For me what truly marks the start of summer is Phish tour. This year started a little earlier than usual for the band in my opinion, but they are packing an east coast leg 1, three day festival over 4th of July weekend, and then a west coast leg 2 ending in a three night run in Colorado. From what I have read after this summer tour there will be no more shows this year. They certainly have toured heavily after coming back from hiatus in 2009 and they deserve a break, just not a long one.
I was going to catch three consecutive show, the last three of the tour in fact, over a long weekend. It started in Charlotte, NC on a Friday and progress to Raleigh and finally Portsmouth on Sunday before heading back to work on Monday. I probably should have taken Monday off in hindsight, but at the time I thought I could do it, Portsmouth is only 3 hours from my house. On Friday I got an early start, not driving, just getting up, Charlotte is 6 hours from my house so in relative terms, rather close. Getting a few things done I hit the road in the rental by noon after a quick stop for gas and coffee.
The drive down was uneventful considering I had my directions and it was only to North Carolina. This time I am proud to say I didn’t miss the exit for interstate 85 like I did years ago seeing Phish in Greensboro. Things were going great till I got into Charlotte proper and started looking for the venue. The directions I had from Google were not very helpful and I got lost…..of course. It drove around for just over an hour before I finally found the venue. Poor signs are to blame for this one, not one sign saying “Venue This Way” and a street sign was totally nonexistent.
Pulling into the lot it was pretty empty at this point as the band was just about to get on stage. I followed the attendants into the way back of the lot so I knew getting out would be a bitch. I found my way to the entrance past the people milling about and headed up towards the lawn to secure a spot. This show I actually secured my first pavilion seat from mail order in as long as I can remember but decided against it. They had already finished Mike’s > H2O and started on Weekapaque, I just wanted to relax and enjoy the music. Truth be told I really like the lawn for shows like this. Summer shows with a good crowd are best experienced on the lawn. There is a vibe and plenty of space to rock out as compared to pavilion seats. I was just bummed it cost me an extra $15 for the privilege of sitting on the lawn.
The weather was pretty good for a mid-July night in Charlotte, with a slight breeze and no threat of rain. What I didn’t count on were all the mosquitoes, guess they got the schedule for the venue like I did. Even in a crowd of thousands they found me and bit the crap out of me. The welts from Charlotte lasted almost two weeks and itched like crazy for the next few days.
First set was actually good and what I expect from a late tour show from the band, the music was flowing and the jams tight. Even the song selection was great with the traditional Mike’s > H2O > Weekapauge, Bouncing, NICU. By the end of the set they conjured up some more classics with Axilla, Wolfman’s and a new song I like, Stealing Time.
During the set break I felt like I could finally relax and reflect on the journey down to Charlotte. I got a good start but got lost and was late to the show. I walked in and the magic was already happening, now it was time to lounge and get psyched for set 2 as the sun set behind me.
Set two started with Backwards Down the number line and segued for most of the night. Next up was Rock and Roll which lately they have been doing long jams in the middle of the song. The official Phish releases have separated these out as a separate jam and they are good.
Updated: January 17th 2012 – I have stopped trying to write a post about this and the rest of the tour. I am just going to post a quick thought and the set list so it will be on my site.
01. Mike’s Song >
02. I am Hydrogen >
03. Weekapaug Groove
04. Bouncing Around the Room
05. NICU* >
06. Sample in a Jar
07. Colonel Forbin’s Ascent >
08. Fly Famous Mockingbird
10. Wolfman’s Brother
11. Scent of a Mule^
12. Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan
01. Backwards Down the Number Line >
02. Rock and Roll$ >
03. Ghost >
04. Free >
05. Reba# >
07. Hold Your Head Up >
08. Bike@ >
09. Hold Your Head Up
10. Chalkdust Torture
11. You Enjoy Myself
12. Wilson >
13. Loving Cup