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PHISH - June 14, 2011 - Alpharetta, GA - Encore Park

After a thrilling 2010 maiden voyage to the Verizon Amphitheatre in Alpharetta GA, Phish decided on a return trip in 2011, much to the delight of the Southern Phish Nation.  Adding to the excitement was the announcement that Phish would be providing the two night run via webcast for anyone who did not “follow the lines going South”.  The anticipation of an amazing adventure was palpable throughout the crowd.

     The show on Tuesday June 14 began with a blast of “Dinner and a Movie”, an unexpected treat.  The set continued with well-played Summer 2011 staples, including a first-set “Fluffhead”.  Somewhere during “Ocelot”, it began to sound like the Dirty South, and “Ginseng Sullivan” made it unmistakeable.  “Kill Devil Falls” made a good impression, but Traffic’s “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” turned up the heat with intense peaks that just kept coming. 

     The second set opening “Carini” brought with it a delicious darkness, but neither it nor “Sand” entered uncharted territory.  However, “Down With Disease” found the band flexing creativity muscles and it worked wonderfully.  Melting into “Maze” was a nice surprise, with its menacing ferociousness.  “Meatstick” reminded the author of the 1999 show in Atlanta, where the band first showed us their dance.  The remainder of the set was fun, standard Phish, winding down with a “Run Like an Antelope” that felt a bit rushed out the door.  An encore of “Quinn the Eskimo” was a great way to end the show.

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PHISH - June 15, 2011 - Alpharetta, GA - Encore Park 

Ask any Phish phan what they want from a show, and oftentimes the response can be summarized by the phrase “awesome experience”.  Sometimes to our dismay, the Awesomeness is provided by circumstances beyond control.  In the case of the second Alpharetta show, Mother Nature decided she was going to dominate, frighten, pace, and inspire the entire evening.  Shortly after the gates opened and we settled into the front of lawn, we were informed by the amphitheatre staff that a strong storm was fast approaching, and were told to move under the pavilion.  A brief but intense squall moved in, with winds that bent the pine trees almost parallel to the ground, rain blowing sideways through both sides of the pavilion, and ever-nearer lightning and thunder.  One intensely bright, loud flash-blast left an electric smoky brimstone smell in the air, as a lightning bolt obliterated a tree in the center back of the lawn; a tall jagged stump was all that remained.

We were wet, frightened, but glad (glad GLAD) to be alive, and re-entered the lawn when told it was “safe”.  Chris Kuroda’s lights were tested and remained functional despite the rain covers having been ripped off by the strong arms of the wind.  In a preshow conversation with friends, I divulged my desire to hear “Paul and Silas” as the bluegrass nod that I think belongs in every Phish show, and I was overjoyed to hear it open the show!  The next few songs were hit/miss as potentialities like “Back on the Train” and an extended intro to “Runaway Jim” dissolved unrealized.  As Page sang “Army of One”, there was a poignant realization that came to fruition in the lyrics “I just can’t compete with the weight of it all”.  Despite the best efforts of the band and crowd to energize the night, the Storm was returning, this time with a vengeance that would coax darkness and fitting discord from “Timber (Jerry)”, and would force the band to abandon its foray into “Mound”.

The “setbreak” was courtesy of the Storm, certainly not on Phish’s schedule, and it was filled with cold rain, pelting hail, howling wind, and the purple glow of lightning.  Those who hadn’t already abandoned the venue moved closer and closer, huddled together under the pavilion.  The pray-ers were praying, the hopeful were hoping, and an Atlanta Braves “Tomahawk Chop” chant erupted and echoed amongst the crowd.  After what felt like an eternity, the lightning moved far enough away that Phish was able to re-take the stage.

Just as Trey promised before “Storm-break”, they returned to “Mound” and the crowd was in a fun frenzy.  “Tweezer” was appropriately altered to tell us “It’s gonna be wet, wet, wet!”, and although the transition to “Julius” was a bit rushed, the jazz was working well and the peaks were great.  “Slave” unfortunately disjointed the groove, and “David Bowie” didn’t fully get off the ground.  “Suzy Greenberg” absolutely lives in PAGE’S HOUSE, and he delivered a blistering rendition.  The “Birdwatcher/Kung” provided a stats boost for folks, and the rain let up as we left the venue after the “Funky Bitch/Tweezer Reprise” encore.  Even though the lightning occasionally complimented the music and lightshow, the weather was a foe with the upper hand, and the rain dampened the potential for a barnburner.  Fortunately, there’s another show around the corner, we’ll try again next time!

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PHISH - June 17, 2011 - Charlotte, NC - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre

     How do I love Phish?  Let me count the ways…and in Charlotte NC, I was reminded of every reason that I love this band.  After the terrifying Show Storm of Alpharetta, I was just grateful there wasn’t a dreary forecast.  Then, upon an early arrival to assist with the Phellowship table (sober Phish Phan support at shows), I heard Phish soundchecking “Dog Log”, and the excitement began to mount.  When a MIKE’S HOUSE sign was retrieved from the crowd, and Trey grasped it between his teeth, and the band emphatically opened the show with “Mike’s Song”, the audience knew we were in for a wild ride.  Phish collectively grabbed the reins, and we journeyed through a lovely “I Am Hydrogen” and an enjoyable “Weekapaug Groove”.  A sweet “Bouncing Around the Room” led to an “NICU” in which Trey yelled “LEO’S HOUSE!”, continuing the playful theme that has been woven through Summer 2011 since Bethel’s “Makisupa Policeman”.  Then quite unexpectedly the opening chords of “Colonel Forbin” echoed through the amphitheatre, and we stepped through the door into Gamehenge; few things thrill a Phish Phan like taking this journey, and even without a narration, the beautifully played “Famous Mockingbird” soared through our souls.  A funky Type I “Wolfman’s Brother”, a slayingly intense “Axilla”, and a hoe-down throw-down “Scent of a Mule” made sure a complete Phish meal was served in that first set.

Continuing the amazing Charlotte show, my 14-year-old son Caspian (yes, we named our son Caspian) led me to the center front of The Pit during the sweetly peaked “Backwards Down the Number Line”.  The beginnings of “Rock and Roll” led to a fully realized expectation of a jam; Phish delivered an absolutely incredible Type II experience with several distinctly melded movements, all of which were inventively explored.  The melt into “Ghost” was darkly delicious, and developed into another musical adventure enjoyed by all.  Capturing the essence of wonderment, “Free” floated out of “Ghost” seamlessly, and Mike Gordon’s bass spoke fluently.  What followed was a “Reba” in which Trey Anastasio reminded me why he is one of my favorite guitarists in the world:  the exquisitely patient flowing fretwork was beautiful, and by the time he hit THAT high note, I was fully entranced.  Did I mention how much I LOVE PHISH?!  When The Boys stepped up with the next segment, I could hardly believe what was happening…Trey told us to “READ THE BOOK!”  His frenzied words, matched by the harmonizing voices, pointed out “THIS MAN” who would lead us to the Promised Land…ICCULUS!  The energy between the band and crowd could have torn a hole in the sky!  Page’s organ signaled “Hold Your Head Up” and Johnny B. Fishman strolled front and center for an awesome rendition of “Bike” and a roaring vacuum solo, that apparently included “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, although my ears did not detect it; this show absolutely has it all!  Obviously loving this night, Phish ripped a “Chalkdust Torture” and then a fun “You Enjoy Myself” to close the second set.  The encore of “Wilson” sealed our fate—we WERE in Gamehenge!—and then a “Loving Cup” ended the incredible evening on a soaring high.  How do I love Phish?  In a million wonderful ways; thanks guys!

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PHISH - June 18, 2011 - Raleigh, NC - TWC Pavilion at Walnut Creek

To complete our 2011 Summer Phishing, we travelled to Raleigh NC where Walnut Creek awaited us.  A friend of ours yelled "Cars Trucks and Buses!" to Mike Gordon, who was touring the pre-show lot in a golf cart, and Phish obliged him with the opener.  Then, after driving through three states-worth of peaches, we finally got to hear the elusive Frank Zappa instrumental, "Peaches en Regalia", and it was well worth the wait.  For two consecutive years, Walnut Creek has been fertile ground for fun cover songs (check out 2010's "Time Loves a Hero" and the amazing "Light Up or Leave Me Alone"), and along with "Peaches" we were treated to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Ballad of Curtis Loew".  A major first set highlight was "Halley's Comet", which Phish pushed further and more successfully than they had all tour, before abruptly segueing into "46 Days".

The second set brought creative intensity and a little Phishy magic to Raleigh.  It was wonderful to hear "Twist" open the set, followed by a nearly-perfect "Rift".  "Prince Caspian" featured fast flexible fingerwork from Trey, and swirled outwards.  Let me backtrack:  my sister-in-law and her husband worked hard before this show, decorating three beach balls and a poster with one colorful theme.  Courtney worked her way down front with poster held high, and somewhere during "Caspian", Trey gave her a nod.  She came back to our seats, and although we clearly hear it on the recording, we did not hear Page and his organ circus-theme; we heard Trey quietly singing, and exploded with joy as we realized Phish was playing her "Esther"!  The magical evening kicked into overdrive, and what followed was the most unexpected turn of events.  Guitar tech Brian Brown was applauded as he brought something onstage, some sort of vocal distortion-modulator.  Then Phish threw down yet another fun cover song, a rockin', crowd-thrilling version of Jane's Addiction's "Been Caught Stealing", played only once before, in 1998!  Next came an awesome onslaught of "Piper->My Friend My Friend->Kill Devil Falls".  Then the fully-charged Phantastic Phour launched into the outer realms of jamming with an intense "Split Open and Melt", and Chris Kuroda made sure the face-melting was complete.  A high-energy "Golgi Apparatus" and "First Tube" closed the set, and the Encore was an especially enthusiastic version of Led Zeppelin's "Good Times Bad Times".  Raleigh was definitely one of the Good Times, and I look forward to many more Good Times with Phish in the future!


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Review and Editing by: Rosemary A.W. Roberts

Photography by: Clayton Roberts

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