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. ren Says:

    Same MiA…..those old bones shook just fine for the boys…but now they are revolting. Cannot wait to get back to my vape throne….otherwise known as the couch. Very pleased with my new Arizer. Hope all went well with your family visit. Tipped some out for you during Reba but also imagined you cringing at the broken silence.

  2. bob dylan Says:

    So nye was damn well played, no? Listening back and musically its got some goodness. Band was fiery all night.

  3. Kaveh Says:

    Back to work : boo

    ^ this!

  4. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Hey folks! Great run. So fun seeing xpun, jdub, Willowed, Bonney, sumo, b2b and Robear! Band sounded great and was having a blast. Haven’t digested it all yet . #afterglowed

  5. bob dylan Says:

    Gonna get an aud when I’m home to hear the random MSG outbursts. Don’t think the sbds mixed that in so much.

  6. ren Says:

    NYE was great from the living room with most of the same people I did the other 3 nights with. We all thoroughly enjoyed the show and our couch experience. With the correct ear placement within the field of a surround sound system….it almost sounded like you were there. Spending the first 3 nights in the building made it really easy to imagine still being there for that final night.

  7. marcoesq Says:

    Just getting back into the swing today and still haven’t listened back to a note besides 12/28. Giddy to rip into this 12/30. NYE sounds like it was well played from others, excited to listen.

  8. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Saw Mitch briefly too. Big Ups!
    @Rob- preroll hit spot. Chanks!

  9. bob dylan Says:

    Man, as a critical fan garden party feels like a jab. Band doesn’t just throw out a cover like that just because its called garden party.

  10. timezone Says:

    Another couple of things I recalled while sorting through the debris of Monday night’s mind blowing…on the 30th and 31st, there was no advertising on the LED boards in the arena before and after the shows or during set breaks. I didn’t notice whether it had disappeared elsewhere, too. Also, between Set II and III, the song playing over the PA when the lights went down was none other than Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”. I’m not sure whether I should start writing my congressman, or if I can just ask Phish if they have a need for Systems Admin to help start the revolution. 🙂

  11. bob dylan Says:

    Not to mention following it with possum. Zing.

  12. IrieWalton Says:

    Nothing eases re-entry to the work world like fresh Phish–thanks for the No Spoilers, Miner!

    Also, it doesn’t hurt that good friends from back east are flying into town today for a few days of fun, so it isn’t like I’ll really be working anyway until next week.

  13. marcoesq Says:

    Maybe a call out to the fan base not appreciating their 2011 efforts

  14. ren Says:

    Really @BD??? I thought it was a pretty interesting statement….more of an explanation than a retort to the fans. Fan base has grown so much since 1.0….both in numbers and in individual diversity of the fans themselves…not to mention how the band has grown. Holiday run in NYC very well may bring the most eclectic group of fans over any other venue they play….it is also the one of the places where their criticism is strongest…also due to the venue.

    I genuinely believe they want ALL the fans to be happy….its just getting harder to accomplish these days. Pretty sure the band isn’t using MSG to steer their creative direction….but it is a litmus test for the future potential/growth for the band.

    Glad they have decided to do what pleases them

  15. ren Says:

    Garden Party may have been eluding to 2011 somewhat….but I also think the choice was heavily based upon the experience of the 2 preceding nights as well trying to read the crowd.

    Pretty sure that Reba roar threw them for a loop.

  16. roberto luongo Says:

    “Garden Party” is a 1972 hit song for Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band from the album Garden Party. The song tells the story of Nelson being booed off the stage at Madison Square Garden, seemingly because he was playing his newer, country-tinged music instead of the 1950s-era rock that he had been successful with earlier, and his realization that “you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself”.

    Ricky Nelson made some pretty respectable early 70’s country rock albums and pissed off his fan base

    12/31/2012 I finally gave in

    It’s there band and they’re in a feel good somewhat cheezy spot. deal with it.

    that NYE show was the show they wanted to play and they did it well. I’m done trying to call out certain types of phish or shout out that my style phish is the only good phish.

    it’s There band. that’s where they were at. and they threw down a well played fun good time garden party

    it ain’t 03-04 kids. it’s the retirement enjoy yourself feel good, light hearted era.

    bit night for me getting over this bullshit over thinking everything a rock band does
    eat some L, puff some herbs, and enjoy yourself.

    have fun kids
    I’m tryin to get rich this year, hah.
    should be busy.

  17. marcoesq Says:

    “Pretty sure that Reba roar threw them for a loop.”

    For sure. A little preemptive on the crowd’s part, nothing ever materialized after that rush.

  18. marcoesq Says:

    This is pretty telling, 1.0/2.0 vs. 3.0 style

    “When I got to the garden party they all knew my name
    But no one recognized me I didn’t look the same”

  19. ren Says:

    Nice perspective @AW!!!! Happy New Year to you!

    Happiness, Health and Wealth to all members of the BB and their loved ones in 2013!!!!

  20. ren Says:

    Trey wanted to play Reba….wanted to show a quiet bit of his soul….wanted everyone to stop and smell the roses…even for only a few minutes.

    Many wanted to rage and roar….too bad.

    Another weird moment for me was Sugar Shack. I didn’t think I was being rude when I used it for my piss break….but then realized that half the Garden also did the same. Very telling….kinda felt for Gordo a bit….even if he never knew.

  21. kayatosh Says:

    didn’t see much mention here of the sweet Army of One semi-bustout. First and only in 2012. Thanks, phish.

  22. MiA Says:


    You’ve got mail.


    There is something I appreciate from the SBDs.

    The Orpheum Slave (A Live One 11-26-94) “in reality” had 4 dbags chanting some buddies name (Alex) loudly during the silent part. Barking, screaming, Freebird, and they were behind the tapers section. Made me madder. Hockey haircuts the whole bit.

    I seethed and memorized their faces to cock punch each on them on Hennepin avenue afterwards. I was in the balcony and couldn’t find them. Although I had calmed down significant post the Slave.

    When R.M.P. posted they were polling for tracks (Shelley Culbertson?) I left a huge post on why that Slave was the best of tour and why it deserved to be on the album.

    Long story, ALO pulled it all out. When I found out that it was Minneapolis Slave I almost exploded in happiness.

    Thank you Phish. I love you too.

  23. MiA Says:

    I really like RL’s post. For the record. I agree 100%.

  24. roberto luongo Says:

    also. finance geeks.

    Jim Grant one of a handful of street peeps that understand shit put up links to his 10 fav pieces of 2012.

    anyone wanting to understand a bit more on interest rates, central banking, and the gold standard must read these. ( I know interesting stuff, hah)

    we subscribe to his news letter at the fund (as does every fund) and am always a reader.


  25. MiA Says:

    Saw that too RL. Good link. You know I’m a prodigious reader of ZH.

    Although it adds a lot of depression/reality to my life.

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