Saturday night at Dick’s started somewhat ominously – as the early crew assembled around the stage, dark clouds and stiffer breezes were of enough concern that the stage crew was forced to scramble and lower the Page-side PA stack, which was swaying precariously from the rafters. The storm clouds passed... and this minor non-event was the only real thing that went “wrong” all night. The rest was all win.
There would be an abundance of Peak Phish performed this evening, but it didn’t come early. The new summer dance machine vehicle “No Men In No Man's Land” opened a show for the second time this summer. Showing such early promise upon which fans have rightly heaped considerable praise, this version didn’t sniff the peaks of the Forum, Mann, or MagnaBall versions from earlier in the tour, but set an upbeat tone that carried into a compact but excellent “Martian Monster.” The set then settled in to stock footage with a mostly forgettable sequence of “NICU,” “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan,” “Bouncing Around the Room” and “555.”
Photo by Patrick Jordan © Phish From the Road
At this point we we’re looking at the inflection point of the set – it wasn’t honestly going very well, with a real sense of going through the motions. In the song’s early days, most fans would certainly not have thought of “Winterqueen” as a song that could step in to save a set, but that’s pretty much what happened, as if there was a mid-set recalibration. While Fuego’s title track initially seemed most likely to provide the best opportunity for improvisational expansion (and has indeed offered many gems), “Winterqueen” has quietly become perhaps the most consistent contributor from that song batch. A comparatively rare mid-set “Split Open and Melt” opened the jamming jets with some dark tension established with Trey and Page engaged in delightfully weird swirling counterpoints. An excellent “Limb By Limb” and soaring “Roggae” offered a perfect pairing of contemplation and soul-inspiring peaks, before “Character Zero” (“the crowd was going wild”) took us into the break. The set had some balance issues, but it grew progressively better as it went along, and left high hopes for the money frame.
The second-set opening “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” didn’t go deep but was more than a table-setter, burning brightly as the first stage rocket booster was released, igniting the show’s improvisational centerpiece, “Chalk Dust Torture.” Up against stiff competition for the title of Dick’s Finest Dust (see 8/31/12 and 8/31/13), this year’s “CDT” was a thrilling ride, an active and exploratory adventure of sound, shape, light, and vibration that was so deep and rich and brimming with joy that you never wanted it to end. Rounding out at a little over sixteen minutes it seemed considerably longer. As exhilarating as the “CDT” proper was, the dream textbook segue into “Twist” was a beauty to behold. The best of song transitions happen organically, where the seeds of the subsequent song are infused with ease, grace, patience, and dramatic pregnant intention. Trey laid the first hints of the "Twist" well over a minute before they dropped into the song proper, with everyone else insistent on powering through on the current jam theme. Trey guided them to a blissful and brilliantly fluid culmination into “Twist,” leaving a Peak Phish moment that is in a class with some of the greatest segues in Phish’s history.
Photo by Patrick Jordan © Phish From the Road
The “Twist” proper was gravy and yielded to the third-ever performance of “Mercury,” its first in a big second set slot. The song having several sections led to a funny exchange with a buddy: he asked “what song is this?” “Mercury.” Then a few minutes later, “so what song is this?” “Mercury.” “No, this one?” “Still ‘Mercury’!” They’ve been working this song out in soundcheck over the course of the tour which paid considerable dividends tonight. More or less out of the blue – and after two consecutive years of adding sizeable batches of new songs in each of the last two Halloweens – ”Mercury” is a pretty huge development, given it is one of if not the most significant new original of the post-breakup era. Fish’s Marimba Lumina solo bridges the song’s two main sections, and the timing of this section in the flow of the set contained the slightest echo of “Drums” > “Space.” “Mercury” is a hybrid club in Phish’s bag, with engaging composition yet offering tremendous freedom to roam and explore. Get comfortable with “Mercury” – this winner is here to stay.
The set could easily have coasted home to victory on a succession of set-closers at this point, but the improvisational fuel was still burning bright enough for a late-set “Light” that packed enough ideas for a jam twice its length, with Page and Fish contributing especially vibrant and engaging performances. A powerful, dramatic and perfectly-placed “Wingsuit” soared its way to a emphatic, ground-shaking, fist-pumping “Rock and Roll” to take the set home.
"Split Open & Melt" – Photo © @tweeprise
Page seemed legitimately choked-up leading in to his favorite encore song, “Sleeping Monkey,” before we headed into true bonus time with a bright, happy, cathartic “Harry Hood.” “A Day in the Life” finally closed the books on this show that saw the band using all the weapons in its considerable arsenal of artistic magic that we’ve all been so privileged to witness. I’d be remiss not to note how exceptional the crowd has been; in contrast to a few of the nights last year, front center floor has been virtually stress-free with considerable space and minimal-to-non-existent hassle. One last night to empty the tank before we head into the fall break. Be in the moment, but consider taking a few of those moments for inventory, to reflect upon the bounty of awesome which we can be thankful for: our friends, our band, our community. It’s a happy time in the Phish world, so soak it in!
Phish Summer 2015 – Setlists & Recaps
07/21/15 Setlist – Recap – Bend 1
07/22/15 Setlist – Recap – Bend 2
07/24/15 Setlist – Recap, Recap2 – Shoreline
07/25/15 Setlist – Recap – LA Forum
07/28/15 Setlist – Recap – Austin
07/29/15 Setlist – Recap – Grand Prarie
07/31/15 Setlist – Recap – Atlanta 1
08/01/15 Setlist – Recap – Atlanta 2
08/02/15 Setlist – Recap – Tuscaloosa
08/04/15 Setlist – Recap – Nashville
08/05/15 Setlist – Recap – Kansas City
08/07/15 Setlist – Recap – Blossom
08/08/15 Setlist – Recap – Alpine 1
08/09/15 Setlist – Recap – Apline 2
08/11/15 Setlist – Recap – Mann 1
08/12/15 Setlist – Recap – Mann 2
08/14/15 Setlist – Recap – Raleigh
08/15/15 Setlist – Recap – Merriweather 1
08/16/15 Setlist – Recap – Merriweather 2
08/21/15 Setlist – Recap – Magnaball 1
08/22/15 Setlist – Recap – Magnaball 2
08/23/15 Setlist – Recap – Magnaball 3
09/04/15 Setlist – Recap – Dick's 1
09/05/15 Setlist – Recap – Dick's 2
09/06/15 Setlist – Recap – Dick's 3
Commerce City, CO posters by Rich Kelly. 12x24, Edition of 850 each night.
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