Fattening the First


Dick's 2016 (Stephen Olker)

Dick’s 2016 (Stephen Olker)

Let’s be frank, Phish’s modern first sets have been, for the most part, pretty lame. A selection of songs with one or two composed jams sprinkled in serves the purpose of getting everyone’s legs warm and drugs working in time for the second half. Once in many blue moons, the band will drop a highlight with lasting merit before setbreak, but most often there’s very little substance of which to speak. At Dick’s however, first sets took on a more emphatic role in the evening, each offering far more meat and engaging music than usual. Let’s take a walk through the first halves from a few weeks ago.

September 2

Ghost, No Men In No Man’s Land , Breath and Burning, Undermind, Heavy Things, Stash, Ass Handed,  The Wedge, Alaska, 46 Days

bcs bvr

9.2.16 (Michael Stein)

Phish came into their annual Dick’s weekend lacking any momentum from summer tour, and many in the community weren’t exactly sure what band would show up at the annual Labor Day party. When the guys came out and opened with “Ghost” for the first time since 2013, however, it felt like they delivered a certain message of intent. A compact though fiery rendition kicked off the weekend and was backed up by the always-energetic “No Men in No Man’s Land.” Upon the lyrical reprise at the end of the song, it seemed that Phish was ready to move on, but in a surprise move, they exploded into an outro jam that blossomed into an abstract foray. Staring from a chugging groove, the band gradually moved into darker territory where Trey eventually took over with wailing and echoed guitar screams. Maintaining a quickened tempo throughout the piece, out of nowhere Phish had kicked down the improvisational door and we were barely twenty minutes into the weekend. Though the set took on a more standard contour from here, it did feature a slightly stretched out version of “Breath and Burning” which provided a dash of hope that the band might jam off the new single come fall as they prolifically did in its second ever version in Philadelphia this past summer. The set, however, did contain one more standout highlight in its “46 Days” finale, where immediately upon the ending of the lyrics, the band dove deep into a primordial soup. Led by Fish’s tribal marching beat, they built a thick, distorted soundscape into which Trey unleashed furious guitar leads, slyly blending the “What’s the Use?” theme into this darkened excursion. The band was fully synched up in this sinister passage, foreshadowing good things for the weekend. And just like that we had ourselves a first set. Set break contained a palpable buzz after this set, as fans felt a mixture of excitement and surprise at what had just transpired. It was the rare time folks really discussed the music of the first set rather asking where that joint had gone.

September 3

Slave to the Traffic Light, Down with Disease, What’s the Use? > Maze, Farmhouse, 555, Wolfman’s Brother, Divided Sky, Rock and Roll


9.2.16 (Michael Stein)

The second night started off in a bizarre, though explosive, fashion as Phish welcomed the Saturday night audience the first “Slave to the Traffic Light” opener since 1988. The band backed up this surprise with a legitimate “Down With Disease” jam in the two slot, opening up the piece into experimental waters and taking the jam into dark, dungeon-like territory. Led by Trey’s growling tone, once again Phish had delved into the depths of improvisation at the very beginning of the night, offering some serious music to engage the crowd from the get-go. A rare stand-alone version of “What’s the Use?” came third, continuing the strange but welcomed song ordering. At this point, the set came back to earth a bit with the first set staples of “Maze,” “555,” and “Farmhouse,” but the guys followed up this trifecta with a popping version of “Wolfman’s Brother.” Led by Mike’s larger-than-life bass leads, the band leaned into into a slowed down, heavy-handed version of their cowfunk vehicle, that kept the energy of this opening frame sky high and the crowd enraptured. With “Divided Sky” and “Rock and Roll,” Phish completed quite the first half of music, arguably the best of the three-night stand.

September 4

The Moma Dance > Chalk Dust Torture, Mike’s > Wingsuit > Weekapaug, Party Time, Bathtub Gin, Split Open and Melt, Tube, Character Zero

(Michael Stein)

9.2.16 (Michael Stein)

On the third night in Colorado, Phish scripted a powerhouse first set song list that never relented from start to finish. Though they stayed within the confines of each selection, the band unleashed several type-one improvisations of crowd favorites. An early set “Mike’s Groove” got things warmed up quickly, and following a “Party Time” interlude, the band dropped a searing three-song sequence of “Bathtub Gin,” “Tube” and “Split Open and Melt.” The “Gin” was the clear highlight of the set, featuring energetic interplay between band members amidst an upbeat and peaky jam that continued to climb higher and higher. Mike anchored a somewhat extended “Tube” jam, and “Split” saw the band lock into an aggressive and abstract soundscape that, while not uncharacteristic of the song, formed an engaging and more-than-worthy highlight. “Character Zero” rounded out the opening half, a set that once again lent some serious weight to the concert before set break.

The presence of legitimate first sets gave an enhanced feel to the shows in Colorado, and completely shifted the vibe of each night. To be totally transparent, it’s a shame the band doesn’t offer the same level of music in most of their first sets. Shows are about three hours long, and the first set comprises almost ninety minutes each night, why waste it? Not to say that each opening frame needs contain multiple type-two jams, but how ’bout a little more meat for the kidz, ya know? This is a fairly universal sentiment across the Phish community, and these Dick’s shows illustrates how a significant first set can provide a far loftier feel to any given night of Phish.

10,925 Responses to “Fattening the First”

  1. MiA Says:


  2. Stoney Case Says:

    honestly at a loss for words for how great this band is. even trey’s broadway stuff paid off in spades. thrilling chilling. dab timer. drive in. the creativity 35 years into the business is humbling. with such demanding phan base no less. really incredible. looking back, I only wish I traded more time to see the band. it’s been difficult not joining you all in person these last few years. the webcasts are my salvation.

    cheers to another incredible run. don’t know how they do it. trey is a ball of energy and it’s a site to behold.

  3. brother Says:

    that 3rd set felt like a relief valve/victory lap. just them letting it all go. well done fellas

  4. HadToHaveThat Says:

    Sweet baby jesus
    I lived a MOONAGE daydream
    I can barley compose the eonormity of this weekend
    Holy shit

    Three $50 on black
    Guess what?
    I won!!!!

    WINNGINGGGG! Phish wins!!!!!!

  5. HadToHaveThat Says:

    I’m sorry for the cheesy acronym
    But holy shit

    Cuddly but muscular

  6. jtran Says:

    Petrichor discussion at cocos diner. Eating pie. With df

  7. Fly Says:


    So glad you guys were there, jtran

    Can’t wait to hear the reports from the ground

  8. hoedown Says:

    Ziggy, finally!! So so happy wake up today and see what went down. The entire setlist just looks great for a Halloween gig. These guys are amazing and so are all of you bringing that energy to the max 4 straight days in sin city. wow.

  9. p.s.h.s. Says:

    I’m conflicted, haven’t listened to a note yet, not sure if I want to. I’ve wanted this for so long and now that’s it’s happened I’m not sure what to think. I believe the first miner post I ever read was a case for ziggy in Indio, lots of time has past since then….

  10. p.s.h.s. Says:

    Far and away my favorite album of all time, played by my favorite band of all time.

  11. HadToHaveThat Says:

    Still up tossing balloons and giggling over grandeous stories of the ages of lore

    We lived it

    Heading to the airport shortly
    Can’t wait to snuggle up to MY doughnut pillow close my eyes to moonage daydream
    Dance the night away

  12. HadToHaveThat Says:

    Honestly tho

    I don’t understand how you could have missed this
    I mean, i do….but i dont

  13. HadToHaveThat Says:

    Cause I just want everyone to be together all the time
    Joke of the weekend was a rubber band game trying to keep us all together lol

  14. hoedown Says:

    Everything seems just perfectly right in the Phish world at the moment…Amazing what a difference a quick 13 show romp can do to everyones attitudes and vibes.

  15. Sex&City Says:

    Haven’t read back but first thought when eyes opened was…. did they this in a Bowie or Space Oddity In Set III. My guess is not.

  16. Sex&City Says:

    Wow they only Space Oddity’d the encore. The right move would have been SO> David Bowie but they must have been exhausted.

  17. Sex&City Says:

    Here is your Ziggy full set with video…


  18. Sex&City Says:

    Fuck it… never did a 4 post before. Things are good, kids are healthy and sleeping still. First time ever this late. Simple things keep me smiling.

    @stoney… I think you will have ur opportunities from the way they are playing.

  19. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    the right move?

  20. HadToHaveThat Says:

    Airplanes not as cool as spaceships

  21. [Not Tom] Says:

    Haven’t listened back yet.

    Happy for everyone that got to experience that stellar run

    The only real question is what songs from this set will stick around …

    See you all in 2 months

  22. bobby weird Says:

    new (old Ziggy) post

  23. HadToHaveThat Says:

    Treys velveteen jacket was sharp as a KNIFE!

  24. HadToHaveThat Says:

    Thanks for that link sex making airport time much better

  25. [Not Tom] Says:

    Great costume last night H2HT!

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