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. Mr. Palmer Says:

    extra code? dm me, please….

  2. Stoney Case Says:

    For me, in the room, I heard the 2001 during Sand.

    Also was a bit of a deflator going Hoo/Silent. I knew they weren’t going back to finish the Hood cuz it didn’t fit the set list game. Love Silent, slick segue, not at the expense of a great Hood though. They def lost their grip on much of the crowd until Slave.

    SAND!! Psych textures.

  3. Marcoesq Says:

    Sand->2001 so thought there was an A coming next in set. Say something was cool, could dig the grooves

  4. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    What if they open tonight with Harry hood jam > tweezer? Or Tweezer > Harry hood jam

  5. Marcoesq Says:

    Didn’t even make it onto field last night. Pregnant wife was fine in stands and had some local friends up there. May be looking to get rid of my field passes for stands..stay tuned

  6. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Good start but def not the fuck you KMS for not being there opener of last year. They forgot that last year was sick bc there were so few letters and it became more about the game of wheel of fortune than the jams.

  7. Igottacatapult Says:

    Sand 4 the win.

    Dug on this this morn as well.


    Lots to be happy about.

  8. Stoney Case Says:

    DF, I thought they could have left off ‘Most’ and gone ‘Shows Spell Something’. Thought it was headed for ‘Hood>Scents’ end show.

    Wash those tube socks for tonight. It’s Matty’s birthday.

  9. Marcoesq Says:

    Definitely thoughts scents would end 1st set. Then maybe the 2nd..

  10. Marcoesq Says:

    There was no need for 3 songs after stash yo

  11. BingosBrother Says:

    Love that whalereturns orange goes to bellyful.net. Well done sir.

  12. Marcoesq Says:

    Last year band went straight to dicks from tour. This year almost a month off. Last nights beauty was in the details. Sand an all timer for sure but tons of other little nuggets all through show. Tonight will slay.

  13. punkmug Says:

    Just got done listening to Set 1. Theme, Ocelot and LxL did have a bit of extra juice but Stash was still the hands down highlight of the set for me. Icculus was fun as hell in the moment. Got my first Icculus and Esther as far as stats go.

    On a bit of a sad note, i totally jacked my fragile back dancing during the second set. (Sand) Hopefully some of my freshly acquired Colorado meds will help lubricate my back enough to shake my ass in Dicks face. Rocked out 30 min of Yoga trying to get things back to some sort of normal comfort to no avail. Bugs the hell out of me since I love dancing so much at the shows. Wish me luck the next two nights its going to be a battle.

  14. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    I’ll be ready and not confused tonight

  15. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    First year dicks was 2 weeks off though

  16. punkmug Says:

    Also on a fun and close call side note. I made a bet with my wife that wants new dogs after we just lost both of ours to old age over the last six months. The bet was that if they played Pebbles and Marbles last night we would get 2 dogs and call them Pebbles and Marbles. Once Cal tipped me off to the set spelling antics at set break, I was a little nervous that P was on deck. All I can say is.. WHEW! Close call!

    After the show I said how about we get two dogs and call them Icculus and Esther? 🙂

  17. plord Says:

    Punkmug, grab some epsom salts and take a long hot soak, drinking water the whole time. Then a nap. Maybe? Best of luck, back troubles suck.

  18. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Show up on phishtracks….

  19. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Ghost to open is pretty sweet.. I would have been lovin it.. Damn…

  20. punkmug Says:

    Thanks Plord, I’m already tracking.. Hot soaking bath and nap are next up on the docket.

  21. tzara's Says:

    Brunch at Root Down with MiA and the missuses. Bloody Mary time, mescal style.

  22. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Mezcal is for Pros only! Good work Tzara’s!

  23. voopa Says:

    I see know how we gonna kick it

  24. voopa Says:

    WTF autocorrect

  25. marcoesq Says:

    Comments not posting from iPad.

    punkmug, I have some hetty muscle relaxants if you need. obv hopefully your other natural remedies work first.

    Energy>Tweez tongiht

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