Woah, Blossum

We’d stayed in Ann Arbor after the Friday night show, and the drive down to Blossom was nice & brief.  The Cuyahoga River Valley is a surprisingly scenic area, and as you approach the show you’re actually in Ohio’s largest national park.
It’s really hard to do side trips on Phish tour, but next time I am out that way I want to make a point of visiting the park itself & taking in some hikes.

We were tipped off to a “super sneaky and secret back entrance” to the venue, but weren’t given any specific directions. All we were told was to meet at the Winking Lizard Tavern on Rte 303 in Peninsula before 4 p.m.  We found the place all right, and there were just a few folks in there that looked like fans, so we had a beer, made friends, and got the scoop on the back entrance.  It turned out to be a total score, as we totally (as in COMPLETELY) avoided any hint of traffic into the show.  We drove about 10 minutes from the bar, through the national park’s winding back roads,  and into a side lot that bordered the rest of the traffic pulling in from Steels Corners Road.  Free parking at this venue, too, which rules.  It was a bit of a walk from our lot to the venue itself, but I figured what the heck–we’re in a National Park, we should be doing some hiking anyway.

Photo from the National Park Service - http://www.nps.gov/cuva//images/20081106145419.jpg

This venue/lot/park is just a cool place. Walking through the lots toward the show, there are clearings with picnic tables along the way. It’s great for friends to meet up & gather before they head in…and I suppose it would also be great to have a picnic if you were so inclined.

The shed is kind of weird–it was built for the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. The sides are jagged, which can cause weird echoes, and the back of the pavilion slopes up then back down instead of up and out. Check out the picture below–it was taken from the back of the lawn, just right of center. The sound bounces around in there kind of strangely, and moving just a couple of seats to your right or left can make a big difference in what you hear.

Saturday, June 4, 2011
Blossom Music Center – Cuyahoga Falls, OH

Photo by B. Shrader

Set I
Kill Devil Falls
Guyute
Fuck Your Face
Foam
Ocelot
Rocket in My Pocket
Back on the Train
Guelah Papyrus
Tube>
Run Like an Antelope

Set II
Birds of a Feather
Possum>
Steam>
Piper->
The Lizards
Sneakin’ Sally->
Harry Hood->
Have Mercy->
Harry Hood>
Character Zero

Encore
Slave to the Traffic Light

This show felt a little strange at the start.  Three great songs, but a bit of an odd mishmash.  Other shows later in the tour started off like this, too.  KDF is a nice opener, and supports what I was advocating for the previous night: shows should always open with a 10 min jam. Guyute is an odd song in the 2nd slot, and I’m sorry to have to say that it was embarrassingly sloppy. FYF is just an odd song in general…and how in the hell did I manage to catch two of these?? Then the set started to feel a little more normal when Foam started up on the heels of FYF. Ahhh… I like Foam, and I love how they absolutely freakin’ nail every single note when they play it now. Strange though, that out of all of their songs (i.e., Guyute, the ending of Taste, the pause in Ghost, etc.) Foam is the one they chose to polish & practice the hell out of. I’m not complaining, remember. You have no idea how psyched it makes me to hear Phish play the hell out of this tune like it’s 1992 again.

Getting into the meat of the first set, we got a string of ripping tunes. Not exploratory jams, but plenty of balls-out rocking. At the show, I thought that Ocelot felt unusually (even painfully) slow. But upon a second listen, I have to admit it was a bit of a rager. Not that this was one of those “better on the tape” type of performances, but while I was trying to dance (poorly…this is me we’re talking about) the tempo just felt like it really dragged. Then we got a taste of last Halloween with Little Feat’s Rocket in my Pocket. Very cool! I wasn’t really sure what we were hearing at first, but I knew I liked it. Back on the Train was actually kind of a rager, too. Good Type I solo, to be sure. And Guelah sure is fun, I have to say.

Then we went to Page’s HOUSE with a nice, superfunky (albeit shorter than 5 min) Tube, which quickly became a Tubealope. And that Tubealope ran down the Streets of Cairo. I believe I enjoyed this Antelope more than any other in the past 12-13 years. Please go listen to this now. There was another tease toward the beginning of the Antelope there, but I just could not place it. If it wasn’t a tease, it was one of those glorious melodies that sound to beautiful to have been composed right there on the spot. It could’ve been anything (or nothing)–I’ll bet Trey has more tunes/songs/melodies/themes floating around in his head at any given moment than I’ll learn in my entire life. Trey took a moment to mention “Mike-o,” “Fish-o,” and “Toph-o” Essscuaaaandoooooooooolas, complete with a light solo for Toph. Tons-o-fun! Sloppy transition there into the final gear, but hey man, “that’s Escuandolas” after all. Esssscuaaaandoooolas!

Setbreak was interesting.  As I was heading out of the pavilion, I noticed that the prime VIP seating section, the one dead center, had no one guarding it.  So, of course, I popped in and found a seat.  It was clear just by looking around that the folks in these seats were not your standard “VIP” types, so I felt at home and settled in.  A big thank you to the two dudes next to me from Pennsylvania who were so accommodating. Everyone there was able to hang out, undisturbed, for the rest of the show.

The place was pumped for Set II.  Birds was atypical. Which of course means awesome. More than just “unique.” I guess it was really typical in that they stayed within the structure, tempo, and other items that are pretty common to the song, but the jam was particularly inspired and the extended variations on the theme from Trey & Mike are things I always love to hear. Great jamming, even if the end seemed a little clipped by TreyDHD…Page wanted to sing another round of the chorus!  (Side note: Page got his chance to cut of Trey’s vocals the a few days later during the 7/15 Alpharetta Suzy–and it was most excellent!)

The Blossom Possum was a ton of fun as well. After your normal, “typical awesome” Possum-y circus-y blues soloing, the theme of the jam (for Trey at least) became “let’s bend every note by a ridiculous amount with ever-increasing intensity” and this idea bled over into the ending vocals, which in turn made for one of the most hilarious & enjoyable Possums I’m sure I’ve ever witnessed. Most of my other favorite Possums are ones I’ve never seen from ’92-93, like the one they just put out on the I-90s Bonus Disk with all the teases (5/17/92 – Achilles Rink, Union College – Schenectady, NY) but this one is right up there with the rest of them in terms of zany antics.

Steam is pretty flippin’ cool. When it first started, I thought it was 7 Below for about 3 notes, then I immediately thought, “oh cool, they’re playing ‘The Way I Feel’ from Treys solo band.” What it turned out to be was neither of those, but rather a debut of a pretty excellent tune that I would like to hear again as a landing point for killer jams. Slow & groovy with some cool lyrics and a very cool sound effect (which someone said was a china boy cymbal? I’ve heard those, and I’m not so sure that’s what this is…) The lyrics are maybe kind of medieval in that we’re hearing about horses and towers (castle towers, I imagine) and chasing wolves. I’m looking forward to hearing this song jammed out even more.

At the Winking Lizard...was the song that segued out of "Piper" a coincidence? I think not.

I would normally refrain from saying anything about the next song because I compare every Piper I hear to the 12/6/97 Palace version, but this Piper was actually pretty good and contains some Floyd-y meets Miles-y type stuff toward the end of the jam, just before they segue into The Lizards. Really, really good transition there (a real segue this time, by golly!) For a few moments there it sounds like the jam is going to land into Twenty Years Later. The Lizards is nice & long and impeccably played! A long pause after Lizards gave us…

Sneaking Sally thru the muthaflippin’ Alley! Man, this was sick. At times it sounds like something pulled straight from the best of the 2003-04 style jams (i.e. The Moma Dance from 6/17/04 Brooklyn). This jam dropped into Harry Hood, which some folks say has been getting better & better each version since 2009. This was a great Hood, and had some interesting stuff in the beginning, to be sure–but check out the 12/28/10 Worcester Hood for some truly fantastic, innovative stuff, though. As far as, “each one is better than the last,” I don’t think this one is better than that one (but, to be clear, I really, really like this one).  Have Mercy kind of floats in on its own…but then Hood kind of barrels its way back in. Have Mercy is teased…loosely…but, oh!  Trey pulls off a splendidly brilliant tease of Lizards on his way toward the final peak.

Then we got Zero’d. But they picked up with the pitch bending (in the style of the Blossom Possum) so that was cool. And this song always has at least 1.21 gigawatts of energy, so that’s cool too. And a Smoke on the Water tease at the end. Random, but pretty cool. Upon another listen while writing this post, I realize that Trey’s teasing Smoke on the Water within the jam, too…right before the pitch-bending part. So, cool again.

Slave is also cool. A perfectly placed encore at this show.

Lots of animals at this show: pigs, ocelots, birds, lizards, possums, tigers in lily patches, rhinos running from thunder, tubealopes running out of control, a fly that feeds arachnid, wolves & horses in Steam, red red worms, and you can even “see the zoo” on the encore.

I am kind of sad about the short Tubes (although they do pack a punch, which I really like, they are all pretty small, which is no good) and instaspeedy hypertempo Pipers.  On the other hand, I’m thrilled with the amount of pure, unadulterated FUN this band is having–as evidenced by the last half of the Possum, Sally vocal jam & ensuing madness, and the relaxed, beautiful & patient way they drifted from Steam into Lizards. That kicked some serious musical ass.

There’s more audience noise on these tapes then I can ever recall. Mics in front of Page & Fish pick up nearly everything said (okay…shouted) by those few people right next to the mics.  Calls on Saturday caught by the mics included Alumni Blues & Lushington.

Overall, a fantastic show with some odd passages, but then I realize here’s me calling a band that regularly covered Purple Rain with a 1967 Electrolux “odd.” I give it a 9/10. This show had just about everything I love about this band: fun jams (Possum), funky jams (Sally), jawdroping jams (Sally again!), at least one sublime segue (->Lizards, among others), great covers (Feat), new stuff (Steam!!!), “uncharted territory” (Piper), zany antics (Escuadooooolas!), bonus Phish (Hood Mercy sandwich) & raging rock n’ roll.  No filler tunes.  Even though it wouldn’t be my first choice to close Set II with, the energy of a raging, show-closing Character Zero is pretty much undeniable. And a perfect encore.

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3 Responses to “Woah, Blossum”

  1. Pablo Says:

    Yeah, they really have to watch the tempo on Ocelot (and some other recent songs that I can’t remember). You almost trip over yourself trying to dance at such a slow pace.

    I thought the same things about Steam hearing the opening notes.

    Yeah, it was obvious from watching the Alfaretta broadcast that they are, in fact, having a great time on stage.

    • Brain Says:

      “Alaska” is also painfully slow at times. Then again, the tempo of “Sand” can creep along, but I’ve never complained about it being too slow. In general jamming slowly opens up more space for them to play around in.

      And I’m glad that we already got the chance to hear “Steam” jammed out a little more – check out 6/12 MPP’s version!

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