I’m going to see Phish in Berkeley next weekend and am pretty excited. I was unable to score tickets for Saturday, and am unable to get the day off on Thursday, so I’m only catching the Friday night show. As of right now, I’m fine with only seeing one night of the run. Last year I was only able to make it up for one night of the Gorge run and that was fine with me. Of course, I saw the second of two shows at the Gorge and there was no option to see them again the next night like there will be in Berkeley. However, I bet Saturday will be an extremely tough ticket to come by. Even if I decide I want to go because Friday blew me away so much, it could be very difficult and/or expensive to find a ticket. Plus, I’d need one for my girlfriend, too.

While I do enjoy what I’ve heard so far from the first leg of the summer tour, it also has not been consistently mind-blowing. There are definitely highlights from each of the shows I’ve heard, and a few of them are pretty powerful from start to finish. And I realize that is also my opinion only from listening to a recording, which is a far cry from the live experience. One of the highlights of the Gorge show I saw last year was simply the fact it was evident that Trey had his shit together and the entire band was having a great time on stage, something that was definitely amiss in most of the early 2000s shows I saw. The energy and palpable joy felt beaming off the guys on stage made the show seem even better than it was. If the same happiness and vigor is felt in the much smaller Greek Theater, it might make me eat my words, throw my finger in the air, and start an all out hunt for a Saturday night ticket.

But this newest version of Phish is definitely a different scaly animal. While Trey is still the leader, his playing is different now. He plays with a more reserved, mature style and often times with the “whale call” tone. While I can appreciate this new style, in general it is not as energetic or as complex as the days of yore. That said, the other guys in the band have stepped up their skills considerably over the hiatus years. No longer is Mike in the background, he now has the ability to step to the front of the fray and lay down thick and impressive bass lines that lead the entire band. Page has also bumped his playing up a few noticeable notches with his ability to produce blistering solos and beautiful accents in unexpected places.

In a place with as much musical variety and just a heck of a lot of fun stuff to do as the Bay Area, I will probably find another avenue for musical fun on Saturday night. As of right now, the show over at the Great American Music Hall is looking mighty good. Last month I wrote about bigger shows vs. smaller shows, the merits of both, and how they both have their good points and bad points. Next weekend will be the perfect chance to do both! 7 Walkers with Billy Kreutzmann and Papa Mali at the Great American Music Hall seems like almost too good of a thing to miss (not to mention the tickets will be half the price of Phish). Considering the fact that George Porter Jr. and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux are the special guests on the bill makes me lean even more towards this show. Not to mention the intimate Great American Music Hall gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling every time I walk through the door. It’s a beautiful, intimate room dripping with history and is pretty much the antithesis to a bigger, more chaotic venue. Of course, the Greek Theater is a far cry from Shoreline Amphitheater.

I guess when it comes down to it; I will improvise, surrender to the flow, and let my muse guide me. Maybe I’ll score a pair of Saturday night tickets for Phish at the Greek. Or perhaps I will feel satiated after one night of Phish and hit up what promises to be an amazing 7 Walkers show at The Great American Music Hall. Maybe my buddy who lives in San Francisco that I’ll be staying with will suggest some other music I’ve never heard of for Saturday night. It’s even possible that we skip live music altogether Saturday night and do something fun I haven’t even thought of yet. In a city with so much to offer, it would be crazy to spend a full day with my finger in the air looking for a Phish ticket. Or would it? Time will tell. Either way, I couldn’t be more excited for a nice, long weekend involving Friday night Phish in the Bay next weekend. HARPUA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!