7.25.15 The L.A. Forum, Ingelwood, CA
7.25.15 Jam: No Men in No Man’s Land
The Dead50 reunion was less than a month old and the buzz in Shakedown since Bend, Oregon was rampant speculation… 1) Which Dead songs would Phish cover this summer, and 2) Which Dead member would sit in on the West Coast?
The answer to both: none and none. Fink summed it up best, “If it didn’t happen at Shoreline, it wasn’t going to happen.”
At Shoreline, the entire lot overflowed with the similar kinetic energy I used to feel at Dead shows. The whiff of that vibe was in the air for the entire West Coast run and that’s all anyone talked about… will Phil or Bobby sit in with Phish? I saw the 1999 and 2000 Shoreline shows when Bobby and Phil separately joined Phish onstage (I was also at the Red Rocks show with Billy and the epic “Undermind),” so a precedent had been set regardless if Dead50 with Trey never happened.
“If Phil Lesh sits in, he won’t let Trey sing again!” joked Colorado Sean.
I was still dosed out at the airport mesmerized by the super-sparkly floor. We flew on Hippie Airlines from San Jose to LAX. The square, clueless flight attendant wondered why everyone was so happy compared the usual miserable sheeple they encounter. Phish will do that to ya. I was eager for a semi-hometown show now that I’ve been based out of California the last seven years and living with my girlfriend Nicky (aka @change100). As a resident of West LA, I woulda globbed myself if we got a West LA Fadeaway bustout. Sean thought they’d play it for Bill Walton.
The renovated Forum (home of the 80s showtime Lakers an Gretzky’s Kings) has become one of my favorite music venues in LA. Thrilled that Phish snubbed the Hollywood Bowl, which had a lame-ass bourgeoisie lot scene and the posh garden boxes created a disjointed crowd. The Forum had a GA floor, which ensured real fans would be riding the rail… including the original Alpha Wook Bill Walton.
We made it to Inglewood and the Forum lot fashionably late at 5pm and greeted Z-list porn stars in tight jorts and knee socks handing out exotically-flavored blunt wraps like chicken and waffles. Broseph drove up from San Diego with his Mexican friends and we met up with my Canadian bud JackStraw (a.k.a. the Setlist Art guy). Our crew officially had all of North America represented with international fans from both sides of the border.
Phish Forum lot fashion: California flag capes, handmade pastel sequin slipdresses, sex, squats & protein shakes muscle tees.
— change100 (@change100) July 26, 2015
The lot scene eventually picked up from a slow boil to a mediocre rager. Much like the three Bend & Shoreline shows, there was a noticeable influx of older Deadheads and grateful vibes at the Forum show. Plethora of fingers were in the air (despite tickets still available at the box office). The Forum is located in Inglewood and did not fall under LAPD jurisdiction, which meant balloons were everywhere at a jacked-up price because the nitrous mafia sets market prices like other cartels such as OPEC.
Lot Prices LA Forum: $40 1/8 Romulan Diesel, $120 floor tix, $20 MTV-YEM shirt, $10 ganja popcorn, $20 I miss Jerry Shirt, 3 for $5 Ghetto Lot Kids stickers, 2 for $20 balloons, $2 PBR cans, $100 1/4 Tangie
The last time I saw a show at the Forum, I surprised the girlfriend with Fleetwood Mac tix. I stood in the security line with Matthew McConaughey and joked: “Hope you did a good job at hiding your stash from the rent-a-cops.”
The quick and quirky McConaissance replied in a Wooderson-patois, “Not to worry. All taken care of.”
For Phish, the girlfriend scored us floor tix and we gathered with Colorado friends Sean and Anna in front of the soundboard. Lots of space in the back of the floor, much like the previous year. Glad that Irving Azoff didn’t get super greedy and oversell the floor. Azoff, the 5-foot-tall music industry giant, purchased the Forum and renovated it with intentions to improve the sound and turn it into premier music venue in SoCal. The new ceiling looked like the Death Star or the bottom of an UFO.
Inspired by the ceiling, it sort of makes sense that the first set blasted off with Martian Monster. Phish typically inserted one Halloween song into their song rotation and that was the third time we caught Martian Muthafucking Monster (we also saw it in Miami). Martian no longer toiled in the minors and got called up to the show (it’d get sporadic playing time throughout the rest of 2015). Never expected them to open up an L.A. show with Martian Monster and anticipated the vanilla safe choice of AC/DC Bag or Runaway Jim.
In our high-stakes pool, Sean actually called a DWD opener and came close because Down With Disease popped up second. Gordo flexed his guns early on to impress his roid-brahs in the Crossfit squad. He stepped up his wardrobe game to get noticed by LA’s elite fashionistas and Instagram Mafia. Alas, he whiffed; black fingernails are whiskey-tango-emo and soooo 2003. The compact DWD packed a powerful punch, but it never really broke beneath the surface.
Unusual slow tune for the three-hole. Waiting All Night encouraged schwasted New Agey charlatan-poseurs and their Quinoa-Vodka-soused blinger girlfriends to yap incessantly. Don’t forget Hollyweird is fueled by cheap cocaine and generic Adderall (from India), oftentimes in a tag-team effort, so you can’t give the short-bus attention span crowd any wiggle room to talk about themselves. A peppy Heavy Things is better suited for the outdoors with your toes buried into the grass on the vast lawn of a cookie-cutter amphitheater. A thunderous Axilla drowned out the volume-challenged Bukowski drunks and chatty coke-fiends. Come on Gordo, we can do better than 555 every other show. So many other Gordo tunes deep in his bag of tricks I’d love to see fished out and dusted off.
Phish’s first two 3.0 gigs in LA at the Hollywood Bowl were essentially greatest hits shows sprinkled with bitchin’ covers (e.g. 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover and Peaches). However, covers at the L.A. Forum show in 2014 were noticeably absent. With exception of Ya Mar (and Martian Monster to a degree), the 2015 Forum show shied away from the melange of greatest hits Bowl formula and avoided the crutch of classic rock covers.
While Trey and Gordo were withering on the ground like overturned roaches, Page crushed the YaMar jam out. Yep, Leo knew he had throngs of celebrity-craved, balloon-knotted starlets eager to seduce a rock star. Leo locked up post-show sandwich-slathering action with a dazzling solo as he magically cast his tantric spell on Brazilian MAWs (model-actress-whatever) and lesser-known Kardashian tail queuing up in front of Leo’s tour bus to sample Vermont’s finest salami.
Limb By Limb is a jumbo aquarium and showcase for Fishman’s octopus-like playing. Fuego has become a crowd favorite for the bros who scream “Vlad the Impaler!” The jam out of Fuego emptied out into a serene solo for Page. Trey left it up to Page to pick the last song of the set. Instead of Coil, Page tickled away at the opening notes to Walls of the Cave (another 2.0 song I wished got more love). Trey tore it up with some serious gangster wankage.
I craved Ghost to kick off set two, but the night was perfect for a monstrous cover like Crosseyed or Rock and Roll. When we stumbled out of the Shoreline show, I told Sean: “Tweezer looms over the City of Angels. The YEM mothership connection will pick up the space kids in Austin.” Never thought that either of the new songs from Bend would open up second sets in both Shoreline and LA on back-to-back nights. Confident Phish. The best art always happens when you shoot first and ask questions later. Another gamble. Another ballsy move for a band that plays it much safer than they used to. No Men in No Man’s Land opened the set and the lyrics echoed the sentiment of aimlessness…
How far have we fallen, how far can we go?
How far will we fall, if there’s nothing below?
Sometime when you blaze enough trails, you go so far out there into the limitless universe that you get completely lost and may never find your way back. Set 2 was anchored by a 12-minute clod of funk called No Man’s Land. Much like Blaze On’s debut, the Bend debut of No Man’s Land did not feature any serious deep exploration, yet the LA No Man’s certainly had oodles of space to breathe and chunks of funk to shred with Trey out front but Page/Fishman holding down the bottom, so Gordo and Trey could weave in and out (starting around 5:00). Trey went full-blown wank mode (around 7:30), but eased off the gas and Leo took over as he went into rippin’ the flake mode as he milked the clav like the Diddle King of Chatsworth. I’ve said it hundreds of time…whenever Page stands up, we get down. The funkilicious orgy got crazy bananas (around 10:00) before it reached the outer cosmos for the last two minutes. Felt like could have ripped off a 30-minute mini-nuke of a jam, but no more dancing around. They roared forward into deep-space exploration accented by CK5’s purple search lights probing in the darkness.
The No Man’s jam coulda gone on for half the set, but it was time to unleash the beast and bring out the GIMP! Carini dry-humped with the schnasty dark side but it was just randy flirtation and never developed into full-blown nocturnal emission before Trey ushered the band into chillax Tweezer. Much like in the Carini jam, it avoided the deviant end of the pool. Tweezer never real found focus or got cooking before before ADD-Trey dragged them down the rabbit hole into My Friend My Friend. Ah, finally some darkness.
If I said that Slave, Carini, Tweezer and Roggae would appear in the same set, you’d never ever pick Roggae would be one of the better jams of the four. The Forum really didn’t see any serious Type II action, or any monsters on par with Bend’s Simple and Shoreline’s Twist. However, the Roggae jam is seriously underrated. On paper it seems perplexing, and it definitely doesn’t have the same impact re-listening to it now, but it was one of those moments that if you were at the show, you walked out of the joint thinking…”Man, that Roggae was pretty sick and prob the best jam of the night.”
The quintessential Roggae begins in a somnolent mode, like falling asleep at the beach with a soothing, gliding sensation. The shifting dynamics, from let all the air out and quickly blow it back up, meant that Page and Trey’s pecking/noodling made a huge leap to pounding/wailing in a short time. This definitely doesn’t hold up to the peak Roggae’s of 3.0 (e.g. Gorge 2011), but it’s all about context and perspective — it was the optimal jam for that time in place.
I’m salty about Backwards Down the Number Line only because I think it’s cockblocked more potential behemoth jams than any other tune in 3.0. Buzz Kill City. Alas, sometimes I feel that the rest of the band phones it in while solipsistic Trey wanks away to a song that has much more meaning to him then the other three. However, Backwards actually impressed this jaded vet, particularly Page’s bravura. Normally, I chalk up Backwards as “filler” but the Forum version was all “killer.” Fink has a theory about post-rehab Trey’s antidote to dark jams with bright-happy tunes (e.g. Light and Backwards). The smoking Backwards after My Friend > Roggae was a perfect example of the Fink Theory of Dark Trey 3.0.
Slave to the Traffic Light had not been played yet on the western swing. The sparse lyrics seemed appropriate for Los Angeles. It’s my favorite song, so I dig a show a little bit more when it includes Slave, which is emotionally draining and invigorating in the same breath. We’ve all been there when you’re convinced Phish played a song specifically for you…but that’s how I felt about that Slave. It seemed little bit rushed…and we’d soon find out why.
The entire room expected a double-donger encore with Tweezer Reprise plus ??? The chalk exacta bet woulda been Loving Cup/Tweeprise, or perhaps a Suzy Greenberg/Tweeprise. My girlfriend wanted anything that did not had “Velvet” in the title. I really thought Austin was getting a YEM, which is why it came out of nowhere and flew way under the radar. Yeah, the crowd went apeshit. Half of them got a wish fulfilled and the other half were absolutely blindsided. Even with a bad back and operating on vapors after the journey down the coast, I still jumped up and down like a maniac.
The YEM denouement included Trey’s affectionate hijinks. Couldn’t tell if Gordo was mortified about the impromptu meatspin when Trey twerked and freaked him as they swapped instruments in a kaleidoscope of awkwardness. Trey, overcome with jubilation, jumped on Fishman’s kit and banged away. Seemed like Gordo wanted to join in on the fun an a made a beeline for Page’s kit, but when he got there he looked a tad lost amid Page’s cloister of gear. CK5’s brilliant and tantalizing lights were the MVP of YEM…as per usual. The Mothership had been contacted, but the way traffic is in LA, it’s way faster these days using UberUFO.
SoCal phans and any Trey-curious Deadheads were treated with a YEM encore, but denied a Tweeprise. Fair trade, eh? What will happen to Tweeprise? Fade into oblivion forever? Austin opener/closer? Or would Phish save it until MagnaBall? Could Trey ever stifle his urge to rock out to Tweezer for almost another month? Tune in tomorrow to read @therealburnham’s recap and find out the fate of the lost Tweeprise!
Quote of the Night (from a schwilly garishly-tanned Laguna Beach Betty): “I’d see Phish more if they played Coachella and didn’t have icky hippies everywhere!”
Post-Show Lot Prices LA Forum: $35 YEM-MTV shirts, $2 Red Stripes, $100/gram decent blow from Eurotrash Milos with a man bun.
We walked outside and bumped into the Illusion, a former skate/surf pro turned YouTube star. The Illusion was our one “celebrity” encounter at the LA Forum. Last fall tour, Colorado Sean and I kept our eyes out for the Illusion because we hoped to bump into him somewhere at a West Coast show. We never saw him last year, but it was fate that he parked his spaceship a couple cars down from us in the lot.
Before we took off and went back to our place for the after-party, a working girl in a sparkly purple dress sauntered by. Never a dull moment on the fringes of the Phish circus. As the new lyrics summed it up best, “How far will we fall if there’s nothing below?”
Pauly is a writer originally from NYC, but currently lives in Los Angeles. He is a author of “Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker.” His latest novel, Fried Peaches, is expected to come out this fall. You also might know Pauly as one of the co-founders of Coventry Music blog. You can find him on Twitter at @taopauly and @CoventryMusic. The Gorge 2001 from 7/18/98 and Fukuoka 2001 from 6/14/00 are among his favorite versions.