26 in 26 of 2019: #24 08/30/2019 Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO (Todd Ahrens, @backinmydaynet)
Another year at Dick’s, and of course we were all happy to be there. Expectations were sky high with everyone still riding the “wave” from the end of tour blow out at Alpine Valley six weeks earlier, not to mention the other amazing jams heavily scattered throughout the tour and Trey’s amazing Layla performance a week earlier at Lock’n. As such, it seems like everyone and their mother came out for Dick’s this year, so tickets were scarce. A far cry from 2011 when tickets could be had at the box office on the day of the show.
2019 Dick’s was the Year of the Plague, and in the weeks leading up to the shows it was questionable whether the shows would even take place. Thankfully they did, however, camping was scratched, Shakedown mostly scratched, and the available parking was limited to the point that they were running shuttles from satellite lots at the mall. This being the first show and unsure of what the parking situation would be like, the Duck and I rolled out early from downtown Denver to make sure we had a spot. We arrived around 5:30 and were some of the earliest to arrive. Parking wasn’t a big deal after all, though most of it was cordoned off, but I was stoked to see the grassy knoll still in biz. I knew we were officially on Dick’s lot when our car got parked a few spaces away from @PhishDicksRef. As per usual, when I see famous people I leave them alone, so I didn’t go introduce myself (and risk getting a yellow card), but it also turned out I was parked next to my old friend Phil from Toronto, who I had seen since Summer 2004. It was great to hang with him pre-show and catch up. Also met a really nice guy with a floppy hat who had some awesome mushrooms.
The lot was starting to fill up so we made our way in on the early side and parked ourselves at our usual spot on the floor, Mike’s side, fairly close. One of the most special things about Dick’s is that typically there is room for your whole crew if you don’t go in too close. We had a solid showing of 25-30 friends in our area, including @thoughtcoop on his first Dick’s visit, which was awesome. There are not a lot of venues out there where friends get to hang together. The other great thing about Dick’s is how awesome it sounds. They’ve just got it so dialed in.
While the first set doesn’t contain any super-stretched out jams or rarities, there is a lot to like. Opening with the second-only time played Can’t Always Listen, they then lead into what starts out as a somewhat ragged version of Free. As expected, they’re knocking off a little rust from six weeks off. In homage to the prairie dog situation, Trey changes the lyrics to “Flea” to the crowd’s delight, and by the time they get to the funk breakdown, the rust is an all but a distant memory. Mike leads the charge and the Free turns into a set highlight. A potent combo of No Man’s and 555 follows, though neither really stretch out but are solid. The set continues in decent fashion and is worth checking out, especially the Back on the Train, the late set Wingsuit (great placement) and the set-closing Blaze On. I was fairly underwhelmed with this set on my first listen through for this post, but on each subsequent listen I grew more and more impressed. Every track has a few unique twists, a lot of them I missed the first time around.
If the first set left some folks wanting the band to stretch out a little more, they just needed to make it through the setbreak as the band came out of the gate hard in the second set with the jam I chose to highlight for this show: the one-two punch of Everything’s Right>Mercury.
I don’t think I really took notice of Everything’s Right until the MSG 2018 version. Since that monster, the band seemed to really take to it as a top shelf jam vehicle and this version is a prime example. Works great as a second set opener and the band wastes no time laying into it. As soon as they get to the funk breakdown and Page leans on the clav, it’s on. In classic Dick’s fashion the band and crowd were locked in and the entire place was in the zone. The band is simultaneously relaxed and playing with purpose and there’s very little in the way of filler here. Not much I can say other than do yourself a favor and go play it loud. At nearly 18 minutes, this version is a keeper. Midway through Mike locks into a killer repetitive groove and everyone follows, and it leads to some great spaces as it gets peaky then slowly lands into a gargantuan, perfectly placed Mercury.
The opening to Mercury is just so great, you hear them counting something off and then boom, blast off. Love it. At over 24 minutes, this Mercury goes places. The composed sections swing so smoothly, it’s hard to imagine this is a band that has been off the road for six weeks. Incidentally, Mercury was played at the previous show at Alpine Valley, but I’m sure nobody was complaining. Well, I’m sure somebody was complaining because, you know, Phish fans. But you know what I mean. I’m not going to give turn by turn directions for this jam (maybe because it’s so long?), but we’ve got perfect audio of it, so listen and enjoy. Possibly the highlight of this run for me, certainly one of the best versions of this song out there. It’s a smoker for sure.
The set then continues with the Sigma Oasis theme, and we get a breather with Shade. While I like Shade and understand the need for breathers, especially after the previous 40 minutes, mid-second set is not my preferred placement, but what do I know? The show picks up the pace with Light that then leads into a smooth as silk segue into Party Time. It’s a killer transition. A very good Sand follows and takes us into what I feel is a must-hear, amazing version of What’s The Use. I almost picked it as my show highlight for this post.You could hear a pin drop where I was standing, it was unreal in the moment. The Hood that follows, is again, a must-listen in my humble opinion. It’s one of those Hoods where in the middle of the jam you have no idea what song it is, and that’s how I like them. Such a killer opening night at Dick’s, capped off by an always welcome S.A.N.T.O.S in the encore slot.
I hadn’t really dug into this show since attending, but I am so glad I did. Many thanks to Memo for the opportunity to listen to this show closely multiple times. I think it holds its own easily against the other two from this weekend, and is another Summer 2019 gem not to be overlooked.
I’d also like to state for the record that due to the prairie dog plague, I called a Pure Prairie League cover a week before the shows. While we didn’t get a Phish version, the walkout music for this show was “Amie” by Pure Prairie League so I gave myself a pat on the back as we walked out.