Today marks the anniversary of a Phish show near and dear to my heart, the band’s lone visit to the Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, North Carolina. When Phish announced that they were playing at Hampton for two nights at the end of their fall tour in 1999 I just couldn’t miss it. The Hampton runs in 1997 and 1998 were not only four terrific shows musically, but I had the time of my life those weekends and consider them as two of the best weekends of my life.
The problem was I didn’t have a job or a car and my parents asked me to watch their house while they went on vacation. Yet, I knew I couldn’t miss the shows. My good friend Zach talked me into going, but of course there wasn’t much to talk me into. He was renting a van and driving it down. The only issue was that he was also hitting the D.C. and Raleigh shows. Sorry Mom and Dad, your house will have to take care of itself. We assembled a terrific crew and the van picked me up the morning of the D.C. show. I had a fun time at the uneventful show in Washington before we woke up the morning of the 16th and headed to Zach’s mom’s place in Chapel Hill. Zach’s mom is an incredible woman and she was actually coming to the show with us. She had picked up on some of the band’s music through discs Zach had left at home. We all knew her favorite song was “Wading In The Velvet Sea” and even though we all weren’t huge fans of the ballad, we were rooting with all we had for the band to play it.
We all piled into the van – Zach’s mom and brother included – and made the trip over to the Reynolds. The Reynolds was a classic ACC basketball arena, it was like stepping into the ’60s. We made our way over to “Lower Page” and all got to sit together. The first set was a bit standard, although we flipped for “Camel Walk.”
The second set started out with an intense “Sand” that explored all sorts of soundscapes over the course of 22 minutes. The band was in fine form throughout the jam and there was a great vibe permeating the venue. “Mango Song” – one of our assembled crew’s faves – followed and we were hoping it would make up for the disastrous version we had seen a few months earlier at Alpine. That wasn’t the case, as once again we were treated to another terrible version of what some have called “Mangled Song.”
Next up was a moment I’ll never forget as Phish started up “Wading.” We all went nuts as if the band had busted out “Destiny Unbound.” Big hugs and high-fives were exchanged. Mrs. Read had the biggest smile on her face and was nearly in tears. I’ve never been so excited to see a “Wading” in my life. We could’ve all gone home happy at that point. As the ballad ended, Trey kicked off a weird little delay jam that the other members picked up on.
Out of nowhere, Big Red started the “Tweezer” riff and the Reynolds exploded once again. After the “Wading” celebration we were all excited to dance to a song WE liked. As the jam progressed, the band started alternating between the dark and the light, taking the jam into a major key to the delight of our “butter jam” loving group of friends. We showed Mrs. Read how to make the “churning butter” hand motions and she thoroughly enjoyed watching us get the fuck down. At one point the foursome hit this incredible chord progression that some have called a “Slave Jam” that’s in the top ten for coolest progressions they’ve dropped in the middle of a jam. We were all shaking our heads in disbelief at how amazing this “Tweezer” was.
Over 20 minutes after it began, “Tweezer” finally ended with a quick segue into “Runaway Jim.” This standard “Jim” gave us another chance to get down. At this point we were exhausted and had two Hampton shows in front of us so there were no complaints about the “Bittersweet Motel”/”Tweezer Reprise” encore.
Mrs. Read had the time of her life and I can’t express how amazing it was to watch her enjoy the experience to the fullest. We celebrated until the wee hours in Chapel Hill that night and woke up extremely hungover for the trip up to Hampton the next morning. We each had high hopes for the first night of Hampton, but that didn’t turn out so hot. Thankfully the second night made up for it and we were weeks away from the pinnacle of the Phish experience, Big Cypress.
An official recording of the entire show is available via LivePhish.
[Adapted From Original Post On 12/16/09]
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