It’s the last day of my Phish mini-tour. And it finally happened. On my eighth show (all-time), Fish finally, FINALLY played his vacuum.
For those of you who aren’t Phishheads, Jon Fishman is the drummer / dress-wearer extraordinaire for his namesake band. In addition to being a wonderfully-controlled jazz kitmaster, Fish is given to . . . antics, shall we say. One of these involves playing mouth solos on an Electrolux vacuum. Being a fellow (much less talented) percussionist, Fish is a bit of a hero of mine. And having come to the Phish family late (my first show was during the 2009 reunion tour), I missed the halcyon days of the Nitrous ’90s: Big Ball Jams, Rotation Jams and yes, vacuum solos.
Last night, in Noblesville, Indi-phreakin’-ana, my perseverance was rewarded:
You’ll kindly excuse the photo quality — iPhone really doesn’t like backlit subjects. But you get the hint. That’s our Fishman, playing a vacuum solo on “Bike” every bit as soaring (albeit ludicrously off-key – I mean, for goodness’ sake, how do you maintain proper embouchure on a vacuum nozzle?) as Allen Collins’ “Free Bird” jam, following an instrumental cover of Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up.”
“I didn’t think it was very melodic, but it was cool that he was holding [notes],” said 63-time Phish attendee Kirk Wilson, 31, of Cincinnati. ”It’s not like you can get nutty with a harmonica.”
“By halfway through the first set, you knew it was going to be an awesome show,” agreed Pam Varnum, 23, also of Cincinnati. ”There was an intensity to the crowd and the band.”
“The energy of last night’s show was better than the Cincinnati [Riverbend on 06/22/12] show,” asserted Wilson. ”Last night’s crowd was there to see Phish. The crowd at Riverbend seemed like they were there to hang out with their friends at a Phish show.”
That seems to be a common problem at Riverbend shows — it seemed the same to me, too, as it did at Radiohead on June 5th. I don’t know if it’s a Cincinnati audience failing, or the highly-obstructed lawn keeping the crowd from engaging with the artists. But I can tell you, I heard a lot of talking and saw a lot of cell phone usage. Last night in Noblesville, and at Cuyahoga last week, no such problems. The audience was in it.
I was in the pit for this show — the second time in a row I had lucked into a lottery front row pass. The showtime temperature was near 101 degrees; down front, it was a veritable hotbox. There was no oxygen. It smelled like sweaty neo-Hippies and crotch. But God almighty, it was a show. And now I can cross the vacuum of my concert bucket list.