Well, here we are, just over eight months into the hellscape that is America in 2020. Nearly every aspect of life has been changed for the worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. The simple act of going out in public requires us to wear a mask (those of us who give a shit about other people, anyway). Social circles have often shrunk to immediate family and maybe the closest of friends. Many people are unable to visit parents and grandparents in nursing homes or who otherwise fall into high-risk groups for the virus. Millions more have lost their jobs and face financial uncertainty and the very real health risks, both physical and mental, associated with long-term unemployment. And that’s to say nothing of the nearly 200,000 Americans and 900,000 people worldwide, who have succumbed to the disease and countless others experiencing long-term side effects.
So in the grand scheme of things, being unable to go see live music is a pretty small sacrifice. And yet, for those of us who love live music, there is a void. Presumably for anyone reading this, the lack of Phish shows is a big part of that. It impacts everyone differently. Some fans were probably hit hardest when Phish officially postponed summer tour to (we hope) 2021. Others may have felt it most back in July when tour was scheduled to kick off in Eugene, OR. For me, the realization this week that I wouldn’t be getting on a flight to Colorado was that moment. Sure, I had known for months that Dick’s wouldn’t be happening this year. I just hadn’t counted on how much of a part of my year Dick’s had become. In addition to being Phish 3.0’s annual festival hiding in plain sight, it had earned its own spot on the calendar. August, Dick’s, September. Indeed, most years we managed to cram a month’s worth of memories and good times into those three days. Will summer even turn to fall without Dick’s? I guess we’ll find out.
Most would agree that going to a Phish show is an experience that can’t be replicated at home. Nevertheless, I am beyond thankful for the three hours each Tuesday when Phish broadcasts Dinner And a Movie, and we can all forget how shitty the world is and listen to a show together. Phish, Inc. has also done a pretty outstanding job at picking fan favorites for the series. They’ve outdone themselves and honored the Dick’s tradition by airing a triple-feature from the venue over Labor Day weekend. Dick’s veterans will especially appreciate the attention to detail in picking one show each from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In that same spirit, of revisiting the shows themselves via Dinner and a Movie, we thought it would be fun to dip into the .net archives and see what our recappers thought of these shows at the time.
Friday’s show was from 9/1/17 and represented the band’s first show since
Curveball the Baker’s Dozen. Most fans would probably agree that the 8/31/12 “Fuck Your Face” show remains the finest show Phish has played at Dick’s (and arguably the pinnacle of 3.0). Setting that show aside, there’s an argument for this show as the next best start-to-finish Dick’s show, what with its sterling five song second set and surprisingly jammy first set. Looking back at the .net recap “Dicks1 Recap: Hold On To Your Butts” it appears Pete Hoherd felt similarly. On the heels of the Baker’s Dozen, it seemed we were witnessing a sea change in Phish’s playing. As Pete noted, describing the extended first set “Tube”:
Trey jumps right into “Tube.” The rhythm section of the band is gnashing their teeth in the short chorus before the funk starts. You can almost feel Fish and Mike lurching forward as Trey sings the refrain, “I thought that I could help.” Pretty sure they took that line quite literally, as Fish and Mike explode into some filthy, funky music. It was in this jam when I questioned Fish’s authenticity as a human. Octopus, definitely, as having a meager four appendages seems rather implausible for the rhythms he was hammering out. At two different points the jam seemed to wind down, and at two different points, it was Trey who answered the bell. Much like “Free,” and it seems *every* other song these days, Phish, led by Trey, is showing an improvisational courage that I have not heard, consistently, since 2003. This “Tube,” if nothing else, is funky bravery at its finest.
For the Saturday show, Phish has selected 9/1/12, aka the show after “Fuck Your Face.” Had Phish played it safe that Saturday, even the most jaded vet would have forgiven them for having a FYF hangover. Instead, they unleashed what is, in my opinion, the finest single set they’ve played at Dick’s, highlighted by a jam that sits in the pantheon of the very best of 3.0, the Dick’s “Light.” Our own National Treasure, Marty Acaster, seems to have seen things similarly in his “Dicks in a Box: Dick’s 2 Recap”:
With the arrival of “Captain Fuckerpants” I revisited my recently abandoned life as a liveaboard sailor, successfully navigated the mental shoals that song had the potential to regurgitate, and cascaded over the falls into a lotus blossom of ambrosial auricularly. It seemed I had been saying it to myself a lot in the past 36 hours about a number of the tunes I had heard; but this was the best goddamn version of “Caspian” I could recall. “Light” of course was the jam of the night. To borrow a phrase from my gracious host, the Dick’s “Light” was the musical equivalent of discharging a high voltage electrical current through an extra-large bowl of chocolate pudding.
Much like “FYF” from three years earlier, the Sunday show is known more by its “Thank you” moniker than its date (9/6/15). The show boasts a stellar “Down with Disease” where the band hits on a theme they would revisit in several subsequent jams (see, e.g., the 1/2/16 “Tweezer” or the 10/22/16 “Simple”). Amazingly, the “Disease” is reduced to almost a footnote when fans discuss this show. That tends to happen when Phish delivers an encore that amounts to a surprise third set. As ::checks notes:: yours truly put it in the “Dick’s XV: You’re Welcome” recap:
The best Phish moments always seem to be unexpected. Truth be told, even if the show had ended right here, it would have capped off an amazing weekend in every respect. But it didn't. The band recognized the significance of Dick's all along, and had completely faked us out. In 2011 we got the 'S' show. In 2012 they spelled "Fuck Your Face." In 2013 they spelled backwards. Last year gave us the "Lushington" fake out. Each year a new twist. What was left to do? All the permutations had seemingly been exhausted. All but one: spell a message on the last night.
Of course, we should really be the ones thanking Trey, Mike, Page and Fish for the amount of joy that they bring to all of our lives. The fact that they are still doing it after all these years and at such a high level is nothing short of amazing. Last night, after over 32 years of shows, Phish delivered the Best. Encore. Ever. No qualifier necessary. It will certainly go down as one of the most joyful moments I’ve ever experienced at a Phish show. The legend of Dick’s continues.
Five years later, it remains true that we should be thanking Phish for, not just the music they play for us, but for treating their fans with such obvious gratitude and respect. This weekend, we, The Mockingbird Foundation, should also be thanking Phish for selecting us as the beneficiary for all three webcasts this weekend. So, please, if you haven’t already and are financially able to do so, consider making a donation to Phish’s Waterwheel Foundation this weekend, as all donations will be passed through to Mockingbird and be used to fund music education for children. Finally, and in the spirit of a previous Dinner and a Movie beneficiary, please, please, PLEASE be sure to vote in the upcoming election for the candidate you feel is best able to pull us out of this crisis.
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