25 in 25 of 2016: #17 07/19/2016 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA (@Meearf)
BGCA 7/19/16 “Ghost”
Hi. It’s me, @meearf and I cried when I wrote this.
How’s it going? If you answered “good” or something similar, hey, that’s terrific. If you answered “bad” or some such variant, how can I help? What’s wrong? You can always talk to me. It’s going to be ok. I have the BGCA “Ghost” with me.
I’m listening to it on repeat now as I dictate this to my secretary, a wook that I found in the woods near SPAC and was allowed to keep, as is the rule per Helping Phriendly Book article LXIX section IV:XX. If you’re feeling ungood, maybe this Ghost can help. If you’re feeling double plus good, this Ghost will do you no harm.
Last summer Phish (like Fish but with a Ph) decided to do a solid run of shows in California. I had never been to Cali and figured this would be a great opportunity to check it off the list and catch some tour while also finally setting foot in the sacred Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco.
Bill Graham, or Wulf Wolodia Grajonca, or Wolfgang, or Graham Bag as he is commonly known in various circles and squares, had it pretty rough growing up. This is a severe understatement. By age 8 he had escaped the Holocaust due to nothing short of the heroics of his family and the kindness of strangers. The story is breathtakingly sad so we’ll leave it at that. By age 10 he had made it across the Atlantic and was placed in a foster home in the Bronx. While there he was bullied by a bunch of assholes who thought this country only belonged to them and not to people like this little refugee. He was so bothered by this that he worked to eliminate his accent and he adopted a new name. Graham would later claim that neither name Bill nor Graham actually *meant* anything to him at all. The irony there is just how much the name would come to mean for myself and for most of you reading this. The name is synonymous with great fucking music.
By the early 60s he pushed on to the West coast and settled in the counterculture capital of the states, San Francisco, where he would be reunited with his sister and later go on the become the legendary Fillmore (and Elsewhere) promoter. We’ve all heard his voice introducing the best acts in history;
“The Fillmore is proud to welcome back some old friends with a brand new name…A Band Of Gypsys!” – If I had a sand dollar day at the shore for every time I’ve heard that voice say those words…or:
“Good evening we welcome you on behalf of the group. We should introduce…on the piano we have Mr. Keith Godchaux, on the drums on stage left Mr. Mickey Hart, on bass and vocals Mr. Philip Lesh, on rhythm and vocals Mr. Bob Weir, on the drums on stage right Mr. Bill Kreutzman, on the vocals Mrs. Donna Jean Godcahaux, on lead guitar and vocals Mr. Jerry Garcia. Will you welcome please The Grateful Dead…” > Slipknot. This might be the best beginning to any concert ever. Watch: https://youtu.be/hsY57U474H4
I could go on about how much cooler Bill is than us but maybe another time. If you would like to learn more about this proper legend check out his biography, “Bill Graham Presents: My Life Inside Rock And Out”.
Have I ever told you about the time I ate a half ounce of mushrooms? If we have time at the end of this maybe I will.
We finally landed in California after a seven (below) hour delay (loop) – EAT YOUR HEART OUT KATIE TUR – and three layovers and we made our way to the AirBnB in the Castro. The place we stayed at was called Castle Dreskull (I’m not kidding, the guy who owns it is Andre) and we affectionately dubbed it Castle Treyskull because we have the power to do those sorts of things. This place was incredible! I highly recommend staying there. The coasters were little round mirrors with lines of cocaine painted on them so you knew exactly where to put your ketamine. There was a vagina coloring book. We paired up with a couple of celebrity Wookettes who were terrific company. This trip was off to a great start. The greatest start. Let’s get this show on the road!
Three nights at BGCA enjoyed from three different vantage points. This magical venue is shaped like a shoebox with the band set in the middle of one long side. I can’t think of a better place to go see your favorite band. It’s so intimate that everyone there had to change their FB status to “in a relationship with a jam band” after the run. Night one we were Page Side balcony. Night three we were dead center balcony. Night two, the night I’m supposed to have been talking about, but for some reason won’t get to, we went Mike Side balcony. The floor was a little tight for my liking and the GA seating is excellent for locking down your entire crew in one spot so we went balcony every night. This is the Hampton of the West and the circle has become the square/rectangle.
I’m an East coast guy born and bred. There is a world of difference between the East coast mentality and West. There’s good points and bad points to each, I’d say. One of the good points to the WCM is how laid back and kind everyone is. One of the bad points is certain things are painfully slow by my Northeastern sensibilities. Did you order a beer? How badly do you want it? Because you’re not getting it for a while. So shut the fuck up and chill. I realized I had nowhere to be but here and Surrendered to the Flow. Maybe the best morsel of wisdom in all of Phishdom. I try.
Back in the venue there’s an “usher” wearing bellbottom trousers and a groovy button down. He is having a difficult time convincing people that he actually works there. I see him rattle off a litany of information he has memorized to a handful of doubters: BATHROOMS ARE OVER THERE AND OVER THERE, CONCESSIONS ARE THAT WAY, MERCH BEHIND US, BGCA WAS BUILT IN 1915 WHEN IT WAS ORIGINALLY KNOWN AS SAN FRANCISCO CIVIC AUDITORIUM, IT WAS RENAMED AFTER BILL DIED (IN A TRAGIC HELICOPTER ACCIDENT) IN 1992 – wow this guy really knew his shit. It was as if he had Wikipedia open on his phone like I do now. He was reciting like Lucky from Waiting For Godot which was ironic because it was right about now that my own existential crisis was creeping on. I fucking puddled myself by “accident”. Nothing is coming out. Nothing is coming out. Oh shit I have Lake Titicaca in the palm of my hand. I’m about to lose my tits and my shit.
I’ll be fine I told myself. Who are you?! I’m you. No I’m me. Me too. Who is that? That’s you, too. Whoa. This must be what the Walrus feels like.
I’m fine, really. An angel next to me, who has an army of puppies, whips out a nectar collector and a goddamn torch and starts passing around some of the finest concentrates known to Walruskind. IN THE FUCKING VENUE. Our usher noticed and quickly came over to tell us we were doing a heck of a job and just not to burn anyone. We did not. Phish took care of that with this Ghost I’m about to tell you the story of. Are you still there? Am I?
“Ghost.” This song is so good someone should take the time to review each and every one ever played. God, I wish someone would do that. Before “Sand,” I had a thing for Ghost, if I had to “pick a song”, even though we all know it’s about HOW any song gets played. You never know. That Type II The Line is out there somewhere… could you imagine? Me either.
“Ghost.” What is this song even about? An apparition? A muse? An imaginary friend? I had an imaginary friend when I was little that my grandmother introduced me to. Whenever I did something wrong she blamed it on this imaginary friend. You’ll never guess what his name was: Little Raul, and your imaginary friend was “not as cool” as him. I shouldn’t boast about my ghost, but I will about my grandma, she rules. She’s 86 now and suffers from a light dementia. Now she has imaginary friends that I drop the blame on when she isn’t doing so well. Keep turning Left.
This particular version starts off the heels of Fuego and gets to it right away. Phish MEANS to do this. They have intent and it’s your delight. The room is hot. I have a great view of band and floor and eternity. We get to the Page solo and he gets up so we get down. Second verse, just as good as the first. There’s a HYHU tease from Trey (@@@@@ Biz Archive – 2:17). They nail the drop! The drops nail me. The “drop” in “Ghost” is one of the Phishiest things i can think of. It literally doesn’t matter if they “nail” it, in fact, sometimes it’s better when they don’t. Tonight they do.
While I loathe to compartmentalize Phish into eras, because they’re the same fucking band throughout, there is some sense to it. 3.0 jams seem to “get there” faster and with more purpose. Sure, the Mud Island “Tweezer” is epic but half of it is a journey. This “Ghost” is in the HOV lane to the Heart of the Sun. After a solid opening jam Trey plays a transcendent H Flat chord which starts to knock on a special door at around (6:45). By (7:15) the other side of the door starts to sing WHO IIIIIIS IIIIT? It’ s us, motherfucker, let us in, please. (7:50) we are in. Trey has now modulated to the Secret Gates Of Heaven Chord Progression. (8:20) it’s apparent this is God’s house. I’m in fucking Church! This is Church. God fucking dammit. This is my Church. Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick I am with God I am with You I am with Me. I’m peaking at the best time possible and so it seems is everyone else. (9:30) I look out upon the floor and everyone has their hands in the air like a bunch of evangelical wooks.
(10:00) people are jumping up and down. (10:14) and the people who are jumping have nowhere else to jump but into each other’s arms and they do. I am literally seeing some sort of mass transference of soul power, people are hugging and high 5ing everywhere I look. We all get IT so hard. We are all experiencing ecstasy on a religious level. We are zealots for this jam and for this band. I seriously cannot remember the last time I was in a room that is getting hosed so hard. And it’s THIS room. I’m pretty pleased.
(10:10) and you can hear the roar of the crowd on the soundboard recording. (10:30) and I am ok if I die now, I’ve experienced this Ghost. Maybe I’m already dead. It goes into SCENTS AND FUCKING SUBTLE SOUNDS next and I can’t even.
Alright I should probably wrap this up, it is becoming a #longread and I want you be able to read this on the toilet and your sphincter’s wellbeing is important to both me and Phish. I guess that mushroom story will have to wait until next year, if Lawn Memo will have me back again. The entire BGCA run is great and worth your time. Night 2 was my favorite. Night 3, however, has one of my favorite 1st sets of 3.0 check it out. The bliss from BGCA stuck around for a while. The next day our ride to LA had a family emergency (everything was ok in the end) and all of a sudden we were stranded, flights were insanely expensive and so were car rentals. I rolled a spliff and regrouped, tried a car rental place at SFO and was able to secure a reasonably priced “economy” vehicle. When we went to pick up the car the desk agent took a long hard look at us weirdos.
He knew there was something “up” with my crew. Damn straight, bro. Now was my chance. I smile and mention how it’s my first time in California and making this drive down the PCH has been a lifelong dream of mine. Would it at all be possible to please see if there’s an upgrade to a convertible? The dude smiles. Let me see what I can do. And do he did. For just $25 this fine American upgraded us from a Yugo with three wooden wheels to a goddamn brand new Mustang convertible! This thing had all the amenities. You’ve heard of seat heat well this had seat AC! It was like sitting on an air hockey table and my balls were blown. It is worth asking nicely, you never know, especially with people who are used to getting treated like crap by customers. Try it. We got in that car and cruised the land of the brave and free like the patriots we are. I did not let anyone else drive. I did the whole run SF > LA and it was one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced. Friends, Love, Phish, Adventure. Same as it ever was. Can’t wait for the next one.