Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Commerce City, CO
Words by Mitch Melheim
Photos by Doug Fondriest Photography
Fresh off of this summer’s historic Baker’s Dozen run at Madison Square Garden, Phish returned to Colorado’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for their only 2017 shows west of the Mississippi. The exclusivity of which made the already tough ticket nearly impossibly to get for those who procrastinated, even in the slightest. The cheapest Friday tickets on StubHub were over $100 each and it only got worse as the weekend progressed ($300 for Sunday). Enough to scare most fan bases away, but after what had unfolded in New York City the month prior, phans eagerly flocked to Colorado, many ticketless, in hopes that the magic of those thirteen nights would spill over to the Rocky Mountains.
The lot scene was in full force, as expected at Dick’s. Shakedown Street was more like a full neighborhood and featured live music between vendor stations. Hundreds, maybe thousands were walking around with their finger in the air. Others were waiting hopelessly at the box office after eighteen tickets had been released earlier in the afternoon. The line grew to around a hundred people by showtime and while I’m almost positive no more tickets were ever released, the line only continued growing longer over the next two days. A sure sign of the desperation the weekend’s ticket situation had induced by that point.
After a long wait in line to get through the gates, we made our way down to the floor to “establish our domicile,” as a friend once explained it. Once that was established, we did as any good resident would do to break in their new abode, got high and waited for Phish.
“Blaze On” kicked off the weekend and while I wasn’t necessarily stoked on the opener choice, some impressive guitar work from Trey Anastasio and the always catchy chorus proved to be an enjoyable opener for me. Such was a recurring story for much of the first set as songs like “555” and “Breath and Burning” were more enjoyable than usual. Maybe that’s just because most of us westerners hadn’t seen the band since last Halloween. Regardless of the reason, the weekend was off to a much more successful start than it appeared on paper.
The funk continued with a rare stretched-out “Tube” that reached the ten minute mark and was the sure highlight of the first set. The jam had a sound which I can only describe as “chicken funk,” meaning I felt like I had meandered off the pasture of cow funk and found a barnyard full of chickens “clucking.”
A soft segue into “Roggae” allowed the crowd time to catch their breath and sway a bit, eventually flowing into “More” and inciting one of my favorite corny sing-alongs. We vibrated and pulsated into and throughout the set break, only veering off course for a seventeen dollar cocktail because I was on vacation, damn it.
The second set is where this one really took off. “No Men in No Man’s Land” got the ball rolling and it never stopped as the band tied together a five-song set that most agree to be the best of the weekend. “No Men” clocked in at over twenty-four minutes and explored well beyond its typical funk jam into an ambient jam of evil proportions, eventually giving way to the opening chords of “Carini.”
Solid group improvisation carried “Ghost” through multiple themes and into a drawn-out tease of “No Men” which went as far as featuring quotes from the song. Suddenly, we were over an hour into the set before the third song had finished.
That’s when the tempo slowed down a bit and Gordon’s bass signaled the beginning of “Harry Hood.” Nothing too out of the ordinary here and it soon gave way to the short and sweet set-closing “Cavern.”
A rather run-of-the-mill encore capped off the night. Rift’s closing combo “The Horse” > “Silent in the Morning” preceded “Character Zero,” whose sloppy start was soon forgotten as the crowd sang along and cheered to end the first night of what was shaping up to be another wild weekend in the Denver ‘burbs.
Doug Photo Gallery
Set One: Blaze On, 555, Breath and Burning, Theme From the Bottom > Free, Tube > Roggae > More
Set Two: No Men In No Man's Land > Carini > Ghost > Harry Hood > Cavern
Encore: The Horse > Silent in the Morning > Character Zero