2009/12/31 NYE with Phish in Miami

by Holger 1. January 2010

Last day in Miami and we picked up Justin at his motel on Biscayne Blvd to go to south beach at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne. This is one of the nicest beaches I know! Perfect on time we got the best weather of the week (approx. 27-28C). We could even swim in the ocean this time. Before we left the beach we took the obvious pictures and got a random blessing by a really nice and wise man who loved to hear that we just got married. He asked god to bless us with health, a long life, happiness, luck, children, etc. And he told us that I am the "head" and Natalie is the "neck" and that the head is nothing without the neck. He also said that a table with 2 legs doesn't stand. So true! I really did feel blessed after the procedure as strange as it sounds. I definately took it as a good sign by any meaning.

Back in the hotel around 5pm we packed our stuff for the flight back and wanted to go to Shuckers again but due to NYE they didn't serve dinner. We walked up the street where I spotted a fish restaurant ("The Crab House") the days before. The waitress was enthusiastic about their special deals and special NYE 3-course menues but I politely interrupted her to tell her that we are looking for a very quick and short dinner because we go the see Phish. She didn't have a clue what I was talking about ;) Natalie had fish and chips and I had a combo with fish and chips, crab cakes and fried scampi. Yummie! They tried to support our evening plans real hard and brought the food in record breaking time. The difficult part was to get a taxi which took about 20min. The caribean driver was really funny ("NYE in Miami is CRAZY I tell ya"). He explained that it would be close to impossible to get a cab on NYE especially after midnight and on the Miami side as all cabs are in South Beach (I will come back to this later). He dropped us off across the street after a speedy 25 USD ride.

Everything was fully packed and the air was burning. It was a hot day and the streets were still warm at night. People were heated up for the show and NYE in general. You could see all kinds of crazy costumes, formal dresses, fake hairs, colorful clothes. The mass was screaming, yelling, cheering to let out the energy in some direction. There was also a strong demand to connect with others which resulted in a total breakdown of all mobile networks. I wasn't abe to call or text message Justin for over an hour! Suddenly the plan to party in advance of the show busted and we drank our bee alone. I was definately pumped for the NYE show and even Natalie was kind of looking forward to it this time.

I had just bought 2 beer inside and walking towards our section as set 1 started with "AC/DC Bag". I prepared a wish list of songs during the day and they played 14 (!) out of 29 - that's a 50% correct guess. After a perect dancing start they played "46 Days" which always gets me in a really good mood. "Water In The Sky" pleased the Florida crowd before "Bathtub Gin" took it to the next level. Then "Punch You in the Eye" got the arena through the roof. I have never seen such a wild collective dance. This set 1 was like a second 2 set if you know what I mean. Fast, groovy, jamming - like the pefect "The Moma Dance" which was followed by a singing "Guyute". Then the band gave the crowd a rest after the multiple orgasms. "Swept Away", "Demand", "Seven Below" and the cool bar tune "Lawn Boy" helped to save some power for the long night yet to come. They really know to make a perfect setlist with exciting starts, exclamation, rests and a grand finale like "Julius". Man, what a 1st set! Unfortunately still no Justin in sight.

During setbreak Natalie stayed at the seats in case Justin would be looking for us. I was getting us 2 more beers and return exactly when the lights turned off and Justin made down from 4th level to our lower section (sec 118, row 20, seats 7/8). The rest of the night should bring massive excitement with 2 of my favorite covers by Phish. First one kicked off set 2 - "Rock & Roll" (by The Velvet Underground). It felt like the show contained a lot of "Billy Breathes" and "The Story of the ghost" songs. "Rock & Roll" was one of my absolute highlights of the whole night and it got an welcomed extension when it merged into "Piper" followed by "Simple" with a background choir of 20.000 phans. "Theme From The Bottom" gave us some air to breath before we collapse. "Shine A Light" is the second best song (besides "Loving Cup") from the Halloween musical costume which brought us a complete cover of the Rolling Stones record "Exile on main street". And it got better and better with the obvious "Ghost" which was overdue since 3 days and fulfilled all expectations. "NO2" and "Suzy Greenberg" closed an awesome 2nd set around 11.30pm.

From now on everybody was checking the clock for midnight to arrive. You could already see thousands of huge balloons holden by big nets under the roof of the American Airlines Arena. This is classic! 5min before midnight "Party Time" started the extravaganza and it seemed as it was only written for this occasion. The band moved into "Auld Lang Syne" exactly at midnight. The balloons were following down and filling the arena with pure joy. When the bass line of "Down With Disease" started the crowd totally freaked out for the next 10-15min. Balloons were EVERYWHERE!

Then the so called "NYE gag" with Fishman as main actor took place. Yome already wrote about it so I skip this part. I only want to add that from the audience you really couldn't tell if it was the girl or Fishman dressed up like the girl. And the faking at the beginning of "Fluffhead" seemed like a really well trained amateur drummer tried to play with Phish. "Joy" was the perfect song to nail down everyone's feeling. I was so happy and that's how the band wants us to be. "The Squirming Coil" was another crowd pleaser which made us all sing together one more time but one song was still missing after 4 unbelievable days and nights. And they delivered it big time. "Wash uffize drive me to Firenze"! "You Enjoy Myself" is probably THE Phish song ("Man...", "God...", "Shit..."). It ended in a vocal jam like most of the times in the previous 2009. I was exhausted but after "Blue Moon" I saved the rest of my power for  "Loving Cup" - "I'm the man from the mountain...".

Oh my god, what a monster night! Probably my best Phish show ever! It seemed like everybody was enjoying themselves and collectively a lot. The crazy mix of people at Phish shows from all kinds of different states and with all kinds of different styles is a story of its own. I am so glad that Justin joined us. He is such a lovely guy who is always entertaining and outgoing which is infectious to others. One night is was screaming really loud and people around us jumped in and suddenly it spread like wildfire across the whole venue. He just smiled at me and said to me "You see... ;)". He's also a wild dancer and a real party animal. And it all started at Deer Creek when I asked him and Matt if there's some space to sit down in the shade together with them.

It's often the little things. We don't recognize the importance at first but later (sometimes a lot later) we look back and understand how destiny pushed us in this or that direction. Like the guy at the beach who blessed us or the cab driver who didn't want to pick us up again after the show ("Hey man, if I tell ya I pick ya up I would be lying. Traffic is CRAZY in Miami on NYE. I tell ya.").

When we stepped out into the warm December night everybody tried to get a cab. The police had closed down Biscayne Blvd so there no chance to catch one at all. We decided to walk a few blocks. We wanted to get back to the hotel quick as we had to get up early for our flight back. No taxi in sight. Fuck! We walked further north parallel to Biscayne Blvd. Thousands of peoples on the street. Phishheads mixing with the local club scene and night bar goers. Traffic broke down completely around AAA. I was expecting a long walk. But destiny gave us a miracle. The first taxi with lights on which came from the exit of the highway while I was running up the exit to secure it for us was driven by the same Caribbean cab driver who dropped us off before the show. Can you believe that? What is the chance for this coincidence to happen in Miami on NYE around AAA? This time I was like "Hey man, I tell ya this is CRAZY" ;) After a 20 USD ride we fall straight to sleep. See you in the morning and happy new year everybody!



2009/12/30 American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL

by Holger 31. December 2009

After an excessive shopping experience at Aventura Mall in the morning and around lunch we went to North Miami Beach to sit and walk at the Beach. My wife Natalie wanted to skip night 3 as she is not the biggest phan and she's fine staying at the hotel room, relaxing and watching movies. Its a short and packed with activities trip so she needed some rest. My Indiana phish buddy Justin was more than happy to trade his 4th level balcony ticket with her lower level seat.

So we met after an delicious dinner (new york cut steak) and a beer in front of American Airlines Arena. Low demand seemed to let the parking prices plunge from day to day. As a result I only had to pay 10 USD last night instead of 20 and 15 the nights before. The parking lot was a lot fuller. Before going in we had another beer outside. Inside it was also a lot fuller. I guess more people go for the end of the run and NYE of course! Behind the stage and flor was well filled and the balcony behind stage was open but still empty.

Set 1 started with some cool reaggae music ("Soul Shakedown Party") and followed by an dancing "Runaway Jim". Next song was the very relaxed blues number "Jesus Just Left Chicago" which is on "Slip, stitch and pass" which has been recorded during the '97 Europe tour in Hamburg, Germany. "Dixie Cannonball" was a real surprise song to me - didn't hear it before. I only found out today that was a debut. Then the first and only song from the latest album ("Joy") - "Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan" with the brilliant lyrics "Got a blank space where my mind should be". The next 5 songs ("Corrina", "What's the Use?", "Tela", "Gone" - the second debut of the show, "Rocky Top") were all about rarities and phan tunes - that's one of the reason why people go to several shows in a row. The set was closed with a rocking "Chalk Dust Torture" and a awesome "David Bowie".

Set 2 started with a jamming "Sand" followed by a great "The Curtain With" and a quiet "Lifeboy" which gave everybody a mini-break. One of my highlights was the 17min long "Back on the Train" which is one of my alltime faves by Phish. "Wading in the Velvet Sea", "Hold Your Head Up" > "Love You" >

"Hold Your Head Up" had a guest appearance by a fan on stage who was allowed to play a solo on the vacuum cleaner instead of Fishman. The fan was wearing the same shirt like Fishman and to his big surprise he was given the vacuum cleaner as a gift and could take it with him off the stage back into the audience. So this time it really was the ultimately final vacuum solo of the decade. Fishman didn't seem to feel sad about the loss and ran around the stage in circles only stopping from time to time to let the crowd give applause to him. During all of this Trey was playing the drums by the way.

After this little fun break a serious rocking "Free" made me dancing and actually feel very free. This was my second highlight of the night. And it got better with a funky "Boogie On Reggae Woman" - Mike probably deserves last nights MVP. And it got even better with "Run Like an Antelope" which was mashed up by Trey with guitar licks from "Roses are free" multiple times during the whole song. I was simply blown away - wow! As an encore they played "Frankenstein" with Page on the keytar standing in front of the stage. What a night again!

Personally I thought they might bring out a guest (Gloria Estefan or Lady Gaga as some rumors say) on night 3 but maybe they saved that for NYE or it is just a rumor. Anyway tonight will be sick and we are taking a cab tonight to appreciate the full NYE party vibe before we fly out tomorrow morning from Miami to Philadelphia to Frankfurt back to the cold and snowy Berlin in Germany.

More pictures on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/treyanastasio/sets/72157623084195140/


2009/12/29 American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL

by Holger 30. December 2009

Yesterday we went to Key Biscayne during the day. There's a state park with an old light house where you can walk along the water and the marina. After that we enjoyed a sunny but quite chilly afternoon at the beach park on Key Biscayne - it is one of the best beaches around with hundreds of palm trees right on the beautiful white sand beach. The light around 4-5pm was amazing. It was actually so good that some company had a photo shooting with five bikini girls doing a cushion fight going on - can't give you any more details right now ;) Unfortunately it was too cold to swim but we will return on NYE during the day.

After a blitz dinner with "shrimp and angel hair pasta" (that's ultra thin spaghetti) at Shuckers Bar + Grill we headed towards the arena for the second time. We got there by 7.15pm which was still too early as they didn't start until 8.10pm again. You wouldn't dream of what to come...

First set started with "Golgi" which is definitely a classic Phish tune and a perfect opener and already more uptempo and danceable like "Sample in a jar" and most of the rest yesterday. It should pave the way for the whole night. "Maze" got it going before "Driver" and "The Connection" brought some of the more relaxed first set tunes. I am not sure if many people do but I like "The Connection" a lot. The next 3 songs were j ust awesome: "Wolfman’s Brother", then "Ocelot" (especially for my wife Natalie who loves this tune), an unbelievable "Reba" with beautiful lights by CK5. "Access Me" was maybe the only low point (you can hardly name it this way but if you need to pick one this was it). "The Divided Sky" was from another planet taking it really long. The melody is just lovely. Personally I thought that's the closer for set 1 but man was I wrong! A really nasty "Cavern" left everybody hungry for more. This was pretty solid compared to night one - a 7.5 out of 10 I would say. Setbreak.

Set 2 started with a really rocky version of "Kill Devil Falls" followed by one of the best "Tweezer" jams I've ever heard. They had ultra groove last night! Page was incredible, Mike was slapping it like hell all night long making the songs mega-funky, Trey did his high signature tunes after taking it higher and higher and Fish was working the drums like a dervish. The "Tweezer" was probably around 20min as far as I remember (please forgive me as I did not listen to the show yet and write this completely out of my memory from my Blackberry standing in front of a Hollister store in Aventura Mall while my wife is shopping - one of the reasons why she came to Miami. 8am to 8pm belongs to her - 8pm - 12pm belongs to me) . Unlike first night there was no stopping anytime. "Prince Caspian" made me sing until I almost lost my voice. After "Divided Sky" and "Tweezer" the next couple of songs, jams were the highlight of the night. It was unreal. I couldn't believe what I was witnessing. I text messaged Justin who was in another section to ask him if we were dreaming. "Gotta Jibboo > Wilson > Gotta Jibboo > Heavy Things" left everybody with mouth wide open. It was either from another galaxy, wonderland or hell or all together. And still no signs of slowing down. An energetic "2001" let everybody freak out. In brightest possible light all arms were up and bodies were shaking. And then they played "Slave to the Traffic Light". I almost had tears in my eyes. What do they want to play the next 2 days? Are they trying to create the ultimate set, a "best of / greatest hits" live album? I was full of happiness, couldn't stop smiling, pumped with adrenaline and thanking god for being able to be here.

The Encore brought "Sleeping Monkey" (for Justin) and the obvious "Tweezer Reprise" following the "Tweezer" of the second set. What else do I need to say? After the show we all met at the same corner like last night and drove back to our hotels. I needed to stop at a gas station to buy a sixpack of beer because I knew that without drinking a couple of cans I would not be able to sleep. I was so right: 3 beers later I fall asleep around 2.30am - totally satisfied. I wonder what phishthoughts.com and everybody else writes about the show - set 2 was a 9.5 out 10!!! Can't wait for tonight...

More pictures on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/treyanastasio/sets/72157623084195140/


2009/12/28 American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL

by Holger 29. December 2009

After a short swim in the hotel pool we got dressed and took the car to the American Airlines Arena. Its always hard to project how long it will take because sometimes traffic can be totally horrible around venues and parking lots. Not today! Despite a construction site approx. 1,5m from the venue on Biscane Blvd everything runs smoothly. There's only a very short waiting line right in front of the official parking garage of American Airline Arena. Guys with "parking 20 USD" signs try to re-direct people to their private parking lots and garages around the block. As the official fee is also 20 USD we take a right and roll straight on an 90% empty lot. Some Phishheads sit outside their cars listening to music, grilling, chilling, smoking and drinking booze.

Its only a 2-3min walk to the main entrance where we are supposed to meet with Justin and his friend from Indiana. Strangely there is only a really short waiting line on the stairs 5min before the gate opens. Back in 2003 people were standing back down to the street. The arena looks beautifully enlightened with yellow, orange and purple light and a huge video projection on the surface of the building showing Phish live footage previously recorded - really cool! Justin is right on time and after a short but enthusiastic welcome (who could expect that we see each other only 6 month after we first met at Deer Creek) we walk straight in. There is no waiting at all. Security check is relaxed. 

First thing you see when you walk in is the merchandise table with all brand new Phish Florida items. I am very sorry but I have to admit that I was massively disappointed with the new goods. I don't like the event poster which is too colorful and looks like an advertisement for orange juice. The 2003 poster looked like a cheap "Kitch" painting by an averagely skilled street artist on Ocean Drive. The colors hurt my eyes. Unfortunately I only found out after waiting in line for 45min and buying #987 (or so) of #1000. Now its on the wall in my flat ;) Thank god to Facebook, Fromtheroad, Twitter, etc. you now know in advance what you get so I did not get in line this time. The T-shirts weren't any better - just not my colors (all kinds of purple, yellow, orange, etc.). Well, the trip was expensive enough and my budget needs some rest. Domestic beer at the venue is 9,00 USD, imported beer 13,50 USD, a slice if pizza 8,00 USD, a cocktail 18 USD, etc.. So while Phish is keeping ticket prices low everybody else is robbing you legally! 

We were standing on the first floor and watching the people flow in. Around 7.30pm when the show should officially begin there were no signs of a soon start. Still hundreds and thousands of people came in from outside. Around 7.50pm we got to section 118 which is one of the lower sections in the middle of the arena. The seats are perfect and its so good to know that we will be there for 4 nights in a row. The people next to us were very nice. One was from Ft. Lauderdale, the other from New York City (seeing his show #96 or so - EU phans can't compete with that numbers but with the intimacy of our tiny venues). 

I don't remember the exact time but it must have been shortly after 8pm when the lights went out. Suddenly people were pumped and you could feel the collective energy. Everybody was waiting for this moment for weeks. Most people were already screaming and dancing when they got up the stairs and through the entrance. So did I. They didn't play Wilson as an opener like I had wished for. They didn't play it all last night. The whole set list and flow of the show was a bit strange and the first set missed a little dancing and party vibe (except some moments). 

Phishtoughts.com is quite disappointed by the whole show and pointing to the half empty venue. Yes, you hear right. Half empty (and the show was almost sold out)! There was even a black curtain covering the 3rd and 4th level behind stage and the lower section behind stage was nearly empty. Everywhere were empty seats - even on the floor. They definitely need to change the way tickets are sold. Print a name and ID# on the tickets and the scalping ends. That's the way FIFA does it with tickets for the soccer world cup. 

The show kicked off with "Sample in a jar" which is one of my all time faves. The version was very tight and I thought it was a great opener. Next song was "NICU" which always is good feel tune to me. It was followed by a rare bluesy "My Soul". The following 4 songs ("Roggae", "Undermind", "Bouncing Around The Room", "Poor Heart") lacked excitement a little bit. Then came "Stash" which brought back my full attention. I must agree with Phishthoughts.com that the flow of the show was destroyed more than once. There was a lot of "humor songs" but the whole mix was strange. "I Didn't Know" (featuring the final vacuum solo of the decade) and especially "Beauty Of A Broken Heart" didn't seem to fit between "Stash" and "Possum" which was a very warm welcomed and superb finale of set 1. 

Set 2 continued the spirit of the night. It took until song #4 (after "Mike's Song", "Light", "I Am Hydrogen") "Weekapaug Groove" kicked off the party. My wife Natalie who is far from being a phan felt the jetlag and was not turned on so far. Unfortunately "Weekapaug Groove", "Alaska", "Backwards Down the Number Line", "Makisupa Policeman", "Harry Hood" (all fantastic in my eyes) came too late for her to bring her back to life. "Contact" was a another "fun break" before an energetic "Character Zero" closed set 2. And then came an incredible sick "First Tube" which alone compensated for some mediocre versions last night. Trey was suddenly on fire and CK5 brought on an absolutely gorgeous light show. 

After the show we met Justin and his friend across the street to give them a ride back to their hotel which was on the way to ours. Back in the hotel room I synched my digital camera to the notebook and uploaded some pictures to Flickr (Thanks to Yome who grabs them and puts them up together with my writings which I send from my Blackberry during day). 


More to come tomorrow...


More pictures on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/treyanastasio/sets/72157623084195140/


PHISH "Jox Box" finally arrived in Germany

by Holger 12. December 2009

Wednesday Dec 10th I finally got a letter that I can come to the German customs office in Berlin Schoeneberg to pay tax and release my delivery. So I drove to the department first thing in the morning on Thursday Dec 11th. From my previous experience I expected nothing less than 2 hours of driving and waiting. I was so damn right.

When you get there your have to show them the letter and you have to draw a waiting number - mine was #35. Next step after waiting is to go in, open the package by yourself, take out all contents and show them to the officer. Then he calculates the tax on basis of the value of the goods + delivery. It's 19% in Germany so on top of my 130,- USD value of goods + 50,- USD shipping I had to pay 23,- EUR tax. But you have to wait again before you are allowed to pay. With the receipt of your payment you can go back and finally release your order. What a hassle! But hey, fuck it - it's Phish :-) I would drive to Alaska.

The good thing about showing all contents of the box to the officer was to see them by myself for the first time in real. I got a huge smile on my face and the officer seemed to be kind of impressed as well. After driving to work I proudly showed the box to my colleagues. At home after work I made a couple of pictures.

The box itself is massive. Made out of heavy cardbox. Originally I thought its made out of plastic or wood. The cardbox seems not so stabile on the edges and corners. My box had a little scratch. Inside you find a hardcover book with lyrics, pictures and 2 CDs and 1 DVD. You also find 10 signed posters by different artists.

It's definately worth 75,- USD and you get a special price (11 USD each) for 2 Joy T-shirts.

Let me introduce myself

by Holger 10. December 2009

Yome was so kind to let me blog on his site.

Let me introduce myself shortly before I start to post stories about my Phish travels and experiences. My name is Holger and I am a German Phish phan who lives in Berlin since 2003.

My sister was hosting a kid from Massechusetts as part of a youth exchange back in the mid 90s. He had some Phish records in his CD collection incl. “Hoist” and “A Live One” as far as I remember. I was interested but not blown away immediately to admit. 1-2 years later I was reading the German music magazine “Musicexpress” and my attention was caught by the record of the month article – “Billy Breathes”. I almost forgot about Phish since I first heard them but I gave them a second chance. The album was gorgeous.

Only a couple of month later I saw that they play a show in Munich which was about 150 miles away from my parent’s house. I decided to drive down with a friend. The show changed my life. In the same summer they played only 60 miles away from my parents home in Nuremberg. I bought tickets for me and my friends.Later my sister and me also won 2 tickets in a competition by our local news paper because we were the only people who took part. So we brought two more friends. The show was amazing. Only one year later another Europe tour was announced. This time Germany was left out but Prague was only 130 miles away. This was my best show so far. Unfortunately we did not stay overnight – big mistake because it was the last time they came to Europe since then. Who could foresee this?

In 1999 I was very close to book a trip to Big Cypress after I got mailing with the announcement but in December ’99 I felt in love with my girlfriend so I didn’t want to leave her alone over our first NYE. Years went by and as a student I had absolutely no money to follow Phish in the US while Europe was constantly left out of their touring plans (maybe due to the increasing drug issues of Trey which could easily cause trouble if you travel accross different countries). In 2002 I got my first real job and in 2003 my girlfriend and me were flying to the gigs in East Rutherford (with special guest B.B.King) and Worcester and also to Miami for 2 out of 4 shows of the NYE run. In 2004 we attended 2 of the Las Vegas shows. We never did this for Phish alone but always planned a road trip around it with classic sight-seeing stuff. I had some of the best times of my life on these travels.

When Phish broke up I was shocked and very sad. Once the first reunion rumors came up my fanatism was back on track. I tried hard to get tickets for Hampton through the lottery and on Livenation but failed. I retried for the summer tour and had tickets in the basket but the site crashed several times. Don’t ask me how but as I wanted to see Phish again so badly I somehow manged to get tickets for Deer Creek / Noblesville and both Alpine Valley shows. The trip was only 4 days – fly in, fly out (Berlin-Amsterdam-Detroit-Chicaco + drive to Indianapolis). I was all alone and came just to see Phish. Crazy? Life saving! The shows and people I met on the trip ("Hi" to Matt & Justin!) were worth every Euro and Dollar. People around me thought this could heal my hunger but the complete opposite was the case. A total relapse: I am more addicted than ever. “Joy” is a great album and tomorrow morning I will drive to customs to finally get my box set.

In a little more then 2 weeks my girlfriend (still the same after 10 years of tolerating my passion) and me will fly to Miami to see all 4 shows of the NYE run 2009. We got lower section tickets on ticketmaster (I might tell you the whole drama of buying them in a different post) so I have no doubt that the shows will be mind blowing. I plan to blog about the trip to keep you updated. We will see what 2010 and the future brings for us Phish phans - hopefully some Europe shows after then 12 years of abstinence…




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