Photo by Brad Hodge
For the third consecutive year Phish has opted to close out their summer with a run at Dick’s Sporting Goods Arena in Commerce City, Colorado. Also for the third consecutive year they choose to add a secret message to their Friday setlist. After a great night with Everyone Orchestra we headed to the campground around 1 PM. The manicured soccer fields in the south lawn of Dick’s were reminiscent of the polo fields that surround Coachella. We set up camp and relaxed in the afternoon sun as we anticipated what might be in store.
The week leading up to the shows were filled with excitement and an eagerness to rage. Friends flew in from all around the country. As soon as we were parked and set up we began meeting our neighbors. It became obvious that the Dick’s run has become a destination event. We met people from New Jersey, California, and all throughout the Midwest. We were in the stands on Friday so we set up shop straight back where the sound is the best.
They came to the stage after 8 PM with a funky Ghost opener. My first reaction was that this was definitely an unusual song to lead out with. I later found that this was their first time opening with “Ghost” since 1998.
Set 1: Ghost, NICU, Icculus, Heavy Things, Theme From The Bottom> Esther, The Moma Dance> Ocelot, Stash, Lawn Boy, Limb By Limb, Easy To Slip*
Set 2: Punch You In The Eye> Sand, Say Something> Walls of the Cave> The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony> Harry Hood**-> Silent In The Morning**> Twist> Slave to the Traffic Light
Encore: Oh! Sweet Nuthin’> Meatstick***
Phish went into a bouncy NICU and immediately our heads start to work out the puzzle, G-N. There had been an online Kickstarter campaign to get a plane to write “Read The Book,” in the sky during their soundcheck on Friday. Apparently the sky writer was cost prohibitive so they settled on a plane pulling a banner with the same message. Apparently they got that message because they launched into a transcendental “Icculus,” which featured a reference to the aviator from Trey. Amy looks over to me and says, “I-N-G… THING it’s SOMETHING backwards.” A very nice and straightforward “Theme From The Bottom” verified this, but it was the “Esther” that pushed fans over the top. Another somewhat rare track that had not been performed in 81 shows, Phish nailed it. Every show seems to reinforce the fact that band is playing as tight as ever before. Their ability to riff off of each other and genuinely have fun on stage is apparent with each song. “Moma” featured a standard funked jam. I told my neighbor they were going to play “Ocelot” next and he seemed mildly impressed when they did. Unlike the last two years, this message was a little subtler and it would be easy to miss if not paying attention. The comparison being that it’ fairly difficult to overlook when your favorite band spells out fuck with their first four songs. “Stash” caught me off guard, but it was happily welcomed. This version was spicy and full of pop. I’ve seen this song played flatly from time to time, so it was nice to see the band stepping it up on this tune. The double hockey sticks combo of “Lawn Boy” and “Limb By Limb” gave fans a chance to breath and ponder where the band was going next. They ended the set with a premiere cover of Little Feat’s “Easy To Slip.” ELL SOMETHING…. Backwards.
We relaxed in the stands and wondered where the boys were headed for set two. After a short setbreak Phish came back with a pungent PYITE. This has to be one of my favorite set openers of all time. It’s like a shot of espresso for any audience. The “Sand” was a full on assault of the senses and included a “2001” tease. This was only the second time Phish performed “Say Something,” which is a new song Gordon wrote with Max Creek ‘s Scott Murawski and debuted at The Gorge this year. A beautiful segue later and I was witnessing the biggest “Walls Of The Cave” I’ve ever seen. It was simply huge. Next they transitioned into a nice “Oh Kee Pa” The jam continued with an unfinished “Harry Hood.” The “Silent In The Morning,” which has not seen it’s trusty steed all year long, was concise and clean. At this point we were left with SHOWS SPELL SOMETHING, and fans wondered what the last bit of the message could be. The “Twist” acted as transitional pivot point before the boys went into a stellar “Slave To The Traffic Light. “ This was a huge period on an incredible set of music. Lots of rare and fun songs mixed with tracks from throughout their entire catalog all highlighted Friday night at Dick’s. The encore included a very rare version of The Velvet Underground’s “Oh Sweet Nuthin’” not seen since the historic 2010 Alpine Valley run and a “Meatstick” that included Japanese lyrics. They wrapped up last year’s “Fuck Your Face” show with “Meatstick” as well. As I said while this show was definitely subtler than the last two opening nights at Dick’s, it was a blast. The message ended up spelling “Most Shows Spell Something,” backwards. It’s a fun little memorandum that is almost poking fun at the gimmicks from the years prior. It again proves that the individual members of Phish are having fun. As I’ve said before, Dick’s is special not because it’s a massive soccer field, but because the 26,000 person capacity allows every fan to get inside and share in the moment. While Friday did not sell out the next two nights did, which proves that the Phish fandom in Colorado is expanding and that Dick’s is becoming something of a yearly festival type run for people from everywhere. One down two to go.
Phish at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park 8-31-12
Note: This first night’s coverage contains strong language, not because the author is crass, but because Phish is.
Fans have culled through setlists for close to three decades looking to decode the secret language of The Phish from Vermont. Themes have been discovered, but never has such a direct and blatant message been delivered to a crowd as it was on the first night of the Phish’s second tour closing run at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Savvy fans had the premise nailed down by “Carini,” but as with the “S” Show on last year’s opening night many were left with the simple contentment of just seeing a good night of music. Never before has Phish spelled out a song with their setlist then played that song to close the second set. That song, “Fuck Your Face” was all but forgotten until perhaps the most massive bust out in the history of the group at Charlotte in 2010. Since then it has made a few random appearances including the now famed 8-14-10 Alpine Valley show immortalized and released on DVD. Since my noob days with my brother listening to the White Tape we have waxed philosophical about what it would be like to see it live. Well I was lucky enough to see it at Alpine and I was blessed to be the concert that can only be called the “Fuck Your Face” show at Dick’s.
SET I: First Tube, Uncle Pen, Carini> Kill Devil Falls, You Enjoy Myself*, Ocelot**, Undermind
SET II: Runaway Jim***> Farmhouse> Alaska, Chalk Dust Torture***> Emotional Rescue> Fuck Your Face****
ENCORE: Grind, Meatstick*****
*”We all love Dick’s” vocal jam theme
**Crosseyed and Painless Tease
****Emotional Rescue Quote
Harkening back to 2000 when “First Tube” was a much more common first set opener, the boys ripped into this high-octane jam to start the night. Bill Monroe’s “Uncle Pen” which was a regular bluegrass jam in the mid-nineties filled the U spot and got the crowd wondering what they were in store for. As the dark jam of “Carini” blasted out of the PA, those keeping setlists began to get an inkling of what was in store. “Kill Devil Falls” sealed the deal the only question was, what was getting the “Fuck” treatment from Phish. It literally could have been anything. The 20-minute YEM, which was the obvious peak of the first set, included a mind-blowing “We Love Dick’s” segment that clearly stated how each member of the band loved Dick’s. Phish was having fun and so was the audience. They played a crispy “Ocelot” and a chunky “Undermind” to close set one. The setlist was left at “Fuck You.” The boys were not giving anything specific away, as well as letting those paying attention in on the joke at the same time.
Many fans have complained about the lack of jamming in the 3.0 Era. Well Phish played not one but two 6 song second sets over the weekend, the first of which came on night one. They began the set with a colossal 20-minute “Runaway Jim.” Dribbling off the map into some darker tones this “Jim” eased the crowd back into the show nicely. An unusually long “Farmhouse” was to follow that found the crowd singing in unison. The equally stretched out “Alaska” was another nice touch, and it left the fans with a clear understanding of what was happening with the setlist. One of the greatest “Chalk Dust Torture(s)” of the 3.0 blasted off into the first “Emotional Rescue” since 2000. The campy Rolling Stones cover was my highlight of the show given the fact that it was an epic first for yours truly. With the setlist spelling out complete the only thing left to do was to play the title track, “Fuck Your Face.” For the first time in the night I felt that the set closer was a bit short, but honestly it was oh so sweet.
The encore again played on the FYF theme with a “Grind” “Meatstick” duo. This show set the stage for the best Phish run in ten years. Following last year I would definitely say don’t miss a Friday Phish Fry at Dick’s. Their opening show in 2011 was for the hardcore fans as was this year. They played a once in a lifetime type show yet again and as I walked out into the smoggy Commerce City air on Friday I was left with one feeling, gratitude. Phish is playing well, having fun, and energizing crowds with spectacular concerts across the country. For two years Dick’s has had the pleasure of hosting the tour closer, and I couldn’t be happier. With two nights to go many were left with one question, “Does it get any better than this? “ We would see.
Phish at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park 9-1-12
After the epic “Fuck Your Face” show we stood at the precipice of night two at Dick’s. Before I get too deep I would like to take a moment to thank my Fort Collins crew. Robin, Scottie, Amy, and too many more to mention worked hard to make this one of the most memorable runs in my Phishstory, and I want to thank you. By all accounts this was the most standard 3.0 show of the run. Night two was basically cavalcade of greatest hits that stretched late into the night. However the most surprising element of the show may have been the first set opener. They opened with a powerful “Antelope,” which was the first time this song has filled this slot since 1990.
SET I: Run Like an Antelope, Backwards Down The Number Line> Tweezer> Fluffhead> Roses Are Free> Funky Bitch> The Moma Dance> When The Circus Comes To Town, Theme From the Bottom> Golgi Apparatus, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan
SET II: Golden Age> Prince Caspian> Light*, Boogie On Reggae Woman> The Wedge, The Horse> Silent in the Morning> Mike’s Song> No Quarter> Weekapaug Groove
ENCORE: Sleeping Money> Tweezer Reprise
*Mercy Mercy Mercy Tease (Page)
The real star of the night was the amazing segues between songs like the one between “BDTNL” and “Tweezer,” which was a crispy blast like a car shifting into fourth gear. “Tweezer” has been a staple of 3.0 and as Gordon explodes on the bass it is always a welcomed song to hear. They ripped into fifth with a darker toned segue that eventually emerged as an epic “Fluffhead.” The crowd was literally being assaulted with heavy hitters, as they stepped it up another notch with a sweet version of Ween’s “Roses Are Free.” The “Funky Bitch” into “Moma Dance” kept the crowd moving and barely let anyone breathe. The dance beats were flowing and the energy finally downshifted with “When The Circus Comes To Town.” By all means this could have been a fitting end to the first set, but they boys were not done yet. They ripped into a mighty “Theme” again segueing beautifully into the scary good “Golgi Appartus.” Again this would have been a fitting end, but Phish finally put the brakes on after “Stealing Time.” This was just a massive set of music going almost an hour and half.
The beginning of Saturday’s second set could be considered the lowest point of the weekend, which isn’t saying much considering how awesome all there shows were performed. T.V. On The Radio’s “Golden Age” seems to be a band favorite, but not necessarily a crowd favorite. “Caspian” is another simple song that has the possibility to be a great vehicle for jam, but did not reach it’s full potential at Dick’s.
“Light” however most certainly did. This song has become a huge tool for Phish to travel into the unknown, and this version stretched well into the twenty-three minute range. “Light” eventually emerged into a bouncy “Boogie On Reggae Woman” that woke up the crowd after the extended jam. “The Wedge” is a common song out here in Colorado, given its subject matter so it was an on obvious choice. “The Horse” into “Silent” came next and Page sang brilliantly for the enthralled crowd. Again they could have ended there but the best was yet to come. Fans were treated to an unusual “Mike’s Groove” with Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” filling the space usually reserved for “I Am Hydrogen.” This was by far the highlight of the night, showing the sleekness of the band and showcasing their ability to still think outside the box.
The encore was an almost standard “Sleeping Monkey” into “Tweeprise.” I think the energy of the crowd combined with the sparks of brilliance from the band will be the hallmark of this show. It was literally a “best of” type concert that at times veered a little off course. It was a great experience nonetheless and it really did set the stage for the tour closing night on Sunday.
After two glorious nights at Dick’s it was time to say goodbye to The Phish from Vermont. It was also the band’s last stop of Summer Tour 2012 meaning everyone in attendance was in for a big show. Having been spoiled for the last two years with three-night finales, I can honestly say I hope they continue to shut it down at Dick’s. The band is at their most fluid musically and they want to have a little more fun before the nail hits the coffin.
Phish opened with a bouncy “Cars Trucks Busses,” to get the night started smoothly.
SET I: Cars Trucks Busses, AC/DC Bag> Down with Disease, Bathtub Gin, Nellie Kane> Sample In a Jar, Back on the Train> Rift> Free, Ride Captain Ride> Maze, Halley’s Comet> 46 Days> Possum
SET II: Sand> Ghost> Piper> Twenty Years Later> The Lizards, Harry Hood
ENCORE: Character Zero
Just looking at the setlist tells even the most nascent of enthusiasts, that this was a barnburner. Chunky first set for the ADD fan with nothing really getting into the “deep cut” territory, and a jam-infused six song second set. It’s basically an all you can eat buffet of Phish, reaching across their entire catalog. “AC/DC Bag” into “Down With A Disease felt a bit rushed from what we had experienced on nights one and two. The “Bathtub Gin” stretched into decent length before a bluegrass blast off with “Nellie Kane.” The crowd seemed utterly energized, everyone was there to have a good time and leave it all out on the dance floor. It was a beautiful sight to behold. The “Sample in a Jar” was crispy and clean as was the “Back On The Train.” There was a fluid break into “Rift” ending with a single beat transfer to “Free.” They’re just a band firing on all cylinders, and they continue to raise the bar year after year. It’s been an interesting journey during the 3.0 era, listening to recordings, couch touring, and catching the off weekend here and there. Phish has really blossomed and it’s obvious that they are playing diverse shows, having fun, and continuing to tour every year. I couldn’t be happier with their playing as of late, and it makes me excited for the next time I’m lucky enough to see them live. Up next was a rare performance of “Ride Captain Ride” originally by Blues Image. Page’s buttery vocals took the lead through this crowd pleaser, before the song took an eerie turn eventually taking shape with the familiar beat of “Maze.” It was a solid version that finally showed the group stepping into a deeper jam, and also many including myself thought that was the end of the first set. We were greeted with a red-hot three song closer including a cozy “Halley’s Comet” into “46 Days” into an explosive “Possum.”
The second set would open with the most exploratory adventure of the night; the twenty-four plus minute “Sand.” This was Phish at their finest passing around the lead like a hot potato, dribbling into the ether before breaking into a funky riff that stretched on. The song peaked with a fiery Trey solo that snapped back into the close of “Sand” before we all stepped over the precipice into a dark “Ghost.” These two songs were as far as we got down the rabbit hole on Sunday clocking in at almost forty-minutes combined. Phish caught their breath with a huge “Piper” followed by a straightforward “Twenty Years Later.” The real treat of the second set was “The Lizards” which washed over the audience like a cool breeze. They closed the second set with a transcendental “Harry Hood” that finished with an extended thank you from Trey, Page, Mike, and Fish and Trey ending by saying “Fuck Your Face.” All in all the it was our second six-song set of the weekend, proving to me that Phish is most definitely willing to kick off the training wheels and just jam. They encored with a quick but appropriate “Character Zero.” It was just a joy-filled weekend with old friends and Phish as the ultimate soundtrack. It’s amazing to look back on the weekend and see how this band continues to reunite me so many old friends. It’s not uncommon for me to be at any given show and see people that I haven’t seen in almost a decade. This weekend was no exception, not to mention the twentish or so group of extended phamily riding the bus to and from Fort Collins each night. We did it right this year and thanks again to all who helped to make this an incredible weekend. Let’s do it again next year.