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. voopa Says:

    *at the end of set 3.

    *remained as part of the re-broadcast.

    Finish your Phish Thoughts, voop!

  2. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    espn gets all pissy when they don’t get what they want. for example, they completely left out all former hockey players when doing their year end retrospective which listed all of the notable people in sports who died in 2011. you know, cuz they don’t have the nhl contract and all.

    I think you are right about the Cuse snubbery.

  3. sumodie Says:

    Keep spankin’ Big Red! The only hardbody he should be laying hands on is his Ocelot.

    Too many distractions in the Big Apple -time to move NYE to Hawaii (as was intended back in ’99)

  4. marcoesq Says:

    morning all. 5:30 mark in Crosseyed, shit gets weird. Love it

  5. InAMinute Says:

    @JTran the only improvement to the Mike’s Groove would’ve been if the entire band kept playing Chalkdust over Trey’s Hydrogen for the entire song. Otherwise, it was heat.

  6. Kaveh Says:

    Good morning BBers!

  7. Aquaman Says:

    @ReidIcculus RE: quinn

    I did notice that, but man, closing Set One with Quinn was actually one of my favorite moments of the 30th show. I came with a buddy who is definitely more a Dead fan, and having a Dylan cover played just really rang his bell. It was like a high energy sing-a-long, and sometimes…..that’s what the doctor ordered.

    I give myself +1 for focusing on a positive element of 12/30.


  8. Aquaman Says:


  9. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    oh where, oh where are those 12.29 codes?
    oh where, oh where can they beeeeeeeeeee?

    hook a disorder up, yo.

    grassy ass
    may be able to trade a 12.30 or 12.31 in recompense if needed taboot taboot

  10. marcoesq Says:

    oh shit, forgot to bring your code with me tiii! lo siento. I’ll email you real quick

  11. Guyute711 Says:

    Yeah T3 the hockey snub was pretty bad too. A lot of NHL or former NHL players died this past off season. Just more and more ammunition for me to hate ESPN.

  12. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    ha ha, no worries, marco!

  13. marcoesq Says:

    7:14 in Simple, feel Mike’s pulsing bass. Sickness

  14. litteringand Says:

    I miss LLama

  15. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    just to add to your disdain for the day, g711, it looks like Marvel Comics is developing… wait for it… a TEBOW COMIC BOOK!!

  16. angryjoggerz Says:

    Good morning, bb. Let’s make today a positive one.

  17. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    feel Mike’s pulsing bass

    thass gross

  18. Robear Says:


    Got Miners Coffee Table. Now I just need a book tower on there 🙂

  19. Aquaman Says:

    @TIII and AJ

    that’s what MiA said……(rim shot!)

  20. Guyute711 Says:

    Ha ha, Tebow is already irrelevant

  21. angryjoggerz Says:

    When does spring tour begin?

  22. Robear Says:


    Wait, let’s ask @Winter Queen. Yoo Hoo

  23. Kaveh Says:

    I’ve got an extra codes (one night is stud hub; don’t know why that one won’t work, but it might not. And one is a house ticket, again, don’t know). So use the codes below:

    First come, first served:

    28: 366207197066 (TM)
    29: 8795875489512769 (stub hub)
    31: 751861128090 (house ticket)

  24. Jtran Says:

    Caspian > Numberline


    Some hip Trey leads. Thought that was a cool segment to have early in the show

  25. angryjoggerz Says:

    I’m hoping for some west coast phish this year. I know there is a lot more coming from this band, I can just feel it. Bring it.

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