Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Commerce City, CO
Words, Photos & Video By Nicholas Stock (www.phatphlogblog.blogspot.com)
The mental build up leading into my Phish weekend was almost too much to handle. It was going to be the culmination of my already amazing summer. What began with Summer Camp Memorial Day Weekend was ending with Phish at home for Labor Day. Amy, Trisha, Eric and I had reserved a hotel in what would become a bittersweet stay at the Denver Best Inn & Suites. The good was that it was only three miles from the venue... the bad was that it was kinda gross. At least it had a decent pool populated with wooks and phans from across the country, and our room had a full kitchen. We arrived at the hotel just in time for it to start pouring rain. I was already antsy to get to the Lot but would have to wait just a little longer. We grabbed a cab and arrived to Dick’s just before 6:00 PM.
I headed over to the South Victory Lot. It was apparent from the beginning that this Lot was an absolute free-for-all. Vendors were everywhere and there was a buzz in the air. The level of excitement was palpable as we made our way over to the COpters meet-up. Organized on Phantasy Tour, there has been a series of threads where Colorado PTers have been talking about everything under the sun. This was our chance to finally gather and meet face to face. ‘IwantMikesHair’ had procured a keg and was acting as the masters of ceremony for the well attended event. I wandered up Shakedown to meet up with the Coventry crew who had assembled for the tour closing run in Colorado.
I hung out for about an hour before we caught up with my brother and the rest of our crew and made our way inside. The line was packed but moved quickly. My one goal was to get a photo pass, and although I tried every possible angle, I was denied. And hey, I get it. Not a big deal. With Amy’s help I was able to get my camera in all three nights. We entered on the south side and after a little bit of debate, we decided to post up in the back of the bus. It ended up being the right decision because not only were the lights much better, the sound was incredible. Despite my early assumptions, the venue was actually set up pretty well with plenty of room that offered an open and airy feeling. The attendance the first night was rumored to be around 16,000, the lowest of the weekend. The storm had cleared off the floor, but as we entered, the kids were reassembling. We were greeted by a beautiful sunset as we settled in for the first of our three nights with the Phish from Vermont.
They opened with “Sample”, an odd choice I thought, but who am I to judge? Here is the rest of the setlist from PT: (http://phantasytour.com/shows/11681)
SET I: Sample in a Jar, Sparkle, Sloth, Sweet Virginia, Suskind Hotel, Strange Design, Stash, Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley> Sparks> Scent of a Mule, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Shine A Light, Split Open and Melt, Squirming Coil
SET II: Sand> Simple> Steam> Soul Shakedown Party> Seven Below> Suzy Greenberg> Scents and Subtle Sounds> Slave to the Traffic Light> Silent in the Morning> Sanity, Sweet Adeline
Mr. Miner’s No Spoilers Download...
They followed up with a quick “Sparkle” and by the time they started “Sloth”, I absolutely knew something was up. I looked over at Amy and commented, “The first three songs have begun with S.” It was obvious we were in for something special going back to the 11/15/1996 show brought to you by the letter M, where all the songs of the second set contained a titular M. It seemed to me that Phish was going back to their glory days not only by bringing in the gimmick of all “S” songs but also by their song selection. “Sweet Virginia” made me very happy as it has not been played in 84 shows and was looking like it could be slipping through the cracks. “Suskind Hotel” is a new Gordon tune that has only been performed once before Dick’s. I ran up top to get “Strange Design” on video...
The visual of the band members was nonexistent, but the lights were amazing and the sound was clean. We were blocked by the soundboard but when I am seeing Phish, it is more about hearing than seeing. From what I gathered during the next day’s show, the sound in the stands on the side was muddy at best. I was happy with my choice. “Stash” was the first chance for Phish to break into that Type II territory and kids were going absolutely nuts. “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” > “Sparks” > “Scent” was my call for the highlight of the first set. They had not played The Who’s “Sparks” since 1996, also reaffirming my earlier assumption of Phish returning to their roots. They are finally playing well enough together to pull off this type of intrepid performance. Phish is firing on all cylinders. Not only has Big Red stepped it up for the second leg of this tour, but Gordon is playing as well as I’ve ever seen him.
The crowd started to “get it” at this point as people began freaking out. Crazy dancers were flailing wildly as the sea of people laid out before us bounced in unison. Kuroda has always been the unofficial fifth member of the band and for good reason; his light were mesmerizingly hypnotic. “Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan” was straightforward before Phish brought another Exile tune out with “Shine A Light”. “Split Open and Melt” could have been the closer but the boys kept it classy with a beautiful rendition of “Squirming Coil”. After Page finished his piano solo he said, “Stay tuned. We’ll be back shortly,” hinting once again for the uninitiated that the “S” factor was in full effect.
It being the first night and the staff being less than organized, I grabbed my brother’s stub and headed over to gate C. I “hey brahed” myself a wristband by saying I had gotten pushed in through the wrong entrance. It worked and Phil and I quickly headed down to the floor which was surprisingly loose. We were on Page-Side about thirty rows back. I had thought the “S” theme would be just for a set, but when they opened up set two with “Sand”, I knew the party would continue. Friday was truly for the fans, a mental journey through what Phish is all about. They were spot on and playing awesome tunes for good measure. In fact, I got seven firsts at this show. For a person with well over thirty shows under their belt, that’s really saying something. “Sand” was transcendental, setting the stage for another super sweet set of “S” songs. “Simple” was straight forward, but the “Steam” that followed featured some serious light and fog effects from CK5. I headed up to my seats in the back as they were going into “Soul Shakedown Party” which was two songs in a row that I had never seen live. It was just feeling like a really special night all around.
The segues remained crispy as the “Seven Below” was the first of two Round Room songs that would make the rotation. It was basically a RR sandwich with “Suzy Greenberg” as the meat and the predictable but awesome “Scents and Subtle Sounds” rounding out the double decker. “Slave to the Traffic Light” saw the most powerful jamming of the night and was definitely my second set highlight. The standalone “Silent in the Morning” was the first of its kind since 1999. “Sanity” was another first for me and took me to Cloud 9 with Trey annunciating every “S” in the song. I was simply ecstatic at this point, but Amy was still waiting for a “Sweet Adeline” which she had been calling for all night. After a short huddle, she was not disappointed. Whenever Phish does an a cappella number, it shows their range as musicians. Having not been played in 285 shows, “Sweet Adeline” was yet another bust out. As if the night has not been amazing enough, they encored with the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”. Wow. Another callback to 1998. This show was definitely for the fans; with so many highlights and rare song choices as well as the “S” theme, it was a payoff for years of attending Phish. I walked out with a huge grin on my face.
The only low point of the evening came when we tried to get a cab back to the hotel. It took us over an hour to get a ride three miles down the road. Other than that, it was a truly magical night of Phish. With two more nights ahead of us, we were ready to get some sleep and hit Dick’s again the following evening.
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