Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Phish in C'ville review, Sharon Jones & Dap Kings, Hamaganza

Phish put on a great show at Charlottesville on Saturday night. The fun began in the parking lot, which was a somewhat subdued scene compared to a normal Phish lot, thanks to the 30 degree weather and light snow. Luckily by the time Phil and I arrived, Wyatt and Angie had arrived ahead of us and set up a tarp overhead and Wyatt's homemade propane fire pit. The fire pit is about two feet across and filled with glass beads that hold the warmth and are quite attractive. Besides keeping us warm, you tend to make a lot of friends when you have a source of heat on a cold, wet day so we partied with people from NC, MD and VA and had a steady stream of onlookers. The few hours in the lot flew by and around 7, it was time to go in. BTW, Wyatt plans on building and selling his propane fire pits (Lil' Cozys? Pixie Fires? They need a good name.) and if you tailgate or camp you will definitely want to get one. He probably could have sold about 15 or 20 that day.

We had great seats, one step off the floor and about even with the front of the soundboard, so we had excellent sound and a full view of the light show. We were also pleased to find that John Paul Jones Arena now allows you to bring beer back to your seats and you no longer are confined to a "beer garden" area. Though after a few hours in the lot, we decided to hold off until intermission to partake of the brew.

The band came out smoking from the start with "AC/DC Bag" and "Chalk Dust Torture". Then a new one, "Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan", which was good but failed to fully ignite. The set seemed to kick up a notch with "Divided Sky", their progressive rock-ish, mostly instrumental which has always reminded me of something a looser Yes would do. Next up was "Ya Mar", a fun reggae number that lightened things up after the heavy "Divided Sky". What also lightened things up was the naked guy who jumped on stage during "Ya Mar" and managed to avoid security for quite a few seconds as seen in this montage of the naked guy and the band's references to him the rest of the show:


Next up was a deeply funky version of Robert Palmer's (by way of writer Allen Toussaint) "Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley". They went way into the swampy funk on this one, with bassist Mike Gordon propelling the band. Then a little twisted bluegrass number, "My Old Home Place" (which mentions Virginia) to get our hoedown on. Then a solid end to the rest of the first set with Cavern, Funky Bitch, David Bowie, The Wedge and a cover of Hendrix's "Bold As Love" with guitarist Trey Anastasio playing his ass off on that one.

Second set brought the funk back with their great riff rocker, "Tweezer", the "step into the freezer" line resonating with those who had spent time in the lot. They again went into a nice, deep funky jam that had the crowd rising up a number of times. This segued into the new song, "Light", which was bit of a letdown after the jams out of "Tweezer". However, they brought it all back together with a great jam out of "Light" which featured some excellent work on the lights (as always) from their longtime lighting director, Chris Kuroda. Also some amazing work throughout the beginning of this set from drummer, Jon Fishman, to keep a high energy beat going while providing fills and moving the beat in and around the other members. The jam went into "Piper" and then a truly uplifiting version of "Free". Here's the jam into "Piper" with a nice view of the light show:


Next up, a cover of the Stones' "Sweet Virginia" with drummer Fishman on the vocals. For those unfamiliar with Phish, Fishman usually takes a turn on vocals each show and though not the best vocalist there is some goofy charm to his singing. However, despite the singalong aspect of the song and the references to "Virginia", this one never really jelled and seemed more of a breather for both the band and the audience.

The band got right back into the thick of it with a great version of the crowd-pleaser "Harry Hood" into the rocker "Suzy Greenberg" that got the whole crowd dancing and pumping fists. They kept the rockin' vibe going with "Golgi Apparatus" and its sing along lyric, "I saw youuuuuu, with a ticket stub in your hand". Mike Gordon's bass dropped out for a bit during "Golgi", prompting Mike to do the bass parts vocally, which got big smiles out of Trey. Finally, a killer version of "Run Like An Antelope" in which Trey tied the whole show together by remembering the naked guy and changing the lyrics to "Run like a naked guy out of control". Only at a Phish show would (1) the band think to do this, (2) pull it off seamlessly and (3) have the whole audience pick up on it immediately and sing along.

The encore brought more "Exile On Main Street" (the band played the entire album on Halloween) Stones, with a fantastic version of "Lovng Cup" ("Oh, what a beautiful buzz") and then the tension and release of "Tweezer Reprise". "Tweezer Reprise" started with Trey playing the familiar riff and keyboardist Page McConnell doing runs on the piano and organ. Mike Gordon then dropped some deep bass bombs that hit you in the gut and shook your loins. The drums kick in and they build and build, closing the show on a high note.


All in all, an excellent show. 4 out of 5 stars. Can't wait until spring tour.

Onto this weekend in Richmond. If you are dying for some more Phish, check out Strange Design, the Dark Star Orchestra of Phish cover bands. Strange Design take setlists from Phish shows and "recreate" the show. They'll be at the Hat Factory on Thursday night. Tix are $13, doors open at 8 and the show starts at 9 with local Grateful Dead cover band, King Solomon's Marbles, so you can get your Dead and Phish on at the same show. It's a hippie's dream.

Do you like soul music? Sweet soul music? Then get yourself to The National on Friday for Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings. Tix are $20 in advance, $25 the day of the show. Doors open at 8 and the show starts at 9 with Greg Hester. Sharon Jones is a classic soul belter, who recently backed up Phish (it all comes back to Phish on this blog) on their Halloween version of the Stones' "Exile On Main St." album. You may recognize the Dap Kings as the band that backed up Amy Winehouse on much of her "Back to Black" album. If I hadn't just gone to Phish, I would love to go to this show. Should be a great show, especially on a Friday night. Here's the video of their song, "100 Days, 100 Nights". They even go with black & white to further the retro feel of their music:


The traditional Hamaganza charity event takes place Saturday night at the Capital Ale House Downtown. This is a now 14-year running fund & food raiser for the Central Virginia Food Bank. Admission is a cured or canned ham or $10. Anything goes at Hamaganza. Comedians, politicians, (which are sometimes the same thing), whistlers, jugglers, musicians of all types, dancing girls, Dirtwoman, you never know what you are going to see but its a lot of fun and its for a great cause. Doors open at 9. Who knows, maybe Phish will show up? Well, probably not but I had to work them in somehow.

I'll leave you this week with an absolutely mind-boggling, creepily psychedelic video of the new song from N.A.S.A. featuring Tom Waits & Kook Keith, "Spacious Thoughts". Smoke 'em if you got 'em.


Have a great weekend!

Tony Jordan