When you go to as many concerts as I have it’s a relatively difficult to catch me off guard. As I entered Hodi’s Half Note on a cool fall evening in October I was welcomed by the warm embrace of bluegrass lofting over a silent crowd. Colorado is such an amazing hub for live music that many of the regular attendees become blasé and often chat during any given performance. So to enter a normally raucous bar and not hear anyone but the bartender asking, “What’ll you have” and the music from the stage is just something I don’t expect. As I headed toward the front to take a few photos it was immediately evident that this was not a Bisco crowd. The majority of the silent sold out audience were there to see the vibrant Mr. Snider, but they were treated to a powerful send up from the Henhouse Prowlers. This string band continues to teeter on the edge of traditional and rage-grass. Their set began around 8:45 PM as the early arrivers staked out their spots.
They opened with “Silver Eagle” and the game of shuffleboard began. Utilizing a traditional single microphone setup, every show is like a ballet as each member rearranges himself to the mic stand. In recent years, Henhouse Prowlers had to persevere through the theft of all of their band equipment as well as some personnel changes, and they have emerged more focused and cohesive than ever. Ben Wright continues to lead by example through effortless vocals and powerful picking. The newest member Starr Moss has really gelled with the band and doesn’t miss a chance to absolutely shred his guitar. Staples like “Track Song” and “Lonesome Road” dotted their hour-long set. The highlight was their closing Syracuse into Ruby into Syracuse that has become a showstopper for the Prowlers. The Henhouse Prowlers are one of those bands that is often overlooked and with a new album out and their relentless touring its time to spread to good word. If bluegrass is your bag the Prowlers should be in it.
The ever-vigilant crowd allowed themselves to murmur during the set break before Todd Snider appeared from backstage. Snider is like a modern day Dylan and I don’t make that analogy lightly. By appearance he’s all patchwork and floppy hat, but his lyrics belie a deeper spiritual journey. One in which he is not afraid to call out fraud or injustice with his own variety of realism and humor. I first saw Snider working with Leftover Salmon and subsequently Great American Taxi. However this was my first time seeing him in a small room with his dedicated fan base. He opened up with “Play A Train Song” and quickly went into “If Tomorrow Never Comes, a kind of rowdy rollercoaster ride that extrapolates on his Catholic School days. He treated us to his song “Broke;” a humorous indictment of the current economic situation told through the eyes of regular Joe. He did an amazing version of Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles” to round out the first set.
After a short break he returned and continued his bard-like ways. Snider is a storyteller, but that’s only if the audience cooperates. At one point he was ready to break into a tangential story when someone in the attentive audience shouted out. Snider reprimanded him by not telling the anecdote and simply launching into the next song. “Conservative Christian” was an absolute peak for the show, and it should be an anthem for any self-proclaimed hippie. Snider finished around midnight. He is a true teller of tales in every way. He entertains through his docile nature and cutting satire. The way to see Snider is by himself and hopefully with an audience as dedicated as the fans at Hodi’s. All in all it was a very good night for acoustic music.
Avogadro’s Number is a tiny oasis of live music in the sometimes-overwhelming Fort Collins music scene. This venue has been a showcase for acoustic and folk music for a number of years. Off the beaten path of Old Town Avo’s as it’s affectionately called houses a bar, a stage, and a restaurant.
On a cool fall night in October, Avogadro’s opened its stage up to Summer Camp favorites Caravan Of Thieves. Hailing from Connecticut this band had been described as a unique blend of swing, jazz, and high intensity jamming. Fuzz Sangiovanni from Deep Banana Blackout fame along with his wife Carrie Sangiovanni form the foundation of the band with Ben Dean and Brian Anderson filling out the lineup of pickers.
Arriving early I caught the last half of the opening set by The Cantrells. They are a duo from a bygone era with a true gift for the art of performance. The majority of the small but dedicated audience seemed to be there in support of opener. The multi-instrumentalist Cantrells focused on their own style of acoustic swing following a more traditional approach than the headliner. They had a folksy way about them that made you feel like you were at a picnic with your extended family. The only cover they played that I was familiar with was a Leadbelly tune. Overall they were a gentle way to get the night started. They had a passion for swing and string music and seemed to fit the bill nicely.
The Caravan Of Thieves took the stage for their single set that went just over ninety minutes. They opened up with their original “I Don’t Wanna.”
Set 1: I Don’t Wanna, Shim Sham, Psycho Killer, Eat You, Wasting, Monster, F Got You, She’s Learning, Kiss, Dance
Encore: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band> I Get By, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, When I’m 64, Raise The Dead
A very nice set of music with an encore that featured several of the Sgt. Pepper’s tunes they worked out for Halloween. We were also treated to a couple selections including “I Don’t Wanna” and “Monster” off of their new album Funhouse as well. This band is truly mesmerizing in both their delivery and their energy. Fuzz will often swing his guitar to his back, pick up egg beaters, and begin slamming on all manner of plastic jug and metal cymbal. I’ve seen the man even begin banging on his fellow band mates instruments with any substitute for a drumstick he can find.
They managed to work in one of their favorite covers in the form of the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” as well. They lead the small audience on a musical journey that involved some impeccable picking along with an array of makeshift percussion. Heading out to the bar throughout the night several people who were otherwise engaged in Broncos football would ask, “Who are these guys?” I can only assume that same question was asked by many who have passed by their stage at Summer Camp each year. Who are these guys? The reason is that their sound is wholly unique and quite intoxicating. They warned the crowd earlier about their Halloween extravaganza involving their homage to the Beatles, so it was no surprise that the encore gave us a taste of that forthcoming show. As they do with all of their covers, they incorporate their own instrumentation and styling making each song very different from the original. Their jangly strings treated the Beatles well.
The Caravan Of Thieves closed by coming down to the floor and inviting the crowd up to sing “Raise The Dead.” This intimate affair is exactly what Avo’s has become known for in Fort Collins. It’s a small retreat for music lovers and music makers alike. If you find yourself wandering the outskirts of Old Town and hear some quality picking, chances are you’ve found Avogadro’s Number.
Videos From The Show
On a tour that bounced on and off the summer festival circuit beginning with Summer Camp and ending with an extensive jaunt across the country, Tea Leaf Green continues to spread their music prodigiously. Their set at Summer Camp actually saw a lull in the rain this year, but it soon returned. Often underrated, this five-piece from San Francisco played sans one drummer at the Aggie. I headed down early to see local classics WhiteWater Ramble open. Having watched these guys evolve and transform since my arrival in Colorado it’s good to see them gelling in a live setting. WWR has always been a jamgrass contender, but at times their sound has been inconsistent. Their show at the Aggie was a smooth groove that was highlighted by a number of fun covers. In particular a spaced-out version of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” that was a true mix of psychedelic and string. A pair of Grateful Dead covers came in the form of “Althea” and “The Wheel” as well. WhiteWater Ramble finished up with a sweet take on “Nellie Kane.” This band continues to develop and their local shows always seem to be a blast.
During setbreak I ran into incredible bassist and all around nice guy Reed Mathis just relaxing outside before his set. I talked to Reed about Summer Camp and his extensive touring. Throughout the last 5 months he has hopped from Tea Leaf to Mickey Hart Band shows with several one offs in between. Before we split ways Reed inquired if I had any requests. I simply asked that he, ‘rip it up.’
“I will rip it up, it shall need mending… possibly stitches.” –Mathis
So with that we headed back inside in anticipation of the ripping. The show was on a Wednesday night so the audience numbered only around a couple hundred. This allowed for a very relaxed feel and easy maneuvering. They opted to play one long set rather than split it up. They opened up with “If It Wasn’t For The Money.”
Set 1: If It Wasn’t For The Money, Someday (In The Wake), Penny Saved, One Reason, Space Hero Pt. 3, Space, Hero Pt. 4, Forgiven, Don’t Go, Taught To Be Proud, We Aren’t Done, Franz Hanzerbeak (JoJo), Two Parts, One More Chance, Fallen Angel> Germanating Seed
Encore: Pretty Jane, All Washed Up
This beefy set from Tea Leaf Green featured classics as well as several newer tracks. Musically they are playing in lockstep. I was a little bummed they were performing without their other drummer, but considering their length of time on the road it’s understandable. Trevor Gerrod continues to be the consummate performer utilizing both his skills at the keys as well as the microphone intrepidly. The “Space Hero” duo was a real highlight. Reed was a true focal point for the duration of the show. There is something incredible about watching someone who is truly skilled at a craft. For Mathis that craft is face melting bass shredding. Tea Leaf closed out the set with a pair from their second album Radio Tragedy!; “Fallen Angel” into “Germanating Seed” was a real treat. I still believe that Tea Leaf Green is a top-level jam band with the potential to give a huge performance on any given night. Their show at the Aggie again proved that hypothesis. They have musically and stylistically evolved into a true road-worn rock band, but their live shows demonstrate an amazing ability to improvise and harmonize sonically. They encored with a “Pretty Jane” into “All Washed Up.” If you’ve let Tea Leaf Green fall off your radar, revisit them post haste. They are still doing it right.
The Werks have played their fair share of sets at Summer Camp. However this was my first time catching them live. So I hustled down to see them in Old Town. Howerver arriving at 9:30 PM meant that by the time I grabbed my first beer, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong were exiting stage left. What I heard sounded like a promising blend of electronic, funk, and jam. Forming in 2009 and averaging over a hundred shows a year this four piece has a lot of potential. In fact all three bands on the bill were four man outfits that have developed their own brand of improvised composition. Some have pontificated that we are in a post jam era where the music has become split by genre and focus. However when I witness performances like what I saw from both Twiddle and The Werks, my faith is jam is somewhat restored.
Now Twiddle has not performed at Summer Camp, but they would be a fine additon to next year’s lineup. The band came on after a short set break and kept the night moving smoothly. It was homecoming weekend at Colorado State and there was an abundance of youth in attendance. It seemed like Twiddle had gained a few fans from their performance at Arise Music & Arts Festival in Loveland, CO mid August. They are an impressive unit who finally seems to really be branching out beyond their Vermont roots. Much of the basis of their music comes from the school that Phish built. Beyond that they have a drive and musical prowess that absolutely makes an impact. Deep intrepid jams highlighted this set that culminated with a huge psychedelic style trance jam. As this is just my second time seeing them I am still unfamiliar with their songs. What I can say is that Twiddle can play, and they have a genuine enthusiasm about performing together. Their set at the Aggie seemed to end far too quickly.
Again after a short set change The Werks emerged for their extended headlining slot. They opened with “O.G.”
Set 1: O.G., Heading South, Light, BG, Duck Farm, Hard To Find, Moetry, G Funk, 2001> No Diggity> 2001
Encore: Killing In The Name Of
I’m unsure how many can relate but at times with different bands no matter how hard I try I just can’t seem to make seeing them life happen. The Werks has been one of those bands for me. I have listened to their recordings for a number of years but despite my best efforts failed to see them play live. That is until now. The Werks began performing together in 2004 and released their first album in 2007. Since then they have been touring across the country with several stops at top festivals like All Good and Wakarusa. They currently host their own yearly event called The Werk Out Music Festival. Their show at the Aggie much like their opener Twiddle was first-rate.
They started the show by delving into a wide variety of their catalog. Slicing through musical styles like instrumental ninjas The Werks demonstrated why they are so revered. Songs like “Duck Farm” and “Moetry” punctuated a fantastic set of songs. . They closed with their version of Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” split by a bridge in the form of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” The crowd went absolutely nuts. However The Werks came back to the stage to drop an even heavier encore. They covered Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of.” Stoic keyboardist Norman Dimitrouleas took the microphone for this spot on rendition that left fans mesmerized. I have to say it was a fun night out. With a bill that consisted of names like The Werks and Twiddle it would be easy to overlook this Friday night but that would have been a mistake. One I’m thankful I didn’t make. Both of these bands deserver your attention, so take a deeper look. Apparently in some corners of the country jam is alive and well.
Virtuoso bassist Les Claypool is a musical shape shifter. He often leaves the comfy confines of Primus to venture out on some melodious adventure. I’ve seen his many projects and they vary from full-fledged percussive groups focused on instrumental composition to an assemblage of a reptilian task force for all sorts of mayhem. His most recent project is a stripped down situation that goes by the name of Duo De Twang. He has had a number of solo sets over the years at Summer Camp and most recently played with all of Primus in 2012.
Duo De Twang was originally formed with Marc Haggard from San Francisco alt-rock group M.I.R.V. This tour featured Bryan Kehoe on guitar also from M.I.R.V. They invited the Reformed Whores on the road with them for the duration of their tour. These two ladies have no issue discussing all manner of bodily function and otherwise unspeakable points of view through the wonder and beauty of song. In fact if you weren’t paying attention to the lyrics it would easily sound like the background music at a church picnic.
As I arrived the Reformed Whores were already on stage spreading their brand of irreverent humor. Their delivery was pure deadpan and chocked full of a humorous sanguinity. As performers they utilized the bare minimum of instrumentation, with just a ukulele and an accordion the Reformed Whores weave rich and delightful musical tapestries. Singing about the necessity for women to move their bowels, taint waxing, and about the importance of birth control are all par for the course. Really they sing public service announcements. They closed their set with “Girls Poop Too.”
I can only describe the fans in the front few rows as dedicated. Some were parked there hours prior to the start of the opener. It was finally time for the main event. Claypool and Kehoe officially took the stage soon after the Reformed Whores. Their modest setup was complete with a small electric bonfire and a couple of chairs. Claypool had stated that this was going to be a low-key affair with lots of booze laced tangents and random stories for the eager crowd. Claypool is playing on a resonator bass that he has taken to calling the “dobro bass,” which makes sense in both sound and feel. Kehoe stuck to the guitar alternating between slide and flat-picking. They played one long set that was spiced with a good amount of fan interaction. They opened with a truly twang-y “Booneville Stomp.” After their first song Kehoe let out a note like a Tuvan throat singer and Claypool said this about him.
“We call him the mighty throat of doom and sodomy.” –Les Claypool
It was this type of silly banter that Claypool seemed to thrive on between sips and songs at the Aggie. Classic Primus tunes like “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” and “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver” dotted the set to the glee of the audience. By this point the room was borderline sold out with people taking up every nook and cranny. I found myself in the back and to the right along the wall after I was done taking photos. Musically it was just fun. It was like watching Claypool on MTV Unplugged. At one point the audience began chanting ‘Primus Sucks’ and Claypool commented, “I didn’t think there were be a lot of Primus fans here tonight.” Towards the end Claypool invited a local guitarist named Robert up to stage to play with the Duo De Twang. First of all that’s awesome, Claypool inviting any musician onstage to perform with him would undoubtedly be a high point in their life. Robert was no Jimi Hendrix, but he did fine and Claypool used a few stops to play the bandleader and crack a few jokes. So it was okay for the crowd, but obviously awesome for Robert. After a very quick ninety minutes their set was over and they both stepped off the stage before quickly returning for their encore. They nailed a stringed version of “Staying Alive” that seemed to really pump up the energy in the crowd.
“That’s not a Bee Gees song, I wrote that fucking tune.” –Les Claypool
They closed the show with Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues” that featured a small “Tommy The Cat” tease. This was just a great night to have a drink with Mr. Claypool. The relaxed vibe focused on interaction and imbibing more than shredding and face melting. That’s not to say anything was lacking musically. Quite the contrary, the combination of Claypool and Kehoe is magical. They create a wall of sound with just a handful of strings. I would highly recommend if the Duo De Twang comes to your town, go have a drink with the Colonel.
Photos by C. Alan Crandall (https://www.facebook.com/RockyMountainJams)
Video by evenstev (http://www.youtube.com/user/evenstev)
Audio by Otterman
No band unifies the tribes like the Grateful Dead. They are the spring from which all jam flows and they are the founders of a musical lifestyle that reaches far beyond the concert. With the passing of Jerry Garcia the remaining members of the family have had to find various outputs for their creativity. The most recent and well known of these is Furthur. Helmed by Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, Furthur has been a celebration of the art that was created by the Grateful Dead throughout three decades of nonstop touring.
During this past summer Furthur experienced some hardships. Weir collapsed on stage in the spring and the band was forced to cancel a headlining spot at BottleRock Napa Valley scheduled for May 9th. So it was no real surprise when just prior to their four-night run at Red Rocks Amphitheatre that Furthur announced they would not be touring for the majority of 2014. Originally I planned on missing this run, but given this fact my wife and I opted to head to The Edge for the sold out show on Saturday.
We got on the road early but weekend traffic didn’t put us on Lot until around 5 PM. We parked in the Upper South and relaxed a bit before show time. It’s always a little odd jumping into a four day run on night three. Everyone is well into his or her flow and I end up feeling a little bit like a tourist. That being said I didn’t let it bother me as I headed up the ramp. At this point, I must give props to my good friend Tuber for securing us tickets and getting us settled in the 8th row. You’re a good man and thorough.
Rarely do I get the chance to watch any concert at Red Rocks from the first ten rows so this was a real treat. Furthur opened with a fiery “Feel Like A Stranger” that went deep into the dark side musically to begin the night.
Set 1: Feel Like A Stranger, Althea, Jack Straw> Doin’ That Rag, Fennario, Mason’s Children, Promised Land
Set 2: Dear Mr. Fantasy> Wheel, Estimated Prophet> Dark Star> Standing On The Moon> Terrapin Station: At A Siding> Terrapin Flyer> Terrapin Refrain> Unbroken Chain> Space> Shakedown Street> All Along The Watchtower> Turn On Your Lovelight
Encore: Box Of Rain
http://archive.org/details/Furthur2013-09-21.aud.flac16 (AUDIO ON ARCHIVE)
On paper this is a Deadhead’s wet dream. The beautifully executed “Althea” featured some amazing and accurate guitar and vocal work from John Kadlecik. The band gently eased into “Jack Straw” with Phil and Bobby trading vocals back and forth. The entire crowd seemed to join in on the refrain. Vocally it was fair, but Chimenti’s keys were the real highlight. “Doin’ That Rag” was spot on while “Fennario” aka “Peggy-O” was like a fresh breeze washing over the crowd. “Mason’s Children” is always a great addition, and this version was stellar. They closed with a classic “Promised Land.” Musically the band sounded incredibly tight. Joe Russo does the work of three people on the kit, watching him is like trying to focus on an octopus pulling a card trick. It’s magic. Early Furthur performances with Jay Lane were excellent, but Russo has filled the void tremendously.
The second set featured a more extensive setlist feature many songs from deep in the Dead catalog. They surprised the audience by opening with Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy.” It was accurate but deliberate in the rendition. The band simply exploded into a powerful “Wheel.” The rows of Red Rocks soon became a massive dance party. Furthur went dark again with a well-played “Estimated Prophet.” Both Pehrson and Becker were outstanding on the backup vocals, but they seemed present much less than previous shows I’ve seen. In fact they frequently departed the stage leaving just the core of the band to rock it out. The Dark Star continued the trek into the shadows musically, and this was an obvious high point for the second set. These two songs combined stretched to about thirty minutes and featured some of the most heroic jamming of the evening. Afterward they went into an impeccable “Walking On The Moon” with some great vocals from Mr. Weir. They went into a truncated “Terrapin” themed jam that featured a sick “Terrapin Flyer.” Phil’s sounded a bit shaky on “Unbroken Chain,” but that’s nothing new. His bass was in full effect regardless of who was at the microphone. Further went into a “Space” jam before concisely ripping into another fan favorite “Shakedown Street.” It was awesome to see Furthur perform Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower,” which was yet another unexpected gem. The elder statesmen of jam finished with an energetic “Lovelight.” They encored with a Phil sung “Box Of Rain.”
Overall this was a solid outing from Furthur and I was happy that we made the trip. Red Rocks is a special place and as each year passes the possibility that Phil or Bobby will stop touring or worse rises. The fact that 2014 will see the two split ways just gave me the excuse I needed to go. Assuming they will both be touring with Rat Dog and Phil and Friends respectively means that both are looking for a different outlet right now. Lets hope that they come back energized and reinvigorated towards the end of next year. Time will tell.
Note: This article contains some excellent collaboration. Thanks to the superb Mr. Crandall for providing photos, thank you to Otterman who posted his audio recording on Archive, and finally thanks to evenstev for shooting the entire show on a tripod and posting on YoutTube. We live in an amazing time in technology where you can go online after a concert and re-experience the show in so many ways. The dedication of fans like these three makes it easy to really examine and understand the individual performances of bands like Furthur. For that I thank you all.
noun - 1 a sense of communion with others: affinity, fellowship, kinship, friendship, fellow feeling, togetherness, closeness, harmony, understanding, rapport, connection, communication, empathy, accord, unity.
Throughout our individual journeys in life we frequently seek out a sense of belonging oftentimes through our love of music. Summer Camp itself is a communal event that features some of the most amazing fans and musicians in the scene. Communion is the title bestowed on a UK record label that has worked diligently to bring together both fan and musician through live and recorded offerings. What began as a ‘Communion Presents’ concert series at a West London basement bar has blossomed into an international phenomenon of sharing the best and the freshest young performers with music addicts across the globe.
Their latest offering is a series of ‘Communion Clubnights’ throughout the month of October. From New York City to my old stomping grounds of Rock Island, Illinois. The rotating lineup of these dates will include Summer Camp alumni Rubblebucket, Roadkill Ghost Choir, and Willy Mason. Local acts will support. The dates and cites are listed below.
1st Oct – New York, NY
2nd Oct – Washington, DC
3rd Oct – Philadelphia, PA
8th Oct – Bloomington, IN
9th Oct – Louisville, KN
10th Oct – Nashville, TN
15th Oct – Minneapolis, MN
16th Oct – Madison, WI
17th Oct – Rock Island, IL
Sticking to the east coast and then drifting back into Summer Camp country, this series of shows will be both eclectic and entertaining. So instead of sitting around and waiting for Summer Camp 2014 go out and see some life music. For additional info on who is playing where and when see the Communion website for more details.
Photo by Brad Hodge
The campground was ablaze with activity as the fans filtered out of the venue and into the night. Massive lights on huge towers illuminated the trail as vendors fired up grills and peddlers peddled . The party would go well into the dusk as fans celebrated the first of three days of Phishmas. Saturday was another hot day with the sun forcing us out of the tent and seeking the shade before 9 AM. We headed over to a hotel where our Chicago crew was staying. The pool was complete with giant inflatable floats that varied from swan to tyrannosaurus rex. After a relaxing afternoon we spent a little time on the lot with friends before heading inside. The Dick’s Lot is well known for it’s free atmosphere and acceptance to vending. The Shakedown Street stretches over across six rows and features every ware imaginable. The rendezvous was set and we were on the floor for the next two nights. We posted up directly behind the soundboard, which you could see directly through and the sound is the best the floor had to offer.
They opened with a now vintage “Buried Alive” that was a first for me personally. This instrumental jam signified that we were about to get submerged in some serious Phish-i-ness.
Set 1: Buried Alive, AC/DC Bag> Wolfman’s Brother, Yarmouth Road, Fee> Halfway to the Moon, The Wedge, Halley’s Comet> Bathtub Gin, Bouncing Around the Room, Mound, Gumbo> Run Like An Antelope
Set 2: Chalkdust Torture*, Light-> 46 Days> Steam-> Free, Joy> Also Sprach Zarathustra> Tweezer> Backwards Down the Number Line
Encore: On The Road Again**> Tweezer Reprise
The show that followed was of the highest caliber and the first set especially was just jaw dropping. They kicked it into high gear with “AC/DC Bag” into a funky “Wolfman’s Brother.” The second night of any three-night run seems to have a feeling of unity between the crowd and the band. Everyone is locked in and ready to rage. Yarmouth Road debuted this year and this was my first chance to catch it live. This song is another product of the Muraski-Gordon collaboration. “Fee” off of Junta has become a somewhat rare track, but it seems to come out about once a year. It was very welcomed by the crowd. “Halfway to the Moon” saw a sinister groove juxtaposed against the delicate vocals of Mr. Page McConnell. “The Wedge” has appeared at all of the Dick’s runs, which makes a little sense, but this version saw some extended drum work from Fishman. “Halley’s Comet” into “Bathtub Gin” was a real highlight, and it could have easily been the close to the set. Little did fans know, but Phish was far from done. “Bouncing” was a nice addition and a real crowd pleaser. “Mound” went into the stratosphere with some epically dark jams before fans caught their breath with “Gumbo.” Again a favorite that could have been a nice button on the set, but Phish was not done. They went into a heavy “Run Like An Antelope” to close out this unbelievable set of music.
Friends mingled about in the crowd waiting for the boys from Vermont to return. The lights dimmed after a short break and it was time for round two. Phish opened with a absolutely astonishing “Chalkdust Torture.” Stretching over twenty-three minutes this may have been the best version I’ve ever seen live. Friends asked me several times, “Are they still playing ‘Chalkdust’?” The “Manteca” tease was a nice touch as well. They let the wheels go and took everyone on a real musical journey with this version. They went into “Light” and I wondered if we would be witnessing a three-song set, but it was cut short. “46 Days” was rock-tastic and melted down into an S-show nod “Steam.” Phish nailed another rowdy tune “Free” before an oddly timed “Joy” that seemed to extinguish part of the fire they were building. “Also Sprach Zarathustra” woke everyone back up, but again felt a little rushed. “Tweezer” was anything but hurried and showcased some stellar bass work from Mike. They closed with a solid “Backwards Down The Number Line,” which would have definitely felt like they were refrencing about night one.
Phish encored with another debut cover of Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again.” It was a bit weird, but also pretty enjoyable to watch. The prerequisite “Tweeprise” ended the show. We ducked out quickly as they finished up. Just days before Phish was scheduled to arrive in Denver, Leftover Salmon announced they would be performing an after show at Cervantes. So we packed it up and headed towards the illuminated skyline of Denver.
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.
Summer Camp favorites, The Everyone Orchestra is the musical monstrosity that pairs incredible talent with the razor-sharp mind of Matt Butler. While the lineup itself takes on many forms Butler and his white board are the one constant. Prior to Phish’s three-night run at Dick’s The Bianchi Brothers arranged for a little shindig under the stars. They have produced a couple of these ‘music in the park’ type events with positive feedback. This was the first to take place in Sculpture Park in front of the Denver Performing Arts Center. Giant, androgynous statues dance in the field, and they immediately became everyone’s go-to meeting place. The Dead Phish Orchestra opened up, but we arrived just as they finished up their set. Several vendors lined the ample-sized field, with the beer garden being the biggest draw.
The lineup on this particular night was absolutely stellar, consisting of Kyle Hollingsworth (SCI, KHB) on keys, Michael Kang (SCI, Panjea) on electric mandolin, Dave Watts (Motet) on kit, Jans Ingber (Motet) on percussion and vocals, Jennifer Hartswick (TAB, JHB) on trumpet and vocals, Al Schnier (moe., Floodwood) on guitar, Kai Eckardt (Garage Mahal) on bass, and Bridget Law (Elephant Revival) on fiddle, with Butler orchestrating. Jason Hann (SCI) and Ted Tilton (DPO) both sat in during the second set as well. The sheer aptitude for music in this configuration of Everyone Orchestra is utterly mind-blowing. I’ve seen many different EO shows, but this has to be at the top of heap simply from musicianship. The show began with a vocal jam between Butler and the crowd. Watts’ lockstep beat was in full effect as Kyle tickled the keys elegantly.
This two set show featured some extensive jamming from EO. Strong vocal interplay between Jans and Hartswick were yet another highlight of this musical journey. With the majority of their “songs” hitting almost twenty minutes, they had plenty of time to pass the potato around. Al was a focal point for many all night as he simply shredded. Kai too was impressive to watch as he held it all down with his funky bass riffs. The first set was a little tame, as they got into their groove during the second set. Watching improvisation happen live can be a lot like watching a flower bloom. Sure everyone on stage is an absolute talent, but they have to be truly in synch with other musicians, several of whom they may never have met before, to actually perform together. That takes a special kind of genius. Everyone Orchestra played well into the evening as the sun set behind Sculpture Park. EO would claim that they are there to have fun, but with each show they continue to foster the spirit of improvisation. The show in Sculpture Park featured a lot of crowd interaction, more than a few vocal based songs, and epic jamming. At one point during the second set I was fairly sure they were jamming on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” This was a great way to start my weekend with Phish. EO always gets the musical juices flowing. They are a jam institution as far as I’m concerned. Butler travels all over the country paring up players, and spreading the power of improvisation. In what other venue is it even possible to see members of The Motet, SCI and moe. all jamming together onstage? It’s special every time they perform and their show in Sculpture Park was definitely a unique experience.