Heading into last night's summer finale at Dick's, it's safe to say there was a sense of collective unease. The first two shows of the run were solid, but decidedly unspectacular. Phish is currently playing at a high level, so by no means were Friday and Saturday nights bad shows. They just felt a little... ordinary. The Friday spelling tradition was seemingly put to rest and there was little acknowledgment that we were at DICK'S. It was understandable. Magnaball was such a smashing success, that it was going to be nearly impossible for this run not to feel a little anti-climactic.
"The Landlady" – Photo © @tweeprise
Phish came out and played two sets that largely stuck to that script. It was going to be my job to shine a light on the high points, note some of the more questionable calls, and try not to let too much of my disappointment show through that this year's Dick's shows felt like just another three-night run. And there were some genuine high points, most obviously the sterling "Down with Disease."
Alas, in the first set, those high points were not always easy to come by. A languid "Landlady" opener crossed off a never-before-seen song on many fans' lists (though they had, of course, likely seen it many times inside of "PYITE"). The "Free," "Moma," "Seven Below" sequence that followed showcased a veritable murderer's row of anthemic Trey licks. It's more difficult to be charitable about the song selection from the rest of the first set. But why on earth should we dwell on that here? And, hey, that's just, like, my opinion, anyway. I'm sure there are some folks out there who thought each call from "Caspian" through "Halfway to the Moon" was better than the last.
"Frankenstein" – Photo © @tweeprise
Setbreak was longer than usual, and the clock watchers among us noted ominously that Phish had only given themselves about an hour and twenty minutes for the second set and encore. That wasn't necessarily ideal, but sometimes shorter sets tend to be more focused, delivering wall-to-wall meat. That wasn't necessarily the case last night. The aforementioned "Disease" certainly fit the bill, as they deconstructed the jam to a minimalist groove and then built it back up into major-key euphoria. The last minute of the "DWD" seemed to hint at "Tweezer" before downshifting into "Carini." At just nine minutes, the "Carini" is compact but featured an echoplex-fueled jam that was reminiscent of 12/29/13.
"Compact" would be the watchword of the set, as "Steam," "Piper," "2001," and "Tweezer" all fit that description. "Piper," in particular, squeezed a lot of action into its eight-and-a-half minutes. This was all high-quality, enjoyable Phish, and had it taken place mid-tour, I'm sure I'd be singing its praises. But when "Tweezer" gave way to "The Horse," it felt like we were going to leave Dick's without a true standout show. Oddly, they started up "Slave" at 11:48. ::Does math:: How on earth are they going to play "Slave" and fit in an encore by curfew?
"Down With Disease" – Photo © @tweeprise
When they came back on for the encore just after midnight and launched into "Tweeprise," the plot thickened. A "Tweeprise" stand-alone encore would be rare but perhaps it made sense with the show running past curfew.
The best Phish moments always seem to be unexpected. Truth be told, even if the show had ended right here, it would have capped off an amazing weekend in every respect. But it didn't. The band recognized the significance of Dick's all along, and had completely faked us out. In 2011 we got the 'S' show. In 2012 they spelled "Fuck Your Face." In 2013 they spelled backwards. Last year gave us the "Lushington" fake out. Each year a new twist. What was left to do? All the permutations had seemingly been exhausted. All but one: spell a message on the last night.
"Tweezer Reprise" – Photo © @tweeprise
"Oom pa pa oom pa pa oom pa pa oom pa paaaaaaa-ah!" Setlist antics were the farthest thing from anyone's mind when "Harpua" started up. Trey clued everyone in by letting us know that when you write your setlist to only include "Harpua" once, and to "keep that in the back of your mind." Of course, that went completely over my head. In this installment of the story, east coast Jimmy needed an oxygen tank to cope with the altitude in Colorado. On his turntable he played the appropriately timed "After Midnight." But it turns out he bought the oxygen tank at the Phish show and it was really "NO2" (played for the second time this tour). Somehow this led into the first "Keyboard Cavalry" since 1995, and the bells brought Jimmy back to consciousness whereupon he noticed "Your Pet Cat," Poster Nutbag.
Unfortunately, Mike accidentally ate Poster Nutbag, causing Jimmy to wax philosophical and ask himself "How did I get here?" Thus spawned the first "Once in a Lifetime" since the Remain in Light set in '96. Was it a little rough around the edges? Sure. Did that matter even a little? Not really. We truly were in "Once in a Lifetime" territory at this point. To finish up the message, Trey thanked us all for being a part of this unique community, wrapping up with the Brotherhood of Man song, "United We Stand."
Of course, we should really be the ones thanking Trey, Mike, Page and Fish for the amount of joy that they bring to all of our lives. The fact that they are still doing it after all these years and at such a high level is nothing short of amazing. Last night, after over 32 years of shows, Phish delivered the Best. Encore. Ever. No qualifier necessary. It will certainly go down as one of the most joyful moments I’ve ever experienced at a Phish show. The legend of Dick’s continues.
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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