturday night at the Gorge. Everyone has a complicated civilian life. Whether you’re unplugging from social media malaise, relaxing from a shitty job, or thrilled to be away from the spouse and kids for a couple of days, the Gorge gives everyone the opportunity to do their own thing for three nights. Like I said, it’s like a festival without being a festival.
Memo camped in an RV a couple spots down from us in Premier Camping. He rolled up while I was sorting out my nightly stash. I offered him some party favors.
“Take this,” I said. “But only a half.”
Those were my last words to Lawn Memo before heading into the show.
DISCLAIMER: No Lawn Memos were harmed at the Gorge, or during in the making of this post. Do not take candy from strangers, especially drug-addled, washed-up writers from Hollywood. If I say take half, take fucking half. Past results are not indicative of future results. If you still have an erection after six hours, please consult a physician. Keep your clothes on, and always remember… you CANNOT fly.
Phish attempted to set the tone early on with a Party Time opener, followed by PYITE. They threw an early curveball with a short and sweet Mike’s Groove. I didn’t know the name of the Gordo song (Infinite) toward the end of the first set, so I checked my phone for the first time since the show started. I had 87 messages including one from my wife back home in Los Angeles following along on couch tour.
“Did you give Memo drugs?” she asked.
“He’s tweeting wasted hilarious nonsense.”
What happened next is a story that is as old as the Bible itself. We read it as kids with Alice and Wonderland and watched it over and over as anarchist stoners with The Matrix. Take it easy or become an emissary to the unknown. Eat the red pill or the blue pill. Hunter S. Thompson summed it up, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”
Five tweets chronicled Lawn Memo’s real-time descent into schwillidom.
– Pill is fire
– Forgot I was at the Gorge.
– Blasted atrhe gorse. Amaxonln pwllleapke
– Vruemts fce. Nrugh.. Lobe you all
– Thik i wsd saoppwd to ne itd a
Memo Pill Jam starts out in familiar territory, but he doesn’t waste any time before going type II with “Blasted atrhe gorse. Amaxonln pwllleapke.” At this point, it’s pure bliss. The keyword “Lobe you all” is a simple, yet powerful message. As our hero stares into the darkness of the abyss, he sees nothing but love (lobe). The Memo Lobe jam evolves into full blown experimental Scandi-fluff as he channels Kasvot Vaxt.
Hey, it’s a Phish show. Anything goes. People get fucked up and overindulge. Intoxication is the norm. Sober shows are also fun. So long as everyone stays in their lane, it’s all good. That’s why it’s always vital to use the buddy system. Safety in numbers, especially when you’re going down the rabbit hole.
I didn’t think shit would go off the rails so fast for our friend from Buffalo. Hey, the guy works his ass off and has like forty different podcasts. He’s drowning in #BillsMafia tears, while combating lake-effect snow. He traveled a long way to worship at the altar of Phish. If anyone needed a night to get weird and freaky and out of control, it was Memo.
Luckily, Memo hung out up on the lawn and had plush grass to wither around on. Dianna and Noah took good care of him when he lost his marbles. Thank God he wears a helmet.
“He was horizontal before Mike’s Song,” said Dianna.
“Wait, that’s like the third song of the show,” I noted. “What a lightweight.”
It was a rough setbreak and Dianna should be sainted by the Pope for making sure Memo didn’t take off all his clothes (al fresco, yes, but the helmet stays on). If this were a 90s teen comedy movie, a crowd would have gathered around a cavorting Memo and a coquettish Julia Stiles dancing on a picnic table at the top of the Gorge, while Dianna bribed Heath Ledger with a Curveball Glen Close Camping Pass so he wouldn’t kick Memo’s naked ass.
Hey, we’ve all been there. I was so spun at a show at Alpine Valley, I thought I saw tiny little hands and arms coming out of my phone. The first NYE show of 3.0 in Miami? I couldn’t speak that night while trying to figure out what the hell happened with Fishman in drag. Then there was that UIC show when I got puddled in the lot and felt like I spent the entire night underwater.
Some nights we get to party like rock stars, while other nights we’re trying to not end up as meme fodder.
Kicking off a tour with 9 shows in 12 days is a tough task any way you cut it, especially spanning almost the entire length of the Left Coast. Along the way, Trey was trying to find his tone, nitrous heads left a mess in Tahoe, wildfires on the highway slowed down caravans from Seattle, and bizarre acts of violence with random Nazi sightings cast an ominous vibe at the Gorge. And that was only the first five shows.
The West Coast run continued south to California with a blurry week of shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The entire time I felt like an aging quarterback, desperate to play one more season. I’m not as fortunate as Tom Brady with a Brazilian witchdoctor on staff feeding me kale smoothies with shapumvilla root and howler monkey testicles. I’m more like Brett Favre running for his life while crocked on painkillers with his junk hanging out of his pants.
The actual Antelope jam from 7/21/18 is not noteworthy (compared to the ripping Chalkdust the night before), but the song evokes a special feeling whenever we hear it. The essence of Antelope summed up my headspace for Saturday night at the Gorge and seemed an appropriate anthem for Memo cut it loose down Schwilly Highway.
I’m at the age when I think a lot about slowing down. Then I hear “run like an antelope, out of control”, and something inside me clicks. That’s the moment I speed up.
Pauly (@taopauly and @CoventryMusic) is the author of “Fried Peaches”, a rock-n-roll road novel available as an e-book. Pauly is also the author of “Lost Vegas.” Both books are available at Amazon.com/author/taopauly.