For the past seven years Phish has ended their summer in the Centennial State at the now famed Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Going back to 2011, many including myself questioned whether or not the massive soccer arena was the best choice for Phish. Now, fans wonder if the band has outgrown the 26,000 person venue and will be looking for a new Colorado home soon. One thing is for sure, Dick’s has become synonymous with a good time and shenanigans. Going back to the very first night Phish took this stage when those in attendance, were treated to not one, but two sets of songs beginning with the letter S. Then came the “Fuck Your Face” fiasco, followed by the slightly phoned in “Most Shows Spell Something” word play in 2013. In 14 it was “Lushington” And by some accounts it all ended with the “Harpua” Thank You which goes down as one of the greatest encores ever performed by the boys from Vermont. While last year featured some incredible fun in the form of a Mike bass solo to end “Squirming Coil” and a huge “Crosseyed and Painless” themed set to end the weekend there were no real shenanigans.
Now fresh off the Baker’s Dozen run which was chock full of random fun and enough doughnut themes to give fans tooth decay, expectations were high. The fervor was continually ramped up during the MSG run because of the incredible musical output night after night. Dick’s became the consolation prize for many that could not make the trip to New York. Now with Phish Dick’s 2017 officially over fans are left wondering if Dick’s was worth all the extra effort this year.
What Dick’s lacked in thematic chicanery they more than made up for with out and out musicianship and deep jams. The whole shebang was opened on night one, set one with an enormous “Blaze On” that essentially foreshadowed the entire weekend. The second set featured an unbelievable “No Man In No Man’s Land” which wove in and out of the rest performance. The “Carini” into “Ghost” was yet another remarkable transition and showcased the real theme of the weekend, sick jams. Night two featured “Reba,” much to the delight of the audience as the band has no previously played it at Dick’s. The first set “Wolfman’s Brother” inspired a dancing frenzy in the crowd. Late in the second a unique “Mike’s Groove” made an appearance before the earth-shattering animal encore of “Lizards” into “Antelope.” Sunday was a song-oriented throw down with an unbelievable version of “Bathtub Gin” and a “Down With Disease” for the ages. When the curtain finally closed after three days of epic music many fans were upset that Phish didn’t push more boundaries or at least spell something with their song selections. I say nay. Phish does have to prove anything to any of us.
They’ve done everything including just play 13 nights at MSG inspired by flavors of doughnuts. I love being excited about set lists and song choices as much as the next guy, but for Dick’s this year I was happy they stuck to the script and delivered three nights of undistracted magic. Expectations are a hell of a thing. They have the power to destroy your enjoyment. The ironic thing is that the venue, which truly lacked any pretense in 2011 has become a symbol of the novelty Phish show. This year Dick’s was not about trickery or shenanigans. It was about getting back to the basics and ripping up some great tunes.