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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rocky Mountain High: The Labor Day Run

   I love that the Denver area is like a home town show at 5,280 feet surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. There are that many of our friends out there, transplanted from a dispensary-less Massachusetts to a fantasy land where the right people can actually order off of menus at their choice of myriad places. So Colorado had plenty in store for us from music, to old friends, to new friends, to new adventures - what a blast. Phish rolled through Commerce City, CO this past Labor Day Weekend to end "Summer Tour 2011" for one more 3-day run two weeks after they burned Chicago to the ground, although I still say Summer Tour 2011 ended in Chicago. Calling these shows part of "Fall Tour" is a stretch, too, but that two-week break between Chicago and Denver was enough to consider them different, in my opinion anyway. I still can't figure out why Phish didn't play any shows during those two weeks, and no one's been able to give me a good reason. I suppose Phish doesn't need one.
   The shows were held at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in the oil rig known as Commerce City about 15 minutes outside of Denver. Despite the hideous appearance of the surrounding city, the venue, a fairly new MLS soccer stadium, was awesome - clean, convenient, great seating, great sound (for the most part),  and relatively close lots for quick, easy walking. It was a pretty cool place and although Phish was only the second band to play inside the venue, I see many more shows happening in this place. And of course GA is always fun because you don't have to worry from 7:40 to 8:05 that some dork and his wife are going to come up to you 7 minutes before the show after you've been squatting in the seats for a half hour and say "Sorry bro, these are our seats". Then they just stand there or sit and keep awkwardly looking back at you as if something from your body or clothes is going to come of you and land on them giving them some horrible wook disease - only to leave the show early anyway. Am I talking about someone specifically? Maybe it's you. Probably not, but you know exactly who I'm talking about. So yeah, GA is cool. We had 3-day field passes, but bounced around for three days between the floor and 119. The sound was great almost anywhere you went, and aside from a few places (specifically dead center stands towards the field and the rails around the soundboard) there was plenty of dancing room. So all in all the venue experience was a great one and I hope Phish continues to play there. As far as the music is concerned, wow. I'm not about to hop on the ship that has declared the Labor Day Weekend run as the best shows of the year, but I will say with certainty that they were three of the best. Shit, Sparks and Guy Forget would have been enough to make my trip worth it (both debuts for me - well, almost all of you). From mind-bending jams, to fun covers, to bust-outs Phish rocked the house all the way up until the lone encore of Night Three when they took a collective shit on stage with the flattest BDTNL in history...but let's have the good news first, which is 99.9% of it.

Night One: Friday, September Second: SSSSSSStounding

Set I: Sample, Sparkle, The Sloth, Sweet Virginia, Suskind Hotel, Strange Design, Stash, Sneakin' Sally > Sparks > Scent of a Mule, STFTFP, Shine a Light, Split Open and Melt, Squirming Coil

   Sample opened the weekend and although I'm not the biggest fan it's a rockin' tune and gets the crowd going right off the bat. The first Sparkle in 41 shows (Amherst 2010) followed before my favorite mythical hit man got his shout out with the always sick Sloth. Next was the 'Stones cover Sweet Virginia, which I thought was a Dead cover for about 90 seconds until I recalled hearing it through my flu-clogged ears as I lay half dead in Indio - either way it was sick. Next was Suskind Hotel for only the second time ever (Super Ball), definitely one of my favorite new tunes (written by Mike and Trey but performed mostly by Mike during his runs), and a great version at that. Wait, another "S" song? This was five in a row, but I was still denying any significance as my friends started whispering about the importance. The beautiful Strange Design followed...OK, maybe there was something to this. Stash...yup, we had an "S" set. A raging Stash set the stage for 20 minutes of INSANITY: Sneakin' Salley > Sparks > Scent. Are you fucking kidding me? Salley was bomb and went > the first Sparks in 463 shows (11/29/96 Daly City, CA) > Scent. UnbelievableSilly. Stupid (the good one). Shocking. SHIT! STFTFP followed this sick segue. Another great 'Stones tune Shine A Light followed, then a decent Split, then the classic Squirming Coil. Set One was in the books and already had people talking a blue streak...the boys were in town and had laid it down immediately.

Set II: Sand > Simple > Steam > Soul Shakedown Party > Seven Below > Suzy Greenberg > Scents and Subtle Sounds > Slave > Silent in the Morning > Sanity, Sweet Adeline

E: Sabotage

   Set Two continued two trends, old and new. First, the Second Set was again almost an entire segue, which seemed to be a theme all summer, and secondly, the "S' mayhem continued as the Phish opened the Second Set with launching pad Sand. The Sand was amazing and went > only the third Simple since last fall tour > easily the best new SOUL SHREDDER Phish has in Steam > Soul Shakedown Party, which did the work Makisupa hasn't been able to do in years > a personal favorite in Seven Below > the custy anthem Suzy Greenberg > a sick S&SS > the old phan phavorite Slave > a Horse-less Silent In The Morning > in-Sanity. Are you fucking kidding me? What an unbelievable set! Take Suzy out of that set and we have one for the ages. What's my problem with Suzy you keep asking? Well I'm half-kidding about taking it out of the set, but I do hate the song save Page's 2-minute funk solo. And here's why in a nutshell (Disclaimer: Phans have every right to love, hate, dance to, get excited, etc. about ANYTHING as long as they don't bother others, but...): This dude weasels his way through the crowd finding the smallest amount of room to squat out in. He's bumping into my wife because this loner is insisting upon squirreling up as close as he could before the Second Set. This short skinny dork proceeds to literally STAND STILL with his arms at his side FOR THE ENTIRE SECOND SET...THROUGH SAND...THROUGH STEAM...THROUGH SOUL SHAKEDOWN...THROUGH SEVEN BELOW...YES, THROUGH EVERY ONE OF THOSE FUCKING UNBELIEVABLE RAGING GALAXY TOUR DANCE PARTY SONGS...

...THEN THE FUCK STARTS JUMPING UP AND DOWN LIKE A FUCKING CRICKET DURING SUZY FUCKING GREENBERG!!!!!!! THEN S&SS BLASTS OUT OF THE AMPS AND THIS KID GOES BACK TO STANDING STILL FOR THE REST OF THE SHOW!!! WHAT?!?! OK, he could have been tripping, but come on. That's why I hate Suzy Greenberg. Show me someone who loves - truly loves - Suzy Greenberg and I'll show you a...ahhh, that would be too negative. No, I want to. I'll show you a 21-year-old shit-faced college chick signing her favorite - and one of only four - Phish songs she knows at the top of her lungs. There. The song sucks and so do you if you live for it, I'll leave it at that. That was this dude. It was so hilarious that my wife and I started laughing about the fact that his friends must have had a bet with him that he couldn't move to any sick songs, that he was forced to dance only to shitty songs. If only they had played TTE that might have been confirmed. And I've seen people like him - male and female - at every show I've been to since Phish came back. You sit during Walls Of The Cave, Seven Below, and Scents And Subtle Sounds, but you rage to Character Zero, Chalkdust Torture, and Suzy Greenberg. You look confused during Golden Age, but you're crying during Loving Cup. OK. It's just amazing we're both here in the same place. Anyway, the boys grouped up for A Capella Sweet Adeline for the first time in 285 shows (8/1/99 Japan) and the first time in 404 shows in the USA (also played 7/1/98 in Denmark; last time played in the USA was  8/13/97 in Burgettstown). It was one of the best A Capella experiences in a long time, maybe since that last Birdwatcher. The encore was Sabotage for the only the fourth time in Phishtory and the first since 11/21/98 during the famous Hampton run (318 shows). Crazinessssss. And so ended an ssssstounding start to what was going to be a sick weekend. The letter "S" came and shit sweet music into our ears leaving us all wondering what letter was coming next...

Night Two: Saturday, September 3rd: Golden Age of Dick's

   After a few days in Denver with good friends from the Happy Valley days we headed to Boulder for more of the same. We even got  chance to have dinner with relatives...we're everywhere. Boulder was the shit and made me want to move there with it's beautiful scenery, great weather, laid back attitude,  awesome food, "shops" I'd actually be interested in, and it's only at 5,200 ft. Trust me, when you're an East Coaster that makes a difference. I suppose you acclimate, but when I lived at 5,500 ft. in Socorro, NM I was fine; as soon as I visited my boys in Summit County (~9-10K) I was breathing heavy playing disc golf. So yeah, it's tempting. Without a party bus for Night Two we ripped the 30 minute drive in the rental and got to lot a little earlier than the night before. Shakedown was small, but hopping. Security and the police were as cool as they could be. I saw a few instances where kids were doing stupid shit and a cop would just go over, put their hand on the kids shoulder, say something, and walk away. There's that laid-back attitude (that's really only displayed by locals). After a less-than-enjoyable dance scene on the soundboard rail Night One, we retreated to Section 119 for Night Two. That got a little crowded, too, but that was our crew's fault anyway. 60+ fucking people will do that.
Set I: Possum (9:55), Moma Dance (7:48) > Wedge (7:58), Ocelot (9:21) > Divided Sky (15:38), Funky Bitch (7:11), Axilla (3:28) > Llama (5:18), Fast Enough for You (7:12), Wolfman's (12:07)

   Night Two opened with Possum, probably the most played song of 2011 along with Antelope, BDTNL, Crosseyed & Painless, and Golden Age. Next was Moma Dance which went > The Wedge. Ocelot, a song that is dropping down my "Like" song list as fast as Peyton Manning is dropping down the Fantasy Quaterback list followed. The jam is predictable and really goes nowhere. In other words, the song is getting boring. Ocelot did go > Divided Sky, which is always great. Not a single drop of sweat during this freeze during the Silent Jam...a lot different than Chicago. One of the better Funky Bitch's in a while followed, and then Axilla, which went > a relatively short Llama that contained Streets of Cairo teases. A long, SICK FEFY followed before another insane funk bomb in Wolfman's ended the set. Wolfman's has been KILLING it lately and it was a perfect way to round out Set One.

Set II: DWD (11:50) > Tweezer (14:28) > Golden Age (7:26) > LxL (7:35), KDF (11:02) > 2001 (6:18) > Light (8:31) > Julius (7:24) > Cavern (4:21) > Antelope (10:52)

E: Sleeping Monkey (4:43) > TweepriZe (3:57)

   These Second Sets seem to be of the same theme here in 2011. It seems almost every single Second Set this summer opened with either DWD, Crosseyed,  Sand, or R 'n' R. Trust me, I'm not complaining. That's my kind of Phish. I love ALL of it, but those tunes along with the Lights, the 2001s, the Golden Ages, the Tweezers...these are my Type-Trigger jams. It also seems that nearly every Second Set is either a segue, or could be if you blinked. I love it. So in 2011 fashion, Second Set opened with DWD and went > a LONG SICK Tweezer that had Green-Eyed Lady and Golden Age teases > 2011 New Jam Of The Year (cover or original score) Golden Age > LxL. After a tiny break we got a ROCKIN' and LONG KDF which went > 2001 and > Light, which contained full DWD end solo teases from Trey > Julius > a DEEP MURKY Cavern > into a totally unnecessary Antelope. Phish has forced me to hate Antelope. Many times this summer Phish has ended a bomb set with 2-4 set-ending songs, and usually they seem forced and unnecessary. Night Three Chicago is a perfect example. Look at that set list...the last three songs are totally unnecessary and forced, like they felt compelled to play them for the "faithful", which are probably so sick of some of these songs they could scream (Golgi, Antelope, Julius, Character Zero...ugh). And they always seem to end these unbelievable sets. WHY?!?! Just end the fucking set with Cavern, PLEASE! It's not even like the Antelopes have been sick...they've fucking sucked! Listen for yourself. But there's no denying how sick the Second Set was, or the show in general. Everyone was loving Dick's. The end of tour was nearing, a bittersweet time. One more night. It should be a huge Dick's night, right?

Night Three: Sunday, September 4th: No Guy Could Forget...Or Girl

Set I: Maze (10:15), Back on the Train (8:34) > Rift (5:55) > Gin (15:19), The Way It Goes (5:33), Halfway to the Moon (7:31), Gumbo (5:03), Halley's Comet (6:09) > Tube (4:37) > Timber (Jerry) (5:18) > Roses Are Free (5:05) > Chalkdust Torture (9:10)

   Night Three sure got off to the right start with the first Maze opener in  536 shows (12/9/95 Albany)! After a long sick Maze we were treated to over 30 minutes of mayhem with a SWAMPY BOTT with Sneaking Salley teases > Rift > an UNREAL Gin. Apparently the boys got their shit together after several tries during sound-check because they were able to debut Gillian Welch's The Way It Goes, which contained Streets of Cairo teases from Page, who led the grooving during the next tune, his Halfway To The Moon, a tune that NEEDS to be in rotation! The set just continued to fucking sick. Then we got 20 minutes of straight dance party in four different forms: Halley's (bouncing up and down) > Tube (funk pops and locks and Charlie Chan teases) > Timber (swaying back and forth) > Roses (throwing pumpkins at trees) > Chalkdust (kill me - I'm a teaching assistant at a college...think I want to be reminded that I had a flight in 9 hours to go back to work...can't I live while I'm young?!). It was pretty clear we were in for something ridiculous for Set Two...

Set II: R 'n' R (10:18) > Come Together (3:04) > Twist (7:41) > Piper (12:04) > Hood (12:47) > Roggae (7:59) > Ghost (7:14) > Guy Forget (2:23) > Ghost (0:51), Walls of the Cave (12:37)

E: BDTNL  (8:23)

   R 'n' R...shocking. But we love it. This Rock 'n' Roll did not contain it's famous "Venue Jam", but did go > the first Come Together in 537 shows (12/8/95 Cleveland)! Anyone else find that coincidental? Set One had a Maze opener, the first one in 536 shows since 12/9/95...then Come Together in the Second Set is the first in 537 shows since 12/8/95...weird coincidence. Anyway, Come Together was incomplete and went > a sick Twist, which contained Low Rider teases and a LR jam > a LONG SICK SPACEY Piper with Roadrunner teases and Page on the MIGHTY theremin > a classic Hood > a sloppy but still sick Roggae > a Ghost that made up for Chicago's egg with Oye Como Va teases before they morphed > the allusive and highly sought-after Guy Forget back > a short Ghost clean-up, which contained more Guy Forget nonsense towards the end. Holy shit. Guy Forget...we chase...we eventually catch. I only have a few more left. After a tiny breather the boys launched into Walls Of The Cave, a song that needs to be in the rotation from now on. We've seen this tune a few times now since Manchester and it's EPIC. The second half of WoTC will rip your chest open and fling your heart on stage. Whether the boys stomp on it or not is up to them.
   Now comes the 0.1% we talked about at the beginning: After 33 shows over eight weeks from New York to Alpharetta back to New York to The Gorge to LA to Chicago to Commerce City, CO in a tour that certainly had it's dull spots but was overshadowed by unbelievable musical moments show after show and the best festival in recent memory as far as music is concerned we expected a most appropriately SICK encore. Would it be a crazy bust-out? Would they push the curfew envelope? Would they bring out the Keytar? It was only 11:28...they had over 30 minutes based on Night One and Two. This was going to be crazy. I was thinking maybe First Tube > Frankenstein. That would fill the spot and send everyone off begging for a NYE run. No dice. BDTNL...and that was it. It wasn't even a great one to boot. And I usually LOVE BDTNL. It was longer than I thought, but the encore ended at least 25 minutes earlier then the previous nights. Not only that, but Trey barely said anything, barely thanked us phans for providing the millions of dollars that make it all happen, nothing. Nothing. A flat 8-minute BDTNL and a mental "see you all on MY tour in a few weeks" from Trey. You won't see me there Ginger Jedi. I'll see you in NYC during Phish's NYE run. OK, maybe TAB in New Jersey...maybe. But that would be it.
   But I can't end on that sour note because that tiny flat moment was dwarfed by a three-day run that compared to almost any of the runs of 2011. Bust-outs, insane segues, funky grooves,  Cacto popping off, Page on the theremin...what else can one ask for? So as we round out Summer Tour 2011 & Labor Day Run 2011 we're left with a great feeling. Phish seems as strong as ever, they seem passionate about the music, Page is having a baby and raising a theremin, and we expect the boys to be back in 2012, although they'll scale things down a bit according to Trey. So let's support VT's flood recovery efforts with some BenePhish next week, then let's prepare for a skull-popping run in NYC this NYE, then let's wait for what 2012 has in store...the End Of The World Tour. Let's go out with a bang together. So ends another tour, my first blogging tour. I hope you enjoyed the blogs and the insight, and I hope you keep coming back for more Phish, sports, and other stuff...but mostly Phish. Thanks for reading and thanks for being part of the experience. Phish makes the music...we make the scene. Holla'.

- Trigger Treinta Uno

Thanks to & LivePhish for the set list help. Thanks to Marky Mark for the bed and care package Thursday (glad you made it to the Second Set Saturday!); thanks to Max-Has-Millions and Campaign Corey for hooking the hospitality and party buses throughout; to all your crew - great kids, especially the roommates and Ollie; thanks to Butterfield Tim for all the Boulder hospitality - call us when you're in MA; to the Homboldt/Denver crew we met through Portland Dave and Makin' It Renee: Bradley, McKenzie, Josh & Wendi - you guys are the shit, we need to hook up more at shows; and finally I need to thank the rest of my crew - SeriousLeigh, Miguel Cocineros, Henry The Third, The Duchess Of West Warren, Matty Fractal, You Know My Esteez, Colonel Phortin, Who Has My Zanoff, 83 Blue 83 Blue Hutnik, He Knows Your Body, The Charlton Crevier's, The Greater Cape Cod Crew and anyone else I foolishly forgot - tour would not be the same without you guys. One last quick shout-out to all our shakedown and vendor kids - you know who you are - thanks for making the scene, you guys bring the scene together and keep us full and beaming. We love it and we'll miss you until next time. Last but not least, much thanks to Phish, four guys who had more influence on my life than anyone besides my wife and parents. Thanks for another unbelievable tour. I honestly don't know what I'd do without you guys (because I forget what 2001-2002 & 2004-2009 was like, but I know I was bored). Peace out until next time pholks!

1 comment:

  1. It's been bugging me for months that I neglected to emphasize the mind-blowing bomb that was set off during the Denver Piper, simply stating "LONG SICK SPACEY Piper with Roadrunner teases and Page on the MIGHTY theremin"...not enough.

    After months of listening to ST11, I have nominated the Tweezer jam from Denver and the Piper jam from Denver as the two candidates for 2011 Jam Of The Year (both contain theremins...the new jump-off). Vote in the new polls section!