A Step Ahead

7.6.13 (R. MacNeill)

7.6.13 (Ryan MacNeill)

Showing zero signs of a three-week layoff, Phish stepped onto one of the favorite stages in the land and delivered an awesome show from start to finish to open Denver’s end-of-summer trifecta. Knowing that many fans would be doing their best Encyclopedia Brown in trying to decode the setlist, the band used a bit of tongue in cheek humor in spelling out “Most shows spell something” backwards over the course of the show. Phish’s feat of the night, however, was crafting a flawlessly contoured performance with the given letters, including a fresh setlist and plenty of improvisational meat to go around. For a band that makes a living on doing the unexpected, chalk up night of Dick’s 2013 as another notch on their belt.

8.30.13 Official (K.Taylor)

8.30.13 Official (K.Taylor)

One could tell strange things were afoot immediately as the band opened the show with “Ghost” for the first time since The Fillmore in August 15, 1998. Last year’s “Fuck Your Face” show forced the band to jam, birthing four extended, timeless pieces of music, and three approaching the twenty minute mark. This year’s wordplay—on the contrary—made sure everything fit just so, therefore “Ghost” remained within orbit while providing a fiery start to the affair. The initial segment of the show felt a tad forced, as the band placed “Icculus” after a second-song “NICU” and following it up with “Heavy Things” and “Theme from the Bottom.” But the musical highlight of the set was just around the corner.

Let me start this paragraph by saying that I’ve grown to hate “Ocelot.” The standard blues rock build has done nothing out of the ordinary in memory, and has become but a stale place filler in the first set. That said, last night I found myself completely lost in the wide-open jam, having to remind myself more than a couple times what song we were in. This one got slinky and psychedelic in an instant and remained in a wholly creative space for the duration. And this was the point in which the show truly took off.

Rolling the improvisational zest right into “Stash,” the band absolutely slayed their classic vehicle in the no brainer highlight of the opening frame. Adopting a similar wide open feel as the preceding “Ocelot,” this jam navigated some twist and turns before arriving in some of the more hooked up, melodic playing we’ve heard from “Stash” since Merriweather’s outing. A graceful end of the set was highlighted by the debut of “Easy to Slip,” a Little Feat cover previously played by the Mike Gordon Band. The setlist prank remained in limbo, though many fans had long since caught onto the fact that they were spelling something backwards. I’m pretty sure that theories—and perhaps confirmation—of the setlist joke had made their way through the crowd, but how it would play out would be anyone’s guess.

A potent combination of “Punch > Sand” injected the main event with a primal tone, and as soon as the band dove into “Sand’s” jam, things got staight buck wild. From its first lick, this jam had “All-Star” written all over it, and by the end of some of the most exhilarating groove-based interplay of the year, it was a first ballot hall of famer. Veering out of structure into a scintillating passage of soul candy, the guys scripted a keeper that sits among the upper echelon of the year’s offerings—awe-inspiring music by a band that can do no wrong.

Phish brought back Mike’s “Say Something” and placed in squarely in the middle of the second set last night—and just like that the new vehicle started to deliver. Taking the gritty blues rocker off course, the band built into an atmospheric segment that eventually dissolved into “Walls of the Cave.” “Oh Kee Pah Ceremony” provided a mid-set surprise, but not the level of surprise as when the band rolled out of the ragtime staple into “Harry Hood.” Having only segued into “Suzy” and “AC/DC Bag” with any sort of regularity out of “Oh Kee Pah, the band added another song to an exclusive list last night with the first ever “Oh Kee Pah > Hood.” And the surprises just kept coming.

The final quarter of the set was carefully crafted and flowed like water from “Hood” through the end of the set, but midway through the “Hood” jam, the jam got very quiet, and out of nowhere the band slid into “Silent in the Morning.” Once again “Silent” appeared sans “Horse,” making it a clean sweep of the summer for “Horseless” versions. The opening notes of “Twist” continued the impeccable flow of this segment, and the jam quickly grew more interesting than the many hackneyed renditions that have dotted summer tour. And in a pairing that evoked the ending of classic sets such as 11.14.97 and 7.4.2000, the band put the cherry on top of the second set in the form of “Slave to the Traffic Light.” A wonderfully emotive version capped this beautiful portion of the set, and marked it complete.

The guys finished off their setlist tom foolery with a double encore of “Oh! Sweet Nothing” and “Meatstick”—and just like that another first night of Dick’s was in the books. Laying off all their major jam vehicles, the band has set up two filthy, action-packed shows for the next two nights, and something tells me one of them will be the show of the year. In only hours, perhaps that tale will be told.

I: Ghost, NICU, Icculus, Heavy Things, Theme From the Bottom > Esther, The Moma Dance> Ocelot, Stash, Lawn Boy, Limb By Limb, Easy To Slip*

II: Punch You In the Eye > Sand, Say Something > Walls of the Cave, The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Harry Hood -> Silent in the Morning > Twist > Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Oh! Sweet Nuthin’, Meatstick


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1,390 Responses to “A Step Ahead”

  1. stupendous Says:

    YES! i was gone but not to the point i couldnt srabble the set list on a note pad but, my gawd, whatever happened there that night i felt as if i was a part of their mindspace, both me and my girl were hearing all kinds of NFA themes and the energy in that place that night was unbeatable….go figure
    joy made my night! then we all got up to get down for that 2001>tweez>bdtnl jeez… out of control.

  2. MrCompletely Says:

    for me the word that kept coming up during the jams this weekend (even the short ones) was “sophisticated”

    gonna take some time to really get a handle on it. very complex stuff they’re doing. Especially the segments (and they came up in the 2nd half of summer but were a recurring theme at Dicks) what ended up with an actual semi-composed dynamic alternating between two sections on the fly.

    The procedural, stepwise processes they were using to sculpt those improvisations were very interesting and extremely detailed. I’d hear a continual series of micro-adjustments from everyone, a very fast circular conversation, then a sudden all at once shift that was (apparently) somehow implied by the prior interactions.

    Very very high level work I thought

  3. Nissl Says:

    Are we registering opinions? Jam-wise I liked the one Furthur show I saw enough to do the upcoming run at the Greek, though not sure I would if Phil were a decade younger. RRE and DSO do just a bit for me, enough that I’ll see at least one night when they are in town because why not. Otherwise it’s all non-jam stuff. Radiohead, MMJ, Sigur Ros, Spiritualized, NIN (with the old lineup), Tool (back in the day), etc. (still have not seen Pearl Jam.) Although I’d be reasonably happy to catch several of the bigger jam bands if they were playing a festival I was attending anyway.

    I didn’t want to add to the dogpile on UM before the tone cooled but they are easily the most frustrating band for me to watch play because they clearly have technical ability but just don’t seem to get it and, yes, come off as douchey. Have not seen them without extenuating circumstances though (back pain, oncoming wookie flu), and my friend who generally has good taste swears they’re pretty good now so I will give them one more shot.

  4. kayatosh Says:

    can i get a shout out for BGCA night one, set I? That set rolls like a river. This sand is ridiculously hot.

  5. BingosBrother Says:

    I know it’s wrong, but underage redheads really get me goin.

  6. Mr.Miner Says:

    posted a new post.

  7. Nissl Says:

    Sure I’ll give BGCA 1-1 a shoutout. Possibly my favorite set I of the main summer tour, have listened to it many times.

  8. sumodie Says:

    Don’t have time to process the difference between Dick’s latest CDT and so called Storage jamming.

    Kinda thought Saturday’s CDT was closer to the storage style than most anything else from this past weekend

    Maybe storage jamming is more minimalist that CDT’s dense jam? Will have to circle back on that later….

    Catching Spiritualized next thursday sept 12th at Boston’s Paradise Club

    (other Boston options next week include Date Palms on 9/9 & John Scofield 9/11-12)

  9. butter Says:

    DF – about 31:25 in, Page does a piano riff and Trey jumps on it. Then the whole band toys with it for a few min. Another quick woo, then Trey comes in with a super resembling DMF phrased solo

  10. sumodie Says:

    NEW POST >>>>

  11. kayatosh Says:

    this shit is too funny.


    look at that old dude puff down.

  12. Stoney Case Says:


    The silent hood sucked. We agree there. The rest of the show slayed. IMO

  13. voopa Says:

    Df- DMF jam -> DYFLWD jam

  14. bobby weird Says:

    RL is the meanest dude i’ve ever come across, loves — just loves — to cut people to the bone. ad hominum stylee… he, and he alone, is the arbiter of what is acceptable and cool…. websters: sociopath. check it. also love how your always talking about your “crew” of many tens or more. but from what i hear you are always alone. no “crew.” its in your mind bro. websters.

  15. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Great day fly fishing on the Snake River in the shadows of the Tetons w/ my old man & good buddy who’s a guide out here. Landed some cutthroats on the majestic river. Life is good. Love your loved ones.

    Dicks 3 Carini in the phones. Yeah, it was that good…JG approved.

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