|The second Phish tour in less than six months. I was only going to catch the two shows in England but then I knew I had to be in Amsterdam. This is my tour story.
E: Cities, Poor heart
The Royal Albert Hall in case you don't know was built at the arse end of the last century by Queen Victoria in memory of her late husband (Albert - funnily enough) and has become a prestige venue. It seats around 5000 people which makes it easily the biggest place Phish have played in Europe so far. It wasn't sold out and although the arena and stalls were full the boxes and gallery were still half-empty.
The scalpers had obviously done their homework and had bought up a lot of good seats knowing there would be a lot of phans turning up on the day without tickets. My seat was right there in the front row - Block B Row 3 (1 and 2 were taken out due to the stage extension) Seat 9.
I've been right down the front before but this was excellent - the low stage, only knee high made you feel if you were on stage with the band. This was a source of much of the pre-show conversations among the Americans who were all around me.
Anyway one of the first things I noticed about the stage was that Trey's drums were not there and behind the drum kit was a coat stand. I guess I'll never know why the drums weren't there but the coat stand soon became apparent. When the band came on Fishman was wearing a 3-piece brown pin-stripe suit and as he came on he carefully hung the jacket up on the coat stand. The other striking aspect was his hair, or lack of it! He had had his hair completely shaved off and his beard was only a shadow of it's former self.
The show opened with Squirming coil but soon the band got into the first new song of the evening which was called Dog stole things. I don't remember much about this song as I was trying to concentrate on the lyric's, which was difficult as our little booster PA seemed a bit distorted (the main PA being two rows behind us). The first set was full of quite short songs and next up was Taste and then another newbie Water in the sky. The familiar opening chords to Sample soon rang out and then this was followed by a "sort of" newbie Beauty of my dreams, this seemed to me to be a bit harsher than the versions that we have heard on the Europe Spring tapes. At the end Trey came over to Fish and shouted something, I thought he had said "Bowie" but it turned out to be "Bottom" and the band shot off into Theme which was followed by CDT and then Wolfman's brother which had the first real jam of the evening in it. The first set ended with oblivious fool and left me thinking how strange to end with a new song.
Helpful schedule from the management
During the interval a rather plummy English School Ma'am voice came over the PA.
"We would like to remind you that smoking is not permitted in the auditorium"
Audience response "Waaaaaaaaaaagh"
The voice continued "Anyone found smoking will be asked to leave"
The second set started with not 1, not 2 but 3 new songs in a row. The first was Limb by limb which seemed to have a familiar feel to it and will probably grow and grow as will the following Ghost which was for me the best new song of the night - a real rocker. It seemed to merge into the next song which I don't remember that well as I thought it was the end of Ghost. The Reba which was the first oldie and the first real jam of the night. Mike seemed to be having some bass problems around this time and it was eventually swapped out. Wading in the Velvet Sea was another good song. A repeated vocal being sang over and over by Mike and Jon while Page added what seemed to be the main vocal. This was followed by dirt which again I don't remember that well before the band finished off with Hood (a popular choice) which jammed the set to a close.
Encores were a storming Cities - my personal highlight, I remember thinking Phish can play Talking Heads better than Talking heads could! The ever popular Poor Heart closed up for the night.
At just over two hours this was easily the shortest Phish show I'd ever been to. I wonder how the rest of the tour will pan out. Onward to Glastonbury and Amsterdam - watch this space.
One set only, No encore
Ah, Glastonbury Festival my favourite festival ever, I've only missed two since 1984 and one of them was when I got married! Anyway, it had been glorious sunshine for the last four festivals, the last time it rained was 1990 and there hadn't been a real mudfest since 1985. So the rain and mud came as no surprise - to me anyway.
Phish were the phirst band on, a fact celebrated in their advert in the programme. I made my way down to the front and stood with about 50-60 other heads, ankle deep in mud. Ten minutes before the band came on stage the heavens opened and the heaviest shower of the weekend fell. Some of the assembled phans were obviously touring with the band and weren't exactly dressed for the inclement weather! The band obviously weren't prepared for the weather either, Mike seemed to be wearing every item of clothing he had with him - it was amazing he could reach his bass never mind play it!. The first time Trey opened his mouth to sing he got it filled with rain and Page was seen furiously blowing into his hands after the first song.
Incidentally it was during Phish's set that I finally realised that I am indeed a "Phishhead". Everyone who knew me found me during their set! "Straight down the front he'll be there!"
Phish opened with Wilson, (Glastonbury is about 40 miles from Stonehendge) and about 30 of us were chanting "Wilson". I did notice the first line seemed to amuse an English fan down the front. (He was wearing a Prodigy T-shirt and I never did work out if he was interested in the band or just carving out a spot he could watch the headliners from 12 hours later!)
Wilson was followed by CDT and then into Stash - rather brave I thought doing two audience participation songs with so few phans there but we few clapped along - if nothing else it kept our hands warm. At one point Mike stood at his microphone looking as if he should be singing but keeping his mouth shut with an "I'm not opening my mouth for anyone in this rain" look on his face. This version of Stash seemed to have a very loud vocal with a quiet instrumental backing during the verse, of course this could have been the PA system.
The first and only new song of the set followed in the shape of Dog Stole Things - I'm really starting to like this song as a stand alone number. This was followed by a rousing Poorheart which got us all dancing ( at least those of us who could still lift their feet out of the MUD. Taste was next up and had a jammy bit in the middle (as would Character Zero later) and then a unexpected Bouncing which was really nice. Character Zero was the set closer and sadly no encore despite our shouts (I think the festival has a strict encore policy). At least they didn't get mud thrown at them like some later bands did!
Once the set was over it stopped raining and the weather brightened up! Other highlights from the weekend were Kula Shaker, Sheryl Crow and David Byrne singing "Once in a Lifetime" Once off the site on the Monday I had to buy some new clothes to take to Amsterdam.....
Paradiso - Amsterdam 1st July 1997
E: When the circus comes to town
Okay so the first night I'd slept in a bed for nearly a week ended suddenly when the alarm clock went off at 7.30 am and I got up to set off to Amsterdam. I flew from Manchester airport and arrived in Schipol about 2.30 pm. Once in Amsterdam I made my way to the Bulldog Hotel on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal (or Red Light district). I checked in and was told that my bed didn't have a locker so I had to leave my bag in the safe. I went to my room and put my sheets on the bed and set off to the AUB to get my tickets. Stopping only briefly at the Cafe Homegrown I made my way down to the Leidersplien and stood in a queue of phishheads getting their tickets. I then set off to have a few and get in the mood for the show.
The venue opened at around 8 pm and Phish came on at 9.30. I made my way down to about 6 feet from the front on Fishman's side (I always seem to end up on Fishman's side - I don't know why!). The band came on and started the way they meant to go on. The first track was Story of the Ghost which I think is my favourite of the new songs but this wasn't like the previous version, it lasted for over 20 minutes. It looked like we were in for another Amsterdam Jam out show. I remember the guy behind me saying Horn just seconds before the band started playing it and then they did Ya Mar.
Next came four new songs, but I didn't realise it until I looked at my list later. Maybe because I'd heard two of them before or maybe because they had softened us up with the long jammed out Ghost and two oldies. Anyway Limb was first. I still think this sounds like an oldie - I think it's the way the lyrics start off the song. They were Funny as it seems and Twist around which I hadn't heard before and then Dirt which is really growing on me (That's not a Glastonbury pun btw)
Reba was just excellent, and lasted nearly 20 minutes itself. Right at the end Trey had to have a drink of water in order to attempt the whistling bit and while he was doing that the audience decided he needed some help and whistled it for him. Smiling he waved them down and started himself much to everyone's enjoyment. Dog Stole things closed up the hour and a half first set. I do like this song but I think it will always be a throw away number like Ginseng or Rockytop.
At this point it was 11 pm and I remember thinking as I headed off to the bar, "I was on my way home at this time after the Albert Hall".
The start of the second set half an hour later was strange, Fishman suddenly appeared from Page's side and sat down at the electric piano and bashed out a little ditty. The rest of the band came on and Page had to chase the little bloke away. As he wandered back to his kit the band started off Timber Ho! - they played this and the next song Bathtub gin last time they were in Amsterdam. Someone once posted a theory on rec.music.phish that certain venues inspire the band in certain ways and they often play the same song's there each time - I can see that.
After Bathtub they jammed on and this in turn suddenly became Cities. This Cities wasn't like the version in London, it was much slower and was almost unrecognisable as a Talking Heads song. After Trey did the vocal section the jam/song kept going and eventually lasted about 25 minutes. The set then closed with Lovin cup (my first) and Slave. The band came back and encored with Circus which was a bit strange but we were sent off into the Amsterdam night after a show that lasted almost 3 hours (The second longest show I've attended). It was about 1 am when we staggered out in the cool of the night.
I wandered off towards the hotel and had to pass the spot where I was mugged at knifepoint 9 months and 3 visits previously and even though I knew the guy was doing 3 years it still put the shits up me! Luckily I was following 3 or 4 other heads so I didn't feel too alone. To be honest the only thing I had with me that I cared about losing was the ticket for the second night!!!!
Back at the Hotel
Back at the hotel I climbed the obligatory 3 sets of steep stairs up to my room, pausing only to get my bag out of the safe to put my wallet etc. into it for safety. On arrival in my room I found it in total darkness but it soon became clear that the bed I thought was mine had someone else in it.
"That's my bed" I said
Eventually it became clear that I was going to have to put the light on and annoy everybody, so I did! At this point I found that all the beds in the room were full so I wandered back down to reception.
"There's someone in my bed" I said
I was duly found another bed and spent 10 minutes trying to put the sheets on in the dark. Curiously the pillow was two sizes too big for the pillowcase! Eventually I got into bed and the next thing I knew it was 10 am the following morning.
E2: David Bowie
When I woke up the next morning I managed to sort out the bed I was meant to be in that night and put my bag into it's locker. I wandered out for breakfast at Garry's muffins (if you are ever in Amsterdam check it out - it's "sex on a plate") and then meandered around for a while. I went back to the hotel around midday to collect some money I left in my bag and at this time I met a Scottish girl who was in the same room as me. On leaving the hotel I bumped into Bill who it turned out was staying there too. We arranged to meet back at the hotel at 6pm and go to the show
I spent most of the day sitting drinking beer outside the Bulldog Palace on the Liedersplien and at about 5 pm I set off to return to the hotel to meet Bill. I managed to get 100 yards up the road and the heavens opened! I beat a hasty retreat back to the Bulldog for more beer. Incidentally this meant that it had rained before every Phish show I saw on this "Summer" tour!
Once again the venue opened about 8 pm and this time I actually remembered to buy that T-shirt that I'd been after since the first show. I met up with Bill and we waited for the second night to start.
This was my eighth Phish show and 7th this year but in the first set they managed to play only two songs that I had seen them play before and one of them was a new song. The band came on at around 9.30 again and opened with Mike's song and then out of the jam at the end they launched in Simple. During Simple I saw Trey signal to Mike and point at the drums. I thought that maybe he wanted to play the drums, maybe because his own little kit wasn't there and he was suffering withdrawal symptoms but in the end he and Fishman ended up trading licks with each other while Mike and Page looked on. Simple became Maze which featured Page on almost every keyboard he had and then the band played Strange design with Page singing and then Ginseng Sullivan.
Two new songs followed Vultures and Water in the sky before the first set finished up with Weekapaug. The first set had been shorter than the previous night only an hour but it had so much crammed into it especially for me.
The break between sets was nearly an hour tonight but just after 11.30 the band returned and set off straight into a jam which for the second time that night sounded like it was going to become 2001 but instead it headed off into Stash. Stash didn't finish but instead segued into Llama - see my theory about some venues inspiring certain songs. Llama then set off into a space jam that eventually became "Wormtown" a neat improvised play on Steve Miller's Swingtown which picked up on Trey's recurring theme of worms that had run through both nights. Trey then told a little story - a cautionary tale about not going into the green urinals beside the canals because you would get sucked down into the canals and have to ride on the back of the worms all night. He ended by saying "I know it happened to me last night". The space jam continued and turned into the new Waiting in the velvet sea. This finished what was a very short set - only 50 minutes and I thought I was in for my first sub 2 hour show.
The band returned to the stage to do an extended version of Free (another first for me) and this took the show to about the same length as the RAH show. After Free the band left the stage but the audience were going wild and so after a few minutes the band came back for a second encore and gave us a 15 plus minute version of Bowie which took the length of the show to nearly 2 and a half hours. We all staggered off into the night after nearly 5 and a half hours of Phish over the two nights.
Back at the Hotel
As I was climbing the 3 flights of stairs again I suddenly remembered that I hadn't made my bed again and thought I was going to have to do it in the dark again. When I reached the room I opened the door and found all the lights still on (It was about 1.30 - 1.45 by this time). Just inside the door was the Scottish girl I had met that afternoon and her friend with, well a towel wrapped around her and a big brown cardigan. It was soon obvious that they were getting ready to go out.
They asked me how I'd enjoyed the concert and I mumbled that it had been good - the powers of speech were starting to desert me by that time. I proceeded to start making my bed and while I had my back to them I heard the scottish girl say
"Michelle, I don't know how you can wear a dress that short without any knickers on."
Well natural curiosity and a sense of duty to report to you dear reader lead me to investigate and I can safely report that yes the dress was short and no she wasn't wearing any knickers. I think the real problem however was the slits that went from the hem to the waist at the front and left little to the imagination.
Up until this point I had assumed that there were only the three of us in the room and then I heard an Australian voice from one of the bunks.
"Can we turn the lights off now please"
This of course got up the noses of the two girls who fussed and fussed as long as possible just to annoy him. Eventually about 2 am they went out. Just before they left the guy from Oz knocked his rucksack off the top of his locker and has to repack it all. Eventually about 2.15 the lights went out.
At 3.30 they came back and switched all the lights on again!
The next day
The two girls slept through every attempt we made to wake them up the next morning and I got stopped by Customs on my return to the UK. I am that stereotype!!
"Are you aware that it is illegal to bring drugs into the country sir?"
So that was it my second Phish tour in four months I really enjoyed it and can't wait for the next one!
All Amsterdam photographs courtesy of Michael Welsh from Cincinnati, Ohio.
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