Monday 09/02/2019 by zzyzx


After nine years in a row playing the same venue over the same weekend, we’ve all established our traditions and routines. All of that got upended this year due to a plague infestation. Prairie dogs that live there were potentially covered with infested fleas. With the traditional Shakedown lot closed, parking at a premium, and knowing that we couldn’t undersell the issue since The Black Death killed 60% of the population in Europe in the 15th century, we had to adjust. Europe saw the end of feudalism. We might have to take a shuttle from a remote lot to see our concerts.

By the end of the first night, it was clear that the logistical issues would not be a big deal. Phish had the shuttles running on a quick turnaround; I got back to my room earlier on Saturday than I normally would have with post-show lot traffic, only with no parking fee and with a free Nalgene handed to me for my inconvenience. This system was arguably better than the normal parking in the lot. The Shakedown lot quickly got replaced with a new Flea Market location. Vendors took advantage of this to make funny shirts and stickers and koozies referencing prairie dogs, fleas, and civilization-ending infestations. The plague warning signs were a popular selfie spot. During the first night, Phish made flea jokes and used a Pure Prairie League song ("Aimee") as walkout music. Another lyric was changed on Saturday. When Commerce City gave us plague, we made plagueonade. Yum!

© 2019 Scott Marks
© 2019 Scott Marks

The 27th Playing of the Dick’s started with a cover of everyone’s favorite completely real, not at all made up, Norwegian/Icelandic band. “Stray Dog” had the lyric change du jour, as Trey sung that he was a "plague dog." He managed to get slightly better about laughing at his own joke, as he was only unable to sing one line because he couldn’t stop giggling. Dorky Trey always feels like a true gimpse into who he actually is. One of my favorite things about the band right now is that Trey feels free to play-out the same goofy jokes that he'd normally make backstage in front of 20,000 people, and it turns out that most of us find that just as amusing.

Speaking of jokes that translated far better than they had any right to, after a brief “Stealing Time” interlude, we got a second dip into the land of Kasvot Växt with “Turtle in the Clouds.” The surreal attempt at trying to reengineer what a 1980's Europop dance routine would look like was extended this night, giving Page an extra chance to shine and Mike and Trey a double shot at pretending to throw objects into the crowd. Trey also extended his solo at the end. The turtle seemed to fire him up, and the object of this excitement would be “Wolfman’s Brother.”

In something that would become a theme for the night, this version wasn’t especially long---it clocked in at 14 minutes---but Phish made every minute of its jam count. They left the standard funk jam and gave us a beautiful, high-energy space with some great Mike/Trey interplay. Once they created that, Page and Trey alternated some stunning licks on top of it. It was somewhat like the more delicate jams they’ve been hitting so well lately---"What’s the Use?” being a prime example---but Fishman kept the tempo going, so the beauty did not come at the expense of danceability. This is a moment that will always be popular with the fans for the simple reason that it’s really, really good.

After a short but punchy “Birds of a Feather” (complete with extra samples from “The Birds”), we got one final plague Växtination. “We Have Come to Outlive Our Brains” was notable for two reasons: it had a nice play on the “Harry Hood”-styled mid-song jam, and they tried a new style of morphing into a new song.

Traditionally, Phish have three ways of ending a song and starting the next: stopping and then starting the next song (song B) a little while later; starting song B as the previous one (song A) dies out or immediately after song A concludes; and when the jam of song A segues into song B and there's a transition between the two songs, for example, with some band members continuing to play song A as another band member or two begins playing song B, or when song B seems to logically and smoothly begin out of song A's jam. In setlist parlance, we signify those transitions between song A and song B with a comma, a “>”, and a “->”, respectively. This night, they played a bit with a variation on those themes. So for example, they sung the outro “We will come to outlive your brains/I’m the glue in your magnet” lines over the intro of “Taste," creating a real -> transition between the songs. It was more like a crossfade than the typical > method of transition. While this one created a cool effect, the next one was educational.

“My Friend My Friend” is a song Phish debuted in 1992. “Twenty Years Later” first came out in 2009. When they started the intro of “Twenty Years Later” under the “My friend my friend he has a knife” outro lines, the crossfade all but ordered us to make comparisons between the two songs. They are not really thought of together, of course, but they both have jams with similar, dark feels in the middle. “My Friend” has stream-of-consciousness lyrics whereas “20YL” is more of a character study on the concept of aging while still wanting adventures. The former is much higher energy in its darkness. Regardless of the differences, pairing them showed that it really was the same people trying to explore the same type of idea, but just at a different stage of their life. You can even make a through line from here to the Ghosts of the Forest material to see how Trey plumbed that again another decade in the future. “Twenty Years Later” didn’t just have lyrics about how a person could still try to be the same even as they aged, it was an actual demonstration. Seventeen years later, they’re still upside down.

The first set would have one more intriguing jam to come. The improvisation of the closing “Bathtub Gin” started out with some great fills from Fishman - he was playing interesting moments like that throughout the run - before building into what appeared would be the normal way that they currently play the song. It would go to a euphoric peak, everyone would dance excitedly, and we’d all go to the break happy. Then it all changed.

Just as it reached the point where the fans up front would fire their confetti and streamers up in the air to heighten the peak, the bottom dropped out. While still a dance party, it was quieter and a tad more exploratory. They played there, and then Trey shifted back to the peak, and that extra space before the peak created a greater contrast than in the typical version, making the euphoric peak feel more earned.

© 2019 Phish (Jake Silco)
© 2019 Phish (Jake Silco)

The second set opened with another Ghosts of the Forest debut, “Sightless Escape.” Unlike a lot of the more contemplative pieces on the album, this track is a rocker. It might be a sharp relief in the album, but it makes sense to start a set that way. It was followed by another song that was the high energy track of its album, “Fuego.” This version left the normal "Fuego" territory and got quiet and pretty. Like many songs this night, the jam didn’t last very long but it did a lot in the time given.

While only time will tell how the “Piper” that followed will be remembered, this is a unique version of the song. Beginning with a very fragile singing of the first blast of the lyrics, almost sounding like a lullaby, the jam went to some weird, bedazzling places. Page was toying with some bizarre effects and pitch-shifting as the rest of the band played a dance groove under him. It sounded borderline electronica at times, an attempt at the new band Phish Tribe Sector Nine. This section of the jam felt different to anything Phish has ever done. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s always great to hear them still finding ways to connect and make different sounds after playing so long together.

This jam morphed into “Tweezer” after 15 minutes. The step into the freezer wouldn’t be particularly long by itself, but the jam found itself back into the land of the Fuego. They reprised the “rolling, rolling” chorus for a while before going back into a more spacey jam on the backside. What the interlude did was make this feel less like a series of short versions of songs, and more like a long jam that had songs occasionally interjected into it. Some shows are designed where you can just pull out the “Ruby Waves” or something and listen to that independently. Others flow from jam to song to jam to song, with them scrambled together into a whole. This is a second set that rewards far more if you listen to the whole instead of just wanting one great part.

Speaking of brief interludes, a straightforward “Also Sprach Zarathustra” formed as a segue from the space of the end of the “Tweezer/Fuego” jam and the rock of “Chalk Dust Torture.” Continuing the theme of this night, this version wasn’t long, but it played like it was. They immediately went into a punchy, Mike-led jam. It’s another fairly unique sound as the bass is really front for a lot of it. Between this and the “Piper,” this is a show that really does demonstrate that Phish still have new avenues to explore as an improvisational band.

After over an hour of playing with new spaces and approaches with an occasional song mixed in, it was time to actually remind us that the old approaches also can work. The final set of Dick’s 2019: This Time We Have Plague ended with a ballad and two closers. “Waste” and “First Tube” let us have moments that really hadn’t been present in the show: a great Trey ballad solo and a rock star Trey is a Jedi moment at the end of the set to contrast with the dorky ones from the start of the show. Just when you think you have them in a pigeonhole, they find a new approach.

Outside of New Year’s Eve, no show deserves a “Silent in the Morning” more than the end of the Dick’s run. This exact thing happened just last year and as “Tweezer (Reprise)” ushered us out of the venue, we all hoped that it happens again just next year. Phish and Dick’s and Labor Day just work so well together. Here’s hoping we all do this for years to come… well, everyone but the fleas. They were a plague on the scene!

© 2019 Phish (Jake Silco)
© 2019 Phish (Jake Silco)

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, comment by jcrosby
jcrosby Thanks for the beautiful account
, comment by pureguava
pureguava This Dick’s run gave us a trifecta of excellent reviews. Thanks!
, comment by mgolia6
mgolia6 Such a solid review. The show felt so long in that way where you just don’t want something so special to end and somehow it defies the normal quick passage of time and...wait for it...time turns (insert adjective).

I felt like set two was a dance party that blended and defied genre. There was funk, there was sass there was certainly an EDM aspect in there that I was so jazzed by, and, what I couldn’t quite put words to, you nailed the description of; that it was one continuous jam with songs sprinkled in here and there. And each jam packed more than its track length for sure.

Thank you for doing the heavy lifting and nailing this review.
, comment by KidCough
KidCough Man great great review!! Agree so much, you nailed it. Piper was a dream version for me, so much was working last night and the energy in the building was palpable and incredible. Seeing some weird posts on FB about people not liking it and I'm like what? Anyway it's an individual experience...but I bet every one of the naysayers was not on that dance floor last night. Cheers to Phish putting it all out there for us, exploring new shit, and rocking out faces and tushies off. Here fuckin here!
, comment by ekstewie1441
ekstewie1441 Very quality review. Should be used as a template for future reviewers.
, comment by watsiyem
watsiyem "What the interlude did was make this feel less like a series of short versions of songs, and more like a long jam that had songs occasionally interjected into it."

I love love love when shows/sets achieve this feeling. Great review, thank you!
, comment by EvenCarlSagan
EvenCarlSagan Very well put (at least to me from the couch).
, comment by Icculus
Icculus @ekstewie1441 said:
Very quality review. Should be used as a template for future reviewers.
A deliberate decision was made years ago to at least try to have a different recapper for every show on a tour, not only to celebrate the diversity of perspectives within our fan base, but also to avoid the criticism of a formulaic, "cookie cutter" approach to show recaps on this site, which is used by very different fans with vastly different levels of Phish experience on a daily basis. We rely entirely on volunteers for everything having to do with this site, including the recaps.

We rely on people to step forward to volunteer to recap a show they're planning to attend. Sometimes it's been difficult to get a recapper for a show and in fact some shows in recent years were not recapped for this site at all, because no one bothered to step forward to recap it. I mention this now only because were we to require recappers to follow a particular "template," this may discourage some fans from bothering to volunteer to recap a show, and it would certainly discourage creativity, at least in my opinion. And I'd much rather there be a recap that challenges (or even offends) some fans now and then, if only in part, than that every recap proceed within the strictures of a "template" or set of guidelines (especially if designed to restrain a recapper from negatively characterizing the music performed in that recapper's opinion).
, comment by JMart
JMart Excellent description of the > vs -> movement between songs.
That being said, I listened to all three shows and the magic wasn’t really there for me. Attendance bias? Maybe. Just calling them as I hear them.
Rest up for December, folks. See you in CHS
, comment by wtwrva
wtwrva "an attempt at the new band Phish Tribe Sector Nine. This section of the jam felt different to anything Phish has ever done."

Yep! Boyz were blowing my mind right there, just ripping the face right off w/ sounds I ain't never heard them do.......very exciting! Many of Trey's moves so predictable, but had no idea where he was going, driving us onto precipice of heights never fathomed! Oh yeah!

Best phish shows I ever seen, and been doing phish since Junta tour, where I bought double cassette tape from Page at merch table.

Mofo dmt vap cartridge I got in lot for $30 was missing little brass conductor pin, so didn't get to try it out even though I had butta spot on floor halfway 'tween soundboard and stage w/ all the mini tarpest, all three nights, had to make friends after getting barked at for standing on white between the mini tarps, before the anals retints consolidated the tarps and closed the gaps .......jeez!.....those peeps! least they aren't drunks! I was in same area all three nights, had to lay the law down about ZERO draft beers in my dance zone, finally made peace when they realized I wasn't going no where.

Saw GD cover band at local planetarium in PDX cradling working pen and functional cartridge......and BOY HOWDY! Gotta love new tech! I would strt timer on iphone when I took a deep pull and time peaks........looks like I got about 15 really deep pulls from pen, I used the lap function to segregate the different time intervals. Really like fact that visuals are so powerful, potent, fells so good, and doesn't last forever, or make one clinch jaw. So powerful.

THIS IS WM.! IF YOU SEE ME STANDING ON WHITE FLOOR...... DON'T EVEN THINK i AM GOING TO MOVE, NOT GONNA HAPPEN SO YOU CAN FORGET ABOUT COMPLETE YOUR COVERAGE, 'CAUSE AM HEAR NOW! I stayed on floor for two nights w/ no break, danced so hard I sweated it all out, cause I could only produce a half pint after show. Clean living!

Kinda made me sick to my stomach realizing there was only ONE ROAD OPEN to get everyone out of venue, which I thought was very costly for phans, someone at Dicks/phish should have contacted RTD and had a few city buses set up on dedicated road to get phans going downtown to the airport line stop a mile from Dicks? Mofo UBER was charging $60 to go a few miles, I ended up walking and finally got picked up and lifted for $10 to station, but, really, 5 or six buses could have whisked phans away to rail, and Union Station before line stopped running? Seems like I spent all weekend transiting between downtown Denver and Commerce city. I'll know better next year!

Gotta add: So thankful I have been training on bicycle for year, no way I could have done this run out of shape. Even w/ prefect transit conditions phish still demands every once joy we can muster, drives us to our best places. I am in NO WAY as in the excellent condition the band enjoys, I KNOW the boyz wanted to, and could have, gone all night. The Gramp band were in great shape, phans were in top condition, phish phns definitely ready for apocalypse.

P.S. I was at Coventry, so imagine my joy walking out of Dick's on Sunday, looking for my rut sack I had to stashed in bushes near distant soccer field, couldn't store t airport, not pissed because I had to walk a mile to retrieve gear, praying some wook hadn't accidentally taken a deuce, or blew grits on my stuff.

;) I didn't get to try the dmt vap until following week, let me tell you, SO MOFO DECADANT! Next time I see phish it will be phish playing to me while I cradle that dmt vap pen! OMFG!!!!!! the doses I acquired from head on tour were very powerful, outstanding visuals the first night anyway.........definitely needed to change up headies to cycle through the range of receptors, get resistant to doses visuals stepped on........etc.

blah, blah, blah........
, comment by Gil95436
Gil95436 What I love about Phish besides the deep well of music is the band's affection and appreciation of their fans. This was my fifth show, so you know my perspective. Nevertheless, it was evident from the first song Sunday night. This was a night for the hard core, faithful fans. From the song selections to the performances, Phish came to say "We love you!"

The crowd was treated to some of the groups most iconic songs like 2001, Tweezer, First Tube and a sizzling Tweezer Reprise that blew doors. Phish came to deliver to the devotees. Trey, in particular, seemed intent on giving the die hard what he thought they deserved. It was easy to see he was pouring on the gas to an already smoldering set and string of shows. In one moment he was psychotically beating down on his strings running around the stage whipping the audience into a roar of cheers and in the most iconic moment of the concert Trey gradually lifted his instrument into the sky with both hands, strings facing the audience, all the while producing an other worldly sound that reached into the sky as if to make an offering to the rock gods; but this was meant for the fans who seemed to lose their minds at the apex. Trey's full jedi powers were on display. He was aiming to please and he hit the bullseye with this display of joy and exultation. Night three was for the faithful who " Never miss a Sunday show." 
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