Along with more traditional venues such as Hampton and MSG, Dick’s has in a few short years established itself as another “home court” for Phish, with this being the third consecutive three-night Labor Day weekend run. It is well established that Phish love Dick’s, in fact we ALL love Dick’s. It has been another long night and busy day for the phish.net team here in lovely Colorado, so we’ll proceed in the “express review” mode today.
Most Shows Spell Something.
“Ghost” opens up the gig with ten minutes of juicy funky goodness, the first “Ghost” show opener since October 15, 1998 at San Francisco’s Fillmore. With “NICU” in the #2 slot, those expecting another “the setlist spells” were left to ponder “G-N”? Then, boom! “Icculus!” Played for only the third time in the 21st Century and the first time since June 17, 2011 (82 shows), the narrative referenced the plane that was circling the venue before the show with a “READ THE BOOK” trailing sign as well as the band’s “love for Dick’s” and the band member’s “youth” and “upbringing.” For this fan, “Icculus” represents a fulfillment of a two-decade quest… you go see a band you like, a lot, for a long time, and you kinda want to hear all the songs you love. “Icculus” is, you know, one of those songs, yet one that had eluded me and often in bizarre and just-miss ways. High fives and treasured hugs will be my lasting memory of the moment – special times with special friends with whom so many such moments have been shared over so many years, it really is the best. Thanks, Phish!
“Heavy Things” (played in the same key as “Icculus” for those scoring at home) and “Theme from the Bottom” bring us back down to earth a bit. While it would have flew over my head, I was standing adjacent to Scott Marks (@bizarchive) who clued us all in that the setlist was “something” backwards and that we’d be due for an “e” song. There are not many “e” songs, and “Emotional Rescue” had been used during last year’s “Fuck Your Face” masterpiece. “Esther” fills the slot, the first performance since June 18, 2011 (81 shows) and only the eighth performance since the 90s, surely crossing this beloved song off many a personal list.
“The Moma Dance” grooves along and gives way to another first set highlight, “Ocelot.” Some Phish songs grab you right out of the gate; “Ocelot” has taken some time to grow on me, but the last few performances (most notably 7/20 Chicago) have really shined. While many have compared it to the Dead’s “Tennessee Jed” it is growing in a way that, if allowed to roam even more free, could really become their “Playing in the Band.” An excellent “Stash” is followed by some Page crooning with “Lawn Boy,” a slinky “Limb By Limb,” and a surprise debut of Little Feat’s “Easy to Slip” with Mike taking lead vocals. Let’s take a breath!
“PYITE” jump-starts the second frame and sets the stage for the improvisational highlight of this gig, “Sand.” The following is guest commentary from my dear friend Lily G. Morton: It seemed to me that “Sand” was the highlight of the night in that it was unrelenting auditory bliss. I have often thought Sand is a song that always ends too abruptly and has potential to continue into something improvised and spontaneous and more extensive in length. When I hear the final notes, i am instead wishing the song would stretch more. I did not get that feeling last night and got lost in the trappings of the rhythm. I lost sense of time and space and then I lost my hat and then I lost the sticks that keep my hair in place. I can’t analyze the moment part by part, I can just say “Sand” was amazing and the sound took hold of me like jumping onto a fast moving carousel and catching hold of a good jumper horse.
Thanks, Lily! Back to our regular programming, when you “Spell Something” you also “Say Something.” Only the second performance, this new composition from Mike and Scott Murawski is a most welcome addition to the repertoire! A spectacular “Walls of the Cave” with an especially thrilling “Silent Trees” section takes us into the fourth quarter. “Oh Kee Pa Ceremony” is followed for the first time ever by “Harry Hood.” This “Hood” was really going places and on the heels of the sublime Hollywood Bowl version, the moment seemed ripe for blossoming into something special when they more or less aborted “Hood” in favor of “Silent in the Morning.” While the segue was actually really nice, for many it represented perhaps a lost opportunity, if offering a much justified nod to the growing history of the now annual visit to this venue.
“Twist” seemed sure to evoke the “woo!” but, no bites on the part of the band or fans. “Slave to the Traffic Light” brings this mostly excellent, if a little uneven set to a most satisfying conclusion. For the encore we round out the backwards “MOST SHOWS SPELL SOMETHING” with “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” (first since August 15, 2010, 120 shows) and, as was the case just this time last year, “Meatstick” brought an end to the proceedings.
Great gig with great friends in a great venue… we’re feeling some love here, and off to the gig. See y’all very soon!