Phish at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park 2019 – “Plague Dog” and Other Choice Cuts (SHOW RECAPS)

After a month-and-a-half break from touring, Phish returned to Dick’s Sporting Good Park in Commerce City, CO this past weekend for their annual three night run. It was the band’s ninth visit to what’s become a beloved 3.0 tradition to close out the summer in style. With no shortage of Prairie Dogs and Plague references thanks in part to the ongoing issue at the venue, the weekend was littered with highlights each night. Here are a few choice selections to relisten to over the coming months until Phish gets back on the road with a short Fall tour at the end of November in Providence, RI.

8/30/19 “Everything’s Right”>”Mercury”

Friday’s first set largely felt like a warmup for the band. Although lead guitarist/vocalist Trey Anastasio was clearly in a Phishy mood early, nodding to the local plague warning in a funky “Free” by changing the lyrics to flea, the musical trajectory largely stayed the course over the 12 song set. Set two was a different story with the opening two song pairing clocking in at over 40 minutes with diverse themes, and bubbly, blissful improvisational layers strung throughout both songs. Darkness was not found within this explorative playing, but the melodic rhythms saw all four band members making strong musical contributions through the space explored and showed the band was already primed to go there early in the weekend.

8/30/19 “Light”->“Party Time”, “Sand”>”What’s the Use”>Harry Hood

While Sunday’s second set might get the nod, Friday’s second set is also a contender for the title of most complete, fluid set of the weekend. After the meat of the set wrapped-up with two stretched out, intriguing jams, “Shade” offered a few brief moments of reprieve before the next five songs aligned in a fluid state, starting with a super smooth segue from “Light” into “Party Time”. The “Sand” was full of high energy peaks, and the pairing with an opposite end-of-the-spectrum drop into a completely melty “What’s The Use?” was pure flow. Bassist/vocalist Mike Gordon helped push this one a little deeper before a memorable “Harry Hood” closed the set with a standout section of Type II music that’s a must listen back moment from the weekend.

8/31/19 “Ghost”> “Tube”

While Friday’s first set was relatively straightforward in terms of breaking core song structure, Saturday’s first frame was the preferred set of the evening for many. “Ghost” was a highlight as it often is, this time venturing into funkier, darker territory than the improvisational music showcased the night before. “Tube” had a little something extra on it, and the pairing made for one of the stronger selections of music from the weekend.

8/31/19 “Set Your Soul Free” > “Down with Disease”

Fans that know the band well and had followed the news of parking lots and camping areas closing before the shows due to the plague were all calling for “Down with Disease” to be the run opener on Friday. Instead it found somewhat strange placement deep in set two on Saturday. But in its late set spot “Disease” shinned with some of the fiercest, albeit relatively compact jamming of the run. The “Set Your Soul Free” that preceded the “Disease” had a few breaths of minor chord progressions, with deep textures from keyboardist/vocalist Page McConnell that might have helped steered this “Disease” jam to a darker shade than the lighter, bouncy jams heard the night prior. The ultra smooth segue into “NICU” is hard to argue with although the “Disease” was still exploring when the transition organically appeared.

9/1/19 “Wolfman’s Brother” and “Bathtub Gin”

The two stand alone salient pieces from Sunday’s first set, “Wolfman’s Brother” offered a taste of dance-party-funk as it often does, complete with a fresh batch of exploratory grooves thanks in large part to the percussion work of Jon Fishman. The set closing “Bathtub Gin” was also a solid excursion showcasing some patience from the band that extended the peak of the song in a nuanced fashion. A great way to close the set and another slightly new way to experience a song that has consistently delivered throughout the band’s career.

9/1/19 Set II

Perhaps the most complete set of the run came in the final offering on Sunday night. An interesting choice to offer a debut as the set opener in “Sightless Escape”, the next almost hour of music was a non-stop progression spread out over five songs. “Fuego” didn’t go deep, but brought a cool, unique flavor of Type II music to the stage before a segue into “Piper” and arguably the most out-there exclusion of the weekend. It was not necessarily memorable for its length, but more in terms of the slow build like start and wild Phishy EDM type jam that ensured. This one had that taste of a jam that could continue finding unique musical space, but the jam rolled into a “Tweezer” that also found its way back into a “Fuego” theme. A swift “2001” and a fiery “Chalkdust Torture” brought this near hour-long slice of memorable music to a close.

9/1/19 Special Nod-“A Life Beyond The Dream”

As fans old and new continue gaining familiarity with fresh material shared in a live setting by the band, this selection seemed to both fit and shine in its offering on Sunday. If you saw the recent documentary-Me and My Mind, then you know this song has a particularly important resonance for Trey, and whether in remembrance of his friend, the placement near the end of the weekend, or just the unique moment in time, this take was well received and left more than a few fans in attendance with a big smile before one more blast-off in “Tweezer Reprise” closed out the weekend.

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