I was honored to be asked to review this weekend’s Phish shows at Dick’s by the fantastic Denver paper the Westword. The review went live, read it here: Westword review of Phish at Dick’s
Finally got to see Said the Whale last night, and they surpassed my pretty high expectations. The success of their single “I Love You” brought quite a few teenagers and every pretty young lawyer that lived in the area. While their latest album has a very polished sound, their live show is much more raw, intricate and careful sounds coming from everyone, often leading up to moments of distortion and reverb that I didn’t expect from them. I don’t get a chance to shoot females often, but when I do, I shoot their shoes. They are currently on tour with Kopecky Family Band, go see them if you like sweet pop rock that gets a little chaotic.
Cultivate Fest by Chipotle in City Park proved to be wildly successful once again. The production coordinators really have the free festival logistics down, easy to get up close to the stage, tons of food options, celebrity chef tents, and you could bring your dog. Cold War Kids put on a note perfect set, mixing the setlist with old hits like “Hang Me Up to Dry” and new material from their latest release. The last few times I’ve seen them have been little SXSW shows, kind of forgot they are really, really popular, everyone knew every word. Expect to see more of Cultivate Fest here in the future, looks like a keeper.
Last night, Donna the Buffalo played to a full, happy crowd at the Oriental Theater in Denver. These veterans of the Americana scene are a group of highly professional and technically talented musicians, and the onstage unspoken language between them is a comfort and joy to watch. With the help of the psychedelic lights the Oriental has, I was able to get some fun shots of the band while they took turns showing off their prowess.
It rained every night of the Phish three night run in Chicago, and I found out I love Phish in the rain. Walking to the venue the first night was exciting, the park and museums along the water are a great way to enter a show. No Shakedown, but I rarely go anyway so it wasn’t an issue, and was running into most of my favorite people from Denver everywhere I look (way to represent, Colorado, between the guys in The Clinic shirts and the CO flag hats, I sometimes forgot I wasn’t at home). First thing I noticed when entering the gates was that this was going to be a free for all, the people that worked there didn’t do a pat down, barely looked in my bag, and barely even acknowledged me, really. Woohoo! Time for fun.
First night, they come back from setbreak, open with “Down With Disease”, and as Trey starts up “Prince Caspian” next, the crowd notices Page get up and walk over to Trey. Guys around me thought Page was mad at Trey for cutting that DWD jam, nope, the venue is making us evacuate because of a storm coming. While disappointed, it wasn’t the end of the world, I had just flown in before the show, at least got to hear Phish for the first time in almost a year, and we still had two more days. Pearl Jam down at Wrigley Field was delayed as well, but they ended up coming back on and some tour pros were able to catch both concerts. Impressive.
Saturday afternoon my phone starts going off like crazy, a friend who knows people was texting us to get to the show early, we are getting three sets to make up for the lost one from the night before. All of a sudden the lawn tickets people couldn’t give away the night before are rare and going for $100. Glassy eyed guys walking Michigan Avenue light up when I tell them the news, Phish officially announces on Twitter and Facebook, and suddenly we have a mega show.
They started the night by finishing “Prince Caspian”, then proceeded to play what I only assume was the planned set 2 of the night before. Coming out full cylinder, Trey just destroys each song with energy and force, to the point that after “Ocelot” people were cheering their fool heads off like I’ve never heard for what normally is a bathroom break song for many. As “My Friend, My Friend” starts up, a thick cloud of low lying fog engulfs the Chicago skyline, and people on the Pageside stands were dancing at the city, conducting the storm. Rain starts up again, but they don’t kick us out this time, as tremendous peaks after seering guitar solos come from the stage, never taking a breather. The Weekapaug gets so down and dirty, “Waves” is perfect song for setting, and “Piper” has takeoff. After three sets of madness, I had never felt so alive and exhausted at the same time. Paid a jitney guy $40 to bike us the 1/4 mile to the hotel and it was the best forty bucks ever spent.
Night three started with the concession stands taking the caps from drinks like they usually do, but this time they then covered it with tinfoil. I have never seen a venue do this and if someone knows why I would love to hear it:
Earlier in the day, some guy told me they were going to play Gamehendge tonight, that it was planned and he knows someone. Some guy always says this, but we did discuss the possibility of them dropping Harpua because of the storms and how they still had almost all GH songs left on the table still. (I thought of this guy instantly later that night and wondered who he knew). Once again, a storm rolls in during the show, but this time I was completely prepared, and they weren’t kicking us out. When they went into “Boogie On Reggae Woman”, something flipped a switch in everyone. The crowd was dancing like their life depended on it, punching fists into the sky as huge raindrops slammed into us sideways, Chris Kuroda’s lights lighting up the whole spectacle like an aerial shot from World War Z. Just awesome.
Finally they had to have a rain delay, I hid behind the stands for awhile, then went dead center where wonderful new friends from tour last year were. Go time, just like the night before they are playing with tons of energy, straightforward ripping rock and roll. I’ve noticed throughout the night that they’ve played “AC/DC Bag” and “Wilson”, and when they start “Lizards” (which was such a crowd sing-a-long, but not in the cheesy way, it felt like we were all unified after dealing with the weather together, like a bunch of lizards), I knew that guy did in fact hear something. Suddenly “ooom pah pah, ooom pah pah” comes out of their mouths and the crowd just flips. The storm’s gone. Harpua.
Trey points to a guy with a sign that says “Poster Nutbag- the RIGHT way!!”, discussing how apparently they’ve been playing it the wrong way. They pull the guy up on stage and the guy to my left starts saying “Holy shit! Chris! I work with that guy!” and I’m thinking “how cool! Your friend is lucky!” then “No!! He’s not from Philly! He’s an actor at Second City!” And that’s how I knew it was a bit before the actors barely opened their mouths, funny coincidence. The crowd was a little confused, they knew something was going on when they started rapping up there, and I fell in love with this band even harder. Many people hated on this but I think a bunch of the best improv players in the country are a great guest artist for Phish to have on stage, the members of Phish are total cornballs, why NOT have some improv during the narration. Anyone who was irritated immediately was back to flipping out once Mike Gordon started telling the story anyway. “Mike speaks!”
All in all, an unpredictable, energetic, exhausting weekend that ended up being even more fun than I expected due to the weather. Phish give me a sense of freedom that nothing else can, and I’m ready for more next week in California. Added bonus, the Chicago Tribune got a pic of my friend dancing on the top of the stands and I’m just below him in my Jaws tank top (which caused a zillion guys to call me Sharknado when I walked around):
Oh, and Page gets the VIP award for doing this sweet keys 360: Page’s sick 360 move
Last night I was invited to the Westword Music Showcase Pre-Party by Vices I Admire, a quirky, rocking local band. They’ve got a genuine punk energy while writing great songs with interesting changes. The lead singer has some really pretty vocals too, try to catch him sound checking.