Phish Dick’s 9.2 - 9.4.16

Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Commerce City, CO

Words & Photos By Nicholas Stock
(Fat Guerilla Productions)

Six Dick’s, Dick’s six, that’s a total of eighteen Dick’s, that’s a lot of Dick’s, and I’ve had them all. Dick’s is the not-so-secret Phish festival that has happened every year in the heart of Commerce City, Colorado since 2011. This year locals felt the squeeze as tickets for all three nights sold out over a month in advance, which was a new phenomenon. Each run has featured some trickery or set list shenanigans, but with the conclusive "Thank You, HARPUA" encore last year on Sunday many speculated that it was an end of an era. That would not be the case. This year my personal Phish fandom came full circle on night three, second set, aka the "Crosseyed and Painless" Extravaganza. It was my "Moby Dick" you could say.

In 2000 at Deer Creek, I was just a young noob out on the prowl for good times and a good show. My lack of experience caused me to trade my ticket for night two for night three. My thoughts were, "Well I can only afford one show and they have to peak during the last night." I couldn’t have been more wrong. That show was and forever will be known as the "Moby Dick" show and I listened to it from outside of Deer Creek’s walls. I was chasing that white whale for sixteen years until Phish delivered an epic raincheck in the form of their Talking Heads inspired set on Sunday. But first…

Friday, September 2:

Phish returned to Dick’s for their Summer tour closing run on Friday as fans streamed into the campgrounds. The Bass Center event the month prior seemed to take some of the lushness out of the grass in the soccer fields, but the campground was no worse for wear. The tent city was rapidly constructed as the first notes of sound check drifted over the walls of the stadium. Eventually, the sounds of Steve Miller’s “Swingtown” could be heard before they cut the sound check. That silliness seemed to be in the air as they took the stage for night one. They opened with an authoritative “Ghost.”

Set One: Ghost, No Men in No Man’s Land, Breath and Burning, Undermind, Heavy Things, Stash, Ass Handed*> The Wedge, Alaska> 46 Days

Set Two: Run Like An Antelope, Mercury> Seven Below> Birds Of A Feather, Wombat, Tweezer> Runaway Jim> Suzy Greenberg

Encore: Bug> Tweezer Reprise

*First half performed in a Swing style

Friday felt like the new era coming home to roost. With the creative output of Phish at an all-time high they have incorporated literally dozens of new original songs into their repertoire. That means that these aren’t your older brother’s set lists anymore. They are eclectic mix of 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 songs and with the new album on the horizon anything is fair game. “No Men In No Man’s Land” took on a funky feel through the extensive jam. The lyrically intricate “Breath and Burning” which debuted this year in Noblesville is a bouncy lull. “Undermind” was a rocker before a standard “Heavy Things.” “Stash” followed by the heaviest 45 seconds of rock in the form of “Ass Handed,” which featured a swing style performance. I would say this song could replace “Tweeprise” if I wasn’t afraid of the repercussions.

“That was really swinging…. Just seems like tonight we’re swinging dicks.” –Fishman

“The Wedge” is a Colorado standard, and it was performed flawlessly. “Alaska” was a fun choice and caused the dance party to ensue. The set closing “46 Days” was pure rock.

Musically, Phish is playing at their peak. Their second set was equally impressive and also started with a huge song. “Run Like An Antelope” signaled the return and would stand alone before a massive run that included “Mercury” into “Seven Below” into a perfect “Bird’s Of A Feather.” These segues featured some of the most intricate jamming of the evening. Proving once again that each song is a puzzle piece and the members of Phish are all puzzle masters. The playful “Wombat” had a big bite before the earth-shattering “Tweezer.” Phish pushed the jam hard before jumping ship with “Runaway Jim.” They kept it going strong with a set closing “Suzy.” The encore left us wanting more with a typical “Bug” and a quick “Tweeprise.” It was an interesting show that demonstrates that the Phish from Vermont are still tinkering and adding to their sound even at this late stage in the game. They are never satisfied and they never want to stagnate. Phish is progressive first and foremost, everything else is just a part of that. The lights came up and the wookies scrambled to find their respective rides. The rest of us found our tents and called it a day.

Saturday, September 3:

There's a lot to do in Denver when you are waiting for Phish to play. Many of my friends opted to find a brewery for a drink in the shade. I found a disc golf course and then continued my festivities in the parking lot at Dick’s. There was a wind storm that hit both the lot and the campsite early in the afternoon. Several EZ-Ups lost their lives that day, but more noticeably the dust storm made setup difficult for the vendors. Eventually, it all settled and the business people were able to continue peddling their wares.

As the sun set, the band members emerged to open the show with an unheard of “Slave To The Traffic Light.” It’s not that Phish has never opened with “Slave,” it’s just been 27 years. The mid 80’s called, they said we could use their opener.

Set One: Slave To The Traffic Light, Down with Disease, What’s the Use?> Maze, Farmhouse, 555, Wolfman’s Brother, Divided Sky> Rock and Roll

Set Two: Fuego> Sand> Blaze On> Simple*> Twist> Theme From the Bottom> Also Sprach Zarathustra> Harry Hood

Encore: The Squirming Coil**

*Trey on Marimba Lumina
**w/ Mike soloing on bass to end

“Down with Disease” was the 2 on the 1 – 2 punch to start the show. The “What’s the Use?” jam went deep and it went dark before emerging into a dangerous “Maze.” “Farmhouse” reminded us all that we do like that song. Mike took the lead as he did throughout the weekend on a stunning “555.” “Wolfman’s Brother” was funky, but straightforward. However, the “Divided Sky” took us all to another planet before the set closing version of The Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll.”

While the first set was about tight intricate jamming, the second set seemed looser from the opening notes of the fan favorite “Fuego.” They wasted no time and continued with an epically timed “Sand” before the band exploded on another new song “Blaze On.” Trey found himself back at the Marimba Lumina on an exploratory “Simple.” The unending jam continued with a smooth transition into “Twist.” “Theme From the Bottom” came next and featured an unbelievable solo from Trey. Suddenly, “2001” poured out of the PA and we all strapped in for the ride. They closed with an utterly appropriate “Harry Hood.” The boys from Vermont returned for their “Squirming Coil” encore, but instead of ending with the traditional Page solo for the first time in Phish history they gave that honor to Mike. So as they finished up the body of the song each member left the stage leaving Mike to slap out some magic for us before he too disappeared into the darkness. It was an absolutely enchanting way to end night two at Dick’s.

Sunday, September 4:

We awoke early on Sunday and gathered our gear. We marched out of the campground on a mission to make our tee time at the world famous Bucksnort Disc Golf course in Pine, CO. Several bemused wookies who had yet to find their beds stood at attention as we beelined it to the car. After 28 holes in the mountains we were ready for beers and music. It always gets warm and fuzzy on night three. Friends will wake up on Monday and head back to their lives, but for one more show we are all still here. That’s the beauty of Dick’s, plenty of time to get nostalgic.

Set One: The Moma Dance> Chalkdust Torture, Mike’s Song> Wingsuit> Weekapaug Groove, Party Time, Bathtub Gin> Split Open and Melt, Tube> Character Zero

Set Two: Crosseyed and Painless> Steam*-> Piper*^> Light*> The Lizards, First Tube*

Encore: Walls of The Cave*

*w/ Crossed and Painless tease and lyrics
^ w/ Trey on Marimba Lumina and Page and Mike on percussion

Sunday started innocently enough with a tight “Moma Dance” that eventually gave way to an unbelievably clean “Chalkdust Torture.” An early “Mike’s Groove” featuring an unusually placed, but perfectly organized “Wingsuit” was a treat.” They were hitting us hard, but still no shenanigans. At this point it appeared that this run may slip by without any fireworks. “Party Time” is always an enjoyable part of the set. The “Bathtub Gin” reached a monumental jam that included the impeccable keys of Page McConnell. The “Split Open and Melt” was a bit lacking in the deep jam department, but the “Tube” reached full blastoff. With a segue into a rowdy “Character Zero” that was that. It’s like we were all still waiting for something to happen.

Then it happened. They went into the first ever “Crosseyed and Painless” at Dick’s (not including the tease during “Ocelot” in the infamous ‘Fuck Your Face’ show.) That would have been pretty sweet on its own, but that was only the beginning of the best set of the summer. The tone for the rest of this set was put forth in the mammoth jam during the Talking Heads cover. The “Steam” continued the tone with the first of five returns to “Crosseyed and Painless.” The excitement in the audience was palpable. It was going down and they could not have chosen a better song for this shtick. “Piper” got categorically spiritual stretching out to nineteen minutes with a huge percussion jam featuring all four members and another “C&P”. “Light” has been huge jam vehicle for Phish in recent years and it fit perfectly into this Type II set. The first gentle notes of “Lizards” washed over us like a mist. They closed with a tremendous “First Tube.” As they left the stage the crowd began chanting ‘Still Waiting’ over and over again until Phish returned. The single encore “Walls of The Cave” again saw a reappearance of “Crosseyed” before they jammed out the end of the song beautifully. This set represents the type of experience I’ve been chasing ever since Deer Creek 2000.

Sitting outside as a young fan taught me a valuable lesson. First, if you have a ticket to the show, go in. Don’t think the grass could be greener as you might miss the concert of the decade. Second, never stop going because any night could be your "Moby Dick."

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