Over the summer I had two chances to see the fabled Jam Bam PHISH perform and on both occasions they did not disappoint. Two concerts and two very different experiences, both wildly positive. If you are unfamiliar with the musical group from Vermont, then I would highly encourage you to give them a listen. Well, maybe “listen” is not what you need to do, PHISH is more of a musical education. I am not saying that satirically either, if you do not “get them” on the first listen, then you need to keep giving them a chance until you find “your song.” Once you have found your song, then the rest of the catalogue will somehow magically unlock and become accessible. It is wild.
PHISH is an older band now, and maybe they do not get after their music with the same youthful energy that only an adolescent can bring, however, they still bring the energy and play within their range. That energy is more seasoned and reflects their mastering of music as opposed to playing fast and shredding licks at a sonic pace. There is so much to dive into with their history dating back to the 1980’s, their unique musical styling, and the sheer genius of their creativity, but I will not attempt to be a PHISH expert and will encourage you to do your own research should their music make an impression. Instead I will talk briefly about the two shows I experienced over the summer.
This being my only experience in this kind of venue, my first impression when we got in was “oh hell yea.” What a fantastic stadium to see a show, small and intimate. The air was salty and humid from the neighboring ocean. Not a bad view in the house. Our seats were in the bottom of the upper deck, almost dead center to the stage. Even with my degrading eyes, I had a clear view of the band on stage and felt close enough to them to feel like I was part of the show, as opposed to being an orbiting satellite far in the back wishing I was closer. It was amazing.
They opened the show with Set Your Soul Free and the party started. Plumes of smoke rose from the crowd and a joyous rhythmic dance overtook the audience. It was wonderous, good vibes and positivity spread throughout. Even the security was taken back with curiosity and amazement by the scene. A few of them were compelled to take photos and videos of the band.
The first set ended with the sun setting into the horizon. The second set began in darkness which allowed the stage lighting to really play a part in the atmosphere. I was intrigued by the ability of the lights to completely engulf and remove the band from the stage and bring them back again in harmony with the progression of the music, especially during 2001, which was a crowd pleaser to all the U of SC fans in attendance.
The first set felt like a party and the second set felt like a show, both equally amazing. My only complaint was there no room to dance with the close seating. I was envious of those on the ground level as I was reduced to being a wacky waving inflatable tube man as I grooved to the music.
This venue felt like a very generic outdoor pavilion (similar to what you would find in Charlotte or Atlanta). We were on the lawn, so the view of the stage was not great, however, the crowd was much bigger than my previous show, so the energy was completely different, also, the heat was intense. The sweltering humidity and the tightly packed in crowed made the air incredibly thick. My dignity did not last long as I felt the need to shed my shirt and become one with nature to survive.
The band opened with The Moma Dance and at that moment, the heat and the less than desirable view took a backseat to the action. Unlike the last show, I had more room to move and groove and immediately transformed into a dance machine. The audience had followed the same path and we became 20,000 people dancing together. Smiles, nods, and positive affirmations swirled together as all the troubles of the world seemed to dissipate. Even as clouds loomed overhead with a few showers and glows of lightning threaten to put a pause on the music, but they could not stop the band from rocking out and they peacefully moved on.
Once again, the first set ended with a sun set and the second set began in darkness. The first set was amazing rhythmic energy, and the band teased the same kind of run with Carini, but they eventually settled into a more spacey musical atmosphere. I was less enamored by the light show this time around as I was more content to settle into my groove.
Again, the first set felt like a party and the second set felt like a show, both equally amazing. However, because of the heat and all the dancing that took place, I was utterly exhausted at the end of the show. It was a lot of fun, but it was also good to get back to the comforts of life (shower and air conditioning).
Both concerts were different experiences, the Charleston show was more intimate and relaxed while the Raleigh show was a trial of endurance with the weather. However, both shows shared the same sentiment. A scene, a vibe, or maybe just an “experience.” I can try to describe it, I can take videos and pictures of it, but nothing captures it like being there. It really is wild. It is a collective agreement of everyone in attendance to let go of all the trivial chains of commercialism, hurt, pettiness, ego, pain, or whatever weights are holding you down in life. For just a couple of hours, we let go and we dance, and we feel good no matter what. Of course, it cannot last forever, and we must return to our life lessons, but I am certainly grateful for PHISH, their fans, and experience that they orchestrate.