Phish 8.30 - 9.1.13

Dick's Sporting Goods Park
Commerce City, CO

Words By J-man
Photos By Brad Hodge

There are several universal truths in the universe, one of which being that when Phish comes to Colorado to play Dick's Sporting Goods Park, folks will flock from all over the country to see the scene's most coveted band. With the capacity of the venue reaching a sizable 27,000, this would not be a small gathering. The circus was in town and surrounding the main event were a plethora of smaller happenings. Thursday evening played host to a free Everyone Orchestra show at Denver's Sculpture Park that featured members of The String Cheese Incident, moe., Trey Anastasio Band, The Motet, Garaj Mahal, Elephant Revival and more! Across town, Cervantes played host to a near sold out This Must Be The Band show. Flights into Denver were packed with dreadlocked folks for days leading up to the weekend and as Friday arrived, friends and family reunited for what would be the first of three nights of Phish.

Friday August 30th, 2013:

The camping fields opened at 9:00 AM and the lot followed suit at 3:00 PM. EZ-ups pointed to the sky as grills, coolers, t-shirts, crystals and merchandise of all varieties began to sell. With the lot filling in shakedown was open for business. A typical afternoon Front Range storm rolled in and cooled off the hot Colorado climate. The sun returned for a beautiful sunset with fans scrambling with their fingers in the air for field tickets. The show would not entirely sell out that evening, but it would come close, foreshadowing the next couple of nights. In the sky above Dick's flew planes with banners for cultivation shops as well as a banner that read "READ THE BOOK!!" As commercial planes flew high above the venue, a small plane passed right over the top of Dick's a handful of times. There was no shortage of stimulation on lot.

The lines outside of Dick's were long and full of excitement. As darkness filled the sky, the roar of the crowd came first, followed by "Ghost," a throwback that Phish had played a handful of times on their summer tour. "NICU," another throwback that's been making its rounds this year, came next to the delight of the quickly filling venue. What followed was one of the highlights of the evening, if not the weekend. Trey began by thanking the near capacity crowd and yelling "we love Dick's," before launching into mentioning planes in the sky with layered messages, and giving the history of the book, "Icculus." The song had only been played twice in the past fifteen years, and as they played the short number, old school Phish fan freaked out. It was at this point when rumors started to circulate throughout the crowd that the band was spelling something... backwards. A short "Heavy Things" came next providing sweet melodies and rhythms. Yet another 90's era tune, "Theme From The Bottom," made an appearance as it has a number of times this summer, this time going into "Esther," another rarity that hadn't shown face in a couple of years.

"Moma Dance," came next eluding to the fact that Phish may be spelling "something" backwards. "Moma Dance" went into an expected "Ocelot," the first somewhat newer song of the evening. "Stash," a song that is played at about twenty five percent of all Phish shows, closed out the first backwards word of the evening, as the crowd clapped on cue and got down. "Lawn Boy" came next with Page Mcconnell stepping up to the mic and providing an "L" to Phish's message. "Limb By Limb" left the crowd with yet another "L" as Phish tackled "Easy To Slip," a Little Feat song, for the first time to close out what felt like a old school set. The lights came up and the sea of people parted heading in all directions. A short time later the approximately 25,000 fans returned to their designated space and prepared for the second set of the weekend.

The second set began with "Punch You In The Eye" into "Sand" to affirm that the second word the band was spelling was indeed "Spell." The band got loose on "Punch You In The Eye," before the transition into "Sand," which came with a burst of excitement from the crowd. The well placed newer song, "Say Something," went into "Walls of The Cave," a song that debuted at Madison Square Garden on New Years Eve 2002. "Walls of The Cave" went into "Oh Kee Pa Ceremony" for just under two minutes before transitioning into a beautifully executed "Harry Hood" that was left unfinished before transitioning into "Silent In The Morning" to spell the word "shows." "Silent In The Morning" went into the classic "Twist" that welcomed the ever so controversial "woo" from the crowd, before going into yet another throwback, "Slave To The Traffic Light," to end the second set. The crowd was pleased. After a short time the band returned to perform "Oh Sweet Nuthin'" a song that hadn't been played in about three years. The evening would clearly end with a song that began with "M" and indeed we were treated to "Meatstick" to close a fantastic night one. It was so much fun to look around and see thousands of people doing the "Meatstick" dance while Phish sang in Japanese!

As the show concluded, smiling wide-eyed faces poured out of Dick's heading for the campgrounds, to after shows, to house parties and beyond, most knowing full well that they would return for the following evening's show...

Saturday August 31st, 2013:

There were a lot more folks on lot in the early hour of Saturday afternoon, with the show selling out around the 5:00 PM hour. "Buried Alive," a song that Phish hadn't played in over a year, kicked off the third set of the weekend with ripping progressions! One of the earliest songs from Trey's "Gamehenge" to appear in Phish's live shows, "AC/DC Bag" went into another 1994 classic, "Wolfman's Brother!" "Yarmouth Road," a newer song that was unveiled this year at SPAC, followed reflecting a simple, unrefined output from the band. Another older song from the 80's that hadn't shown face in a year, "Fee," went into the relatively newer "Halfway To The Moon." Another favorite Phish song, "The Wedge" followed marking it's fifth play in 2013. "Halley's Comet" kicked off with the vocal jam before heading into the core of the song and heading into a stellar "Bathtub Gin" with the band building up and tearing down the fantastic composition. The characteristic drum beat from "Bouncing Around The Room" came from John Fishman on the kit. The song opened up and went into Mike's "Mound" featuring some captivating airy key work from Page. "Gumbo" came next triggering the sold out crowd to get down before the band went into "Run Like An Antelope!" The jam was deep and fluid before the vocals kicked into to gear! It was the perfect way to close out the set.

The lights came up, the chaos ensued, and a short time later Phish returned to the stage for the fourth set of the weekend. They kicked off the set with "Chalkdust Torture," one of the most played and most rocking songs from the band's catalogue. The relatively newer song "Light" went into "46 Days" with glowsticks flying through the air. "46 Days" transitioned into the slower, "Steam," a song that has been in steady rotation since 2011, before jumping right into the throwback, "Free." "Joy" followed offering a look into the softer side of Phish with lines like "We want you to be happy, come step outside your room." "Joy" transitioned into Deodato's "Also Sprach Zarathustra" before going into "Tweezer," which was the first since the epic thirty-seven minute "Tweezer" from Tahoe, triggering one of the evening's definite peaks. Glowsticks rained down on the capacity crowd as they danced carelessly and sang along. "Tweezer" transitioned into "Backwards Down The Number Line" to close the fourth set of the run.

"You guys, thanks for finishing out the summer tour with us here. We had such a good time, tonight, last night, the whole weekend and really the whole summer, I've got to say. Just thank you so much. We're going to go back to Vermont after tomorrow's show and we'll see you again in the fall I guess... I hope! All of you! So thank you!" Trey said humbly to the 27,000 person crowd.

Willie Nelson's "On The Road Again" seemed the perfect fit for a Phish debut, before closing the evening out with "Tweezer Reprise!" The crowd erupted for one last short burst before the lights came up and folks were left to their own devices. For approximately 800 folks, that meant heading to Cervantes in Denver for Leftover Salmon feat. Andy Hall and DJ Logic, which kicked off at 1:00 AM! For others, the evening would welcome a return to their respective hotels to watch the walls melt.

Sunday September 1st, 2013:

Folks appeared no worse for wear in lot on Sunday, to attend what for many was the closest thing to church they would come. Kickbacks were in place on a whole variety of goods on lot, and as the evening's show once again sold out early, the search for many began with a finger in the air. My group consisted of the weekend's "usual suspects," Senator Al Gerlach Independent from Michigan sporting an electric suit, Murray sporting a dashiki and Kris Spuckes in a onsie. Everything was on the table and yet, all bets were off. The group assembled, we joined the masses and began the long wait to enter the venue. On the field folks found their space as Phish appeared and began with "A Song I heard The Ocean Sing." The newer "Kill Devil Falls," came next providing a more sought after space. "Back On The Train" entered the picture with fans getting down before Phish headed into "Rift." Fishman driving percussion led the charge and collided with soaring harmonies. "Meat" went into "It's Ice," triggered by Trey's forward moving licks and surrounding Tom Marshall's poem. The jam was strong, heading up and down, taking fans on a musical journey before heading into another 1991 classic, "Guelah Papyrus." That night would mark its first appearance of the year and it was indeed a spacey one.

The band reached back to the 80's for fan favorite, "Divided Sky," that exceed fifteen minutes and made room for some stimulating glowstick work from the sold out crowd. It was performed masterfully and was an instant reminder of Phish's full melodic potential. I stared up at the sky and watched the lights dance as Phish slowed it down. The cheering of the crowd brought me back to reality as the band stalled allowing for the fans to show their appreciation for the moment... and what a moment it was. A minute in a half later Phish continued with the show. The Son Seals original "Funky Bitch" swayed folks, and each member of the band dug in for ripping instrumental work following Gordo's vocals. "Cavern," another twenty five percenter, dropped in like a covert mission on a crowd that was up for the challenge. "Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan" came with folks singing along to lines like "Got a blank space where my mind should be" and "whatever you do, take care of your shoes," at the top of their lungs. The jam was intense and made way for "David Bowie" that reached twelve minutes and explored the full potential of Phish's compositional ability to close the fifth set of the weekend.

Conversations began, goodbyes were said, tears were shed, but only until the lights dropped back down for one final set. "Carini" it was, and heavy riffs followed suit with one of the most intense and euphoric portions of the show. "Carini" went into "Birds of a Feather," for one of the show's high points, before going into "Golden Age," which turned into "Prince Caspian." It was a blissful way to start the final set of the weekend and didn't stop there. "Prince Caspian" transitioned into an eleven minute "Piper," with alternating vocal lines and vocal interaction from the crowd before Trey tore down the house. "Piper" went into Stevie Wonder's "Boogie on Reggae Woman" with Gordo leading the charge before the band went into "Saw It Again." That would mark the first time that "Saw It Again" was played this year, and it was both ripping and menacing. "Mike's Song" came next with the capacity crowd getting down before the band transitioned into the first time played, "Legalize It." The crowd went absolutely crazy and Dick's was quickly overtaken with smoke. As if there wasn't already a plethora of smoke in the air, being a Phish show, Dick's began to look like the Boulder 420 rally of years past. A reference to "Sour Diesel" triggered a scream from the proud crowd. "Legalize It" went into the 1988 classic, "Weekapaug Groove," with Dick's absolutely radiating energy.

The band slowed it down a touch with the relatively newer, "Show of Life," before diving into another 80's throwback, "Suzy Greenberg" to close the sixth set of the weekend. The crowd yelled "Suzy, Suzy, Suzy, Suzy, Suzy, Suzy Greenberg" along side of the band until Page took over on keys.

"Seriously, thank you all so much. This is our last set of the tour and the summer tour. We just had such a good time, I really don't know what to say. You've been, without question, the greatest audience and friends and people on earth that any band has ever been blessed with... Getting to play music and dance with all night. I don't even know how to describe it. You guys are unbelievable and amazing. Thank you, thank you, thank you, so much. We hope you had even like one iota as much fun as we did this summer. Thank you! Bless you from the bottom of my heart. Thirty years... Unbelievable... Oh my god. Thank you, thank you, thank you" said a clearly humbled Trey to the 27,000 person crowd. A short time after walking off stage, the band returned with "Character Zero," for one last build up and peak out. Five and a half minutes later and the weekend was over.

As the lights came up people stared off into the distance, scratched their heads and in a seemingly collective thought, reflect on what to do next. It was a long weekend of music, partying, friends, both old and new, business, and celebration. Looking back on it now, it was one of the greatest weekend's of music that I can recall experiencing. It was a vacation in my hometown, where the lines between people I knew and didn't know were blurred. Dick's became our corner of the country for an extended weekend and left us with more stories than we could possibly tell or recall. It was the best of times for most and reflected a similar sentiment from the band. The following days would involve extensive travel for many and a return home from seeing one of the world's greatest touring bands on the road. For me, it meant a couple of days of rest before returning to reality. Sitting at my desk, a message popped up from a friend across the country that read, "Phish is in their prime... again." I couldn't agree more.

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