Monday 08/27/2012 by TheEmu

CHARLOTTE RECAP TEASER WITH A TWEEZER

Phish loves to tease. Not only do you have the endless inside jokes, musical quotes and jams that hint at a song you can’t quite place, the live experience itself is kind of a tease. When I’m at a show and really tuned in, I get fully absorbed and objectivity is dissolved in the magic of being there. I’m still unapologetically awed by being at a show, and will walk out of the venue spewing effusive and hyperbolic praise. I also leave wondering what the music will sound like in the morning, hoping that I’ll hear the same epic moments I enjoyed at the show. So in the interest of full disclosure, please know that when the lights came up last night I was blown away and shamelessly fluffing despite any flaws. Now, with my show ears off any my recap ears on, I’m still reconciling what I heard last night with what I’m hearing in the car on the way home through North Carolina. My impression of Charlotte is of a Phish tease in both the good and frustrating sense; songs that continue to flirt with their potential, a first set with tremendous flow but flawed execution, a Mike’s Groove with both amazing and head-scratching song selection, and a “Tweezer” that on tape can only hint at the experience I had first hearing it.

AC/DC Bag” gets the last show of this three day Southern run on the road, and is followed by a feisty, fight-belled “Moma Dance.” “Heavy Things” eases in, rather than starting with a punch, and this three song warm-up concludes with a joyful waterfall lick from Trey repeated several times. From here, the first set boasts a superb flow and selection of songs not often found in 2012 opening frames. “Ocelot” slinks in and prowls around, showing its teeth and seeming to say “I’m a dangerous animal, I’m a natural killer.” It doesn’t go for the throat of an audience waiting to be slayed, but it’s no pussycat, either. “Ocelot” works well as a team with the nasty attitude of the following “Funky Bitch,” both menacing and delighting the audience. “Bathtub Gin” keeps the energy high, but like most versions of late does not launch into the improvisational stratosphere, opting instead for a danceable cruising altitude.

Fluffhead,” even with its flubs, is a great, crowd-pleasing chaser for “Gin,” with Fishman encouraging the fans to sing along during “Bundle of Joy.” The final chord of “Fluffhead” is then replaced with the opening riff of “Alumni Blues,” an old-school combo not heard since 5/5/89. “Alumni” then falls apart spectacularly when Trey throws the vocals to Fish and Fish drops them flat on the floor. Trey responds by butchering “Letter to Jimmy Page,” and returning to “Alumni” too soon, and the debacle culminates in Fishman proclaiming that he doesn’t have a degree. This sequence is amusing though sloppy, like many messy Phish moments, and leads to some great banter as well as teasing at Fish’s expense. Trey explains that Fish does have a degree, but also the record for lowest GPA among non-fraternity attendees of the University of Vermont, though not as amazingly low as Trey first claims. After more reminiscing about Page recruiting Trey and Fish to Godard College, we are treated to a song from the notebook and “mind of Jon Fishman, ‘Tube.’” This “Tube” sticks to the script, allowing MC Neon Cellgap a short time to practice his diabolical craft before wrapping up without much of a jam. More banter ensues, ending only when Fish starts “My Sweet One” under the threat of further mockery. Set one ends with the first appearance of “David Bowie” since it stepped out of its 3.0 cage at BGCA3, but “Bowie’s” freedom may have been short lived as this version stays tightly locked up.

With “Bowie” closing the first set of this show as well as 8/19/12, it’s hard not to have Bill Graham-sized expectations when the second set opens with “Crosseyed and Painless,” just as it did in San Francisco. This “Crosseyed” does not feature type-II jamming, but does segue sweetly into “McGrupp and The Watchful Hosemasters.” “McGrupp” is bookended by rough moments but flirts briefly with an unusual, up-tempo jam that fans of the song will want to add to their collection. As “McGrupp” drifts away, “Mike’s Song” bursts through the doorway. Even when it stays well within the box and lacks the sought-after second jam, “Mike’s Song” gets the feet moving and the glowsticks flying. It also teases the mind with possibilities. What will make up the meat of the “Mike’s Groove” sandwich? The tried and true “I Am Hydrogen?” A potentially beautiful “Simple?” Or something completely off the beaten path? I unfortunately have to admit that the answer to this question, “Bouncing Around the Room,” hits me like a punch in the gut. I don’t hate “Bouncin’,” but I think it pulls the rug out from under a set when deployed in this spot. Fortunately, Trey picks things back up by tearing into “Axilla,” and just when you think you’ve got things figured out, he throws you a curve ball in the form of the first “Tweezer” ever to appear within “Mike’s Groove.”

This “Tweezer” evolves into an ambient groove which is admittedly less mesmerizing when listened to in the sober light of day than it was in the Chris Kuroda-painted amphitheater. It is pretty and perhaps still the musical highlight of the evening, but it is brief and not particularly risky. Concluding with whale song and space, “Tweezer” is followed by a version of “Harry Hood” which, while not poorly played, is more noteworthy for its placement than for its improvisation. Finishing “Hood,” Trey next delves into “The Horse” > “Silent in the Morning,” completing the slow song/jam song sandwich before “Weekapaug” completes the “Mike’s Groove.” The always happy-to-tease “Suzy Greenberg” contains several call backs to “Crosseyed and Painless” and closes the set on a high note, while the “Big Black Furry Creature From Mars,” “Tweezer Reprise” combo, complete with wild Trey antics, is a suitably crazy, throwback encore.

Sometimes you can’t fully appreciate how great the music is when you’re standing in a crowd of thousands, and sometimes the transcendent aspects of Phish overwhelm your ability to be critical. Charlotte probably will prove to be an example of the latter, in my case, once the 48 hour rule has expired. My recommendation, though, is to listen to the “Ocelot” and ponder where it might go in the future, check out the “Gin,” “Bowie,” and “Hood” and wonder what might have been, and experience the “Tweezer” to see if it moves you in the same way it first moved me. Above all, though, let it please you with a teaser of what comes next.

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Comments

, comment by mgolia6
mgolia6 Basking in the show glow, brother, it flickers and fades, and then next quest ensues!
, comment by Punchyouinthejejunum
Punchyouinthejejunum excellent review. Right on point with my personal thoughts as well. Tweezer was the musical highlight for me, I suppose. But I flat out lost my marbles when they started McGrupp, as it has been my #1 to-see for pretty much as long as I've been listening to the band. People a section over were giving me weird looks. All in all, very enjoyable show. Charlotte shows continue to outdo themselves.
, comment by harpua9000
harpua9000 Great review! I traded the SE run for moving to the beach and, while I don't regret the decision, my e-mail and newsfeed have been clogged with "Where the hell WERE you" and "I lost 2 whole songs looking for you rage-side" from my pham since smOak Mtn. Couch tour will never begin to scratch the surface of the bliss we share as we allow our collective headspace to be invaded by the boys' etching of their own history into its' memory. "you had to be there" will never suffice. I loveove you all, and will see you next time 'round!!
, comment by harpua9000
harpua9000 P.S. Bowie, while concise, was DRIPPING with soul on this one!!!
, comment by pyite1976
pyite1976 All in all any Phish show is worth price of admission. Sometimes when all things align we tend to forget the simple greatness by picking apart one song to the next. For myself when I walk out grinning ear to ear cause I witnessed what Phish does best, let u forget the song by song hang up and realize its an ever flowing musical masterpiece!!! Yes, sometimes the rare bus touts heighten the status, but just the flow of music and lights does for me every time. My four years of incarceration, '99' thru '02' was hurtful. But lessons can be learned. Just simy enjoy and remember why we started this, when I did I was lucky to remember 3 songs coming out of a show. My first was Bangor , Maine 1994. I just love these guys more and more. Always PLEASING NEVER TEASING!!!!!! Peace
, comment by vinniebart
vinniebart I have to say the I love the reviews from this site. We appreciate the reviewers' time and I love reading someone else's unsolicited take on a show. It may vary from my view and some of the orther's listeners', but it's nice to see another perspective. As far as the show...McGrupp was tight, other than the aforementioned flub at the beginning and end. The end of the first set was nice with another ode to Fish, ala Asheville! (Thought Gumbo was coming, then
, comment by vinniebart
vinniebart I have to say the I love the reviews from this site. We appreciate the reviewers' time and I love reading someone else's unsolicited take on a show. It may vary from my view and some of the orther's listeners', but it's nice to see another perspective. As far as the show...McGrupp was tight, other than the aforementioned flub at the beginning and end. The end of the first set was nice with another ode to Fish, ala Asheville! (Thought Gumbo was coming), then the ever pleasing My Sweet One, followed by a decent Bowie!
, comment by Physhmyn
Physhmyn My sentiments exactly.

Trey did the old Ron Wood runaround a couple o'times during BBFCFM.

The energy was high all day and night.

Thank you Phish.
, comment by terms_of_the_dance
terms_of_the_dance Horrible review. Long winded and stupid
, comment by AlumniBlues420
AlumniBlues420 great review... Tweezer was diff something to be heard... great phun overall!!!
, comment by AlumniBlues420
AlumniBlues420 always an epic show if you land Alumni Blues and a McGrupp

I thought the reviewer did a good job. the show was amazing but also had some minor flaws... but all in all a top show from 2012!!!!
, comment by AlumniBlues420
AlumniBlues420 always an epic show if you land Alumni Blues and a McGrupp

I thought the reviewer did a good job. the show was amazing but also had some minor flaws... but all in all a top show from 2012!!!!
, comment by SwampSoul
SwampSoul A Phish show is transcendent because it can be a conduit for awareness of that which loves us. Charlotte was such a night....Why take off your "show ears" for "Critical ears"? What's the point? Why does one have to pretend like the energy being sent/received isn't valid? This review lacks the ITness that we all know is present at a show like this.
, comment by nicu2
nicu2 This was a LEO SHOW for sure!!!
, comment by Nader
Nader nicu2 knows what's up. this show takes my regular man-crush on page to a whole new level. He is soooo good.

This was a fun show, and they didn't let up for a minute. The improv wasn't as crazy as it could have been, but when they play this well, and with such a great setlist, I can't really complain.

, comment by phishm0610
phishm0610 @SwampSoul said:
A Phish show is transcendent because it can be a conduit for awareness of that which loves us. Charlotte was such a night....Why take off your "show ears" for "Critical ears"? What's the point? Why does one have to pretend like the energy being sent/received isn't valid? This review lacks the ITness that we all know is present at a show like this.
Amen to that. Never understood why we can't all just be on board and know that the band is doing something special in the now. Objectivity is for days that are not filled with a hard drive full of amazing music. They are on and some of us know IT.
, comment by TheEmu
TheEmu @SwampSoul said:
Why take off your "show ears" for "Critical ears"? What's the point? Why does one have to pretend like the energy being sent/received isn't valid? This review lacks the ITness that we all know is present at a show like this.
First, I don't think that the "energy being sent/received" isn't valid. It absolutely is, and that was one of the points I tried to make in this review.

One reason I listen to a show with "different ears" after the fact is that I can't be at a show every night, and Phish doesn't play every night, so sometimes I get to be there live and sometimes I listen to recordings. The recordings affect me differently than being there does. A complimentary example for me is SPAC3. I had far more fun at Portsmouth2 and Charlotte than I had at SPAC3. On tape, though, SPAC3 is far more amazing to listen to than either of those shows.

These recaps primarily focus on the music and not the experience; see From Whence We Recap.
, comment by SwampSoul
SwampSoul @TheEmu said:
@SwampSoul said:
Why take off your "show ears" for "Critical ears"? What's the point? Why does one have to pretend like the energy being sent/received isn't valid? This review lacks the ITness that we all know is present at a show like this.
First, I don't think that the "energy being sent/received" isn't valid. It absolutely is, and that was one of the points I tried to make in this review. One reason I listen to a show with "different ears" after the fact is that I can't be at a show every night, and Phish doesn't play every night, so sometimes I get to be there live and sometimes I listen to recordings. The recordings affect me differently than being there does. A complimentary example for me is SPAC3. I had far more fun at Portsmouth2 and Charlotte than I had at SPAC3. On tape, though, SPAC3 is far more amazing to listen to than either of those shows. These recaps primarily focus on the music and not the experience; see From Whence We Recap.
Great Point!

Thanks for the "whence we recap" link. Good read.

Cheers
, comment by SlavePhan
SlavePhan After countless years, my wish was fulfilled and I finally got to see McGrupp in Charlotte. Perhaps my euphoric state carried throughout the second set, but I still think that the Tweezer was quite nice and probably deserves a bit more credit. If I could compare it to anything, there's a section that reminds me of the one from 2/28/03. Unfortunately it never fully developed, but it still was likely the best part of the night and one of the better things I've seen thus far in 3.0. In any event, it was the only taste of song extension the whole night, so I welcomed it whole-heartedly. Even days afterward, I think it holds up on tape as quite good.
, comment by hutchinsonluke
hutchinsonluke i agree with the review almost completely, and still think the tweezer has some staying power. i thoroughly enjoyed my time. plus, mike even spoke.
, comment by nichobert
nichobert I keep having visions of a legit Mikes-> Bouncing. 7/9/96 fits the bill pretty well. I like it as a follow up.

Now, if only I could sit down with Phish and play them the 11/22/95 Free and remind them that an extended groove on the Bouncing intro sounds freaking great.

Still the bands most underrated song. Still an inordinate amount of hate picked up from old reviews written by people that saw it 20 times in 30 shows.

Still my number 1 choice for "what song phish should jam out next"
, comment by ucpete
ucpete Nice review. Random thought: has Trey played "Letter to Jimmy Page" correctly in 3.0? I don't think so. Kind of strange-- you'd think someone would say to him, "Hey Trey, that's not how the song goes. Want to practice it?".
, comment by nichobert
nichobert I'd think since most people only want to see it so they can say that they've seen it, it's probably not much of a priority.

Did they play anything correctly when they Destroyed America in 1997?
, comment by theflyingboognish
theflyingboognish Solid review. However, they have played Alumni Blues multiple times since 5/5/89.
Great show nonetheless and for sure my favorite of the three night run.
, comment by pokeadoubledecker
pokeadoubledecker I think this review like all reviews of phish are weak sauce. This is just one persons review though.... I've been to several shows this year including this one, and I see the same attitude everywhere I tour. Bunch of winy, spoiled, overly drugged, and drunk fools. Hmmm, like when anytime Phish plays wading in the velvet sea like in Atlanta. The whole damn venue (mostly stupid dudes who always overpower, cause they are stupid dudes) go ugghghhh. Makes me want to go postal, but I am a hippie so I digress. People let their thoughts get in the way of loving and enjoying their favorite band, but most will never understand this energy exchange or what makes for a good show. They will just use a bunch of words. Too many words actually. This is my last comment ever about phish. In fact, I think I'm done with phish. Hurts me so much to say it, but.... There is not enough love on the scene anymore... I want no part in that, and Phish is my favorite band of all time and space. We will see....
, comment by tmwsiy
tmwsiy @theflyingboognish said:
Solid review. However, they have played Alumni Blues multiple times since 5/5/89.
Great show nonetheless and for sure my favorite of the three night run.
Right, but the 1-2 of Fluff-Alumni had not.
, comment by TheEmu
TheEmu @SlavePhan said:
After countless years, my wish was fulfilled and I finally got to see McGrupp in Charlotte. Perhaps my euphoric state carried throughout the second set, but I still think that the Tweezer was quite nice and probably deserves a bit more credit. If I could compare it to anything, there's a section that reminds me of the one from 2/28/03. Unfortunately it never fully developed, but it still was likely the best part of the night and one of the better things I've seen thus far in 3.0. In any event, it was the only taste of song extension the whole night, so I welcomed it whole-heartedly. Even days afterward, I think it holds up on tape as quite good.
You're definitely right about the Tweezer deserving more credit, and I might tag an edit at the end of my review. My problem was that, hearing it live, I was convinced that the Bethel Tech Rehearsal Waves had gotten a challenger for best jam of 3.0. This Tweezer isn't that good, but after listening to it again, for about the 5th time, it is absolutely beautiful.
, comment by Fluffyfluffyhead
Fluffyfluffyhead You want them to play songs correctly? What band are we talking about here?
This isn't Rush.net
, comment by ThatWasHeavy
ThatWasHeavy Hey, didn't they start singing Dear Prudence in one of the early songs in the first set? Ocelot? I am 99% sure i didn't hallucinate that.
, comment by sureshot1228
sureshot1228 1st set CHARLOTTE> all ST LOUIS!! By far the energy was way sustained ! I thought it was perfect! Banter is great, makes them human...
, comment by bj2001
bj2001 The author has removed all of the text from their comment
, comment by BrolgiApparatus
BrolgiApparatus Man, do I like your creative writing skills; awesome piece to read. Thanks and great job!
, comment by trampledbylambs
trampledbylambs I thought this show, while staying in the box song choice wise, was so thoughtful and well put together. it was amazing to see them so comfortable with themselves, each other and most importantly the crowd. they were happy and it was apparent in their playing. I thought the "tweezer> hood" was stunning even as I listen to it now. "mcgrupp" was so unexpected and lovely and the banter after "alumni" was killer because, like I said, it shows how comfortable they were being there. can't wait for the holiday run!
, comment by trampledbylambs
trampledbylambs by the way, your review was awesome! you have quite the way with words :)
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