The Ghost is Guy Forget

9.4.11 (Dave Vann)

Phish closed out their last show of their last run of the summer touring season with a bang.  After three nights that possibly top UIC, we’ll have a great topic to argue about for a while: what was more epic…UIC or Dick’s?  After a wacky and impressively-played first night and a second night that contained fewer highlights, they really let themselves go for their final party of summer.

Phish’s playing during their final stand at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park –well, the entire last leg–is so fantastic, I hardly know where to start (and y’all know I’m no fluffer).  I can’t express the joy it brings me to listen to shows of this quality.  Trey’s precision and tone came to a head on Sunday night (remember when I used to bitch about his precision and tone?) with beautifully-played compositions like Rift and completely loose, open-ended improvisation like Piper.  9/4 also contained a unique setlist, first-time songs and a couple huge bust outs!

Set 1: Maze, Back on the Train > Rift > Bathtub Gin, The Way It Goes, Halfway to the Moon, Gumbo, Halley’s Comet > Tube > Timber (Jerry) > Roses Are Free > Chalk Dust Torture

Set 2: Rock and Roll -> Come Together -> Twist -> Piper > Harry Hood > Roggae > Ghost -> Guy Forget -> Ghost, Walls of the Cave

Encore: Backwards Down the Number Line

With the sun going down much earlier than the summer shows of June and August, the dimmer-than-usual surroundings perfectly set up the unexpected Maze opener.  The last time Maze opened a show was the well-known Albany show on 12/9/95.  Although Trey didn’t tear into it as ferociously as he did at UIC, it was about as good as an opener gets.

9.4.11 (Dave Vann)

Back on the Train got the early-first-set treatment again, something they’ve done a few times this year, most recently being UIC.  Back on the Train is really going in a fun direction.  Each version from this year has been absolutely ripping.  This Train picked up where the hot UIC-opening version left off.  Then, quickly after the end of the Train came a glorious Rift, another song they’ve been playing really well lately.  But the first three songs of the show were unable to escape the massive shadow of the game-changing Bathtub Gin that came out of the end of Rift.

The Gin followed the usual 3.0 style for most of it, but my favorite part was when the jam slowed down and almost went in a completely different tangent.  Trey brought the jam back to its usual linear format by reprising the Gin lick and taking off once again before actually ending it with a screaming finish.

Alright, we have a strong opening stanza under our belt for the tour’s last show–what’s next?  A first-time cover of course!  Gillian Welch’s The Way It Goes came next.  The bluegrassy/country/folk tune, usually sung by a female, was sung by Mike.  I really enjoyed the tune, it has a sort of sad/mischievous tone to it.

Page’s song, Halfway to the Moon saw the light of day for the second time this year and fifth time ever before a Gumbo that flirted with going beyond its normal confines.  But the real flirt was Halley.  Halley’s Comet always has the part at the end where it either ends in a snap or it keeps going.  If you hear them play past its normal ending, you know you’re in for a treat–like at Bethel.  It seemed in this version they were confused.  The band kept the song going and Trey obviously wanted it to go into something, so they kinda lost each other until Trey belted out, “an asteroid crashed…”.  Tube was certainly fun, a very solid version, but nothing in particular to write home about happened.

After a great Timber > Roses combo, Chalk Dust closed the set out.  CDT was a really good version.  Clocking in at just over eight minutes, the jam kept to the usual CDT jam progression only with more patience and maturity.  The entire band came to a number of well-rounded peaks before sending us into setbreak.  Also, at the end of CDT, it sounds like Kuroda did the steam hiss sound…listen for it.

9.4.11 (Dave Vann)

Rock and Roll is known to start raunchy party sets, and that’s just what it did.  Usually the ten-minute versions of the song are reserved for the closed-ended, rocking renditions–this time the fierce jam led into the first Come Together since 12/8/95.  It was really cool they played Come Together.  My thoughts on the song are that that it’s an awesome version if it wasn’t planned.  If it was planned, it was really poorly executed because of the sloppiness.  Instead of continuing the Rock and Roll jam after the song, Trey really awkwardly goes into Twist.  I can’t stand when Trey does this–it reminds me of 2009 Trey.  Why can’t he go tell Mike to tell Fish that they should all work their way into Twist?  Trey just killed the jam.

Twist was pretty straightforward–it wasn’t nearly as impressive as UIC’s version (even with the extended Low Rider tease from Trey).  What was more impressive than UIC’s was Piper, though.  This is probably my favorite Piper of the recent era.  The version comes in at over 12 minutes and reaches an open sea of improvisation.  The brief section of composed music dissolved immediately as Trey went sprinting into the unknown.  The throbbing jam moved into a pulsing Roadrunner tease before Mike took over and led us into the stormy seas.  This tightly-wound jam puts you in the perfect mood for late-night driving, especially when Page moves to the theremin and we drip into outer space.  Just when you think the jam is going to end, Fish comes rolling in on the ride and snare.  Soon, Trey picks up on the re-energized jam and plays over a completely-sinister Page.  Unfortunately, the jam ends shortly thereafter–I could have listened to this for thirty minutes.

The mid-set Harry Hood yielded some groans from those who were hoping for more wide-open jamming, but it was a solid version nevertheless–I wouldn’t put it on UIC’s level though.  The jam features some fantastic interplay between all band members.  I couldn’t be more proud of Harry; after years of saying that Phish should just shelve the song because they couldn’t play it right, the song has finally returned to its proper position this year with fantastic and beautiful versions.

If you thought the groans from the beginning of a mid-second-set Hood were loud, imagine what they’re like for a mid-second-set Roggae.  That’s okay, the crowd didn’t know what would follow it at the time.  This Roggae, on par with nearly all 3.0 versions, is a blissful version–it highlighted some of our last moments of enjoying the outdoor weather with Phish.  The show’s entree would come next.

9.4.11 (Dave Vann)

Ghost started.  After the short and useless UIC version, Ghost was due for something big.  The jam rolls into an absolutely scorching rock jam.  Again, I’m no fluffer, but Trey sounds psychotic in this.  This is how a rockin’ Ghost should sound.  As Trey keeps building to a peak, Fish starts laying Guy Forget quotes in behind the jam.  Soon Trey picks up on the Guy Forget theme and follows Fish.  When Fish switched over to the hi-hat, they fully entered into the song they soundchecked with weeks earlier at Lake Tahoe and last played on 10/1/00 in Arizona.  The second-ever version erupted out during an explosive jam–it’s crazy.  It’s a must-hear.  The Fish and Mike reenter Ghost after Guy Forget had run his course and Trey ends the Ghost by letting us all know that the Ghost is, in fact, Guy Forget.

Walls of the Cave closed the set, a song they’ve been playing particularly well lately.  And the interesting choice of a tour-closer, Number Line, was the single encore song.

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Dick’s, paired with UIC, was a true game changer.  Phish is a whole-new band compared to 2009 and 2010.  Come back to OPT for further discussion of Dicks, 2011, and when we’ll see Phish on stage again.

Thank you Phish.