Live music is kind of a big deal for us. We met at a music festival, started dating on summer tour, got engaged at Phish New Year’s Eve, and went to the GD50 shows for our honeymoon. Since we moved to China back in 2010, we’ve only been able to come home for a few weeks each summer. While we’ve managed to squeeze a few shows and festivals in on each visit back to the US, there hasn’t been a trip to rival our epic summer of 2009. That was, of course, until this summer. With my program in Bali finished and with both of us working online, it was the perfect opportunity to get back on the road for a month of music. Part One of our long, strange musical journey took us through the Midwest, out to Colorado, and finally to Sin City.
Phish Midwest Tour
The party started off right with Phish’s first ever shows at Wrigley Field. A pre-party on Thursday night with a jamband supergroup at an arcade bar was a great way to kick things off – it’s hard to beat drinking beers, grooving to live music, and playing NBA Jam at the same time.
When it came time to head into Wrigley, we were greeted by the lyrics “I saw you with a ticket stub in your hand” on the screen outside of the historical ballpark. We did indeed have ticket stubs in our hands, and we made our way into the Phriendly Confines ready for four sets of our favorite band.
Some (myself included) thought that the Wrigley shows would be good, but not exactly great. Boy were we wrong! The boys delivered excellent performances both nights to a packed house, making for an epic weekend in the Windy City. Highlights included the first “Fluffhead” in over two years and a stellar a capella version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”
Late nights are always tough after a Phish show, but with the awesome tri-cover band Pink Talking Fish playing right down the street, we knew we had to make it happen. We got our third wind and stayed out until 3, dancing to the music of Phish, the Talking Heads, and Pink Floyd.
While we ended up seeing a lot of friends throughout the month, there were more people in Chicago than any other spot. We managed to get a huge group together on Saturday before the show for brunch and drinks, which is getting harder and harder with each passing year. Half the fun of going to shows is spending time with friends, and we got to do a lot of that in Chicago.
“Never miss a Sunday show” is an old adage amongst Phish fans, and it usually rings true. As such, we made the drive down to Noblesville, IN to catch the show at Deer Creek. Some bad weather and traffic had us a bit worried, but everything ended up working out in our favor. The forecasted storms caused the show to be delayed, which gave us enough time to set up camp, find tickets, and do a bit of pre-gaming. This was definitely a show that was not to be missed, and we even made our way all the way down to the front of the pavilion. Thanks awesome friends for stubbing us down! Back at the campsite, the party kept going with a local band. We befriended our neighbors and ended up staying up all night, drinking warm beers, grilling kebabs, and swapping stories. These are the moments that make Phish tour such a special place.
UM Red Rocks
When Umphrey’s McGee announced they’d be playing not one, but two nights at Red Rocks over the 4th of July weekend, we knew we had to be there. We had only been to the legendary venue once before (for Phish back in ’09), so this was the perfect time to make our triumphant return. It also helps that tons of our friends live in Denver, so we got to see one of our favorite bands and tons of our favorite people.
For the first night, some friends organized a party bus from their house and threw a great BBQ pre-party. Feeling ever so patriotic, I dressed for the occasion with the best t-shirt ever and a cheeseburger hat. Before long, it was time for us all to pile in the bus and make the drive up to Morrison.
While two nights of UM would have been enough to get us to make the trip, it certainly didn’t hurt that they brought in excellent openers for both nights – Dweezil Zappa and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. Both days were full of great music, weather, and friends. Oh, and fireworks! From Red Rocks, we could see fireworks going off in all directions. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate America’s 240th birthday.
Widespread Panic in Las Vegas
Even though they’re one of my favorite bands, I had never travelled specifically to see Widespread Panic. When they announced three nights in Las Vegas with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band this summer, it seemed like as good a time as any to change that. Plus, it was the perfect fit for the weekend in between UM RRX and Phish Gorge. Thanks to super cheap flight prices, we had six whole days in Sin City. This may seem like far too long to be in Vegas, but we ended up having a great time.
With a few days to spare before the shows, we rented a car and explored the beautiful Red Rock Canyon and also took a tour of the Hoover Dam. Rather than stay in a hotel for the entire trip, we ended up Couch Surfing for a few nights at the awesome Project Ranch and then moving to an Air BNB studio close to the venue. Stay tuned for a more in-depth post about the Ranch and what to do off the strip in Vegas.
Now back to the music. They played at The Joint at the Hard Rock – a perfect venue for WSMFP. The shows started and went late, fans were allowed to go out at set break, the sound was great, and there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. While we didn’t make it in for any of the DDBB sets, we thoroughly enjoyed their sit-ins with Panic every night. With the announcement that Panic won’t be touring much starting next year, we’re pumped that our first and possibly last time traveling to see them was a destination show in Vegas.
We’re only halfway through our Month of Music. Come to think of it, it was more like 6 weeks of music, but that doesn’t have such a nice ring to it. In Part Two, we head up to the Pac NW to see Phish at the best venue in the country, explore Seattle and Bend, catch Dead & Company in Portland, and wind things down back where it all started in Chicago for Lollapalooza.