This time around, Denver’s summer farewell feels more like a party than a pronouncement. Although we’ve yet to hear a note, this stand-alone weekend already serves as a punctuation mark on a triumphant season of music. This summer, Phish began to carve new sonic pathways again, jamming with intent and efficiency and birthing original music with a magical consistency. Finally adding fluidity and set craftsmanship to their modern repertoire, entire shows—well, mostly entire second sets—elevated like never before in this era. Adding some new songs to the rotation—”Energy” and “Yarmouth Road”—and reviving some old ones—”Steam,” “David Bowie,” and “Split Open and Melt”—the band played their best start to finish tour of 3.0. Now, as we step into our favorite soccer stadium for three shows that will, undoubtedly, contain plenty of action, the only question that remains to be answered is, “Will this weekend top it all?”
In each of the past two years, Phish showcased fireworks in their Rockies swan song. After setlist trickery on both opening nights, one can expect some sort of prank as we approach tonight’s performance. Musically, in 2011, the band played one of their finest jams of the year in 9.3’s “Tweezer,” while dotting the weekend with a stellar second set sequence of “Twist > Piper > Hood” and a rocking “Ghost” taboot. Last year, however, Dick’s opened the gateway to the improvisational glory we have witnessed since that star-crossed weekend. A couple all-star jams over New Year’s bridged the community to this summer tour, when creativity and Phish met at the crossroads of destiny. So many jams, so many sets, so many shows this summer surpassed most of what we have seen over the past few years; a true renaissance of the highest degree. And it all started back at this soccer stadium one year ago with antics and musical triumphs that few saw coming.
First the band came out jamming with a “Fuck You” opening set that featured one of 3.0’s finest moments in “Undermind.” The second half contained another jam of the year in “Chalk Dust” not to mention a long-form “Runaway Jim.” Then came “Light.” Setting a new precedent for modern jamming, Phish unleashed a masterpiece on the second night of Labor Day weekend 2012. Spanning emotive feels, heavy groove and a cathartic blues rock crescendo, Dick’s “Light” immediately stood head to head with the Gorge’s “Rock and Roll” of 2011 for the magnum opus of the modern era, immediately upping the legend of the corporate-named stadium on the outskirts of Denver. A cosmically connected version of “Sand,” yet another timeless gem, cemented the weekend of legend the final night of summer tour.
So what will happen this time around? What jams will we be talking about for the six-week offseason as we get ready for Fall? Though it really matters not what goes down this weekend—for the band has nothing to prove—something tells me it will be one of great memories. What they will be made of we will soon find out…