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Reviews > Shows

Published: 2012/09/01
by David Steinberg

Phish, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO – 8/31

Last year Phish played a setlist game at their first show in Commerce City. Every song began with the letter S. That primed the expectations of fans for the opening night of the return show. When the first set opened up with “First Tube,” removing it from its traditional closing role, amateur cryptographers started getting their decoder rings out. Following that with the first “Uncle Pen” in two years raised eyebrows. “FU” makes everyone think, “Fuck You.” Sure enough, all of the songs played in the first set continued that pattern.

Discussion around the venue during the setbreak was all about the gimmick. It was subtler than the S trick, but once one person caught on, they started telling their friends and the word got around. There were a few potential ideas being batted around. One was simply that it was a one set game and the second set would be back to normal. Perhaps there would be different insult thrown out. Maybe the “Fuck you” was aimed at someone and their identity would be spelled out. One of the more popular theories was that they’d continue spelling out the Phish rarity “Fuck Your Face” and then play it. When the second set started with “Runaway Jim,” the plan started to come together.

As much fun as the gimmick was – and it was indeed a blast trying to speculate what the remaining letters would be, if “Also Sprach Zarathustra” would count as an “A” even though most fans call it “2001” – the game had an unexpected bonus that actually managed to overshadow the playfulness. By limiting their setlist, Phish forced themselves to explore more, sometimes from unusual places.. It started out with the opener being somewhat non-standard, but the first set had an unheard amount of free jamming for this era. “Carini” –as typical for 2012, but not for first sets – had an intense, dark vibe to it, but the outro to “Undermind” seemed to come out of nowhere. The song seemed to end after a short run through but then they kept playing and playing and playing for ten more minutes. It’s not just the length that was important here. The jam was a high energy, stunning piece of improvisation. It’s moments like this that keep us returning to see this band over and over again.

The second set also had surprises. “Runaway Jim” escaped from the short rocker cage in which it has inhabited since Phish have returned and ran away in all sorts of directions for nearly 20 minutes. What seemed to be a standard run through of “Chalk Dust Torture,” went on after the song’s normal end. First it just reprised the main jam but then it built to great peaks, worthy of the Colorado setting, for a full 12 minutes after it normally would be over. Even “Farmhouse,” a song that normally varies little from its structure, managed to have a five minute deep space jam coming out of the end of the final chorus.

This really was a show that united all of the elements of Phish. You’re mainly a fan of bustouts? Fine, here’s the first “Emotional Rescue” in twelve years. Want silliness beyond the setlist game? The vocal jam at the end of “You Enjoy Myself” had a little ditty about how the members of Phish all love Dick’s… or is that dicks? “Emotional Rescue” also had an amusing vocal jam before bringing the game to the finale.

Before the encore – also thematically appropriate for a “Fuck Your Face” show at Dick’s, with “Grind” and the double entendre of “Meatstick” continuing the joke – Page thanked us for putting up with the shenanigans. No reason to thank the fans for that. Play another two shows as creative as this one to complete the run and we’ll easily find a way of somehow sitting through the concert. Go on. Try it! I dare you!


There are 7 comments associated with this post

benadms25 September 1, 2012, 13:08:54

I disagree with you, I thought that the boys were off, I dont have any idea why August has been filled with some of the best phish, IMO, since the hiatus. I mean great woods, Charlotte, ST Louis, and the ZOO was good but last night just seemed off. I guess im just feeling jaded after being at those amazing treats from SF to St. Loius. especially @ BGCA But I believe that they will come out and give the Hose to the the people at Dicks!! I still cant wait for tonight!!!!!!

Rosemary September 1, 2012, 13:27:11

Right on, Mr.Steinberg. I agree, it seems that rigidly limiting song choices allowed them to really be creative when it came to jamming; when you don’t have a DWD, or Tweezer, or Bowie or R&R work horse in there, apparently they could find really great space to jam elsewhere; we couch tour’d, and I thought that show was phenomenal! Looking fwd to relistening!!

bkleo September 1, 2012, 17:23:41

benadms25 – uh, what show were ya listening to last night? It’s called improvisation, and of the highest form!

rick September 1, 2012, 17:52:03

If by off you mean, off from playing 12 song sets. Then yes, they were off.

Zeke September 7, 2012, 22:50:55

I am an old Deadhead (over 100 shows). This was only my third Phish show and first since around 97ish? I was never a huge fan but have grown to appreciate them more over the years. I must say this show blew me away. It was fantastic. I can’t speak as a Phish afficianado but as a seasoned fan of many incredible music experiences this ranks as one of my top ten easy. I have a new respect for The Band, the scene and the fans. Can’t wait to go again and not sure what show benadms25 saw but I thought it was perfect. The venue was great and the only thing that was better than the music was the masterpiece of a moon provided by God!

Tim Hurley September 11, 2012, 22:56:26

Those 3 Dicks shows were easily the best run since they reformed in 2009. These were the shows us real fans have been waiting for. Just when I think they cannot get any better, they do. I loved last summer’s tour, but this tour was incredible! Good to finally have you back boys! Feel free to come back to our backyard in Colorado every Labor Day weekend! And to benadms25…..dude you are absolutely insane if you did not think that night one wasn’t flat out incredible, impossible, improbable, and unmistakenly classic Phish. One of the best shows I have ever seen. Listen to that again, it was gorgeous!

Kye September 12, 2012, 14:59:23

Wow ok that show rocked not sure where u were or maybe you were listening to Skrillex but that show blew everyones there socks off oh and the ZOO??? was the the worst show of the tour maybe you are a newb and calling yourself jaded is just an insult to yourself its like calling yourself a douchebag idk maybe that fits for you!

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