Part 1: Fort Lauderdale, FL to Charlotte, NC
The inevitable course of coinciding incidences recently has landed me in a position of duality beyond soul and body. By weekday I siphon through infinite bits of data in a digital world postulated by a tradition of remunerative goals. A diagnosable case of the Mondays fades into a tantalizing hump day. As if by design the five day conclusion never comes too soon, but always right on time. I hang up my white collar and don the battle attire of a true-blooded weekend warrior. This is not simply a metaphor. These built for comfort Nike dunks have trekked through a majority of North America on hundreds of musical endeavors. An evident lack of laundering is obvious but the intact sneaker is a testament in itself.
The drowsy airport security agent was startled, and particularly disgusted, when I placed them on the conveyor belt. It has 5:30 AM and she wore her "its too early for this shit" look like a pair of fresh gold earrings. My vibe was a direct contrast to the drones. I sympathized yet was alive and emanating a look of anticipation mixed with an annoyingly insouciant grin. This was not without consequence and was paid for in the form of a thorough pat down. A free feel up with the cost of travel.
I do some of my best thinking in airport terminals. Not because it offers any amount of clarity for creativity, but because it is the one place offering countless characters to fuel my voyeuristic imagination. Today was different. My thoughts moved into more abstract patterns and inevitably circled around the core of my journey. Music is not easily defined but simply put it is the lack of silence. I have never experienced total silence, and I am not sure if it even exists, but I know that am zealot to sound. Much like an addict, I can find it anywhere and there is never enough. The universal truth has promoted an endless chase to recreate the most recent high and in effect became an all-consuming necessity. It is not a vice. It is a wild abandon that can be channeled into mainlined joy. Today I was on the hunt.
My row companion on the first plane asked me two things during the aerial lam from the reality behind. The first was what religion I followed. Oddly enough someone that would ask this did not like my answer. She told me to find Jesus. Luckily my second aerial attempt positioned me with some like-minded travelers and I befriended an unsuspecting Doctor that would become a consort or sorts. Excitement fueled chatter landed on the makeshift posse. Here we were in Charlotte, North Carolina, a southern metropolis that lays claim to the largest vaults in the country. The Queen City was built on gold mine gunnies and free flowing streams - fitting for royal roots and a rebellious history. Regretfully I had to part ways with my new friends to meet my tour buddy of many years. Time was for once a non-issue and we spent the early afternoon gathering supplies. By mid-day we were knocking back microbrewery libations in a mid-tier hotel with friends - it was the perfect setting for a game of catch up.
Good karma came full circle when the Doctor wrote up a prescription for my lawn seat ailment. Next thing I know we are in the thinly populated Gold Circle. I easily stake out a nice aisle spot before Trey grabs a sign from the audience displaying "Mike's House". The crowd request gimmick seemed like it wasn't really part of the show, but was more of a thunderous warm up that happened to be a benchmark Mike’s Groove. This could be good! A Dog Log sound check already happened earlier in the day so the vibe was already far from standard. The rest of the set ranged from a rocking Sample In A Jar and Axilla to a funked out Wolfman's Brother that had the entire audience pulsing. A well placed Colonel Forbin's Ascent segue into Fly Famous Mocking Bird, a bananas Scent Of A Mule and a surprisingly fitting Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan rounded out a top heavy first set. I could not help but think that this would be a first set beats the second set experience like that seen earlier in the tour?
The crowd was on point and thirsty for more. Admitting that this would be a fitting place for a set killer or warm down cut, one can imagine the frenzy that ensued when Icculus reared its beautiful head. The energy level hit fifth gear and I was reminded of that place I held in my mind for moments like the Killing In The Name Of from Alpharetta or the Maze from Alpine two years previous. Hold Your Head Up, a skilled vacuum solo, Over The Rainbow, Bike and hilarity gelled to form a cornucopia of mid-set entertainment that only Phish can pull off. Where do you go from here? How about two heavy hitting crowd favorites back to back with Chalk Dust Torture and You Enjoy Myself.
I was ready to breathe but could not help but blurt out enthused commentary. We settled on "I guess you had to be there" as our flagship stance. The band took the stage quickly for the encore and it was apparent that Trey knew he had total control. That all too familiar mischievous grin stretched across his face. The vocal response started from the very back of the lawn and echoed into the pavilion as the first few notes of Wilson were played. Six long months built my energy threshold and it was now being completely shattered. This was the reason hundreds of miles were traveled. Pushing the envelope to see how high the jump before falling over the edge. Consciousness rang through as the Loving Cup reached outlandish peaks and seemed fitting. Oh, what a beautiful buzz!
Set 1: Mike's Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Bouncing Around the Room, NICU > Sample in a Jar, Colonel Forbin's Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, Axilla, Wolfman's Brother, Scent of a Mule, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan
Set 2: Backwards Down the Number Line > Rock and Roll > Ghost > Free > Reba, Icculus, Hold Your Head Up > Bike > Hold Your Head Up, Chalk Dust Torture, You Enjoy Myself
Encore: Wilson > Loving Cup
 "Play it, Leo!" lyric replaced with "Leo's House!"
 The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana) tease from Page.
 A Love Supreme tease from Mike.
 No whistling.
 Somewhere Over the Rainbow played by Fish during vacuum solo.