Saturday 06/22/2019 by phishnet

CHARLOTTE RECAP: HAVE MERCY!

[Recap is courtesy of user @jsauce, Josh Martin. Apologies to him and to you that this recap was belatedly posted. Once again, please note that the opinions offered in this recap are not necessarily shared by any of the volunteers on this site. -Ed.]

Greetings and salutations from Charlotte, North Carolina: Place of my birth, my first show (11/19/95), and of course, tonight’s show.

A word about PNC (neé Blockbuster) Pavilion: it’s about as generic a venue as you can imagine. Sprawling outdoor shed located way outside the city limits, convenient to absolutely no one, huge gravel parking lot, very interested police presence, broiling summer sun, etc. Imagine the late 90’s shed circuit: your Polarises, your Lakewoods, your Walnut Creeks. You get the point.

© 2019 Phish (Huemer)
© 2019 Phish (Huemer)

AND YET, for some reason known only to them, Phish have chosen this particular venue to unload the magic time and again over the years. For proof, and for sake of brevity, I offer Only one example: the massive, world shattering “Harry Hood”>”David Bowie” second set pairing from 7/25/03, which remains to me the quintessential 2.0 jam and one of the finest jams of their career. If you haven’t heard it, I strongly recommend taking a second to give it a spin.

Back to the present: the first couple of shows of summer tour had me kinda sad. I was not hearing a lot of the magic, but trying not to judge too harshly. The “Golden Age” in Toronto changed all that, as did the “Birds of a Feather” from Blossom. The band you know and love showed up there and also, by the way, left a very large number of heavy hitters on the table for the Queen City.

Which brings us to tonight. In retrospect, everyone should have seen this coming: Both Toronto and Blossom showed great turns, but there were a number of slower songs with not as much jamming as some would prefer. Charlotte was also an easy stop to skip between Blossom and Merriweather. Add in the fact that there were a ton of songs on the plate AND they seem to love playing here for whatever reason (see above) and it seems almost inevitable that Phish, on the summer solstice of 2019, played one of the finest top to bottom shows of their career. Before anyone immediately starts telling ol’ Marty to pump the brakes with the accolades, know this: I’m a (definitely over-) critical Phish fan and I’ll double down on that performance.

Where to start? How about with “Have Mercy?” This was completely unexpected and a first for your reviewer. Down shifting immediately into a “Gotta Jibboo” that was airy and confident. Healthy workouts for Page and Trey while they were working out some sound issues under the shed. The third turn of “Free” on this tour was similarly short. I’m sure I’m not alone when I wish they would unload on this song the way it deserves. You can’t jam on everything I guess, but one wonders why they seem to steer clear of going deep on it.

Any preoccupation with that ended with the first notes of “Tweezer.” After the Ebenezer turn they wasted no time getting into a slick grind, followed by modulation into a major key with joyful contributions from Page. At times in 3.0 this key change has felt almost perfunctory and inevitable and not played with much conviction. This was not that. When they are playing with intention there is an audible snap in their instruments. Trey takes the time to really bare his soul with some great hose. A return to the main "Tweezer" theme and one more turn on the bright side before morphing into a truly glorious “Passing Through.” It seems silly to say that, after a truly thrilling “Tweezer,” THIS is the point in the show where Trey really started to pour it on with effortless, melodic runs at every turn.

Mercury” was a popular call given the summer solstice, and what a run for this song recently, folks. A twenty minute mind eraser in Vegas, followed by the full spectacle at MSG, and this one may be the best of the three. All eyes on the setting (finally!) of the sun. A brief return to the Tweezer theme and then morphing into a blistering "S.A.N.T.O.S." At this point I can only imagine that my face, as well as those of all in attendance, bore a strong resemblance to that Nazi dude who looked at the Arc in Raiders. You know what I mean. Pure melt.

© 2019 Phish (Huemer)
© 2019 Phish (Huemer)

Chit-chatting with the people around me, we all agreed that was easily the set of the tour. We also discussed the following, which I will put to you: I contend that in 1.0, shows started almost exactly half an hour after ticket time and setbreaks were about half an hour (Trey, you lying son of a bitch!). As 3.0 goes on, start times get later and setbreaks get longer. I have a friend who contends it’s always been 40 minutes in both cases. Please speak on this.

It was right about the time of the full on space ship landing/alien soul extraction during the middle of “Runaway Jim” that it became obvious this show was going to be an all-timer. I will share this with you all: about three minutes into the jam, there was an audible warming of the tone of the music in the shed, like they’d worked out another kink. Immediately after that I started to feel a very deep resonating hum in my chest, coming up from my feet, coming up from the middle of the earth. To deny its existence would have been absurd, when it was just as plainly palpable as the page of a book on a finger or a breeze on the cheek. It lasted a few moments and then was gone. I’ve never experienced anything like it before. I'm not a hippie by any stretch, but I’m convinced there were very strong cosmic forces at work on this show.

"Scents" (sans intro again) immediately returned to the abyss. Here Mike really stepped out and dropped some excellent thunder. To get another dose of Tweeze funk seemed unfair at this point. The crowd, which had been boisterous all night, really started to lose their minds when they executed a nasty segue into “Sand.” WOW. Dense Page clay work then moving over to the baby grand to shower it down. Super, blistering peak and a rousing refrain.

Here we get "Lifeboy" --- a reprieve from the insanity and well needed.

The fact that Phish even attempted “Taste” shows how strong they were feeling. Once a real warhorse, it’s only played about once a year since 2014. One may assume (I think fairly so) that it’s been shelved due to its rhythmic and harmonic complexity, like they just weren’t connecting with the song that well anymore. Here Page really shines on the piano. Trey showed a rare moment of humanity, struggling at times with some of the changes.

Unpopular Truth: I could probably never see “Possum” again and be okay with it, but on this night even “Possum” detonated. Band and crowd really racing to the finish line here. Everyone is giving it all they’ve got. Deafening applause and well earned.

I’m sitting in the airport in Charlotte right now, finishing this up. Ran into a few folks and shared my thoughts with them. “Really? One of your all-timers? Sure you don’t wanna sleep on that one Marty?” Who could possibly be expected to sleep after that show?!?!

A final thought: walking through the lawn at setbreak, seeing so many smiling faces, doing this thing that we love so much. It is a gift to listen without expectation. It is a gift to visit with friends. On 6/21/2019 Phish played the obvious standout show of the nascent tour and one of my favorites of any era. It was that good. Listen and enjoy.

© 2019 Phish (Huemer)
© 2019 Phish (Huemer)

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Comments

, comment by GeerShift
GeerShift Great review. I have a feeling we will be talking about even greater shows as the tour goes on. To my ears the bliss jamming that has been so prevalent in 3.0 is now “ethereal” jamming. Trey is in some of the finest form he has been since 97.
On the point of timing of show start and setbreak vs 1.0, nope. They are actually MUCH more predictable now. Almost always 30 min after show time and 30-35 min serbreak. Shows now are much LONGER than 1.0. People used to go wild about the 4 show set in 97. It’s because those sets were little over an hour. Every show now is 3 hours of play time, very consistently. The band parties less now, and we benefit more.
, comment by 1pointo
1pointo Great write up , total skull fuck of a show .
The whole first set was nuts, have mercy is so special, haven’t caught one since Oswego . Mercury the best song written in 3.0 was top the 3 tweezer madness ! The Jim jam was beyond great. I felt that exact moment you described . The wonder and beauty of Lifeboy should not be understated my first one in 180 shows ! I too am over possum but it was a rabid ferocious little marsupial . Can’t say much good about the venue other then it’s a magnet for hose ! Also I remember show tome being 38 min late every night in 1.0
, comment by Alaskanmoma
Alaskanmoma “The third turn of ‘Free’ on this tour was similarly short. I’m sure I’m not alone when I wish they would unload on this song the way it deserves. You can’t jam on everything I guess, but one wonders why they seem to steer clear of going deep on it.” — probably because it’s about *shoving* a loved one into the abyss. Wanna go deep? Why did god make farts smell?
, comment by jaredprox
jaredprox @GeerShift said:
Great review. I have a feeling we will be talking about even greater shows as the tour goes on. To my ears the bliss jamming that has been so prevalent in 3.0 is now “ethereal” jamming. Trey is in some of the finest form he has been since 97.
On the point of timing of show start and setbreak vs 1.0, nope. They are actually MUCH more predictable now. Almost always 30 min after show time and 30-35 min serbreak. Shows now are much LONGER than 1.0. People used to go wild about the 4 show set in 97. It’s because those sets were little over an hour. Every show now is 3 hours of play time, very consistently. The band parties less now, and we benefit more.
Yep, the bliss is gone—consciously. And I love it. The “best” Phish has always featured a more rhythmic Trey (drum set) and we always bitched about it until a look back. Believe it or not people fussed about the funk in ‘97 bc they missed machine gun Phish.

Great-write up. Agree 100 with your account and I was on my couch. A better than average show.
, comment by Slewfoot
Slewfoot Great writeup! Time will tell how it all settles out. I’m not ready to say it’s better than 12-29/30-18 or many of the Dozen shows by any means at this point, but I can see how it may be in the conversation.

All in a rocking show from start to finish. They played three songs I was *really* hoping to see at one of my shows this Summer and we’re unlikely to hear them again although anything is possible: Have Mercy, Ginseng Sullivan and Lifeboy.

In the middle of Lifeboy I was thinking “this is MY show! My style and what I like in terms of song selection and style of playing.” Right after that ASIHTOS was a bit of a snap back to reality, but the jam itself did well. Sure I wish Taste would have been longer, but it was well played. More as an encore fine, but at least there there was still Repirse! Anyway, minor, minor quibbles. Can’t wait to relisten to it all again soon!
, comment by Looch
Looch I’m a jaded old bastard... but this review is spot on. This show was special - both well executed and loose/fun. Sometimes it’s one or the other (and either can be a blast) but this one had it both. It’s a show that will be in heavy re-listen mode. Phish does indeed always bring the goods in Charlotte.
, comment by Slewfoot
Slewfoot Oh! And I seem to recall the average time being about 35 minutes after listed time on the ticket and setbreak around there as well. Sometimes a bit less or more, but always right in that area. I’m sure venue / day / mood dependent.
, comment by mr_mangos
mr_mangos Trey shredded my face and soul Friday night. Was it the Solstice? The out-of-the-way location? Guess it doesn't matter anyway. There was a moment early in Jiboo, a favorite of mine since 11/1/13, that gave a hint of the show was about to take off. And that Jim! What fun. I couldn't agree more that 6/21/19 was top shelf.
, comment by Wolfmann
Wolfmann Review is spot on
All the northeastern fans and people who didn’t make the drive are going to complain about some flubs during mercury (ok fine but imo trey made up for it with his phrasing during the jamming of this song) and taste (ok but it really wasn’t butchered like people are claiming).
But, I was there and the energy between the crowd and band was off the charts and infectious.
I’ve never seen a show where the band had the ENTIRE crowd eating out of their hand like that. Crowd was going bananas from Tweezer through SANTOS, again from Jim through ASIHTOS, and then again for possum and the encore (people were even going ham for More of all songs).
Also two side notes:
1) I’ve been saying for a while that I thought the reason Trey doesn’t Machine gun for long anymore is cause he probably has some arthritis at this point. I was wrong he absolutely still can.
2) Treys been saying that he’s been putting a conscious effort into practicing his vocals and I thought it showed in spades during this show.
, comment by RageWithPage
RageWithPage Enjoyed your review, thank you!

Enjoyed the Harry Hood>David Bowie rec even more! Thank you for that!
, comment by art_vandelay
art_vandelay Great review! Phish always seem determined to make a statement whenever visiting Charlotte, and 6/21 was no exception. It's funny, Charlotte has had some of the hottest crowds I've been a part of, yet the so-called experts often snub these shows in favor of the more "safe" and "sexy" tour stops. To me, the mutual appreciation between band and audience is on full display at PNC...
, comment by jnspeer
jnspeer THANK YOU for this brilliant post ! Thankfully, I made a last-minute decision to drive down from Chapel Hill and I am so so glad that I made that decision. Watched the first set from the pav near the back and knew things were going to go off when we got that early Tweezer .. S.A.N.T.O.S made everyone lose their collective minds... and I decided that I wanted to reposition to DFC in the lawn for set 2... a wise choice.. found the sweet spot about half way up the hill, and was just slayed by the entire second set. CK5's new rig has made him even MORE a part of the experience, so much so that I think we should now call him "CK6", as he is now the lighting director as well as SPACE SHIP CAPTAIN :-) ... The image from Raiders Of The Lost Ark was EXACTLY the image I was thinking throughout the second set as we kept getting rolled over by the waves of sonic goodness emulating from the stage.. I wanted to hang out and bask in the glow of an amazing night but alas, I ran out at the end to get back on the road to Chapel Hill, only to sit on I85 for about an hour due to (never-ending) construction... shoulda hung out with the heads on Shakedown to revel in our spectacular experience on this night.. So stoked for Dick's, which will be shows 46-49 for yours truly..
, comment by JMart
JMart @Slewfoot said:
Great writeup! Time will tell how it all settles out. I’m not ready to say it’s better than 12-29/30-18 or many of the Dozen shows by any means at this point, but I can see how it may be in the conversation.

All in a rocking show from start to finish. They played three songs I was *really* hoping to see at one of my shows this Summer and we’re unlikely to hear them again although anything is possible: Have Mercy, Ginseng Sullivan and Lifeboy.

In the middle of Lifeboy I was thinking “this is MY show! My style and what I like in terms of song selection and style of playing.” Right after that ASIHTOS was a bit of a snap back to reality, but the jam itself did well. Sure I wish Taste would have been longer, but it was well played. More as an encore fine, but at least there there was still Repirse! Anyway, minor, minor quibbles. Can’t wait to relisten to it all again soon!
Time will tell, indeed. I was luck enough to be at 12/29-31/18 and they were all very memorable shows. I probably had the most fun at 12/31 but the music was the best top to bottom on 6/21. But shit man, 12/29 was amazing. 12/30 probably comes in last and that is saying something right there.
, comment by jimsleftear
jimsleftear How is this show not online anywhere yet? Or am I just missing it?
(written 6/27/19...)
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