Welcome to the Blade blog Culture Shock, a three-times-a-week riff by Pop Culture Editor Kirk Baird on pop culture news, events, and trends. The blog will appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings here, with the odd night or off-day posting if something is merited.
OK, I said I would return with an explanation of the headline and a not-so-typical review of the recent Phish show.
Concert reviews are great for those who didn't make the show; a quick synopsis of what you did or didn't miss. I gave a quick one of those on Thursday, the morning after the Phish concert at Cobo Arena in Detroit.
But what's often left out in reviews, and sometimes what's just as important to the people who attend them, are the bookends: What happened before and after the concert. Having a crazy-fun trip to see a show can be just as exciting as the concert itself. And getting into a wreck on the way home, as a friend recently did when her car struck a deer while driving back from a Pixies' show, can cast a dark cloud on the whole affair.
So, with this lengthy explainer/intro, let let jump into my Phish concert adventure.
My wife is a Phish fan from way back. Her first show was the legendary Las Vegas gig in December, 1996. It was the first time Phish played Sin City, and it was her first time to see the band. She's seen the band many times since, including another legendary gig in Las Vegas, Halloween 1998, in which the band's "musical costume" was a cover of The Velvet Underground's "Loaded."
But as many times as she's seen Phish, she's never seen them perform "Fluffhead," which had been mothballed by the band for years. With Phish back to performing the song, we were hopeful her streak of shows without a "Fluffhead" would be ended.
We'd never been to the Cobo, and were happy to discover that parking in the underground lot was easy. After much consternation about our tickets — we were told the review seats would be GA floor — we were especially relieved to learn the tickets were lower-balcony seats two rows from the floor and just to the left of the stage. Verily, the concert gods were with us this night.
The band opened with "AC/DC Bag," which ruined my dream of seeing Phish play its almost mythical "Gamehendge" in its entirety, a rare treat for fans that has happened only five times in the band's 26 years, and not since 1994.
After a lengthy welcome by the crowd, which the band members soaked up, Phish jumped into "Foam," followed by "Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan," which featured great solo turns by frontman and guitarist Trey Anastasio, and bassist Mike Gordon.
The first set was a crazy jam session, and, as we discovered, was just a warm-up for what was to follow.
Set 2 opened with crazy-energetic versions of "Runaway Jim," followed by "Down With Disease," and "Free," before Phish slowed the jamming a bit with "Waste," which is about as close to a couple's skate song as the band has in its arsenal.
A coupla songs later, though, and my night was made complete. Phish played "Bug," my personal "Fluffhead."
A few years ago, I was trapped in the world's worst job, a newspaper gig so miserable I found little relief. Then I accepted another job, only there was a few months of lag time before I started the new gig. And my then-current employers didn't know I was leaving. For those few months my work life was made bearable only because I knew I had an exit strategy; "Bug," with its chorus of "It doesn't matter," became my work mantra. No matter what happened to me at work, "it didn't matter" because I was on my way out.
I still smile whenever I hear "Bug." And I was beaming Thursday night.
So, my concert was made right there. Phish could've ended its show with that song, cutting its performance by an hour or more, and I would've been OK with that.
For my wife, though, we held out hope for the "Fluffhead" that never came. Phish saved the song for its next show, two nights later, in Cincinnati.
For those who have never been to Phish concert, the thing about the band is that you never know what you're going to get. It's one of those blessing-curse kinda things. On one hand, you could be surprised with the greatest setlist you could imagine, or crushed by bitter disappointment.
At the end of Thursday night's concert my wife told me, "If you asked me to put together a setlist of all the songs I don't want Phish to play, tonight would be that concert."
In fact, as far as the material Phish performed, it was her least favorite show by the band she's seen. But, as she noted, Phish was playing so well and having so much fun, it was impossible not to get into the show.
As "Bug" says, "It doesn't matter."
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