7/20/98 - Ventura County Fairgrounds, Ventura, CA
The lot scene: I don't like talking about this part much, but on a
brief note, it was mellow. Yes, security was present, but it was
definitely an improvement on Shoreline the night before. I didn't see
any kids get busted for vending, and staff didn't do a full pat down at
the gates as they often do at many venues.
The venue: I hear people ranting about what a horrible place the
Ventura County Fairgrounds are to see a show. Personally, I like this
venue. True it is a dustbowl, but you don't go to a Phish show to floss
your new threads. Besides, I was dirty enough from being on the road
that a little dirt couldn't hurt. It is located right on the beach so
the climate was nice. And best of all, it wasn't hard to find good
seats; no matter where you were, you were fairly close to the stage.
The crowd: Hmmm...I met some cool pholks and rapped with the dude who
brought the funk bus to the Gorge. He said Mike dropped in for a short
while and that I should look for the funk bus in Maine. There were a
lot of drugged out people there who seemed like they belonged more at a
rave than at a Phish show, but this is the reality that we all must deal
with. Especially in southern California, no offense to those of you
from the southland. Now onto the show........
I. Bathtub, Dirt, Poor Heart, Lawn Boy, MSO, Birds, Theme, Water in the
Sky, Moma Dance, SOAM
II. Drowned>Makisupa>Maze, Sea and Sand, Caspian>Hood
E: Sexual Healing>HYHU, Halley's
The Gin opener was, in one word, PHAT. Clocking in at over 21 minutes,
it was extremely long, and I loved every minute of it. I'd been waiting
for a Bathtub the whole tour thus far and felt this one coming. I love
this song as an opener. In the middle, the boys launched into a massive
funk jam and on my setlist, I actually had it labeled as Gin>funk
Dirt was a very fitting song given the venue. I think this is a
beautiful song and was afraid that maybe it had been dropped from the
Poor Heart was phun, nothing special, except for the crazy
Crosseyed&Painless tease at the end. Well,
then again, maybe it was special...
Lawn Boy is a cool little song. I enjoy the lyrics
My Sweet One was next. After Poor Heart, this one came completely out
of left field. Again, it is a phun
song and got the crowd dancing, but I was fiending for some jamming. At
least it was short and sweet.
Birds of a Feather are flocking outside! Yes!!! This is one of my
favorite new songs. I was very happy
to hear it after a string of really short tunes which highlight the
personality of the band and who they
are, but don't necessarily bring out their amazing musical capabilities,
Theme was good as usual. I really like it and I called this one. It
was another that I'd been waiting for.
One of the highlights for me.
Water in the Sky. To be honest, I liked the old version better. Don't
get me wrong, the new H20 is very
danceable and all, but somehow it doesn't seem to fit. The old version
I thought was a very pretty tune
and this new one is well, uh, kinda strange.
It was followed by the Moma Dance. Without a doubt my favorite of the
new songs. Big improvement
on Black-Eyed Katy. Katy was a sweet instrumental, but the Moma Dance
is on a completely new
level. This was the 4th time out of 5 shows so far, and each time it
got better. This one started off
really slow and methodical and built up into tremendous energy.
Split Open and Melt closed set one in style. It wasn't as long as some
of the versions from last year if
I recall correctly, but it was definitely well played.
Set two opened with Drowned!!!! I love this song, what a treat. Not
quite on par with NYE 95, but then
again, what is? Nothing but smiles here!
Out of drowned emerged the familiar notes of Makisupa. Very phun song,
a crowd favorite indeed. I
wasn't expecting it at all, having just heard it at the Gorge a few
nights before, but no complaints here!
Key word was "skunk." Makisupa segued nicely into
Maze. This is a nice pairing. I think these two songs go well
together, even though they are of a
completely different style. Apparently the band thinks so too, because
they have done nice transitions
from Makisupa>Maze in the past as well. Maze was ok. It was shorter
and tighter than many versions
I've heard, but this one didn't quite do it for me. The space jam in
between though was phat.
Sea and Sand. Nice work by Page here. Sort of killed the momentum, but
nonetheless a wonderful
song. I just thought the placement coud have been better.
Prince Caspian is one of my favorites. It's a beautiful song and this
one had to have been one of the
best versions ever. Caspian segued into
Hood!!!!! This was a repeat from Portland so I didn't see it coming,
but I can never get sick of Hood.
As usual, Hood was beautifully played, one of the best Hoods IMHO, an
improvement on Portland.
Real long at about 18 minutes. The ending was absolutely beautiful.
What a way to close the set.
Sexual Healing!?!? Go Fishman!!!! Totally hilarious, Fishman did a
funny dance, you had to see it to
believe it, and then started walking around the stage like a robot.
Hey, that guy Trey isn't too shabby
at the drums! -->
HYHU. No surprise here.
Me and everyone else were a little surprised when the boys picked up
their instruments again. Halley's
was a shocker. I had never heard it before, so needless to say, this
one sent me into ecstacy. At the
end, there was this low buzz which I can only describe as stoney, and
one by one, Trey, Mike, Page,
and Tubbs exited the stage.
Set I: 8.5-solid with some definite highlights (Gin opener comes to
Set II: 8.8-the boys were really playing well this set, so much energy,
and the encores were wacky
This was a very magical evening. Perhaps not as powerful as the 2nd
night of the Gorge, but this
show was probably my favorite of the west coast. Get the tapes!
Four quick Ventura notes :
1) Split Open & Melt
was noticeably slower and slightly
funky (....imagine that). The jam
gets crazy (i.e. non funky), but then
returns to the ending segment of
the song with a big slowdown in the beat.
I love a good Melt, and you sure
as heck can't beat some slowfunk Melt.
2) Lawn Boy was the "sunset" tune.
With the pacific ocean directly behind
the audience, the band was treated
to a sweet sunset, and Kuroda didn't
put on the stage lights until it was basically
dark. I was like 15 yards back from the
stage and could hardly see Page cheesin it through
the barely-there sunset light.
3) Trey seemed a bit tipsy on the alcohol early on.
He took a shot of something out of a clear
plastic cup (I'm guessing it was some quality tequila)
right after the crazy 22 minute Bathtub opener.
After Poor Heart, Trey introduced Mike as "Poor Heart".
He then repeated the humor after Lawn Boy and
MSO, by calling Page "Lawn Boy" and calling
Fishman "My Sweet One" after each of those
tunes were done.
4) The lot scene was killer, with a beautiful
public beach literally running alongside
one part of the parking lot. Gotta love that they
kicked down 7 songs at this show with water
imagery (Bathtub, Theme, Water in the Sky, Moma Dance,
Drowned, Sea and Sand, Prince Caspian).
Oh yeah, there were a bunch of hotels REALLY
close to the venue, so I imagine the killer scene
just moved over there (and to the nearby, beachside
======WATCH THE SAIL========
" t h e m o m e n t e n d s "
Ventura has always been my favorite place to see a show. I love how you
can get as close as possible and not have to pay outstanding prices.
And who can complain about the scenery, can't get any closer to the
water. I like the old jams, so i was psyched to hear bathtub to start
it off, but it took me a little while to get through the set till an
incredible Split open and melt finished it off. Out of all the funk that
they are playing now, Makisupa Policeman is fast becoming my favorite.
Which madfe me happy when the jammed it in the second set. When they
ended that, and went right into Maze, i didn't knoiw how things could
get any better. Maze has always been an intense song live for me and i
think most audiences. Yet the most enjoyable part of the night came
when the flowing jam of Harry Hood started, and the lights when out.
The audience turned into a sea of glo-sticks jumping out and falling
through all the people. For a while this went on, and i'm sure the band
enjoyed the visual stimulation from the crowd. This ended the second
set, and i'm sure most were thinking how this could possibly be topped?
well, fishman took care of it by serenading all the ladies in the
audience and making all the men laugh by grooving to sexual healings.
what a night!
Disclaimer: Ventura was my 18th Phish show since 1994. I've heard about
300 hours on tape. My wife's cat has heard approximately 200, which means
that even our pet probably knows more about Phish than you do. But I
digress. This was to be my only Phish show of the summer, and my
expectations going in (especially after seeing Shoreline's stellar
playlist) were minimal.
The setlist, as best as I can recall and from Eric Burns' recollections,
went like this:
Bathtub Gin, Dirt, Poor Heart, Lawn Boy, My Sweet One, Birds of a Feather,
Water in the Sky (not sure about the placement of this one), Theme, Moma
Dance, Split Open & Melt
(approx 80 min)
Set Two (aka the Beast that Ate the Beach):
Drowned -> Makisupa Policeman -> jam > Maze, Sea and Sand, (something here,
and I'm bummed I'm forgetting it), Prince Caspian, Harry Hood
e: Sexual Healing, Halley's Comet
(II + E 90 min)
The scene was the same as last year -- very chill despite cops on
horseback. Some fellow insisted that he saw a horse throw his badged
rider...I may have paid to see this, as the guy wasn't hurt. We went in as
the gates opened, and quite easily dropped a blanket on the cracked dirt
surface about halfway between the soundboard and stage -- perfect seats,
I called GIN, and was quite happy to hear it, though I prefer it as a
mid-set jam setpiece instead of an opener. Well, this Gin wasn't as
glorious as the Went version (my personal favorite), but it quite easily
bested the Gorge's Gin opener from last year. It was very exploratory as I
recall, with Fishman and Page really shining. I had no idea until Eric
Burns told me so that this was a 20-minute version. Honestly, I got so
lost in it that time really meant squat. It was perfectly apparent that
the boys were on, and that I'd picked the right show to see. Probably the
strongest opener I've ever seen next to Sneaking Sally on 12/30/97.
DIRT was perfectly played and very appropos given our dusty surroundings.
Nice song. Nuff said. It started a stretch of tunes that most people out
there will read and say, "lame." I can't really put into words why it
wasn't, but it wasn't. Honestly, who knows whether the energy from this
run will translate to tape, but it was crackling. The POOR HEART saw Fish
more than his usual animated self, and Mike's solo drew props from Trey --
who, by the way, was having a fucking *blast* all night. They rawked out
the ending, and then coda'd with the closing licks from Freebird much as
they did in Lyon last year with Bela. At this point, the crowd was going
The LAWN BOY was well-timed, and rendered in typical supercheese fashion.
I always like to hear this tune, though I think some folks think of it as
Yawn Boy. MY SWEET ONE was a surprise, given that they'd already played
Poor Heart -- two songs I speak of in the same breath. It came out of the
gates sounding like Mule, which was due, but MSO was a nice treat for a
west coast crowd that hasn't heard that tune in a long, long time. Energy
was still popping, but momentum had sagged the slightest bit. Time for a
BIRDS OF A FEATHER was my first and, along with Moma Dance, the new tune
that I most wanted to hear. This version did not disappoint. Jenn turned
to me as the jam began and said, "this sounds a lot like Talking Heads."
Bwahaha...indeed. If Phish is wearing their influences on their sleeve a
little lately, they're doing it quite well. This BOAF ripped.
Straight-ahead, type-I dissonance groove. By this point, the crowd was on
its heels, and Phish was charging right at them again.
I don't think this is where WATER IN THE SKY was placed, but if it was, it
was terrible placement. The new arrangement of this song is certainly more
"Phishy," but it's really not appropriate to the lyrics. I rather liked
the lullaby version, but I suspect I'll get used to this one. Regardless,
two minute tunes don't really get in the way much.
THEME scratched an itch I didn't even know I had. The last few versions of
this song I'd heard live were a little uninspired, and this one had it.
All I remember is grinning ear to ear, and the fact that it was very *loud*
by the end.
The MOMA DANCE, SPLIT combo to finish the set seemed to me like a great
dichotomy. Here we had a song that epitomizes Phish's "new sound" -- a
total showcase for the new mode of simple, focused and thoughtful playing
-- and the complex wackiness of old-school Phish. I agree with most of
Darius's remarks on Moma, except for his assertion that it sounds like MMW.
To me, it sounds like Phish...a much spacier tone than MMW typically
grooves to, and less earthy. Anyway, I turned around as this tune began to
see Dirksen grinning like a cheshire cat, and turned back around as it
ended...same grin. I called the Split seconds before it happened, and as
Splits typically do, this one screamed. Trey especially was on fire for
this one, just kneeding the lower registers of his 'Doc patiently. Very
meditative groove a la many 1994 Stashes, which just then detonated at the
end. I was seriously impressed.
Long set break as I recall. Perhaps a full 45 minutes. Discussion at the
break was very positive, but a little reserved. I was maybe more effusive
than most, seeing as how I'd heard the two tunes I called, and the two new
tunes I wanted to hear. The second set was gravy...and what gravy it was.
Let's be honest...has Phish ever played a "bad" version of DROWNED? This
was my first, and I'm a huge fan of the Who, a huge fan of Quadrophenia,
and a huge fan of some of the jams it's produced (12/31/95, 12/11/97). It
was also appropriate because, as you all probably know, Quadrophenia is the
story of rival factions of teens who live near the beach...much like the
West Side Story of industrial Britain. Perfect for the venue. Anyway, I
jumped around like a maniac as Page rang out the first licks on his grand,
and my enthusiasm was rewarded with a *scorching, heartfelt, hosedown.*
This was, to my ears, absolutely titanic type-II Phish jamming. Of course,
I'll have to hear the tapes to know whether I'm blowing smoke, but I was
moved. This must have been twenty minutes long, and it segued seamlessly
and melodiously into
MAKISUPA. What a great breather. "Woke up in the
morning....ssssssssskunk." As my wife and I have a family of them living
under our house, skunks are sort of a theme with us. They're all over the
place in SoCal, and I wake up to the smell of them all the time.
Though...wait...maybe Trey wasn't talking about that kind of skunk...;-)
Anyway, he played a terrific little solo at the end of this tune, playful
and reminiscent of the post-Hood jam from Darien last summer (though not as
developed). > segue (more of a meltdown, really) into
MAZE. Short version. Crackling version. Page just shredded the Rhodes.
I can't comment enough on how *together* this band is right now. Synched
up, lean and mean. This was an "old school" Maze -- far, far tighter than
some of the disasters that were played last year (Utah, NYE anyone?).
Major, major props to Chris Kuroda for his work last night -- he just took
this song to another level.
As Eric Burns has noted, this Drowned -> Makisupa > Maze combo clocked in
at about 35 minutes. Yesssss.
You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard Page start to
play SEA AND SAND. Not only was it completely in keeping with the beach
theme of the show, but I never thought I'd hear it. Ever. Beautiful
version -- a perfect example of how a ballad can sustain the energy of a
crowd if it's played with heart. Does Page's voice sound more practiced
and steady to anyone else, or is it just me? My apologies if I'm missing
something in here...
Make no mistake about it, fans...this PRINCE CASPIAN was no Fuckerpants.
While I was afraid it'd vacuum the vibe right out of the bowl, I was dead
wrong. Trey simply shone on this extended version, leaning into the 32nd
notes, smiling and dancing around the stage -- it was just a real treat to
see them nail a tune that's been so uneven and fairly maligned.
Around this point I was thinking Slave, which I'd have preferred over HARRY
HOOD at the time. I'm (1) not a fan of glowstick wars and (2) not a fan of
the Trey-takes-the-backseat versions that this song seems to have spawned
since 1996. Honestly, I find 12/30/97's Hood to be almost unlistenable.
Well, the composed section of Hood was really nice and clean, with a
playful little high-end flurry from Trey right before the "Harry!" I got
doinked in the head by a glowstick as the whole thing was petering out, but
was pleasantly surprised at the thoughtfulness and patience of the jamming
to that point. Then, the jam got serious. And to make a long story short,
sports fans, Trey is back in the SADDLE on this song!!! It wasn't what I'd
call a teary-eyed version, but rather extended, scorching and purposeful.
Really, really beautiful, and it didn't suffer at all for Trey's
I sort of figured on a long encore, as we were at around 67 minutes. I did
SEXUAL HEALING. Who did? I think someone once suggested this one, maybe a
year ago, on r.m.p. Now, I've seen Fish do Cryin'. I've seen him do
Suspicious Minds with Elvi. I've seen him do Purple Rain in the purple
rain over Red Rocks. And this topped them all. Not only was he dancing
around at the front of the stage like a drunk muppet, but he actually
lifted the mu-mu and wagged his ass and private parts at the front rows
(someone who was on the rail, please remark!). If it went on a little
long, who gave a fuck? No one near me. There was one moment in the HYHU
fanfare where he ran to the front of the stage and pumped his arms on the
one as the band came down on the same beat -- and Chris *jacked* the bright
whites. And for a moment frozen in time, Greasy Fizeek was the biggest
rock star on the planet.
I was sort of surprised to see them going back for their instruments after
that one, and absolutely floored by Doop-Choop... HALLEYS was, as best as
I can describe it, stoney. It descended into a super-goop funk jam, maybe
four/five minutes long, until Trey started to bust off some loops. "I hope
they just walk off now," I said to Burns, and they did.
What a magnificent show. Apart from some fantastic bust-outs, the playing
actually surpassed the setlist. The band had a raucous blast onstage, and
seemed to truly appreciate the crowd. I sit here this morning sated.
Thank you, Phish.
"You remember what happened to the boy who suddenly got everything he ever
wanted, don't you?"
Just a short note to let everyone know that it was a great show.
For those of us paying attention, Mike Gordon and Fishman could be seen
darting through the crowd on the ocean boardwalk outside the venue on an
electric cart right before the show. They were going fast enough so that by
the time you realized who was ripping by you, it was too late to stop and
talk. With Fishman at the wheel, there was of grave danger to limb and life
in attempting to stop that maniac.
The first set was not an easy space for me to get into. New songs and a new
sound and poor positioning in the audience on my part kept me less than
fully satiated. Don't get me wrong, the stuff is good, but I really hope
that this "funk" sound is just a part of the overall growth of the Phish
sound (as I'm sure it is) and not something that they're firmly sinking
their teeth into for the long term. As you can well imagine, the majority
of these songs will be around for a long time, but I believe that they will
be representative of one aspect of the many-faceted Phish.
The second set was more old school. I placed myself in front of the
soundboard and the sound (for me) improved dramatically. The songs were
familiar and the band and the audience were having fun.
The Ventura County Fairgrounds is a great venue for these guys and I hope
they continue to play there forever. General admission is the only truly
democratic form of concert attendance. You want front row positions, you
make damn sure you get there early and stake out your place...all of you
comped ticket holders can take your chances like the rest of us.
great show monday nite! the bathtub gin went off. it could've gone on
the whole set, but trey pulled it back in for us. i was glad to see a
pretty solid theme from the bottom and finally get a split open and
melt... drowned and sea and sand were unexpected (but quite fitting for
the surrounding environment). brought back memories of new year's 95
to me... great transition to makisupa as well. pretty fulfilling
show. they boys seem to be kicking it into gear now.
where's runway jim? phoenix?
First of all, I had a blast. The proximity of the venue to the ocean is
paradise, and obviously the band was inspired by their view from the
stage to do a "sea set." Lots of water references - a great thread
running through the show.
There was a time when nitrous balloons and beer in the parking lot would
be my stadard M.O., but last night I decided to walk on the beach and
skip rocks into the surf, and look for whales and chill to get in the
mood. Sort of communing with the surroundings...and the show was right
in my stride.
I was pretty psyched at the prospect of a Gin opener - I have been
watching the setlist rotate, and excited to see this tune back in
action. I have not seen a show since last year here - I can't give
accurate comparisons to other shows. But I can say that I like the new
tunes. Dirt and Drowned were interesting lyrically. And I danced and dug
on Birds of a Feather as well. The vocals sound good, and I was in a
good spot in the crowd - for the first time I had enough Mike in the
mix, and that was pretty perfect. Great job on Lawn Boy solo and driving
Melt to close the set.
Makisupa>Maze was spectacular. Huge rock and roll showmanship right
there, with the backdrop of palm trees and a few stars in the mist. Sea
and Sand was a nice short nugget that I liked alot.
I am not and cannot be a Caspian fan. Sorry.
Then a fat Hood. Fun encore - Sexual Healing is perfect for Fishman. I
have to say that Ben Harper has been closing shows with this too, and
his version brings me to tears. But Fishman is a charmer too. Then
Halley's Comet was groovy and I was happy to be kicking up the dust one
last time before hitting the road.
Trey is driving the wah-wah into the ground. The jam in the middle of
Bathtub sounded an awful lot like Moma Dance to me. Was that a tease or
just a rut he is in? Still the subtle playing of Page underneath the
drone of the wah works well, and Fishman is great at mixing it up and
driving it harder. I think I already mentioned that Mike Gordon is a
I left in a great space. Cheers guys! How about playin the Greek again
next time through?!?
Andy's Phish Page