On Sunday, Phish closed out their 2019 summer tour with their third and final performance at Commerce City, CO’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
After making not-so-subtle nods to the whole plague situation plaguing the local fleas/prairie dogs on both night one and night two, the band kicked off their Dick’s finale with one last tongue-in-cheek bubonic reference. While fans had floated ideas for a number of dog-centric homages (“Dogs Stole Things”, “Dog Log”, “Harpua”, etc.), it was a newer dog song that got the plague treatment to kick off the show: Kasvot Växt rocker “Stray Dog”.
Throughout the song, Trey Anastasio altered the lyrics from “like a stray dog” to “like a plague dog”, eliciting laughs from the crowd, the band and, eventually, himself for an amusing start to the show. Here’s hoping everyone steered clear of the plague while they loped around the Denver area this weekend. After all, “it’s f*ckin here” and “it’s f*ckin there”.
Phish – “Stray Dog” [Pro-Shot]
Next, “Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan” served its usual role as a first set fire starter before giving way to the second Kasvot tune in the first three songs, “Turtle In The Clouds”. Mike Gordon and Trey had a little trouble getting in sync for the song’s choreographed dance interlude, but the song was played admirably, and who really goes to a Phish show hoping to get a flawless dance routine, anyway?
After a brief but hot Trey solo as “Turtle In The Clouds” wound down, the band kicked into “Wolfman’s Brother”. Phish quickly pushed this one into improvisational territory behind funky Mike bass lines and soaring rock and roll Trey leads. Clocking in at over 14 minutes in length when all was said and done, this “Wolfman’s” served as a strong first set jam to get the juices flowing.
“Birds of a Feather” was up next and featured its now-customary “The Birds” (“they attack!”) vocal samples from Page McConnell. Though compact at just over 6 minutes in length, “Birds of a Feather” quickly built to a satisfying white-light peak. From there, the band launched into the third early-set Kasvot number of the evening, “We Are Come To Outlive Our Brains”.
An aside: It’s interesting to see the difference in crowd reactions to the Kasvot Växt material and the other new Phish/Ghosts of the Forest songs. While just as “new” as the rest, all of the 2018 Halloween songs seem to have been welcomed with open arms by a fanbase notorious for being slow to come around to new material. When was the last time a new collection of Phish songs was so well-received by fans? Either way, we’re glad Kasvot is here to stay in the Phish world.
As “We Are Come To Outlive Our Brains” faded out, the band executed their first of many segues of the evening into “Taste”. Marking just its second appearance of the summer (after Charlotte on 6/21/19), this version evoked its customary lush tones for a short jam (and an even shorter hint at the theme to “What’s The Use?”) before sliding into “My Friend, My Friend”.
“My Friend, My Friend”, in turn, segued into “Twenty Years Later”, the Joy track that’s gotten consistent play this summer. Yet another segue took the band into the classic polka-rock freakout, “Sparkle”. Next up was the seventh-ever Phish performance of “Crazy Sometimes”, the Gordon/Scott Murawski-penned song off Mike’s 2017 solo record, OGOGO. As the song’s ominous vamp petered out, Trey signaled another segue into “Bathtub Gin”.
A late-set “Bathtub Gin” almost always means good things, and this version didn’t disappoint. The song quickly drifted into a misty major key jam, Jon Fishman adding texture with his tasteful cymbal work as “Gin” patiently built to its first big peak. Chris Kuroda‘s lights stole at least a few sets of eyes from the band during this stretch, as his marionette-like rig bobbed and weaved like DNA strands—stopping not-so-coincidentally on a shape that looked a whole lot like a fish (we see what you did there). The jam soon moved into a double-time groove, and even after Mike and Page started hinting at a return to the song’s theme, Trey pushed them further, helping build up to yet another soaring peak to put a proper pin in the penultimate Phish set of the summer.
There were plenty of strong choices for the second set opener still on the table when the band strode back to their places after set break. However, rather than opting for a set-starting staple, the band went back to their sizeable well of newer material to break out Ghosts of the Forest‘s “Sightless Escape” for its first-ever Phish appearance. The song’s Dick Dale-style guitar flourishes and determined lyrics (“there’s a light that’s guiding me”) translated admirably in the four-piece setting, settling into a driving blues-rock groove before ceding the stage to “Fuego”.
Phish – “Sightless Escape” [Pro-Shot]
The relatively standard “Fuego” offered a few extra minutes of creative improv before Trey inserted the opening notes to “Piper”, prompting a full-band segue into the land of the red, red worm. Up until this point, the show seemed to be geared toward new tunes. However, this patiently-built “Piper” jam kicked off a run of live classics that turned set two into an old school Phish dance party.
Easily one of the highlights of the show, “Piper” quickly moved into a driving, reverb-augmented frenetic freakout courtesy of the unstoppable Mr. Fishman. Some interesting Page synth work kept pushing the narrative further before a droning Trey vamp paved the way for a segue into “Tweezer”. Stretching to nearly 14 minutes in length, this “Tweezer” jam saw Gordon lead the way into the depths for some sparse, echolocation-like improv laden with Baker’s Dozen-reminiscent tones. Some half-capacity Mike bombs helped the simmering jam grow to a boil before morphing into a lush, ambient cloud on the back of some delicate Trey/Page interplay.
Out of the rubble of “Tweezer”, Fishman fueled a blast-off into a funky “2001” space odyssey. The short-and-sweet rendition eventually found its way into another Phish classic, “Chalk Dust Torture”. While not the most exploratory version ever, this “Chalk Dust” quickly picked back up on the set’s dance party theme as Trey helped construct a breezy vamp. After plodding into dissonance and shifting once again into blues-rock territory, the jam petered out as a late-set “Waste” breather settled in. Finally, Phish hit the home stretch of the summer’s last show running, blazing through renditions of rockers “Cavern” and “First Tube” to bring the set to a close.
The band returned to the stage after a brief pause to kick off their encore with “The Horse” > “Silent In The Morning”, always a welcome choice at “annual tradition” runs like Phish Dick’s. This exact thing did, in fact, happen to us just last year. We’re hoping it happens next year, too, and for many years after that.
With time for a few more, the band moved into yet another Ghosts of the Forest song, “A Life Beyond The Dream”. This marked the fourth Phish appearance of the song, all of which have come during an encore. The GotF material continues to get its footing in Phish shows, and this “A Life Beyond The Dream” maintained that trend. After seeing its true potential as a triumphant power ballad unlocked via the incredible version Trey played with Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks at LOCKN’ last weekend, the sentimental lament hit squarely with Phish at Dick’s. As curfew loomed, the crowd knew what was coming next—a monster “Tweezer Reprise” to cap the 2019 Phish Dick’s run.
While this show didn’t offer up big bust-outs or a clear centerpiece jam, it showcased a skillful mix of classic Phish and new musical directions. However you feel about each of the new songs, it’s exciting to see this band keeping things fresh and creative some 35+ years into its existence. Giving an extra listen to “Wolfman’s”, “Bathtub Gin”, and “Piper”/”Tweezer” wouldn’t be a bad way to spend your trip home this morning, either.
That’s all she wrote for the 2019 summer tour. Thankfully, we have fall tour to look forward to in a couple months’ time. ‘Til then, stay safe, charge up, and keep on steering clear of the plague. You’re doing great.
You can scroll down to peruse a gallery of photos from the show courtesy of photographer Bill McAlaine.
For a full list of upcoming Phish tour dates, head here.
Setlist: Phish | Dick’s Sporting Goods Park | Commerce City, CO | 9/1/19
Set One: Stray Dog, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Turtle in the Clouds, Wolfman’s Brother, Birds of a Feather, We Are Come to Outlive Our Brains > Taste > My Friend, My Friend > Twenty Years Later > Sparkle, Crazy Sometimes > Bathtub Gin
Set Two: Sightless Escape, Fuego -> Piper > Tweezer, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Chalk Dust Torture > Waste, Cavern > First Tube
Encore: The Horse > Silent in the Morning, A Life Beyond The Dream, Tweezer Reprise
 Lyric changed to “Prairie Dog”
 No “Myfe” ending.
 Phish debut
This show was webcast via Live Phish and simulcast on SiriusXM radio. This show featured the Phish debut of Sightless Escape. Stray Dog was sung as “Praire Dog” as a reference to an outbreak of plague in the Commerce City area. Birds of a Feather included a The Birds quote. Page teased Rhapsody in Blue during Bathtub Gin. Tweezer included Fuego teases and quotes. Chalk Dust Torture was unfinished.