It was wholly ironic, wholly Camden, quite dirty, quite quite dirty: As we remarked a few nights earlier, amidst that vast dark corner of Jones Beach, that far side of the venue with no exit(just old cups of coca cola which we still aren't sure were ours)of being very Camden, very very Camden. It was in that space , treading steps up the steep corridor of the venue, and certainly a few tiny misteps of my mind, that Summer tour of 2009, where the first symphonic blasts of Meat Stick became all to real and funk began to lay it's plasmic hands a top the stratosphere, lending an ooze like quality not unlike the Ghostbusters holy slime, for all to wade gently through in the following days.
The Thick and the Quickening:
But what of Camden, a haven of a venue having sought refuge from it's bastard drug addled, and addicted brethren of a surrounds that is Camden Township! This venue, finding safety between train track and deep plunging river, where everything comes up Roses (except Roses are Free)! Camden, that divine space beckoning a second set-2001-Michael Jackson-Thrillerfest; Camden, worthy of a divine comedy in the rapturous form of Alumni Blues set opener; Camden, and the Magilla-Twist of 2000; Camden the birth place of crack, pcp, and Phishy Goodness! In side the warm blanket of Camden's (Insert Corporate Sponsor Here) Center, I remember the opening licks to Fee and feeling okay with the thought of a 4 and 1/2 hour trek home to work that late Sunday, early Monday morning! But I am not here to tell you of the racous and wily party of the entire night, but more about the funk infused inards of what I am sure I saw, felt, tasted, heard, and soul searched, in the gooey cream of this Vienna Wafer of a middle section of the show. It was here, in the good times had by all section of my brain, that I recline effortlessly in the spaghetti of my brain, clenching the long smooth stem of a Sherlock Pipe with my teeth, grinning deeply, to pain, that I recall the final moments of the first set with an intense 3 and half minute funk based, almost Talking Heads, Electronica-cyber infused keyboard solo, turned raunchy finale of a Tube-Ironical Second Set Opener First Tube-Enter Sand!
I recall, slipping cerebral notes via telepathy to the gallery of friends throughout this first run of summer that the nights were constantly being stolen, Hamburgler style, by the Chairman of the Boards; hence Paige side Rage side. (I now concur why my meandering aimlessly ventured to this dirty side of Camden) Yet the mid show intensity does not dispel, as much of the evenings heat does drifting to the atmosphere. Instead, before set break, that plasma-sphere, having been renamed by yours truly, took the fire and heat, allowed it to blub up, dropped it back on the unassuming crowd, and took audible form via Trey when he announced, "Well, we might as well play this one now!" Enter First Tube, irony, emplicity ensuing simplistic groves, base heavy opening of straight up face tearing neuron melting, seizure enducing groove of funking love. Inside this eden of mid show rapture, God would have frowned upon us heathens having embraced Epicurean tenets, holding fast to our figurative goblets, and toasting Bacchus as we hunkered down into the looping frenzy that abounded.
To the benefit of the audience swimming in the visceral, the plasma sphere had burst and created a cosmic sea for us to set upon our backs and let the current lead us. The momentary lapse of music, as First Tube dissipated into silence, we were left adrift in wake of first set energy, though the tension, having been built high caused the molecules of the plasma to slow from their frenzied state. As muscles began to tense(the thoughts of a week long run with Phish starting at Fenway began to grapple the brain) I was almost certain, as set two started they were re-beginning First Tube?? But in a slowed base heavy intro, it appeared as if the boys up on stage had felt the Liquid clenching to a more stable form, and were determined to burst through this quickening mix and not let us succumb to it's hardening. Sand! Through the opening section of the song, my mind was drawn to the words and underlying meaning. (What was I trying to patch up but never cure? Was my love of this self-destructing pattern of tour-bursts but a pacification of hankering that grew over time, and when would I be completed with and by this?) But I wasn't hear to effect the cause today, and in some ways knew I would take in the anecdote (jk), pulsing through the speakers and let the groove ease me into a hazy laze of a false sense of wholeness, until the next segment of innoculations.
In that initial 4 minute span my mind warped, the crowd blurred and that canal I sank and swam in, cutting cleanly between lawn and reserved seating sucked me in and swirled me 'round until that echoed guitar lead shuttered and filled the void the music momentarily held. At this point Sand-proper ended, and what can only be described as madness ensued. I use this word in a derision best explained by the process that led to the finality of this epic version. Sand would never again be seen as that fateful friend, certainly tattered at the pant cuffs, and hinting to the mischievous acts that could ensue in his company, but always with good intentions. Now, when those opening notes, driving bass and progressive guitar licks, ensue I am "shook" to shutter and turn my head hastily as if having been struck by an unknown assailant, ala Hartford 2010 night one. All at once surrounding me are clouds circling in and I am caught in the monsoon.
The boys are clever in their wielding through this massive onslaught, and the battle ensuing early on is being fought and won by the Spirit riders, who reign supreme, pulling out of the plasma and creating a jam that can only be described as primordial. From the 4 minute mark until 8 minutes, the jam is led by seering guitar, and the fluid connection between the fab four is present in every turn of the jam; and at eight minutes the primordial goo that has been bubbling up boils the pot over in the deep progress of notes building up to what is seeming the first bits of cognitive being. (I kid you not, this jam, firing out of the intitial four minutes, seems to tell the tale of the birth of man straight through to the invasion of aliens, and the final glory of having experienced it all, and lived to tell the tale) Segue to minute nine in the first peak of this epic piece, and the path the four followed through to about 13 and a 1/2 held tight to the initial undertaking of SAND, when all at once their seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel! But no, less a light, more so entering into the oasis of the eye of the storm, the jam turned light and airy, and maintained it's course careening around this theme. One thing became apparent, the plasma-sphere had been restored, and the gelatinous marvel the band sustained found a symphonic groove that saw the lead switching between Trey and Paige. Paige seemed to mimic Trey's licks until all at once the notes played resembled Trey's staccato rhythm. At around sixteen minutes the lunar module (the band collective) left the atmosphere heading towards space. Beginning with Paige's effects on key's, electronica was in full effect with Trey wailing, then trilling; with Mike's Power thruster bass rhythm and Fish's beat, there were a few molten seconds where I thought for sure we were in for a 2001 Dance party, and as the Ship rose, each member of the band possesed the power of an effect of that virtual starship cruiser, and the lift off segued into the latter part of the 18th minute when at full tilt the band launched into hyperspace with a solid full member groove always returning back to a five to seven note refrain Trey had picked up on and revisited over and over and over.
As the Spaceship came to a halt, the seething tunnel of a bunker that separated the Lawns from reserved seating was alive and toasty, but unsure of their final resting place that the music had launched and heaved them to. Yet, instinctively, feeding off the plasmic layer waving through Camden, in it's jelly-like state, it wasn't long before they dove into another high paced piece of frenetic energy in Suzy Greenberg, and the crowd went nuts. As all things must end, so it is in the first solo of that song, where this piece of sonic history ends; and as my semi-colon suggest, in anecdotal fashion, I allude to the small spec of recognition and wit that Trey inspires, and alerts the crowd, as a nod, to their musical appreciation, that he revisited once more, that refrain that had completed the latter part of what was left of Sand: Emerging lifeless, grown, blown apart, and scattered for all to share across the universe!