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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Phish at Madison Square Garden 12/28/11

Tis the season for giving, and if you're this writer, receiving. When given the opportunity to be bought into Phish tonight for their first of a 4 night New Years Eve at Madison Square Garden, how could I pass it up? Before anything goes further we must slurp the Revered Justito, who gifts me with this ticket to the show tonight (and note that his holiday gift is to be mailed shortly), gifts me with the chance to see Phish. I've heard a lot of Phish-surprisingly enough not much of their music. I know several 'Phans' who speak of the band is Christ-like proportions. To give you an idea, the night before the show and throughout the morning I was reading tweets hashtagged with stuff like #OccupyMSG, and #YEMSG. Some folks were camped out all night-and they HAVE tickets. So there's that side of the fence. Then I also have ran into a few friends who behave like, for lack of a better term here, “Haters”, when the band is mentioned. These people would compare a Phish concert to nothing more than a traveling circus of hacky sack and drugs. I chose to walk into this one with a non-bias attitude. I didn't study up on the Phish catalog days leading up to the show-I didn't read blogs or set lists. I'm a fan of spontaneity, that's what the Jay Porks Never Ending Concert Series is all about; so here I bring you the 63rd installment, from the (newly renovated) World's Most Famous Arena-Madison Square Garden in the heart of New York City, for 1st night of the Phish 4 night New Years Eve 2011-2012 run.

I get off the train around 630ish, and literally all I see is a sea of people standing in front of the Garden all holding up their index finger screaming "one?!?-who's got one for tonight?" . Usually I'm at the show with extra tickets and I can't give them away. All sorts of signs suggesting trades-I seriously considered a sign that was a two for one offer with me giving up tonight's ticket for 2 tomorrow night. But I'm already here, so I'm sticking with it.

So a little after 7 I made it up to section 404, row G, seat 9. Holy crap- they sold out the seats behind the stage too ? I've never seen that before done at any arena. Usually they cut that area off the to public. If every seat gets filled(which it should be because it's sold out), we'll have at least 20,000 people here tonight.

At 8:07 We kicked off the night with "Free", "Glide", "Possum", "Cities" and "The Ballard of Curtis Loew".. It didn't even take more than the first half of "Free" for me to begin enjoying myself. What would drive people to hate this? I mean, I guess if you don't like musicians jamming out to groovy tunes then I could see your dilemma. But then you look around and realize this place is packed to gils-not an ass in a seat throughout the place..

The lights are something I've never seen before-how do the lights colors change mid-beam? How do you make the lights look like smoke rings? Haven't seen a light show like this this side of Roger Waters.. And at the beginning of certain songs glow sticks are tossed by hundreds from the 400 sections raining down on the people in the lower levels. An arena wide celebration was what this night was about. My section was getting me a contact high before the set even began(thanks for sharing by the way #Sarcasm), people walking past me behind me asking each other "is that real?" referring to the wall. And I still don't understand how many glow sticks needed to be purchased for the raining to still be going on an hour into the set.

"Stash" and "Contact"(a song the Rev Justito hasn't seen live in 24 Phish shows) followed by "Sample in a Jar", "Kill Devil Falls" and "Bathtub Gin" finished out what was to be Set 1.

So is this an intermission at 9:33? I would assume so considering nobody has left. If I was on a lower level, I'd duck out for a second for a cigarette since there's a Nazi event staff guy who threatened to throw me out if he caught smoking again. So that's right folks, the only person in this building not indulging in illegal drugs is the one who gets his shoulder tapped. Do I have a sign on my back that says "hey event staff please bother me at every show I attend in life!". What the hell man, there is smoke EVERYWHERE, I mean everywhere. There's probably more pot in this arena then I've ever smoked in my life and yet, my cigarette is causing a disturbance to this asshole stuck in a menial service position.

"Birds of a Feather" kicked off set number two at 10:02... And everyone is back to standing up. I tried to tape a couple a songs throughout the evening, but theres like a ceiling a few feet up, so I can't exactly hold my camera above the swaying bodies in front of me. After Birds of a Feather it was "Carini" time, which was followed by "Tweezer" for the foreseeable future-they are jammin' on this one.. This had to have gone over ten minutes (like most of the evening's songs)n"My Friend My Friend" was up next. Isn't the internet a wonderful thing? Without knowing the name of one song coming into this The setlist is being tweeted song by song. Now if only I could get this many web savvy people into the Meat Puppets, then I'd be doing my job as a social media assistant.

Then, wait a second I know this song-a cover of the Velvet Underground's "Rock N' Roll"! Hell freaking yes! This is my FAVORITE Velvet underground song-had I got my camera out quick enough I would've been rolling film. "NICU", "Bouncing Around the Room","Harry Hood", and "Bug" all checked in before it was encore time..

"Tube", "Rocky Top" and "Tweezer Reprise" served as a healthy encore for a "Phuphilling" night of Phish. The night came to an official end at 11:35pm. That leaves us with set one clocking in at an hour and twenty six minutes, and set two was an hour and thirty three minutes. I've seen bands not even play that long for ONE set, Phish come through MSG fries hearts and minds. Walking down the steps on the way out, I couldn't help but overhear two buddies talking about how this was an "old school type of show". As a first timer, I can't tell you if that's accurate or not-the Phans will judge by the setlist.

If you made it this far down, then you've probably enjoyed my first Phish experience, and I've enjoyed having you. Now I bid my readers a goodnight, because as I post this I have less then 2 hours to nap and get to my day job. Life and times of social media rockstar journalism. Again, huge thanks to the Reverend for giving me the chance to attend. Feels good to be baptized in the Phamily... LATE.

SETLIST: Set I: Free, Glide, Possum, Cities, The Ballad Of Curtis Loew, Stash, Contact, Sample In A Jar, Kill Devil Falls, Bathtub Gin
Set II: Birds Of A Feather, Carini > Tweezer > My Friend, My Friend, Rock & Roll > NICU, Bouncing Around The Room, Harry Hood, Bug
Encore: Tube, Rocky Top, Tweezer Reprise

Notes: I have a note to share about the show tonight. If there was one thing I could've done without, it would've been the intermission from 9:33-10:02. I'm not saying it took away from time that could've been spent playing songs-they do this every year I'm sure they can go as long as they want (especially with the Knicks are on a west coast swing)-I just don't understand what was getting done in that half hour. It's not like we can go grab some air here- it's takes like 20 minutes to exit the building. Maybe if I was with Phriends I would've have something to do during that half hour. Oh well, there'll always be next time.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Joseph Arthur, James Maddock Bowery Electric 12/17/11

The 62nd Edition of the Jay Porks Never Ending Concert Series is a special one indeed for a couple of reasons. One, we're heading out to the Bowery Electric (Joey Ramone Pl & 3rd St) down in the East Village for a charity event benefiting the Toys for Tots Foundation( ) featuring the musical styling of Joseph Arthur (and opener James Maddock). Never a bad thing to gain some good karma. Second reason this is special, it's because I've officially taken a semester off of school to pursue my dreams: doing this...fighting on the front lines of the social media takeover of traditional rock journalism as we know it. Anyway, should be a fun night. Doors are at 8PM, show at 8:45PM. I'm off work on little ol' Staten Island at 4, giving me plenty of time to pick up some last minute holiday gifts in Times Square.

Walking downstairs into the Bowery Electric, I enter a room about the size of the one I sleep every night-equipped with a stage. There's a floor that's gonna hold maybe 20 of us, with steps leading up to a bar in the back-theres a railing when you get up there-considering changing my spot when the music comes on. There's a sign that says "Occupancy by more than 108 persons is dangerous and unlawful". Obviously the fire Marshall hasn't been here in a while-hope they're counting heads at the door we're about to eclipse that occupancy.

Everyone I spoke to at the bar and in the room were all here for James Maddock, so when he fronted the 3 piece that took the stage at 8:50, it was to a gracious applause. I taped the first song-Maddock is strumming an acoustic guitar, with a bass player and drummer keeping pace, almost quietly. I've given up my seat and headed to the front of the room to the far left of the stage-now I'm too close. But this bluesy bastard has got me into it! Harmonica hanging from his neck, singing folky tunes sounding so much like Bon Dylan- if Bob Dylan's song were recognizable live. Heads are nodding to a song I'm gonna take a guess is called "When the Stars Align".. They turned me into a fan, and went off around 9:40..

All cards on the table, I didn't know anything about Joseph Arthur until I started contributing to Concert Confessions. Only through the ceaseless praise from Reverend Justito was this show even on my radar. After finding out I was attending a few weeks ago I started listening to all the available stuff on YouTube. Trying to familiarize myself with some of the work, listening to the songs didn't give me any indication that I made the wrong decision here; if anything got me more excited.

At 10:17, Joseph Arthur took the stage with band. And here I thought we were in for a night of slow jams-don't let the wine goblets fool you-roof is about to come off. The girl next to me(who took a bus down from Toronto specifically for this show) says she's never seen him with a band and that it's usually him alone with like a million pedals. He's a got a drummer channeling his inner Keith Moon, and a guy playing an acoustic guitar as he plays a very weathered electric guitar.

Every song, even the softer slower building tunes- had a crazy little effects box jam out portion of it. I taped a few songs, and I noticed them all going over six minutes. Hopefully the girls chatting it up to the right of me don't show up on video. Bout 3 songs in, Arthur addresses the crowd and says "happy toys for tots day". Then he's like "this one is inspired spefically by Toys for Tots.. song's called 'Even Though'"-And before even strumming a chord he smirks and says "yea this has nothing to do with that at totally caught me".

Parts jammy and bluesy-parts distorted pedal busting madness; this night was nothing short of a win. Then, just when I start to really relax and enjoy myself he asks for the time. It was 10:57. He's like "we only have 15 more minutes". Due to venue restrictions, show has to end by 11:15... People in the crowd screamed "Occupy Bowery Electric!"-which was awesome. He played a few more. One being "Fistful of Mercy", and the final of the night being a song about the Occupy movements-which he needed to reach to his iPad for assistance with the lyrics (awesome). After the song, it was like 11:20 and they said goodnight. Couldn't have been more than 12, maybe14 songs at the length they were going. Yet with the sheer epicness in which they were delivered, I felt so fulfilled.

Here's something you don't see everyday: once the guitars were unplugged some guy was screaming stuff toward Joseph Arthur-all I heard was "mother fucker" and the phrase "Toby Keith" repeated as he stormed out the venue doors. Joseph, who is walking right by me as he's exiting stage, looks at me and my Toronto friend and is like "what was he saying?" and I was like "he was screaming something about Toby Keith". He headed off stage. Toby Keith? What the hell was that?? We just had ourselves an awesome night here, and some idiot gets drunk and starts shouting names of terrible artists. I'm so bewildered, I just can't put it together. Hope Joseph Arthur and his band know that there was only one moron in the crowd, the rest of us were extremely satisfied with an evening of good tunes. 

-Joseph Arthur plays City Winery on January 1st. The trooper from Toronto-who I hopefully learn her name by then-says she'll be at that show too.

-I like how they named the street Joey Ramone Place. And by like I mean I think it's stupid. This whole “The Ramones created punk” mystic is idiotoc-bands like the Stoogies and MC5 were playing that kinda music in Detroit 5 years before The Ramones ever took the stage.

-What's up with all these “Rock” venues having performers needing to get off at 11 o clock or even 10 o clock sometimes for “Dance Parties”? There's tons of places in NYC to find a nice dance floor where all the 19 year old girls can go, sniff Percocet and get slutty. Stop taking over the little cool dingy places I'm trying to attend shows-you are f#%king with my sh!t.