Selection: “Say Something”
From Pete Mason:
Two years of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City had already given us the famed ‘S’ show on 9/2/11, the ‘Fuck Your Face’ show on 9/1/12, so naturally, there was speculation as to what the gimmick would be this first night of Phish at Dick’s. I was betting on an ‘Alphabet’ set – 26 songs, in alphabetical order, ending with a likely “Ziggy Stardust” encore. But when a show starts with “Ghost”, two things come to mind: 1) Well this is an interesting, rare and excellent opener!, and 2) OK, what’s the gimmick here? Maybe a third – ‘Stop analyzing and enjoy’ could have been on the table, but I was focused on whatever they were throwing at us that night on top of the music.
“Ghost, NICU”… The thought entered my mind ‘If they play “It’s Ice” or “Icculus” next, they could be spelling ‘something’ backwards!’ And over the next 3 hours, it all unraveled to give us ‘GNIHTEMOS LLEPS SWOHS TSOM”, with each song giving a letter for each part of the message. But spelling it backwards… that took some planning and effort to contain the gag until the end. Phish loves having fun with the audience, and this was by far one of the best pranks I had seen Phish pull.
The part of the show that hit me the most wasn’t “Icculus”, although that set the tone for the night nice and early, nor was it the first time cover of “Easy to Slip”, although that was a solid Gordon-led tune. No, the real highlight this show was “Say Something”, a song from Mike Gordon’s repertoire and co-written by Max Creek/Mike Gordon Band guitarist Scott Murawski. The high-pitched vocals on the refrain are trademark Phish – unnecessary but undeniably a Phish thing. The groove of the song is steady throughout, a blues number and led by Mike for a change, sharp and clear with the bass line setting the tone. Mike presses through what seem like complicated lyrics, not fumbling over them (attention Trey!) and leading into Trey’s solo, soulful and not overdone.
About 4:30 in, the composition ends and the improvisation begins for the next four minutes. The full band is in sync, with Trey ripping some jazzy guitar notes over the groove laid down by Jon, Page and Mike. One of the most danceable renditions of the song (if you saw Mike’s Winter Tour, you know what I’m talking about), “Say Something”, a full two and a half minutes go by with this tight jam, before it unravels into a more ambient, spacey jam with a nice cap from Page’s keys in the final 30 seconds.
“Say Something” was also the ‘S’ in ‘Spell’, giving us ‘Spell Something’ as the backwards message in the setlist. All I can picture right now is a ‘Speak and Spell’, hard orange plastic and containing an electronic voice. The connection between the two songs was strong enough to have me ignore the message in the setlist and focus on the songs themselves. It was clear they were spelling something. But to say something while spelling something got a deeper message across, and right as they delved into the second set. “Say Something” was the cusp of the 8/30/13 ‘Most Shows Spell Something Backwards’ show and stands out as the highlight of this show.
Pete works hard helping out all those that create to sell in the Phish community. He also does an excellent job as editor in chief of @upstatelive music.