Limited Adventure

12.30.2011 (Joe Iudice)

After a strong performance on the 28th in which Phish took no less than three jams into uncharted territory—“Cities,” “Carini,” and “Rock and Roll”—it seemed as though they were setting the table for a daring and risk-strewn four nights. But in the following three shows combined, the band took exactly two jams outside the box in “Piper” and “Light,” while also sitting in a smooth funk groove for about two minutes in “Golden Age.” And that was it—an entire New Year’s Run worth of exploration. Dwarfed by each of the modern era Holiday Runs of ’09 and ‘10—both of which produced several timeless pieces of improvisation—this MSG stand was noticeably void of adventurous jamming, a staple the band’s 2011 playing. Sure, Phish put on some tight rock and roll shows in New York City, but this is Phish, they can do that in their sleep.

Let’s summarize the highlights. “Piper” was certainly the crown jewel of the run, when, in a single moment, the band jumped onto the same page and crafted a layered and looped-out, psychedelic masterpiece that touched the divine. Synced like no other time during the four nights, Phish sculpted a jam that stands head and shoulders above the rest. “Carini” turned into a truly blissful and harmonic collaboration before smoothly landing in “Tweezer.” “Rock and Roll” certainly pushed the envelope with varying rhythmic cadences along the way, and when the band couldn’t really connect in “Light,” despite Page’s best efforts to start something, they brought the piece down for the run’s Theremin jam. This part of “Light” became increasingly engaging—the most interesting music of the evening—but Trey pulled the string way early for an absolute trainwreck into “Golden Age” as the rest of the band was deepening. Then, as “Golden Age” was just getting somewhere, the band stopped for “Theme.”

12.31.2011 (Michael Stein)

Throughout 2011, Phish’s focus returned to innovative improvisation; the true rebirth of psychedelic Phish music. No longer were jams formulaic, but original and forward-looking, as the band carved new musical pathways for themselves, specifically with the late-summer addition of “storage jamming” to their repertoire. Think about the jams at Bethel, Super Ball, The Gorge, and UIC or Denver. And then think about these past shows—there’s simply no comparison. My initial question is, “Why?”

An obvious theory is the 3 1/2 month layoff between performances. But when Phish was off for 6 months between 1/1/11 and Bethel, the time off certainly didn’t seem to effect them when they came out with two of the strongest shows of the year. Perhaps the band didn’t rehearse enough before this run, as Trey and Mike have been off pursuing other projects, and they wanted to play it safe. Perhaps, and most likely, the band just decided to treat the Big Apple to some high energy rock shows—a trend at MSG this era—and if one looked around during many of the straightforward shredders, most everyone was loving it. But something seemed off, the band’s spirited and airtight interplay was noticeably absent, even within their contained jamming .

12.30.2011 (J. Iudice)

Pronounced most on the 30th, in a first set in which he flubbed several parts of several tunes, Trey seemed to have his own issues and agenda for much of the weekend. More than a few times there were onstage struggles between Big Red and his band mates as he tried to pull them out of jams, and as usual, Trey always won. The music of the final three nights, less “Piper,” didn’t possess the daring spirit that has infused the band’s jamming from Bethel through Denver—it just wasn’t there. Happy to play recital-esque shows, even “Ghost” and “Sneakin’ Sally” didn’t get any whole-band improv during the second set of New Years’ Eve—arguably the marquee set of the year! Conservative to the core, it seemed like something was holding Phish back this weekend. Or maybe they just couldn’t hook up? As the final three shows of the year produced a total of one keeper, it certainly isn’t a far-fetched theory. But after a marathon summer of proficient jamming, less a show here and there, this run felt out way of place. With so much straightforward rock jamming and song-based sets, dare I say that the final three nights of 2011 felt a little like a far tighter version of June 2009? Hmmm…

Perhaps all of these conjectures are ridiculous and the band accomplished exactly what they wanted to—a high-energy celebration over the final days of the year. But for many of us going to see Phish for a bit more than fun and a good time, it certainly felt like something was lacking. After a year of improvisational triumph in which Phish recaptured their musical magic on a consistent basis, the band closed out the year with some extremely vanilla shows in the World’s Most Famous Arena. Has Madison Square Garden become a modern platform for energetic jamming rather than a mecca for Phish’s standout performances? This past week, it certainly was.

12.31.2011 (Graham Lucas)


Jam of the Day:

Piper” 12.30.11 II

The most impressive whole-band communication of the run; a gorgeous Phish jam.


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601 Responses to “Limited Adventure”

  1. Kaveh Says:

    Show: Pine Knob
    Jam: Rock and Roll @ The Gorge

  2. tela'smuff Says:

    where you hearing Vegas isn’t happening @Mr P? granted were just going off a tweet from some dude in Vegas who was in the know, but still…

    if Vegas doesn’t happen, then that’s ok as long as i can fill in some more West Coast shows. Would like something in Seattle, Portland, San Fran, Denver again, and maybe some randoms like Montana and New Mexico.

  3. BingosBrother Says:

    Alpine is a lock this summer and I like it.

  4. TreasureReprise Says:

    Jam – Tweezer – Denver night 2
    Show – Denver night 2

  5. jdub Says:

    Favorite jam of the year is a tougher question than I thought it would be. So my 3 faves of ’11:

    Gorge RnR
    UIC Waves Undermind
    Commerce City Tweezer

    Favorite show: UIC 1 – just can’t ignore the quality of that set 2,

  6. BingosBrother Says:


  7. stapes Says:

    Alpine works well for me but I’d still rather be seeing them on the west coast.

    Starting to really want another Halloween in Indio

  8. BingosBrother Says:

    Listened to Indio YEM yesterday and thats a pretty hot YEM.

    Fav Jam : Bethel Waves SC, Tahoe Light, UIC Wolfmans
    Fav Show : UIC 1

  9. voopa Says:

    Show: UIC 1
    Pre-Storage Jam: Charlotte Ghost
    Post: Gorge RNR

  10. Mulitbeast Says:

    I would most likely go back to AV just to kick it with hometown brahs, but I am hoping for the spring tour vegas thing to happen. Is it still a strong possibility that they will play Dicks again over labor day? According to some local Denver dudes in the know ‘this WILL happen’.

  11. tzara's Says:

    Anyone notice, no footbell at MSG? Kinda sums it up IMO.
    Jam RnR Gorge
    Show UIC 1 or DTE

  12. Mulitbeast Says:

    Fav Show UIC 1
    Fav Jam Gorge RnR (at the show bias the Gorge RnR, but waves undermind UIC1 is a close second. Just listened that this weekend, loud. Love it)

  13. Mulitbeast Says:

    “Anyone notice, no footbell at MSG? Kinda sums it up IMO.”
    ^I had not noticed, but that is really interesting.

  14. Slicksasquatch Says:

    Good point if you are correct tela. The use of mikes bell means it’s on . Without it I’m afraid he thought it was off too

  15. TheSloth Says:

    Jam: DTE Disease
    Show: UIC 1

  16. Dr Pronoia Says:

    I distinctly remember footbell on 12/30, when I was sitting with MIA, so that would have been somewhere in the first 3 songs of set 2, through the twist. Did a couple if I remember right

  17. DukeOfLizards Says:

    The “no footbell at MSG” claim is false.

    I do a fantasy footbell league with my good friend, where we each bet on footbell appearances in our 10-song “teams.” There were no less than five footbells during the run. Off the top of my head I remember Boogie On (a fantasy footbell stalwart and my first round pick) and during the segue between Rock and Roll and NICU.

    Can’t remember the 3+ others right now.

  18. Slicksasquatch Says:

    Not sure if this is news here but phils new venue site is up .

  19. Spunround Says:

    Yeah… it definitely was during twist… I heard the bell once…

  20. Slicksasquatch Says:

    I have always been a foot bell chaser myself . It’s kinda funny I had a disagreement @ Indio about the existence of the bell w some vet fans . Somehow some people apparently miss this. Must be extra curriculars veiling their ears

  21. bob dylan Says:

    I heard the higher ups talking about Vegas.

    Since we’re discussing that rumor.

  22. halcyon Says:

    From Twitter

    @kellyoxford – “Cain, Perry, Bachmann all claimed God told them to run for President, and all are out of the race. God is hilarious.”


  23. halcyon Says:

    WHOA! ❗

  24. DukeOfLizards Says:

    Oh, and:

    Jam: OG Storage
    [Traditional show jam: UIC Waves>Undermind]
    Show: UIC 1

  25. bob dylan Says:

    Phil/dead always use .net

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