[We would like to thank Dr. Stephanie Jenkins, Ph.D., for recapping last night's show. -Ed.]
Thursday marked the beginning of this year’s Dick’s run. I think that this exact thing happened to me just last year. For a decade.
Last night was Phish’s thirty-first Labor Day weekend show at the Commerce City venue in what is arguably the band’s longest running, most reliable tradition. Every year, since 2011, we can count on three—now four—concerts at the same place, at the same time, with our favorite band. In 2011, at the “S” show, I made a promise to myself to never miss a Dick’s show and, so far, I’ve kept that commitment.
In the weeks leading up to writing this recap, I spent some time asking myself: “What does Dick’s mean to me?”
To say that Dick’s is my favorite venue is an understatement; it’s sacred. I’ve had life-changing experiences on the floor. I met friends who have become family. I even spread my late dog’s ashes on the field outside the venue.
Wondering if my attachment to the venue was unusual, or even a bit strange, I started asking friends and fans on the internet: “What are your favorite Dick’s memories?” and “Does Dick’s have special significance for you or is it just another outdoor venue?” A surprising theme emerged, at least among regular Dick’s attendees: home.
Dick’s feels like home and night one is our homecoming. To me that means I have attended the same venue, in the same floor spot, with the same people so many times that the venue engulfs me with a sense of belonging the minute I step foot on the lot. But it’s not just a fitting in, home is a feeling of at ease. Or, as one fan in the stands responded, after pointing his fingers down and drawing a 2, loving, reunions, rituals, comfort, tradition, and play.
All these things—and more—we have done at Dick’s. Tour announcements come each year. The venues and dates change, but Dick’s is always there for us to return to each year. The run is more reliable than other traditions like New Year’s at MSG.
As Benjy Eisen noted in Thursday’s Helping Friendly Pod that was recorded by Osiris on the Dick’s lot, “You can only count on Dick’s.” That’s what it means for Dick’s to be home.
The show began at 8:03pm and opened with a "Sand" that screamed “Welcome home, friends.” The solid first set was marked by upbeat energy, fantastic flow, well-executed segues, and crowd-pleasing song selections. The warm, delicate "Sand" jam driven by Fishman was bookmarked by a brown note from Mike that announced the arrival of "Down with Disease."
The DWD jam took the night into an unusually early transcendental turn before a smooth segue led us to "Scent of a Mule." The tune was welcome and well-placed despite some flubs. Next came a series of set one standards that fit perfectly in the middle of the set, stuck closely to song structure, and kept the lively energy moving: "Ocelot," "Heavy Things," and "Axilla Pt. II." The "Back on the Train," "Theme From the Bottom," "Blaze On" trio felt like one giant combined set closer.
Set two began at 9:53pm. Like the first set, it offered excellent placement, flow, and song selection, but it also included some stellar jams that will likely make the phish.net jam charts.
"Possum" began the set. Since we’re at “home” and we’re all friends here, I have a confession to make. I don’t like "Possum." But I loved this version and it worked perfectly as a set opener, so let’s take that as a sign there was something special about this "Possum." And I’m now a "Possum" convert. Next came a short and dense "Twist." This performance felt like a call to be present, as if the band was working out an idea together.
The "Ruby Waves" jam had a soaring, soul-purifying feel to it and, at least for me, was one of the standouts of the night. Next came "Don’t Doubt Me," which is a must hear because it was only the third time Phish has played this SciFi Soldier tune, and just the first time the song has received the jam treatment. In fact, it’s really the first SciFi Soldier song to obtain the honor of the jam workout. A compact, amorous "Wave of Hope" is followed by "The Howling," my favorite SciFi Soldier song, because it’s a guaranteed, instant dance party.
“'The Howling' is the most interesting new original Phish song that I’ve heard in the last 20 years,” said one jaded fan. “It sounds like Chicago House circa Darryl Woodson.”
An expansive, unique "Piper" filled with moments that approached but didn’t quite reach start-stop jamming and several long sustains from Trey closed the set. A glorious "Harry Hood" encore closed out the night. I hope you brought tissues.
Homes are also spaces of healing. Over the past couple of weeks and last evening in the lot, fans told me stories of traumas they experienced and their plans to find musical therapy or to “dance it out” at Dick’s. We discussed the healing power of music. I know I had healing to do myself last night and I found the "Ruby Waves," "Wave of Hope," "Piper," and "Harry Hood" especially helpful to this end. I suspect a lot of you did too.
On Saturday, Night 3, from 3:45-5:15pm in a collaboration with Osiris Media, The Mockingbird Foundation, Public Philosophy Journal, and the Helping Friendly Podcast, I—along with my co-host Reed Meschefske—will be guiding philosophical discussions on the healing power of music and other topics. The show will include a roundtable of guests including Ashley Driscoll, Scott Marks, Benjy Eisen, PHRE members, and Augusta Arts.
We hope you’ll join us and support The Mockingbird Foundation! You can find us on Shakedown with Osiris Media at the Cannabis Depot tent.
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