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. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    I stayed at Gramercy park and fell prey to the hotel door locks freezing at midnight, could not get back into my room until 5Am

  2. garretc Says:


    Plenty of psychedelia to be found in electronica (for lack of a better term).

    Different in a lot of ways, but similar in many too. Try listening to a Oneohtrix Point Never album and then tell me if psychedelia survives…

    As for rock psychedelia? That’s definitely seemingly becoming more rare, but I’m really not one for keeping up with music these days, so I can’t really say for sure…

  3. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    Sat in my Hallway with 10 other guest eating falafel and drinking pinot noir…wtf…what an after party!

  4. garretc Says:


    Wait… Were they supposed to lock? Or was that some kind of accident? ‘Cause that seems like an extremely shitty policy…

  5. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    Computer error at midnight, locked 95% of the hotel’s guest out of their rooms!

  6. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    There was limited management on, though hotel was hosting a $1k per seat dinner party, and we were left in the hallway til they could devise a plan?!

  7. DryIceFactory Says:

    @Miner: Wrapping up the year

    Please do an installment of your top 10 – or maybe a 3 part, 5 a day top 15? There’s so much goodness to this year and I’m excited to see what you were feeling.

    A top 15 jams of the year should be done too IMO.

    One last thing, why isn’t MSG 2001 getting any love? That was easily the most locked in I saw the crowd over the whole run. People were just buzzarding out to those slick bits of improv. Love me some atypical 2001 jamming.

  8. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    We got extended check out the next day til 3PM, free room service, and refunded every penny spent on room and minibar! Kinda didn’t mind the inconvenience!

  9. sumodie Says:

    Psychedelic/space rock is still alive -only need to go digging for it

    keep scrolling down on that site and you’ll find plenty of newer music

    I’ve yet to wade thru the recs myself

  10. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I yearn for the days when 2001 was 15-18 minute monster that had an entire arena bouncing and freaking the fuck out.

  11. Mr palmer Says:

    But yeah, the MSG 2001 is a lot of fun.

  12. Dorn76 Says:

    12/28 first respin… 1st set is solid, but a weak Gin really keeps it from blowing up. 12 mins but they never find anything, and eventually give up. Actually surprised me how much I didn’t dig it. Huge Gin fan here.

  13. angryjoggerz Says:

    yeah, Silly – plenty of psychedelic music out there, fear not. Some (imo) waaaay more psychedelic than the phish.

  14. Fly Says:

    Ice I was pimpin that 2001 from the start

    also the Bowie is nice

    slop in both sets 12.30 but some nice ones too

    first set is tight through Sand, Vultures nice except for Trey’s lyric flub

    Then Rift is OK at best, Joy, Quinn

    Set II is gold except for atrocious flub in Axilla, questionable Golgi placement, and flubbed up Horse>Silent

    that Piper>Twist is killer, obviously, and then Bowie, Squirming and a hot encore

    a lot to like from this show despite flubs

    Agree that Gin is average at best Dorn, Stash flubbed up a bit too

  15. sumodie Says:

    the past few days around here have been hilarious though – i’ll pull thoughts together on why you’re all wrong later today

    Many comments on both sides of the MSG spectrum have been funny, insightful, and true. The more time that elapses since NYE, the better I’ve been feeling about the shows (no, not saying the shows will ever be on par with the best of 2011 phish). And I still basically agree with Miner’s reviews

    Been catching NYE runs since ’94 and I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else on the planet for MSG’11. Even with 20/20 hindsight.

    Damn straight trza should’ve slept with his Ocelot more instead of whoring around with indie bands and musicals. But Alaska was pretty damned hot too. Like hell I approved of MSG’s set flow, I simply surrendered to the flow (which I can’t always do)

    Somehow my head handled all that good/bad duality without exploding. Onwards I say…

  16. Fly Says:

    How bout that Bethel Gin Dorn

    Probably my top personal Phish moment of 2011

  17. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I’m with sumo. no place better on NYE for me than a phish show. actually, you could probably take the “on NYE” out and that statement is still true.

  18. Mike in Austin Says:

    I was kinda happy to be back in Austin with the wife after three great days in NYC.

  19. Mr. Palmer Says:

    The Julius rips. It should have been part of a three song encore though, with Waves taking its and Golgi’s place in the heart of 12/30 set II.

  20. angryjoggerz Says:

    mmmmm, modern family.

  21. El Duderino Says:

    “Set II is gold except for atrocious flub in Axilla, questionable Golgi placement, and flubbed up Horse>Silent”-Fly

    You guys are funny…

  22. El Duderino Says:

    NBA League Pass free until the 8th

  23. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Knicks suck so far. They will turn it around eventually.

  24. angryjoggerz Says:


  25. Dorn76 Says:

    Bethel Gin was a frenzied masterpiece.

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