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Phish at MPP – Columbia, MD

Set the gearshift for the high gear of your soul!

MPP N1

Friday night before departure brought with it a quintessential Christmas Eve array of feelings: excitement, anxiety, quelling of expectations, anticipation, a lack of sleep, and hope and trust that whatever happens, everything’s right (fresh off some Step 3 work, the timing is perfect). A coworker friend and I went for dinner and a club soda after a breezy work shift, and when the bill came, he told me to save my money for tour. Accepting favors is harder for me since getting clean — I spent so much of other people’s money in the past. But I obliged — this wasn’t what it once was. It’s ok to let folks do kind acts.

Saturday morning arrived and with it, TPhish, like a wizard arriving precisely when she meant to.  We loaded up and hit the road from Lawn Guy Land to MPP. The road was smooth — just some expected traffic at the beginning and end.  Checked into the hotel and switched rooms (the first reeked of cigs, but hotel dude accommodated without hesitation). As this was night 1, we decided to head over to scope the lay of the land.  Lot was hopping and the and the sun was shining. After a rendezvous with Aaron, the proprietor of the platform on which you are reading this, we got a soft pretzel. I’m mentioning this because…dude, this was the best pretzel either TPhish or I have ever had.  There are pretzels, and then there are MPP pretzels.  As an afficionado of twisted delights, this thing was damn near religious.

The show kicked off and finally the whole experience felt fully, really real. Undermind seemed a perfect start — the playful lyrics and instrumentation induce tears of laughter — it tickles me with the best of Phish. Later on in a song packed set 1, I find myself in hysterics, smiling to the point of jaw cramps during Silent in the Morning. Whatever these guys are orchestrating, it feels like some sonic chemical sweetness is oozing in my brain and ears. The sound is crisp and TPhish, a seasoned and superlative musician in her own right, explains to me that “whatever these guys are doing” has a name: polyrhythm.

Set 2 included a Set Your Soul Free that sent my soul into the stratosphere.  There were a few flubs throughout set 2, musically and lyrically, but the track was always reset and the guys always turn those into humorous moments of self awareness.  A few songs we had recently discussed (Billy Breathes, Hood, Golgi) were thrown into the mix, followed by a Bug encore that sounded like church. I was taken back to visions of singing along with my mom in her car.

TPhish and I most expertly serpentined our way off the lawn and back to the car, back to the hotel from the lawn within an hour.  With some rest, I am ready for Night 2.

Saturday, 6/22, MPP: 

Set 1 — Undermind, Tube, Funky Bitch, Steam, My Sweet One, NICU, Friend, No Men in No Man’s Land, The Horse, Silent in the Morning, David Bowie, The Squirming Coil

Set 2 — Ghost, Axilla I, Set Your Soul Free, What’s the Use, Billy Breathes, Death Don’t Hurt Very Long, Backwards Down the Number Line, Harry Hood, Rise/Come Together, Golgi Apparatus

Encore —  Bug, Character Zero

MPP N2

Rising earlier than expected on the morning of the second show of the MPP leg, I quickly realized that despite the exhaustion from dancing off the rust on N1, the Christmas morning feeling of anticipation might spur me to early wake ups throughout the tour.  Not about to let extra hours of experience dishearten me, I spent some time with my pen against paper and nose in a book. My tour buddy, TPhish, had some work of her own to do, so we spent the whole morning in our respective creative and productive processes.

As the afternoon approached, we made out for T. Howard Duckett park on the Patuxent River. Unable to decipher the hieroglyphic trail system, we settled for a cozy picnic beneath a cool canopy of green. As the day transitioned from afternoon to evening, TPhish hatched a brilliant plan. We loaded up her music gear and made our way to lot to jam for and with the Phans.

R&R before N2

Aaron met with us on lot and brought his badass hand pan, an amazing melody producing hand drum.  If I’m being honest, I initially felt out of place as the more seasoned musicians of the crew jammed out.  It didn’t take long for them to pick up on this — my poker face couldn’t deceive a newborn — so they changed up the pace to something I could keep up with.  I trudged away on the bongos while TPhish melted faces aplenty, shredding her axe to passers by and wowing the Phans. As the jams flowed, I felt privileged to be included in a process I most often am a mere observer of.  My role was minor, but I felt like I was a part of something that was providing enjoyment and pleasure for people.

By the time the show was set to start, we’d found a cozy, spacious Page-side lawn spot.  The folks in this area were beautiful, friendly, great dancers (a few even recognized us from the lot jam!).  With the Zeppelin-esque opening riff of Carini, I knew we were in for a helluva show (though this Carini proved atypical in that it took a blissful sound rather than the usual sinister one).  My Soul and Rift let us catch our breath before one of my favorite and most sought after songs, Gumbo! This tune evokes movements in my body that would not be considered sane if viewed in the “real world.”  In this kind of environment, however, said movements are celebrated and lauded. Gumbo has me hunched over, chest to knee, heel to butt, bopping about in a funkified, groovy, Gollumish manner. The first set cools down later with a sublime Winterqueen, a not so commonly played tune that TPhish had been humming and singing just hours earlier, before capping off with a vintage high tension Antelope.

MPP N2
MPP N2

Set 2 exploded right out of the gate with a Crosseyed and Painless that covered tons of ground and would influence Set 2 heavily, with Trey sprinkling “I’m still waiting…” quotes over various ensuing tunes.  Everything’s Right jammed, as per usual, after which Ruby Waves, a Ghosts of the Forest song, was taken for an abundantly psychedelic spin. Twist came and went in pretty standard form and 2001 provoked 6 minutes of high step shuffle dancing that easily equated to a sprinted mile.  Blaze On closed Set 2, rounding out the (seeming) tradition of No Men, Everything’s Right, and Blaze On all being played every 2-3 shows, something TPhish and I had joked about earlier in the day.

A four song encore kicked off with a melting Maze, followed by Waste.  As the crowd dispersed during the chill, heartwarming ballad, TPhish and I stood pat — well worth it as Waste was followed by an over the top and hilarious Sanity, finally closing out with Wilson.

My first time(s) at MPP will not soon be forgotten.  There was a lot of hype sent my way about “Phish at MPP” and I am happy to say it was very much lived up to.

Now, off to Maine…

Sunday, 6/23, MPP:

Set 1 — Carini > My Soul > Rift, Gumbo, It’s Ice > Winterqueen, Yarmouth Road, Shade, Halfway Home, The Wedge, Run Like an Antelope

Set 2 — Crosseyed and Painless > Everything’s Right > Ruby Waves > Twist > 2001 > Blaze On

Encore — Maze, Waste, Sanity, Wilson

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