Off and On in North Carolina

On Thursday, Phish came into Walnut Creek for the first of a pair of shows in the great state of North Carolina.  People came into Walnut expecting a lot–and Phish knew that.  While they attempted to make that show special by busting out a number of songs not played for a while, the show was forced and lacked any improvisational creativity.  The very next night, like has happened a few times this tour, they came out a different band–putting together wonderfully created and smooth flowing sets with improvisation taboot.  Walnut’s second set bust out of Light Up or Leave Me Alone was overshadowed by Friday night’s Carini-> Fuck Your Face.  Fuck Your Face, the ultimate bust out–only played one other time in 1987–was just the pinnacle to an overall stellar set.

Llama, which is pretty much considered a bust out nowadays, opened the stint in NC–followed by a long overdue Roses are Free.  The middle of the set was highlighted by an excellent version of the 6th ever Time Loves a Hero, first time played since NYE 2002.  Moma Dance, which I have been quite critical of on here since 2009, was rather short again and lacking Trey’s smooth funk that the song thrived off of.  However, this version is worth listening to–Trey peaked quite nicely at the end, making it an overall great version.  Rather than a through-the-motions version of it, Trey actually breathed some life back into the song.

As I have written in just the past week, Number Line is a very interesting song.  You never know what type you are going to get–it could be a soaring closed ended version like Red Rocks 09’s or it could be an open-ended monster like Blossom’s.  Raleigh’s was the former–everyone expected it to be improvisational bliss when they came out with it as the second half opener.  The song once again showed us that when they start this puppy up, you better be on your toes–you literally can never predict this 3.0 chameleon of a song.  Halley’s Comet came after–a song that used to get the crowd rabidly excited now just gives people 4 minutes to think about what’s coming next–in this case it was Light.  

Light was the only real attempt at any real improvisation of the whole show.  This version comes in at just a bit over 10 minutes and features Trey wanking over the rest of the confused band as to what damn direction they are supposed to be going in.  Light has the potential to be a great song.  They are playing it a lot and should try all sorts of new things with it–think about summer 1997 and how many times they played Ghost.  The only difference is that those Ghosts went all over the place, leaving almost every version just as or more mind blowing than the last.  Don’t piss away the Light, Trey!  The song subsequently goes into another second set Fluffhead.

Do I love Fluffhead? Yes.  Do I love that they are playing it again and that 2010 SPAC and Camden’s are the best versions of the song since Alpine 99? YES.  Do I need to hear it every third show and get excited when it’s taking up valuable second set jam time? Of course not.  Although Phish Net cites “Fluffhead > Have Mercy”, Have Mercy is played next in a stand alone format.  Just two days before this show I was telling my brother how it would be so great if they took Have Mercy out for another spin.  However, Have Mercy–and I feel very strongly about this–is a song you segue into and out of during a wicked jam.  All I can think of right now is 05/08/1993, among others.  Playing this song just for the purpose of making people excited is disrespecting the song’s Phish history–comon guys, be a little more creative than this.  People don’t like seeing you play it because you guys play awesome white boy reggae, they come to your concerts to watch off the wall songs like this come out of free-form improvisation.

The bust out of Light Up was next–it was played particularly well and rocked fairly hard out of the end.  This could have easily been an improvisational highlight if they would have stretched it out–they were on the road to something special.  Instead Trey scratches out the beginning of another painfully bland version of Free, then another 2nd set Wading, Coil and Suzy (Suzy did contain some cool Light Up teases).

The encore, Boogie on Reggae Woman, was the best musical highlight of the night.  Instead of being the 6 minute version that Phish 3.0 seems to play, this one was over 10 minutes and had a fresh jam.

This show was a very disappointing way of starting the final jaunt to the finish line of summer’s first half.  The next night, however was the bomb dot com.

Opening with the ever-elusive Buried Alive before launching into AC/DC Bag (with Buried teases), the crowd in Charlotte hit the roof–energy flowed through the fans like an over charged circuit board.  Vultures and a great version of Mexican Cousin where highlights of the first set–a set with no boring parts.  Wolfman’s was the shortest of 3.0 Phish but contained a fun and original sounding jam before going into a laid back and extended version of Back on the Train–a perfect daytime treat to move your body to.  Wedge, also a perfect feel-good summer time tune was played.  

Stash, a song that has taken it’s time to get back on it’s feet, has gotten better and better each time it has been played this year.  The two versions before this one was Trey working on building tension, although not releasing it properly before ending this song–this version finally comes to a release (albeit not very explosive) after wonderful playing from Page and Mike.  Best 3.0 version yet.  I expect the song to come back in August ready to melt faces again.

Chalk Dust Torture closes the first set–like I said before, although Phish is being fairly predictable with their seconds set song selection, you never know what you’re going to get in a first set. (Yes, just like a box of chocolates)

When Drowned started the second set I said “OH MY GOD” to myself, I just could not get over the fact that they have such trouble creatively starting the second half of shows.  Regardless, the jam is not ordinary–in on of the few truly organic feeling jams of the year, Trey takes the passenger seat to Page Mike and Fish (yes, sometimes I have 3 people in my driver’s seat).  Although the jam started out with guitar rocking > sinking down into funky playing, the structure of most 3.0 jams, the sound of the improvisation is truly different than most of their jams this summer.  Although it’s cut far too short, by Red himself, it goes into another short but HOT version of 46 Days–featuring Trey showing his chops again, this version also features Fish drumming wonderfully at the end before going into a full on vocal jam before another dark, sinister and perfectly placed Twenty Years Later.  Phish just put together three totally different songs in such a perfect way, showing that when they are on this year they can really make things flow in almost complete contrast with last year.  

Lizards was next, a wonderfully played version, to lighten things up after such a dark end to a tri-headed 2nd set opener.  However, getting right back into theme, Carini comes out to play.  Lizards was merely a moon-lit oasis in a dark dark sea of music.  Carini’s heavy jam, laced with Trey’s piercing leads, goes right into the biggest bust out of possibly all time.

A song written by Mike, from the White Tape, Fuck Your Face, was what Carini lead into.  Throwing a lot of people off at first by just the guitar intro (even me), people had no idea what was going on–when the full band came in and fish switched to the hi-hat, the real real fans knew it was on like Donkey Kong–especially when Mike came in with the vocals.  Most people, even pretty serious fans, figured it was some new original or maybe some Frank Zappa cover they never heard of.  The song had obviously been practiced and it sounded great.  I don’t see this one coming back for a long time, if ever.  The ending extended into dark swampy territory before going into 2001.

Hopeful that this one would have built on what they did with the now infamous “MJ 2001”, this is another standard version before heading into the best YEM of the year.

This version, not as short as the other 2nd set closing YEMs of this year, contained Fuck Your Face and Moving in Stereo teases before going into the best vocal jam I can think of–possibly ever.  The vocal jam is actually a jam with full improvisation–it eventually goes into a good chunk of Proud Mary and morphing into Get Back before finally ending–a longer than usual and cooler than usual vocal jam.  Ever since Phish came back for 3.0, their vocal jams are inspired and full of as much direction as a vocal jam can have.  Vocal jams were ambient and pretty boring for the most park from about 1993 until last year.

This show, with a first set that provided more improvisation than almost any other this tour, had a second set that beautifully wound old Phish songs, post-hiatus Phish songs, 3.0 Phish songs and late 90’s Phish songs together with pure ease and fun.  Aside from the obvious bust out, everything was played smoothly, naturally and full of energy.  The entire show was an outstanding effort by Phish and I really enjoyed this show.  

The first night in Georgia, however, is a different story–but that’s for another post.


Thursday, 07/01/2010  Walnut Creek , Raleigh, NC


Friday, 07/02/2010 Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre – Charlotte, Charlotte, NC