Phish wraps up their summer tour this weekend with three nights at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in lovely Commerce City, ending what many a blogger and message board phanatic have argued is their strongest tour in the two-plus years they have been back on the road. Phish is coming off of a two week break following three amazing nights in Chicago at the University of Illinois that was, by all accounts, an amazing run, but fittingly Trey, Mike, Page and Fishman are ending their summer tour outside under the Colorado stars.
These are really the first truly accessible Phish shows in Colorado since the band reunited in Hampton, Virginia nearly three years ago. Getting tickets to Red Rocks in 2009 was cutthroat, Telluride last summer was nearly as tough a ticket and though the 1STBANK Center last October isn't a tiny room, tickets were still hard to come by for some nights.
Not this summer, though. With concert seating of up to 26,000 inside Dick's Stadium, everyone and their dog who wants to be at these shows will be at them -- including many first-time (and likely future longtime) Phish fans will also be in attendance. So in the spirit of our U2 survival guide from May, we've put together a little primer of what to expect this weekend for tour vets and noobs alike for this weekend of Phish-Dick's.
The parking lot of a Phish show is a big part of the whole experience of seeing this band. Lots open at 3 p.m. each day, and despite the heat, they will fill up with hoards of people tailgating, likely a few food and drink vendors here and there. For you first-timers: Yes, everyone is in a pretty damn good mood, and no, the '60s didn't make a comeback (don't make jokes like that, either). Make friends with your neighbors, go for a walk and try a few microbrews you've never heard of from the cooler of the guy selling them at the end of your row. Also keep an eye out for fan-created shirts, hats and drink coozies riffing off of band lyrics, song titles and other bits of Phish lore. We've also caught wind of a new trend toward other collectables like hat pins, coins and even bobble heads of band members.
It's also no secret that Phish lots have a pretty steady underground marketplace of illicit substances ranging from some weed to pretty much anything you can imagine. Be careful, as this is Commerce City, and small town cops with big budgets and nothing to do will be out patrolling.
For a good idea of what to expect, check out this video from two weeks ago in Chicago:
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According to the map below, it looks like parking is in the regular lots, with lots A, AA, B and BB being the closest and likely the most busy -- but who really knows where a shakedown street will pop up (newbs: that's the row or rows of cars where the most action is happening).
More parking information (from DicksSportingGoodsPark.com):
PROHIBITED IN PARKING LOTS: • Animals (except service animals)* • Balloons • Fireworks of any kind • Nitrous Oxide • Unapproved pamphlets, handouts or advertisements • Unlicensed Band Merchandise • Weapons of any kind • All vehicles are subject to search
*A note on the no animals thing: it's hot as Hell out there at Dick's park. Anyone who has been to a past Mile High Music festival can tell you that the dusty parking lots of commerce city in September heat is not a good place for a fur-covered dog to wait it out while you go see a concert. Do your dog a favor and leave him at home in the air conditioning, no matter how heady you think it makes you to drag your pit bull puppy around on a string. Dick's has listed a few nearby animal shelters on their website in case you can't find someone to watch fido.
Camping Dick's park is surrounded on two sides by acres and acres of athletic fields. For past multi-night runs like Mile High Music Festival, they were home to the stages and concert fields. This weekend, the park is allowing fans to camp out on the natural turf fields southeast of the venue itself. You'll have close access, plenty of late-night revelry and the wonderfully bright Colorado sun to wake you up in the morning.
Camping information (from phish.com and dickssportinggoodspark.com) - $70 per person (includes all 3 days and parking) - Each person entering the campgrounds will need a camping pass - Campground is a lush grass soccer field located next to the venue - Opens Friday, September 2nd at Noon - Campground Closes Monday, September 5th at Noon - Tents only - Parking is adjacent to campground in a parking lot designated for campers. - Parking is included in the price of the camping ticket - Cars may come and go from campground parking lot anytime - A limited number of RV spaces are available. Each RV must have an RV pass ($10) and each person in the RV must have a camping ticket to enter RV parking. The RV parking lot is next to general camping. We will have an affordable service provider on site that will be able to refill your water tank and/or pump waste. - Access to Free Showers - Parking for camper's cars will be in Lot R. Lot R can be accessed off of 56th Avenue just east of Valentia. Camping at Dick's is tent-only and cars are parked in a lot adjacent to the campground. You can take your car in/out of the lot anytime you want during the weekend.
Tickets say show time is at 7:30, though the band takes the stage anywhere from five to thirty minutes late, often depending on the crowds trying to get in. That's not always the case, though, and on-time starts have been known to ruin many a late concertgoer's first set. Rumor has it the band will be starting earlier and ending earlier due to venue restrictions. Also, there's no tarps allowed (see below), so if you want to be in with your huge group of friends you better get in together.
The band is known for playing two sets of improvisational-heavy music, and changing up their song selection completely from night to night. You'll hear a lot of variety, as lately they've been packing the songs in.
On their thirty dates on the summer tour so far, the band has averaged 21 songs per show with 173 different songs having been played.
For you newbies, Phish fans are obsessively detailed in band statistics. How many times a song has been played, how many times it's opened a show, any facet of a concert you can think of, some fan has probably already thought of it before you. For a primer on everything from lyrics to song histories, check out the online phan-base that is Phish.net. If you're a stat-geek head over the the borderline insane Phish stats page, ZZYZX's Phish Stats, run by David Steinberg.
Lately the band has been dusting off old rarities, both cover songs and originals. Songs like "Curtis Lowe," "Albuquerque," "My Friend, My Friend," "Colonel Forbin's Ascent" and several others have been busted out over the tour. It's hard to predict what the band will play, but the Helping Friendly App for iPhone does a decent job of pointing out what is long overdue to be played live again, like "Dog Log," "Magilla" or covers like the Talking Head's "Psycho Killer", ZZ Top's "La Grange" or even AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long."
Even if you've brought your friends who proclaim to hate the music, they will usually turn to you at some point and say: "the bandisn't for me/is bad/sucks, but the lights are awesome!" That's because light designer Chris Kuroda has been with the band almost as long as the band has been together. Affectionately known as the fifth member of the band due to his sixth sense of recognizing changes in the music and matching the mood, tempo and ambience with his towering, spaceship light rig.
Not everyone at Phish is smoking joints of "medical" marijuana or off on some chemical compound discovered by tie die wearing chemists. Even Anastasio himself is clean and sober these days after years of drug abuse that he claims would have surely ended his life had he not jumped off the wagon. The Phellowship has been setting up a table covered in a yellow tablecloth with a few yellow balloons around it at shows since the mid-1990s, offering a space to chill, a bowl of candy and a few friendly faces for fans who want to stay clean and sober amidst all of the craziness that can accompany Phish.
There is also a community of people who record the concerts with microphones, called "tapers," who are usually from behind or next to the sound board in the middle of the venue. Proper etiquette is to be respectful and quiet around them, generally avoiding being too loud. Improper etiquette would be flopping through their section all Manu Ginobli style with an air horn, taking out microphone stands and spilling drinks all over thousands of dollars of electronics.
If for some reason you can't make it over to Dick's park, the band will be streaming videos of the shows live atLivePhish.com through iClips. Make sure you have a high-speed connection, as iClips is known for being choppy from time to time.
More info from dickssportinggoodspark.com:
STADIUM PROHIBITED ITEMS: • Weapons of any kind (i.e. knives, pepper spray, stun-guns, any concealed weapons, firearms, etc.) • Fireworks of any kind • Any missile / projectile like objects • Nitrous Oxide • Balloons • Large backpacks • Tarps • Glass bottles or aluminum cans • Large golf umbrellas or umbrellas with metal tips • Any outside food and beverages • Hard-sided coolers or containers of any size • Laser pointers • Animals ( except service animals) • Streamers of any kind • Air horns or whistles of any kind • Un-approved pamphlets, handouts, advertisements, etc. • Skateboards, roller blades, roller skates, roller shoes, etc. • Frisbees or inflated balls of any kind • Professional cameras (film, disposable, and digital) • Video recording devices of any kind. Tapers will be allowed into a specified area with their GA Field tickets.
STADIUM PERMITTED ITEMS • Small (point-and-shoot) cameras • One empty, clear plastic bottle measuring 32oz. or less per person • One clear plastic factory sealed water bottle measuring 32oz or less • Small, compact umbrellas with no metal tips • Hula Hoops • Glow Sticks
You enjoyed yourself and the show? Great. The band records and releases each night in mp3 and cd-quality sound formats at LivePhish.com. Your ticket gets you a free download of the show, and they are usually up by the time you wake up slightly frazzled the next day.
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Happy phishing this weekend!