26 in 26 #15 07/26/2013 Gorge Amphitheatre, George, WA (Pauly McGuire, @taopauly, @coventrymusic) #phish
Selection: “Crosseyed and Painless>Twist>Steam”
From Pauly McGuire:
I caught every Phish show at the Gorge. All 14 of them. They always appear in pairs. Seven different instances and only once did Phish play during an even year (1998). In 3.0, Phish made the trek every other summer, so if it’s an odd-numbered year, you know Phish will be throwing down at The Gorge.
I moved to Seattle in 1997, so I was in the right place at the right time to catch the epic Gorge runs in 97, 98 and 99. What’s not to love? Majestic views, tinge of mysticism in the air, raging Shakedown and nearby (free) campgrounds. The Gorge is essentially a pseudo-Phish festival, which is why it is easily my all-time favorite spot to see Phish. So I drop everything I’m doing to embark on an arduous journey out to George, Washington to celebrate back-to-back evenings with Phish. And when it’s over, I’m always spiritually revitalized. As is, I’ve never seen a bad show at The Gorge.
The 2013 Gorge shows were overshadowed by the Tahoe Tweezer because when the west coast swing of summer tour ended, the monstrous Tahoe Tweezer was the only thing anyone was talking about. Yet, the 2013 Gorge run marked the convergence and confluence of several events, some of which seem like coincidences on the surface, but it’s really impossible to dismiss that Phish tapped into something cosmic at the Gorge.
The first night of The Gorge — 7/26/2013 — was not only Chris Kuroda’s birthday, but it was also the start of the Mayan new year. But wait, there’s more… during the first night, a fan threw a Russell Wilson t-shirt (that had DUH-DUH added to it) on stage, Trey picked it up, took off his own overpriced hipster shirt, and wore the fan’s modified Wilson shirt.
If you don’t know by now, Russell Wilson is the quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks and earlier in the year during a TAB stop in Seattle, Trey encouraged Seattle Seahawks fans to chant “WILSON!” during home games. Seattle is one of the craziest and loudest stadiums in the NFL, which gives the Seahawks a tremendous home-field advantage. Trey gifted the Wilson! chant to Seahawks fans as another weapon in their vocal arsenal. During night one at The Gorge, Trey continued with his campaign to get a Wilson! chant going at Seahawks’ home games. “Make it happen!” Trey pleaded with local phans. Little did anyone know at the time that… 1) Seahawks phans would actually get the chant going at home games, 2) NFL Films would create a short documentary about Trey’s Wilson campaign, and 3) Seattle would go on to beat the Denver Broncos and win the Super Bowl XLVIII.
So what the heck really happened at The Gorge? Did Phish sign a Robert Johnson-like deal with devil, or perform an Illuminati ritual, or make direct contact with the Mothership? Or maybe they had a hand in all of those mystical things? Eleven months later, I’m still trying to figure out what went down at The Gorge that weekend.
A vital cycle in the Mayan calendar had ended on July 25th, 2013, which marked the completion of a weeklong “Purification Cycle.” Fitting that Phish selected The Gorge to kick off the Mayan new year. The entire organization was eagerly looking to turn the corner after a difficult summer tour marked with horrendous luck weather wise. Torrential downpours caused a cancellation in Toronto and cut short a show in Chicago. The Gorge is located in central Washington, which is high desert. After getting pissed on by Mother Nature all summer, the band and phans alike were pumped for a patch of dry weather at The Gorge.
I currently reside in Los Angeles, so I skipped the first half of summer shows and jumped on tour in Chicago (skipping the make-up show in Toronto) with the intentions of following Phish down the west coast and concluding with a “hometown show” at the Hollywood Bowl. It rained all three nights in Chicago. The infamous Monsoon Shows. I traveled light and my only pair of running shoes were still soaked when I boarded a flight from Chicago to San Francisco. When my girlfriend picked me up in SF, I insta-changed into dry hiking boots, and we began our lengthy car journey from San Francisco to The Gorge via Seattle. In Seattle, I linked up with Uncle Ted and his friends. We caravaned (20-25 of us) from Seattle to The Gorge and set up a massive campsite that was dubbed “Camppossum.” Everyone in our crew was a Gorge veteran, so we had the camp up (with clutch shade tents) and running in less than an hour.
Midway through the first set, Phish played Happy Birthday for CK5. “Chris is 21 years old today,” joked Trey. After that quick interlude, the fan tossed the Wilson shirt onstage. While Trey swapped shirts, Gordo and Fish played a few notes to “Satisfaction.” That was a sly nod to Mick Jagger, who shared a birthday with CK5, and had turned 70. The first set’s highlights included a juicy Wolfman’s, an extended Tube (clocking in almost six minutes when they were cranking them out in under four), McGrupp, cover of Curtis Loew, and a nut-busting Split Open and Melt that ended the set with an exclamation point.
At the height of the summer, the sun sets late in the Pacific Northwest, so the sun is slowly dips behind the bluffs during set 1 and it’s not fully dark until almost 10pm or the end of setbreak, when things get a little weird and everyone’s party favors kicked in. If you gaze up at the night sky, you can see star clusters and the occasional shooting star, maybe even an UFO. The Gorge is a vast and spacious venue, which contributes to its laid-back vibe. The music adapts the the extra space and the development of jams are fostered in a cosmically friendly and safe environment to experiment. Whenever the band is in a comfortable and creative headspace, the music organically grows without worrying about rushing through a song or rip-cording a jam in order to play something else.
The first 34 minutes of Set 2 is what I’d like to point out — Crosseyed > Twist > Steam. Set 2 was anchored by an 18-minute version of Talking Heads’ Crosseyed and Painless. Phish loves to use Crosseyed as a launching point for their second sets. For one, Crosseyed is a rare chance for Fish to sing but it’s also a familiar jam vehicle which gives them the freedom to take the show into almost any direction.
Here’s Mike Hamad’s notes (@PhishMaps) for the second set…
Crosseyed jam was a series of smaller jams as the band shifted from B > A > D > C and eventual G-, which is the same key as both Twist and Steam (via @PhishMaps). We got a little bit of everything, including a snippet of machine-gun Trey. One of the more serene moments of Crosseyed jam featured Page on his ‘Lil Pumpkin’ aka the orange Wurlitzer. Even Gordo got into the mix at one point and stepped out in front with some licks that were straight out of Phil Lesh’s late 70s repertoire.
Trey looked like a teenager who had locked himself in his room after scoring a new effects pedal. Trey messed around with some effects to create a celestial sonic landscape. Seemed like he was setting the table for a 2001 smorgasbord with those “space farts.” I mean, who doesn’t love a 2001 dance party?
Not only was July 26th CK5 and Mick Jagger’s birthday, but 2001: A Space Odyssey director Stanley Kubrick as also born on the same day. I saw a “2001” sign hung up by phans on the terrace steps and at several points during the Crosseyed Jam, I was convinced that a 2001 was coming. CK5 was doing his part to entice the band to play 2001 with his “motherships” lights. Sometimes the lighting sequence makes it look like the Mothership from Close Encounters of the Third Kind is trying to land onstage. Other times, CK5’s UFO lights feels like Phish’s jams are creating the necessary fuel the Mothership needs to blast off. Alas, 2001 was only a tease (they saved it for Night 2).
At the end of the Crosseyed jam, Phish reached a four-way fork in the road. If Phish was giving a multiple choice test and they could have segued into… a) Ocelot, b) 2001, c) Slave, or d) What’s the Use. Of course, it was… e) None of the Above. At the conclusion of Crosseyed’s denouement, Trey launched into the opening notes to Twist.
Twist was intertwined with a plethora of Santana-esque licks and Oye Como Va teases. The guys at Phish.net list the official tease as Tequila, but I swore I heard Oye Como Va during Twist. Santana’s version is probably what you’re used to hearing, but Oye Como Va was originally composed by the late, great Tito Puente. I grew up in the Bronx and my Puerto Rican neighbors blasted Tito Puente all the time. Maybe it was the party favors, but I was convinced Trey was shredding the Santana version while the rest of the band settled into a Latin groove and played closer to Tito Puente’s rendition. When he was banging away on his Hammond, I thought I heard Page tease “Spooky.”
An ambient jam in D connected Twist and Steam. At the end of Twist, Trey drops a loop and dicks around with his pedals again, creating those underwater echo-like effects similar to “two whales fucking.” He moaned into the mic and just as the chaos settled down to near silence, Trey introduced the opening notes to Steam and Page picked up on it right away before Gordo and Fish finally joined in.
Steam popped up for only the third time since NYE 2011. Steam was sultry, dark, and a little dirty. Too bad I was tilted during Steam when a couple of schwasted wooked-out hipster girls yapped the entire time and snapped 50 duck-faced selfies during the jam. They were the personification of the LCD Soundsystem song “Drunk Girls.”
Once the drunk girls left, everything was cool and harmonious. During the jam out of Steam, Page was whaling away. I said it once before, “Whenever Page stands up… we all get down.” Phish topped off Steam with a falsetto “Still Waiting” and another Crosseyed tease, a theme that would be peppered throughout the rest of the set, particularly during David Bowie.
Crosseyed > Twist > Steam had set the tone for The Gorge run and the rest of the west coast tour. As soon as Phish reached The Gorge, they turned the proverbial corner and smoked the shit out of the rest of the summer tour with groundbreaking shows in Lake Tahoe and three-night rager in San Francisco, before winding down the tour at the infamous Hollywood Bowl.
With the Tahoe Tweezer burned into the memory banks of every Phishead, it’s easy to overlook the previous weekend at The Gorge. Tahoe Tweezer never would have come to fruition if it weren’t for the groundwork that the boys laid out at The Gorge. It was the first step in another transcendental moment for Phish.
From Pauly McGuire:
Pauly McGuire (@taopauly) is one of the founders of @CoventryMusic. He is a sportswriter and reporter from Los Angeles, CA. He is the author of two books — Lost Vegas and Jack Tripper Stole My Dog. His third book, a rock-n-roll novel titled Fried Peaches, will be released at the end of 2014.
Favorite Ghost: Denmark 1997
Pauly is one of my favorite writers on the planet. He has an uncanny ability to get me laughing when reading his material. As fun in real life as he is on the interwebz, I knew I liked him the moment I found out he was selling 2001 stickers.