26 in 26 of 2019: #8 06/22/2019 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD (Henry Steckel, @Hsteckel41)
This was the show that had me absolutely hooked. Before this, I had seen some good shows: 8/15/15, TAB at Red Rocks, NYE 2018-19. But, I had never experienced the magic of these four fellas from up close – until my buddy Will had two spare lowers for night one at MPP 2019. Watch as much LivePhish as you want, but nothing can replace the same three-hour view when you’re standing within 100 feet of the band. Seeing the details of each member playing off each other and predicting each other’s next moves outweighs whatever joys you can get from a setlist riddled with rarities.
Well, we got to the show just in time to enjoy a few Shakedown beers (I hate to admit when I drop a Hamilton on a Heady). There’s also nothing quite like that pre-show feeling. Everyone congregates around the venue, knowing we’ll all experience something special within an hour. It’s almost the most exciting part of the show. Predicting openers almost always leads to failure, but failure has never been so much fun. Everyone is friends with everyone. No interaction between strangers is crippled by awkwardness. (Almost) No one has passed out yet. The only money wasted so far has been on Heady and Treehouse. There is nothing more comforting than being around phellow phans in their element. I mean, you’ve seen this scene before. Would it shock you if 80% of these conversations are between people who met that day?
Now, let me offer you my thoughts on the meat of the burger. Undermind was a great way to get Fish’s hands moving fast, the crowd singing, and the melodic grooves going. Although, I am always a fan of banger openers (like the next night’s Carini). So, I was pretty thrilled for the 2-3 punch of Tube > Funky Bitch, two songs that hit you right from the opening notes. This Tube was special, too. The jam got to a point where Trey and the band were messing with each other polyrhythmically right before re-entering the fruitful apple or a grape lyrics.
But the one thing that made this show special, which you rarely get at a Phish show, is a bright second set. How often is it pure daytime at setbreak? Hearing the beginning notes of the Set II opener, Ghost, to daylight behind you is something some fans will never get to experience. Others might want to maximize their time in Kuroda’s world, but I see these June 19-26 shows as an opportunity to soak in the sun.
The jam I have to shout out is Harry Hood. Was it exceptionally long? Hell naw. But there’s a reason Harry Hood is my all-time favorite Phish song: the intense buildup and the blissful release following the Mr. Minor section, the glowsticks, the swerve to Feeling Good. The jam in this version is short and sweet, with each member shining on their own at some point. Simply beautiful.
Then the final part — a beautiful encore with Bug and Zero. Call it vanilla, but I call it classic and always welcome. The best part of being so close to the band is that it makes you feel like you’re hearing every song for the first time. And I vividly remember the first time I heard Character Zero. On the radio. I didn’t even know it was Phish. I fucking loved it. This Zero is the only time that has matched that car ride. Thank you, Phish.
BIO: I’m Henry Steckel, a UX Designer for a fun sports-betting startup, Simplebet. I spend my summers following Phish, DMB, and Umphrey’s around the northeast, and every once in a while I’ll venture out west (wuddup Dicks squad).