There’s a certain element of unpredictability that accompanies a Phish concert. Sure, you can ask “what will they play next?” at just about any moment of any given show, but there are some shows where that question could literally be answered by anything. The final night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park was one of those magical nights.
In a summer tour marked by the appearance of seven new songs, including “Blaze On” and “No Men In No Man’s Land” on heavy rotation, not to mention the recurring “Martian Monster” (and various other Halloween 2014 tracks) and Fuego tunes, Phish opened the show with the unexpected: the first stand-alone “The Landlady” since 1994, a 768 show gap. The latin mamba had a bit of a love-hate relationship with “Punch You In The Eye” in the early 90’s, but eventually made its way back into that composition. Why did the band decide to bring it back now? Perhaps the better question is, why not?
The first set had a real flow to it, with “Free” jamming into an extra-funked out “Moma Dance” before the delightful “Seven Below”. Free-flowing guitarwork from Trey Anastasio ushered in the powerful tones of “Prince Caspian”, which flowed smoothly into “Backwards Down the Number Line”. After “The Line”, a fun-loving Fuego tune, the group started getting out there. “Scent of a Mule” featured some experimental jamming from the group, as to be expected, going deep into uncharted waters before pulling it back and ending the song properly.
Keeping the set going, Phish plunged deeper into the darkness with “Saw It Again”. The rarity featured some humorous howling vocals, whirling the crowd into a frenzy. “Halfway to the Moon” followed, a Page McConnell original that provided a brief reprieve before two final intriguing selections. “The Birdwatcher” came next, a bizarre tune written for the Trey Anastasio Band and adapted as an a cappella piece for Phish. The lyrics are extra weird, but all too perfect for a Phish Sunday show at Dick’s. “Frankenstein” closed out the set, with McConnell rocking the keytar for this blistering Edgar Winter cover. Trey egged on the shenanigans, wearing a “Let Page Stand” shirt.
The second set played out a bit more traditionally, so to speak. After a rockin’ “Wilson” opener, the band steered into a monster “Down With Disease” jam. The band kept it light, staying in shallow waters and steering through various key signatures. Of course, the lightness was abruptly interrupted by the opening riff of “Carini”. Never ceasing to rile up a crowd, “Carini” and his lumpy head raised the energy in Dick’s to the point of no return. Phish was flying high at this point.
The jams kept on coming in the second set, with Carini seguing into “Steam” into “Piper” into “2001” into “Tweezer”. You may accuse me of brevity here, but that 40+ minutes of music was simply one mega funk-a-thon. On any other night, this would have been the highlight, but this isn’t any other night. This is a summer tour closer at Dick’s.
Phish kept moving through set two, jumping into “The Horse > Silent In The Morning” before closing out set two with the beautiful “Slave To The Traffic Light”. It was a monster set, undoubtedly, but this is a show that will remain infamous for its encore.
After a “Tweezer Reprise”, the three following words said it all: “oom pa pa.” The sheer length of this “Harpua”, which included a grand total of five other songs intertwined, elevated this encore from a show closer to a full blown third set. Anastasio’s narration featured Jimmy as a East Coast fan traveling West to Colorado and getting lost to some local edibles. As Jimmy listened to some of his favorite classic rock tunes, the group slipped into a cover of JJ Cale’s “After Midnight”.
Unfortunately for Jimmy (but fortunately for us), the potent potable took a turn for the worse. Things got weird during a spacey “NO2” > “Keyboard Army”, that is, until Jimmy was reunited with his furry friend, the cat Poster Nutbag. As Anastasio/Jimmy mused about the nature of pet cats, the group went into the Halloween instrumental “Your Pet Cat”. Played for only the third time, the instrumental broke down into a Mike Gordon narration, where the bassist accidentally caused Poster’s inevitable demise by, well, eating him. Evoking some “awwws” from the audience, Phish smiled and braved on through “Harpua”.
This being one of those “why not?” type of Phish shows, the ending of the tune segued into a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Once In A Lifetime”. Phish is no stranger to Talking Heads covers, but this beloved classic rock tune had only been played once prior, back in 1996. 634 shows later, “Once In A Lifetime” returned to Dick’s with McConnell handling lead vocals. The band even included the “a dog… a dog…” segment in “Lifetime”, wrapping up “Harpua” before thanking the audience and seguing into a debut cover of the patriotic “United We Stand” song.
As fans spent the past couple of days speculating what the band would spell out, as has become tradition at Dick’s, Trey delighted the crowd by announcing that “people writing down the setlist would only want to count ‘Harpua’ once.” Finally it was discovered that the band spelled out “THANK YOU” in the SEVEN SONG encore. What a way to maintain tradition and conclude a fantastic tour.
Best encore ever! (SorryNotSorry for the exciting banter)
Posted by Phishlove on Sunday, September 6, 2015
Thanks for everything, Phish. We’ll see you in Mexico… if not sooner.
Setlist: Phish at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO – 9/6/15
Set 1: The Landlady, Free > The Moma Dance > Seven Below > Prince Caspian > Backwards Down the Number Line, The Line, Scent of a Mule, Saw It Again, Halfway to the Moon, The Birdwatcher, Frankenstein
Set 2: Wilson > Down with Disease > Carini > Steam > Piper > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Tweezer > The Horse > Silent in the Morning > Slave to the Traffic Light
Encore: Tweezer Reprise, Harpua > After Midnight > NO2 > Keyboard Army > Your Pet Cat, Once in a Lifetime > United We Stand
 Fish on Marimba Lumina.
 Page on keytar.
 Unfinished. Narration included Jimmy being a guy from the east coast coming west and needing an oxygen tank. Trey sucked from an oxygen tank.
 Included narration from Mike about eating Poster Nutbag.
 Phish debut.
Notes: This show was webcast via LivePhish and featured several bustouts: The Landlady (last played December 3, 1994, or 768 shows), Birdwatcher (June 28, 2012, 134 shows), Keyboard Army (December 14, 1995, 684 shows), and Once In A Lifetime (October 31, 1996, 634 shows). Scent of a Mule and NO2 featured Fish on Marimba Lumina. Frankenstein featured Page on keytar. Down with Disease and Harpua were unfinished. Piper included a quote of Rocking Down The Highway. Harpua included narration about Jimmy being a guy from the east coast coming west, having a breathing problem, and needing an oxygen tank (with Trey sucking from an oxygen tank). Trey then said “I wonder if I should’ve gotten the oxygen in the lot after the show.” Harpua also contained a Glass Onion quote with Trey saying the Walrus was Page. Your Pet Cat included narration from Mike about eating Poster Nutbag. Once In A Life Time contained Harpua quotes. This show featured the Phish debut of United We Stand. During Harpua, Trey mentioned that people writing down the setlist would want to only count Harpua once (by doing this, the encore spelled out THANK YOU).
[Cover Photo via Phish From The Road, Setlist via Phish.net]