Exploring the Edge

12.28.12 (Graham Lucas)

One night after focusing exclusively on songs, Phish came out on the 30th and threw down the gauntlet with 40-plus minutes of the darkest, most abstract, menacing music they have played in this era. Starting with a long-form “Down With Disease” and featuring a centerpiece “Carini” that immediately vaulted into the upper echelon of all-time jams, the meat of last night’s second set was some of the most patient, potent and exploratory improvisation we have heard from the band in ages. Methodically sculpting mind-expanding soundscapes, the guys showcased larger-than-life music ripped from my wildest fantasies. Stellar versions of “Slave” and “Harry Hood” resolved a second set that sent everybody to the exits with overwhelming satisfaction having bore witness the musical sorcery we quest for night after night.

12.30 Official (J. Flames)

After experiencing the colossal sequence of “Disease” > “Twenty Years Later” > “Carini,” one had the innate knowledge that something special had happened in Madison Square Garden. The band had delved deeply into the dark side of the universe they have rarely visited in this era, and done it with overwhelming success. The musical Siths showcased spellbinding control of the room while taking their audience on a thrilling ride through supernatural netherworlds. When all was said and done, and the band moved into “Number Line,” it was as if they had released the crowd from an eerie hypnosis, bringing us back to the reality that we were attending a paid concert on earth rather than an alien ritual on the fringes on the galaxy. Such is the almighty power of the Phish.

When “Disease” led off the second set, everyone knew a musical journey was in store, but nobody could have predicted just how far out the band would travel. Exiting song structure into a minimalist and melodic exchange, the guys’ poise was immediately evident, and as when they migrated into a slow and murky groove, their intent to push musical boundaries became abundantly clear. As the band smoothly moved into the occult, Trey guided them with an uncompressed tone and ferocious intent, bringing the music into an eerie milieu in which it would stay for quite some time. As they progressed from one section of the jam to the next, the music only became deeper and more expansive, finally pushing into a space-laden realm when one might have guessed they were winding down. Phish crafted complex, layered textures that enhanced the music’s mystical feel, and as they took a turn for the home stretch, Mike’s laser-like, envelope filtered leads brought the jam into a sinful groove, evoking the feeling of an extraterrestrial death march. Dripping into “Twenty Years Later,” Phish landed on a song that congruently fit the sinister vibe of the moment, and when they soon revved up “Carini,” things wouldn’t get any lighter.

12.28.12 (G.Lucas)

What happened next was nothing short of transcendent perfection. Words cannot approximate the staggering soundscapes that Phish birthed from “Carini” last night. On the 15-year anniversary of its US debut in the same building, the band produced a jam fans will be listening to for eternity. Descending from a ferociously imposing groove into music so eccentric, abstract, and eerily profound that it would floor the most psychedelic juggernauts in the history of improvisational music, Phish exhibited pure creation on the richest, darkest, and most abstract level. This jam was something else all together, fusing sounds that spanned the tribal to the futuristic—a pioneering vision of the scope of the human psyche. Any attempt at a more comprehensive description of this music would do no service, as it could not come within light years of its cutting-edge innovation. Just grab some headphones and bask in the sound, because this was the absolute business.

Following their Odyssean three-song voyage that comprised most of the second set, Phish passed through a couple of rocking selections in “Number Line” and “Julius” to ground the audience before closing things out with one of the most passionate versions of  “Slave to the Traffic Light” we have heard in recent years. Filled with elegant guitar licks of glory, this uplifting piece served as divine deliverance from mysterious lands far, far away.

12.28.12 (G.Lucas)

Though this set certainly earned the band a token encore, instead, they came out and played one of the best versions of “Harry Hood” we have heard in this era. Lively and dynamic, Trey led the band through a rendition of their seminal classic that popped from note one and peaked with a purpose—the way “Hood” is meant to be played. The level of communication on display throughout the night spilled right over to the encore as the band backed up the set closing “Slave” with the most exquisite exclamation point in their catalog. A “Show of Life” denouement closed the books on one of the finest nights of Phish in 2012, and as the band bowed and looked out at the audience, who returned their gaze with admiration and awe, they saw that it was good. It was very, very good.

1st set notes: A tight, well-played first set featured a quality song selection, boasting some semi-rarities in “Ya Mar,” “Horn,” and “My Friend, My Friend,” as well as a bustout of “Ride Captain Ride.” But regardless of what happened in the first set, the story of the show unfolded after intermission.

I: Runaway Jim, Cities, Divided Sky, Back on the Train, Ride Captain Ride, Ocelot, Ya Mar, Horn, My Friend, My Friend > Run Like an Antelope

II: Down with Disease > Twenty Years Later > Carini > Backwards Down the Number Line, Julius, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Harry Hood > Show of Life

12.28.2012, MSG (Graham Lucas)

1,130 Responses to “Exploring the Edge”

  1. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    gdad, facebook deletion is refreshing

  2. gavinsdad Says:

    i’m with AJ – was even thinking it’d be nice if they canned the light and the drowned tonite.

    i’m more Ghost>2001>Mist>YEM tho.

  3. roberto luongo Says:

    Mike’s night tonight. dig the new rawkers more in set I

    do we get the Mike’s second jam. probably not but I’m not ruling it out.

    will get a massive open aired blissed out SImple though

    SOAM to close set I

  4. Mr.Miner Says:

    tonight will be the best new years show of the era. mark my words.

  5. gavinsdad Says:

    mayan temple building tonite

  6. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    20 min ghost tonight

  7. GhostPhunk Says:

    Mike’s opener

  8. roberto luongo Says:

    nothing I’d love more

    get my jaded ass jealous as hell and ready for summer!!!

    shit finally clicked hard set II. boys seem ready to go.

  9. kayatosh Says:

    I like the GA more than miner. not prime improv material, but they make an attempt. not heady, not fully synced up, but they find that full band jam sound. trey sticking mainly to rhythm. $+ segue to waves is nonexistent.

    listening to waves now.

  10. voopa Says:

    Crosseyed>Piper>Ghost>Light>Sally>Sand, YEM

  11. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    too songy voopa

  12. GhostPhunk Says:

    FEFY landing pad

  13. roberto luongo Says:

    Alaska is set III new years tradition now

    YEM looming large

    no way Tory leaves without playing xeyed

    and def Mike’s groove somwhere

    LIGHT will blow up!!!!!!!

  14. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    set II: Ghost>Piper>Sand>Cool It Down

  15. angryjoggerz Says:

    Arent they doing some sort of NASCAR gag thing tonight? Not really sure who the target audience is for that. Not me.

  16. roberto luongo Says:

    I think it’s a dig or inside joke at Red Light AJ

    Charlotte is the home of NASCAR

  17. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Set III: Auld Lang> DWD Reprise> Light> Crosseyed> Weekapaug> Tweeprise Jam

  18. angryjoggerz Says:

    Aund Lang>Biebprise*>Bouncin Coda Jam

    *with Justin Bieber hologram

  19. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Set 1: Chalk Dust, Alaska, Sample, Possum, Roses Are Free, Wilson, Character Zero
    Set II: Ghost>Piper>Sand>Cool It Down
    Set III: Auld Lang> DWD Reprise> Light> Crosseyed> Weekapaug> Tweeprise Jam
    E: YEM > ADITL

  20. angryjoggerz Says:

    Seems like Party Time Meatsticks are looming

  21. neemor Says:

    “During the Carini jam, I kept thinking I was about to get stabbed.”
    Took all year to get the post of 2012.
    Nicely done, Silly.

  22. neemor Says:

    Thought Disease was going into Simple.

  23. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    neemor you gonna be there tonight?

  24. kayatosh Says:

    tonight goes deep and out. balls deep.. space out.

    spell something, if need be, but make it count. nobody’s getting any younger.

  25. joe Says:

    fuck this work stuff, head still foggy from last night. wish I could go back. Big ups to the bb crew I saw and those I didn’t. wanted to take a pass to the waterwheel booth but once you are on the floor it’s hard to go anywhere else. after seeing last night, I can’t imagine that they won’t blow it up big time tonight.

    side note: I guess I dug the first set better than most (maybe the drugs?). Ocelot was good jam, I thought. I dig horn. my friend was great energy and antelope set up the 2nd set blowout. back on the train is a guaranteed when I’m at msg for Trey to remind me to catch the train home. We (halcyon and I) had thoughts of making 12:15 out of grand central but that would have meant skipping out at the encore and the Hood was way too good to miss. Bonus aspect is seeing willowed posting on the bb on the train home. (a look behind the curtain) Would have missed that if we caught the earlier train.

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