Sand is unleashed from the arsenal for the last time (and to be clear, redundancy abounds, as everything played tonight is/was played for the last time this tour)and in its rhythmic torrent unleashed from the opening licks, set two is looking like things are going to get weird! It only took a few moments out of the song proper to get into IT. But I am getting ahead of myself; the gusto that was apparent in every note played was wholly reciprocated by the audiences keen attentiveness: the massive collective was housed in the communal quasi-make-shift congregation that gathered for what turned out to be a wholly religious experience. Page's comps that resonated just under the lead guitar, Mike's infectious bass groove, Fish tapping away at his hi-hat…it all meant something. I liken it to a good piece of fiction, where every word is intended, no filler, each line constructed had to exist for every other line to have a chance existing. We are six minutes in and the whole band has locked into some cosmic joke that they are attempting to spell out musically, letting it flow through them. Page is still on point following right behind Trey jumping from rig to rig, and settling in on his baby grand. Unlike Sands of past, where Mike keeps the Sand bass repetition very much in line, this one strays from Sand while clinging to the last grains as it erupts to same cosmos that we were treated to the previous evening.
Trey whines out a long note before hitting his signature 3.0 staccato licks and Page's clav is sinister in its approach to what Big Red is throwing down. From this quick tempo section, entering in at the 10 minute mark, Trey begins to sink the band back into the quick Sand, briefly, before registering some funk filled licks, which trail into a howling drone. It is in these section, where the drone begins to take on the rhythm of the crowd, that the band seems to re-group (not lost, but really opening their minds and hearts to each other, to the crowd)! Supersonic loops, Page's effects, bass bombs that would rival those dropped on some unsuspecting rival country…the sirens now blaring and we are in heaven, elysium, gone now from the plane of existence, the band in fully into another stratosphere, and we are left, we have left the physical realm. Repetition of this uplifting beat, screams echo from behind, more cries of exaltation. In this rhythm, very much Gorge 2011 Rock and Roll Jam, is then christened with Trey playing a section that almost seems wholly composed, the four horsemen of the apocalypse now locked into each other, and Page steps up, and begins to take a lead where Trey steps back. 17 minutes in and I am lost at how we got this far into the Jam, and (oh trey's tremolos). Sand, now dissolved completely, has become a new beast, with its sights set on total annihilation.
Interesting anecdote (as Trey's machine gun licks begin to bring the rise of the jam) the eerily thematically linked sections of this song, all come together as I walk the entire surrounds of the venue, before taking up shop dead center, behind the last bank of speakers; it culminating in the classic tension and release the band knows so well. Then, from the ether, formulating like the cyclical nature of the rain clouds that riddled Commerce City earlier that afternoon, we come to and are dropped from the sky right back into the semi-completion of Sand.
Now this is where I love my thought processes getting the best of me, because with a little Mike Plinko action, Sand's rhythms, which always have hinted at Ghost in my mind, slowly transform this massive jam, seamlessly, (very deserving of --> on this transition) and here we are tour ending Second set Ghost. The irony of the sheer nastiness of this segue, fusion, jazz funk fugue, is that 30 seconds into the Ghost, its not really Ghost yet (according to my livephish download, by the by) I could trade in all the songs to completion just for the band to play a montage of valid fusions from one song to the next. (ones that deserve -->)! The Ghost, to take the thematic implications of the Sand fiasco we just some how got ourselves out of (like some high school debacle regarding a very near-run in with the authorities) is now registering in my mind; maybe we didn't actually get out of that Dick'sand alive, but rather, were sleighed by the four headed demon equipped with musical quasi-weapon instruments, and we have now been blessed to be transplanted back onto earth, as apparitions…as Ghosts.
It doesn't take long for the molasses to take hold and the undulation of thick, chunky effects driven leads, Page's comps, Mikes bass nails on rails, and Phish, holding down the tempo, my thoughts as I take this all in, along with the twirling freakers, spin-reeling, holding from long strings, between his legs, what appears to resemble, or signify testicles (makes sense, with all the Dick humor) are jumbled thoughts, barely able to comprehend as the Trey's wah effects are combined with searing leads, still being accurately traced by Page, just a little louder than his previous destruction of Sand. We are now over 30 minutes into this set, and locked back into a whole band groove, which is just fine with me, building in speed, and Mike's bass finally making moves for the lead, no one ego overtaking at any moment, but Mike clearly holding the reigns, as Page cascades a sprinkling of moon dust behind him.
As this section raps up, me re-hashing my set list book, all scribbles at this point, I realize we are only in Song 2! A no quarter theme arises from the smoldering ashes, the remnants of what was Ghost and the audience, and as a Phoenix from the ashes, or a Worm from the Sand, Piper graces us with his lovely presence, a sobering intro to say the least, which doesn't take long to get the cosmos realigned, smiles abound from those able to be fortunate to be present for this final Sunday sermon from our favorite preaches, giving us insight into the Universe by allowing themselves to be opened up to its rhythm and ancient voice. These four conduits for, what I feel is, the Platonic Form of Beauty, how Plato feels their is one true form for which all things are spawned, from that Perfect (insert object here) Phish is presenting us the Platonic Form of Music.
Having settled a little further back, Fish side, against the far back rail, I overwhelmed by the sheer majesty, as I am able to be a passenger on this voyage, all four musicians, inextricably linked via some tap into each other's souls. There ability to turn on a dime, and enter a whole new rhythmic progression, and so smoothly, obviously comes from a summer of magic, and a career that beckons the question (the one no one wants to ask) will this end? I fear the loss of this, as a piece of me will certainly be taken, as it almost was a few years ago.
Now Trey comping Page, in this last passage of the tale of Piper, risen from the Sand, and as the final stretch is nearing, each member locked and loaded, kung-fu style, a down-right, Chuck Norris-Bruce Lee style ass whooping! The fitting landing pad, for what just occurred is 20 years later that comes next, and as much as this might be a breather, it is more a reflection, like McGrupp recounts what occurred in Gamehendge, this song paints the mural of the arc of an ever evolving (mature) band, having wrestled with it all, and come out on the other side, able to produce such infinitely transcending Music.
We stand at the same precipice we found ourselves gazing off the previous evening, knowing we only needed but a taste of what we had just experienced to be fulfilled, band bows, house lights up. But no, here comes the added punctuation. About to veer off this cliffside, towards the denouement, everything we get from here on in is the sweet frost on the proverbial cake, the white caps to the majestic rockies, which in and of themselves, Snow caps aside, are enough to fill your soul. But no, having just been told the meaning of life, we are granted the chance to be told it yet again, to revel in the majesty of IT!
My girlfriend had been chasing Lizards for 50 shows, (missing out on the Worcester Lizards; a show I was regretfully, for her sake, at) but with the Gamehendge classic's, and elusive set list evader's, opening notes from Trey, I began to run circles around her; her jaw dropped cartoon style to the grimy floor of Dick's, but as she scooped it up, and was basking in the positive wave of energy, a bit of sadness overcame her. And it was in her eyes, in he heart I was let on to, until now, what I may not have always been able to put words to. IT, that elusive intangible, wholly cosmic convergence of so many outside forces, that we are but a small morsel in the larger chocolate chip cookie that IT encompasses, but a still a necessary ingredient, without which IT could never occur (Tree fallen to deaf ears); IT, what we just experienced, while certainly a goal of mine to experience, to revel in, to roll around and grovel in the cosmic muck, is also to be sought. Once you have seen it, you begin to chase the proverbial four headed dragon, 15 years across the planet, through Blizzard and scalding heat, occasionally it slipping through your hands, like fine grains of sand, other times, grasped, like tonight, brimming on the moment of wake from a heavenly dream, knowing you will not depart from this venue with IT in tow. Having held IT, you learn to let it go, knowing that the old adage of if it's meant to be, when let go, it will surely return. We would be like Wilson to think we could keep the book to ourselves, like Golum his ring, which in all it's power and understanding, is meant not to be owned, or possessed, but glimpsed for sometimes fractions of seconds, sometimes over the course of a Sunday evening, sometimes to be conveniently, if not seemingly deliberately, purposely evading your questing for IT, your hope of drinking from ITs cup, and quenching your thirst for IT. There, in her eyes, she had just been witness to IT, and it was sad, because, that specific quest was now over, and all at once, as the 10 minute mark hit, and the finally notes stretched into the cool colorado air, aloft in the breeze, the evening was drawing to a close, and the end of the summer was here; with us along the journey, a friend of vast significance, of consoling words, and infinite insight into IT, and Summer too, jettisoned from our lives, packed up its ruck-sack and sped off into the distance, without leaving their number, but knowing we will be seeing them once more, once the days begin to grow longer, and the sun remains in the balance of the sky for what seems like infinity, as if these days would never end!
Harry Hood was the obvious punctuation on this final chapter to this epic story of summer 2012; most complete tour; re-emergence of a band that can consistently kick it (yes they can) night in and night out, regardless of Web-Casting, couch tour and all the other Tweet-Space-Booking-trending-hullabaloo, that envelopes our modern society, What these performances have done, if anything, is forced those at home to get to their local amphitheater, local music venue, and tap into IT! Character Zero is the epilogue which begs the question, of how one might proceed in life, which we will all be asking ourselves, even after we were able to, albeit briefly, fold over time and look back upon ourselves. But we ramble from our respective seats, out into the lot, legs aching, sweat now drying to light saltiness, and the air is a bit sweeter, if not bitter sweet, the sky a little brighter, and the journey home, while still a daunting task, is just a little bit more manageable, knowing we were able to add another journey to the record books of our relentless questå for IT. Thank you, Phish!