PHISH FRIDAY: Dick’s 2013 Setlist Speculation


As we lead up to Phish’s upcoming three-night run at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Colorado, I thought it’d be fun to speculate about what the band might bust out during what has now become an annual (and infamous) run of shows in the Denver metro area.

Two years ago the band opened up a new approach to their setlist antics when they played a set made up entirely of songs starting with the letter “s.” And then last year, they upped the ante by morphing their setlist shenanigans into the “acrostic” variety, spelling out the name of their old-school tune, “Fuck Your Face,” in an amazing opener for their much-hyped 2012 Dick’s run (setlist here).

Setlist gimmicks aside, last year’s run featured the band seriously at the top of their game. And given their most recent exploits at the Gorge, in SF, Tahoe and LA, one can only expect hope they can bring the heat at Dick’s like they’ve been doing for the last two summers.

Of course, we wouldn’t be obsessive Phish fans if we didn’t add some fuel to the fire and speculate on what they might try to pull off at this year’s Dick’s run (we couldn’t help ourselves last year, so why stop now?). While I could potentially see Phish attempting to put the kibosh on their setlist gimmickry this year, previous precedent suggests the band’s willingness to extend their hyjinks a bit further (I mean, this band rarely holds back when it comes to inside jokes, spoofs and shenanigans…remember all those attempts at the Meatstick dance craze?).

As such, I thought it’d be fun to speculate about the other possible setlist games they could play in 2013. Here’s my take…forget spelling out song names or using a single letter of the alphabet. Why not push this out into fully thematic set lists? Instead of spelling things out, they could organize sets around themes and concepts and really tap into their enormous songbook and list of go-to covers.

When you think through the band’s songbook, some pretty obvious themes jump out that could be a lot of fun to play around with….

Aquatic Theme
They could go with an “Aquatic” or “Ocean” theme with songs like A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, Drowned, Theme from the Bottom, Waves, Wading in a Velvet Sea, etc…

Or, they could do an all-animals set with Birds of a Feather, Camel Walk, Fly Famous Mockingbird, Llama, Lizards, The Horse, Run Like an Antelope, The Sloth, Vultures, among many others.

Hell, the band could even just do an entire set of dog-themed tunes since they’ve got plenty of those too: Dog Faced Boy, Dog Log, Dog Stole Things, Harpua, and Runaway Jim (and how about a Shaggy Dog for a nice, old-shool bustout?).

Or, how about songs with a Scientific theme? They could go with Foam, Golgi Apparatus, First Tube, Tube, Frankenstein, I Am Hydrogen, Steam, etc…

They could also do food-themed songs too, which would certainly make for an interesting mix: Meat, Meatstick, Gumbo, The Mango Song, Manteca, Sugar Shack, and Taste.

But, if we want to take it way out out there, we could go even further and get into some more interesting themes and concepts. Check these out:

States of Mind or Being
Buried Alive
Silent in the morning
I Didn’t Know
If I Could
Split open and Melt
Crosseyed and Painless
Cry Baby Cry
Instant Karma!
Emotional Rescue
My Mind’s Got a Mind of its Own

Kill Devil Falls
Yarmouth Road
Highway to Hell
Life on Mars?
La Grange

People (proper nouns):
Buffalo Bill
Suzy Greenberg
Rocco William
David Bowie
Brian & Robert
Frankie Says
Ginseng Sullivan
Harry Hood
The Inlaw Josie Wales
Letter to Jimmy Page
Jennifer Dances (ha!)
Mike’s Song
Colonel Forbin’s

Backwards down the Number Line
Bouncing Around the Room
Get Back on the Train
Ha Ha Ha
Punch You in the Eye
Boogie on Reggae Woman
Burnin Down the House

As you can see, once you open things up and let the imagination run wild, then the possibilities are pretty endless, especially with Phish’s 30-year catalog of songs to pick from.

Now I’d obviously love it if they took it this far and did something similar to this concept — and it sure is fun to speculate about all the possibilities — but it’s really not what they play as much as how they play them. I would much rather the band scrap the setlist games entirely if it means we can get more improv along the lines of the Tahoe Tweezer or the Hollywood Hood. So if they can match the improv intensity from last year’s Dicks or from some of their recent West Coast shows, then we’ll really be in for a treat. What other themes would you conjure up? Leave your ideas in the comments!

WHITperson -- aka Marc Whitman or simply "Whit" -- is a long-time LMB contributor known for his in-depth posting style and his knack for crafting interesting podcasts. Whit currently resides in Brooklyn, where he's building up his web development chops and hoping to put his technical skills towards something interesting in the music world. Follow his updates over at


  1. McGrupp is a dog & Magilla is an ape. Take them off of the person set and move them to the animal set. Also, No Dogs Allowed is missing from the animal/dog set

  2. ha, well I s’pose if I put up a super geeky post like this then I’m probably asking for some even geekier, detailed responses. Although I attempted to be thorough, these lists aren’t meant to be comprehensive, so I don’t think of anything as “missing.”

    I mean, what about NO2 (N20?) for the Science theme? Or Walk Away for Actions? Or Camel Walk for Animals AND Actions? ;)

  3. All instrumental show! Buried Alive, Letter to Jimmy Page, Magilla, 2001 > Peaches, CTB, Caravan, Black Eyed Katy, What’s the Use, Dave’s Energy Guide,

  4. For years I’ve hoped they’d do a people first set and animal second. Also, they could do a show or sets where they make sentences with with songs. Like ” I didn’t know when the circus comes to town Billy breathes fire…” Etc

  5. Tahoe Tweezer, Hollywood Hood…….. Commerce City Crosseyed, Denver Disease, Colorado Contact…. hmmmmm

  6. Backwards set. Open with Reprise into Sleeping Monkey. Next is a Bowie that teases four songs they will do that night. Then Week, Hydro, Mike’s…with some “Still Waiting: thrown in. Silent than Horse…More “Still Waiting” DWD, 2001, Crosseyed to end set #1. Start set #2 off with an Antelope, Mockingbird/Forbin’s. Then basically play any songs they want to have fun with and end the show with Tweezer. Finally, encore with Punch.

  7. They already have…the element set of UIC night 1 2011

    Set 2: Sand > Light > Dirt > Waves -> Undermind[2] -> Steam > Fire

    Also, Set 3 of MSG NYE this year had the golf themed set…

  8. the all “Woo” set? Would require some covers, See: Sympathy for the Devil..Song 2 by Blur.. etc etc… can definitely come up with at least enough for one set…

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