Long Beach Arena – Long Beach, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
The thing about Phish is that they always get the last laugh. I won’t lie, despite the fact that the band’s appearance at the Long Beach Arena is the only concert I will see this summer I wasn’t pumped. None of my hardcore Phish friends were able to join me to celebrate my 25th experience with Mike, Trey, Jon and Page, the venue stinks worse than the city of Long Beach does and I just knew in my heart that I was going to get a show filled with songs that the snob inside of me is sick of hearing live. Yet despite all of those fears and anxieties coming true Phish still grabbed me by the balls and gave me a great hump day night inside the venue with the world’s largest mural painted upon the outside.
The night kicked off with Suzy Greenberg. Not expecting this as an opener (only one I can think of is 12/14/95) I was thrown off my game a bit but it worked well as did he Talking Heads cover Cities followed. While I don’t think anything will ever top the phenomenal Berkeley 2010 version this one had some very dark moment that made the metal fan who wore his Iron Maiden/My Friend My Friend shirt to the show quite satisfied. I know I am not alone in being over Kill Devil Falls, but it segued nicely out of Cities and featured a flawless guitar intro from Anastasio and a nice jam.
After a fun take on Guelah Papyrus, I got my lone “first time seen” of the night with a cover of the Velvet Underground’s Cool It Down. With temps well over 100 degrees in most parts of Southern California for well over a week (and having been busted out earlier this summer at Deer Creek on a day where temps hit triple digits) I have to assume that this is Phish’s ode to heat waves. While I have never been a huge fan of the Velvet Underground, Cool It Down sounded tight and is nice one to witness live and add to the collection of songs under my belt.
Rift kept the energy high in the mostly full room as fans danced and spread the news that Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez were in the house. Stash is one of those songs that tends to get skipped when shuffling through my iPod while stuck in traffic on the 405 as the song bores me. Yet in person I can at least clap and I know that if I can make it to the jam I will be okay. If not for a beautiful Bathtub Gin following a Bouncing Around The Room breather, the jam out of Stash would have been the highlight of the first set. The band wrapped set one with the second Quinn The Eskimo to rock the Southland in as many years. As the band rushed off stage I hit the concourse where I discovered that you had numerous stands to purchase beer yet could only get water from the food vendors.
While it is true that Rock and Roll is a song originally belonging to the Velvet Underground, the fact is Phish made it their own years ago. Despite this being my fourth Rock and Roll in seven shows, the version that went down on this Wednesday night in the LBC is why I will go and see Phish every chance I get for the rest of my life. Knowing that the Rock and Roll from the Gorge last year was the greatest live moment I have ever seen from any band in my entire life, I was shocked that this take gave that version a run for its money. Where the Gorge take had a real creepy evil feeling, this one managed to keep beating you upside the head with vicious blows well after the ref had rang the bell. While many 3.0 jams are over before they begin, this one kept going and going. There were moments I thought we were going to go into songs like Piper, A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing and Light, yet it wasn’t until the 25 minute mark that we were finally guided to the second song of the second set – Ghost. I mean how could it not be Ghost, it made sense that Phish would celebrate my 25th show by playing the song that opened my first show at the 25:25 mark of the second set. You may just chalk that up as coincidence, but I know better than that.
Earlier in the day as I changed the diaper of my six week old daughter, I mentioned to her that the band would screw with me by playing the two songs I am most sick of back to back. So when the 1-2 punch of eye rollers Limb By Limb>Guyute actually happened I just had to laugh as I clinched the adorable whale onsie I bought my little bundle of joy at the merch booth during set break. Well played but I wouldn’t wish 10 Limb By Limb’s in 25 shows on my worst enemy.
My personal highlight of the second set was Dirt. My first time hearing the soft and gentle song with the soaring solo since Shoreline ’99 not only pleased my soul but cemented what a fan had shared with me earlier in the day. Having ran into Phish’s lighting guru Chris Kuroda yesterday (he had the photo on his iPhone to prove it) he shared that the band felt that Long Beach Arena was the Hampton Coliseum of the west. Watching Anastasio play that solo in Dirt, you could see that the band managed to conquer the notoriously difficult venue and felt much more at ease then they did the year before at the Hollywood Bowl.
I thought for sure Biebs and Gomez would join the band for Harry Hood. The songs third Do You Feel Good About Hood section would have been perfect for the two teenage love birds, but sadly that was not the case. Instead we just got a smoking take on the classic and the evening’s best bass bombs from one Mike Gordon. I also hoped that the band would pay homage to Iron Maiden (whose groundbreaking concert album Live After Death was recorded in Long Beach) with a first time cover of a Maiden tune, but instead the second set closed out with a tribute to another UK artist with numerous Long Beach gigs under their belt. Good Times Bad Times managed to shake the ceiling (at least what’s left of it) and I even saw one Long Beach Police Officer banging his head in approval.
As my fourth Julius in five shows ended my one and done 2012 Phish run I had to laugh. My 25th show went down in the worst venue I have seen the band in and it featured a bunch of songs that I didn’t really want to hear. Yet despite all that the show was incredible. This is the tightest I have seen the band play since returning in 2009, the jams proved that they could still go deep and the layout of the sets worked. So here is to the next 25 shows. When the band returns for a multi-night run at the Long Beach Arena in 2014, I will no doubt get to hear Limb By Limb each night as torture but its okay because there is no denying that no band can make me feel as good as Phish does.