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. BNCB Says:

    Venue. Stop by the Waterwheel and kick down before you get down. It’s less painful than a second set Alaska…..which is looming.

  2. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    If we had control over it, would it be any better?

  3. Willowed Says:

    Where we watching football today. Jdub and I need to be out of our room by 11 or so.

    Pick a bar, we’ll be there.

  4. BNCB Says:

    FTT, not hating at all! Having a great time. Spreading love from Queens to Gaza to Newtown.

    Here just to call it like it is, musically.

    Treightor to the improv muse

  5. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    What’s part of the allure to my experience is the jitters in guessing the opener; hoping that that Halley’s goes twenty minutes; that that Alaska, in it’s awkward slot would go the distance and bring the rafters and all the banners to the floor…at least the Velvet Sea is out of the way…and early, right?!

  6. [Not Tom] Says:

    How about a Trench Town Rock as an opener tonight?

  7. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    Willowed, the Brickyard’s the place to be!

  8. BNCB Says:

    20mH, Trey can’t read this crowd. It’s a fucking rookie bunch. THe bliss jamming of Reba sent everyone into a full on vocal scream explosion. They were feeling IT in a new way. trey thought they wanted high intensity, and that’s why they were screaming. Really they couldn’t help it and wanted more bliss. Confusion shown when quiet Wavea break down went Caspian instead of storage.

  9. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    agreed…and while the crowd is one aspect, it’s like using a GPS versus going with my intuitive, historically based knowledge of the way to get to the destination. They know what the next movement is, like I know not to listen to the GPS when it says follow 495 vs Grand Central to BQE. I know where I am going, even when it tells me take a legal U-Turn; the crowd can be awed by what they didn’t know they needed, when they expect what they are asking for.

  10. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    Sorry, that got a little heady.

  11. Al Says:

    Watching the mkdevo’s Video of Reba last night I thought the crowd started to scream during the jam because a glowstick war was about to get started in a corner of the Arena…

  12. spunround Says:

    I really dont know what show you guys were all at… But im starting to feel that this board is starting to feel fucking jaded. Time to find a better community.

  13. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    @ Al

    That was the case, as I got doused with glow stick innards and proceeded to glow in the dark for the remainder of the song. It was a blue mess for Section 3. Defective glow sticks, me thinks.

  14. Al Says:

    …corner of the Arena is an interesting Statement at MSG.

  15. BNCB Says:

    Spun I was in a private suite. Blazing OG and throwing the fuck down with Kaveh and co.

    Today we discuss the music over coffee and wake n bakes.

    Where were you?

  16. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    there is fine line between jaded and opinionated. But it’s hard to tell when you can only punctuate your thoughts; I am smiling ear to ear for the chance to see my favorite band, but I am not going to happily lap up glow stick innards if they come from a, in my estimation, a sub par show.

  17. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    I saw a ledge up in the 400’s that you could hop a rail and be in a very precarious spot…all together un safe section for someone influenced by glow stick innards.

  18. Faht101 Says:

    Last night was fun. I really thought the first night was boring. It’s seems like you’ve just seen too many shows buddy.

  19. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Spot on, Señor Miner. At least it felt that way from the mountains here. Mrs. B fell asleep during set two.

    Would not have been unhappy to be there though.

    Carry on, puff tough!

    Do not miss CO phish!

  20. c0wfunk Says:

    Starting to feel jaded lulz.. Jaded round here by the end of 09

  21. Citation_16 Says:

    You ever go to a Phish show and have a good time partying with your buddies and rocking out? Maybe you realize it’s not the greatest show ever, you’re not some noob after all, but you still had fun enjoying the Saturday night big city rock show vibe? Maybe also you have a bit of a soft spot for Suzy and 46 Days? Then you go on the internet and read how it was the worst show ever, and you suddenly feel like an idiot for having fun?

    Yeah…me ‘neither.

  22. BNCB Says:

    I feel saphired

  23. c0wfunk Says:

    I’m rockin emerald today

  24. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Huggiebear, go get some good food and take the stagnant island ferry to and fro then….

  25. DukeOfLizards Says:


    The crowd explosion in Reba was due to someone throwing what looked like a couple hundred glow sticks, which resulted in a full on glow stick war. Absolutely nothing to do with the jam (which, at the peak of the crowd noise, I could not hear).

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