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. marcoesq Says:

    totally missed the Guy Forget quotes during Piper in the moment

  2. roberto luongo Says:

    I was at all 3 and I’d say the Sand from night 1 is a hotter jam than anything from the 2010 spelling show.

    seven below was kinda hot and first set sally but other than that similar vibe. bunch of S songs some of which very hip kick downs but this was more of a song based affair.

    def better set 2 flow but not much massive jamming meat.

    FUCKYOURFACE def had some fire in it although I still think the Dick’s CDT is hotter than any jam from that night IMO.

  3. angryjoggerz Says:

    Shows were awesome, Colorado is a dream place to see them, so little hassle, such great people all around, so much to do. So glad we got out and did a lot everyday, highlight being mountains and moose face to face. If can walk away from a weekend floored from the music, time with great friends and a handful of new ones, hiking, mountains, wildlife and Bieber high fives (huge cred with my daughter and nieces!) and a ton of laughs I am a happy man. Glad to be home, probably skipping fall, too much to do out there.

  4. angryjoggerz Says:

    The 2001 build up tension was a carry over from last year, funny stuff.

  5. tela's_muff Says:

    that 2001 fake out, again, was pretty fun. then to drop it straight off that Joy was a serious jolt, followed by a bigger jolt in Tweezer. damn that was fun.

  6. Cal Says:

    Back home. Feels good to have some doggone moisture in the air!

    gdad–Thanks man! I honestly think N2S1 might be my favorite overall set of the run. Haven’t listened to a bit of it yet but in terms of how it felt at the time, BALLS.

    C–Fish at the end of that Divided was so fucking nuts. No clue what Trey was even playing at the end of that jam, I was only listening to Fish. Which happened quite a few times.

    T3–I am with you on STS9, except the part about the guitar player. That dude usually sucks. You must’ve caught a hot night if he was doing anything remotely creative. Their drummer is pretty damn good and actually I always dug Murph’s playing but his overbearing lame banter in recent times has basically soured me on the whole band. They can be a real blast to dance to but their fanbase is uberwastoid disrespectful knobs (except the kids I know….) and their performances keep getting less interesting I swear.

  7. roberto luongo Says:

    totally wrong read there too

    they all knew they were spelling something so they wren’t dropping 2001

    it was half teases started by Mike which he teases all the time then I think Fish had fun with it just to fuck with Trey and the fans that knew 2001 didn’t fit in the set.

    FTR I didn’t love the flow of this spelling set but wasn’t paying attention to what they were playing and didn’t find out till post show.

    just feel the peak jam from it was hotter than any 2011 dicks peak jam.

  8. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    fuck your face vs most shows spel somehitng

    light vs CDT

    sand vs carini/piper

    if we’re doing the comparison thing

    this tweezer is sick though

  9. stupendous Says:

    ya its hard to compare, but at least, the thrill of being there on all spelling bees, for me the FYF thakes the cake. weird show with incredible jams.
    Didnt realize what had happened till the end…

  10. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    and dick’s 11 was about the tweezer and full set 2 night 3. S show was whatever with a couple jams. also dick’s 3 2011 bathtub gin arguably better than this year’s, need to respin though

  11. roberto luongo Says:

    Dicks CDT is jam of return IMO DF

    used to be Gorge RnR

    but I like that grimey driving groove shit.

    all the bliss crap was fun but not my style. but FTR Dicks Light is my fav of the light floaty bliss melodic style really love that jam.

    but if I can pick. keep it grimey.

  12. MrCompletely Says:

    I really liked the main part of Sand but def hear the last couple minutes as extremely disconnected and unfocused – they are trying to work something out onstage and can’t do it through the music. If I was gonna guess I wouldn’t even say it was the 2001, just that the rest of the band felt like going into the next phase of the jam but Trey had to chop it off to fit in the rest of the spelling lesson

  13. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    i think i might prefer gorge RnR still. more original and just dark, scary stuff. they’ve only reached that darkness like 3 times in 3.0 – cinci twist and msg carini

  14. Michelle MyBell Says:

    @Roberto L- Sweetie, this thing with musicians got way out of hand before I even knew what was happening. Phish is one of the bands who alerted me to what was going on with MN and international musicians. Pay better attention to what’s going on, or at least start listening to the lyrics of the newest songs. I wonder how often you communicate with Phish? For me, I’d say it’s probably a few times a week. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on what’s happening in my life. My last communication to them was this morning. I shared a funny story about something that happened during 1st set of the 3rd night at Dick’s.

    Anyway, I found someone willing to do a poster trade. All three Dick’s posters in exchange for one of my signed Trey posters. It’s been sitting in a storage room for several years, and now it’ll have a good home on someone’s wall. All’s well that ends well!

  15. stupendous Says:

    all i remember is scaring my slf with the loudest evil giggles ive ever had at a show. every 2 min. a giggle! that second set from sat melted my face harder than any in 3.0

  16. roberto luongo Says:

    ya DF that’s my other fav Gin but this one destroyed it IMO

    last one got chop funky for a bit but this one is just so hard and heavy. Fish plays straight fills the entire 4 minutes of the peak. just hard heavy dick punch phish.

  17. tela's_muff Says:

    AJ was trying to explain the spelling thing to me at set break i think and it really fucked with me. it came across very wizardly. still never understood what was going on until after the show.

  18. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    this year’s tweezer def a sick jam

  19. MrCompletely Says:

    Jesus H. Fucking Christ on a motorscooter, of all the years to need to watch my money going into the NFL season!!!! Very frustrating, a lot of these lines make no sense! KC still at 7.5? Dammit!

  20. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Phish could be sued for irresponsible set placement of that tweezer.

    I over-exerted my knee with that tune.

  21. roberto luongo Says:

    don’t call me sweetie michelle

    I met you. not even sure you are a chick let alone human. def a weirdo.

    but not the type of women I like being called sweetie from.

    the psycho headcase trolly looking type aint my thing.

    and get luck with that paranoid schizophrenia. hear it’s a good time.


  22. gavinsdad Says:

    this 13 piper is dangling a pair for sure.

    mikes masked effects in the middle and some of Fish’s cowbell antics helped keep everyone groove grounded during the clav sesh pre-woo

    when one talks about our predilection to white boy funk i would be quick to play anyone who disparages our band the musical portions of the Piper “woo section”. That is some get the fuck down music that just happens to be funky.

  23. angryjoggerz Says:

    It was only wizardly because Timer was in your peripheral view with his light up pen. BTW, he totally called the Friday night thing before the show. He also was having a blast the whole run – he can still have fun.

  24. stupendous Says:

    late set tweezer blew that place to pieces!

    even the BDTNL shredded some of the most inspired licks ive heard from big red in a while.. giggle giggle giggle

  25. roberto luongo Says:

    ya think DF? creative spacious intent listening like that is subtly placed all over this run. that tweez was fuckin the next level shit we’re talking bout fool!

    keep fighting it kid. it’s all subtle. but that run had the hardest most creative musician level shit of the return.

    I know you don’t need to get hit over the head with a sledgehammer to get a good jam.

    this band was glowing they were having so much fun playing with this much fire.

    but last I’m gonna try to convince. is what it is. guess we hear things different.

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