Sunday, July 17, 2011

Phish: Southern Run 2011 - Charlotte, Raleigh and Portsmouth Pt. 2

Part 2: Charlotte, NC to Raleigh, NC.

I was still on corporate time and awoke before the rest of my roommates. The room was eerily quiet and everyone seemed to be in a deep sleep. The fringe of the window curtains allowed for a border of natural light. I took advantage of being the first to rise. The luxury of a hot shower on tour is never underrated. Especially when you get to go first and there is more than a hand towel left. I indulged and came out feeling like a new man before sneaking down to the continental breakfast. Unfortunately the droves of Phish fans had wiped out the entire buffet except for a to-go box worth of home fries. I sweet-talked the gal at the breakfast bar to look for some juices in the back to contribute to our smoothie operation. She gifted me with a handful of pineapple and I returned to the room to find everyone was hungry and ready to polish off the fried potatoes in record time. Somehow this only constructed a deeper appetite and group-think took us to the nearest Cracker Barrel.

The 3 hour drive East on i-85 is pleasant and a nice change of pace from my Floridian residency. I was attracted to the Southern mountains enough to spend 5 years living here for school and I was now being reminded why I made that choice.  The scenic dose was over before feeling too long and we found ourselves at Boom’s new place in Raleigh by mid-day. Luckily the apartment was spacious because his pad would be home for about eleven of us tonight. I enjoyed the concept of not having to do much of anything all day and decoded the problem of boredom with craft beer and roast beef sandwiches. Tonight we were rolling deep and by 4 PM all the crews had arrived from around the region. The idea of employing a limo or party bus was met with enthusiasm until we all realized we didn’t necessarily care enough to wait for that to happen.
Phish Lot in Raleigh 
The Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at is tucked into a forested park that is carved out for pods of parking lots. The number of ticketless in the group doubled since the previous evening so it was priority 1 to lock down anything that could be found. Luckily a fellow Floridian called me over and dumped two lawn seats on me for a more than reasonably price. Before heading out to explore the other lots we put a hurting on a case of beer and filled the flasks to the brim.

The crowd seemed to be migrating to particular location so we decided that might be worth checking out. Our curiosity paid off and we came upon a thickly populated stretch of vendors haggling with hundreds of fans. It was impressive to say the least. We make our way down one of the perpendicular rows and I caught sight of my buddy from home doing his best to sell t-shirts. He said business was good and we traded notes about Charlotte before I had to meet up with some stragelers I was holding on to tickets for. The lines to get in on the right and left entrances were backed up for a hundred yards. Oddly enough the main entrance in the center was less congested.   
Manny at work. 
The warm day was gone and a cool temperature drop via a wave of storm clouds was welcomed but did not bode well for keeping dry. The wind started blowing and the sun was blocked from view. I dropped my wallet and phone into a zip lock bag. I was certain we were going to get dumped on. As if by some sort of weather miracle the rain never came but the temperature stayed in the lower range. I counted this as a blessing after seeing footage of the horrifying storm that had hit the Alpharetta show earlier in the week. We quickly found a spot in the center of the lawn just as the boys took the stage.    

Cars Trucks Buses was a solid warm up that always makes me feel funky enough for comfort but in a very light sort of way.  It was sufficient to get the large crowd settled down and my feet ready to groove.  Once the attention was focused on the stage they wasted no time and launched into a decent rendition of Peaches En Regalia. What made this noteworthy beyond being Peaches was that November 22nd, 1992 was the last time they had opened a show with two instrumental songs. The trio of 1st set opener worthy tunes came in the form AC/DC Bag. The motley crew I was a part of grew to its full capacity at this point and we were as barefoot as pirates armed with over sized beers.  AC/DC Bag took the pace up a notch and peaked into a wonderful early evening guitar and organ duel before inching into every Phish’s fans favorite swine anthem Guyute. After working out the initial kinks the composed section lead through many steps that featured near flawless work by Fishman while Trey and Page struggled to connect at times.  By the time the dark road race movement dropped, the band was finally hitting the starts and stops lead by Fishman’s rolls and Trey coming over the top of peaks. Page was right on his heels. Even up on the lawn the notes rang out beautifully from the hollow body Languedoc to Page’s organ.  The Peaches tone seems to be in the same vein as parts of Guyute so I could see the connection in this pairing.

Now, we are in the South, the birthplace of American rock greats like The Allman Brothers and countless bluegrass legends. That being said, it was only a matter of time before we got to the get-down-at-the-ho-down genre. Although arguments for it being extremely overplayed have been thrown around all Summer Tour, Possum came at a perfect time in this set and the energy stacked on stop of itself as Mike skillfully dropped a series of well crafted bass lines that captured the pavilion and lawn in a net of grooving. Trey slowed the momentum at each turn similar to noteworthy versions this tour, but quickly abandoned this strategy for a peak and rock technique.  I guess you can only be so creative with a song when you play it over half a dozen times in the first leg of a tour. At the time it felt a lot more fulfilling than on the recording. Earlier in the day a cohort had mentioned that he wanted to see Halley’s Comet not only feed into a wonderful segue, but to also stand on its own in an extended jam before launching into the track that follows. The mood for making selections come true without the use of a pesky sign was in full effect and he got what he wanted, plus some! From the vocal intro until landing safely in 46 Days the nearly 8 minutes of funky bliss was easily one of the set and show high lights.  Trey decided he would pull out his metaphorical ax and cut the directionless jam in a familiar yet awkward fashion. It is not that the argument against Trey is necessarily unjustified when it comes to pushing into the next song, but the real quip is the amount of grace, or lack there of, that seems to go into this shady segue method. 46 Days quickly caught legs and took off into a Anastasio shred fest layered on top of screaming organs and building drum stutters. Vocal yells only instigated a rise in tension. Jams like this are what make seeing Phish in an open-air venue so wonderful. The crowd was bouncing sporadically and looks ranged from bliss to awe during the second wave of peaks. The Divided Sky was standard and on point. The clouds above were splitting in fragments and combined with a wonderful Southern sun set that brought the temperature down along with it. I was in my element. Having been born in Georgia and educated in Virginia the 4 years previous, so I couldn’t help but take down a few sips of whiskey from my flask as a tribute to Skynyrd when Page started into The Ballad of Curtis Loew.  The combination of being with old college friends and finally settling into a tour routine resulted in my advanced level of inebriation by the time Run Like An Antelope rounded out the set. I grabbed two buddies that live in opposite parts of the country and took this one the distance with a hybrid jumping and dancing routine that was an attempt at mimicking the movements of, well, an antelope. One of those exciting moments that is now ingrained in my head and will not soon be forgotten.

Set break was short, sweet and just enough time to get things handled and put back together. Dusk was fading into a wonderful summer night as the boys took their positions and started a very patient Twist. Trey was listening to Mike, who seemed to be making up for the shadow Page and Big Red had cast on him in the first set. Fishman continues to lay the groundwork that has earned him the title of Most Improved Player this tour. Trey took it upon himself to take the jam up quickly while interlocking with Page’s ivory efforts. No fooling around in the second chapter, it was businesses time and the crowd was taking the notes in stride. Twist segued into a top notch Rift that checked off a personal want for the weekend. The beautiful interplay between Trey and Page continued through the fast paced composed section before bottoming out into a well jammed Prince Caspian. I am usually not a fan of the Prince this early but after such a strong start I allowed it to win me over. This version went unfinished. An eerie theme had already taken a hold of the set from the first licks of Twist but once Esther’s circus chords began all I could picture was a piece of foreshadow from the Alpharetta posters a few days previous.

Being clear headed beyond an empty flask of dark liquor and a few beers, the movement towards a spooky mind bender was welcomed as a challenge. A light-hearted Jane’s Addiction cover was only a teasing distraction to give false hope. Those that might be slipping into a Phish guided tour into the darkness had to keep their wits about them. (Side note: oddly enough I choose 1998-08-01 as my work music today and that also happens to be the debut of Jane’s Addiction cover Been Caught Stealing.) 
Piper blasts off early and although Trey attempts to take the reins on leading the jam, the real noteworthy work is executed by Page. The energy settles down into a skillful butter segue into the intro of My Friend, My Friend. The crowd erupted when Trey echoed the licks into the dark vocal section. The dark of night had made its presence known and lighting genius Chris Kuroda was in hog heaven as the twisted build ups layered over Fishman’s fills.  Trey even employs a maniacal voice to add insult to injury. This version did not have the “Myfe” ending. A standard yet well executed Kill Devil Falls proceeded an extended and loose Split Open and Melt that was the best attempted at an extended improvisational segment. The spaceship landed and the only chance at sanity was a back-to-back rock medley in the form of classic tune Golgi Apparatus and First Tube.  Good Times, Bad Times was a mediocre way to end the night given the themes of the evening but the former part of the song title set the pace for the rest of the night. Our gang of drunk and disorderly made it back to the home base and filled the night with hilarious commentary, creative uses of markers on those passed our with shoes on and debating the merit in drinking until the run came up. It was great to be back on tour in the company of crazies I call friends. 

Set 1Cars Trucks BusesPeaches en RegaliaAC/DC BagGuyutePossumHalley's Comet > 46 DaysThe Divided SkyThe Ballad of Curtis LoewRun Like an Antelope
Set 2: Twist > Rift > Prince Caspian[1] > Esther, Been Caught Stealing, Piper > My Friend, My Friend[2] > Kill Devil Falls, Split Open and Melt, Golgi Apparatus, First Tube
Encore: Good Times Bad Times
[1] Unfinished.
[2] No "Myfe" ending.

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