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”

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  1. JB Says:

    Full of surprises and delivering the musical goods.
    Solid nite #1,

  2. MiA Says:

    great writeup.

  3. Lifeboyo Says:

    I can’t wait to give this a listen after work.

  4. Nissl Says:

    Glad you enjoyed, thought there was plenty of magic and hot playing but because of the gag not a lot of deep type II, which often trends to be prized around these parts. Maybe a bit flubbier than average for late summer 2013 but I’ll need to relisten to be sure and it never really threw anything off anyway. Don’t sleep on the Walls, which was one of the show centerpieces for me.

  5. phoammhead Says:

    more more gimme more

    cheers …. a great time here at DiCKs!

  6. albert walker Says:

    band is smokin

    Ocelot really been gaining its legs last 5 or so versions. Chicago scorcher also.

    Stash delivered Theme had some crushin fish fills

    but all about the sand. this is that next level feel they’re reaching since last summer. this jam was just destroyed. down the rabbit hole psych funk. Fish and Mike just crushin

    Mike sounded a lot more on point than some of summer. bombs everywhere .


    lets do it again kids

  7. Packabowlcole Says:

    I had a momment during Ocelot where I lost myself. Trey picked right up on it, being on the rail at his feet has perks. Phish loves Dicks, we love Dicks, I love Dicks…And I’ll get my Runaway Jim tonight. Bet on it.

  8. dave Says:

    This was the first show ever where there LITERALLY WAS NO APPLAUSE to bring them back after Slave. No one cheered, such a strange site…a first in 90+ shows.
    had so much fun at Friday’s performance, but I can say it was five parts brilliant, two parts Coventry-era hackery.

  9. Unit Monster Says:

    I’m not so sure that most shows spell something. What do they mean by that? I love the resurrected Esther from last night. It always takes me on a journey through imaginary clouds. The Sand > jam was really nice. I thought I heard 2001 in there somewhere. Tonight is going to be 20 minute jam night. Lastly, I’m so happy that the ‘wooos’ stopped last night. Thanks Dicks.

  10. albert walker Says:

    great set I IMO but did feel a bit choppy at times

  11. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Fishman was my VIP form last night.

    He killed Moma. Fucking Killed it!

    Give it a spin!

    I had earplugs in so I could have been way off.

    Wow, Miner. Way to share vulnerability about your change of heart on Ocelot, even if it is on last night’s specialty.

    Great meeting some more folks from the BB last night. :nods respectfully at Ren: Looking forward to connecting with others this.afternoon and tonight.

  12. ren Says:

    Fuck yeah AW!!!! Sand was thick and had everyone pretty much enrapt. Great moment to be throwin down on the floor and soaking it all in.

  13. Plord Says:

    I guess i need to spin the Sand again and recalibrate. It was hot throughout but the ending seemed like a train wreck to me. Trey tried twice to kick it into a faster gear but Fishman wasn’t going along so after a minute of trying they just dropped the groove. Fishman was the last one playing. I thought it was super weird.

  14. tela's_muff Says:

    Had an amazing time last night. Great great time.

  15. PigSong Says:

    Right on Mr M! Forgot about Ocelot until just now, perked my ears right up at the time.

  16. ren Says:

    Great time dancin with you and the mrs. @PB. Sharing some infectious grooves and dance moves last night. Great headspace, great body space….space just nailed it last night I guess.

    Thanks Universe. And thank you Phish.

    Ready for round 2!

    ::Mikes fight bell dings::

  17. MiA Says:

    Yeah AW. Second set was a bit herky jerky (Say Anything, WOAC I’m looking at you). Lots of songs I was ambivalent about at first them by the end they were crushing it.

    Sand was phenomenal and worth the admission for reasons you stated. Thick and gooey and cavernous. Loved the Slave too. But I always do.

    Either gonna get more out of my mind or less out of my mind.

    Not sure yet.

    Bringing more Sherpa food though.

  18. misticgoat Says:

    Nice review. I’m wondering if anyone knows what the messages behind the airplanes said?

  19. Cable Hogue Says:

    I think Sand was heading for a natural transition into 2001 but they had to bail to keep the setlist prank going. So a little weird at the end, but it was a sick jam nonetheless.

    Great Slave. Liked the show a lot, despite the somewhat awkward flow. Twist was definitely a cut above recent versions in terms of creativity. Hood>Silent was very slick. Glad to hear Easy to Slip, but thought it was a little rough.

  20. Whalereturns Says:

    Yikes…good thing there’s 2 more.

  21. MiA Says:

    For those who might have thought I was an elementary school teacher based on previous comments about me taking various things behind middle schools…



    Showered and re-energized!

  22. punkmug Says:

    Had a great time last night. Ran into Kaveh and Cal. Otherwise me and my gal had a grand time. Tired as fuck today though.

    Stash was my first set highlight for sure.

    Sand was especially saucy to my ears too. I was hearing the 2001 vibe there for a while and was also hearing a little bit of what Phlord was hearing too but need to spin it again to confirm what really went down.

    Loved hearing Say Something in the second set. That song has all the makings to go big IMO. Should be fun to hear if they expand on it more this fall.

  23. Stoney Case Says:

    Notes from side stage:

    Mike was SO pumped to play Say Something in set 2!! I could see it in his face. Awesome.

    “Hey Trey, maybe we can get the kids to talk about one of my songs?”

  24. Cable Hogue Says:

    Say Something is a really good tune. The falsetto is a little bit of a stretch, but it works for me. Could’ve been a “Sailin’ Shoes” outtake.

  25. voopa Says:

    All are free

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