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. angryjoggerz Says:



  2. acleo Says:

    Miner you are experiencing the best of the best. Enjoy.

  3. Snigglebeach Says:

    From a set list perspective the shows on the 30th always seem to deliver.

    I expect a big turnaround tonight. We knew on the BB Moner would be disappointed.

  4. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Thanks aj

  5. btb Says:

    It was a straight ahead rocker of a show. I think they tried to jam in Set II but they just fell flat.

    Trey laid down a redic outerspace groove out of Waves (i think) and for about 10 seconds they reached a bliss portal….they just couldn’t keep it together for long. Oh, well. They struggled really forming a cohesive 4 headed monster wall of sound at times. That happens.

    Sizzling, scorching, but yes, not exactly exploratory.

    I was sittiing by a bunch of chicks that had the time of their fucking lives. 30-40 year old women who absolutely rocked. It was funny. We come on here and fell a little empty…however the band made some peoples nights. Just an observation. Suzy, Caspian, Bug, Cavern, First Tube etc.

    On to the next one!

  6. Willowed Says:

    Stopped in for a few beers at Cafe 31. On 31st between 7th and 8th.

  7. Albert walker Says:

    I thought night I was a mess also besides tweezer and the decent but laughable in historical context Bowie (see 94/95)

    Wolf mans alright but all over the place

    It’s that damn massive custy house that used to be sacred but got gutted

    Brings out the wankin broadway crowd pleaser in trey

    But damn 4 nights at MSG can buy a bunch of black silk shirts

    MehSG part deux

  8. MiA Says:

    Ha ha ha. Lolz.

    Thank you Mr. Moaner.

    We all know to blame it on Mike’s lack of scarf and Sgt. Pepper’s jacket. Dude was dropping ice-9’s during Velvet Sea.

    You really think its gojng to be a serious night?

  9. Albert walker Says:

    MSG is now a noob NYC energy fest. None of my friends can afford goin.

    Trey is playing to the crowd. And damn it’s an annoying one.

    Go watch Dics Light video. A different band.

  10. c0wfunk Says:

    Mentioned this last night but it bears repeating…

    Listened yesterday to Brooklyn 04 for the first time in the car. Theres a couple of intense jams and a cool Suzie reprise that gets wild after a little hiccup or two.. But the band I watched last night was a thousand times better than that band everyday of the week. I don’t agree with the sentiment that listening to the songs at home on a recording is the same as seeing it live, even if theres no alternate chord structure jamming. I love watching polished musicians at the top of their craft and at this stage of my game that gets me there just as well as a transcendent tweezer jam. I am of course aware many of you disagree and experience frustration by shows like last night. Not so for me. I love just watching the boys at their craft regardless of how it manifests compositionally. My priorities are a communicative and happy band with an open vibe to the moment. Judged by that standard phish remains on point.

    No matter how you want it to be NYC msg nye will never be dicks.

  11. c0wfunk Says:

    For sure aw.. Most of the old timers I know are absent as well.. Playin the room.

  12. acleo Says:

    ^best review of miner

  13. tela'smuff Says:

    i’m happy i love in CO. they bring the best to me. think it may time to move back to Leadville AW.

    i fully expect a BG3 type performance tonight. save BNCB from leaping again.

  14. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    @sumo, what did you think of the Japanese exhibit at the moma? I thought it was way better than tw abstract art exhibit. Mind was blown.

  15. BNCB Says:

    I blame all who skipped.


  16. Albert walker Says:

    Phish is about unique amounts and creativity crowd

    If I want to hear a tight rock band they’re probably 20 playin tonight at bars all over Chicago still at the top of their game

    A 92 style show with treys old man chops just isnt interesting. His fingers just don’t support the guitar hero show anymore

  17. BNCB Says:

    The Japanese exhibit was the shit especially when the room is littered with women from France

  18. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Fuck yeah bncb. Funny I was staring at that painting of the one eyed girls for like 20 mins then this super hot French girl stood next to me and I just stared at her for a while.

  19. Dr pronoia Says:

    BNCB- the Murray’s in the village? That’s a half block from me. Go there all the time. So good

    Didn’t realize the buckyball gets turned off. Maybe good for preshow?

  20. acleo Says:

    Go to the Met to see the Egyptian

  21. Dr pronoia Says:

    Where is the GA line/entrance?

    Also in terms of getting in on time, if I hit that GA line/door around 7/7:30 will I be fine getting in on time?

  22. c0wfunk Says:

    Know how y’all love the sci comparisons… Was interesting to see them here for Xmas jam… Those boys are stretching out a new repertoire and blew up the room with an almost wholly new cast of heavy hitters. Quite a different approach than we’ve seen from our vt boys. The big energy phish show remains interesting to me too though, YMMV as always. I don’t expect very many on here to agree with me.

  23. Albert walker Says:

    I miss seeing stoney stash treasure poser DF GD and all you other fools

    Miss NYC

    Fuck Troy anyway.

    Still hate myself for not goin. Bored in Chicago.

  24. Albert walker Says:

    I wanna puff a joint of OG and dig for 45s at deadly dragon today

  25. c0wfunk Says:

    In other news I’m loving my new nexus 7 I got from Santa .. Learning this sequencer /synth sw caustic. So badass… Mobile composition is a full reality. Love living in the future.

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