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. BNCB Says:

    At Vegetarian Paradise 2!

  2. voopa Says:

    Trey absolutely wanted to into Rift after GA Saturday…wonder how that would’ve changed the set?

  3. voopa Says:

    So does anyone know the other 2 songs with cliff in the lyrics? No peeking.

  4. kayatosh Says:

    spare us the sloppy Rift. not necessary.

  5. Mr.Miner Says:

    mikes > ghost > light > 2001 > Sand > Sally > Weekapaug

  6. xpun Says:

    I dig miners optimism.

    Nye 12 unfolding like BGCA 3 for me. Wonderful afternoon and dinner w friends.

  7. Henry Says:

    Red Light is out of Charlottesville I believe

  8. bob dylan Says:

    Buddy has an extra tonight

  9. dusty Says:

    red light is in c-ville. mk4’s are pretty much the standard. I’m more a big diaphragm fan alla u87’s. Matrix schoeps are cool too. Hoping for a BG3 kinda nit for you all.

  10. bob dylan Says:


  11. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Wow- jusut getting through the DWD from last night. That’s the shit I like.

  12. BrandonKayda Says:

    I’ve listened to the Carini twice and I still don’t see what all the fuss is about. It gets into a cool groove, but I feel like it meanders for awhile near the end – I prefer the DWD.

  13. Henry Says:

    It probably won’t get the same attention as some of the other big hitters of the run, but Bowie is damn fine by 3.0 standards. I’ve got the “in-the-building bias” but it’s pretty hot to these ears.

  14. MiA Says:

    I prefer DWD to Carini. The h3tty kids will like Carini more. Because they’re bad ass and can take the ‘dark stuff’

    Sanity tonight. I don’t care if the world explodes…

  15. Luther T. Justice Says:

    I’m with you in the DWD camp MiA. I love the Carini but I always have a soft spot for an epic DWD.

  16. joe Says:

    I doesn’t have to be an either or. I’m h3tty enough to dig em both equally as part of the same flow. 🙂 Sound on the floor was so crisp. absolutely perfect spot on the back rail of the front section. when I turned around to see the crowd, I felt like I was the one on stage. (that also might have been the drugs).

  17. roberto luongo Says:

    DWD had themes and feels from last summer my fav or which is heavily featured in the monster of monster Dick’s Light

    Carini was just more original to me. very unique jam sound from this band.

    always lookin for shit that seems progressive.

    tweezer from the other night had some of that Dick’s light groove feel also

    Carini everyone just seemed to find such unique spaces and played off each other so perfectly even in the abstract.

    DWD is one of those DWD that runs around nails some spots and fades.

    love em both but that Carini is what I chase

    light or dark I just dig I feel sounds NEW

  18. butter Says:

    just insane Carini, cant wait to tap into the DWD

    amazing write up Miner, glad you got the full on hose @all

    have you guys seen this mkdevo Carini Vid??

    http://youtu.be/LHybpZ_Psuo?a Phish: Carini [HD] 2012-12-30 – New York, NY

  19. roberto luongo Says:

    huge DWD. epic jam and def top level since return. not dissing. just for me doesn’t seem quite as new in stylings as the carini

    massive DWD though. I’m a huge DWD fan.

  20. roberto luongo Says:

    not a 20 yr laterz kid though

    haven’t figured out the love of that one yet. seems like bad classic rock to me

    but works in placement quite well in this set

  21. roberto luongo Says:

    just loading these little one man thinkin man joints I’m rollin for Charles Bradley tonight with wax

    gonna make some unsuspecting yuppies drop.

    I got that goin for me. which is nice.

  22. MiA Says:

    Ever since Dick’s, and looking at Sumodie jamming out 20YL, it’s made me re-evaluate the tune. I like Sumodie (or at least his online personality) and if he’s into the track, it’s worth giving a serious re-listen to.

    It seemed much darker last night (more No Quartish) than normal to me. I really dug it. But I was in a very accepting mood last night.

  23. Luther T. Justice Says:

    I hear you RL. I’m just happy to have more than one jam in a set to talk about. One is never enough.

  24. Luther T. Justice Says:

    My nurse just gave me a dilauded/valium cocktail. I think I’m in love

  25. roberto luongo Says:

    I just love the jump off the cliff style jamming you get in those DWD

    kinda like UIC night 2

    just dive in see what happens. find some sick grooves. roll out.

    what a great psychedelic DWD jam is all about.

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