Selection: “Prince Caspian>Light”
Memo’s “Other Jams” Memo: Excellent First Set “Tweezer”, Awesome “Mike’s>No Quarter>Weekapaug” set closer
From Mike Gottfried:
September 1st, 2012
Dicks Sporting Goods Park
Set 2 – Prince Caspian > Light
The quintessential mindset of a Phish fan is to believe that every show is great, but none is so great that you are totally satisfied.
The previous night had the patrons in the lot at Dick’s Sporting Good’s Park in a blissful haze, knowing that the band had found “IT” the night before. While it is selfish (and probably foolish) to ask for “more” after a night like F.U.C.K.Y.O.U.R.F.A.C.E, this desire is precisely what makes our kind the people who we are… We want “more”!
The more likely mindset amongst Phans was, “if they had done it the night before, why couldn’t they do it again? The band is really playing well!”
The second night at Dick’s was one of those nights that exemplifies our foolhardy quality… But was it so foolish to ask for “more” in Colorado?
Admittedly, “Prince Caspian” is not my favorite tune. It’s right up there with “Wading in the Velvet Sea” as my top bathroom/beer songs, and had it come later in an average set, I probably would have hit the facilities.
But coming off of the previous night, I wasn’t really in the mood to miss a song, or even a note. I’m glad I stuck around.
The band churns out an expectedly straightforward rendition of the composed part of the song, with a few jovial runs down the keyboard by Page at 2:00 and 2:06. Trey’s guitar then immediately takes the reigns of the 20,000-seat venue at the 2:14 mark, setting this “Caspian” into a blissful 11-minute journey that would test the bounds and possibly create unrealistic expectations for future versions of the song.
An energetic meandering around the standard structure by Trey gets the jam headed in the right direction, backed by a couple more intermittent phrases from Page. At 4:30, a point that felt like it could have ended a standard “Caspian.” The band cools it down for a moment before Trey changes his tone, increasing the intensity and density of his guitar jam.
Another tone change at 5:07 gives the band room to explore for another couple of minutes, with a little space exploration from Mike as the jam breaks down into that Phishy place that an average music listener might not totally “get”.
All the while you can feel the tension building towards something… but what?
At 7:14, Trey finds a fierce chord-driven groove and lights a fire with a quick run-up the fret board. The band continues to jam with a high level of energy, increasing the intensity in a minor tone before a spacey, whale-call ridden outro of what I again thought was likely the end of the song. Would have made a nice rendition, but it wasn’t over.
To my extreme delight, Fishman brings back a steady beat at the 9:29 mark, signaling to the other three they weren’t done sailing just yet. Trey begins to rip a hard driving groove at the 9:40 mark, before he and Page playfully grasp to a new melody that I consistently hope the band finds the likes of in their exploration.
Finally, the jam abruptly winds down into the centerpiece of the weekend… maybe the entire tour.
As the first few chords of “Light” rang from Trey’s guitar, a number of thoughts raced through my mind. “I know Light isn’t my favorite ‘composed’ song, but it has been an all-star jam vehicle in 2012… the way this weekend is going so far, in this ‘prime-time’ spot in the second set, this could get good!” I quickly found that my thoughts were justified.
To give you some context to the magnitude of the greatness of this “Light,” see a text message I received a couple of days ago from my buddy @dangerous_dave7, nearly 10 months later.
My thoughts exactly.
Let’s jump in at that 7:00 mark, where the “typical” “Light” jam starts to break down and Mike starts to lead the way with a fresh bass groove. As the band starts to diverge from the original chord progression and structure of the usual jam, you can palpably hear the exploration begin towards a greater goal.
Mike’s bass groove continues, backed by some ambient sounds from Trey and Page, until the bombs start to drop at 8:16. Rousing cheers from the crowd ring in anticipation of what’s coming next, as Trey begins to explore the new space that Mike has created.
At 8:52, Trey settles on the chord progression that the band seems to agree with, laying the groundwork for the rest of this masterpiece. Fishman is not far behind with a catchy cowbell rhythm, interwoven with Mike’s deep and funky bass groove.
This continues for a couple of minutes, until 11:10, when Trey diverges to create the melody that sits perfectly on top of the groove they have just created. This repetitive yet totally original work is unmistakably Phishy in sound, progressing the jam to a launching point for even further exploration and energy gain.
At 13:04, Page takes over what was Trey’s melody and the bass and guitar jams turn very major in tone and texture. Trey, seemingly feeling where this is going, accepts Page’s invitation to progress the jam, making his guitar sing the sounds that we all seem to crave at 13:45. The bright tones dance in unison with the rest of the band for a few moments, softening into a peaceful, ambient space that continues to fully captivate anyone who will listen to its intention.
As the jam becomes ever more quiet and ambient, it never loses steam. Trey continues to playfully explore (15:35), finding a nice minor-then-major run to keep the attention and energy going. His sound breaks and reshapes until 16:00, when a familiar yet totally original melody busts back in with the intention of ratcheting the jam up to the next level.
After laying the groundwork for this final portion, the exploration begins again, this time in a momentum and energy-gaining swoon that would serve as the peak of the jam, the weekend and possibly the entire tour.
These final seven minutes really deserve no further explanation. My words do the music no justice. Just listen and enjoy the place that Phish was on August 1st, 2012. I know they weren’t trying to show off, but it just doesn’t get much better than this.
So it turned out, to ask for “more” on the second night of Dick’s wasn’t so foolish after all. The band delivered, just as we’d hoped, and brought home a jam for the ages, one that I will never forget.
Just as my jaw hung agape when I heard this live, the smile that radiates from my face each time I re-listen makes the time, energy and money I put into this band worth it, 1000 times over.
From Mike Gottfried:
Mike Gottfried was reluctantly dragged to his first Phish show in Knoxville in 2009. He hasn’t listened to anything else since. He lives and works in Atlanta, GA where he spends his days running an interactive agency. A native of Washington, DC, he spends his Winters out west skiing as much as possible, his Falls watching Redskins football and his Summers catching as many Phish shows as his wallet will allow. Connect with Mike on Twitter or Instagram @mgottfried.