Salem Armory | Salem, OR | 05.22.02
Different fans, same show: two writers tell their tale of Trey's night in Oregon.
Night Speaks To A Woman
Noodle Rave Daddio
Money, Love & Change
At the Gazebo
The Way I Feel
At the Barbecue
Ray Dawn Balloon
E: Alive Again
Before describing the music, I really should set the scene for those of you who haven’t spent much time in Oregon. Salem is about 30 minutes south of Portland, or one hour north of Eugene via I-5. I mention it in context of these two cities, because although Salem is the state capitol of Oregon, it really doesn’t have the character or music scene of the latter two.
I arrived at the parking lot about an hour before the doors were to open. I was totally surprised that there were very few people in the lots. I don’t really enjoy a crazy "shakedown" lot, but when they opened the doors at 6:30, I estimate there were less than 50 cars parked outside, seriously. There was a very small line of about 60 people waiting to get in when John Langenstein (head of security for Phish) came out and opened the doors. A true professional: in order to take care of the people in the front of the line first, he politely asked everyone else to take a few steps back, which we all did, smiling. Security at the door was a couple of guys doing extremely light pat downs, and a quick squeeze of my backpack - that was it. That’s what it’s like out here; people generally are mellow and behave themselves, so we don’t get hassled much.
The Salem Armory is a pretty small venue; I think it holds about 3,000. This is where I saw my first Phish show in 1994. Widespread Panic and Oysterhead have also played this venue recently. It has a gym-style floor with rows of seats in the back. The rail that separates the crowd from the front of the stage was unusually far back from the stage, providing a barrier of about 10 feet.
When the show started (about 7:40) it seemed strange to me that the venue wasn’t very full. I guess I just don’t get it how Phish can sell out 30,000 tickets, but most of these people won’t come see a spin-off like Trey’s band. I was up front for the entire show. It was never crowded, there was always tons of room to boogie, and boogie we did!
Trey was smiling a lot through out the first set, and dancing quite a bit as well. This is good, because when Trey’s happy, I’m happy. During a quiet moment, I yelled: "Thanks for coming to Oregon," which made him chuckle a bit to the delight of the front few rows. Trey’s band is definitely under his direction. They all constantly watch him for cues; sometimes it even felt like they were waiting for a time when they could play something as well. Overall, I thought Trey did a good job of "conducting" (at one point in the second set, Trey even used a conductor’s baton to lead the band through a little jam). At the same time, I felt like I wanted to hear more from the band. The horns section is a solid presence throughout, but I don’t remember hearing much - solo or otherwise - from Ray Paczkowski (keyboards). Tony Markelis’ (bass) role seems to be pretty well defined. He was positioned behind the horn players, and pretty much just kept the groove going. At least on this night, he wasn’t slappin’ ‘em down or getting ultra funky with his base lines. I hope as the tour progresses that the other band members get a little more confident in taking the lead sometimes, and that Trey is comfortable with this as well.
The second set consisted of a lot of quiet and spacey jams. Like I said, Oregon is pretty laid back and mellow, and so was a lot of this set. Even during "Sand" and "Alive Again" (encore) I was wishing they would pick it up a little bit.
One person to keep your eyes on is percussionist Cyro Baptista. This guy is truly a freak-daddy. I saw him light a fire under Trey more than one time during the show.
I had a really good time at this show, I thought the music was great, even if really mellow and slightly repetitive at times. The last time I saw Trey was an Oysterhead show in Los Angeles. The show in Salem was truly more enjoyable because of the crowd, the vibe and the music.
JamBase | Oregon
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It quit raining...
We piled in the car with four beers and sunglasses. The sky was bright as we left Portland to roll to Salem for the Trey Anastasio show. 10 guys, a baseball team and a manager worth of musicians - it was chaos or conscription, we just didn't know which one. The sun was bright and the flowers were blooming and the car was humming road songs as we made our way South, wisping the work day away in spirals of tensions roiling up from the back wheels. It was Wednesday and spring and a rock n’ roll show was just the ticket.
The guy at the gas station gave us the same directions he had been giving all day: "Turn around and turn right ya can't miss it."
We got to the Salem Armory (ugly little shed) and the show was already on. No worries. We were fine, walked in on “Burlap Sack and Pumps” which was quite the funky tasty little number. We shed the shades and found some space and let this monster roll. “Ten musicians, or a full court basketball game,” I thought, standing at the free throw line and getting down almost immediately. No alcohol at the Armory, so we soared on the music, dark inside with the Kuroda lights and bright outside - it was a strange. A few moments before the egos shattered and we were off to the races.
The first set was like getting used to your childhood buddy after four years of college. The tunes were familiar but now there were 10 tellers. “Night Speaks to a Woman” and “Noodle Rave” and “Daddy O” kept it rolling and cooled it down into the “Money Love and Change.” Every time it got going, it got cool then it got going again. Somewhere in the whole thing there was a swing band, a drum circle, a sick Saturday night rhythm section with a Sunday morning choir background vocals. Somewhere Trey did a triangle solo, some nice acoustic picking, and everywhere there were smiles as “Last Tube” closed the first set. The engines were purring and Trey's ten-piece was hittin' on all eight cylinders.
Set break: lemon smoothies and friends.
Second set started with the rocker "Mister Completely," replete with the rockstar solos and burning lights, into the amazingly apropos “The Way I Feel.” Best song to dance/walk around a strange venue just to make sure you’re not smiling more than you should be. And who cares if you are, because that is what this band is all about. I did not identify with the way Trey described the new band as "love and swing, and being 23 in '53 and being in love." But then the platoon of the planet funkswing drifted into “Drifting” and it all became crystal. “Thunderhead” and “Ray Dawn Balloon” rolled past like a southern thunderclapper and the maelstrom spit us out on the beach with the funkiest tune in recent memory: “Sand.” The groove was intractable and incessant, and the ones not dancing were on crutches.
The "human wall paper,” the delay loops and the first set/second set form all were present. But this is an entirely different can of worms from the other band. At different points I would not have been surprised if a limbo stick came out or a conga line started whipping through the armory. The show was fantastic time and the musicians are top notch. Kudos and thanks to all ten.
The encore was the kicker as we all grooved and yelled "it’s good to be alive again!" and meant it because with the tunes played in Salem on Wednesday, it was true. Don't miss this.
JamBase | Oregon
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