More than a week has passed since tour’s finale and I still can’t get these Dick’s out of my ears! It’s been all but impossible to listen to anything else from summer tour, as Phish hit a new level of playing over Labor Day weekend in Colorado. The band finally got there this past tour, crafting thematic journeys that stretched over long periods of time, always connected by innovative ideas. Seldom did the guys shy from improvisation, and more often than not, they saw excursions to completion. Phish even beefed up the back end of many second sets this tour, tying up almost every loose end from 2011. With the band back on the train like never before in this era, everything came to a head at Dick’s, where timeless music unfolded all weekend long.
The opening of Denver’s Labor Day stand has, within two years, has grown a tradition of setlist trickery. Last year, the band composed a show of songs only beginning with “S,” but this year, they one-upped themselves, spelling out “F.U.C.K. Y.O.U.R. F.A.C.E.” in a twelve-song show! Forcing their own hand, the band jammed their proverbial faces off, crafting the show of the year. With two epics in each set, Phish rarely throws ‘em down like this these days, and the quality of playing was to-die-for. When “Carini” erupted only three songs into the show, Phish turned the Hose on full blast, and left it there for the weekend. When the dust settled on August 31, “Carini,” “Undermind, “Runaway Jim” and “Chalk Dust” had vaulted into their groups of all-time versions, respectively.
Though the first night took the cake for the show of the weekend (and the year), moments everyone will eternally remember were the 23 plus minutes of Saturday night’s “Light.” A showcase of improvisational mastery like few others, the band morphed through several stunning jams with a criminal smoothness, arriving in a final sequence that put the icing on the cake. Spanning almost everything Phish does, this jam sprung into the band’s elite performances of all time (top 5?), and ran away with “Jam of the Summer.” This “Light is so good, in fact, that its preceding “Golden Age > Caspian”—a pairing that contained top-shelf jamming throughout—is getting thoroughly overshadowed. But this set-opening combo should not be sold short, as it certainly features Dick’s-level playing throughout. And what a “Caspian!”
The band finished things off Sunday night with the set of the weekend, a seamless masterpiece highlighted by summer’s final “Sand.” The jam was chugging along with its usual, sinister groove when the band soared off course and the universe split open and melted all over the stadium. Veering into legitimate open jamming for the first time ever within “Sand,” Phish crafted one last piece of blissful, transportive music to punctuate the weekend. Turning quickly from hard groove into an ambient space, “Sand” immediately elevated into the heavens, riding a mid-tempo wave of glory. Passing through a massive rock peak, Phish places “Sand” on the top-shelf of Dick’s jams, but they didn’t slow down for a minute. Sculpting almost an hour of full-on improv, the guys backed up “Sand” with a seething “Ghost” that crept into a circusydelic “Piper”—all connected with meticulous care.
It’s hard to remember another run like Dick’s 2012 since the band came back in ’09. That’s because there hasn’t been one. Leaving us with a more all-time Phish jams than the rest of Leg Two, combined, Dick’s shattered anyone’s loftiest expectations. Providing a musical expose like none in memory, one might have to go back to the late-90s to find any arguable parallel. As I said after Worcester, 2012 is a great time to be a Phish fan, and at the summer came to a close in the Rockies with a phenomenal “Harry Hood,” this sentiment resounded through the mountains and valleys. And it was good.
Jam of the Day:
Got an hour?
Tags: 2012, Summer 2012