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You'll Never Forget Your First Dick's (Sporting Goods Park Recap)

Posted 4 years ago by bertoletdown - 44 comments Link:

What a year 2012 is shaping up to be for Phish.

It is worth remembering that 2011 ended not with fireworks but fizzle, as the band turned in an uncharacteristically flaccid run at Madison Square Garden. I had firm hopes – but limp expectations – that Phish would emerge in 2012 with a renewed sense of purpose, creativity, and fun. Thus far they have shattered those expectations by delivering a first leg that snowballed gradually and even methodically to a SPAC-tacular finish, and a second leg that (while somewhat more erratic) has offered a lavish mess of jaw-dropping improvisational highlights.

What an embarrassment of riches, and what better place to conclude the second leg – or, perhaps, introduce a “third leg” of sorts – than Dick’s?

The band walks on stage at 8:22 Mountain Time and hauls ass into a rare “First Tube” opener. Trey adopts a stripped-down approach to his soloing in the outro jam, bypassing the more exotic stops on his pedalboard in favor of simple overdriven tones right up until the very last measure. High-octane stuff and an attention-grabbing start to say the least.

Bluegrass tunes out of the gate are always a grand omen at a Phish show, because the band tends to set them aside unless they’re feeling nimble and on-point. To wit, “Uncle Pen” comes out of nowhere and truly satisfies. The workout in the middle always reminds me of “The Rose of Alabama,” which reminds me of The Outlaw Josey Wales, which in turn reminds me of Clint Eastwood, who turned in the performance of his life last night at the Republican National Convention. [And yes, in retrospect, it’s clear that the song was not played for this reason.]

Carini” thunders forth at a deliberate clip and it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to know by now that Phish’s pump is primed. Trey explores the wah-drenched minor through the peak, and then moves to his Digitech to explore the subdued major space while Mike goes staccato, way up on the fretboard. For the several minutes that follow there’s some wrestling as each of our heroes compete to introduce the Next Big Thought. As often happens, that journey is as interesting as any destination could ever be. Ultimately this “Carini” is a spellbinding version that may not quite stand up to DCU but makes an extremely compelling case for 2012 runner-up.

Kill Devil Falls,” one of this year’s over-performers, never quite blasts off, and that’s okay. I sort of like the idea of growers – songs that can telescope between short and long. Page has a few charming words to say per his recent routine, and after a hilarious “We Love Dick’s” chant, everybody’s favorite arpeggio announces the arrival of a super-rare, mid-first-set “YEM.”

At this point, the notion of a set that opens up like a flower, or peels back like the layers of an onion, can be summarily dismissed. Phish is in Denver tonight to punish your bishop. “YEM” is played flawlessly through the scripted section, then Trey grabs the reins immediately after tramps and throttles up furiously to a blazing climax. This antithesis of his delicate take on “YEM” at Bill Graham gives way to the most satisfying vocal jam in many years as the band picks up the “We Love Dick’s” chant, and sends it around the horn to gut-busting effect (“Fish/Page/Mike/Trey loves Dick’s...we all love Dick’s...”).

A well-earned “Ocelot” rears its head next, still warm from its appearance at St. Louis... but who’s bitching? As I mentioned in my recap from that show, it’s a song that continues to earn more of its keep with each successive version. Fishman shows quite a bit of restraint here, holding the peak at well over arm’s length for a good long while before Trey quotes “Crosseyed and Painless” and trills his way to an arguably ordinary climax. But it’s the last ordinary piece of business we’ll see this set, because by now, the tronz are ablaze with tweets from fans who have decoded tonight’s secret message – which is not “DRINK MORE OVALTINE,” but “FUCK YOU, UNSPECIFIED PREDICATE.

That’s right – just as last year’s Dick’s run began with a show featuring songs that all began with the letter “S,” tonight’s show heaps some alphabetic gamesmanship onto the pile. Oh, it’s on.

This means that not too many songs could come next but “Undermind.” I am in lust with this song, and it’s welcome back after a one-show breather because it pushes all my buttons. It’s plainly obvious that every single band member loves this tune as well, because each of them get to show off, and anybody who can manage to sit still for this boogerific throwdown is off my Christmas card list. Recently, it’s about the full band bonus jam, which once again veers off in majestic, elfen directions. Mike does what he does best, injecting raw emotion into the most unexpected of places, while Fishman feeds rhythmic coal into the furnace and Trey calls in the whales to draw this electrifying jam to a close.

This no-less-than-stunning “Undermind” – which like the St. Louis “Limb By Limb” immediately re-defines what the song is capable of – ties a bow on what may very well shake out as the best first set of 3.0, the brilliant gimmick notwithstanding. Time and further examination will tell, but for now it’s time to catch our breath. Perhaps the second set will complete the dis? I can’t wait to find out, and I’m 100% certain that’s the plan.

As the second set kicks off, “Runaway Jim” suggests a few potential targets in the crosshairs of Phish’s callout. Romney? Rheumatoid arthritis? Rigatoni? Riboflavin? Rickshaw? Rod Carew? Whatever lies ahead, the brilliance of this gambit now becomes obvious: the shorter the word, the more compelled the band will be to jam, so as to fill 3 hours of stage time. I find myself praying for “FUCK YOU, RA,” so we can enjoy a set-long “Runaway Jim” jam followed by a cleansing “After Midnight.” And for a few awkward moments it sounds like that might transpire.

While I’m ultimately thwarted, this approach yields a “Runaway Jim” that goes entirely off-leash for the first time in far too long, and Lord what a blessing. I will resist the temptation to poorly describe this “Jim” and simply encourage you to give it a listen. It’s far from perfection but it’s a wonderfully game grasp for glory, and easily the most compelling version in quite some time.

The arrival of “Farmhouse” lets a bit of the air out of the gimmick by eliminating every reasonably possible anagram but one, which at this point one must assume will be the encore (editor’s note: WRONG).

A gloriously lilting and loopy end to “Farmhouse” bleeds patiently and ominously into a minutes-long setup for a monstrous “2001” – which of course is also known as “Also Sprach Zarathustra” by geeks like me. This ambient stretch finally terminates in “Alaska,” serving a well-earned sub-fuck-you to geeks like me.

Once again, Phish... well played.

Chalk Dust Torture” seems an obvious choice for the C-song, but there is good news. See, the gimmick has Phish cornered, and they can either (a) choose to jam the ever-living shit out of this as they have several times since Hampton 2009, or (b) find an “E” song that they can extend for a good half hour. The second false ending in as many “Chalk Dusts” confirms suspicions that we’re in for (a). An extended “CDT” walkabout ensues, climbing a pretty damned respectable ladder to land among the 3.0 elite. And with a smile and a nod between Trey and Mike, the by-now-not-so-secret message culminates in a confection: the first “Emotional Rescue” in 12 years. Confounding expectation, Phish finishes the meta-idea by concluding its second set with “Fuck Your Face.”

At this point, the double encore of “Grind” and “Meatstick” serves little purpose other than to reinforce the entirely puerile nature of tonight’s statement, and to call our attention back to what came before it. All of this structure, after all is said and done, is pure distraction. What matters, and what we’ll talk about when it comes time to buy tickets to Denver next year, is the music. I’ll need a day or two to be sure, but in the immediate wake of tonight’s performance, I feel reasonably confident calling this the finest evening of music that Phish has delivered since 2003.

In no way do I mean to diminish SF3 or St. Louis, and in no way to I mean to set a bar that’s too tall for Dick’s 2 or Dick’s 3 to clear. Just calling them as I see them from my humble perch, and hoping you all enjoyed it as much as I did.

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switz Staff Reply
switz Great review. Haven't read one negative thing on .net, twitter, PT, etc and damn does that feel good.
Score: 3
lumpblockclod Staff Reply
lumpblockclod Best show of 3.0, easy. When people accuse the admins of being jaded or overly critical of certain shows, understand that it's because of shows like this that we may come across that way. If every show is the greatest thing they've ever played, you run out of superlatives (and lack the credibility) to properly describe shows like 8/31/12.
Score: 6
MongoNugget Reply
If you didn't realize it yet the first letter of the songs they played before fuck your face spells fuck your face
Score: 0
kyediggs Reply
wozers you are so right the gag was great but the way they played almost every song like they were 20 again was amazing. The meatstick did have a purpose though and that was to remind us about dicks so we had 2 gagfs going during one of the finest performances ive heard this era. there are others spac3 bg3 utica but tonight was all of those wrapped in a large cheeseball which is the phish from VT
Score: 1
kyediggs Reply
I never think you admins are jaded just telling the truth which some peeps cant handle. Lets fave it if you have been seeing phish since 95 (in my case) we are all def spoiled but om never jaded i go in with no expectations and never leave unsatisfied. I always leave wanting more
Score: 2
bertoletdown Staff Reply
bertoletdown @MongoNugget said:
If you didn't realize it yet the first letter of the songs they played before fuck your face spells fuck your face
No shit.

Are you serious?
Score: 7
InsectEffect Reply
Thanks for another solid review, @bertoletdown.

An acrostic show, delivered in true Phish fashion!

Farmhouse was an especially poor choice, I thought, and deflated the energy of the fanastic and truly runaway Jim -- Free, Fluffhead, Frankenstein, etc would have fit the "F" slot better. The space jam helped make up for that, though, and the show was brilliant overall. Best First Set of 2012, easy. Get your ears around the stunning Undermind asap, people.
Score: 0
asfoolasiam Reply
wish they had gone with AC/DC Bag rather than Alaska. then they could have fucked a Bag of Dick's. :p
Score: -1
MongoNugget Reply
If you put the whole show together with the first letter spell out of F.U.C.K.Y.O.U.R.F.A.C.E > Fuck Your Face and Grind Your Meatstick. The themed show stricks again. Dick Dick Dick!!!!!
Score: 1
n00b100 Staff Reply
n00b100 Another great review. I definitely think this is a great show; I am not yet certain to anoint it the best of the year, let alone of 3.0. I will say that it is a rarity (outside of the setlist gimmick) in that you could make a strong case for a Set 1 jam to be the best of a show, as the Undermind here might be.
Score: 0
nichobert Reply
nichobert It spells Fuck Your Face? I'm not seeing it.

And while the Undermind and Carini were both spellbinding. The way that Jim moved through styles and emotions like it was flipping through a magazine just melts my brain.

It sounds like a mission statement from 3.0 - Take the way we jammed in 93 or 94, throwing tons of ideas at the wall to see what sticks, but use all the restraint and taste we learned along the way to make damn near everything not only stick to the wall but stick together. It's like every 45-60 seconds from 11 minutes to 17 or 18, they've fully morphed into a new idea in a completely effortless manner.

I read one bad review of the show. The guy was talking about how bad it is when Chalkdust is the highlight of a show, and bitching endlessly about Ocelot and Alaska and Undermind. He thought Undermind "Went nowhere" which IMO was enough to invalidate any opinions he had by itself.
Score: 2
jeddy3 Reply
jeddy3 Spac3 was for the heads. Dicks1 for the masses. Both amazing.
Score: 0
watsiyem Reply
watsiyem Personally loved the Farmhose. Incredible Trey solo
Score: 1
ckess22 Reply
ckess22 Good review of a triumphant show. Well be rocking this for a long time; only question, what's next?
Score: 1
andrewrose Reply
andrewrose I'm just listening now. A fiery First Tube to be sure. On paper, but FYF gimmicks aside, this is the kind of Phish I live for. Two or three nice jams in the first set, a big second set opener, some expected space and outro jams, a beyond-novelty bustout, a punctuation mark of an encore. More jams and fewer songs goes such a long way towards making me want to listen to an entire show front to back after the fact, which is what I'm doing today.

The best night of Phish since 2003 is a bold statement, @bertoletdown, when you consider that suggests last night tops 6/20/04. I can't make a judgement there yet, but I'm pretty pumped to hear this Undermind and Jim to say the least.
Score: 3
andrewrose Reply
andrewrose That should say *unexpected space.

Through the Carini now. I was at DCU. I'd definitely give this Lumpy Head (Dick's) the #1 nod.
Score: 2
randomreader Reply
Minor note - this is the 2nd time we've had a 2001/Alaska fakeout - it happened in Camden in '10. Of course, 2001 was played that night - directly after Alaska - it was the Michael Jackson Death Mashup version.
Score: 1

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