23 April 2008

Nedstalgia: 15 Years Ago

That's right, it's Nedstalgia time, been a while. Time to get shockingly unedited stream-of-conscious on your ass. But hey, even Hidden Track has stolen my idea, so may as well keep it going. Springtime means lots of good shows on which to reminisce.

Download Phish 4/23/93 Colgate here:
part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4

15 years ago today I had my entrey into what may very well have been my favorite stretch of Phish shows. The spring tour of 1993 -- which was essentially just the end of the winter tour of 1993 -- was kind of where I went from being a huge Phish fan to being a crazy, Phish freak. After these shows I'd literally get stopped in the streets of Boston with a "I see you in the front row of every Phish show I go to" comment, which was kinda cool, but more, in retrospect, scary. What a dweeb I was.

Anyway, the scary thing is thinking of how much more Phish I might have seen had I actually owned a car at school during the 2nd semester of my freshman year. For a little backstory: I was taking 4 classes in the spring, but one of them was a physics course that I probably wasn't qualified to take, but I signed up any way because the professor had taught me previously and I had liked him enough and trusted him enough to help me pick up the slack. As fate would have it, he ended up passing away during that semester. Not only a major downer, but pretty much killing any chance I had of surviving the rest of the term. It was early enough for me to drop the class but too late to add anything in its stead. So, as fate would have it, when April and May rolled around with a nutty docket of Phish shows in the area, I was sitting in my dorm room with only 3 classes to worry about: no finals during finals week and just rides to and from the shows to shore up. Excellent.

The first show to hit that was remotely close enough to convince someone to either drive me or lend me their car was Colgate on 4/23. There would be many Phish shows over the years that I had no business going to -- snow storms too massive, locations too remote, etc. -- and this was certainly one of them. Come the morning of the 23rd, I was sick as a dog. Cough, congestion, general weariness, it was bad any way you looked at it. But, we had plans. My roommate and I had convinced a friend to lend us her truck and we had student-purchased (ie cheap as hell) tickets and a friend on campus crash with. Plus I knew a zillion upstate-NY'ers who'd be there. No way I was calling in sick. Andrew took the wheel, I nuzzled in the passenger seat with a bottle of cough syrup and we were off.

There's that scary moment for an incoming freshman when they first meet up with their roommate. For me it was over the phone at the end of the summer. I remember the conversation quite well. One of those defining moments in who I was in college and therefore who I am today. Chatting a bit and then I get the "what kind of music do you like?" drop. "Oh, uh, all kinds. You?" "Well, I like all music except rap. My favorite band is the Grateful Dead." "Nice." So, it wasn't too long before I had him singing along to Reba (although in the end, it was the Panic that grabbed his leg).

Seeing as I was at the medicine bottle with nearly a chug, I was nothing short of addled for much of the show, everything being pretty fuzzy around the edges. On top of that, there was a weird and occasionally disconcerting mixture of people from various stages of my life, past, present and future, in attendance that I was bumping into that kept me off-balance for most of the night. Long story short, the music was kind of an afterthought.

The room was just a gym, plain and simple. Everything was right angles and built for athletics, not music. The crowd kind of just was in constant motion like billiards balls bouncing from one end of the room to the other. Bleachers folded up on one side, basketball hoops overhead -- not the ideal situation for seeing music. On the other hand, the place felt 3/4 full and was pretty small. It was easy to get to the front and back and take it in from any angle you'd like. Ah, the good old days as they say. So, I spent some of the show in close, but eventually had to drift toward the back. As the energy in the room was of a college kegger on one of those spring-is-here Fridays, the band seemed loose as I recall. Hell, just look at the pix (stolen from Phish.com).

The cool memory for me of what they played was definitely The Ballad of Curtis Loew. It was well-done, sure, but mostly because it was a song I never thought about seeing and then there it is. I could probably go and dig up how many times the band has played it and I'm sure it is a small number, so it's kind of special in that regard and felt that way at the time for sure. You see enough Phish shows over 10 years and you're going to see your share of random songs. The number of songs the band has played that I haven't seen is actually quite small and it's those "being at Colgate when you really shouldn't be" kind of nights that helps to fill in all the gaps. The second notable moment was the first time I saw Mimi Fishman come out on stage and play vacuum during Lengthwise. Seemed like during this time you'd see at least one thing a show that you never thought you'd see. You'd think the band had done everything it could possibly pull off and the next thing you know there's this tiny, over-matched woman on stage with her mouth wrapped around an Electrolux. Really? C'mon.
But really, for this show, that's neither here or there. You can download this whole show and enjoy the band playing in one of their more exciting periods, and they'll be more where that came from, sure. Really, all you have to concern yourself with, though, is this Weekapaug Groove. I've already offered it up here and I'll go on record as saying it's one of the best, or at least features a mid-section that is some of the silliest guitar playing you could ask for. There is a section in the middle that is the greatest Trey-is-wigging-out playing you can imagine. Please check it out and tell me I'm nuts, but yes, it's that good. I can say for sure I enjoyed it when it was going on but was in too much of a daze to realize just how fucking top shelf amazing it was at the time. Too bad, but perhaps it would have sent me over the edge. I was already teetering there as it was.

Actually, listening to the whole thing, this is one of those under appreciated gems from the era. Solid setlist, great playing, high energy, goes just far enough in the jams. It may have been the haze I was operating under that night, but I remember a sort of mist of human perspiration in the air: wild energy bottled in a near prison cell environment. Mmmm... can't beat it. Really a classic 1993 show. The acoustic guitar at the outset of My Friend My Friend, the visual silliness in the middle of It's Ice, and the way it wasn't quite totally Trey's band yet. You can kind of feel it's one of those nights in these tracks, and they actually sound pretty good considering what the taper probably had to contend with.

As you might imagine I wasn't too much better the next morning after sleeping on someone's couch in my sweaty t-shirt. Still, we made our way back through Massachusetts in the morning. My roomie was a big proponent of massive water intake at all times and of going exponential when you're not feeling well. So the whole trip back I was guzzling water... which was a bit of an effort in the pre-Poland Spring days. Anyway, we stopped at a Friendly's for a bite and I probably drank about 10 glasses of water while he ate. We got back on the road and as you might have guessed I had to piss pretty badly. Typically, no where to stop for a long, long time. Finally, I had all I could stands and I could stands no more so he pulled over and I proceeded to urinate for longer than I ever had before and ever have since. This is by far my most vivid memory of 4/24/1993, I can still feel the orgasmic release of pee on the side of the road. After what may have been a minute or an hour, I made my way back into the car only to find Andrew keeled over the wheel in laughter and amazement.

Ah Phish, making kids do stupid shit for 20 years. More healthier spring 93 Nedstalgia to come...

1 comment:

Scott Bernstein said...

Great review.

- The Hidden Track "Thief"