Something about the summer solstice and Phish should make you want to get in your car and cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway down to Charlotte. Friday night at the PNC Music Pavilion saw the season of summer officially open with an alien-approved jam about a missing dog, a set-opening surprise, and “freezing” cold interludes starring everyone’s favorite uncle. While the Tar Heel State only got one stop this tour, the band left it all on the Charlotte stage on the longest night of the year.
To kick off this special first set, the band opened with “Have Mercy” for the first time in Phishtory. In fact, the last time this reggae cover was found in the first set was at Camp Oswego in 1999. Something about North Carolina pulls this song off the shelves. After it went missing for over ten years, the band dusted it off in Raleigh in 2010, and on Friday it made its sixth 3.0 appearance during an unexpected welcome back to the same state.
Another song that’s mostly stayed in second sets in recent years, “Gotta Jibboo”, kept the early chill vibe rolling—that is, until Trey Anastasio came racing toward the “Jibboo” solo like a comet coming to earth. The lead guitarist brought raw energy as he gritted his teeth and dug into the TAB-turned-Farmhouse jam, leaving the mellow, ambient undertones behind. If this night was foreshadowing the remainder of the 3-night weekend, Phish tourists are in for a treat. “Free” finally felt like a familiar first-set-territory tune, and Trey made sure the standard-length rendition got some extra mustard by challenging bassist Mike Gordon to a face-to-face jam off.
Played for the first time since Baker’s Dozen, “Ginseng Sullivan” felt just right in the state in which country and bluegrass music are deeply rooted. Over the past few shows, the international jam band has found itself country hopping in North America, but they tipped their hats to Germany in the form of “Ginseng>Tweezer,” two songs that haven’t been paired together since their performance at Alter Wartesaal during their 1997 European tour.
As soon as the segue into “Tweezer” kicked off, Anastasio looked like a child with a fresh five dollar bill that just heard the ice cream truck ringing toward his block. Gordon brought raunchy bass riffs to launch into the first section of the jam. Jon Fishman summoned an early-show “woo” after a few taps on the digital drum pad. Trey splashed in with bluesy forward-motion guitar work that launched the 13-minute rendition into high gear. The band finally stepped out of the freezer (for now) and “faceplanted” into an exceptional segue into “Passing Through”. Gordon got the spotlight on bass until he was gently shoved out of the way by his synthy sidekick, Page McConnell. The rousing rendition proved that the Kasvot Växt side of Phish was well-practiced, as these originals seem to go deeper each show.
During the “Ya Mar”, Anastasio proclaimed, “Pay it for the people, Leo,” and the “Chairman of the Boards” did just that. Trey gave him a face that said “Damn, dude!” as the crowd erupted, attempting to match the band’s explosive energy. Next up, the otherworldly “Mercury” took the PNC Music Pavilion on another journey into space. After “the day is longer than your year” nodded to the solstice, the Marimba Lumina “nets unbreakable” section dropped the tune off a cliff into a chunky B-3 organ valley. Lighting designer Chris Kuroda cast a red hue over the band, matching the hellish, dark tone of 3.0 tune that has proved to be a stand-out jam vehicle in recent years. Speaking of jam vehicles, Trey decided it was time to bring back one of the all-time favorites once again in “Tweezer.”
Was this going to be one of those “Tweezefest” shows? In the words of Walter White, “You’re god damn right.” To the delight of the crowd, Trey snuck in some plinko-type effects right before the band schizophrenically transformed back into Kasvot Växt. With the summer solstice in mind once again, “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” reminded everyone what space smells like to close out the rocket-fueled set.
Phish – “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S” [Partial]
[Video: M G]
There is something about North Carolina that makes the Vermonters want to express concern over their 119-year-old-dog that ran away from home (see 8/10/2018). With the sun finally down for the night, the band returned to explore “Runaway Jim” in one of the most extended versions since 2003’s New Year’s celebration in Miami. Hollow guitar effects by Trey early on added some extra spice to the regularly scheduled “Jim” composition. The band took their time achieving Type II lift-off, building up to a tranquil-into-extraterrestrial multi-section jam. Trey layered fuzzy, Garcia-esque effects in collaboration with Page’s stellar work on the keys. Fishman sped things up via cowbell as Gordon trailed him on the bass. Heavy guitar distortion shifted the winds as Page jumped on the grand piano and hammered down. The last four minutes sounded like the background noise of an alien abduction. The band transitioned into an eerie interstellar space, and the moment was encapsulated by the light designer’s spinning, blinking visual effects. The group sonically told the story of a scared dog lost in a dark jungle before the returning to the carefree song—playfully singing the lyrics to bring everything back to normal.
An intro-less “Scents and Subtle Sounds” eased its way into the second set to bring a light and approachable jam to the highly inventive performance. The “Scents” was getting some blissed-out treatment before Trey axed the sweet stuff and briefly jumped back into the third appearance of “Tweezer” during the Pavilion freeze-out. Gordon cranked up the bass effects to create a poppier than usual “Sand”. Page went to work on the clavinet while Trey pedal-hopped to keep up with Gordon’s stanky funk. Riding the bass wave, the full band was completely locked-in during the ferocious “Sand”, giving the Charlotte crowd exactly what they came to see. This was perhaps not the longest “Sand” ever, but definitely worthy of several dozen re-listens.
The fifth 3.0 rendition of “Lifeboy” gave the audience some soothing ballad time to calm everyone down and allow them to take a breath. Another Undermind original came next with “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing”, perhaps another ode to beach season. Silky-smooth synth fluttered into the slow-rolling “ASIHTOS” that took a 10-minute deep-sea dive. Trey channeled his inner tin man with an “If I Only Had A Brain” tease and after a nice textured jam before the band resurfaced with “Taste”. Fishman chopped away at the wood blocks to carry the Type I jam further and Page put in work on the grand piano to give “Taste” a well-deserved welcome back for the first time since it opened set two on the final night last summer’s Alpharetta, GA run.
“Twenty Years Later” served as a great reflection song and gave Trey time for a gritty guitar solo before a rambunctious, set-closing “Possum”. The mountain lyrics felt more appropriate than usual (as they did in “Runaway Jim”) with the Blue Ridge Mountains towering in the distance. The honky-tonk rocker included some tasty “Have Mercy” lyrical quotes to make sure the second set would end as the first one started. Trey gave some extra gas to one of the most-played songs in the band’s history to finish off a fan-approved Friday night.
The encore vibrated with love on the lightest day of the year as it kicked off with “More”. Finally, those who bet on a “Tweezer Reprise” got what they expected. For those that prepared for a “Faceplant into Rock” sample by Page to end the show, they were also correct. Each year, people from around the world gather at Stonehenge in celebration of the summer solstice, while in the Phish universe, they gather at Gamehendge. Uncle Ebenezer may hold the throne as Phish’s favorite uncle, but Charlotte can be summed up best by Full House’s Uncle Jesse, “Have mercy.”
Phish – “Tweezer Reprise”
[Video: M G]
Phish continues their 2019 summer tour with weekend with their customary two-night run at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday and Sunday (June 22nd and 23rd). For a full list of upcoming tour dates, head here.
Each show on Phish’s 2019 summer tour will be rebroadcast on SiriusXM Phish Radio (Ch. 29) at 12:00 ET the following day. Subscribe here.
Setlist: | Phish | PNC Music Pavilion | Charlotte, NC | 6/21/19
Set One: Have Mercy, Gotta Jibboo, Free, Ginseng Sullivan > Tweezer -> Passing Through, Ya Mar, Mercury > Tweezer > Say it to Me S.A.N.T.O.S.
Set Two: Runaway Jim > Scents and Subtle Sounds > Tweezer -> Sand, Lifeboy, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing > Taste, Twenty Years Later > Possum
Encore: More > Tweezer Reprise