[This guest recap is courtesy of Dr. Stephanie Jenkins, who teaches the "Philosophy School of Phish" and other courses at Oregon State University. Special thanks to Yaron Marcus for his feedback on this recap and for the photos! -charlie]
On the second of three sold-out nights at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Phish springboarded off the energy from night one to deliver an overall excellent show last night. It featured a number of tight, energetic jams, an unexpected opener, and a contender for the best first set of the summer. While the setlist did not contain any bust-outs or heavily-chased songs, Phish laid down a memorable, polished show that highlights the versatility of the band with the perfect balance of beautiful, reflective peaks and dark, sublime rock.
The beginning notes of “Slave to the Traffic Light” signaled to phans that it was time to surrender to the flow; Phish did not need a warm up tonight. To describe the “Slave” opener as unusual would be an understatement. This is only the 8th “Slave” opener ever and the first in just shy of 28 years; the last one took place on November 5th, 1988 at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. (The other “Slave” opening shows include: 5/3/85, 11/14/85, 2/3/86, 11/18/87, 2/8/88, and 6/20/88.)
The cathartic peak of “Slave” at the start of the show gave the first set an inverted quality. The placement of a “Down with Disease” with a short, but mature and dynamic, jam in the number two spot continued this trend. The “Disease” jam started with a celebratory feel before taking a brief dark turn. It was so tight it felt composed. After returning to complete the song’s ending, the band paused before starting-up “What’s the Use?,” which offered a contemplative breather before it segued into “Maze.”
After “Maze” came “Farmhouse,” “555,” and “Wolfman’s Brother.” The "Wolfman’s" -- a clear standout from the first set -- continued the Dick’s tradition of a funk-infused Saturday at Dick’s. As my friend (and photographer for this recap) Yaron noted after the song’s completion, “It was funky. It was rocking. It was, in a word, perfect."
A standard, yet subtle and blissful, “Divided Sky” left the crowd roaring with excitement. During the pause, which clocked one minute and forty-three seconds, members of the audience at the front of the venue started a “Trey loves Dick’s! We love Dick’s!” chant, inciting a noticeable grin from Trey. The first set, which could easily have been mistaken for a second set (minus the long pauses for band chats between songs), closed with the Velvet Underground cover, “Rock & Roll.”
Saturday’s non-stop second set opened with a powerful “Fuego.” The jam was solid, but ended prematurely with a segue into “Sand,” which featured some remarkable interplay between Mike and Trey. Up next was an eleven-minute, thrilling “Blaze On,” which was the first song of the second set to leave its typical song structure. If you like discordant Phish, you’ll love this “Blaze On,” which departed from its upbeat and joyful nature to deep, dark jam territory.
An abrupt, yet somehow fitting, transition led into “Simple.” This performance lived up to the custom of notable "Simples" at Dick’s, including the 8/29/14 version. The jam beautifully layered all four bandmates’ instruments before Trey moved over to the Marimba Lumina, where he accentuated Page’s delicate themes before switching-over to a second drumbeat integrated with Fishman’s kit. This extended rhythmic delight just might convert even the phans who are the most skeptical of the addition of the Marimba Lumina.
As Trey switched back to guitar, Mike steered the "Simple" jam into a segue that sounded like “Piper,” but ended up as a “Twist.” The mostly quiet jam then built into a minute of heavy rock before leading into a brief but soaring “Theme from the Bottom.”
The penultimate song of the second set, “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” picked up the pace and showcased the best of Kuroda’s new lighting rig. A beautiful, almost 16-minute “Harry Hood,” packed with exquisite, inspirational playing by Trey, closed the second set. This “Hood” was magical, and IS magical: it will remind you of why you love Phish. (Although if you’re at Dick’s, you don’t need a reminder.)
In a fitting end to a show that began with a surprising opener, a “The Squirming Coil” encore wrapped-up night two with a Mike walk-off solo (for the first time ever in Phish history). This switch left the entire audience bursting with anticipation for night three.
If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and listen to the whole show; it’s a performance without filler that offers Phish Dick’s Style: comfortable, confident, and attuned improvisation. There’s a reason why you should never miss a Dick’s show. If you’re short on time, though, check out the “Wolfman’s” from the first set, and start the second set at “Blaze On.”
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