PHISH @ DICK'S SPORTING GOODS PARK | 8/30/13 The night started with a familiar sight in the Denver skies last night over the Phish show at Dick's Sporting Goods Park -- the airplane that local grow supply store chain Way to Grow usually has flying overhead at concerts with its "Grow Your Own" banner. But then a second plane appeared, this one with a banner trailing it beckoning, "Read the Book." When fans saw it, they quickly got excited and started screaming "Read the book!"
"Read the book," of course, is a lyric from the scarcely played and constantly chased song "Icculus." Over the past few months, there had been an online campaign to gather funds to get this banner flying, so people that had been reading about it were going wild. Shortly before the band took stage, the plane swooped low twice over the audience, making it feel like we were at a sporting event where everyone was rooting for the same team.
The band took the stage with "Ghost" and was greeted by a roar of approval from the crowd, as "Ghost" hadn't been used as an opener since 1998 at the San Francisco Fillmore -- never mind that it's a great, funky song that showed tonight could be serious. The band sounded good so far, with Trey really shredding into the peak and the sound dialed in all around the stadium.
"NICU" bounced up next, and the tropical dance beat got everyone bopping around. At the end, Trey exclaimed, "We love Dick's" as the opening notes of the great and wonderful song "Icculus" began. Once more, a roar of approval from the crowd. With even louder cries now of "Read the fucking book!" Trey went into the opening narration, talking about seeing planes fly by with special messages. Now, whether or not the band had already planned on playing "Icculus," or if they had been inspired by the plane is anybody's guess, but either way, it was played well and extremely favorably received -- at least two guys were crying.
After a standard "Heavy Things," Page played the initial notes to "Theme from the Bottom," and the crowd, in unison, went "wow!" This was a great version of the song, as Page's keys are always a highlight and the band really created a fantastic loud wall of sound, ending with a really raw, funky Page outro that I was hoping was going to stick. Instead, "Esther," another song that rarely shows up often, started up, with its carnival calliope melody making friends hug and high five. "Moma Dance" was next, and this one had some fire, straight energy from everyone on stage and the audience giving right back.
Now the thing about Phish playing Dick's is that after the "S Show" in 2011, where the guys played all songs with titles starting with the letter "S," people began expecting gimmicks. Last year, a setlist spelled out "Fuck Your Face," followed by the titular song, with a "Grind" and "Meatstick" encore. Everyone has heard every tired joke about Dick's and Phish and what they like to do with them, and I thought that show was a clever way to show the crowd that they are aware of what people are saying. And that they like dick jokes, too.
Since then, there has been lots of talk about what the gimmick would be this year, what they were going to spell out, etc. During "Theme from the Bottom," a friend noticed that the set list was spelling "thing" backwards. By "Moma Dance," I took a guess that they were spelling "Say Something" backwards and then would play the new song "Say Something" (and that I think the song snippet Tom Marshall posted months ago "Hotbox" may have been incorporated into, listen to both, the cadence is there, but the lyrics are different in one section). When "Ocelot" came on next, we knew we were on to something.
"Ocelot" tends to be a bathroom/concessions break song for many, but the past few have really had some teeth, and this was no exception. Next was "Stash," a really beautiful version with Jon and Mike slowing down the beat and a major key change in the jam causing the blissful sound that I love to hear out of these guys.
Page began "Lawn Boy," making that "Say Something" guess off, and herein is the problem with gimmick shows: Instead of listening to "Lawn Boy," most everybody around me was doing brain puzzles, trying to guess what was next, instead of enjoying what was currently being played. "Limb by Limb" followed with them closing the set with the first time they have played Little Feat's "Easy to Slip."
Keep reading for more on the show, including setlist and review of set two
Set two brought the energy right away with "Punch You in the Eye," and then the band rolled into the highlight of the night, "Sand." The song has been fantastic in 3.0, and this one is no exception. For the first time of the night, Kuroda employed the use of the back screens, lighting them in various vibrant colors, while the band was in dark silhouette.
It worked so well with the music; glad he saved the screens for this song. The spirals that he has used this year in Chicago, Tahoe, Bill Graham and Hollywood were used in this song, as well, and it made for a fun, psychedelic touch that is good in small doses. Page was a standout here, really utilizing his organ and making a funky, fat sound. If you don't listen to the whole concert, at least make sure you check out this "Sand."
What sounded like "2001" started up, but it faded off and "Say Something" began instead. This version had a lot of power behind it, simultaneously letting Trey show off his guitar chops while being methodically slower and beautiful during the jams. "Walls of the Cave" was then played, a great compositional piece that usually has people taking a quick breather in the beginning and dancing as hard as they can by the end.
Fishman tossed an especially tight drum fill right before the final chorus that was straight rock and roll, complete with a glow stick snake going down half the stands. "Oh Kee Pah Ceremony" led into "Harry Hood" for the first time, and glow sticks abounded. With all kinds of swampy bass effects going on, we got a decent "Harry Hood," but the guys went off into "Silent in the Morning," a favorite slow beautiful Phish song, and never finished "Hood." There was a fair bit of grumbling later over the lack of closure on the "Harry Hood."
As the band began playing "Twist," I realized that there had been not a single woo all night! Had enough time passed that everyone got over it? Are Coloradoans so heady that they managed to control themselves? Or maybe there were tons of people at Dick's who are casual fans and don't even know there was a wooing epidemic. A beautiful, uplifting "Slave to the Traffic Light" ended set two with lots of arms raised to the sky leading to a perfect building crescendo at the end.
The encore started with "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'," a Velvet Underground beauty that, unfortunately, Page forgot some lyrics on, and as the bassline of "Meatstick" began, the guy to my left started throwing up everywhere. That was the only crowd issue the entire night, all in all a successful night. I went to the top of the stands and finished the night dancing with the remarkably graceful slow spinning guys with sweet Nikes.
As we walked out of the venue, the normal vendors were selling their dollar waters. Just past them a guy in a tie-dye and a blonde with an LED hoop were yelling "FREE WATERS!" They wouldn't even take a tip, since they were not "greed-filled capitalists."
About the gimmick, the band ended up spelling "Most Shows Spell Something," which will probably cause an already obsessed fanbase to play Brain Jumble with years of old setlists for the next few weeks.
Phish Dick's Sporting Goods Park - 8/30/13 Commerce City, CO
Ghost NICU Icculus Heavy Things Theme from the Bottom Esther The Moma Dance Ocelot Stash Lawn Boy Limb By Limb Easy to Slip
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 Oh! Sweet Nuthin' Meatstick
Personal Bias: I followed Phish for the whole summer tour last year, except the two opening shows in Worcester (and Bonnaroo) Random Detail: People have been worrying about getting field tickets for weeks. My whole group had stands tickets, and they made us put floor wristbands on. By The Way: This was the second year in a row they played "Meatstick" in the encore on the first night of the Dick's run.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.