[We'd like to thank Rachael Wesley for recapping last night’s show. Her debut (and very Phish-filled) memoir, SECOND SET CHANCES, is forthcoming (April 2025) through Vine Leaves Press. Follow her on IG rachael_wesley_writes or check out her website: rachaelwesley.com for writing and book updates. —Ed.]
Growing up, Sundays were never my favorite day of the week. I was raised in a secular Catholic household, which meant if my parents woke, sans alarm, in time to attend Mass, we would go. My brother and I almost always arose before Mom and Dad. We would tiptoe around the house like mice, turning on Rugrats at the lowest volume possible, whispering together, holding our breath every time we heard a noise, anticipating our parents rising. Any second, we would be summoned to dress for church.
This happened about 50% of the time. Whether we made it to Sacred Heart of Jesus or not, our afternoons always ended with family time and sauce (never gravy) at my Grandparents’. Sometimes, it felt like forever before the spaghetti was served.
Though I never learned to enjoy church, I discovered that if I just surrendered to the routine of that day, Mass would go by a lot quicker, and the pasta at Gram’s would arrive sooner rather than later.
It’s been decades since being forced to attend a Mass I had zero interest in, but as Matt, yesterday’s reviewer, so beautifully said, Phish IS Church, and I’ve been a willing member of this congregation for over twenty years. A Sunday show day includes many of the same elements of the Sundays of yore: church, family, and food, and, for good measure, throw in the lessons of my youth to remember to surrender to what the day throws at you.
After the magic of the last two nights, anticipation and expectation for this Summer Tour (and summer) ending show were high. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans. Lining up before 6 PM, my crew and I were poised in good position to nab our corner Page side stands in 122, but with a divided sky of blue, clouds, and sun shining West and dark, ominous lightning-flashing skies reminiscent of Stephen King’s “The Mist” to the South, it would be over two hours of standing before it was deemed safe enough to open the venue.
Rather than complain, I chose to surrender to this predicament, and those one hundred and fifty minutes passed quicker and with a lot more joy than a Palm Sunday mass (the most dreaded of them all). The synchronicity of Phish also prevailed, for while sharing laughs and a few extra drinks outside Gate E, I randomly ran into several beloved friends: a buddy who was celebrating his 40th birthday, my favorite tie dye artist, and a friend I raged Thursday night with to name a few.
When the venue doors finally opened, we made a beeline to our coveted spot and found it open. Winning! We claimed our spots and waited some more, this time for what would now be one long-ass set of music. Again, I tried to take on an attitude of surrender for our abridged show. There was nothing else one could do about it.
The band took the stage at 9:27, approximately ninety minutes later than the previous three nights. With a half-filled floor and hordes of fans still waiting to get in, they opened with “Sigma Oasis.” Not my favorite, but the lyrics were apropos of our situation, and I swayed along to this perfunctory version. As SO ended, a deep rumble sounded from Mike, and an extended vibration that could only be “Down with Disease” reverberated through the crowd. Though this sixteen-minute version isn’t all that exceptional, I had fun getting down to Trey’s guitar charge against a strong supportive cast, first a bouncing back and forth between him and Page, then Mike came to play, answering the force of Trey with a steady blast of dance grooves, all while Fishman pounded out an unbelievably fierce and frenetic pace. Towards the end, the jam vaguely resembled “No Men in No Man’s Land” before shifting back to the lyrics to properly close the song.
The hoarseness in Trey’s voice was apparent as he sang about being on his way, and I wondered if sitting around waiting for the lightning to pass allowed the tiredness to settle in. It’s quite possible that these 60 and almost 60-year-old musicians were already tired after rocking the fuck out for the past three nights. Maybe there was even some disappointment felt among the band that their last show of the tour had been cut in half.
Whatever it was, the show must go on.
As the band went into “Moma Dance” I gave a little groan. Blerg. I’ve been sick of hearing this song for years, but the last version I saw (Hollywood Bowl) may have changed my mind. Would tonight’s do the same thing? Everyone around me was smiling and grooving, and, remembering to surrender, I didn’t stop moving either, so I guess that’s settled.
“Moma” rolled straight into “Kill Devil Falls,” which provided lots of opportunities for head bobbing and air guitar among sections 122 and 123. My experience at Dicks this year was exceptional, perhaps the best of my ten years going, and I must give credit to the fans all around me. For four nights, there’d been little to no chomping, straight moving and grooving, smiles and cheers for song selections, and primal howling because it felt so fucking good. Even on this final night of music, so many must have also decided to surrender to the flow (and forget about how tired they were), for the dancing DID NOT STOP.
“Free” followed, another song I could do without, just from the sheer number of times I’ve heard it. Or were these the lies I’ve been telling myself? While "Free” took a little swim, I flowed with it, though I’m sure attendance bias helped.
“Everything’s Right” clocked in at 16:22 and tied with “DWD” for the longest song of the evening. Like “DWD,” the jam wasn’t brilliant, but I settled into a trancey groove as the waning moon, past its glorious full but still a sight to behold (perhaps a great metaphor to our band tonight), rose above the eastern pavilion.
I sat for “Roggae.” It’s a new move for me to take a load off during the slower songs and one I think I’ll continue so I can properly bust a move all show long. I can sway on my bum as expertly as on my feet. If you haven’t mastered this art of sitting, I highly recommend it, especially if you are past forty. But once “The Wedge” started, I jumped to my feet to properly respect that two-car garage.
The ”Gumbo” so many of us expected on Saturday in tribute to Jimmy Buffet sounded for song number nine, and there were lots of wiggling crawdads surrounding me. Though Page’s solo at the end wasn’t as rollicking as usual, I still wiggled my hips and shoulders a bit extra. Play it for me, Keyboard Cat!
“2001” was met with its usual cheers. Time for Kuroda to shine (as if he wasn’t all night and weekend), and twenty-five thousand fans gyrated as one while he displayed his prowess.
2023 has proven to be my year of opening to whatever the band throws at me. My initial thought when they started playing “Fuego” was another blerg, but with Fishman’s drums pounding away and igniting Trey’s guitar, I found myself bopping along to it.
Standard versions of “Runway Jim,” “Twist," and “About to Run,” seemed rushed and added little to this late hour, but my section continued to dance, dance, dance the night away. A penultimate “Harry Hood” clocked in at under ten minutes, and though glowsticks were present, it was no ultimate war of dayglo.
The set closed with “More.” While I’ve spent this review espousing my newfound ways of surrender and open-mindedness, I think I’ll always struggle with this one. Though I think Judy Gemstone could make it a number-one hit, all this vibrating with love and light is a bit too cheese for me. Alas, I swayed along to it, all the while turning around to make faces at friends in the row behind me.
The two-song encore of “First Tube” and “Tweeprise” allowed for a raucous ten minutes of dancing ourselves clean to finish the Sunday show, year twelve at Dicks, and Phish’s 2023 Summer Tour. Though while walking out into the circus-like antics of Phish Lot post-show I didn’t register any disappointment on people’s faces, the Phish socials afterward reflected this sentiment.
One of the most uttered phrases within our community is “Never miss a Sunday show.” Of my last three Phish runs (Dicks 2022 and 2023, Hollywood Bowl 2023), only one (guess which) ended with the expected auditory fireworks. When compared to the mornings I spent as a kid trying not to wake my parents, I had greater odds of missing church than I did of catching a spectacular Sunday show.
Sunday was, in my opinion, the weakest of the last two Dick’s runs (though it must be noted that four nights of music is the most taxing of music marathons). With that said, I had a far better time last night than I did on 9/4/2022 (though I don’t think either show is worth a relisten). This is due to several reasons, but much has to do with this sense of surrender. With so much out of control, we can put the onus on ourselves and our own expectations. I honestly think it’s the best thing one can do for maximum enjoyment.
Or maybe we just need to rethink what it means to never miss a Sunday show. It’s a final opportunity to spend time with loved ones in our chosen church before a weekend of reunions, fun, music, and escape comes to an end, and we should never skip out on this. Besides, if you already did the other shows, why miss out on the final one (even though it may not be the best musically)? There is still a chance (33% in my recent experiences) it will be the show to rule them all.
One final “glass is full” thought for you (because I am a forever optimist): So last night’s show wasn’t the punctuation mark most of us would have chosen to end Summer Tour with, but we don’t have too long to wait for Fall Tour.
If you liked this blog post, one way you could "like" it is to make a donation to The Mockingbird Foundation, the sponsor of Phish.net. Support music education for children, and you just might change the world.
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Phish.net is a non-commercial project run by Phish fans and for Phish fans under the auspices of the all-volunteer, non-profit Mockingbird Foundation.
This project serves to compile, preserve, and protect encyclopedic information about Phish and their music.
The Mockingbird Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Phish fans in 1996 to generate charitable proceeds from the Phish community.
And since we're entirely volunteer – with no office, salaries, or paid staff – administrative costs are less than 2% of revenues! So far, we've distributed over $2 million to support music education for children – hundreds of grants in all 50 states, with more on the way.