25 in 25 of 2016: #20 Sleep Train Amphitheatre, Chula Vista, CA (Pauly McGuire, @taopauly, @coventrymusic)
Chula Vista “TUBE”
7/23/2016 Chula Vista, CA
By Pauly McGuire (@taopauly @CoventryMusic)
West Coast rumpus. Seven shows, four cities, nine days. Five shows in California. No sleep. Like the great 20th Century poet Tupac said, “California knows how to party.”
I live in West L.A. and survived the entire west coast run with my common-law wife @change100. Our whirlwind itinerary was something like this… Fly LAX-SEATTLE > Drive to The Gorge > 2 Shows & camp out & stay up for 48 hours > Drive to Seattle > Fly SEATTLE-SFO > 3 shows in San Francisco & no sleep > Fly SFO-LAX > Crash at home > L.A. Forum show > Afterparty > Drive to San Diego > Chula Vista tour closer > Drive back to LA.
Chula Vista, nestled in the rolling hills between San Diego and Mexico, ended the summer tour and anchored the West Coast leg before the band took several weeks off before LOCK’N festival and the annual Dicks Colorado run.
Phish played Chula Vista five times since 1999… and I saw all five one-nighters at Chula Vista, including the infamous 9-18-1999 show. Give it a listen, especially the voluptuous funk-throwdown during a 22-minute “Boogie On” to open set 2… one of the highwater marks from the summer of ’99.
Anticipating the impending weirdness of the 2016 election, I unleashed an epic bender in mid-2016 that spilled over into early 2017. Phish’s west coast swing was the perfect excuse for decadent insobriety bolstered by a “your trip is short” mentality… which I’m shocked didn’t land me in divorce court or rehab, or bottoming out in both. Chula Vista became a blast off point where my narcotic-hypnotic-induced spaceship zipped off into the psychotropic depths of the unknown and eventually returned to Earth’s orbit in time for the Super Bowl.
If I were to craft a mixtape to accompany that 8-month twisted cosmic voyage, the Chula Vista “TUBE” would kick off the soundtrack.
Side 1, Track 1. “TUBE,” motherfuckers.
Yes, that “TUBE.” Phish finally fucking jammed out “TUBE” and everyone on the interwebs went berserk. Couches burned. Desks were flipped. Tour dogs howled. Wooks’ locks disintegrated. Cataclysmic crystals vibrated. Tour babies were conceived on the lawn. Holes were poked into the fabric of time and space. Wormholes opened to multiple dimensions. Martians got lit. Jaded vets got non-Viagara-enduced erections for the first time since SPAC 2004 Piper. Phish jammed out TUBE.
Q: Yo Phish, why no jammed-out Tubes, brah?
A: “Because we’ve been saving it up for a special night right after we shit the bed in L.A., so we’re gonna need a crotch-tickling-funk-orgy to save face in Chula Vista, you fuckhead.”
Once Phish reached The Gorge, they hit the ground running and sprinted all the way down the Left Coast. The Gorge reset Phish’s jam-chakras. The vast expanse created a perfect environment for loose exploration. The ensuing shows always benefited from the Gorge Resurgence. After three pulsating nights at Bill Graham in San Francisco, Phish had reached peak bravura. The quartet from Vermont had an apprehensive arrival in Los Angeles before taking center stage at the L.A. Forum.
Phish always rolled the dice with the crowd whenever the neo-psychedelic circus descended upon the fair-weather City of Angels. And in that instance, they whiffed. After a week of nonstop partying and no sleep, I had a bad show (bad trip, long story… buy the book and see the movie, coming 2020). Amidst a rough and disconcerting show at the L.A. Forum, I struggled to drown out all the coked-up chatty Chads and coolster Steezy McBeavers, while tripping balls and sweating profusely in front of a gaggle of fashionista ravers and hottie MAWs (Models, Actresses, Whatever) snapping salacious selfies in the hallways.
San Diego was more my vibe. Chillax. Ubiquitous sunshine. Fewer douchenozzles. Cool buds. Tasty waves. Spicoli vibes. Kick ass carnitas tacos. Face-numbing blow.
The lovely @change100 was the MVP of the SoCal leg. We did all seven shows in nine days together. She handled the arduous task of driving from LA to San Diego (and back to LA after the show). She took one for the team and had a sober show for the finale, so the crew could throw down for the tour closer. On the way out of L.A., I was still sparkly while we got stuck in Disneyland traffic on the freeway of hell. We rolled in late, but hit up Old Town San Diego for a pre-show meal at one of our favorite Mexican joints.
Chula Vista is well-known for its radioactive lot scene. You know… Tupac… California love, California knows how to party. It got so rowdy, the No2 mafia were flooding the lot with balloons before the show… and smack in the middle of Shakedown. Chula Vista Rage City did not fail to disappoint.
Raging lots were often a precursor for a stellar show with the band acquiring necessary jet fuel by feasting off malleable, schwilly crowds. It was gonna be an Everything Bagel kind of show no matter what because it was the tour closer. You downed your entire stash, no questions asked. Seemed like every other person in the lot had a similar gameplan. While slinging wook stickers in Shakedown, I acquired plenty of candy from strangers and promptly pulled a Joe Cocker — popping everything in my mouth without looking and without breaking stride.
Lot prices Chula Vista: Extras = FACE, $2 Sculpin cans, $50 shitty blow from skater cholo, $15 Steely Fish donuts shirt, $6 Buffalo Chicken Quesadilla, $5 Fireball, $10 Dancing Bear socks, $2 lemonade w/ gin, $5 bronze coke spoons, $5 XL condoms, $5 Meatstick venison jerky.
Shitshow getting into the venue. Security line took forever and backed up the hill into the road leading into Shakedown. We found our seats a few moments before lights went down in the half-empty venue. Sean W. scored us primo tickets thru the re-release: second row behind the pit, smack in the middle and only a couple rows in front of the soundboard.
While most of the crowd still waiting to get inside, Phish utilized the time to get a trio of meh songs out of the way: “Farmhouse” + “555” + “Water in the Sky.” The rambunctious crowd finally filled up the venue by the fourth song… a rare first set “Ghost.” Yeah, a daylight “Ghost.” Not as spooky, but playful and feisty.
Peeked behind us and saw Chris Kuroda cracking up during Fishman’s rendition of “Ass Handed.” He was still laughing at start of “Sloth.” And busted another gut when Fishman returned to “Ass Handed” after an unexpected “Reba.” I got the sense there was more of an inside joke to “Ass Handed” than we know. These days, the band kept the inside jokes and tomfoolery to a minimum, but a loose Phish and even looser Fishman stole the show with his ass-handed shtick.
Then it happened. “TUBE.” The moment of glory.
I won’t mansplain/jamsplain “TUBE” to you. Listen for yourself. The overall length whipped everyone into a tizzy. Any jammed out “TUBE” is cause for celebration, but this particular “TUBE” jam was instant catnip for the relentless souls chasing the funkified-dope of yesteryear.
I initially set the “TUBE” time length over/under at 4:20. My poker friends will bet on anything. Curling. Rat races. Lime tossing. Phish setlists. Song lengths. Fantasy wook. Anything. We never passed up an opportunity to wager on the length of “Tube”… because the 3.0 versions had been historically on the short and sweet side. We were living in a new world order of silky smooth Phish, instead of the ruffriding, halcyon days of cow-funk… when the crowd experienced multiple orgasms during 12+ minute “Tubes” that could have easily doubled as 70s porn soundtracks. The 3.0 versions of “TUBE” were compact. Quickies. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. But this one in Chula Vista… this one got weird quick and stayed weird during an extended jam.
Sometimes I’m convinced Phish locked into someone’s brain waves and they performed a soundtrack that complimented that person’s (in)sobriety levels. Every once in a while, Phish hacks into my brain and starts playing an inner soundtrack to my madness. Early into the “TUBE” jam, it felt like I got mind-hacked by Phish. I was convinced Phish played to my schwasted sloppiness, but then I couldn’t figure out if I was controlling Phish, or if Phish was controlling me.
I got such a rock-solid boner for this particular Chula Vista Tube around the 6-minute mark that I nearly knocked over the guy in bear costume front me with my protruding Tubilicious erection.
All of the “over” bets won on “TUBE” length wagers. The official timing on the LivePhish tracklisting is 9:18, but it ended around 9:10-mark… which still more than doubled the initial 4:20 betting line!
The party-funk-vibe carried over from “TUBE” into “Wolfman’s,” which was lathered by “California Love” teases, licks, and eventual lyrics.
Tupac isn’t dead. He’s incognito, going by the name Bleu Julio, and slinging heady crystals in the lot with his one-eyed cockatoo Donna Jean. If you needed to go on the lam and hide out from a gang hit, then the Phish lot is the perfect place to disappear. Shakedown is the last spot on Earth that Biggie would go looking for Tupac.
If “Martian Monster” was the pre-boarding announcement, then the mothership officially blasted off with “2001.” The boys kicked it old school with a “2001” set deuce opener. The astral space funk set the tone for the remainder of the show. Then again, everything after “2001” and the wispy hints of Cali Love was a blur. By setbreak, the “everything” part of the Everything Bagel kicked in. I got beyond spun and turned off my phone. That marked the perpendicularity point in this story when I became an unreliable narrator.
I vaguely recalled a “Piper>Twist” duo. Dark and dank “Carini.” And the “Hood” was fun… I think. I was soaring about thirty-five feet above the ground, so I did not have an accurate gauge on the “Hood” Meter.
Chula had become a sea of schwillyness. Dunno who I was more impressed with… the OC-CustieWook dabbing every 5 mins, or the jorts-clad cougar who snorted an entire 8-ball off back of her phone in the second set. Sparkle-Wookettes ripped Deemsters during “Twist” and the bear costume guy in front of me kept farting with a bout of the Molly-squirts during “Piper.” California knows how to party, eh?
During the encore, the band launched into Tweeprise and I thought, “Holy fuckballs Batman… I’m so fried and crunk’d from rippin’ so much flake that I forgot they played “Tweezer!”
Of course, Phish didn’t play “Tweezer “in the second set, or anytime in Chula Vista. But the encore was more like “Asshanded” Reprise with “Asshanded” lyrics screamed over a Tweeprise instrumental.
Very rarely do I want to re-listen to the show immediately after it occurred. However, in this instance, I was eager to revisit “TUBE” on the ride back home… on a freeway in Los Angeles… yadda yadda yadda.
“Ass-handed” “California Love.” Stupendous “Tube.” Crank it up. Try not to soil yourself.
Pauly McGuire grew up in New York City, but currently lives in Los Angeles. He’s the author of Lost Vegas and a soon-to-be released rock-n-roll novel Fried Peaches. You might remember him from such blogs as Coventry Music and Tao of Poker.