Start your engines! Stop the presses! Circle the wagons! Because we have liftoff, baby! ::ding ding!:: Mike approves. Lightning flashes in the clouds behind the stage. From the floor I tell myself I have seen this all before, but looking around at nervous eyes and phones akimbo, something doesn't quite feel right. Lightning flashes in the clouds behind the stage, closer now. Brighter. I’ve seen comet tails and tracers before - usually summoned by Kuroda’s light and edible postage stamps (USPS delivers) but these lights… I don’t know. Lightning flashes in the clouds… over the stage now. We are told to take cover. Huh, and I thought the mail didn’t come on Sundays. Good thing it's Friday.
Curtains of rain beat down on the field and the sky explodes with electric strobes. We are watching this unfold from the concourse, no way we’d go back to the car. Mayhem. Chaos. The show must go on! Lightning flashes all around us now. We are both free to leave and entirely ensnared in a cruel dance with Mother Nature. She seems to be winning. Mom is always right.
An hour later, plus a lifetime of waiting in come-up agony, the storm subsides, relents, acquiesces, and dissipates, no longer able to withstand the thoughts and energy of a now super-charged crowd. Fans funnel back into the spots, cheers ring out at random, and at about two hours after Phish should have taken the stage, they do once more. Time is relative, said Albert Einstein. Yeah, well, I'd rather it not be when standing shoulder to shoulder as the heavens shatter around us. I'm fine. This is fine. The house lights wink off, new life is breathed into your author. Einstein's theory holds true and the moment, a lifetime, finally ended.
Phish strikes quickly with a ferocious “Carini” to open the show. The crowd ignites as Trey throws the bulk of Phish into the night, shifting the jam out of the tumult of "Carini’s" structure, and almost-too-poetically, into a cloudbreak of air and space and sun. The calm after the storm. Blue skies long gone, but clear skies remain as cotton candy clouds weave together the horizon and water line, the jam slides along. A bubble bouncing between atmospheric layers, Phish drops into heavy funk. Pulsing and dirty the jam shuffles its way into “You Enjoy Myself.”
One of the loudest “ahhh boy!” buildups I can remember reinforces the latent energy still making our hair stand at attention. Everything has more pop to it right now. Everything has more color. Trey, with a sense of purpose and focus, relinquishes restraint as he attacks, recoils, and attacks again at the peak. Red hot fury efficiently fires into the vocal jam. As has been tradition this year, a second jam emerges out of the cacophony: sassy funk, playful and loose - music that slinks like shadows into the eerie opening effects of “Ghost.”
Underwater bubbles suspended in viscous medium, deep blues and greens and purples flood the crowd. Bulbous notes sink to the abyssal plain of the ocean floor, as periwinkle drops of starlight percolate upward to the surface, longing to be home in the sky. Trey is patient and focused on the build, his bandmates having built a foundation for him to run wild - and he did. A wondrous, soaring peak radiates like the sun before getting absorbed into “Julius.” Phish is on fire. Phish is lightning. Lightning flashes.
"Julius" is a song which, at times, serves as a perfunctory set closer finds itself tonight as a spicy addition to where “Ghost” left off. New life is breathed into the song as “Julius” delivers in a connected, cohesive, and powerful modern day version.
With all of the space to wander, all of the space to explore, we wonder, “Can they keep this up?” Lightning flashes, not over the stage, no, those clouds are long gone. But we are keen to remember that Trey plays an electric guitar. Trey plugs it into the storm as lightning flashes inviting “Reba” to begin. A surprisingly clean composed section drifts into tropical shallows. Turquoise blues and sea turtle greens swim next to each other as Phish plays music that can only be called, “hope.” Trey raises the sails - a thematic, breezy build navigates our vessel through space and time, Phish captaining the ship of our imaginations. We crest the wave, see the horizon, and surf into an inspiring “Reba” apex. A waking dream with a calypso twist.
“Tube” drops next and the energy of the venue explodes with sexual innuendo. The jam cost most of us the use of our pants. Nudity. Everywhere. We are at Dick’s afterall, so this really isn’t a departure from the norm… for your author, at least… so I assure my show neighbors that, “Yeah, no, yeah… I’m totally allowed to do that.” Dilated pupils and capillaries follow the last remnants of clothing from my physical being - clothes? Where we’re going we don’t need clothes. Event Security knew the score as I winked at them, soul and body fully exposed. A true veteran power move: don’t break eye contact, they’re more afraid of you than you are of them. I widened my stance, they widened their gaze. Lightning flashes from my groin.
With pop and panache, Phish struts into “Tweezer.” Had there been a roof, much like my pants, it would have vanished into the night. Trey is mixing murky tones throughout the composed section. His ideas are fresh and vibrant, even if its colors are mean and intimidating. Page and Trey exchange musical winks - inside jokes played through instruments. Jokes made from 40+ years of friendship where youth remains alive through the timelessness of music. Jokes that we are all in on. That’s something that’s so cool about a Phish show - you feel like you belong, you feel like you have the inside scoop, you feel like you, just as you are, are playing an equally important part as the guys onstage. Soaring catharsis, “Tweezer” blossoms into playful luminescence. Inspiration and beauty, Trey tempers the jam - like running your hand across sand on the beach, he smoothes out the music - individual notes of warm sand settle into “What’s the Use?”
A silent, powerful version of “WTU?” echoes through our souls. Music that is seen, rather than heard. Felt, rather than listened to. Music played not from instruments, but from emotions and feelings. Pulsing, enveloping, cosmic inifinite. Beaitiful silence perists through this humble version. A champagne bottle pops in the distance as Phish celebrates the set with a standalone “Weekapaug Groove.”
Some say the weather report called for rain, some say it was only supposed to be hot. My forecast? Funky with a chance of confetti. I reached into my BULK CONFETTI bag, letting loose a tumbling torrent of color and whimsy which danced with the lights and music. Arms outstretched upward, smiles stretched across our faces. The jam becomes a rubber ball - Mike and Fishman bopping around the bouncy rhythm like bingo balls at an old folks home. They careen and ricochet off of each other before landing on the slot of your card that says, “No Men in No Man’s Land.” BINGO! A velvet transition. “NMINML” jostles along like raccoons in a trash can before sneaking its way back into “Weekapaug.” Don’t let the timing fool you, this was a wildly fun and creative pairing.
“Moonage Daydream” sets ablaze the venue once more. That rainstorm that had passed could sure come in handy right now, as friction from our loins erupts into a conflagration of highly controversial dance moves, highly suggestive gesticulations, and highly entertaing bodily flailings. Taking no breath, releasing no grasp, Phish charges onward into “Chalk Dust Torture.” Thunder rampages through the PA as it becomes clear to all of us that Trey plugged not just his guitar, but his band too, into the storm. Lightning flashes from Phish as they strike once more from a bottomless well of energy. Incredible. What fun this is! How lucky we are. Friends and strangers high five and hug as the final power chords vamp and vibrate, the music may stop soon, but the energy has yet to yield.
I turn to my show neighbor, “DO YOU BELIEVE IN FREE WILL??” Clearly shocked by the naked man’s (read: your author’s) uninvited existential question, the person coyly creaks, “Uhm, yeah I think so.” I looked them dead in the eyes and said, “Watch this… “Antelope.’”
It was “Pebbles and Marbles.” So close.
Another example of, when at a Phish show, the best we can do is hope not for a single song or jam or event, but to be present in the moment with the music and our neighbors - even the nudists. Especially the nudists. I’ve seen enough Jenny Sizzler shows to know when I’m being threatened with a good time - I can now only assume my show neighbor, now coping with gargantuan existential dread from being philosophically accosted about the universe from someone who doesn’t believe in clothes, will soon understand this as well. Some lessons are best learned the hard way.
Their life now redirected entirely, I myself took solace knowing that “Pebbles” was a wonderful compliment to a full, complete, and polished Phish show. Lightning flashes one last time from the stage, as “Tweezer Reprise” explodes in a final display of energy and electricity. We didn’t just weather the storm, no. Tonight, we were the storm. Lightning flashes as we make our way back into a fully illuminated night, glowing with what we had just experienced at a Phish show in Colorado.
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