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. Spasm Waiter Says:

    I will never understand what makes those boys tick. They sure played everything pretty tight last night but the deep space exploration of nigjt 1 was absent. Lomb jam was sweet and peaked beautifully. Gin reached an original place and sounded great. Suzy jam was crushed. Start/ stop in boogie was cool. They just didn’t dance around the abyss much. Amazed they didn’t want to expand on Fridays exploration which were hugely successful. Maybe weenies mikes jihadi scarf again.

  2. [an unrelated] Wilson Says:

    I, for one, loved the first set last night (from my living room). not sure what all the complaining is about. As someone else mentioned, the “song-based” shows have been around as long as phish has, so they’re not exactly “head-scratching” when they happen… at least not to me.

    loving couch tour, but putting a few pounds on. guess that’s ok this time of year.

  3. gavinsdad Says:

    All good bob d. You know I had to get mine last nite.

  4. tela's_muff Says:

    Best jam during webcast was the little loop jam Trey did during webcast intermission. I could listen to a set of that over my 30th Boogie On or a “highlight” Suzy

  5. BNCB Says:

    Lots of sloppy moments mixed in with the lack of jamming last night kids.

    So it goes.

  6. BingosBrother Says:

    Hope the band from that soundcheck shows up. Phiscal cliff.

  7. [an unrelated] Wilson Says:

    Phiscal cliff, ftw.

    Boogie On is one phish cover I could never get behind.

  8. Angryjoggerz Says:

    Sour gripes

  9. Spasm Waiter Says:

    “12/29 was the Least impressive of the year” seems a stretch imo

  10. Fly Says:

    Driving by, may have already been said:

    Run following similar progression to San Fran. Watch out for tonight.

    Hope all are well. Happy New Year to the BB, and to all on couches or in the building tonight, experience bliss!

  11. Albert walker Says:

    I thought night 1 was lame too post tweez

    We are way too kind to give that Bowie love and that maze theme and twist were a minds. Drummer boy shit was lame.

    30th could crush

    But where is the Xeyed ) light ) Sally band

    Multiple creative jams in a row Tory, you know the deal.

  12. btb Says:

    If you can’t get tix…NYE webcast party at Hudson Station Bar (24 TV’s) on 35th and 9th. Just an idea for BB’ers

    Sponsord by Six Point Brewery. If you have a tix stub to one of the shows all Six Point Beers are $4.


  13. Albert walker Says:

    Were a mess not minds

  14. Fly Says:

    P.S. 14 minute Mike’s Song tonight. I’ll be timing from the comfort of my living room!

    Much love to all!

  15. Spasm Waiter Says:

    There goes Miner fluffing again

  16. Mr.Miner Says:

    @spasm what would you propose was less impressive?

    SF2 had Simple
    OKC had a solid Twist and a decent DWD

  17. Dustin Says:

    “The best parts were when they kept with a style between songs to build momentum, from a supremely meaty “Boogie on Reggae Woman” to a Paige tour de force on “Suzy Greenberg.” To go to “Bug” after such a high proved less of a relief than a step backwards.”

    Full review here:

  18. btb Says:

    Chilling watching Stanley Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” – Never seen this one…nothing recharges the batteries like an 18th century english narrative.

    Walking over to MSG area around 4pm. Feel free to reach out crew. Great seeing all you guys yesterday. I finally met Willowed. He lives up to the hype! ha.

    Hoping for that Forbin’s > MB tonight.

  19. c0wfunk Says:

    Blakeson ftw with heart engagement. Well said.

    I’ve got a hard time with the argument that trey was a better player in 1994.. Maybe if you’re talking strictly notes per second.. But his riff bag now is deeper and more sensitive and responsive than then for sure.

  20. tela's_muff Says:

    @aj – we listen to you get sour gripes about Christmas for 3 weeks. U can deal with one day of bitching about a phish show. 😉

  21. btb Says:

    Stay calm everybody, the hose will get dropped tonight.

    Overlooked: Trey’s Limb by Limb solo…his tension / release and ability to reach peaks as he descended and then later peak as he ascends. Incredibly hard to execute. He dropped some knowledge on that one.

  22. Albert walker Says:

    You are crazy cow

    My guitar teacher who has scene phish a bunch I lent a CD to of recent phish responded “there is nothing to teach you here” absolutely nothin high level. Band sounds good but trey is doin nothing.

    I’ve studied his 93 to 95 lines a bunch. Very high level shit there. Clarity of his tone too. Every note crisp as fuck back then.

    Cat may have a bit more blues and soul but that’s just crazy talk.

    Put him in a trio with no effects you want 94 to 95 trey.

  23. Albert walker Says:

    Go spin a live one tweezer cow

    Take in some of the McLaughlin electric miles shit goin on

    Mind blowing

  24. Albert walker Says:

    Or any Reba or hood 94 to 95

  25. c0wfunk Says:

    You know I’m crazy… Maybe its the rest of the band with broader chops? I’m certainly no guitar expert

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