Saturday, September 03, 2011

Phish Dick's 9/2/11: The S Show

Colorado. Nothing else like it on the planet, and Phish picked the Denver area to throw down for three final nights to conclude their summer tour. If my sources are correct, these will be the last Phish shows for quite a while.

I flew from San Francisco to Denver on Thursday night with my girlfriend (aka Change100). The Joker picked us up at the airport and we realized we had not seen each other or saw Phish together since the Broomfield run. The Joker and his new baby girl were rocking out on couch tour all summer and he was ready to let it all hang out. We headed to a Phishy pre-party at Quixotes, saw Mike Gordon (my girlfriend was astonished at how short he was), and caught an amazing set from Magic Gravy.

If I could pick two words to describe the entire Colorado run, it would be magic gravy. After all, the final three shows of summer tour were all gravy.

We scrambled around the Denver area on Friday to get everything together for a proper lot rage fest including booze, a pharmie swap, and an EZ-up and a massive boombox -- an intricate sound system that Jonas put together for Denver Cruiser bike rides. The Joker was a little antsy to get out to Commerce City and set up shop as soon as the lots opened up at 3pm. I couldn't blame him, because he had yet to see Phish yet this year, and wanted to get the party started.

We arrived at 2:56pm and the security guard turned us away from the lots. We had to kill four minutes before they finally let us in. The guard motioned to "Lot G" but when we arrived at an empty lot, we pulled up to a different parking attendant.

"Are you looking for regular parking or Shakedown?"

The Joker and I looked at each other and nodded. I've never heard a parking attendant offer up "Shakedown" as a parking option. Usually they are surly, uncooperative and force you into a spot you usually don't want to be. However, it seemed like Dick's staff had the right attitude from the get go.

We parked one row behind Shakedown and went right to work setting up base camp. The EZ-up took a few seconds and the Joker dragged out the boombox and began cranking up a funk mix. Shakedown slowly filled up and just when it started to get raging, a cop pulled up and asked if we had staked down our EZ-up.

"40 mph winds coming this way," he said before driving off.

A girl across the way loaned us a hammer, but we only had three spikes. Did we really need four? We dragged the boombox back into the back of Joker's vehicle. Fifteen minutes later, a quick burst of wind rushed through the site. Before I knew it, I was eating a face full of dirt. The un-spiked leg of the ez-up went flying and almost shattered the windshield of the SUV next to us. I jumped on it and did what I could to hold it down. A group of five people sought shelter with us and the Joker kept spinning tunes.

Then it got nasty. The winds increased, the tornado sirens went off, and it started pouring. The wind was so fierce that rain was coming in all directions. Five or six more people bolted to the Ez-up and I jumped into Joker's truck with my girlfriend. Everyone held down the flimsy structure while someone managed to light up a joint. The Joker spun "rain" themed songs until the storm passed.

It took about twenty minutes before Shakedown was raging again. Our base camp weathered the storm. If that was the low light of the show (and the run), then it the rest was going to be all gravy.

We wandered inside after someone gave me a mystery pill. I'm a gambler so I said, what the fuck? Buy a ticket, take the ride... as Hunter Thompson once said. Most of my friends had field tickets, but my girlfriend and I had "stands" seats and before we could find a spot on Page side, a voice boomed over the sound system warning everyone about severe storms coming through and that we needed to seek shelter. Only half of the floor heeded the warning, and the rest decided to gut it out. The lightning storm in the distance was cool to look at, but we kept hoping the weather system would pass without dumping too much rain on us. A few minutes later the voice of authority announced that the weather had passed and that the show would be starting soon.

Dick's is a soccer stadium, significantly bigger than Red Rocks, but it wasn't constructed with Phish concerts in mind, which meant a few dead spots for sound. Throw in some swirling winds and you got some muddy audio. I was trying to adjust to the spotty sound during the first three songs -- Sample in a Jar, Sparkle, and Sloth. I was pumped about Sloth and didn't realize the first three songs started with the letter S. It wasn't until Fishman began singing the beginning of Sweet Virginia that I saw the pattern as I scribbled down the setlist into my notebook. When Gordo stepped up with one of his solo tunes, Suskind Hotel, it hit me that the boys were going to play the entire set with all S songs. Sweet. But could they pull it off? Would we get Sugar Shack and Secret Smile?

The girl in front of us had an orgasm during Strange Design. A screaming, wailing, extended orgasm. Page was locking up some post-show booty and came through with a silky Strange Design.

Stash had a few moments, but they rushed the jam out before they could get any momentum. The crowd responded to Sneaking Sally with huge cheer. It was one of the highlights of the first set, but the jam got cut short for a Sparks bust-out. The Who cover hadn't been played since 1996 or almost 500 shows. The rest of the S set continued with Scent of a Mule, Stealing Time, and Shine a Light (the second Exile on Main Street cover of the set). I figured Split Open and Melt or Suzy would end the set, but Melt got the nod. The shroomy jam didn't exactly melt my face and it didn't end the set either. That's what Squirming Coil was for. We got a rushed version to end the set, but Page's sublime solo is one of the reasons why we hang out on his side of the venue.

"Wow, all S songs," I said to the girl next to me. She was too spun to notice. At that point, we tried to figure out the second set. Would the S theme continue? Was it prelude for Santana, who was rumored to sit in with the boys because he was playing Red Rocks the next two nights. Many moons ago, Phish played the infamous M set packed with M songs. Maybe we were getting inside their deviant secret -- they are S&M freaks?

After the show, rumors swirled on the intertubes that the S theme was a tribute to a phan named Scotty Novak, who recently passed away. Someone mentioned on Twitter that he worked with the green crew.
But Tom Marshall posted something on PT stating that he and Trey had a running joke after the UIC shows about doing an S gimmick. However, Trey was worried that the joke wouldn't hold up with the tough-to-please crowd. If they did pull it off, he wanted it to be organic and not planned.

Trey and the boys pulled off the S gag in the first set, but they pushed the joke even more and the entire show contained S songs. The second set kicked off with a monstrous Sand. Gordo led the charge before rolling into Simple. The trippy, spacey jam out was a nice treat and I was happy to hear a stand-alone Simple instead of being the mystery meat in a Mike's Groove sandwich.

Steam is getting better and better. Jonas particularly thought the Steam jam was spot on. The crowd went a little crazy with the Bob Marley cover of Soul Shakedown Party, which they blazed through before diving into the deep end with Seven Below. I have to listen to that again before I can figure out what was going on. I was a little schwasted at that point of the show.

A crowd-pleasing Suzy got everyone in the audience shaking their ass. I always wondered if Page wanted to kick Trey in the nuts for cutting his piano solo short. The boys segued into Scents and Subtle Sounds and bypassed the intro. For a second I thought they jumped back into Sparks, but then it sunk in -- SSS.

Phish broke off the Horse > Silent in the Morning double-decker and drove away with just the Silent part. Sanity popped up next and the band finally acknowledge the S them by over-emphasizing "ssssssss" with any lyrics with S's.

The band congregated at the front of the stage and ended the set with an acapella Sweet Adeline. At that point, I was ready to bet $100 that the encore was going to be cheesed out with Show of Life > Sleeping Monkey. But then again, the way the band was thinking, they were not going to do the obvious. I tried to think up any cover songs that start with the letter S... Shakedown Street and Sussido popped into my head. Holy shit, would Phish bust out Phil Fucking Collins? They love Genesis, right?

Phish returned to the stage and my girlfriend thought she heard a Sabotage tease. Trey did the lick a second time and I thought... maybe? They launched into the Beastie Boys Sabotage, which they hadn't played since Hampton Comes Alive in 1998. It was sloppy and choppy, but high-octane energy. The crowd went apeshit berserk (similar to when they busted out Killing in the Name last summer in Alpharetta).

And then they left the stage. No double encore, just Sabotage. In all, the band played 25 songs -- all starting with the letter S. Supposedly, Saturday will be a T-themed show with TTE opener. Sunday is going to be V, with a 70-minute Vultures to open the first set.

I visited the toilet on the way out and saw blood all over the ground. One guy was laying down with two paramedics hovering over him. The guy couldn't stop smiling but his eyes were glazed over.

"We're here to help you."

We returned to Shakedown and the Joker had the boombox already set up. He blasted Michael Jackson and an impromptu dance party broke out. My girlfriend wondered where we were going for the after-party.

"This is it," I said as I motioned to the dozen spun out head dancing around in a circle. It was fun to sit back in a chair and watch wasted people wander by and stop to dance for a few minutes before they stumbled off into the darkness of night. Then the aliens showed up and they kicked the party into high gear.

Phish's first act in Colorado was an S-themed show that started out choppy, but found cohesion in the second set with a couple of big jams. Regardless if you thought the S was a prank, a tribute to a phan who passed away, or for Santana, it didn't matter -- because not too many bands have the balls or repertoire to pull off an exclusive prank and created a smoking show, combining their wit and musicianship.

One down at Dick's, two more to go.

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