Photos by Skip Tapp
Phish is on fire and the flame just keeps getting hotter. Every fan that has seen the band since they reunited last year will agree that they could not be more “new and improved”. In my opinion, it feels more like they were secretly practicing for the whole time they were broken up, because they are playing that good. I’ve been seeing the band since 1995 and have had many great times and many disappointing times, but none of these disappointments have been since the come back.
The unique set lists are just blowing peoples minds, especially on this tour. From the covers that they have been surprising us with like “Instant Karma”, “I Am The Walrus” and “Jumping Jack Flash” to the rarely played old songs like “Fuck Your Face” which hasn’t been performed since 1987. I was one of the lucky ones that got to be in Charlotte for that one, and let’s just say, it was quite interesting, especially considering that it was placed right between “Carini” and “2001”. Wow, what a jam?! In fact, my friend that I was sitting in the 7th row with, just about lost it when he realized they were playing this. He said it was on his “fantasy set list” and he finally got it.
Truly it is moments like this that make you want more and more Phish. Like a sporting event, you never know for sure what is gong to go down, and you don’t want to miss it, just in case it turns out to be one of their most epic shows ever. I mean, comparing a Phish show to sports isn’t too far fetched…I check the set list of every show I miss on twitter as it’s happening just like someone would be checking the score of their favorite football team. I mean, don’t you?
Anyway, my EPIC 4 day weekend started in Raleigh, NC at The Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion. What a beautiful venue it was, and the weather couldn’t have been nicer. As soon as the show started with a Llama opener, I knew it was going to be a good night and it was. There were a lot of covers this night like the rarely played “Roses are Free” and “Time Loves a Hero” in the first set and “Have Mercy” and “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” in the second.
I just love how excited the audience gets when one of these songs shows up on the set list, but I also just love how well they are performing their more regularly played songs as well. Everything is so tight, it blows me away. I recall a few times this night thinking that each of the more popular songs were the best version I’d ever heard. It seemed to me like it was the best “Moma Dance”, the best “Runaway Jim”, the best “Water in the Sky”? Well, you get the point.
The second set of 7/1/10 seemed to have a big reggae feel and slow mellow jams. I kind of stopped dancing and just sat in my seat to really take in the beauty of “Free”, “Velvet Sea”, and even “Squirming Coil”, but all that relaxation came to a halt when they broke out the last song of the set, “Suzy Greenberg”. Ever since I saw that song at Festival 8 with the horns and back up singers, I just can’t get enough of it. I truly seem to be able to elevate my body while dancing to “Suzy” and that’s OK with me!
The “Boogie on Reggae Women” was the perfect encore for a night that already had that Jamaican feel going on that I described earlier. As I left the show, I felt truly blessed that I was going to get to experience 3 more night of who knows what?
Ok, now on to night 2, at another fine venue in North Carolina, The Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Charlotte. I like to say that if a person were to just attend these 2 shows, and if I were to use sex and romance as a way to describe them, then Raleigh was the romantic dinner date and foreplay to Charlottes, get down and dirty nastiness of what comes next. The first set opened with “Buried Alive” and it just evolved from there. “AC/DC Bag?”, “Vultures”, Wolfman’s Brother”, “Back on the Train”, “The Wedge”, and “Mexican Cousin” followed by a sick combo of “Stash”, “Sparkle” and “Chalkdust”? I almost fainted from dancing so hard!
Basically, there wasn’t a sweet melodic moment the whole night. It was funky, dirty, and raw rock show! It was sickening! Especially the second half of the second set! I mean who ever imagined that there would ever be this set of songs back to back…”The Lizards”, “Carini”, “Fuck Your Face”, “2001”, and don’t even get me started on the best “YEM” I’ve ever witnessed!
I mean sure, I was in the 7th row for all of this, which may give me the elusion that it was the best, but for now, I will just say, Yes, it was the best! There was this time where only Mike and Fish were going off on this funky rhythm jam and Trey decided to put down his guitar and just start dancing like a little kid. It was so funny in that cute and happy way that only Trey could pull off. He was having a blast up there and we were having a blast watching. After the “Trey Happy Dance” was over, we were treated to an incredible vocal jam by the boys where they managed to cover “Proud Mary” AND “Get Back” I was taken back by this, as it seamed that they almost covered the whole Beatles song in it’s entirety as the icing on this fluffy cake that is YEM.
After the pounding hard rock feel of the night, it was perfect that the Encore this evening was “A Day in the Life”. They seam to be “Beatles Happy” on this tour and that’s fine with me. It was another commonly played song that for some reason, on this night, seemed like the best version I had ever experienced. I guess you could say that it was the cuddly ending to the 2 night romance of both these incredible shows.
And the long weekend is only half over, as I travel to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park in Alpharetta, GA. What an incredible venue? I can’t say enough about it. Where ever you were, it was a good seat, and they had the friendliest security that I ever experienced at a Phish concert.
Now on to the shows:
As far as the set list goes for 7/3/10, there weren’t any real rarities, although it was the first time that they opened with “Character Zero” which I loved. That songs energy makes for a great way to get the show started, in my opinion. There was a time back in the day, where it seamed routine that when you heard “Zero” it was the end of Set 1, but nowadays, with Phish 3.0, you never know what you are going to get, and we love it.
Set 1 in Alpharetta was long and fun with many great jams like “Destiny Unbound”, “McGrupp”, “Bathtub Gin”, “Gumbo”, “Sanity”, and the set closed with an insane “Antelope (do I use the word insane a little too much)”.
Anyway, Set 2 was a continuation of many Phish favorites and the place was going off on “Tweezer”, “Slave” and “Bouncing”, but it things really took off during “Possum” “BDTNL”, “Harry Hood” and who doesn’t love “Loving Cup”? Yes, it seems way over played, but there is just something about the whole place singing along with Trey “What a Beautiful Buzz, What a Beautiful Buzz?!!!”
“Sleeping Monkey” was an awesome choice to take us out before our “Tweeprize” and all in all it was a pretty damn fun night…
Nothing could have prepared me for the 4th of July show the following night and the final show of summer tour, leg one.
Just like the North Carolina shows, it seemed as though night 1 was just the foreplay for night 2 and in Georgia and what a night it was?
First off, I would like to once again thank the outstanding security who pretty much just hung out with us and made sure we had a god time. Anyone who goes to a lot of Phish shows, would agree that it’s a real buzz kill when the security is constantly trying to get you to go to your seat or pushing you aside while you’re trying to dance to your favorite tune, but not at Alpharetta. These guys and gals rocked out with us and let us enjoy our Independence Day weekend.
The band came out with the holiday celebration in mind when they opened with “The Star-Spangeled Banner (a cappella of course)”, but got the serious dance party started with “Punch You in the Eye” and the energy just kept on pumping along from there with a fun first set of “Col. Forbin”, “Fly Famous Mocking Bird”, “Camel Walk”, “Ocelot”, “Heavy Things”, “My Friend, My Friend,”, “Lawn Boy”, “David Bowie” and “Gotta Jibboo”.
It’s funny. I have always loved “Jibboo” a lot more than most of my friends. However, on this night, during set break, it seemed as though everyone was saying it was the best version they ever had, and I fully agreed. Just like at the North Carolina shows, all the more commonly played songs were, for me, played the best this weekend; the best “Heavy Things”, the best “Bowie”, etc.
But if the first set was the best, then the second set was the sickest, I don’t mean to jump ahead here, but I will say that at the end of this show, I walked around the venue for a bit with my mouth wide open in shock as to what had just happened. My friends and I were all hugging each other and seemingly congratulating each other for what we had just witnessed. We really were blown away that much. It was EPIC!!!
The biggest glow stick war ever seemed to take place right as we heard the bass line for “Down with Disease”. The place went nuts and it was beautiful. Sickest “Piper” and “Ghost” followed and “Waste” came in just in time for us all to take one more rest or grab a drink of water, because we were going to need the energy for what was to come.
“Julius”, “Mikes Song”, “Tela”? What? Then it happened…“Harpua” along with a great story about how the history books in school all lie to us by Trey, with the usual characters such as Jimmy and Poster Nutbag.
Every one was standing so still to hear the story that when they broke out into “Killing in the Name”, it was like a 7 point earth quake hitting with no warning? Moshing Hippies? Sounds like an oxymoron to me, but it was happening? The place went nuts.
It was fabulous to be a part of total “Phishtory” this way. I truly believe that this will be the show that everyone talks about for years. Those of us that were there will brag about it and those that were not there will always kick them selves for not going. If I were to use the sports analogy again, I would say that this was the night your favorite team won the game at the very last second. It was that good!
The second “Harpua” helped calm everyone down before the killer “Weekapaug” set closer picked things back up again for one last threw down and then I waited to find out what they could possibly do for an Encore and was blown away when I called it my head, “First Tube”.
I remember at the end of the song when Trey had his guitar up high and was just holding it and making sounds with it in the air, that he looked like such a rock star like those legendary pictures you see of Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar on stage or something. I mean, I have met the band and have talked to Trey back stage, so I have always felt like “Hey, those are my friends up there”, but not after this night.
I have such a greater respect for their talent since they got back together and are playing so damn well.
Thank You Phish.
“We’re not worthy, we’re not worthy!”