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To paraphrase the legendary philosopher Chico Esquela, “June 21st been berry, berry good to me.”

On the day of the Summer Solstice — the longest day of the year — the Yank’ums put on an impressive hitting display to pull off a most improbable comeback. After falling behind 7-1 early, later 10-2, and finally 11-7 with only six outs to go, the Yanks took extended batting practice and pounded 12 hits and scored 13 runs in the 8th inning to steal a game from the loss column.

But last night’s big win pales in comparison to June 21st, 2004. I’ve lived in Manhattan for almost four years and I’ve resided in New York for 22 of my 26 years on Earth…and the greatest thing I ever witnessed in this city happened here on that date. Following my attendance for two great shows in Coney Island’s Keyspan Park and another, somewhat overrated show in Saratoga Springs the next night, the popular rock band Phish announced they’d be playing an impromptu performance on the marquee of Broadway’s Ed Sullivan Theater for a Letterman taping.


The Boys had just called it quits forever less than a month earlier, and while there were still 10 shows on the docket and I’d get to see them three more times in August, this was their honest goodbye. Coventry would be the last show they played, but this will always be the lasting image I have of the band.

phish.jpe

Truthfully, I thought the band’s mass e-mail was a joke. So wait, let me get this straight: My favorite band, the guys I’ve spent thousands of dollars on to entertain me in more than a quarter of the states of this union and the District of Columbia, the guys who I’d probably follow to the ends of the Earth, the guys who just announced they’ll never play again after August, the Phish from Vermont is playing right down the street from the office immediately after work on the marquee of the Ed Sullivan? Seriously? Oh, okay, I guess I’ll go to that. I can’t think of anything better to do.

Many days after work I’ll come home and throw on a Phish disc or tape, listen to a few songs until the television treats me to a nice sporting event or primetime show. Sounds like I’m really cool, I know. Instead of that, however, I got to see the real thing in one of the more surreal moments of my life. A crowd of anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 people (but who knows for sure?) packed Broadway between 53rd and 54th Streets to see Phish record a song for David Letterman’s show…and what a treat it turned out to be.

They played Scents and Subtle Sounds twice for Letterman’s cameras, probably the first show in their epic history they played the same song two times in a row. But then they started gettin’ into the mix…the Boys played short yet crisp, clean versions of five favorites, an awesome little set for however many lucky fans were lucky enough to attend. Years from now 10,000 people will say they were there.

They hurried through 2001, then Trey hit the first chord of Wilson. The entire crowd chanted “Wilson,” and, no joke, it echoed all the way down Broadway. All the way down Fockin’ Broadway, and that could really not have been cooler. Not a chance. There’s a link for the audio down below — make sure you hear that. The quickest Wilson ever then gave way to Chalk Dust Torture, always a Letterman favorite. And just when you thought they’d walk off the stage, the band cranked into Tweezer, followed awesomely by Tweezer Reprise.

There’s just something about walking out of work in dress pants and a button-down shirt, with my workbag slung over my shoulder, and then participating in some good ol’ white-boy-hippie dancing on Broadway with a thousand other like-minded folks. My buddy Lukas and I just kept looking at each other in amazement, then looking at the guy in the building next door to the Sullivan who couldn’t get his window open to gaze at the wonderment of the day’s antics, then back at each other when the band kicked into song after song.

Despite the overwhelming visual and audio evidence below, I’m still not entirely sure I didn’t dream this. I’m not quite sure how the day could have gone better. I just wish Mama Winslow were here…she’d scrunch up all nice and say, “Way to go, Ace-Carl.”

Letterman Multimedia:

Here’s a full audio recording of the show — make sure you hear that Wilson, it’ll knock those socks right off yo’ feet. I get chills every time I hear it. For real, B.

Here are some good videos from Russ Kahn’s great photolog site — a couple of AVI videos of the Scents and Subtle Sounds recordings from up on the marquee.

Video 1
Video 2

And here are some cool pictures from the taping. As Dr. John would say, “Such a night.”

Enjoy, and may God bless the Phish.