Some people spend their vacation lounging by the pool with a good book. Others take the kids to Disney World. We prefer to spend ours following four goofy middle-aged dads around the country. Anyone who says Disney is the happiest place on Earth clearly hasn’t been on Phish tour. We just got back from hitting 12 out of the 13 shows and present to you our Phish fall tour 2021 recap.
Finally Going on Tour
We’ve seen Phish a lot. People often comment that I’ve seen more Phish shows than they’ve seen concerts in general, and that’s probably true of most. I crossed the 100-show threshold back in 2019 after seeing my first show in 2003. Rachel started in 2009 and turned 100 on this tour, but more on that later.
That being said, most of our Phish shows have come with multi-night runs here and there. Four nights in Miami for New Year’s Eve, three nights at the Gorge, a 5-night run in the southeast, and so on. We never actually went on tour for a variety of reasons.
First of all, we lived in Asia for six years. It’s kind of hard to follow a jamband around the country when your home base is in Beijing or Bali. We only caught a few shows a year while we lived on the other side of the world.
Secondly, Phish routes their tours in such a way these days that it’s difficult to hit all the shows. Either you have to fly or you have to drive thousands of miles. Plane tickets are expensive and we don’t have our own vehicle, so that has always counted us out.
The stars finally aligned for us this year to pull it off. This is primarily due to our success at travel hacking. I earned 150,000 Southwest points and their companion pass for the entire year. We took seven flights to get us around on fall tour and spent a grand total of $78. I kid you not.
We also use the Chase Sapphire card as our day-to-day credit card and had amassed about 30,000 points with that in the past year. While we prefer to use Airbnb or stay with friends, that’s not always possible. We used a good chunk of those points to book two nights in a hotel in San Francisco and another in LA.
Last but not least, our jobs teaching English online came to a bittersweet yet serendipitous end the day we left for tour. We didn’t have to worry about scheduling any classes on the trip in the middle of the night out on the west coast. All signs pointed towards going on tour, and that’s precisely what we did!
Rachel still had to teach her Business English class for an hour a day during the week and take a few calls with her coaching clients. Somehow we made it all work and she only had to take two days off for travel.
Skipping the Opener
Phish kicked off their fall tour in Sacramento on a Friday night, and we weren’t in attendance. In hindsight, I wish we had just gone for it, but there are a few reasons we didn’t.
We were originally supposed to fly out of Detroit to go on tour, and another band we like called Jungle was playing there the same night as the Sacramento show. We’ve never seen them and figured we’d finally catch them instead of adding yet another Phish show to the list.
Well, plans and flights changed and we ended up going out of Charlotte. In order to hit the Sacramento show, we would have had to fly out a night early and cover two nights of accommodation there for just one more show.
As such, we decided to sit the opener out. Friends who went said it was a blast, which isn’t always the case with tour openers. The band has been on fire this year, though, so that’s no surprise.
Our trip was not short, as we had a 2.5-hour drive to Charlotte, a night at her uncle’s, a 40-minute ride to the airport, a 2-hour flight to Chicago, and then a 4-hour flight out to San Francisco. That’s where our fall tour journey began.
If You’re Going to San Francisco
Be sure to avoid the crazy methheads screaming at the air. Seriously, they are everywhere. The City by the Bay has definitely changed quite a bit since we were last there in 2013, and not necessarily for the better. Either way, we were happy to be back and finally on fall tour.
We got in the night before around midnight and caught the BART downtown to our hotel. Of course, we met a fellow phan on the train and all nerded out about the Sacramento setlist.
After checking in, we took a walk to grab a few beers and slices of pizza. On the walk home, people were freebasing at the bus stop in front of our hotel.
Welcome to San Francisco!
There was also a haunted house run by a famous drag queen across the street with a vampire bar that looked rad, but we had other plans for our weekend.
We intended to move to a friend’s place on Saturday, but he was still on his way back from a long road trip. Thankfully we have lots of great friends on tour. Our buddy was at the Hilton nearby and had space in his room, so we decided to just crash there for the weekend. That’s right – Phish fans can be fancy too!
After checking in, we had a feast of Indian food and then hit the dispensary and liquor store in preparation for the festivities. We raged the room for a bit and enjoyed the view of the bay, then went up to the rooftop bar for an even better one.
We didn’t have tickets for SF and just showed up. Phish shows on the west coast are usually undersold, which is a nice contrast to the east coast shows that are always packed. In the end, we both got in for $20 each.
Our seats were behind the stage, but the sound was great and it was fun watching Kuroda work his magic with the moving lights. Highlights included the first set “Slave to the Traffic Light,” a huge bust out of “Frankie Says,” and a massive “Carini” for the encore.
After a bit of #wookshit outside, we caught the train in hopes it would get us back to the hotel. We ended up having to walk a solid 20 minutes to get back, but it wasn’t so bad. Naturally, we raged the hotie for a while and stayed up super late.
Despite being a tad bit hungover, we managed to get out and do a bit of touristy stuff on Sunday. Of course, we went straight to Chinatown to find some dim sum and it did not disappoint. It felt like stepping right back into our Beijing days and gave us a nice dose of nostalgia.
While pre-gaming at the hotel, I got a notification from Cash or Trade. Someone was giving away a miracle ticket for the night in an awesome seat. I managed to snag it for Rachel and kept looking for myself.
I’m not the kind of person to show up to a concert with a finger in the air, as it makes me super anxious. It was also a chilly, rainy night in SF and I didn’t even have a jacket.
I ended up getting a miracle in the uppers as soon as I stepped out of the Uber. A few minutes later, I finally got a response on C or T about a lower-level ticket one section over for just $20. I re-miracle’d the one ticket to another wook and we headed into the show.
These were some of the best seats we had all tour, as we were basically right in the middle straight back from the stage. It was amazing watching the light show, especially during one of my all-time favorite songs – “Maze.”
Unfortunately, tragedy struck during this set. It appeared as if someone fell from the upper level down to the lower level, causing them to clear out a few rows and cover them with a tarp.
We didn’t even notice until we saw a friend’s text at setbreak telling us someone had died at the show. We couldn’t believe it and sat there in shock for a few minutes.
While the Chase Center is an amazing, state-of-the-art arena, it’s meant for basketball games and not necessarily for concerts. The barrier in the upper level is short and it’s very steep, so it’s definitely hazardous.
That being said, there are two separate boxes between the upper and lower levels. If you fell from the upper level, you would land in the box below. That would definitely hurt, but it wouldn’t be fatal.
It appears as if the guy ran and jumped. I won’t comment on it any further as I still don’t know the exact details. Either way, it was traumatic and many people left the show as a result.
What I will say is that a few other people most definitely fell and sustained injuries. One guy had to stay in SF an extra week to receive treatment.
Be careful out there, folks.
Whether the band knew or not, they returned for a second set. It was a good but weird one considering the circumstances, especially since they played “Wingsuit” and “Set Your Soul Free.” The band would address it at the next show in Eugene, but more on that in a bit.
The show ended with an encore of “Lawn Boy” and “Wolfman’s Brother,” the latter of which was nice and funky. While it was still a solid show, we were ready to get out of there considering the events that had unfolded.
We bailed as soon as they hit the last note of Wolfman’s and went outside to catch the bus. They were excited to herd hippies out of there and weren’t even asking people to show or buy tickets.
Back at the hotel, I was happy that we had some beers left in the fridge and some snacks from Chinatown. I still took a walk with friends when they wanted to grab some drinks of their own.
Just a block away from the hotel, a nice gentleman and his lady friend sold my buddies a 12-pack as well as some ice cold fatties, which we naturally brought all the way back up to the hotel room. Gotta love Phish tour!
There was no show on Monday, but it wasn’t a day off. Rachel had to teach her class from 11:30-12:30. Our buddy somehow slept right through it, but I went out for a walk to grab some breakfast and coffee. Even at noon on a Monday, the crazy brigade is out in full force on the streets of San Francisco…
We ended up using more points to move to yet another hotel that night – the third in four nights. It was right around the corner, so at least it was an easy move. We grabbed Rachel a quick snack and then she had to head back to the room to take a call.
I just walked around downtown killing time and found a nice sunny place to hang out in the Yerba Buena Gardens. When Rachel finished up, we headed to Alamo Square Park to take in the views of the Painted Ladies and sunset. It sure is a beautiful city.
We always jump at the chance to eat real Chinese food, so when we found a place called YH Beijing you know we had to hit it up. Our buddy joined us and we enjoyed a feast of dumplings and noodles.
From there we walked up Haight Street for a nightcap at Magnolia Brewing. It was a nice walk and the beers were delicious, but the experience was hampered a bit by the nutcases shouting on the corner. I feel bad for the people who pay $3k in rent to have that go on under their apartment day in and day out…
And so that’s how our time in San Francisco wound down. We managed to get a decent night’s sleep and then catch the train over to Oakland in the morning to catch our flight to Eugene.
A Phamily Reunion
We bought the tickets for Eugene way back in the BC (before COVID) times. The shows ended up getting rescheduled to fall ’21, meaning we held onto the tickets for almost two years. And then there ended up being freebies left and right.
Anyways, we were excited to make our first-ever trip to Eugene. We have lots of friends in Portland and Bend who we rarely see and almost all of them were at these shows. It had been almost 5 years since we had seen one of our good friends, and his brother joined us at our Airbnb for a bit of a phamily reunion.
Speaking of our Airbnb, it was a cool tiny house in someone’s backyard. There’s a loft with a queen bed up top and a futon in the living room area. It also has a full bath, a little kitchenette, and a front porch. Click here to check it out if you’re ever planning a trip to Eugene.
We flew up there from Oakland using our Southwest points and waited on our friend to pick us up. The three of us hit Cheeba Hut for lunch then the liquor store, picking up some heady Oregon beers.
Oh yeah, speaking of heady local beers, we went to a place called the Beer Stein before the show. It was a Phish pre-party with the release of a brew called You’ll Never Get Out of this Haze. As a huge fan of the song “Maze” and Hazy IPAs, we had to check it out.
There were tons of phans hanging out at this cool spot. It presented the perfect opportunity for me to pass out some issues of Surrender to the Flow. If you’re not familiar, this is the unofficial Phish tour newspaper. It’s been around since the 90s and is a staple of Phish tours.
I had always meant to send an article to them but never got around to it until this tour. Thankfully, Christy was super nice and let me sneak in. It was a lot of fun writing for STTF and helping to pass the issues out and I look forward to doing it again soon.
By the time we were all ready to go, we had to just find a parking spot and head into the show. The line was a bit of a cluster getting in, but we made it to our seats with time to spare.
The band came out swinging with a 20+-minute “Down With Disease” that really set the tone for the evening. We were Page side (rage side!) in the upper level and had plenty of room to boogie. Not the best seats in the house, but we were fine with it.
Towards the end of the set, Trey addressed the crowd to talk about the tragic events of Sunday in SF. He stressed how tight-knit the Phish community is, as one of the guys who was injured turned out to be married to the event manager for their Sacramento show. You can see for yourself in this clip from the show:
We weren’t sure if the band was going to address the situation publicly and we’re glad they did. If you were affected by the tragedy in San Francisco, our hearts go out to you and we’re here to talk if you need someone. We’re all in this together!
The second set opened up with a fun pairing of “Twist” and “Blaze On.” Fall was definitely in the air as we got a nice “Leaves” as well. Rachel always loves when they play “2001” and was getting down to this one as per usual.
There were plenty of after parties going on, but none of us wanted to pay a cover and stand. Instead, we hit up a local dive bar called the Horsehead. We all basked in the afterglow of a Phish show while enjoying some cold brews and a heaping plate of tater tots.
As we tend to do, we stayed up super late at the Airbnb listening to music and catching up. That was honestly half the fun of Phish fall tour – just hanging out with old friends who we rarely get to see.
We all did our own thing on Wednesday afternoon. My buddies went to meet a friend for lunch, as did Rachel. I decided to take advantage of having access to a car and drove to a local park to fly my drone. The fall colors in Eugene were amazing so I’m glad I did that.
On the way back to town, I hit up the dispensary and then found a food truck selling pupusas. Score! I grabbed a couple of pupusas as well as a giant burrito, figuring I’d need a midnight snack after the show.
This time we actually made it to campus early enough to get decent parking and hit the small Shakedown. We passed out some copies of STTF and enjoyed a few beers as we watched the circus come to town yet again.
We made it into the show and settled into our cozy little corner in the upper level again. The show kicked off with a ripping “Mr. Completely” and several other tour debuts. The set-ending “Split Open & Melt” > “End of Session” > “SOAM” was a wild ride.
Setbreak in Eugene was a lot of fun, as we got to visit with friends and catch up a bit. Lots of them have had huge life changes (marriage, homeownership, parenthood) since we last hung out. It’s crazy how time flies…
The band returned with an “AC/DC Bag” – always welcome as a set opener. The highlight of the set was definitely the “Ruby Waves,” which even made the Phish YouTube channel.
The encore of “Wilson” and “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.OS.” was a fun way to end the run and send us all out into the cool Oregon night. Our group was all pretty cashed out, so we just headed back to the Airbnb to hang out. Just like that, another 2-night run was in the books.
There’s no rest for the weary on Phish tour, though. We had to get up on Thursday and pack up again. Rachel also had to teach her Business English class for an hour.
I spent that time packing and yet somehow left my entire toiletries bag in the bathroom there. Oh yeah, and I left my wedding ring on the bedside table as well.
Thankfully our host was nice enough to mail it all back to Johnson City, but I would end the tour with a very scraggly beard as a result.
Our Lyft driver on the way out to the Eugene airport was very interested to hear about our experience living abroad. It’s nice when you get to have these kinds of conversations with strangers about distant lands like China and Indonesia.
You can check out some highlights from the shows in San Francisco and Eugene in Part One of our Phish fall tour 2021 travel vlog:
Phishing in the Desert
Not surprisingly, both flights to Phoenix were full of Phish fans. Buying overpriced beers at an airport bar is a lot more fun when you can nerd out about the setlist and share stories with other fans.
It was a long travel day from Eugene to Oakland to Phoenix. As luck would have it, our friend’s brother who stayed with us in Eugene was also coming down to Phoenix. Their dad lives in Scottsdale now and their sister and her boyfriend came out for this show as well. The phamily reunion continued in the desert!
We caught the free shuttle out of the airport, begged the woman working at a closed Circle K for change for a $20 bill, and managed to catch the local bus for $4 total all the way to Scottsdale. Our friend’s sister picked us up and took us to the house, where they had IPAs and sushi waiting for us.
We really have the best friends in the world!
Even better, we got to soak in the hot tub to relax after a long day of travel. We were all pretty tired, so we called it a night and got ready for another show day.
On Friday, I headed to the grocery store with some of the crew to stock up. The afternoon was spent sitting by the pool grilling up a feast of bacon-wrapped shrimp and some damn good grilled chicken sandwiches. You have to get a good meal in before a show!
We definitely got spoiled throughout the tour, and that continued in Phoenix. Our friend’s dad arranged for a Sprinter van to take the five of us all the way to the venue, which was a solid 50-minute drive. This meant none of us had to DD, so we went ahead and had ourselves a good ole time!
By the time we got to the lot, we had time to chill for a little while. Rachel got a miracle when our friend’s buddy had to bail, and I ended up getting a PTBM lawn seat for just $20. West coast Phish really is the best.
The Ak-Chin Pavilion isn’t that big, so there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. We settled in at the top of the lawn and met up with a friend we met living down in Puerto Vallarta. There were friends at every single stop on the tour, which made it all the more special.
This show got off to a smoking start with a “Julius” > “Martian Monster” sequence. Our trip was not short, but our spaceship was definitely about to blast off. And so it did, all the way to the “Soul Planet.”
With Halloween right around the corner, we all loved a spooky “Ghost” to close the set. I did a bit of wandering at setbreak and was perturbed to find a whole section in the middle of the lawn closed off for some “VIP lawn seats.”
Zero Phish fans bought into this crap and yet they still kept this prime real estate in a show blocked off. Thankfully for the venue, Phish fans are pretty peaceful people.
That wasn’t the case a few weeks later when fans of the band Slipknot literally started a bonfire with them. Hopefully, they put those stupid things away next season, or at least save them for the Boomer shows.
Back to the music, the second set opened with “Loving Cup” – a song that usually closes the show. Throughout the first few shows, many fans were saying it seemed like the band was playing sets backward. Was this a clue for Halloween?
We got a nice “Mike’s Groove” in the set, some dad rock, a Talking Heads cover (“Cities”) and then we all felt good about Hood with the closer. This was my kinda encore with a “Suzy Greenberg” > “Cavern” to close it out.
We made sure to take care of our shoes and made our way back to the party bus. Back at the house, we made a beeline for the hot tub and had a nice little after-party of our own. Naturally, we stayed up way too late and had to rush to get ready to leave.
This was definitely the most tiring stretch of the tour, as it went Phoenix > Chula Vista > LA with no days off in between. At least we had another quick, direct flight with Southwest that was full of fans to make the travel day a bit more tolerable.
At this point in the tour, we started recognizing people at the airport from the previous flights. There were poster tubes and donut symbols all around us at every airport on tour. It’s going to be weird flying with a bunch of normies again next time we travel.
Arriving in San Diego, we went to pick up our rental car. It was smooth sailing until we ended up waiting over an hour in the garage for our car to show up. It sucked, but at least we didn’t have any serious flight delays on the trip or miss any music.
We actually booked a “mystery car” from Avis to save some money, and ended up getting a nice mid-range SUV. Once we finally got the car, we drove to Chula Vista to check into our Airbnb.
This was another tiny house in someone’s backyard and it was super cute. We had a nice chat with the host while we fixed a pot of coffee and got ready for the show.
Chula Vista is really, really close to the Mexican border, and we definitely got the vibe of a Mexican town. Of course, we went out in search of some legit Mexican food for a pre-show meal. I smashed a California burrito while Rachel got some taquitos.
We picked up some Stone IPAs, as one does in SoCal, and headed to the lot. This was the first real lot scene of the tour that we experienced. It was popping off on Shakedown here, with tons of vendors and even a few bands playing.
One of my brothers and his wife were traveling in the area at the same time. He took her to see Phish for the first time along with a party bus of other friends and we met them on lot to share some beers and head into the show together.
This was another super easy ticket and we figured it would be. The plan was to show up with a finger in the air as we did in SF and Phoenix, but I ended up buying a guy’s extras in advance.
He had pit tickets for Santa Barbara (hardest ticket of tour) and just wanted to sell his Chula and LA tickets in a bundle. We went for it to secure our spot for Rachel’s 100th and not have to worry about finding tickets. Sometimes a little peace of mind is worth a few extra bucks.
Many fans were talking before the show about the venue being called North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre, or NICU. That’s the name of a Phish song, so we all wondered if they would play it or not.
After blowing our minds with a show-opening “Fluffhead,” they did just that. And what an “NICU” it was! This one went deep into Type II territory and showed the band meant business on this Saturday night. Click here to check it out.
The hits kept on coming with a bust out of “Bye Bye Foot,” a jammed out “Tube,” and even a slow “Llama.” Even at setbreak, we were already giving this one “show of the tour” consideration.
I have to mention that this was also easily one of our favorite venues. We actually had seats in the pavilion but the lawn was so nice we just stayed there with friends. I also appreciate all the bathrooms at the top of the hill so you don’t have to miss a note, even when you take a pee break during “Joy.”
As far as the second set goes, the “Piper” is definitely worth several listens. I love the song “Scents & Subtle Sounds” and was thrilled to have it serve as the second set closer. There aren’t many songs better than “First Tube” to end a weekend show, and the energy level was through the roof as we headed back to Shakedown.
At this point in the tour, we were happy to go back to our Airbnb and get some rest before driving up to LA. Our friends, however, had different plans for us…
We headed to their hotel and found out they actually had a party bus booked from midnight to 4 am. They wanted to celebrate a friend’s 100th show in style and not get kicked out of a hotel room doing so. We proceeded to rage all night while driving in circles around San Diego and went to bed at 7 am.
Mr. Mojo Rising
While we would have preferred to lounge on the beach with fish tacos and margaritas, the traveling circus had to keep moving. We made a pot of coffee and ate the granola bars we had been saving, packed up the car, and hit the road.
Along the way, we picked up my brother and his wife in San Diego. The four of us made the obligatory In-N-Out stop for a much-needed greasy hangover cure.
Not surprisingly, the 2-hour drive to LA ended up taking closer to four. As a result, we had to coordinate a drop-off on the way to link up my sister-in-law with her friend. One Phish show was enough for her, as it turns out. Different strokes.
We powered on and checked into our room at the luxurious Holiday Inn Express LAX. At least it was pretty close to the show and I only used credit card points to cover the night.
There was very little time to relax and pre-game. Rachel sat down to plan her lessons for the week while my brother and I worked on slamming beers. Once we were all ready, we grabbed some drinks and snacks from 7-11 and ordered an Uber.
With no supplies for the evening, our nice driver recommended a dispensary and drove us there first. Now that’s some California love right there! Rachel grabbed a pack of pre-rolls and we hit the lot at the Forum.
This was our first time seeing Phish at the storied venue that was home to Magic & Kareem for many years. They may have to hang a banner for the boys from Vermont after this one because they definitely delivered a championship performance.
Anyways, let’s get back to the lot scene. It was definitely popping off, which was kind of surprising considering there had been an NFL game just a few hours prior. My lowly Lions got trounced by the Rams and I didn’t watch a second of it. Ain’t nobody got time for that…
We met up with some friends, including one we hadn’t seen in well over a year. The reunions just kept on coming! With no time for a proper dinner, we were thankful for the guy selling vegan tacos at the lot classic price of 2 for $5.
Rachel secured a miracle ticket for my brother and we all headed into the venue. You know what they say about Sunday shows, kids!
Our tickets were in the lower level behind the stage with a clear view of the band. While we would have been fine to watch from there, our buddy secured an awesome spot on the other side of the venue with a much better view of the light show.
We made the move during the set-opening “Wave of Hope” and settled in just as the band ripped into their perennial classic of “You Enjoy Myself.” This is the song that got me hooked on Phish and I’m always so happy to see it live.
When “YEM” is the second song, you know you’re in for a good night. The heat kept coming in the first set with a funky “Moma Dance” and a “Simple” that went to outer space and back. Add a ripping “Maze,” a rare “Fee,” and a high-octane “Run Like An Antelope,” and you’ve got one of the best sets from the tour.
At one point in the set, I made a beeline for the bathroom and to get some water. While running back, my beloved Rage Crab hat fell off my head. Ok, it was actually on top of my other hat…
Why was I wearing two hats? That doesn’t matter. What matters is that I lost Rage Crab.
I went to the guest services and asked them about a lost and found. The nice ladies working asked what I was looking for, and when I mentioned it was a hat they replied “A silly fuzzy one?” They knew exactly where it was!
Some nice passerby had seen my Rage Crab passed out on the floor and kindly set him up by the merch booth. He returned to the show and proceeded to rage face.
The second set opened with a fitting “Cars Trucks Buses” as many of us took multiple forms of transportation to make it to the show. Next up, they finally played “Tweezer” – a song that usually pops up every few shows. The crowd went wild as we all stepped into the freezer.
Phish doesn’t always do the obvious cover songs, but they did on this particular night. They took that “Tweezer” and melted into “LA Woman” by the Doors. The crowd ate it up and Trey was having a blast on stage.
The rest of the set would be another Tweezerfest as the band slipped in and out of the classic jam vehicle. We both loved the “What’s the Use?” in this set that had an entire arena silent for a brief moment before Uncle Ebeneezer returned.
They ended the set with “Tweeprise” instead of saving it for the encore, which was instead a pairing of the acapella “Grind” with “Bahtub Gin.” What a night! The one-two punch of Chula Vista and LA was definitely a highlight of the entire fall tour.
After lingering on lot for a bit, we caught a ride back to the hotel with our friend’s cousin who lives in LA. We did not specify which airport Holiday Inn we were at and had to turn around after going to the wrong one.
Next thing you know, his car started making some horrific-sounding noises. We pulled over to check it out and tried again, only for the same thing to happen. He called AAA and asked for a tow and we just sat there outside LAX waiting.
Eventually, the three of us gave up and walked the mile or so back to the hotel. Rachel had to work the next morning and we had to drive up the coast. A tow finally came to help those guys but it took a few hours and they didn’t get home until after 5 am.
Back at the room, I was still wide awake and feeling groovy, if you know what I mean. Rachel and my brother both hit the bed and passed out, so it was just me and my thoughts in a dark hotel room. Just a regular old Sunday night on Phish tour!
I had a Modelo and finally wound down enough to get some sleep. The alarm came way too early as Rachel needed us out of the room so she could teach her class.
Our crappy luck continued from the night before as it was pouring rain. It only rains ten or so days a year in LA. Of course, we were there for one.
With limited options and time, my brother and I dragged our sorry asses over to McDonald’s and got some food to-go, which we smashed in the lobby of the hotel as dine-in wasn’t allowed.
When Rachel finished her class, we packed up the car in the pouring rain and took my brother to a train station. Our plan had been to enjoy a scenic drive up the coast with a few stops, but Mother Nature had other ideas.
A Random Night in a Random Town
With a day between the Forum and Santa Barbara, we weren’t sure what to do. Since Rachel still had to take calls and have class, we decided to just look for an Airbnb in between the two with a workspace. I found a room for $70 in a town called Port Hueneme and went for it.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time or good enough weather to make any fun stops. Tour isn’t a vacation, after all. It feels like work most of the time!
At least the clouds parted and the rain stopped somewhere around Malibu. We saw a place to pull over with a scenic view, so we made a quick stop to burn one and fly the drone.
Once we got to the Airbnb, Rachel had to jump right on her call. I meanwhile got settled into the room and continued to pick up the pieces of my melted brain from the weekend that was.
After her call, we drove the few minutes down to the beach to check it out and get some dinner. It was incredibly windy and chilly out and just generally not very pleasant. Guess we’ll have to come back to SoCal for a beach vacation another day.
Instead of eating at the expensive place on the beach, we found a local Mexican joint with fish tacos and ceviche. It was half the price of the other place and was damn good so I’d say we made a good call.
When we left the Airbnb, there were no other guests in the other two rooms. By the time we got back, it was a full house. We made some small talk with the other guests and just hung out in the living room.
We’ve used Airbnb more times than we can count, but this was the first time we shared a place with other random guests who didn’t live there. It was fine, except we’re pretty sure one dude offered us meth and he then proceeded to snore louder than anyone we’ve ever heard. Thank god for good earplugs…
Our host was nice enough to give us a late check-out the next day so Rachel could teach her class. I fixed us some coffees and zapped our leftovers before loading up the car yet again.
It was finally a beautiful, sunny day. You know, like the kind you expect to get in Southern California. We went back to the beach and walked along the boardwalk to feel the cool ocean breeze and get some sun.
The clock was ticking, though, and we had Rachel’s 100th Phish show to get to!
We Hope You Have a Good Time!
It was a very scenic hour or so drive up the coast to Santa Barbara. With little time to spare before the show, we hit a grocery store to grab a quick lunch and some beers to bring to the Airbnb.
For our one night there, I found this awesome little studio in front of a home way up in the hills. It was the perfect spot for us to stay to celebrate Rachel’s milestone show and it was under $100, which is hard to find in this town. Click here to check it out.
We both got ready to go and jumped back in the car to make the drive to the Santa Barbara Bowl. This was the toughest ticket of the tour, as the place only holds 4,500.
Phish fans gonna Phish fan, though, so a bunch of people showed up without tickets. The town didn’t seem to be too thrilled by our presence, and the fun police were out in full force.
There were signs reading “No vending. No tailgating. No camping.” Cops were milling about in front of the venue telling people not to drink any booze. I even saw them bust the balloon guy for the first time on tour.
As I mentioned earlier, we scored pit tickets for this by grabbing a guy’s Chula and LA tickets in a package deal. I was happy we did once I saw all the fingers in the air out here. Some clever wooks managed to sneak in, but a bunch of folks were left on the outside looking in.
We still had several friends at this show, and we all played whack-a-mole in the lot dodging the cops so we could slam our beers. Since it was Rachel’s first time in the pit, we headed in a little early to secure some space.
Isn’t it wild that her 100th show ended up being at the smallest venue we’ve ever seen them, and also her first time in the pit? And this is a small, relatively chill pit for a Phish show. We secured a good spot on Mike’s side and settled in for show #100.
The band hit the stage and opened things up with “Pebbles & Marbles” – a bustout on the tour and a song we always love hearing. Perhaps in a nod to all the fun police out front, they then went into “Makisupa Policeman.”
At some point in the song, Trey and Mike started going a back and forth dialogue that went something like:
How are you?
We hope you have a good time.
It was quintessential silly Phish. Little did we know the joke would continue up through the end of the tour.
The first set also saw the debut of one of Trey’s pandemic songs called “The Silver Light.” It’s amazing how this dude just churns out music, even when he’s quarantined at home banging on kitchen utensils.
A lovely “Mountains in the Mist” also made an appearance in this set, during which a nice guy handed off his 100th show pin to Rachel when he found out it was hers. She then proceeded to drop it and lose it in the crowd.
The set wound down with a huge “Set Your Soul Free,” at which point Rachel began her quest for the pin. As luck would have it, a barefoot wook had stepped on it and picked it up to return it to her. She plans to pay it forward and hand it off to someone else at their 100th show next summer.
One thing I loved about this venue is that they actually sold cups that you could refill for beers. I spent the $10 on one to get another souvenir for Rachel in addition to the badass tank top she bought.
Oh, and these were the cheapest beers of the tour, at just $8 a refill with my cup for some tasty California IPAs. That combined with the epic views and chill crowd made this venue well worth all the hassle to get to.
As far as the second set goes, it was all over the place. It started out with some dad rock via “Blaze On,” took a very quiet and subdued turn with “Beneath a Sea of Stars Part One,” and then turned into a full-on rock show with “46 Days.”
I always love a “Sneakin’ Sally” and this one did not disappoint. The dirty funk continued into “Weekapaug Groove” with more of the “Hello! How are you? We hope you have a good time!” banter. These guys are so damn silly.
“If I Could” is very rarely played these days and was a beautiful addition to the second set, which closed out with a “Sigma Oasis.”
We were then treated to a massive 4-song encore of “F*ck Your Face,” “Meatstick,” “Lizards,” and “A Life Beyond a Dream.” What a fantastic exclamation point on a 100th show!
Most people go their whole lives without even seeing 100 concerts, let alone the same band. Rachel saw her first show just down the road from her hometown in Knoxville in 2009 and turned 100 at the Santa Barbara Bowl in 2021.
Let’s all give her a round of applause!
I almost forgot to mention the poster! Getting a poster for a Phish show is hard work. You have to get to the venue super early to line up and wait, then get in and wait in the poster line, then sit around and wait for the show to start. We’re usually the ones slamming beers in the lot a few minutes before showtime, so we had never gotten one before.
We were talking to some guys after the show and mentioned how we wished we could have gotten a poster. Well, it turns out he grabbed two of them and was willing to sell us the extra for face value.
After the show, a friend gave us two free tickets to a Dead cover band after party. We drove downtown and headed up to the venue, only for them to tell us the tickets had been scanned already. We’re still not sure how that happened, but oh well…
We mingled about outside the venue for a bit, chatting with other fans and listening to the GD tunes from inside. Both exhausted from a long tour, we drove back up to the Airbnb to catch some z’s before another travel day.
Once again, Rachel had to teach her Business English class and we had to get a late checkout. We’re very grateful for all the kind hosts on this trip who helped us out!
With a little time to kill, we actually got to see some of Santa Barbara. We grabbed coffees and bagels, then walked around the historic Mission and the rose garden. It sure is a beautiful town…
From there we drove down to the beach to do a J and enjoy some sun & sand. The last order of business was filling the rental car up (at $4.50 a gallon!) and grabbing some delicious fish tacos.
The Santa Barbara airport is pretty new and very tiny. It was no surprise that it was basically full of Phish fans the day after the show. Some were going home, but most of us were going on to Fabulous Las Vegas for the 4-night tour closer.
That’s precisely where we were headed, and it’s where we’ll pick up in the next post.
I did not intend to write a 7,000-word recap and not even get to Vegas, but that’s where we ended up! Plus, the Vegas run really is its own beast entirely and deserves its own post.
If you made it all the way to the end, thanks for reading. Even if you skipped around, we’re happy that you’re here! And if we bumped into you on tour, please drop us a line and say hi so we can link up again in the future.
Stay tuned for the Vegas recap and a how-to guide for doing Phish tour on a budget!