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

*debut

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1,390 Responses to “A Step Ahead”

  1. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    whatever. you go your way and I’ll go mine. 🙄

  2. MrCompletely Says:

    let’s reset this back to the fact that Dick’s was the bomb

  3. angryjoggerz Says:

    T3, when is that very clued in 30th anniversary comp coming? Looking forward to it.

  4. marcoesq Says:

    Gangster in the huddle. From Uggs to Drugs: The story of the 2013 Patriots

    http://www.rollingstone.com/feature/the-gangster-in-the-huddle?utm_source=dailynewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter

  5. ren Says:

    @telas- takes one to know one 😉 sentiment shared for sure.

  6. roberto luongo Says:

    nah me and TIII hung out. we both know we are from 2 different planets and probably would never want to visit each others

    kid goes to ex notre dame QB luncheons

    quite possibly the funniest thing I’ve ever heard in my entire existence.

    plus he digs all that newgrass crap. come on unless you have a vagina or are going just to get vagina that shit is just wrong.

  7. tela's_muff Says:

    T3 – you just go focus on my second place winnings! if there are any. love ya kid. wish you had been out here with us.

    it was absolutely spot of perfect that after spending a day spinning choice reggae and dub albums and enjoying the gifts of herb, that the band drops Legalize IT, and quite possibly the coolest dub jam i’ve heard from them. shit, was that the first? and then carrying that shit into the Paug intro?? i was floored.

  8. roberto luongo Says:

    admitting to diggin the whitest band in the world’s cover of a Warren G song
    just surpassed going to the ex notre dame QB luncheon as the funniest thing I’ve heard in my entire existence.

  9. roberto luongo Says:

    you kids can dig TIII all you want

    but his type has been annoying at me since shows since 93

    hard to shake

    love ya kids
    Dicksk crushed
    laterz

  10. marcoesq Says:

    Ren, did you see the Santa convention in our hotel? Shit was kinda weird first thing in the morning trying to get some hungover breakfast.

  11. roberto luongo Says:

    ex note dame QB luncheon ftw

    I love jokes that right themselves and pretty much tell the entire story. fact.

  12. P.S.H.S Says:

    I’m guessing now is not the time to talk about all the fun I had at a sci concert?

  13. tela's_muff Says:

    i WILL absolutely start talking about how much fun I had at the Arcade Fire show in 2011 here in Broomfield. blazed the entire show, and i danced. oh yes, i danced.

  14. fat bastard Says:

    I had a dream last night that I’m at a phish show with a friend and the crowd starts to part. I turn to him and say “here come on stupid the hotdog again” and when they get to the stage they aren’t on the hotdog but a 1800’s looking warship and some of the members of black sabbath are on board with them. I say “its gonna be War Pigs/Fairies wear boots for sure” and they go into it everyone is in awe and then I wake up.

  15. P.S.H.S Says:

    Didn’t webcast as usual, time difference is the biggest detractor for me. Well that and headband and racer 5 combo doesn’t help my eyes/ear holes stay open. Just highlights so far, need to dig into set 1 Sunday. I love a well played first set.

  16. roberto luongo Says:

    Win Butler is like James Brown hip relative to the Umphrey’s McGee White hats

  17. tela's_muff Says:

    his wife in the band did some cool dances with streamers. streamers!!

  18. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Fat Bastard, you were fucking robbed!

    That is a Epic Dream right there!

  19. fat bastard Says:

    umphrey’s never did it for me either. i went to iu when one of them was there, maybe two of them? and i thought that they were cool to see at a house party. but i never thought it a million years they would make it. now good for them to have made a career and obviously have a loyal fan base. A friend of mine is always pushing that shitt on me. but I never go anymore.

  20. P.S.H.S Says:

    Went to my parents for the long weekend. I left my jar on my dads workbench and told him he could have at it. Every time I went for it, I kept pulling bubblegum. Turns out he stuffed his pipe with headband all weekend. Mom was not happy, she told me years ago to stop puffing him down.

  21. Stoney Case Says:

    Df, I love you bro. However you’ve become, literally, the Fool around here. Not the one people laugh with, but at.

    Sellout at Dicks is 26,500. Not 40,000.

    Sand was set 2 night one.

    Etc. come out west and do some real work and get grounded.

    Photographing cats is ‘fun’ but not much work.

  22. stupendous Says:

    @SC, i guess that 1st night was glorious if you missed the 2 previous spelling shows…. out of the 3, this one was def the weakest… and yes i heard that sand and also heard the 2001 that wouldve destroyed the place if dropped but they were in a box and couldnt be in the moment. not my style of phish. most will agree. also if you rather trade a hood glory jam for a Silent… well we got nothing in common… just my 2 cents

    AGREE 100% bout UM n STS9

  23. marcoesq Says:

    Speaking of umphrey’s

    Dude in the pirates hat FTW

  24. ren Says:

    Lol Stoney! Being able to “see you” now as you make comments is definitely adding to my experience

    @marco- tango convention?!?! ha! Our experience at that hotel was great! Many a bunch of good people partying in front of the hotel after the show each night

  25. MrCompletely Says:

    “and yes i heard that sand and also heard the 2001 that wouldve destroyed the place if dropped but they were in a box and couldnt be in the moment. not my style of phish. most will agree. also if you rather trade a hood glory jam for a Silent… well we got nothing in common… ”

    co-sign all that.

    the Constraints Show.

    Any amount of gimmick pre-planning screws up the flow. Even happened sunday, with making room for Legalize It, but that was worth it and not as disruptive

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