My first year living on the west coast and I was excited when Phish announced their summer tour. They have not been touring nearly as long as past tours but they are hitting bigger cities for longer stints which is nice. Over the last few years it has not been so much about the quantity of shows as the quality of shows. When they said three shows at The Gorge I was so excited. Unfortunately this conflicted with a company event and there was just no way I could swing seeing even one show at The Gorge.
Not being deterred I decided to hit three shows on the east coast. If I could not see them in my adopted home I would see them in my real home. This actually worked out for the best. While disappointed to not see them at The Gorge I was excited to see my family. I would see Phish for three straight nights to close the summer tour out. One more time at Walnut Creek and then two nights at Merriweather. The final show of the tour would be Sunday and never miss a Sunday show. It was also just after the 20th anniversary of me seeing Phish live. In fact my first show was their first time at Merriweather so this was a home coming for many reasons.
As the trip grew closer I gotta be honest, I checked out at work. I was so excited for what was about to come. SiriusXM just switched their Jam_On channel to Phish Radio which was awesome. I was going to see my family, and Phish, oh man so excited.
The entire trip didn’t disappoint at all. In fact it went well above my expectations. If there was anything to complain about it was the lack of any real down time. As soon as I landed till the time I took off the tarmac on a delayed flight, I was non-stop go go go. It was exhausting but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It does remind me that I am getting older however.
First thing after landing was picking up the rental car. I needed to make it to Craft House in Fairfax Corner for a drink with my old boss. That guy is great, taught me a lot and it was great catching up with him. He just had his third kid so I was happy he got a kitchen pass for the night to have a couple of drinks. That night I went to my brother’s house. That turned into a disaster, he’s an asshole.
Not letting it ruin my trip the next morning I was up pretty early for being on vacation. It was a five hour drive to Raleigh and I wanted to stop by Old Virginia Tobacco in Woodbridge to hangout and have a cigar. I was not sure who I would run into but I ended up seeing a shit ton of people.
The coolest thing was catching up with CJ. Last I heard he was getting out of OVTC and moving onto a better job. Well come to find out that fell through so he is now running the Woodbridge shop while he looks for a better paying job. Working at OVTC has its benefits but money is not one of them. I ran into a lot of customers including Ed, Sal, John, Baker, Clive, and Ben. Probably forgetting one or two people. For a Friday morning I was happy to run into so many familiar faces as I did.
The drive south to Raleigh was shit. I haven’t been on the east coast in a year and even longer since I have driven 95 during the summer months. I didn’t leave Woodbridge till after noon and it took me about 6 hours to make it down to Raleigh. Unfortunately this put a damper on doing any actives in Raleigh before the show. I had just enough time to check into the hotel and then I was off to the venue.
Despite being a Friday it was not sold out. I arrived about thirty minutes before the show and the lawn was not packed at all. What I couldn’t wait for was the sun to set. It is the south in August so needless to say it was hot and muggy that night. Finally when the sun went down things cooled off a little.
First show of summer tour for me and I was rather disappointed in the performance. All during the first set Trey kept screwing up his guitar work and the lyrics. To me it was so obvious. They would have this groove going and all of a sudden Trey would miss a note and it was like dragging fingers across the chalk board to me.
Thankfully the second set pulled it out and helped save the night. Still not a stellar performance from the band but it brought it up to an average rating. The Runaway > Antelope > Runaway > Antelope > Makisupa is what saved the night in my opinion. That little medley was awesome. By the second set I had moved further back and to the left so I wasn’t so crowded. Plus I was further away from all the smokers who where ridiculous.
Having missed dinner and not getting anything at the venue I was hungry for some food. Thankfully Raleigh is a larger city so it was easy to find something that was open late on a Friday night. Virgil’s Original Taqueria which was pretty good. I got three tacos and some chips which all was good but my eyes where bigger then my stomach. A great way to cap off the night.
The next morning I couldn’t sleep in as I needed to head north to Columbia for the show Saturday night. I made a long stop in Fredericksburg to see my mother and her husband at Firebirds Wood Fired Grill. It was a already a long day of driving but thankfully only a little traffic. My mother actually had to kick me out so I wouldn’t be late for the show that night. It was so great catching up for them even if it was only for a few hours.
Similar to Raleigh I was able to check into the hotel, catch a quick nap and then head to the venue. It has been several years since I was last at Merriweather and it has changed a lot since that time. The area around the venue is now well developed with lots of new apartment buildings and retail locations. This changed the parking situation which is now a little confusing if you are not prepared. You can get tickets for parking ahead in numbered lots or just show up and they will guide you to the right lots in the back.
First night I had a lawn seat and tried to get there at a reasonable time. Parking ended up taking longer then I wanted so by the time I got onsite the lawn was already packed. Tonights show was sold out for months so it was going to be a packed house. I noticed that they redesigned the wings on either side of the stage to adjust the seating and have a new roof covering the area instead of those stupid canvas tents. They have also redesigned some of the concessions and looks like they will start doing a true VIP area soon.
First set really started off strong with Blaze On > Party Time. After that it just turned for a much slower pace of show. Blah…get over it. Set ended on a good high of Stash and 46 Days. Second set was constant flip flopping of old school, new school, repeat till the encore. Sand and Ghost had good jams and they rocked Fuego.
The encore was four songs. I over heard someone say this was the first time this tour that happened. Set two was barely over an hour long. They seemed to struggle to play during the second set. To me the crowd just wasn’t into the show. It started with such promise but failed to live up to the hype in a way. A failure of its own success you could say. So even a four set encore wasn’t anything to write home about.
Sunday was the first day I didn’t have to get up and travel some place. It was one day but a well deserved break. I got a casual start before meeting Nancy early for drinks. We were going to get together with others for brunch at Earls Kitchen + Bar. I got a simple eggs Benedict and it was pretty amazing. The Hollanda sauce had the right amount of tang and creamy richness.
After that most of us headed to Bungalow Lakehouse for cigars in the gazebo. Here I meet up with Jaye and Ed. The weather was finally starting to break. The humidity level was dropping along with the temperatures. This just meant that a weather front was moving in and it would rain. I smoked two cigars before I had to leave for Merriweather. Just before I left it started to rain and that meant the highways would be filled with idiots that don’t know how to drive.
After saying my goodbyes and filling up the tank it didn’t take long to make it to the venue. The whole way up it rained but I still made pretty good time. I was able to stop and get a sandwich before the show in fact. I had a pavilion seat so didn’t care if it rained or not.
I got to the venue with plenty of time before the show. As I showed my ticket and walked toward my seat I was shocked at just how closed it was. My seat ended up being the first row of seats, right behind the pit and eye level with the stage. This is the best seat I have ever had seeing Phish or probably any major band ever. One or twice I might have been closer from behind the stage but never this close from the front.
The entire second night kicked ass. Having such a good seat certainly made it a little more enjoyable but the setlist and the energy were all from the band. The rain stopped a little after 7pm and never returned. It cooled everything off quite a lot which was a welcome comfort.
The show got off to a rocking start and the jams throughout the songs kicked ass. Upbeat toons like Llama and BBFCFM are a good way to start things. Lots of these slow laid back kinda jams thrown in all throughout the show. I just couldn’t believe how good the first set was. The end was of the set was just flowed from song to song with a good selection of Tweezer > Bathtub > The Curtain With > Chalk Dust.
I was hoping for as close to the original 8/8/1998 show as possible so during the second set I got a Piper and then a really really good 2001 > Harry Hood to close the set, close the show, close the tour. What a groovy second set they played I was completely blown away by it.
Encore was a mix of typical encore slow jams. Not bad but not really great either. The second Tweezer Reprise certainly was a change of pace and not expected. They opened set two with the reprise so this came completely out of left field.
Just a great show and the perfect way to end the day. It was a short ride back to the hotel and a well deserved nights sleep. The next morning I planed on getting up and out at a reasonable hour. I had a late flight so took the opportunity to visit the National Gallery of Art in the morning. Here I browsed and took some time to do a little writing. Eventually I meet Nancy for lunch at Plan B Burger Bar. I was still on vacation so we started the afternoon off with a couple of beers. After lunch we headed to Ocelot for some more beer before she dropped me off at the airport.
I think going west is easier because you gain all your time back. It does make for a long day but I think its easier getting home and adjusting to the difference. The weather at IAD ended up not playing well and delayed my flight by over an hour. Whats worst was the hour or so lost on the tarmac just sitting there. This just made for a long day of travel getting home. The seats are not the most comfortable so my ass was already hurting before I even left the ground
Once I got home I took the Max home. It felt so good to get home that night. I dropped my bags on the floor and crawled right into bed. This trip was a lot of fun. Not a lot of time to stop and smell the roses but I was able to accomplish a lot of what I wanted. I saw three shows of Phish with the Sunday show completely blowing my mind. I also managed to see a lot of friends and family so it was awesome catching up with them. This was a trip when I really did need a day to recover from my trip. Next year I hope that I can make The Gorge shows. But if they play Merriweather again it is worth it going home to catch them at my home venue. Always a blast.
Friday, August 10th 2018
Walnut Creek – Raleigh, NC
Set 1 starts at 7:33pm
1. Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan
2. Funky Bitch
3. Ocelot >
4. The Wedge
6. Guelah Papyrus
7. Birds of a Feather >
8. Saw It Again >
9. Timber (Jerry The Mule) >
10. Limb By Limb >
11. Farmhouse >
set over at 8:49pm
Set 2 starts at 9:35pm
1. Meatstick* >
2. Drowned >
3. NICU >
4. Thread >
5. Runaway Jim >
6. Run Like an Antelope >
7. Runaway Jim >
8. Run Like an Antelope >
9. Makisupa Policeman >
10. Run Like an Antelope >
11. You Enjoy Myself
set over at 10:38pm
Encore starts at 10:40pm
12. A Day in the Life
house lights at 10:46pm
* Trey did a dance associated with In My Feelings.
Page teased the theme from Barney Miller after Wombat. Trey quoted Clowny Clown Clown in Saw It Again. Saw It Again was teased and quoted in Timber. Trey quoted In My Feelings and did a dance associated with the song during Meatstick. The first Runaway Jim and the second Run Like an Antelope contained Thread quotes.
Saturday, August 11th 2018
Merriweather Post Pavilion – Columbia, MD
Set 1 starts at 7:38pm
1. Blaze On >
2. Party Time
3. Breath and Burning
4. Sugar Shack
8. 46 Days
set over at 8:46pm
Set 2 starts at 9:19pm
1. Sand >
2. Mercury >
3. Ghost >
4. Fuego >
5. Slave to the Traffic Light
set over at 10:23pm
Encore starts at 10:26pm
6. Twenty Years Later >
7. Martian Monster >
8. Rocky Top >
9. Golgi Apparatus
house lights at 10:46pm
Trey teased Wingsuit in 46 Days.
Sunday, August 12th 2018
Merriweather Post Pavilion – Columbia, MD
Set 1 starts at 7:36pm
2. Big Black Furry Creature from Mars
5. Tweezer >
6. Bathtub Gin >
7. The Curtain With >
8. Chalk Dust Torture
set over at 8:50pm
Set 2 starts at 9:24pm
1. Tweezer Reprise >
2. No Men In No Man’s Land >
3. Twist >
4. Prince Caspian >
5. Piper >
6. Backwards Down the Number Line >
7. Also Sprach Zarathustra >
8. Harry Hood
set over at 10:37pm
Encore starts at 10:39pm
9. Heavy Things
10. Bug >
11. Tweezer Reprise
12. house lights at 10:54pm
Trey teased Streets of Cairo during Meat. Trey teased L.A. Woman during Tweezer. Trey teased San-Ho-Zay in No Men in No Man’s Land. Page teased In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida in Twist. Piper contained a Tweezer Reprise jam and quotes. Also Sprach Zarathustra included Martian Monster teases.