Memo’s “Other Jams” Memo: Funky “Wolfman’s Brother,” Solid “SOAMelt,” Good “Ocelot”
From Pauly McGuire:
18 August 2012. San Francisco, CA.
The “Simple” jam narrowly edged out an ass-shaking, polymorphic foggy funk jam in “Wolfman’s Brother” and the chaotic, dissonant mayhem from “Split Open and Melt” (which I’m convinced that the band purposely plays to fuck with everyone who is starting to peak on shrooms). “Simple” featured the mellowest moment of the night, the blissful feeling of drifting both underwater and in outer space.
The second leg of summer tour kicked off on the Left Coast with a scorcher in Long Beach anchored by a monstrous “Rock and Roll > Ghost.” The carnival migrated north for a three-night run in San Francisco. I currently live in West L.A., so it was easy for me to catch all four California shows.
The San Francisco shows were a tough ticket. It was nearly impossible to find an extra floating around outside Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (capacity of 7,000). The second SF show on Saturday night was probably the weakest of the Cali run, but only because the other shows were really that good. Overall, 8/18/12 was a delicious smorgasbord of greatest hits, but Phish cranked out 28 songs which barely allowed time for any serious extended jamming.
The pre-show buzz on Saturday centered around Dan Healy. The Dead’s former sound engineer made an appearance at soundcheck, instantly fueling rumors of a Phil Lesh sit-in. Twitter and PT blew up.
I love Phish, but I’m a Deadhead first and foremost. I caught the bulk of my shows in 1993-94 on the East Coast and the South, but never saw a West Coast Dead show. The sit-ins from members of the Grateful Dead rank among my favorite personal moments at Phish concerts. I caught Phil Lesh (Shoreline ’99), Bob Weir (Shoreline ’00), and Billy Kreutzmann (Red Rocks ’09). I was also so damn lucky to be in attendance at the Warfield Theatre in 1999 for three Phil and Phriends shows with Trey and Page.
Whenever Phish cruised through California, rumors floated around the lot about a potential sit-in from a Dead alumni. But this time around, Healy hanging out during the soundcheck somehow increased the odds that Phil Lesh would drop in with the boys.
It’s hard to ignore the spiritual footprints the Grateful Dead and their longtime friend (and sometimes enemy) Bill Graham left behind at the Civic Auditorium. City officials renamed the venue after Bill Graham because of his numerous contributions to the Bay Area music scene. If you believe in ghosts, it’s safe to say the kindred spirits of Bill and Jerry Garcia were attracted to the collective energy and positivity inside the auditorium.
The second set had a few potential opportunities for monster jams, but “Golden Age” never went anywhere and Twist got a short hook. With the exception of “Fluffhead,” “Simple” was the longest song of the show.
At the end of a super-loud and thunderous “Mike’s Song,” the band arrived at a fork in the road. Do they down shift and segue into “I am Hydrogen?” Or, let it rip with “Simple?” Or, abandon both songs for something unexpected? “Mike’s Song” abruptly ended and Trey launched into “Simple.”
The “Simple” jam is actually a series of smaller jams and one of them gave me a flashback to the Dead’s cosmic craziness during “Drums > Space.”
Mike Gordon was driving Simple a little more forcefully than normal. My buddy G-Money explained it, “Gordo is octave popping, similar to the style demonstrated by Phil Lesh from any May 1977 show, especially Barton Hall.”
Around the 4:20 mark, the “Simple” jam took flight. Instead of Hendrix-esque shredding, Trey sat back and allowed Page to lead the way. The two smoothly weaved in and out and back and forth for about a minute before Page transitioned from the piano to his orange mini-Wurlitzer a.k.a. the Lil Pumpkin.
Around 6 minutes in, Trey unleashed short burst of high notes and echo loops. He reconnected with Page for a Pumpkin weave jam that lasted another minute or so before everyone eased off the pedal. The spacey transition became quieter and quieter before it slowly dissipated.
The room went dark seven minutes in. Kuroda manipulated the mood with subtle blue and purple lights. A mini-whale call contributed to the surreal sensation of being underwater. Welcome to the adrift-under-the-sea moment of the show. Gentle swells. Post-coital bliss.
At 8 minutes, Page was itching to play “No Quarter” and dropped a few hints. Trey didn’t take the bait. Instead, he stretched everything out with long notes that sounded like Salvador Dali’s melted clocks. Fish broke out the mallets and did his best Mickey Hart impression.
Around the 9-minute mark, it felt like we were inching closer toward “2001.” Was this a gentle round of foreplay before everyone got down and dirty with a “2001” wild rumpus? It felt liked we were extracted from the deep sea and sucked into wormhole, but where would we end up? The celestial ambient portion of the jam flirted with “What’s the Use?” territory.
Approximately 10 minutes in, Gordo snuck in a couple of laser beam effects and played notes that sounded like distant thunder. It still sounded like they were laying the groundwork for “2001.”Was it time to contact the Mothership?
By the 12-minute mark, momentum perked up momentarily before the ethereal jam gradually faded out, like drifting off to sleep in deep space. Trey pulled the plug on the ambient jam. Instead of a “Weekapaug” or “2001” dance party, he ripped into… “Backwards Down the Number Line.”
Did you hear any teases that resembled “The Wheel” by the Dead? @TourTweet stood next to me during the “Simple jam” and he swore he heard one too. Wishful thinking for two old Deadheads? The ghost of Jerry Garcia and Pig Pen pulling tricks on us?
Coventry Music Blog is one my favorite sites. I have been in tears at times. Here are two of my favorite posts…
Pauly does it right over there!
Pauly grew up in New York City and currently lives in Los Angeles, CA. He originally created Coventry Music Blog as a site for his friends to share their mud-caked Coventry, VT stories. Pauly is a jaded vet who has seen 270 Phish shows.
Pauly currently writes about poker for Bluff Magazine and used to write for Fox Sports. Pauly authored two books — a memoir about living in Las Vegas as a poker reporter [Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker], and a trashy novel [Jack Tripper Stole My Dog].
Favorite Ghost(s): Copenhagen, Denmark 1998. It’s a fucking Scandi dance party. Favorite 3.0 Ghosts both occurred right after insane jams — Seven Below > Ghost (Albany 11.28.09) and Rock and Roll > Ghost (Long Beach 8.15.12).