by Martin Acaster (@Doctor_Smarty)
Like most people, I spent the bulk of the day on Saturday wondering how in any way the experience of the previous night could be surpassed. During the face-fucking of the Friday night show I was blissfully unaware that I was getting pranked. Certainly the setlist sequencing seemed odd, jams of unusual duration were emerging from the stage and splattering each of my sensory orifices with heaping dollops of creamy goo, but I did not know that Phish was sending me a coded message. If I was any kind of historian, I may actually have reviewed what happened last year at Dick’s before venturing out here. I’m not, so I didn’t, and the subliminal message was completely obscured by the music that it evoked. Obviously first night of Dick’s means there will be a gimmick show. But what would night two hold this year? Very likely just an average great Phish show. There had to be a let down.
Unlike the rest of you I was faced with the added burden of knowing that I would have to sit down and compile a recap of the show. Whatever Phish came up with, it was my turn to share the deep thoughts it evoked in me. Considering the masterful job done by Mr. Bertolet in distilling the essence of the first Dicking I knew I would at least have to attempt to bring my “A” game. I wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge. In fact, I was feeling a great deal of performance anxiety. As I sat and pondered these things gazing westward toward the Front Range, I felt I shared a moment with the band. Anything short of the previous night’s orgiastic bacchanalia, as expressed in my own words would just be disappointing for us all.
By the time I had tackled a bottomless mimosa brunch, restocked the beer cooler, taken a dip in the pool, and had my private moment of re-listening to the glorious jams of the previous night, word filtered in from the second day reinforcements that tonight was indeed going to be different. We were all going to do it again but we were going to try out a strange new position of intimacy. For night two, instead of going down deep on Page side to drop my rage stain from the full facial, I along with a group of very dear old friends, was going to be getting my night two Dicking in a box. A luxury box that is. There it was, the theme of the weekend emerged from the sweat-soaked undershorts of my brainstem, and magically crystallized before me. First night we got it in the face, night two was going to be in the box, night three was obviously going to be all about taking it in the Asse (Fest).
Being initially unsure that the luxury box thing was a reality, we made plans to get down on the floor again, sent out the requisite coordinates to others I desperately wanted to spend some quality time with getting down and dirty, and then as ALWAYS seems to be the case when you are at the show, everything changed and changed fast. Rather than trying to maintain critical mass and defend our dancing space in front of the of the board, we were getting the VIP upgrade courtesy of the brothers lime tree. We were spirited away to the magical land that lies between being here at the show and being at home on the couch. A private luxury suite is the transitory space between the comfort of home and the incredibly thrilling experience of being in the moment that is generating the magic. Dick’s in a box was going to be the love tunnel that could unite those of us here with those of you out there. I had a fridge stocked with the beers of my choice, a comfy spot to chill on the couch with my core group of friends, yet the typically virtual was instead actual. I was there in the moment feeling the crackling electricity of thousands of humans all desperately wanting the same thing, but there was none of the struggle to get it done. At that moment, I once again realized I was sharing a moment with the band. I instantly recalled what Trey had said during the KCBO interview. The backstage area had become an insane place. The crowd had spilled through into the band’s space. Faced with that turmoil, things had gotten lost, and people and performance had suffered. Clearing the teeming masses from the equation, having the time to relax and catch up with dear old friends in a truly intimate, relaxed and comfortable setting elevated the whole experience to a previously unattainable level. I think it showed in the music.
So about that. You actually want to know what I thought about the show. Naturally we sat around all day talking about what we would be getting that night. Since it was the middle member of the three peckered mountain goat, it was assuredly going to be “Tweezer” night, that was a lock. There were calls for “Number Line,” “Golden Age,” “Weekapaug,” “Silent.” We all had something we wanted to hear. Basically it became Phish juke box night. Everybody ultimately got what they wanted. Following a “Jibboo” tease, “Antelope” lurched out of the gate with a scalding pace. When was the last time they opened a show with this song? Because I am the dot-net geek, I was immediately grilled for an answer. I flailed and guessed ‘09. I had it backwards down the number line obviously because it hadn’t happened since 1990. I attempted a recovery from my communication breakdown, but working the electronic device I needed to access the data had become problematic by that point. So I just shrugged my way out of the question and into the freezer.
I held high hopes, considering the space “Carini” and “Undermind” had explored the previous night, that a first set “Tweezer” wasn’t going to be a wasted effort. It certainly didn’t rise to the levels of other recent versions but that is largely irrelevant. I love “Tweezer” and could hear it every night and be happy. It just doesn’t get old. This one got spooky, veered towards having a crab jammed in my shoe mouth, before devolving into an ultraviolet space filled with some hypertrophic digital untz. The “Fluffhead” that followed generated numerous glow-stick ejaculations and the floor of the arena transformed into a glistening pool of undulating neon. It may suck getting pelted in the back of the neck with a phosphorescent tube, but it looks cool as hell from on high. The “Roses Are Free” that followed provided my first moment of deep reflection. The flag at half staff behind the stage was a constant reminder of the world outside. My thoughts veered from the losses the nearby community of Aurora had suffered, to things that have changed in my personal life during the last year, to the break-up of the band of Boognish, the innumerable wars and other atrocities raging around the globe, to my friends in New Orleans that still were without power. It left me with a sense that it was time for a change. A new direction was going to be necessary to get us all out of this mess. Do something... or I will. With the appearance of “Funky Bitch” and the thick and crunchy “Moma” that followed I was pulled out of the well to dance with the fine funky females that surrounded me. “Circus” did not bring me down. “Theme,” as it always does, took me down to the place where the grass is green and the girls are pretty. “Theme” on this night really captured the essence of my surroundings. Safe in my box, I had no doubt who was my friend. I ended the first frame in the same state as the set closer, with a blank space where my mind should be.
Setbreak. This would ordinarily be the time to make the grueling slog out of the pit, stand in line waiting my turn to excavate the crystalline urine from my swollen bladder, quickly grab another overpriced beer and force my way back to my place of origin. Instead I sauntered a few steps back into the sweet suite, grabbed another beer from the fridge, took a leisurely stroll down the hall to an uncontested urinal, shared some deep conversation with my nearest and dearest and settled into the easy chair to await the second half. All the comforts of home. Getting Dicked in the box was turning out to be incredibly warm and comfortable.
“Golden Age” fulfilled another pre-show request for the ladies and all was good. With the arrival of “Captain Fuckerpants” I revisited my recently abandoned life as a liveaboard sailor, successfully navigated the mental shoals that song had the potential to regurgitate, and cascaded over the falls into a lotus blossom of ambrosial auricularly. It seemed I had been saying it to myself a lot in the past 36 hours about a number of the tunes I had heard; but this was the best goddamn version of “Caspian” I could recall. “Light” of course was the jam of the night. To borrow a phrase from my gracious host, the Dick’s “Light” was the musical equivalent of discharging a high voltage electrical current through an extra-large bowl of chocolate pudding. The remainder of the set would then be the icing on this belgian truffle soufflé. “Boogie On” I could see coming. A “Mike’s” > “No Quarter” > “Weekapaug” at that point was truly flabbergasting. It took me back to the Vegas ‘97 Freakapaug. That show was the first step on the path that had led me to the box these fifteen years later. So much had been shared with the people that surrounded me. Ups, downs, all arounds. We have all grown older, but we have not in anyway grown colder.
Then it was over, time to head outside, flag a weasel for a ride, and head on down to the central part of town. We missed last call by a few minutes, shared some more laughs, explored dreams and aspirations of the future both immediate and long term then drifted off into a pixellated slumber of neon chrome and the white noise of the air conditioner. The night had been completely devoid of schtick and gimmickry. The toys had stayed under the bed. It was wholesome, relaxed, and familiar. This was the band that I had fallen in love with all those many years ago. I couldn’t wait to take it from behind on Sunday.