Phlying Light Sticks, Phlying High, Phlying Phish – My Phirst Phish Show… Phenomenal!!!

Boy, I am trying to live my life without any regrets, but it is not easy!

On one hand, there is something positive if you use those regrets to power your dreams and not make the same mistakes over and over.

On the other hand, and with it, we keep slapping ourselves in the head.

I could have had a V8… I should have done this, or stayed here, or seen this band or that band…

Sigh… I only saw the Grateful Dead once… Yes, I SHOULD have seen them more… but at least I got the one in! And up until this past Friday, I had never seen Phish… and I really cannot tell you why. I love their musicianship and music… and I love jam bands. So, I just don’t know why. I can tell you, after Friday’s show I do wish I had seen them in younger days, and for many reasons I may or may not get into. Stay tuned… we’ll see…

The parking lot was most reminiscent of a Dead show… The air-filled with smoke… guys hiding behind cars doing helium balloons… or something in balloons… and probably “Whip-Its”. This crowd was not going in any time soon, even though the show was called for 7:30.

Assuming it would start on time, and knowing how long the band plays, us two “old guys” went inside. We did try to finagle our way into the Forum Club… but try as we might, we were shut down.

At 7:30 the place was empty… by eight o’clock the GA was more packed than I have ever seen one before… a literal sea of people… sea of humanity… Not a single space of floor could be seen from our seats in 210, except towards the back.

This was one of the more eclectic groups I have ever seen… Definitely the Dead of this generation… and at least two before it…

Mostly 20 somethings and 30 somethings… and 40 somethings… and maybe a few 50’s-60s…

Parents with kids under 10, and not to be a stick in the proverbial mud, but considering how badly my eyes and chest were burning by the end of the night, I do question that… and not even for the volume…

No pot was needed as we were literally surrounded by joints, mister pipes, etc. This was the haziest show I have ever seen, too… and that includes Jazz Fest at the Bowl… Reggae Fest, the Dead show and a Cheech and Chong show at the Greek… Okay, that one might have been close…

And yes, I was very relaxed and DID have the munchies when I got home… I did miss the stop at White Castle after shows at the Brendan Byrne Arena or the old Giants Stadium and while Del Taco AND Taco Bell tried to woo me in, I held out for grub from the fridge…

For as young a crowd as this was, I saw very few phones out and up. Good on you! This was the real deal, lighter audience… Love it… well, except for the folks smoking actual cigarettes… Sorry, but the air was just too thick with smoke… Did I mention how badly my chest was burning?

The new Forum has great sound for sure, but the seats blow and were clearly modeled after most major airlines, with no leg room… and just way too narrow.  And $25 to park… Come on!!!

Other than that… what a phantastic show. These guys are such amazing and gifted musicians and so very tight as a band. There is very little banter, just wall to wall music.

They played from 8:05-9:26… took exactly a 30-minute break and then played another hour and 15. Then a three-minute break, before a 15-minute encore. Set list below.

I would love to do a documentary on the audience as my buddy Russ and I were fascinated. I do not think any two people were moving to the same rhythm, but everyone was dancing and swaying and allowing the music in so deeply. At one point I looked over at a guy who was probably in his 50s… eyes closed and arms extended to the heavens as if he was praying… the music washing over him like a musical baptism… (Look, that is MY PHRASE, so I can use it as much as I want… and I KNOW I use it a lot!!!)

People seemed to be so free and happy… There were two guys in front of us hugging and high-fiving when they realized there was a song they had never heard live before… It was a celebration reminiscent of me at a Bruce show getting a tune I had never seen live before… (Message to Bruce: Please play “Meeting Across The River” the next time I see you. Please… PLEASE!!!)

One other thing I will say is while the banter is light, the “light” show is amazing and really, truly INCLUDES the audience…  With varying patterns and colors and shapes, the crowd is enveloped in light… and that does not even include the beach balls, light-up balloons and handfuls of light sticks tossed into the air, creating multiple, neon fireworks displays.  And when the string lights on the ceiling came on, creating a sky full of stars effect, the crowd went even nuttier.

So why do I wish I had seen this band when I was younger??? See all the above… But now I have no regrets… or at least less regrets.  So go out there, my friends… support live music… and live… LIVE!

Set 1:

46 Days

Tube

Train Song

Ghost

Sparkle

Sample in a Jar

Divided Sky

The Line

It’s Ice

Kill Devil Falls

Bathtub Gin

Set 2:

Backwards Down the Number Line

Down with Disease

Fuego

Twist

Bouncing Around the Room

David Bowie

Character Zero

Encore:

Harry Hood

Grind

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Bruuuuuuce The Birthday Boy – A Jersey Boy Waxes Poetic

Every so often I meet someone who does not like Bruce Springsteen, and while my first reaction is always one of shock and confusion, I quickly follow up with a: “Well, have you ever seen him live?”

If they say “yes,” and they still don’t like him, I just move on.  There is no hope in that scenario, and that poor soul is just lost and misguided.  Now, there are a few people who say they respect Bruce, they just don’t like his music.

Ummm… What… ever (Delivered in a Valley Girl voice).

If they say “no,” they have not yet seen him live… then there is hope for salvation.  For that is exactly what a Bruce show is… Rock n’ Roll salvation.  It is as close to a true religious epiphany and experience as I have ever had… or will ever have… I think… And an experience so joyous and powerful that it sticks with you and gets you through some rough times… as does the music on its own.

A Bruce show is energy… passion… bliss…

You feel it in your heart… your brain… your groin… your soul.

It is immediate… it is motion… It IS Rock n’ Roll.

I have never met Bruce… and yes, I would love to.

I have never seen Bruce play “Meeting Across The River” live, which still kind of kills me… If he plays four nights and I go three out of the four… guess what song I miss???  This has happened multiple times.  AAGGHH!

Aside from that one, if I had to pick my top five favorites, it would be:  “Growin’Up”, “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”  (Yes, I miss Clarence deeply and cried heavily when I found out he had passed…), “The River” and geez… this is not easy… but at least for right now… “She’s The One.”

That’s the thing about Bruce… I truly love almost everything he has done.  Sure I have issues with Human Touch and that whole period… but “With Every Wish” is another song I absolutely adore.  It is just so poignant and powerful.  I have similar issues with Lucky Town, but “If I Should Fall Behind” is truly one of the best love songs ever written.

Bruce is a Rock n’ Roll star… a legend… but he is also a bit of a nerd and can sometimes be goofy and awkward.  I love that.  It makes him real… human.

He is rich as shit, yet still has a genuine connection with the common man (and woman) and has never lost his roots… ever.  He is sincere and deep… and connected to causes and issues.  He puts himself out there, completely… fully… totally…

His concerts will move you and give you hope… truly.

They will literally lift you out of your seats and make your spirits soar.

Bruce is a gift… a blessing… He is music in a time when we need music most… when we need a message… when we need a light at the end of the “Tunnel Of Love.”

Bruce Springsteen is Rock n’ Roll… and for that I say thank you… and Happy Birthday.

Now let’s get together… and please… please, let me see “Meeting Across The River” live.

 

 

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Loud Music, High Energy, Classic Rock & Fantastic Guys… Ladies and Gentlemen: Cheap Trick

A buddy of mine once said that sometimes your heroes turn out to be assholes.  When you discover this… when they say something horrible… or when you meet them and this happens, it is a sad, sad day.

The exact opposite of that is when your heroes turn out to be even cooler and nicer and more gracious than you could imagine.  Enter Cheap Trick.

The band was one of my first Rock n’ Roll loves… Steve Miller BandFleetwood Mac and Cheap Trick were some of the earliest music I went out and bought.  And yes, relax… so were The Beatles and Bruuuuuuce.

I will never forget Howard, a dear family friend explaining to me what a cheap trick was, exactly.  Hmmm… I was a rather innocent young lad and did not know that… NICE!!!  And yes, it made me love the band even more.  They were funny… irreverent… rebellious and rocked the shit out of things.

And 41 years later… Wait… Let me repeat that… 41 YEARS LATER… they are exactly the same.

Bun E. Carlos no longer tours and plays with them… In his place is the young, super cool and fantastic drummer Daxx Nielsen… yes, Rick’s son.

Rick Nielsen plays every kind of guitar imagineable… Robin Zander shreds on vocals and rhythm guitar… and Tom Petersson plays a fricking 12-string bass… What???!!!

The band is such a source of pride in their native state of Illinois, that April 1st is officially Cheap Trick Day!

Thanks to my buddy Brad, we got to hang out with the band before their LA County Fair show… and they truly could not have been any nicer.  They made us feel welcome and appreciated, which is something they bring to the stage as well.  This is a band who cares about their fans… cares about each and every show… and just rock it!  Robin said he had a sore throat that night and was not feeling well… Ummm… Dude… you may actually sound better now than you did back then… if that is possible… and you were sick???  Seriously, it was amazing… He got on stage and just killed it.  And yes, he was drinking tea and making sure the chords were warm whenever he could, but he did not miss a single beat!

This band are absolute and consummate professionals.

The set was short (14 songs), but hit many of the highlights… though I could easily see the boys play for at least another hour or two.  Unfortunately time is limited at the Fair.  Kansas, with a brand, spanking new lead singer, was the opener.  They were pretty good as well, but just do not get the party started like the boys from Rockford.

“Surrender” is not only  my favorite Cheap Trick song, but also one of my favorite songs, period… and of course a staple at every show.  I also love the cover of Big Star’s “In The Street,” which was the theme/opening song for That ’70s Show!

Hard Rock n’ Roll… Amazing energy and passion… fun and joy… and flying guitar picks… That is what makes a Cheap Trick show so great.  And we came SO close to getting the Live At Budokan album with picks on it… Dab nab it!

After the show we got to hang with the band a little more, and they were just fantastic… and spent quality time with everyone.  So the concert made you feel great… the band and the whole crew made you feel welcome and great… and THAT is what Rock n’ Roll is all about.  A special thanks to Jim and Carla as well.  What a night… and one I will NEVER forget!!!

  1. Hello There
  2. Elo Kiddies
  3. Big Eyes
  4. Ain’t That a Shame
    (Fats Domino cover)
  5. California Man
    (The Move cover)
  6. Lookout
  7. She’s Tight
  8. I Know What I Want
  9. In the Street
    (Big Star cover) (That 70’s Song)
  10. I Want You to Want Me
  11. Dream Police
  12. Never Had a Lot to Lose
  13. Surrender
  14. Goodnight

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One Phish, Two Phish, Red Phish, Blue Phish… The Heat Of Fuego And Melting Phish Food

I have never seen Phish live. Shameful, I know. But often this blog doubles as a musical confessional, and since I strive to be almost 100% honest, I have to admit my faults and flaws, few and far between as they may be. That was a joke. I am flawed. No, really… I am. But aren’t we all?

I love jam bands… Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule… so not seeing Phish live makes little sense… except I really did not get into them until recently… Well… at least AFTER they had stopped touring and supposedly retired.

I know… I know. This is not helping my case at all, so I should just stop talking.  Especially when I also have to admit that I did miss them on the last tour, including a killer show at Madison Square Garden that I could have joined my brother for, but wussed out.  Sometimes I am not the Rock n’ Roll Rally Monkey I swear I am.

Today is Wednesday and I was all set to resurrect New Wave Wednesdays, but since I have been raving about this Phish album to anyone who would listen, I figured I might as well just formalize it and do an official, pseudo review.

Phish – Fuego

Phish is a phenomenal band… Their musical talent is off the charts and their live albums are incredible.  Just listen to Live Phish, Volume 14, recorded on 10/31/95 in Chicago  In addition to their own songs and jams, they do The Who’s Quadrophenia… in its entirety.  Papa say what??? Who does that??? Or a better question is… who does that so damn well? Absolutely amazing… and yes, I am now feeling even more stupid for not catching them live… yet.

Phish also has an odd sense of humor and sometimes their songs are a bit out there. The opening, title track for this album had me confused… then smiling at the Dead like jam… then questioning what was coming next. Not many albums or artists can open with a 9:15 song. So where the heck are they going from there?

Well, I had my answer the first time I heard “The Line”… It is now a song I have played probably 50 times and one of my most cherished tunes. Yes, I chastise my daughter for doing the same thing… but this song is hitting me so hard. The lyrics are talking directly to me and where I am in my life… So dead on… so poetic… so prophetic and powerful. Wow.

 

“You try to see your future from the line
And you’re clinging to the notion you’ll be fine
But the circle’s getting smaller all the time”

From this track on, the album had me by the guts and heart and brain.

“Devotion To A Dream” reminds me so much, and in such a great way, of the Grateful Dead’s “Touch Of Grey.”

All I could think of after these three tracks is how badly I want to be in a convertible with the top down… heading down the PCH and blasting this record.

“Halfway To The Moon” is another favorite and reminds me of the band Fountains Of Wayne.  “Winterqueen”“Sing Monica”“Waiting All Night”… This is a joyous record, even with lyrics that tug at my fragile, emotional core.

Up all night and I’m waiting for you to come home
Waiting all night
Waiting all night
Mind is racing and I’m wondering what I did wrong
Waiting all night
Waiting all night.”

Been there.. done that… and yes, recently. Sigh…

“Wombat” is a strange, but fun and funky, jazzy one… and the closer “Wingsuit” gives hope in a potentially bleak scenario…

Nothing lasts, nothing stays
Caught in this procession of unchanging days
What’s new is old, what’s old is gone
You’re pushed up to the edge, so put your wingsuit on.”

It’s not often, at least lately, that an album can hit me on so many levels with almost every song. This is one of those rare records.

So grab some Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food… Yes, one of my favorite flavors… crank this one up to 11 and jam rock out… with the top DOWN!

 

 

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Words, Words, Words… The Power And Intention Of Language And Lyrics

Words, words, words… As a writer, I relish words. I strive to always find the right one, the clearest one, the most specific one to define an experience, a thought or an emotion. This is always a battle and sometimes an adjective or an adverb is needed, in order to clarify something even more. Often words need to be strung together in a very specific way, so that we can really communicate and be as clear as possible. This is the challenge and this is the joy.

We struggle with words all the time. How does one best say I love you or I’m sorry? How does one truly utter a heartfelt condolence, in order to comfort and relieve? Simplicity is often best, but sometimes one word or even one sentence is not enough to accurately express what is in the heart and mind and soul.

I once told my daughter that texting and emails were the death of communication. She looked at me with confusion and a bit of disgust, rolled her eyes and just said, “Well, that is how MY generation communicates.”

But how many times do we need to pick up a phone to explain a missed meaning, joke or intonation? It actually doubles the effort and work sometimes.

Words, words, words…

A song can have no words, and yet define everything. That is the intense power of music. But when that melody is matched with lyrics, the right lyrics, its potency can run even deeper.

This week I am being especially hard hit with the new Phish song “The Line”… its chorus so profoundly resonating with where I am in life right now. This song moves me so much and really cuts to the bone, and speaks to the true essence of what is in my overactive, deeply contemplative brain.

You try to see your future from the line.
You’re clinging to the notion you’ll be fine.
But the circle’s getting smaller all the time.”

A sigh… a breath… wow. May you enjoy this song and album as much as I am right now.

Yet, it was another song that actually prompted this post… a song I often return to for a similar message… James Taylor’s “It’s Enough To Be On Your Way.”

So the sun shines on this funeral, just the same as on a birth,
The way it shines on everything that happens here on Earth.
It rolls across the western sky and back into the sea
And spends the day’s last rays upon this fucked-up family, so long old pal.”

In fact, what really spurred me to write this post was a simple comment made by a guy named Tom.  He said: “Never thought I’d hear the f-bomb in a James Taylor song.” Granted he makes no further judgement, and perhaps I am reading into it; and I certainly do not intend to embarrass him, but the reaction struck a chord with me.

It’s a fucking word… a word that makes the most sense at that precise moment in time. It’s language… and while I don’t want my daughter dropping F-bombs left and right, at times a cuss word is the best and only way to really make a point. Screwed-up… Messed-up… certainly more radio friendly, but not the right word. This country all too quickly embraces violence, but rebels against sex and language. The battle over rating the film The King’s Speech, for heaven’s sake, is a sad and perfect example of this. It is puritanical, hypocritical and just odd to me.

For those who know me and read my political writings and thoughts, you will know that I am also a firm believer that words can be dangerous, that they can incite and be used for nefarious and violent purposes. One need only look at the Nazis and sadly at ISIS in today’s news. They use words to enlist, words to drive hate and extreme and brutal violence. And so we must also use words to communicate our disgust and horror, our anger and our resolve. And those words must be put into action.

With me, intention goes a long, long way. Was JT (the original one… not Justin) trying to shock or insult? No. He was being honest and open and using his individual language to express his truth. Can people intend to hurt others and use words to do it? Of course, sometimes. Words can control, words can be powerful and they can absolutely be used to gain power and sway others,  into even the most horrendous actions.

But that is not the case here, and we all need to realize that. The intention behind words is very important and should not be left out of the definition and understanding. Sometimes we honestly mean one thing, but mistakenly say another. They are words… with multiple nuances and meanings. Embrace language, love words, and use them wisely. Be open to intention. This is what bonds us. This is what will help us understand each other. Speak clearly and loudly and openly and embrace whatever language you speak.

Words, words, words…

 

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Singing About, Dancing Around And Filling In The Circle Of Life – A Lifetime Lesson In The Journey Of One Week

96… 19… 55.

Old age… Heroin… A motorcycle.

A funeral… A one-year remembrance… A memorial service.

Bubba… Josh… Clint…

Robin Williams. Michael Brown. James Foley.

Family… friends… loved ones…

How do we get up every morning? How do we stay happy? How do we thrive?

When did life become so difficult, painful and challenging?

We live, we laugh, we love.

We die, we cry, we break.

We celebrate, we lose, we mourn.

So how do we celebrate more, knowing that there will always be sadness, and loss and suffering?

How do we live every day to the fullest and not get dragged down into despair, heartache and depression?

Where do we find our peace and solace and comfort?

It’s out there… It is. In fact, it is right in front of us.

It is in the eyes of a lover, the smile of a child, the laughter of a friend.

It is in our pets, our gardens, or our parks.

It is in a cloudless sky, on a mountaintop, in the ocean.

The heat of the sun on our face, a cool breeze on our backs, and hopefully a drop or two of rain.

The longer we live, the more we lose… but also the more we gain.

We have joy, and laughter and bliss…

Art… and music… and dance.

Life will give us all these terrible things, so it is our job, our duty, our responsibility to fight like hell for the good parts…

Don’t be afraid cry, to feel loss deeply, to hurt… But then make sure you laugh out loud, sing at the top of your lungs and find immense pleasure.

If life gives you lemons make lemonade, lemon pie and lemon pops.

Make a vinaigrette, a stunning sauce and melting lemon drops.

Lions and tigers and bears…

Blue birds and dreams and rainbows…

 

“Always look at the bright side of life… “ (Insert whistling here)
                    – Eric Idle and Monty Python

 

“All things must pass…”
                    – George Harrison

 

“Do you believe in Rock n’ Roll?
Can music save your mortal soul?
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?”
                    – Don McLean

 

The power of music cannot be denied…

It will help us understand, heal and elevate.

It will bring us together in a darkened hall, on a dance floor or as we lay side by side.

It soothes the soul, eases the mind and gives the heart utter joy.

Close your eyes… open your ears… expand your mind.

Fill your heart, fill your brain, fill your soul.

“If music be the food of love, play on…”
Play on, play on, play on…

Life is a circle…

G-d, Nature, the Universe… whatever you believe, makes it so.

What is up to us, is how we fill that circle…

What colors we paint it… what we draw on it… what words we inscribe it with.

 

Here is what I wrote after Tuesday’s funeral:

“A plain wooden box
A hole in the ground
No matter how high we soar
We are all coming down.”

We are all human beings, all basically the same, all made up of similar parts…

We are all seeking a good life, love and light. And sometimes we need to fight for these things…

We wish it could be with a pen, a poem, a musical note… and that is a goal devoutly to be wished… Worthy… lofty… essential.

And that fight can be in a conversation, a letter or a text… saying I love you, I’m here for you… I understand…

So let us strive for those heights, that connection, that humanity.

Let us all find joy as we fill in our circles…

Love is music and music is love, and never be afraid to sing… never be afraid to dance… never be afraid to share.

And let it go around and around and around… A spinning cassette wheel, a spinning vinyl platter, a spinning disc…

We go around and around and around…

Around and around and around…

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Discovering And Defining Our Lives With Music And Why It Really Matters (A Good Evening With Venice)

What is a song?

Poetry set to music? Chaos and confusion given form and order in notes, chords and bars? A melody? A story, an event , a real life experience that we try to make sense of? A truth and a dose or reality, or a dream and a wish of what we really hoped would happen? Utter joy or devastation… Or all of it?

Music is different for everyone… or perhaps I should say very specific for everyone, at least in the way it hits us at any given point in time. Yet the universal truths it unleashes and reveals are potent, and actually, if we let it, brings us all much closer together… for we do have so much in common, us human souls.

We laugh and love, hurt and cry, and sometimes songs tell us why.

Last night I saw Venice at another fantastic Russ & Julie House Concert. The room was packed and warm. We were quite literally on top of each other and I could occasionally feel the sweat from my buddy to the left… or was that mine? Sorry. TMI?

We were communal, in every sense of the word, and in a very generous attempt to get as many of us in there as possible, they pushed the chairs a wee bit closer. But once the music played, none of that mattered. We were literally transported to so many places in our minds and souls… our guts and our hearts. The band reacted to songs in a new way, too… talking about “Two Places At One Time” and how something that was first played thirteen years ago about fathers and musicians going away for work, now resonates as their own children go off to college and out into the world. Yes, most of us in the room let that one sink in, too.

And this is why music resonates… why bands become our favorites… why songs move along with us, with so many steps of our lives… serving as soundtrack and friend, providing clarity and understanding, defining and comforting the most powerful moments we feel and face.

A smart artist or band knows that writing from the heart, from a place of truth and deep, introspective reality is what will endure, because people will identify with those songs, cherish them and hold onto them; and though the very specifics may not be our own, there is so much we do share.

Songs evolve and grow and can mean one thing at one time, and then be a huge and different revelation somewhere down the line… That is powerful, powerful stuff.

Venice is a smart band… a great band. It should be no surprise that they are also great guys, who are not only open and accessible, but who give so much back to the community in terms of shows and benefit concerts. Any regular readers of this blog know I will guffaw over them from time to time, but it is just simply deserved. They make such stunningly beautiful, indelible and wonderful music, but they also make you feel like a real friend.

My other buddy takes pride in saying he introduced me to them, and while this is mostly true, I did own a CD of theirs before we met. But even more essential and important is the reason he made that introduction… the reason I introduce people to music and bands… because we know our friends and loved ones (or hell, even strangers) will connect with the music and find a true bliss in it. For that, I will most sincerely and gratefully thank him, for pushing me more and more into the world of Venice and thus enriching mine.

I watched my friend with a deep interest and concern, for while we are both on a journey, a very new, roller coaster, kitchen sink kind of journey… he is at a much more challenging time than I am at this particular moment. I could see his brain reacting to certain lyrics and ideas… feel his heart and his soul aching and yearning. His body was moved in a rhythm, but also emotionally. A squirm of discomfort when something hit too close to home, a sigh, or even a smile. Music is an amazing thing.

For those three hours our brains, while still always working and chattering, could at least be a little quieter as we let the music be the sounds we hear, fill our minds and hearts, sway us… As the music guided the journey, we were able to meditate on that. Music is an amazing thing.

Music helps us discover ourselves… defines us… puts things in perspective. Sometimes it brings us a little lower, deeper into the pain we may be dealing with… but mostly it rises us up… out of our chairs and out of our despair. Music matters. Our favorite bands matter. Being around people, listening to songs and tunes matters. Music is an amazing thing and it matters more than we will ever know.

 

 

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