Phish 8.29 - 8.31.14
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Commerce City, CO
Words & Photos By Nicholas Stock (Fat Guerilla Productions)
Friday, August 29th:
For the fourth year in a row Phish graced Colorado with a three night run over Labor Day Weekend at the now beloved Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Many fans originally questioned the band’s decision to abandon more conventional venues for a giant metal soccer stadium. The last four years have transformed Dick’s from a simple three-show stand into a yearly festival on the Front Range. The first two years of 3.0 witnessed Phish playing at both Red Rocks and Telluride, and while the majesty of those two locales cannot be denied they meant that many fans were left out of the fun. The era of Dick’s changed all that with a spacious floor and ample seating, this 26,000-seat behemoth rivals any of the ‘sheds’ in the Midwest.
Historically, Friday night has been one for a theme or trick and this year Phish did not disappoint. On a personal note Friday was the first time I have had the absolute pleasure of photographing Phish from the pit. It was definitely on my bucket list and a great experience. The lot was brimming with excitement as fans flowed inside. The band seemed to wait until the last drop of sunlight had vanished before taking the stage for the first of six sets.
Set One: Llama, Undermind, Stash, Halfway to the Moon, I Didn’t Know, Nellie Kane, Guyute, The Line, Ocelot> No Quarter, Ha Ha Ha, Suzy Greenberg*
Set Two: 46 Days> Back On The Train> Simple> Ghost> Backwards Down the Number Line> Harry Hood> Wading in the Velvet Sea> Run Like an Antelope
Encore: Character Zero
*w/ Jennifer Hartswick on trumpet and Natalie Cressman on trombone
Rolling Stone conducted a poll of Phish fans for their choice for the ’10 Best Phish Songs.’ Readers voted the song “Lushington” to the number one spot. The only catch is that this song hasn’t been played since 1987 and parts of it have transformed into a section of “Fluff’s Travels.” If you look closely you’ll notice the first letter of all the songs prior to “Ha Ha Ha” spell out the infamous song, “Lushington.” Musically the band came out in fine form. The “Llama” although short was crunchy and well executed. “Undermind” continued the rock theme, while “Stash” included the first extended jamming of the night. “Halfway to the Moon” brought down the tempo and gave us our first breather of the weekend. Fishman appeared for a vacuum solo and threw it back with a rendition of “I Didn’t Know.” This song continues to make regular appearances on set lists popping up about once every fifteen to twenty shows. The band went bluegrass with a very short, but again very choice, “Nellie Kane.” The elusive “Guyute” saw the band jamming out a bit, this being the first time it has appeared in fifty-six shows. We were treated to another track off of the new album Fuego with “The Line,” a brooding Page song that has been working as an awesome transitional vehicle. The “Ocelot” into Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” was the end of the theme and both songs went into a deep musical abyss. They finished with a tongue and cheek nod, “Ha Ha Ha.”
“You asked we delivered, simple as that.” – Trey
Phish could not be goaded into playing the bust out of all bust outs, however, they did give us ostensibly what we asked for. They closed by inviting the TAB horn section out consisting of Jennifer Hartswick on trumpet and Natalie Cressman on trombone for an explosive “Suzy Greenberg.”
The second set was all business with the boys focusing on some impeccable transitions. “46 Days” got things underway with its bombastic rock tone. Phish kept the ball rolling with a bouncy “Back On The Train.” “Simple” was an insanity ice cream cone. It went on well past twenty minutes and contained the most inspired jamming of the entire show. One could wonder if the quote above from Trey, which contained the word, ‘Simple’, was some sort of premonition for anyone really paying attention. The “Simple” gave way for a stellar “Ghost” and “Backwards Down The Number Line” became a giant dance party. During “Harry Hood” fans pelted glow sticks into the air resulting in a magical light show above the audience. I saw a few fans tear up during “Wading In The Velvet Sea,” but that’s to be expected. They closed with a standard “Run Like an Antelope.” They kept fans wanting more with a single song encore, “Character Zero.”
Night one marks the fourth year in a row that Phish has created added meaning in their set lists on Friday. It is very much like a puzzle for fans to cipher in real time. It creates an additional level of enjoyment for the hardcore Phish heads who get off on that sort of thing. With one solid night in the books fans dispersed out into the night and we headed back to camp.
Saturday, August 30th:
Waking up in the campground at Dick’s is much like that of Coachella. The manicured soccer fields are soft underfoot with plenty of room for you and all your friends. This year we had people traveling from Iowa and beyond along with our regular cast of locals. The nice thing was that we were all able to stay together for a relatively cheap cost. Not to mention the ample food vendors and free showers. Saturday was spent playing some disc golf in Conifer before heading back to camp to relax before show time. We headed over to the parking lot around 5 PM and it was again an absolute free-for-all. Vendors were set up ten rows deep flanked by a massive row that stretched out from the corner of the venue. Everything from contraband tee shirts to falafels were readily available on the Lot.
We had GA Field tickets on Saturday so we headed down to our spot behind the soundboard. On night one, rain hit right before the first set so a large tarp was draped behind the soundboard blocking our view. This time our sightline was unobstructed save for Kuroda’s head. The boys came out again just around 8 PM, this time they ripped into a powerful, but unexpected “Free.”
Set One: Free, The Moma Dance, Halley’s Comet, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, 555, Rift, Sample in a Jar, Devotion To a Dream, Yarmouth Road> Sparkle, Wingsuit, David Bowie, Cavern
Set Two: Down With Disease*-> What’s the Use?, Carini> Light> Fuego> Slave to the Traffic Light, Meatstick> Bold As Love
Encore: The Horse, Silent in the Morning, Fluffhead
Much of the first set was fairly straightforward with a few musical peaks. In fact, the set started strongly with a funky “Moma Dance” followed by a nice “Halley’s Comet.” These were both great song choices, but utterly by the book as far as the delivery. “STFTFP” continued the trend but the new Gordon sung “555” began to breathe new life into the set. “Sample” was another nice touch, but again, it stuck to the script. The new track “Devotion To a Dream” was calm, before Gordon returned to the microphone for “Yarmouth Road.” “Sparkle” continues to make regular appearances in the modern era of Phish, but rarely does it get jammed on. The title track that never was, “Wingsuit,” finally saw Phish starting to stretch out. Up until this point the majority of the songs played were in the five to six minute range. And just like that the boys from Vermont snapped to attention with a proper “David Bowie.” They closed the set with a solid, but short, “Cavern.”
With a lackluster first set in the books Phish came back rejuvenated for arguably the best set of the weekend. Opening with an unfinished “Down With Disease” they continued with the post rock electro jam from the Siket Disc, “What’s The Use?” Afterwards the band blasted off into the murky darkness with a huge “Carini.” This was the start of some incredible improvisational jamming primarily in the extended “Light.” “Fuego” has continued to be a new and exciting medium for Phish to play with, however this time they opted to transition quickly into an awe inspiring “Slave to the Traffic Light.” Phish found a new groove and a new energy in the second set. They were coalescing musically in a profound and impressive way. “Meatstick” saw the entire audience bouncing along to the infectious lyrics. The salty treat melted into a striking Page sung version of Hendrix’s “Bold As Love.”
Things got interesting for the encore. Phish returned and went into what up until this year has been the traditional intro song for “Silent In The Morning,” “Horse.” However, rather than completing the transition the band took the opportunity to keep the joke going by starting to leave before “Silent.” After returning and playing “Silent” Trey told a story about performing the song, “In A Hole” in the 80’s. During their set Trey spaced on the lyrics and then emphasized the ‘A Hole’ in the chorus.
“It’s just as funny as it was 30 years ago.” –Page
The band then astounded fans by performing the entirety of “Fluffhead.” Part of me felt like this was a nod to the “Lushington” theme from the previous night. After a huge second set and a very nice encore containing a hilarious story time with the boys, the sold out crowd streamed outside victorious. The audience let out a massive roar as they met the cool air outside of Dick’s comfy confines. Shakedown fired back up to life as fresh customers snagged cold waters and beers of various qualities. We again headed back to camp where we found sleep and dreams of one more night with the Phish from Vermont.
Sunday, August 31st:
Set One: The Curtain With, Wombat, Kill Devil Falls, Bouncing Around the Room, Poor Heart, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, Lawn Boy, Wolfman’s Brother, Waiting All Night, Winterqueen, Funky Bitch, Tube> Possum
Set Two: Chalkdust Torture*> Twist> The Wedge> Tweezer-> Sand*->Piper-> Joy, Mike’s Song> Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley> Weekapaug Groove
Encore: Loving Cup> Tweezer Reprise
The third night felt like a perfect blending of Phish’s entire catalog new and old. Fresh songs interspersed with tunes spanning the whole history of this legendary band were all included. “Wombat” got funky as the crowd sang along energetically. “Kill Devil Falls” has solidified itself as a mid set jam vehicle of epic proportions. The Sunday crowd enjoyed the “Bouncing Around the Room” before the band broke into a quick, but sweet, “Poor Heart.” “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing” appeared for the 5th time this summer. Page treated us to his stylish crooning on “Lawn Boy.” “Wolfman’s Brother” contained some of the funkiest improvisation of the weekend. We were treated to two more tracks off Fuego; a beautifully harmonized “Waiting All Night” followed by a solid “Winterqueen.” Gordon again took the microphone on “Funky Bitch” which became a unified sing-along. A fast musical interlude in the form of “Tube” gave way to the perfectly timed “Possum” to close the fifth set of the weekend.
The last hurrah began with an unfinished “Chalkdust Torture” giving fans hope that it might return to bookend the set. Alas it did not. They kept the show moving with a nicely built “Twist.” “The Wedge” always has a spot in any Colorado setlist, but this version was sublime. The “Tweezer” came as expected, but the “Sand” featured some serious give and take between Mike and Trey. Again, they left the “Sand” unfinished before moving on to a delicious “Piper.” The crowd danced in frenzy as the band played on. “Joy” was a solid choice to both take a breath, but also to really celebrate the weekend. They closed the second set with an unusual "Mike’s Groove" featuring a smoking “Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley” in place of “H2O.” The predictable, but amazing encore was the Rolling Stones’ “Loving Cup” into “Tweezer Reprise.” The bass bomb that Mike dropped announcing the arrival of the ‘Reprise’ shook the rafters and made unversed fans cower in fear.
Phish continues to make their home in the unlikeliest of places with unforeseen, but awesome results. Sure, Dick’s is a soccer stadium in a burb better known for its oil production than live music. However, this venue solves so many issues for the fans that arise at other locations, ample parking, plenty of room, onsite camping, overbearing security or police, no vending, etc… None of these are a concern at Dick’s. There are so many reasons why this soccer stadium makes the most sense for Colorado. It just took vision from Phish and their management to make it a reality. Now Phish Dick’s has become a destination run and for good reason. Not only does it solve the Colorado venue dilemma, it’s also fairly centrally located in the country with easy access to DIA. This means a lot of people can make it from all over the country as well. The fact is that sure, after four years we might want Phish to play somewhere else, but I can’t think of a single good reason as to why they would. See you next year.
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