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Phish Dick’s — Commerce City, CO

Interlude: Wisconsin -> Michigan -> Chicago -> Lawn Guy Land -> Real Life -> Denver

(7/15 – 8/29)

It’s Monday morning, July 15 and Island Girl, TPhish, and I have some kinda Alpine Valley N3 hangover. Our flight home from O’Hare isn’t until much later tonight and we have the perfect cure in store — a day in New Buffalo, MI with my oldest sister and her boys. We pack up camp, throw our belongings in the car, and head east about 2 hours past Chicago and through Northern Indiana up into Michigan. We drop TPhish off at the local library to take a final exam and Island Girl and I meet Big Sis and the nephews down at the beach for a few hours.

The boys are eager to hear how the weekend of shows was and Island Girl and I do our best to explain how what went down last night was likely the best show of our lives. We trek through the hot sand and cozy into our beach chairs. The boys and I throw a few rounds of UNO before taking a dip in the refreshing waters of Lake Michigan. The heat is oppressive and after so long we all agree to call it quits. We roll down the street to the boys’ favorite burger joint, Redamak’s, picking TPhish up along the way.

Nephews & Redamak’s — Come get some!

Everyone is hungry and scarfs down the finest burgers in the Midwest. I get in on some arcade action with the nephews as they plead for more quarters after each round of gaming. After lunch, we still have some time to kill so we head down the street to Oink’s for some nice, cold ice cream to beat the sweltering heat. The Sun, however, will not be outdone, her rays making quick liquid of our delicious ice cream cones. This is that you gotta eat this quickly kinda heat. And just like that, it’s time for us to hit the road back to Chicago to catch our flight. The bookends of family time around Alpine Valley are complete, and before I know it, I’m back in Lawn Guy Land late Monday night.

This is how you end 3 straight weeks of Phish tour

The first day home is strange and I have a lot to process. Not just the fact that I spent 3 weeks on the road following around a group of 4 men playing goofy music. There’s a lot of feelings, expectations exceeded or not met, lessons in communication (or lack thereof). The time on the road, thrilling and fun as it has been, at times was a bit of a roller coaster. Some of this was directly a result of my behaviors, actions, words while some, though I played my role, were out of my control due to other people being… well, other people. I do not regret in the slightest this adventure but I am left feeling the presence of a void. The first few days of absorbing and observing these feelings and thoughts are a bit of a struggle but I put my tools to use, reaching out and letting my friends and supporters know what’s going on. This very idea of connecting with others is what got me clean (and kept me so). While the solution or healing is not always instant, there is no situation I have been through that hasn’t been helped with connection to others. So that’s what I do, and soon I’m back in the swing of real life. Plus, I have Dick’s to look forward to.

Speaking of which — it’s now about 2 weeks out from Dick’s. The Phish community is abuzz as stories begin to spread of an infestation of Plague riddled fleas and prairie dogs in areas surrounding Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The Plague. As in the Bubonic one. The Bubonic Plague that stole sleep from me after 5th-grade history and wiped out ⅔ of the European population in the mid-1300s. Dick’s may be in jeopardy.

So the first thing I do, naturally, is order a plague doctor mask to paint up in Fishman muumuu style to wear at the shows. As the situation progresses the Commerce City, CO powers that be decree the areas designated for camping and Shakedown “Alley” will be shut down. But the shows will go on. The 86ing of camping is no worry to me as I have prior arrangements to stay with a very old friend, Hogan, in Denver.

Life. Work. Meetings. New York Traffic. Repeat. A bitchin Kurt Vile show in Central Park. Work. Traffic. A sensory but underwhelming Tame Impala show at MSG. Life. Repeat. HOLY SHIT IT’S DICK’S WEEK! On Wednesday, I hitch a ride from Barka to the airport for my first trip to Denver in over 4 years and my first trip there clean. In fact, this is going to be my first time hanging with Hogan clean. We go way back, probably 10 years. If you go back that far with me, you’ve seen me through the shit. The shit was not pleasant nor pretty. Hogan’s one of those dudes who knew way back that I wasn’t making it the way I was living and did what he could to point me in the right direction. But as I’ve learned in my recovery and attempts to guide others, you can’t help a soul that won’t help itself.

Kurt Vile in Central Park
Tame Impala — delivers on the light show and not much else

We’ve kept in touch through the years but haven’t hung out in over 3. That last time hanging out I was kicking a habit in the thick of a Durango winter — suffice to say I wasn’t much for good company. I’m anxious for our reunion, insecure that for some reason he won’t jive with the new me even though this version is far more healthy and fun to be around. I mean, for starters, I can go more than 45 seconds into a conversation without nodding out and drooling. This kind of thinking, this insecurity even having a voice, is one of the more insidious aspects that an addict lives with. The shit isn’t even logical, yet here I am.

I land in Denver early afternoon, pick up my rental, and kick it around Hogan’s neighborhood, the RiNo district, while I wait for him to get off work. The first thing I notice in this area is nearly all of the walls are covered in artistic murals. RiNo’s facades serve as an endless outdoor art museum, part of an annual initiative known as “Crush Walls.” I pop into a coffee shop to catch up on a little work before heading across the street for a bite to eat. I pick the Denver Central Market, a sort of ritzy-ish food court with just about everything to offer in the way of eats. I settle on a bougie charcuterie (see?) and cheese platter paired with a tall boy of Pellegrino. A spot on the outdoor patio calls my name and I crack open some Dostoevsky to round out the classy solo affair.

Stranger Things mural in RiNo
Meat, Cheese, & Pelle G

While in the thick of another neurotic Russian tome when Hogan arrives. We exchange a long-overdue hug and immediately hop into multiple years worth of catch-up conversation. My aforementioned insecurities over this reunion instantly quell. Our communication is lively, vivid, and earnest. I realize our friendship, despite a geographical distance, has grown closer than ever, in large part due to our respective healthy movements in life. Funny — not being high as a kit 24/7 will have that kind of positive impact on a relationship. A lot of you guys know this instinctively, but if you’re anything like me, this is one of those things you had to find out the hard way. Oops. Better late than never.

Before we know it 2 or 3 hours have passed by in this chat of how things were versus how they are now. It’s hard to avoid Memory Lane under the circumstance of this meeting. In this case, though, there’s less nostalgia and more bewilderment over what life was actually like then (so many “wtf were we thinking?” statements) coupled with gratitude for making it out alive and being here, together, now.

Back at Hogan’s apartment is another reunion for me — this time with his goodest girl, Banksy. After all this time this sweet pup still remembers me! She welcomes me as her temporary roommate with paw shakes, licks, and a willingness to receive my rubs. Hogan and I order pizza and continue our conversation on his patio. His view overlooks the sharp divide between the gentrified RiNo district and the as yet not repurposed area surrounding the Salvation Army. Homeless junkies rummage through dumpsters below us and I can’t help but recognize a former version of myself in them. I have been these people. I sympathize and empathize and throw up a prayer that they find what they’re looking for, not in the rubble of the dumpsters but in their hearts and souls.

When I wake up on Thursday I brew a cup of coffee and head out on Hogan’s porch. With mountains on the horizon, I can’t help but throw on Joe Walsh’s Rocky Mountain Way to start my first official full day in Denver. Hogan is soon up and we spend the morning hanging out old-times sake style. In the early afternoon, we link up with Wook Bby Alex and her main squeeze, Bearoo. These guys hit it off instantly with Hogan as two duos seamlessly become a quartet, strolling up and down RiNo’s streets and shops like a handful of refined and matured wooks (example of refinement in this case: seeing lots of cool, neat shit but not custying up).

In the early evening we split up and Hogan and I make the 12-minute walk from his apartment to Coors Field. Tonight we’re taking in the Rockies game against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates. Both teams are in last place, so we get home plate seats on the cheap. We root, root, root for the home team to no avail. Still, even a lopsided scoreboard cannot diminish the pleasing sites and sounds of a ballpark brought to life. After the game, we head home to call it a night until I get an e-mail informing me I’ve won a pair of tickets to see a collective of musicians perform a Paul Simon tribute tonight at Cervantes. Hogan is beat so I head to the club solo.

Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies

The group features 2 members of Trey Band, Jennifer Hartswick and James Casey, among other jam scene veterans. Right out of the first note the jammed out takes on Paul Simon’s classics are scorching hot. I’m grooving hard when I start to think about pacing myself — Phish doesn’t even start until tomorrow! But it’s a fleeting thought — I’ll worry about tomorrow tomorrow — and as anyone who has danced with me at a show will tell you, I can’t stop myself if I try, so long as the music is moving. Most of the show I’m moving solo, dancing and laughing with strangers, until Lawn Girl shows up fresh from JRAD at Red Rocks. We rock out the rest of the way until the closing note strikes at 2:30 am. Lawn Girl’s spot is on the way back to Hogan’s so I drop her off on my way before getting back, already riding a clean, natural Rocky Mountain high before Dick’s has begun.

Jennifer Hartswick & James Casey of TAB with a buncha other badasses crushing Paul Simon

Chapter 8: Phish Dick’s

Commerce City, CO (8/30-9/1, Shows 17, 18, 19)

“Taste the fear, for the Plague is drawing near…”

Dick’s N1

Dick’s is officially here.  I’m struggling to get up, exhausted from the raucous late-night pre-show that moved me far more than expected when Wook Bby Alex gives me a buzz.  She’s got an invitation for Hogan and me to join her and Bearoo on a southbound venture to the Garden of the Gods. I want to take the easy and lazy way out this morning, but Wook Bby Alex reminds me I didn’t come all this way to fart around on the couch.  I’m here to play, not relax. So Hogan and I are in and within an hour we’re scooped up, and after a quick pit stop for breakfast, we’re on our way.

The hike through the park is perfect for the day — it’s not too strenuous and there’s plenty of cloud cover to beat the heat. The entire setting is a natural haven of earth porn. The title Garden of the Gods is perfectly apt — Hogan comments that the jutting sedimentary red towers and beds appear as zen garden decor put in place by the gods and titans of a mythological realm and time. We eventually find a seat atop a popular formation and take in the spectacular horizon. When a light drizzle begins to pelt our heads we make our descent and finish our rounds. I’m damn glad Wook Bby Alex coerced me into this voyage — I know I would kick myself if I passed this one up.

Hogan & me x 3. Far out, Brother. Photo credit: Wook Bby Alex
Bearoo, Wook Bby Alex, & me in the Garden of the Gods

After we get back to Denver, I have a few minutes to rest up before heading out for Dick’s.  I park in the free lot about a mile away and take advantage of the free shuttle system to get the rest of the way to the venue and step off the bus into a lively scene. I was told Shakedown would be canceled because, ya know, the Plague. But it’s a tall task to put a tight lid on the playful proclivities of Phish Phans and sure enough, they’ve turned a storm into a rainbow with an alternative setting for Shakedown.

Adorning my plague doctor mask, I navigate the impromptu narrows of the unofficial but booming Shakedown.  Eventually, I run into Lawn Girl on the grassy knoll. She introduces me to too many folks to remember the names of, except for Billy Joel.  I laugh a kind of “Yea, ok, dude…” laugh at this introduction until he and Lawn Girl assure me that his name is, in fact, Billy Joel. He’s a real-life Michael Bolton a la Office Space.  I trail Shakedown a couple more times, taking in the pre-show sights and sounds of my first Dick’s. This annual Phish Labor Day tradition is reputed to have the best Shakedown and lot scene on tour, and while this year’s version is atypical and I’m left without the usual experience offered, I am anything but disappointed by the ingenuity and quick work that makes this year’s edition possible.

As showtime nears I make my way inside Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.  I take in my surroundings and adjust to the lay of the land, locating the Phellowship table before heading down to the field to look for Rick and Mandy from Sand Diego (and Bangor! And Camden!).  They’re posted up toward the front, Mike’s Side. I don’t know what it is about these two but I am so happy to see them. Actually, I kinda do know what it is about them. They’re new friends, made this Summer, but we’ve kept in touch leading up to this run.  They’ve kept up with my recaps and given me encouragement and expressed excitement over reading. Rick reached out to me pre-Alpine Valley and I felt like he was there in spirit. I feel like I’ve known them for much longer than 2 months. They’re more experienced than me — both in Phish and in life — but they never come across with even the slightest hint of condescension or superiority.  On the contrary, when I directly express insecurity toward them, they brush it off for me, reminding me we’re all in this together. Just a couple of grown-up kids with a lot of love in their hearts who get joy from other people’s joy — they’ve read the book, they’ve surrendered to the flow, and they want you to be happy (apply any and all positive Phish-isms to these two here).

San Diego Mandy & Rick & me kicking off Dick’s

Soon the lights are down and Phish takes the stage.  They pick up thematically where they left off on Alpine Valley N3 with the bust-out rarity opener Can’t Always Listen, only the 2nd performance ever and the first since 12/30/15 (142 shows).  By the time the stadium rock anthem Free comes next, I part ways with Rick and Mandy to seek more dance space toward the back. As I dance toward the back, Trey sings “Fleaaaaaa” over the usual word “Free,” cracking the crowd and himself up with a dad joke nod to the Plague.

At the back, I run into Wook Bby Alex and Bearoo, among other Phells. I have found the dance party just in time for No Men in No Man’s Land. 555 comes next, and though it isn’t my favorite (as I’ve pointed out every damn time it’s played this Summer), I can’t say I hate it this time. Any slight boredom is assuaged when I’m soon thrown Back on the Train. This song is never not good. Rift and Steam follow in a neatly paired package and then we’re treated to some foot stompin’ action with Poor Heart. Undermind brings us back to the child-like bounce before the ballad Train Song settles things down. I put my Wingsuit on as I soar on the blissful guitar riffs that come after the lyrical section. This is one of those songs I’m never jumping up for at the start but find myself riding in sheer joy toward the back half. Set 1 closes out in solid fashion with a short but jam and peak filled Blaze On.

Phish Dick’s N1

During set break, I head upstairs to grab a pretzel (decent — not terrible, not great) and a slice of pizza, snagging some sweets from the Phell table before making my way back down.  

Set 2 is upon us with the perfect reminder that Everything’s Right.  This evolves into a stellar version that touches a lot of spaces before landing its ethereal soundship on Mercury.  The Dick’s take on Mercury more than makes up for the truncated Alpine N3 version and gives Camden’s rendition a run for its money as best of the year.  A 24-minute ride through the cosmos touches down in the Shade for a much needed cool down before we’re cast back into Light. Although everyone is already well aware, Phish reminds us that its Party Time before the get down moves onto the scorching Sand.  Nobody is asking What’s the Use? as we’re taken to a place of psychedelic reflection. This whole damn thing — that’s the use!  Just to blow our minds a little more in an already (inter)stellar set, a perfect (and possible personal favorite in-person) version of Harry Hood closes out Set 2 in a galaxy far, far away.

So of course, since we’re already far out, brother, what else is there to do but hit us with a S.A.N.T.O.S. encore?  This is what Dick’s smells like — and I’ll tell you what, it smells damn good.

Dick’s N2

Day 2 starts with a bit of sleeping in.  It’s Saturday but Hogan has work so on his way in I follow him out.  I touch base with none other than Flannel Man. He got in from North Dakota last night and was unable to make it to the show, ticket demand being higher this weekend than it has been all Summer.

We meet up at Voodoo Donuts for some coffee and a sweet breakfast. I met this dude from North Dakota at a meeting in Milwaukee, proceeded to rage the hill of Alpine Valley with him, and now find myself breaking bread with him in Denver 6 weeks later before we party down on another 2nd night of a run. Any way you slice it, this kind of connection is one of the neatest aspects and benefits of being clean and catching Phish. After scarfing down our donuts we head over to the Phan Art set up at a hotel near the venue.

This is the part where I custy up in full-blown wook fashion, snagging a print depicting the Plague situation and a pair of (ladies) yoga shorts to allow unencumbered dancing mobility.  Flannel Man makes a few purchases for his brother before we part ways with plans to reconvene later at the venue.

I make a quick run back to Hogan’s to get him his key while we take Banksy for a lunch break walk.  As Hogan heads back to work I head back to Dick’s, taking advantage of the free parking and shuttle service, this time copping a free commemorative water bottle before I board.  Over at the venue, Shakedown seems amplified from N1. I find Flannel Man and we do a few loops in and out of Shakedown, snapping photos with life-size cut out of the band on the grassy knoll.  My booty short/plague mask combo has folks either laughing, freaking out, or both. I’m happy to be a source of either. A few Phans even stop me to ask for a picture, which I happily oblige. This mask is about the first creative thing I’ve ever done and I’m glad it’s providing people with some fun.  Flannel Man and I chill outside the gate for a bit and send a picture back home to Island Girl.

Phish & me on the grassy knoll
Flannel Man & me outside Dick’s N2

Eventually, I make my way inside.  I stop at the table and kick it for a few with KGizzle before heading down to the field to link up with Wook Bby Alex, who is sans Bearoo tonight (he’s back at Hogan’s, kicking it Colorado style).  I pop a squat with her and she tries on the plague mask. She introduces me to Lil Panda, her hostess for the weekend who enlightened me via speakerphone yesterday on the headiest Wook Science theory regarding the life of Jesus Christ.  Now I can put a face to the genius voice. Another new friend, Suzy Greenberg (the song is actually named after her, even though Phish doesn’t know it…yet), pulls up and introduces herself, perhaps having noticed a new face tagging along with some of her friends.  I love and appreciate this engagement. This whole back section is composed of Phells, but not all seem eager to make a new friend, with some seeming to avoid the occasion. I can get hung up on this kind of avoidance — it’s clear to me we are all associated in some way, dancing like giants in a giant amoeba with mutual friends abound.  I can be right in the thick of it and still feel left out. But Wook Bby Alex, Bearoo, Lil Panda, and Suzy Greenberg don’t play by these rules and I’m grateful toward their unknowing calming of my insecurity. And perhaps, I think, this perceived stand-offishness of others is as much my doing as it seems to be others’. Either way, a Phish show is no time or place to get stuck in this kind of mentality, and the aforementioned gang, again without knowing, snaps me out of it.

KGizzle & me getting ready for Dick’s N2
Wook Bby Alex keeping the Plague at bay

Set 1 is funked up right out of the gate with a Moma Dance opener giving way to The Final Hurrah.  At some point, I see a text from Kinetic beckoning me up toward the soundboard. I crawl up her way through Gumbo to find her, The Wook Dad, and more just in time for the first Access Me since 7/1/12 (275 shows).  This song holds a special place in the Phish chamber of my heart — it’s a rarity, being played for only the 6th time ever tonight, but more so, it was also played at my first show, Miami 12/29/09, the 8th song I ever heard live from these dudes.

Funky Bitch is next before a slow starting Ghost compels Kinetic, The Wook Dad and me to take a bathroom break.  I lose them when I exit the bathroom and after a minute or two of searching, I’m content to make my next move. I circle around the top of the stands and am looking head-on at the stage right as this Ghost takes a turn for the spooky.  This shit gets dark and heavy and has the band playing in full synchronicity on the level of the Mohegan Sun Beneath a Sea of Stars. Once Ghost is done haunting me, I’m thrown for a ride down a heat-seeking, micro-jammed Tube. By this point, I am back downstairs getting down with Wook Bby Alex and Flannel Man.  Mountains in the Mist sprinkles us with a cool down before Drift While You’re Sleeping round out Set 1 and Wook Bby Alex, Suzy Greenberg, and I head upstairs to beat the set break crowd to the food lines.

We munch our pizza, pretzels, and cheesy bread while hydrating and gearing up for Set 2.  To start off the set, I make my way back toward the soundboard and relocate Kinetic, The Wook Dad just in time for the opening Mike’s Song.  With them are Moonbeam and Bun, two infectious love birds from down The Wook Dad’s way. As the jam breakdown of Mike’s Song kicks off, I hear Kinetic’s unmistakable laugh burst out behind me.  I follow the gaze of her eyes to catch an epic downpour of glow sticks raining down from a suite above us. The universal roar of the crowd sends shivers through my entire body as we bask in the glow of a short but perfect Mike’s Song.  The Wook Dad calls the traditional I Am Hydrogen segue right on time before we’re thrown into the Weekapaug Groove. The glow sticks and roar rain down again as the Phans dance like happy fools.

Set 2 is off to a downright ridiculous start when 46 Days brings another Plague lyric, this time with Trey singing “Taste the fear, for the plague is drawing near.”  After 46 Days it’s time to Set Your Soul Free on a subdued and subtle blissful ride providing a bit of a jam breather in time to get Down with Disease. Disease delivers as always and steps seamlessly into the NICU.  Bug keeps the plague references going as we all proclaim “It doesn’t matter!” After our collective existential Bug crawls off, we’re bobbing on the surface of The Wedge. Slave to the Traffic Light finishes Set 2 in pure euphoric fashion.

I catch my breath and exchange hugs with the crew.  Emotionally charged and, let’s be honest, pretty depressing Brian and Robert gets the encore…er…rolling?  But this somber tone doesn’t last long as Phish caps the night off with the proper energy packed Character Zero.

It’s not straight home for a large part of this crew tonight.  A massive squad rolls deep back to Denver for some pizza to wash down Dick’s.  This spot (picked out by The Wook Dad) gets the New York stamp of approval from Wook Bby Alex, Bearoo, and me.  I spend some time getting to know Moonbeam and Bun and like so many others I’ve met this summer, they feel like old friends.  As the night dwindles we head our separate ways. I head back to Hogan’s with some slices for him and I hit the hay to sleep off N2.

Pizza with friends post-Dick’s N2

Dick’s N3

Sunday mornings mean one thing.  Actually, it means lots of things.  But in this case, it means brunch. The Wook Dad gives me the skinny on a meetup at some joint about 15 minutes from Hogan’s.  I extend an invite to Wook Bby Alex, Bearoo, Lil Panda, KGizzle, and Flannel Man. By the time we arrive, we’re running 14 deep and looking at a lengthy wait for a table.  The heat and hunger are making us ornery and inpatient. Surprising myself, I pull an executive decision and get everyone to reroute back toward RiNo for the Denver Central Market.

This turns into a fortuitous decision.  For starters, there’s dietary offerings for all involved and plenty of seating on the patio for the big squad.  As we’re settling in, mid-conversation, someone at the table interjects with a somewhat casual “There’s Mike!” Sure enough, Mike Gordon passes us by and strolls inside.  Like the bunch of geeks that we are, we hop up and awkwardly and timidly start a trail. By “chance,” I suddenly find myself next to Gordo. I want a picture but I don’t want to be “that guy.”  I want to play it cool. I settle with a thankful handshake, barely spitting out a “Thanks for everything you do!” Mike returns my thanks with one of his own.

Sunday Brunch with friends before Dick’s N3

Wook Bby Alex has more reason than the rest of us for trailing Mike.  Before each show of the Summer, he’s done a ticket scavenger hunt on Instagram.  Wook Bby Alex needs a ticket for her man Bearoo, and while Mike might simply be out for lunch, it’s possible he’s getting the ball rolling on his Dick’s N3 hunt.  We simultaneously keep an eye on him while checking his feed but there’s nothing up yet and soon he departs. Food is ordered and nerves are (somewhat) calmed. We’re soaking up the sun and our eats.  A half-hour later, Wook Bby Alex shows me Mike’s feed is active. She asks if I think she should go look for the tickets, to which I respond, “DUDE!” Her and KGizzle are off and moments later I get a picture of tickets in hand followed by another of Wook Bby Alex, KGizzle, and Mike!  Not only did they meet the man, but they also got Bearoo his ticket for the final night of Dick’s!

Wook Bby Alex & KGizzle with Mike Gordon and the golden ticket

After lunch, I head back to Hogan’s to regroup and ready for N3.  I find my usual parking lot and shuttle over. I re-connect with Wook Bby Alex, Bearoo, KGizzle, and Flannel Man for some final waltzing around Shakedown.  We custy up on some sweet Fad Albert swag before making our way inside Dick’s.

I start off at N2’s spot behind the soundboard with The Wook Dad, Kinetic, Wook Bby Alex, Bearoo, Moonbeam, Bun, and KGizzle.  New to tonight’s crew is Johnny Piattoni, my future roommate in Mexico. Phish makes another opening nod to the Plague with Stray Dog, changing the title to Plague Dog.  Trey harkens back to the scene from Between Me and My Mind with, belting out the line “fuckin’ here, fuckin’ there!” Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan takes the 2 slot before Kasvot Vaxt’s dance repertoire Turtle in the Clouds follows.  Up next is Wolfman’s Brother and, as is tradition, I flip my wig. I’m getting down and dirty with my new friend Johnny Piattoni. We match each other step for step, a dance break down serving up the most fitting of introductions.

Birds of a Feather flies in to attack next, bringing a quick but soaring peak.  The third Kasvot Vaxt song of the set, We Are Come to Outlive Our Brains, is next, followed by a choice Taste.  My Friend, My Friend takes a stab in our ears but doesn’t go all the way with a Myfe ending. Twenty Years Later passes by quickly — direct and to the point, with none of the ambitious exploration heard in Camden.  Following tradition, Sparkle sets me into a running in place sort of dance as I match my steps to the increasing tempo of the song. Mike gives us a reminder none of us really need but gladly accept: everybody gets a little Crazy Sometimes.  Set 2 closes out with a potent fill of Bathtub Gin, sending us into set break drunk off euphoria.

Soundboard Views

It doesn’t really dawn on me until this set break that everything tonight is that last of it’s kind for this whole run I have been on.  My last Set 1. My last set break. My last Set 2 upon me. But it isn’t the last forever and if I learned anything between the 3 week stretch of the Summer and my first Dick’s, it’s to not dwell on yesterday’s show or the next one while I find myself happily in the midst of one right here, right now.  I snap back to it as the lights dim for Set 2.

Phish opens with their debut of Ghosts of the Forest surf-rock, 60s pop-infused Sightless Escape.  An incendiary Fuego sets Dick’s ablaze and finds its way slowly into Piper. Pipers seem to be hit and miss over the last few years with many abandoned before they get going.  This one throws that out the window and around the 7 minute mark takes me back up into the same cosmos I’ve been floating on all weekend. I’m not the only one getting this spacey vibe — I pick up on the unmistakable scent of DMT vapor nearby as some unknown dance partner blasts off.  Far out, brother. Eventually Piper settles down and flawlessly morphis into Tweezer. If I was just floating around, now I’m stomping like a giant with The Wook Dad, Johnny Piattoni, KGizzle, Flannel Man, Wook Bby Alex, Bearoo, Kinetic, Moonbeam, and Bun.

We are monsters of movement and there is no stopping us.  In fact, we pick up more steam when we’re hit with Fuego teases and quotes late in Tweezer.  Tweezer rides a long outro that can just tell is leading, sure enough, into 2001. It’s time for a disco-funk throwdown!  As if this set hasn’t delivered enough pure, unadulterated dance grooves with Wolfman’s Brother, Tweezer, and 2001, up next is a wacky Chalk Dust Torture.

Won’t you step into the freezer?

When the composed section of CDT finishes this thing just takes off into another dimension.  It has Baker’s Dozen CDT sounds and vibes going on and for a moment I think they’re going to take it to similar territory.  But alas, the plug is pulled in favor of a Waste cool down. Out of Waste comes one of my favorite all time (short) favorites, Cavern, and we’re given one final Summer suggestion to take care of our shoes.  First Tube rounds out Dick’s N3 Set 2 in fitting, face-melting, throw down fashion, Trey lifting his guitar to the rock and roll heavens above.

Encore trots off on The Horse, which means Silent in the Morning necessarily follows.  It’s in this moment that the sentimentality of this whole run, on the brink of imminent completion, begins to overwhelm me.  It all started way back in the first set of the first show at MPP, when the crystalline, pure sound of this very song blew my mind for the first of many times this summer when TPhish had to explain this song to me in terms of syncopation.  And here I am, in the midst of the waning moments and notes of Summer Tour 2019, of 19 in 19. To officially push me over the edge into tears, KGizzle suddenly envelopes me with one of the most love filled hugs I have ever received. It’s more an embrace than a hug and says far more than words can at this moment.  And the entire crazy mixture of feelings explodes into sheer gratitude — for what I’ve experienced, the people I’ve met, the new sights and sounds, the time with family, for being here, alive.

And then, as if affirming the very fact that any of this is happening because I made a choice, with the love, help, and guidance of others, to live — A Life Beyond a Dream.  Any suppression of tears is now forgotten as the floodgates of my eyes come undone. I’m looking around at all these beautiful friends I’ve made along the way at various stops along Phish tour, friends who I’ve just begun to know but know I have so much more life to share together.  I would have none of them in my life if people like them did not show me how to cling to hope, how to keep dreaming. I am watching it all roll by and I can see a life beyond a dream.  Because of you.

Thank You, Phamily.

And after (perhaps knowingly) pulling at my heartstrings for the first 15 minutes of this, the last encore of Summer Tour 2019, The Phish from Vermont give us one last epic 3-minute bout of unfiltered, uncut rage: Tweezer Reprise!  Everything under the moon for miles around is quaking with a seismic joy sourced only from a group of 4 musicians surrounded by thousands of their best friends. And with that final note and roar of applause, those final pictures, laughs, tears, hugs, farewells, and see you next times — 19 in 19 is complete.

So long, and thanks for all the Phish.

-Ignatius Riley

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