It's funny that Phish happened to release the 12/6/97 show so soon after this bad boy was played - not that I think this second set is as good as 12/6/97 II, but it definitely feels similar in that it's nearly 50 minutes of music that encompasses three different songs yet all feel like one massive jam. Sand goes full-fathoms-five deep before pulling itself out of the mire and opening up the hose, then leads into a glorious reprise of the main theme that leads into a plinko-laden, genius segue into Ghost, which immediately goes dark and stays dark before dissolving into a beautiful puddle and brilliantly segueing *again* into Piper, which opens up the hose once again and brings some serious heat before the bottom drops out and the band explores yet another dark place...and then turns into 20 Years Later, which may be an odd choice, but hardly one to begrudge the band given the brilliant music they'd just played beforehand. And don't sleep on the Hood either, 16 minutes of pure bliss to close things out. This is one of those sets that you almost feel compelled to play over and over again, to pick out parts you missed earlier, like a good book you reread over and over to marvel at how good the prose is. And Phish 2012 has no shortage of great musical prose.
I guess the upshot of all of this is that not only is Dick's 2012 the run of 3.0, 3 of the 10 best shows they've played since 3.0 began (with 8/31 the show of 3.0 and - hell, I'll say it - the best since Fukuoka, apologies to 2/28/03 and SPAC 04 and 8/15/11 and 8/19/12 and whatever else you want to stack up against it), but we've now reached a big moment for Phish (or maybe it feels like it to me), where the stakes seem to have been raised in a way they haven't since they returned. We're now seeing shows that we can legitimately say are the best of 3.0, as well as shows that we can even stack up against the good ol' days, and that is no small thing. 2013 is shaping up to be a huge year for The Phish From Vermont, and whether or not they live up to those expectations, we can say that Dick's 2012 *gave* us those expectations, and for that I will forever be grateful.