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.
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.
"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…
If you liked this blog post, one way you could "like" it is to make a donation to The Mockingbird Foundation, the sponsor of Phish.net. Support music education for children, and you just might change the world.
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Phish.net is a non-commercial project run by Phish fans and for Phish fans under the auspices of the all-volunteer, non-profit Mockingbird Foundation.
This project serves to compile, preserve, and protect encyclopedic information about Phish and their music.
The Mockingbird Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Phish fans in 1996 to generate charitable proceeds from the Phish community.
And since we're entirely volunteer – with no office, salaries, or paid staff – administrative costs are less than 2% of revenues! So far, we've distributed over $2 million to support music education for children – hundreds of grants in all 50 states, with more on the way.