25 in 25 of 2016: #25 09/04/2016 Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO (Matt Burnham, @therealburnham)
Hi and welcome everyone. You made it to the last in this “25 in 25” series chronicling the selected highlights from the 25 summer shows of 2016. If you’ve been following along, you’ve read 24 of these entries word for word to build your excitement to a near fever pitch as some of you head to Northerly Island tonight. Those of us not fortunate enough to be able to make that trip will surely be streaming the show in some manner.
This is my fourth time writing for this series for LawnMemo and it’s always fun to listen back and follow along (Thanks for letting me back, Myke!). I did not attend the 2016 Dicks’ Run. I actually didn’t attend any of the 2016 Summer tour shows. Sometimes, you just can’t get away. But, with technology being so wondrous, it’s a nicety that we all can listen in real time, which is how I spent my summer.
From Dicks’ N3, I chose to write about the hour long block that opened up set two: “Crosseyed and Painless” > “Steam” -> “Piper” > “Light.” Whew. As a side note, my wife and I are expecting our second child at the end of July, so time is on the short side. Due to this, I listened through this hour long block once and tried to capture my thoughts in a mostly real time manner. Sure, there were some of those portions that I rewound thinking: “I have to hear that again!” (See: all of “Light”), but that’s to be expected.
And yes, this is one of those “Crosseyed” sets.
“Crosseyed” opening a set two was a great omen during Summer Tour 2016. There definitely was a perceived drop off (and real drop off) from the highs of the summer of 2015 to the following summer, but overall there was some real high quality here. And it’s kind of cool that possibly the best set of the summer was also the last. Pretty standard version through the lyrics which immediately moves to a heavy Page clavinet section. One thing that I like about “Crosseyed” is that it’s one of those songs that doesn’t need to go type 2 to be fun and instead, they can extend via the entire band building layers upon layers and variations that make it interesting to hear. At around the seven minute mark, Trey is doing some kind of cool rhythm/lead guitar play, almost like he’s bouncing back and forth between his own licks with a nice gradual build. This leads to a nice segment where Trey has a really cool Prague “Ghost” tone at 8:45 before the “Crosseyed” theme hits again at the 9 minute mark.
This is actual footage of the Prague Ghost. It is by far my favorite Trey gif.
At ten minutes, the band moves away from the main song and ventures out into the jam. Trey bridges this into an immediate bliss segment but with funky backing from Page/Mike. When the bliss and funk are interplaying, you know it’s on. By 11:20, Page comes back around to meet up with Trey and this leads to a very cool section that sounds akin to an Allman Brothers song. Almost like Mountain Jam. Great little peak at 13:45 which, to me, harkens back to the Holy “Ghost” (somehow, everything ties back to Ghost on this site…). Nice ending segment, too. Slight move back to bliss for a few minutes before murkying up and falling into “Steam” punctuated by a couple huge Mike drops.
“Steam,” which still holds as the best song (sizzling hot take alert!) from the 3.0 era, is a stellar version. Making a random stab here, but I have a feeling that no song probably has a higher portion of jam chart entries relative to overall versions (12 versions charted vs. 23 played). Standard again through lyrics. At 5:10, the expected but appreciated “Crosseyed” teases begin. Trey hits an out-of-the-park solo that lasts a solid two minutes in this timeframe, too. Just an all over the fretboard, tons of notes, amazing solo that reminds everyone that he still has it.
After the lyrics, Trey hits a little build into a full band jam that’s so well put together, it’s a wonder that it somehow meshes straight into “Piper.”
I’ve been listening to a lot of 2.0 recently. And the “Piper”s of that timeframe were the greatest ever. But this 19 minute segmented behemoth deserves to stand amongst those giants. Typical short build, though as is par for the course in 3.0. “Piper” has always been one of my favorites because I love the theme and main riff and also because when the guys are ready for it, it immediately blasts off into a bouncy jam. It’s similar to “Light” in that way. Maybe that’s why those two songs are always a good pairing. Trey hits an interesting repeating riff at 3:45 and carries that forward for a little bit letting Page and Mike fill in the void behind him with perfect fills. 5 minutes in and we’re in Happytown, Population: Dick’s. If you close your eyes, you can see Trey moving back and forth, smiles everywhere. Fish has his eyes closed mouthing the beat. Mike’s bobbing his head slightly and staring straight ahead like a stoic guardsman. Page is standing up both hands on different instruments deftly handling two melodies.
There are intermittent tosses of glow sticks being thrown now but not as one because no one in the crowd can understand how they got to here so quickly. The path to get here was too quick. Kuroda has the white lights on the crowd. If you’re there in Commerce City, it feels like they are searching for you. Then the strobes. And finally, the full yellow back stage lights hit and the rush of over 20,000 people absolutely screaming at 6:40 hits you from everywhere and it’s your place and you’re happy to have made it and it doesn’t really matter what’s going on outside the stadium. Family issues. Work problems. Health complications. Concerns about the world. The US. The economy. Healthcare. Climate change. In the middle of that peak, it all goes away. How does not everyone have that release valve? That escape? I don’t know how people can go about their day-to-day without that one thing that can reach their soul the way a great Phish peak hits mine.
Great “Crosseyed” quote at 6:30 that Trey somehow melds into the jam itself. Now at 7 minutes, that bliss is gone. To be replaced with a nice, driving build that stays delicate due to Page being on the baby grand at 8:25. This sounds like it could go into “Meatstick” to me but the percussion continues to build and the next thing you know Trey’s on the marimba lumina and then we’re in a full all-of-the-band-playing-Fish’s-drum-kit jam, but with Fishman just fucking destroying the greater Denver area. Phish has never been big on the “Drums” -> “Space” segment of shows, but this is probably about as close as we’re going to get. It’s enjoyable to me, which is strange because I’m mostly a skipper of Dead “Drums” segments.
At 15 minutes, Trey picks back up his guitar, followed by Mike and Page returning to their respective instruments, and this section gets grimey at the start. It’s fun because the band stays in this realm for a little bit. It feels as if we could fall back into “Steam” or even “On Your Way Down.” But the band decides to just keep moving forward. “Tweezer Reprise” chords at 17:10 brings back hard nostalgia of SPAC ‘04. Instead, they head back to the “Crosseyed” close for the last minute.
What an great 3 song opener! Just crazy and all over the place, musically. If that three song segment was the highlight of the show you were at, you’d be hard pressed to feel bad about that.
Then, they segue into a 14 minute “Light.” What. The. Shit. When I said “Steam” was the best song of 3.0 I meant it, but no other 3.0 song has reached the heights that “Light” has. The best “Light”s stand up there in the upper echelon of jams from the 34 years Phish has been together. And like “Piper,” it has the capability of just erupting into something special. This one gets delicate in a way that’s pretty atypical and almost bluesy in the breakdown. It’s not the typical bliss or quasi-dark jam that exemplifies this er, but it’s a wonderful foray. I don’t really have words for it. It’s something that sounds so organic and unique that it simply deserves to be listened to. And it includes all the mini-“Manteca” quotes and “Crosseyed” teases you could hope for.
Around 10 minutes, we hit a really good build again with a couple of sustains from Trey. And all this pushes us back to finally meandering towards the “Light” theme again. With the requisite peaks and fulfillment that can only be seen by seeing your favorite live music act. Plenty of “still waiting” quotes at 12 minutes which then finally hits “Light” proper. A kind of long transition eventually moves forward into “The Lizards.” And finally, “First Tube.” Six song second set? Six song second set!
I mentioned earlier that 2016 didn’t have the highs of 2015 but this set, in my eye, shows that there are always highs on the horizon. And that should bode well for this 2017 Summer Tour as well. Will Northerly be rained out again? I hope not. I know that it’ll be weird to have Phish playing 13 straight shows at MSG. And no one will really know what that will hold. Will there be repeats? I think so. Will there be bustouts? I think so. Will there be more than a few versions of “The Line,” “Tide Turns,” “Joy,” and “Breath and Burning?” I think so. Will the band play in Dayton a show worthy of the two previous ones at Nutter? I hope so. But I don’t know. I’m just going to have to wait and find out. We’re always still waiting. Have fun this summer, everyone!
About me: My name is Matt and I have a twitter where I talk a lot about Phish and a little about movies under the handle @therealburnham. You can find some of my other writing and things in Surrender to the Flow and on the phish.net blog. I recently joined the Setlist Team on phish.net so, since I won’t be attending shows this summer at all (See: baby note above), I will probably be updating databases at night. And wading through the incoming tease submissions, which is actually very fun. My favorite jam is the YEM from Red Rocks ‘94 and I will defend Trey’s solo all day and night as the greatest jam segment in Phish history.