A Sterile Saturday Night

12.28.12 (Graham Lucas)

Shows like Saturday night’s at Madison Square Garden leave me scratching my head, wondering what, exactly, the band was intending to do. Following an opening night that laid the groundwork for a stellar run, the guys came out on one of the holiest days of the Phish calendar, 12/29, and barely attempted a lick of open improv. Following Denver’s revelation and a monumental “Tweezer” on the 28th, one had to expect at least a chunk of musical risk-taking on night two. But with one sonic body blow after another, they guys made it a point try absolutely nothing. There is no doubt that they played their songs quite well, and nobody can take that away from them, though we expect Phish to play their songs proficiently at this stage of the game. However, if we are calibrating shows by their level of cerebral engagement—music that enraptures one’s wildest imagination—12/29 was the least impressive of the year by leaps and bounds.

12.29.12 Official (J. Flames)

Before going any further, let me state—once again—that I go to Phish shows to see them jam; to witness the band weave musical memories in real time. If I wanted to listen to Phish songs, I could throw one of many CDs to happily meet that desire. But shows are supposed to be something more. Phish shows are the times when we have the privilege to be awed by the superhuman powers of the most magical musicians on earth. But there was nothing magical about last night at all. With little rhyme or reason, the guys sculpted a piecemeal setlist that possessed no direction or vigor whatsoever. I would love to write about the improvisational highlights of the show but there were none. Zero. Zilch. A few minutes of bland, quasi-connected, atmospheric funk out of “Golden Age” represented the band’s only attempt at any sort of jamming. Even songs like “Rock and Roll,” “Reba,” “Bathtub Gin” and “Waves” that almost always feature exciting improv were delivered in straight forward and unspectacular fashion. There were plenty of high-energy moments—specifically “Suzy Greenberg” and “46 Days”—but those are meant to be the supporting cast, not the lead actors.

The concern that now comes into play for this Holiday Run is whether the 28th will wind up as the best show of the run, just as it was a year ago. It felt like Dick’s provided a pivot point in the development of modern Phish. It seemed that the guys had their hearts rededicated to sophisticated musical experimentation, and that the “hit or miss” aspect that has annoyingly pervaded 3.0 was a thing of the past. But after last night’s song-based snoozefest, that all seems like wishful thinking. Perhaps the 29th was just a bump in the road, but by anyone’s standards, it felt virtually inconceivable that the band would pull out such a performance on Saturday night at the Garden. But they did. And there is nothing to do but smile, put it behind us, and comeback on the 30th for a massive bounce back night of improvisation.

I: Crowd Control, Mound, AC/DC Bag, Rock and Roll, Sugar Shack, Reba, Halley’s Comet > Limb By Limb*, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Bathtub Gin**

II: Golden Age > Waves > Prince Caspian*** > Boogie On Reggae Woman, Suzy Greenberg, Bug, Cavern, 46 Days

E: The Squirming Coil, Grind, First Tube

*Follow the Yellow Brick Road tease
**”Susie Q” quote from Fishman

12.28.12 (Graham Lucas)

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673 Responses to “A Sterile Saturday Night”

  1. kayatosh Says:

    did i miss anyting in yamar? putting kids to bed.

    sucka for horn. night winds, car horn

  2. gavinsdad Says:

    Fruits and vegetables

  3. [Not Tom] Says:

    This show needs a Billy Martin

  4. plord Says:

    Have a nice dark moment there, spunions.

  5. negev79 Says:

    uh that’s not possum

  6. roberto luongo Says:

    This antelope needs to save this clunker

    These shit bomb set I often can lead to monster set ii

    Dwd to get goin ) light

  7. LukasChuck Says:

    Set the gearshift for the high gear of your soul for set 2

  8. Angryjoggerz Says:

    I guess I’m a fluffier cus I’ve really liked this set. Felt very old school.

  9. kayatosh Says:

    shakedown quote. wow

    smokin lope

  10. BNCB Says:

    Good times in New York City. Too bad Phish is on vacation too.

  11. negev79 Says:

    AJ I’m fine with this set..strong BOTT, I liked the Horn/MFMF and it’s nice to hear Yamar.

    But on the flip side, Cities ripcord, botched Divided Sky and with apologies to his hugginess, I just don’t dig Ride Captain Ride. But that’s just me.

    So, whatever, it’s all good. On to set 2….

  12. [Not Tom] Says:

    Shades of ’93 in this antelope. Why do they wait until the last song of the set? At least it sets the stage well for the second frame. Looking to pick up the spare on this one Trey!

  13. roberto luongo Says:

    Divided was a mess
    Cities jamless
    Ya mar jamless
    Sloppy my friend

    Pretty ripping antelope. Some of the better trey of the run right there imo

    Bott almost got goin

    Kinda sloppy set

  14. MiA Says:

    Carved out new directions in bass tone….

    Pull my finger…


  15. MiA Says:

    I particularly like to Ice-9 Velvet Sea.

  16. DukeOfLizards Says:

    Of course Mike uses the word “bugger” all the time.

  17. [Not Tom] Says:

    I’d buy that ticket Mike

  18. Angryjoggerz Says:

    Huh, interesting

  19. kayatosh Says:

    holy shit, that was intense. bass rig school.

    still have to switch out the laundry.

  20. [Not Tom] Says:

    So we’ll get the effects portion of his rig tomorrow I guess

  21. DukeOfLizards Says:

    Missed the first few minutes of that – Mike is using a totally new setup for this run?

  22. [Not Tom] Says:

    Assuming it was just filmed. Could have been filmed this summer at one if the few indoor venues.

  23. kayatosh Says:

    yep. aside from lope, pedestrian set. $$+ loper

    come on, crazy set II..

  24. Kevin Says:

    Miss the days when they’d follow up a clunker with fire out of the gate. I hate to say it, but these days I’m not sure they know what the difference is.

  25. DukeOfLizards Says:

    Good point @NT.

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