Thursday 07/20/2023 by phishnet


[We thank user @meganglionna Megan Glionna (@the_megan_dance on IG) for recapping last night's show. -Ed.]

Some nights are destined to become an adventure. Some nights it’s all about the music, some nights it’s all about the vibes, some nights it’s all about the stories we get to carry with us. Last night was all of those three and it was also definitely an adventure.

I love seeing shows in North Carolina. I finished my college career in this state and most of my family still lives there. For me, it is a nostalgic place and tied into so many of my Phish memories. Days when my wook friends would crash at my parents’ home and terrify my younger siblings with our late night parties and mornings with cigarettes drowning in beer cans littered around the back deck. So it was only fitting that my girlfriends and I stayed at my parents house for this two night run and my dad carted us around town like the happiest Uber driver in the world. There was something comforting about having my parents stock the house with soy milk and cereal for our post show snacking and, of course, not having to pay for a hotel for two nights to see my favorite band far away from where I live in NYC was a huge bonus. And this new-to-Phish venue is so incredible. It is intimate and relaxed. So much space, everyone on coastal Carolina time and charming us northerners with their gorgeous southern drawls. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The adventure began when my dad, Jack, dropped my girlfriends and I off at Hi-Wire Brewing (well, actually he came in and had a beer with us before he left) where we met up with my college friends. We had incredible wood fired pizza from the excellent restaurant next door (my dad just got cannolis, but it should be noted IN THE PERMANENT RECORD that these cannolis had crushed pistachios on the ends). We spent the afternoon catching up and hanging out and headed down to Shakedown around 5:15 pm. We did a quick loop on the grassy lot where they had a nice little set up with lots of space. Wanting to get a better spot than night one (I was on the lawn with an obstructed view thanks to the soundboard tent), I was eager and, to be fair, a little annoying about corralling the group to the venue as soon as possible. We walked in around 5:45 pm. No line, no stress. The staff at Live Oak Bank Pavilion are the most friendly, helpful staff I have ever experienced. We cruised in and found a perfect spot Page side just to the left of the soundboard and hung out until showtime.

Photo by Megan Glionna
Photo by Megan Glionna

Night one had been so hot and we had no cloud cover so the sunset was gorgeous but absolutely fried us as we waited for the show to start. Last night everyone was remarking on the slightly overcast sky which gave the sunset depth and also eased some of the intense heat. Little did we know what those clouds would do to us later on.

The band opened with “Cars, Trucks, Buses,” my first since 1997! It’s a fun opener that brings me back to its debut in fall 1995 when it was played at three shows in a row. I did those shows on a mini tour up the California coast and have had my fill of that song since then. But I hadn’t realized that it had been that long! “A Wave of Hope" was next and their willingness to jam the second song in the first set made me feel excited for what was to come. This version launches into a textural jam thanks to Trey growling away on the guitar and Page playing some swirly melodies on the keys. I have been loving the juxtaposition between Trey’s meaty growl and the sonic layers that Page has been laying down. No doubt a musical relationship that has been strengthened by the two records Page and Trey put out together recently. I’d love to hear “January” and Page’s solo record, “Maybe We’re the Visitors” continue to influence the band’s jamming. Fishman keeps this version at a galloping pace and it ends with Trey finding those soaring notes. Beautiful. It was the perfect vibe for a slightly overcast sunset on the river. This version is one minute short of making it into the 20 minute club but hopefully those participating in the Mockingbird challenge will round up. “A Wave of Hope” continues to be a reliable jam vehicle with 6 (maybe now 7) versions of the 16 times played making it to the jam charts.

"Funky Bitch" I have always loved this cover and feel some sort of connection to the girl being sung about. I think she sounds like a real good time and being a funky bitch seems kind of fun. Or maybe I just really like dancing to this song. I was also especially excited to hear this Mike showcase after I had an encounter with him the night before. We were leaving our friends’ hotel around 12:30 am after night one and ran into Mike while walking out of the elevator. I said hi and told him it was a great show (a “slight” exaggeration but what was I supposed to say?!). He thanked me and told me he liked my polka dots (I was wearing a polka dot dress and polka dot sunglasses). I explained it was “my Barbie look” which he probably didn’t know how to respond to and mercifully the elevator door shut and the encounter was over. Getting a fashion nod from Mike made my night though and if he wants to talk more about my current inspiration from the Barbie catalog, he knows where to find me. But back to the music, this “Funky Bitch” was played with authority and felt so much longer that it’s actual length of 7 minutes. Trey ripped his solo and the band brought the song to a triumphant ending. Landing in the new "hey stranger" from Trey’s solo album, “mercy,” was a great choice. Only the second time played (the first was 12/29/22, a great show!), I am now in the 100 club for this song. I think it is a nice breather song and the lyrics so clearly define what I think I know about who Trey is and what moves him.

I love lounge singer Page and everytime he sings, "Lawn Boy" I am always reminded of the infamous Baker’s Dozen version and also just how adorable this man is. "Back On the Train was well played and had a nice little effortless peak. "When the Circus Comes" is not my favorite, I’d rather a different ballad honestly, but this one hit nicely. “It’s Ice” is a complicated composition and they nailed it. Anything off Rift (my favorite Phish album) throws me into a nostalgia time warp and I am instantly 17, very high, listening to the tape in my room and reading the lyrics. "Blaze On" closed the (now expected) just under 75 minutes set with a standard version that’s about 10 minutes long.

During setbreak, I got a few messages from friends webcasting from home asking if I was ok. I was reminded of other times in North Carolina (or Camden, NJ for that matter) when I braved a storm during a show. Most notably 7/22/97 which was the only show I ever took my parents to and they waited out a torrential thunderstorm on the lawn while I rudely danced with my friends in the pavilion. I will never forget the band playing with the lightning and thunder during Taste. During this set break in Wilmington, everyone was checking the radar and said the storm was moving past us and we should be ok despite the lightning increasing everywhere around us. A few minutes later I felt the first raindrop plop on my arm. Before we knew it it was raining, but the scattered rain from the edge of a storm, and honestly it felt refreshing after these two hot days. My friend and I made a video of us crooning, “Singing in the Rain,” something I had forgotten about until I saw it this morning. It was not as charming as I thought it was at the time. Despite the rain, vibes were still high as we headed into the second set.

Photo by Megan Glionna
Photo by Megan Glionna

"Chalk Dust Torture" opened set two and the lightning was coming from all sides at this point but we still felt hopeful we could avoid the worst of the storm. The band knew we were wet and took “Chalkdust” out for a spin. An absolutely gorgeous, delicate jam followed with excellent listening from the band. A lot of the jams from this tour (so far) sound so conversational and you can almost hear 40 years of playing music together and being great friends in the way they can communicate through their improvisation. The stunning peak at the end made us all feel so joyful and alive. Last night was the 501st time Phish has played this song and it never ceases to amaze me when I hear a version like this (or the version I heard in Mexico on 2/24/23) how a song from 1991 can continue to inspire the band.

When they dropped into "Oblivion" I was thrilled. My co-host on the Helping Friendly Podcast, Brian Brinkman, had been calling that the band would play the second version shortly after its debut on the tour opener in Huntsville night one. The debut was around 11 minutes long and last night’s version was almost 18 minutes. How exciting to see a song that Tom Marshall and Trey wrote not long ago instantly become the newest jam vehicle. A testament to the fact that new songs are important to Phish’s ability to jam and push the band to think creatively.

“Oblivion” has a great dark sonic landscape for the band to build off of, and they did just that last night. The rain started in earnest during this song. And not just the light rain of a passing storm but a downpour that went sideways and added to the eerie, unsettling feeling of this killer tune. Page starts laying down some sick spacey synths (more of this please!) which created an ominous and psychedelic vibe. This jam was my favorite part of the show. It was innovative and I could hear the band pushing themselves to find new spaces to inhabit in this jam. Page was somehow continuing to play the synths and also the keyboard while Trey played frayed notes building off those textures. I can’t wait to return to this jam and I’d also like to see a video of it because I’d love to isolate who was doing what. It felt like they were all moving as one organism. But Page was my standout of the jam as he continued to create layers that made it feel like we were in an alien beehive. It was an epic moment with the rain and a new Phish tune stretching out into a cool jam.

Then another “Rift” tune with "The Wedge" I had so much fun singing this song and dancing with my college friends. It seemed like the whole venue was singing (it’s ok to sing at concerts, by the way) and the nostalgia junkie in me was feeling all the feels. The rain picked up even more during this song and we were all just resigned to it. How many chances in life do you get to hear your favorite band play while you dance in the rain? Life is short and mostly spent doing shit we don’t really want to do. So moments like these, I hold them close to my heart.

Which made it all the sadder when the band ended the song and the rain was so intense that you could tell they were trying to figure out what to do. The wind had also picked up and I was now absolutely drenched and cold. I remember thinking, “just keep playing so I can forget I am physically miserable!” Trey announced that he started “The Wedge” in the wrong key and the band played the whole song that way. “Professional musicians, unfazed by the wrong key!” he laughed. They attempted to play "Scents and Subtle Sounds" next but if you have seen any video of this you know the wind and rain were totally overwhelming at this point. Trey couldn’t even get all the lyrics out. We were all looking at each other in the audience like “damn, this is getting kind of intense.” Murmurs of will they stop, etc, started in earnest. The song kind of half-heartedly continues and the band was getting notice that they needed to stop. I will forever love Trey for growling “I want it on my permanent record that I didn’t want to stop, they stopped me.” Then Fishman fired back with, “Taylor Swift didn’t stop, it’s terrible, it’s criminal.” Fishman finally recognized that they had to cover his drum kit and begrudgingly left the stage. Oddly this second set rain cancellation came exactly 10 years after Phish had to leave the stage mid second set due to weather at Northerly Island.

A huge lightning strike right as everyone was evacuating and substances were peaking was intense. It was a daunting walk back to my friend’s hotel as the rain poured down, the lightning was constant, and the thunder was crashing above us. We somehow ended up on the boardwalk that was now flooded and no longer seemed like a pleasant river walkway but instead a part of the angry Cape Fear river that was outgrowing its container. We walked about a mile through water up to our shins and finally found our way back to the freezer that was the hotel lobby where we walked in like waterlogged animals. Our shoes squished and our socks had to be rung out. My Air Jordans may never be the same. We wrapped ourselves in towels from the pool and tried to dry off until our ride could come get us. We laughed our asses off as my friend took her wet clothes off and put on her new lot tee (which miraculously stayed mostly dry thanks to the ever present clear backpacks that make us all look like overgrown ravers) and a pair of borrowed mens shorts and called herself “Wook Barbie.” Hotel lobby Cheetos comforted me until I could get home to the warmth of a hot shower and a big bowl of cereal.

For me, this night combined so many of the things I love. Phish. North Carolina. My college friends. My Phish girl gang. Fun outfits. Dancing. Summer rainstorms. Laughing until your sides ache. This show was unforgettable because the music was great, the vibes were high, and the stories are plentiful. And nights like these are why I love the adventure that we call Phish. See you at the Mann…

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, comment by LookAtTheEyesMurray
LookAtTheEyesMurray That was a mercy stoppage. They stunk up that venue so badly with subpar playing, it may never be cleansed. Them being ordered to stop was the best thing to happen during an absolutely disastrous two night run. Worst shows ever.
, comment by TahoeDawg
TahoeDawg How do you really feel LOOKATTHEEYESMURRAY?

Nice review @meganglionna! Happy you made the most of the situation, defiantly created memories, good for you!
, comment by RealOutkast
RealOutkast Great review!

I was also at the show ( Page side in front of sound board too ) and it was fun dancing in the rain to the grooves they were laying down in set 2 until that big crack of lightning directly behind the stage.

Then things got scary.

I thought the venue did a poor job announcing what to do after they left the stage. House lights came on and everyone was confused as to what was happening. It wasn’t until a minute or two later that they came over the speakers to tell everyone to leave. It was a packed but controlled exit with everyone making the best of it despite lightning crackling all around.

As you said in the review, you never know what your going to get at a Phish show but it will always be an adventure. This one was a little bit more adventurous than most!
, comment by greghappe
greghappe Definitely not trying to pick a fight…i am not trying to put a bad vibe out there, or even discount anyone’s opinions that the last few shows were not worthy (I haven’t listened to them, and am really quite curious what could generate so much (so much) online chatter about epic fails). I REALLY want to listen to these, mostly to inform my own opinion as to weather (har, har) they truly fail to deliver…

It seems to me that there is an opinion of these (for me unheard) shows that is akin to the Simpson’s Comic Book Guy’s response to most things: “worst episode ever.”

While i tend to believe that of late years we are hearing the best phish that has ever been (to date) in terms of risks taken, risks accomplished, jam cohesion, band togetherness, massiveness of repertoire to pull from, etc., i do acknowledge that with that stature there will undoubtedly be a (hopefully occasional, and not permanent) fall from that pillar.

The last few shows have received comments which demonstrate people feel the run fell off the mark. It sounds like people are vocal enough about this run to share their thoughts, but am looking for a little more depth and dimension to the criticism…it is easy for a cartoon character (Comic Book Guy) to make blanket statements about the “Worst episode ever,” but am I wrong to expect more of phish phans and simply ask them to back it up a little more? What made it the worst?? Can you tell me more about ‘what’ made it so bad? It’s easy to be a comic book guy…far harder to put to words why you thought it stunk, but that’s what i want to hear!!!

Megan, thank you for sharing your recap…it may not be the collective consensus that the adventure was shared by all with your less than pessimistic review, but i want the haters and nay-sayers of the run to please give me more depth!! I implore them!!!

Can’t wait to find some hours to listen to such controversial shows…they can’t all be gems…if i rally with the nay-sayers i will try to ask myself ‘why’ i didn’t like it (so that when it comes up in conversation i can at least be informed enough to provide a debatable thesis as to why it was ‘this’ or ‘that.’
, comment by mgolia6
mgolia6 First off, Megan, thanks for weathering the storm and sharing your experience. Todd they J’s in the dryer in a shoe bag on delicate and you should be fine (are they 4’s)…I digress.

Loved your perspective. Something about anything but the ordinary when it comes to weather that solidifies an experience for me. Glad everyone is safe, but I do love getting spooked by a good storm.

On the review, I have only had a chance to catch the Chalkdust and, this one is for @GREGHAPPE (watch the free second set opener on YouTube here:

People might not be giving you the details but from my perspective this was about 20 minutes of very little, call it Chalkdust Tortured!!

So I went looking for some corroboration of the sub par quality of 7/18 and I stumbled upon set 2 opener of 7/19, Chalkdust Torture and maybe I was projecting but the staleness seemed to be pervasive tonight as well. Slow tempo’d but not like intentional, just kind of off. Trey was playing so many notes and starting and stopping so many musical thoughts that were disjointed with one another. If he found a lick he liked he didn’t stick with it for long. After this piecemeal jaunt through the first jam, the band reprises the chorus before trying to delve deeper and the consensus from this listeners ears is that they should have cut their losses and gone right into Oblivion instead of heading into “oblivion” because it just never went anywhere.

A few noteworthy observations: Mike’s bass seemed super low tonight, like way lower than normal. There was a point when Trey stopped playing for a moment and it felt like Page was going to step up and lead, but that was short lived and would have been week received. It wasn’t until late in the game that Trey started employing some of his sound rig effects and not that I want purely effects laden Trey but he could have gone early with the effects and maybe that would have salvaged the song. Trey was playing a lot of notes, almost meandering through passages looking for something to inspire and it was almost as if he was following click bait, jumping from thought to thought.

Anyhoo, still in agreement with Jmart, nobody’s perfect and we are all allowed to have an off night (or two as it seems). I guess god pulled the ripcord tonight with the weather cancellation mid second set.
, comment by jnspeer
jnspeer This… this right here… amazing recap of an amazing adventure… I was right THERE with you Megan.. as a matter of fact, I’m the guy with his right arm throwing love just to the left of the wook in the rain coat (in top picture)… you have captured my evening’s experience so perfectly, down to everyone looking at their STUPID weather app and thinking “yeah, that’s north of us .. we’re good”. We weren’t. As for the scene, this was only my 54th/55th shows so not a massive amount of venues/towns to compare but I cannot think of a kinder scene, other than NC humidity in July. Go figure. It’s hot. Delightful mid-week experience with The Phish From Vermont and 7200 new pals. With a few days/nights with on Carolina Beach thrown in … about 20 mins from show.
, comment by DeepBlueSky
DeepBlueSky @mgolia6 said:
I guess god pulled the ripcord tonight with the weather cancellation mid second set.
God didn't pull the ripcord. Some overzealous bureaucrat or corporate thug did.
, comment by TheLedge
TheLedge Great review Megan! We were the happy bunch to your right. ;) Sorry about startling you and sending a smashed can of Liquid Death into the core of the Earth!
, comment by jonesy_wales
jonesy_wales I was there. I loved every minute of it. Not sure I get the hate, maybe i am soft. Or maybe this phish is my best phish. it might not be for 20 somethings. so i get quibbling about song selection, etc. But the quality of the music was off the fucking charts, and I had some of the best times ever. The band is a joy machine, who continues to amaze me. Thanks @meganglionna for the extensive review. It was a special night... and the energy and vibe was just right. It had the makings of an absolute classic. (Fee, We are come, boogie on, and with the rift theme, fast enough for you, seemed totally in play to my friends and strangers around me... Mike Side/Right Side) . And the staff was brilliant and their attitude enhanced experiences.
, comment by nedwck
nedwck I agree, the vibe at the show was great. As for the struggles, especially night 1, I think that the reverb off of the two large buildings opposite the stage may have been causing the band some major sound issues, not to mention the weather. The most problematic building would not have been there in 2021 when TAB played this venue. I caught the soundcheck before night 2 and the reverb was unbelievable. You did not hear this in the crowd, but Im sure it was bouncing back at the band.
, comment by Wahwahz
Wahwahz What an adventure this night was! We were to the right of y’all at this show and I love your recap. These were my 8th/9th shows and I was also at dicks last year for rain delay/naked dude in boots (rip). We all had a great time and most of my phriends are LONG time phish peeps, I’m the baby. Loved this show and all it had to give us.
, comment by Col_forbin42
Col_forbin42 What an amazing review Megan. Thank you for painting such a wonderful and detailed picture of your experience. I haven’t listened to N2 yet, but I just cannot understand all of the bad reviews from this run. Listening to N1 set2 on Relisten was an absolute joy. The interplay between these guys is uncanny. Can’t wait to check out N2.
, comment by grupp92
grupp92 I love NC Phish. I lived in Emerald Isle for a year or so, and we saw a Raleigh show in 2011 that slayed me. Really curious about that venue in Wilmington.
My comment is only that watching Chalk Dust on YouTube, Trey was looking back at Jon, seemingly unhappy with the tempo - it was lethargic for a second set opener. Sounds like Megan had a blast regardless!
, comment by ocelotmockster
ocelotmockster NC native here commenting on the venue.
I’ve seen Phish in Charlotte & couple of shows in Raleigh. IMO Live Oak Pavilion in Wilmington is not a good venue for Phish. It’s too small and views are limited for those blocked by the sound boards/tent.
(I say this reluctantly bc it’s very convenient as I live only 20 miles away.)
Live Oak Pavilion accommodates ~7500 versus Walnut Creek (Raleigh) ~15-20K.
The Pavilion shut down the show bc of a lightning storm, yet forced attendees to evacuate onto the riverfront boardwalk. This caused bottlenecks of foot traffic with attendees crowded by towering metal lights in puddles of shin-deep water.
Live Oak Pavilion (managed by Live Nation) did a poor job. The following night the Darius Rucker show was interrupted & Live Oak had attendees evacuate and then return. ????
Not sure this is a good venue for Phish when playing NC.
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