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. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    I bet everything was better there in person, like everything in life

  2. roberto luongo Says:

    go spin SPAC 1 DF if flow is so important

  3. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Haha word

  4. kayatosh Says:

    Meat meme


  5. stupendous Says:

    i like flow and hot jams and aggressive playing and sat had all of the above… not one song disliked….

  6. MrCompletely Says:

    “trey could have dropped his guitar and left after that Dust.”

    he should totes do that one day. a straight up drop the mic moment.

  7. stupendous Says:

    the cdt jam reappears in light and 46 days then tweez… thats flow dirty nasty jamming flow
    same with carini and piper that next night

  8. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Hey it was a perfect set up till the end of CDT

  9. bob dylan Says:

    Hey C,


  10. kayatosh Says:

    “trey could have dropped his guitar and left after that Dust.”

    ^^^ yes!!

    here’s what i wrote at the time:
    “thank you. good night. that dick dust did me.”

    “the cdt jam reappears in light and 46 days then tweez… thats flow dirty nasty jamming flow” — stupendous.

    ^^^ yes. you get it. i don’t hear it 46 days, though.

  11. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    What time in Tahoe Tweezer does dear mr fantasy happen? I always miss it

  12. roberto luongo Says:

    I’m old.

    I like clean ass psychedelics. heady ass flowers from some of the best farmers in the country.

    pens of tasty errl.

    and phish playing at a high energy ballsy progressive leaning non nostalgic manner. IMO this musical perspective is here for the first time in a while. we are in the midst of a style shift and it is def harder and grimey than the happy joy joy era.

    dancing with all my kids on a big roomy GA floor that all feel the same way.

    hitting on all these this run was best of return IMO

    but a lot of that is the 09-12 sound was the same just progressively tighter and cleaner. Dicks Light is the peak jam of that sound. it’s done. time to deconstruct and rebuild.

    for me the excitement of building a new sound is just as exciting as witnessing the peak of a 3 year played out vibe.

    just my .02c

  13. jdub Says:

    Drop the mic Randy Watson style.

    Give a hand for Sexual Chocolate everyone.

  14. butter Says:

    Revise – great to meet u. Your a kind interesting well spoken fella. Cheers!

  15. roberto luongo Says:

    i agree Stup

    not sure how it flowed or why. or what even went down. I wasn’t in my body or on earth during that show.

    but when I landed whatever I felt. felt perfect.

  16. MrCompletely Says:

    I have friends that like UM and STS9 and SCI and YMSB, all bands I think are not just not good but really quite terrible

    I’ve been on the west coast long enough that I don’t even bust balls on the sensitive ones, but some of them hear it from me on the reg

    To be honest there are a few different couples now that we could have been better friends with if they weren’t into that stuff. My wife is 100% on board with this, if we are over chilling at your house and the soundtrack is a bunch of Cheese and Yonder and shit, things just aren’t going to work out…we can’t do it…much love and all…

    but here’s the thing you put my wife and I in the same room with something that sucks and we just start making fun of it to each other. Our relationship literally started that way. Making fun of DSO and a bunch of spunions was our first activity together.

    We can keep it on the DL for awhile by using secret couple code and inside jokes and sidelong glances and stuff but sooner or later it’s gonna come out and then, man…


    much like the fact that neither of us drinks alcohol at all, if we could compromise on this we’d have a lot more social opportunities in PDX

    just can’t do it though

    shit is terrible. period.

  17. kayatosh Says:

    flow smo. i know that N2S2 rocked me. bringing it back w/ tweezer was bomb.

  18. kayatosh Says:

    I agree on alcohol, even though i drink beer. the buzz is so soupy and inferior to a good herb high. and the cohol is bad for ya. crap. i’m about to pour another sculpin. spinning BGCA N1S1. $$$. love that set live and on playback. solid.

  19. MrCompletely Says:

    my one negative critique of the overall movement of late summer Phish 2013 is that while I do love the new style that’s developing – or really maybe 2 different styles, still getting a handle on that – for me personally, the lack of so-called “storage” style jamming, i.e. extended avant-psychedelic soundscapes, is a pretty colossal step back.

    That’s a big deal to me. Those segments really made shows a lot more texturally interesting, more dynamic, and much trippier. Not that the current sound isn’t great. It is.

    I just hope that stuff comes back, maybe in a more evolved form of some kind, on fall tour. I think it makes a huge positive addition to the palette and I’m really missing it.

  20. Mr. Palmer Says:

    ” This 30th Anniversary tour is a testament to Phish’s longevity, but the fact that they are playing music that is on par and /or surpasses just about anything in their career is a statement on who they are and how they’ve grown. This is what we’ve been waiting for. This is what Dick’s was foreshadowing—we are smack dab in the band’s newest peak era.”

    Miner told us this in early June. Just took longer for some to catch on. Well done Mr.M.

  21. sumodie Says:

    nerves a bit shot and only 6 hours total sleep in 3 days.
    everything I said I feel 100% but not said exactly in a classy manner.
    is what it is.

    RL, thank you

    otherwise, I’m digging your insightful Dick’s commentary. What a great fuckin weekend!

    CDT was an incredible experience – time stopped as the band opened up one of the most sophisticated psych portals yet

  22. bob dylan Says:

    I haven’t seen UM in 2 years now. I gotta support to troll RL if for no other reason.

    I wish I didn’t like alcohol. That one is still a work in progress.

    For me the two go hand in hand actually. UM is a fun band to get shwasted to.

  23. kayatosh Says:

    more graham meme


  24. bob dylan Says:

    Storage jamming is def a missed opportunity.

  25. bob dylan Says:

    sorry to turn this to syria… but i found something out today.

    political folks aren’t in trouble for insider trading. so the guys can be like “lets hold off a minute here until we find out more info” (goes and buys stock in the company making our missiles) and then comes back without any more info… “ok I’m in”

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