Alrighty homies, time to lay out the stressful but successful second leg of my Winter Tour '24 dates. I’ve opened myself up a bit more to all y’all the past few weeks over various threads, so hopefully I can utilize a little more brevity on this write up lmao.
Quick background: My “wife” wanted to save her PTO for a possible (now happening and locked in) Dead n Co Sphere run, so she opted out of Cleveland and Pittsburgh as those were wednesday and thursday shows, and chose to do Cbus and Detroit as those were on the weekend. So my best bud Ace took her spot for Cleve/Pitts. To help your mental imagery, Ace works in sales, dresses and looks like a custy/fed but wooks the fuck out at heady shows. A real deep cover wook if there ever was one. He was a coworker of mine over a decade ago, we’ve been roommates twice, and we often reminisce over “the summer of 2014”. This is where we did hella powder and irish car bombs near the University of Cincinnati campus. Now here we are, a decade later, a little more mature, about to embark on another adventure that we’ll reminisce on for the next decade. He had recently broke up with his girlfriend of a year or two, and just entered the 30s age, so I was delighted to have the opportunity show him some of the “magic” and growth I found on my first leg solo. Now, without further ado…
JAN 31ST CLEVELAND HOUSE OF BLUES
It’s an easy 3.5-4 hour drive to Cleveland. Got the CRV loaded up and ready to go by 7:30AM. Run to pick up Ace by 8am to hit the road. See, Ace lined up some sales calls/meetings in Cleveland, so he could get two birds stoned at once and reduce some of the out of pocket spending this trip. So I planned on playing Uber driver for him for a couple meetings, nothing too outta the way or time sucking. Was no big deal. I’m running my new go-to tour drug combo: speed for the road/endurance, edibles for fun, weed vape if i need a quick chill out, nic vape cuz i’m staying off cigs for good, and a healthy amount of drinks (no more than 3 at the venue, 5 total with before and after show). Ace was going with the things old Greg would’ve done. Like powder, gel tabs, shrooms, etc etc. I wanted to show him how great of a time I’m gonna have without those enhancers, but didn’t want to make him think I’m shaming him or anything (because I love drugs). Just wanted to show him that we can rethink our relationships with substances and go back to giving those substances meaning rather than a necessity for “fun”.
We get into Cleveland and it’s foggy as FUCK. Literally can’t see the city as you drive in, can’t see the tops of sky scrapers. Serious Silent Hill vibes. Ace, having been to Cleveland a bunch for work, suggested we try out a reuben at this place called Slyman’s Deli. I gotta tell ya guys, this was the best 20$ reuben sandwich I’ve ever had. The amount of corned beef on there is insane, but its sliced so thin that it’s easy to eat (doesn’t look like it at first). Was soooo fuckin dank.
We finish up and head into downtown, park on the street and pay the meter, and head into the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. They have a “Money Museum”, it’s free thankfully, because it’s only like an hour long tops, and is mostly just their lobby with a couple interactive things. Worth checking out if you have time to kill, which we did as Ace had a meeting at 3. Walk out of the museum, hop into my 2024 CRV EX-L that I had just purchased the day after Xmas and had driven to NC/VA totally fine, and every warning starts dinging at me as I turn it on. WTFFFF
We pull away, it seems to be driving okay, just dinging every warning on the dash. Only issues I had driving were no adaptive cruise control and no lane assist (which sucked because those things make road trips soooo much easier). The power and handling and everything felt the same, so I figure it’s just some electrical thing going weird. During Ace’s meeting, I call local dealerships and get the CRV scheduled to be looked at the next morning. Ace starts getting a little stressed, saying things like “BRO YOU JUST BOUGHT THAT THING WTF YOU GOTTA CALL YOUR DEALERSHIP”. Which yeah, I was thinking the same thing, but we got shit to do, can’t mentally afford this right now, save it for later. We got reservations at Dante for a 5 course tasting and wine pairing to get too before the show. Let’s go.
First course, a raw salmon dish on marinated veggies. Second course, a spaghetti with pancietta and a basil/spinach creamy sauce (like a mash-up of carbonara and pesto, super interesting). Third course was scallops in some kind of squid ink/black truffle sauce with a slaw I can’t remember. Fourth course was cuts of steak filet with a horseradish aioli base and this tiny scallion cookie thing that was insanely good. Sorbet for a palate cleanser. Then this pistachio/key lime thing with this meringue on top that was like a cookie that dissolved in your mouth as you chewed it. Blew me away. I don’t remember any of the wines lol, i’m not a wine guy really, I just wanted a good pre-show buzz and to show Ace his first tasting and pairing ever and his first Dante experience (I first went here last November when I took Sonya, my “wife”, to Cleveland for a depeche mode show up there for her birthday). I highly recommend it to anyone visitng Cleveland. Worth every bit of the expense.
We knock back some espresso after dinner and catch an uber back to the hotel to get our goods for the show. Ace makes quick work of the hotel key card and desk if ya know what I mean. I slammed some edibles and grab my vapes and ear plugs. 8 min walk to the venue from the hotey. We get inside and I immediately hit the merch booth to grab Ace a pair of ear plugs. He’s never been a plugger, but after tonight, he’ll have em in at every show. Fuck tinnitus, Sonya suffers from miniere’s disease and constant ringing from going to shows without ear plugs every show she’s been too since the 80’s. Please plug your ears folks.
We were rocking Kris-side and right next to the sound board. I was expecting a lower energy show like the opening show of the NC/VA run but NOPE. It was a fucking banger of a night for us. A great mix of old tunes and newer. Ace had a friend at the show named Cody, this dude was your run of the mill spunion, we’ve all met this guy at a show. It’s funny because when I was telling Ace about the magic of finding meaningful connections with people we wouldn’t conventionally meet/talk to otherwise, he was like “Oh you can meet my friend Cody!” He was nice, but I wasn’t impressed, homie was just a Calvin Klein buzzing dude lol. I was about to give Ace shit because he and Cody were chomping the entire first two tunes, and I could hear it through the plugs, but luckily that dude shut the fuck up. Met this dude rocking next to me who was there solo, told him “hey you’re not solo anymore!” (I get to be on the otherside this time!) Got to talking about tour and he’s like “Oh, so Umphrey’s is YOUR band?” I thought about that for a long while. I said “Yes! That’s it! They’re MY band!” and he’s like “Oh hell yeah! Phish is MY band.” I’m really glad he said that because I feel like I can finally express what Umphrey’s is to me, and why I’m so happy and enthralled with their work. Umphrey’s is MY band. They’re your band too, you just need to see em. I asked him if he was from around Cleveland, he said nah, he was born in New York but is in Cleveland for his psychiatric residency. Wtf, this is the second brain related doctor I’ve met at a show.
We grab some 3 for 20s and get back to the hotey and crash. I’m up at 5am the next morning stressing the fuck out about the CRV, and also planning ahead for Pittsburgh and making contingencies. I take Ace to his meeting in the AM and run to dealership near the office I dropped him off at. They take the car in for about an hour and then I hear “So we’re gonna have to order the part and should arrive tomorrow morn…”
FEB 1ST STAGE AE PITTSBURGH
Honda’s covering all my repair costs and all that. Everything under warranty and lemon law abiding. They give me a shuttle to Enterprise to grab a rental (with full reimbursement). Ace starts going off in the shuttle with a Honda employee driving us, “BRO WTF YOU SHOULDNT HAVE TO PAY UP FRONT AND GET REIMBURSED WTF WTF WTF” and I calmly ask him to pipe down, we’ve got bigger fish to fry. It’s so easy to respond in anger when you’re inconvenienced, it’s more worth the effort to remain diplomatic and locked in. I grab a Ford Explorer as a rental, this three row big fucking bus. Heated and Cooled seats, heated steering wheel, and best of all, the ACC and Lane Assist. We’re fuckin golden now. Perfect weather for a little 2hr drive to Pittsburgh. During the drive, my phone is blowing up with all my friends and fam saying the same thing “YOU NEED TO COMMIT WAR CRIMES AT THE DEALERSHIP”. Ughhhh, please shut the fuck up, this is my vacation/journey, and come hell or high water I WILL make the fucking show.
We get to the hotel early, because I was rushing to get there and just sit and bring my mindset back down from the stress of the CRV/Rental. Ace takes a nap while I vape and scroll myself back down to Earth. Around 3:30 we take a walk down to Ft. Pitt Point, which is a great spot to view the neighborhoods across the rivers around the downtown area. Giant fountain there, but it wasn’t on . There was duck shit everywhere, The Werks must’ve come through that week. We stopped by this little bar in Market Square (which our hotel room was overlooking, pretty cool pedestrian square of shops and restaurants and bars. After the cocktails, I was sooooo ready for the show, my nerves finally dulled down. Phew.
We had reservations at a gorgeous fine dining spot in the Mt. Washington neighborhood of Pittsburgh called Altius. The restaurant has an immaculate view of downtown Pittsburgh. We had oysters and crab toast (the best shit) for appetizers. I had Chilean Seabass on three savory crepes with artichoke and spinach, some caviar on there, and some greens. Was the dankest meal. Ace got a steak dinner, and had a bite of my entree. Immediately said “Yeah I fucked up, should’ve got that instead.” Dessert for me was a chocolate mousse medley, it was sooooo rich and delicious. Had 3 of their version of an espresso martini because I really needed some caffeine, especially with all this decadent food before a show lol.
During our walk earlier, we found that they have a rail system to take you from downtown area to the stadium/venue part of town. Ran every 15 mins. Super convenient. AND ITS FREE! Being Cincinnatians, we get half chubs everytime we find a city with adequate or at least useful public transport. Ours sucks. Since we were full as ticks, we opted to uber to the venue and give our stomachs more time to settle lol. Ace drops a tab and says hes gonna try just the L tonight. We get to the venue and notice theres an eagle next to the words Stage AE. It hit us. AE is for American Eagle. Our sides were split. Come the fuck on. Next UMs is gonna be playing the Abercrombie Fierce stage. wtf lmao.
First set was the numbers set and it was super fun. The entire show was phenomenal. Then in the encore, Brendan comes out with an acoustic guitar. I was thinking “hmmm, maybe bullhead city? they’ve been busting out old tunes I hadn’t expected at previous shows…” He dedicates it so somebody and their “wife”. I hear the first notes of You and You Alone. I immediately feel the tears welling up. I’ve seen a friend of mine cry at Phish, my wife cries everytime Dead plays Ripple. I’ve never had an emotional response like that. Tears were coming down hard and I was belting out every word. YAYA is a very special song to me, makes me think of my “wife” and how much I love her. That line “When they run past me and straight to you, I understand yeah cuz I would too”. I always thought about my late dogs going to her first and THEN giving me some love when we’d come home from anywhere. I was bawling (shit, tearing up right now remembering it all), and Ace saw me and put his arm around me with a “You okay bud?” and I had to explain it was a beautiful thing and very special to me. He says “Oh hell yeah bro, feel that shit!” Ughhh it was soooo good. They bust out Miss Tinkles Overture, which helped me calm down the waterworks haha.
We go down to the platform to take the train back downtown towards the hotey. Spot a couple phish heads our age, chat em up a bit. Said they weren’t going to other shows nor Cleveland the previous night. Then this older dude walks up near us and I realize we bumped into this guy at our hotel in Cleveland. Said he’s seen UMs at least 10-12 times a year for the past 20. Goals. We were discussing how they’ve been playing older tunes, possibly because of the anniversary of the passing of Mirro. No tank boys in Pittsburgh, feels weird to not have em after a show lol, its tradition. Got back to the hotey, crash as soon as I can so I can wake up and assess the CRV situation. Ace stays up all night cuz L.
FEB 2ND KEMBA LIVE! COLUMBUS
I wake up around 6 and get showered and we head down to the restaurant in the lobby for some breakfast. Ace hadn’t slept a wink the entire night, the L probably had him wrapped up in his head at this point lol. He can barely eat while I finish my plate and pay out and head back to the room to get everything ready. I call enterprise to make sure I can extend my rental if I need to. I call the dealership to get a status check, said they needed another part and wouldn’t be able to fix it til Monday, I asked if the mechanic believes it’s safe to drive to Cincinnati, Mech says it’s fine to drive, “just gonna be a classic car instead of a smart car”. Heard. Begin the 2hr drive to Cleveland to grab the CRV and then 4hrs to Cincinnati. During the drive, Ace is thanking me for bringing him on tour and showing him the new way I do things. He commented on how he was inspired to rethink his relationship with drugs, people, music, life in general. BAM, success #1. I got what I wanted, and that was to show Ace just how much growth and change in perspective touring gives you. The “magic”.
We get to Cincinnati and I drop him off. Now, during this whole time, Sonya is at home wrapping up her deadlines at the lawfirm and waiting in the digital queue to buy Dead n Co Sphere tix. She gets booted out after getting access to the order page like 3 times. In my mind during this time, I’m tired, I’m frustrated about the car, I just wanted her packed and ready to go when I got home. I get to the house and she’s not even close to ready. I give her a kiss and an I love you and head back on the road to Columbus.
I just wanted to be there in the hotel and just chill. I hadn’t eaten that day, just adderall. I was exhausted as fuck. Ordered a 27$ burger and fries via room service, expecting dog shit quality overpriced food. This burger had caramalized onions and an everything seed bun with some fries covered in herbs and garlic. Was that sweet sweet nectar I needed. Knocked back a white russian and geared up for the walk to the venue. I head out and end up taking a wrong turn in Nationwide Plaza, costs me 10 mins walk time. Finally find a couple that look heady, yell “AY YOU GOING TO UMPHREYS?” They say yeah, and I ask if I can walk with them, I’m kinda lost. They say of course! Caleb and his GF from Dayton, y’all are real ones. Meanwhile, Sonya snags the sphere tix and asks if I still want her to come up to Columbus. I honestly didn’t think she’d do it. Pack, get in the car, drive 2 hours when I’m about to head to the show. But BAH GAWD she did it. I love that woman so god damn much. She got up to the hotel and met me at second set. In 2023, she was suffering from a change in her SSRI’s from her former doctor, and I was basically carrying everything on my back other than her own bodily functions. It was a grind of a year, especially with the dogs passing. She was like a zombie, a shell of herself the entire year, as new doc and psych doc figured out which combo was going to be best for her. And she fucking did it guys, she put it all together and got there in wicked quick time. This was a serious “fuckin A, my wife is BACK!” moment.
The show was okay, encore was Cut the Cable which I’m not a fan of the chorus at all but I like the music in between lol. Honestly, glad it wasn’t a heater night because I was busy first set texting her the hotel details because for some reason she couldn’t reach the front desk. But it’s alright. She made it. I’m satisfied. We head back to the hotel, no tank boys yet again. Bummer. Oh well. We crash and get ready for the drive to Detroit. Leaving my car in Columbus and taking hers.
FEB 3RD FILLMORE DETROIT
Got god tier sleep that night. Was so exhausted and worn down, just slept like a log. Ordered some room service breakfast, various fruits and an order of mascarpone pancakes. So dank and made the body feel great. We head out to the garage to take the bimmer on the 3+ hour drive to Detroit. In the elevator we ran into a these two dudes, they asked if we enjoyed the show because of my UMs sling bag, and we noticed they had a bag from a restaurant in cinci. Turns out we’re all from the same area. They said they were going to Detroit as well, told em hope we see em at the show! Pretty boring drive until you get into Michigan and see countless billboards for dispos lmao. We stop off at one called Moses Roses, everyone was super nice there. We just grabbed some novelty items and vapes.
We get to the hotel and get our bearings. Neither of us have been to Detroit before. Sonya wanted to try some legit Detroit-style pizza, and Buddy’s, the OG place for Detroit-style, was a 15 min walk away. So we coat up and start walking. HOLY FUCK ITS COLD AS FUCKKKKKKKK. We make it to Buddy’s and it’s an hour wait. I pull up my phone and order delivery and we start walking back to the hotey in the blistering cold. When we get back, I wonder if I may have mild frost bite on my hands. My dumbass forgot my gloves in my car which is in Cbus at the time. Idiot. We get the wrong order delivered to us, and got a refund but kept the food, it was a meat deluxe pizza when we just wanted pep and cheese. It was okay, put a base in our guts for the show, job done.
Ubered to and from the show because of the frigid temp. The show was fucking fire. Great energy, great attachments, great bridgeless, great Frankie zombie, fuck off Jake’s voice rules. At set break, we ran into the two dudes from the elevator, turns out they’re married, Josh and Chris! See ya in Cinci! Also at set break, we moved to the floor and this chick about my age smacked on ket comes up to Sonya bitching about Gen Z outta nowhere, talking about “they listen to zonkey 5 times and call themselves a fan” and “I haven’t seen UMs since 2015”. Shit was wildly outta pocket lmao. Told Sonya that chick has some insecurities she needs worked out, damn. Pay the snucka encore jam honestly hit me pretty good, and that tune can slow me down too much sometimes. Loved the rage jam. Also, Fillmore Detroit is the most beautiful venue I’ve been too this tour. Just absolutely gorgeous all around. Sound was great too.
Pop out of the venue and the tank boys are there. Yayyyyy. Had several rounds to make up for the lack the past two nights. Heard some dude say “here babe, get yo self a 3 pack” and handed his girl a 20. Idk why but that stuck with me. A 3 pack lmao. Some overly dressed cunt waved her finger at us loon heads in shame and Sonya yells “AT LEAST WEAR REAL FUR YA FAKE BITCH” to massive applause from the loon crowd. Great ending to a great night.
We get back to the hotey and crash. The next morning we wake up and hit the road. On the way out, we decide to hit a dispo again, this time more outside Detroit. Ended up at this strip mall that was all dispos. If one had too long a wait time, bop on down to the next one. Got some more novelties and headed back home. On the drive back to Columbus, Sonya tells me how nice everybody was and how awesome it was to meet those two guys from our neck of the woods, and how awesome it was to see me at an UMs show and not have to worry about whether or not I’m gonna black out and go full wook mode to where she needs to get me back to the hotel. So she got to see the “magic”. Success #2.
CRV is at the dealership I bought it from, they’re taking care of everything, rentals and all. Currently in Bloomington finishing this up. I gotta say, it was so great to show one of my best buds and my “wife” the magic that I found on tour. I also kept learning like the first leg. Old Greg would’ve exploded with volcanic verbal fury as soon as I heard the Cleveland dealership needed a part. But I didn’t, I locked in and moved on to solving the real issue: getting to the next show. It was worth every bit of stress and contingency.
TLDR: showed wife and best friend how awesome tour was, tested my anger issues with brand new car faults