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. jerseyjim Says:

    happy new year all. had a great time 12/28 on the floor, and a fun time on 12/29 with Kaveh, BNCB, BD and the WW folks. Wow!

    following 12/30 and 12/31 by couch/box-score was tough, but looking forward to working my way through the no-spoilers for all four nights.

    Phish well deserve their Green jackets.

  2. kayatosh Says:

    wolfman’s w/ the fat drummer boy mid jam swing = $$$

  3. sumodie Says:

    Garden Party & Possum made a great pair as openers. I wouldnt overthink why Garden Party was played other than it was awesome. And whats a run without a Possum? (First set only, thankyou trey!)

    The band clearly put A LOT more time & energy into this nye show, and it showed in spades. That’s their reply to last year’s nye show. And they still played what they wanted

    Garden Party, Fly like an eagle, acapella Lawnboy, Iron Man all required rehearsal, not to mention TweePrise with the singer & dancers

    After 4 days of dancing in the concrete jungle my body is feeling wrecked, lol

  4. marcoesq Says:

    This is the Reprise backup singer


  5. bob dylan Says:

    I’m just internalizing it. I was bashing them for cutting waves and then get garden partied.

    I had a blast the entire nye show so it was a garden party for sure. I just felt the band was saying “get off us, don’t like it don’t come”

    12.30 erased any bad feelings from 12.29 tho. Sat vs sun at the garden. Trey plays to the crowd and it was apparent in the jams.

  6. ren Says:

    Need to find a good way to approach this 30th re-listen. I guess my headspace was elevated beyond the usual during the run…..not blacked out/spaced out beyond recollection….was just too blissed out on the 28th and 30th to remember the specifics. Too immersed in IT, mostly with my eyes closed…..truly just living in the moment. Glad I found the right balance and was able to really appreciate DWD thru Carini…..my 17 year old self might have been hiding under my seat.

  7. Dorn76 Says:

    I also resolve to half-ass this short week!

    Happy 2013 Par-tee-ers.

  8. roberto luongo Says:

    interesting Sumo

    from the couch that whole first set just gave me the vibe from Trey

    this is where I am. it’s clean rootsier song based music. I’m having a blast it’s my band.

    “you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself”

    the band a lot of us have been fighting was thrown at us 100% on NYE. and they peformed a great show.

    I could be looking into it too much. but I say no way there wasn’t a bit of purpose in that Ricky Nelson lyric

    anyway. who knows. I could be crazy. but I got that this is where we are either you’re in or out vibe big time.

  9. bob dylan Says:


    ^thats carrie’s twitter – talks about being on stage with PHiSH for nye.

    She’s not hard on the eyes either.

  10. voopa Says:

    I seriously doubt the previous nights had any bearing on their decision to play Garden Party…

    Whenever I hear Fly Like an Eagle on the radio, I always think it would be the perfect Phish cover. Easy groove, great Hammond and synth parts, and that great ride cymbal during the chorus.

    Never thought it would happen, mainly because of the whole “No talent jive-ass motherfucker” thing, but was very cool. Nailed too.

    And Iron Man! What a band!

  11. ren Says:

    Sunday was church y’all!!!!

    So many Garden memories came rushing in during Slave/Hood…..I was very humbled and thankful…not just for that night….but for the many amazing nights this band has given me over the years.

    Thanks Boys!!!! Enjoy your golf before we lock you back in the barn!!!!!

  12. kayatosh Says:

    Overall the run was a fairly big win. Lots for the home listener to chew on:

    top tier jams — wolfman’s tweezer, sand>wedge, ghost>piper and edge flirting improv. — DWD, carini

    inspired, tight versions of the flagship tunes — lope, slave, HH, YEM (d&B section has the extra sauce), 2001, mike’s groove, bowie

    and well-played, out of nowhere covers — garden party, iron man.

    you know things are going well when #line seems appropriate and welcome. great version.

    trey was in the flow by set II on 12.31. and especially loose, yet slick in set III.

  13. BNCB Says:

    They scan the webs. Everyone that posts online was a bit let down by 12/29. We were one jam out of Waves from having a critique-free run! So funny.

    Don’t underestimate Treys’ genius. The guy is just plain smarter than the rest of us. I would bet he came up with all of it himself. The stunt, the covers, the messages.

    Dicks was for the phans only. MSG was for all the fans.

    Awesome run. One jammed out Waves from perfection. But nobody’s perfect…..

  14. Guyute711 Says:

    I unfortunately missed the third set due to extenuating circumstances so can’t speak to that but I’m pretty surprised everyone enjoyed the new year’s show so much. I maybe wasn’t paying as close attention as I should have but I was certainly not blown away by anything in the first two sets. Timer question, how long was Light?

  15. roberto luongo Says:

    DWD, Tweezer, Carini

    I’m not ready to give the boys a free pass like I feel crushed for missin this run.

    doesn’t do much for me. but def not the 2011 face plant

    I still think Miami 09 is my fav

    not enough meat in this run and the first sets were almost non existent. I like Guyute although it was well played just didn’t get anything challenging out of 12.31

    but it’s a fuckin rock band. who fuckin cares.

    next summer. full tour. watch the fuck out.

    tweezer and Carini were epic. more to come. stay tuned.

  16. kayatosh Says:

    tweezer jam has a more meandering, unhurried, open feel than the urgent propulsion of the DWD and carini jams.

  17. ren Says:

    Agreed @BNCB. The Waves were definitely flat unfortunately. The biggest…and ONLY disappointment from my perspective…..almost worse than not getting it at all.

    Would have liked 2001 to go REALLY BIG on a night I was there….but thats just my own personal gripe

  18. roberto luongo Says:

    12.30 is a great show though no doubt. good stuff.

  19. kayatosh Says:

    Guyute: Whittled down 12.31 set I to garden party and mike’sgroove. 12.31 set II is pretty solid — $$.

  20. Jtran Says:

    morning comrades

    back to work after a good 12 days off – obummin hard

    Anyone have DL codes or orange? jtranvt23 at gmail

  21. voopa Says:

    Ghost>Light>Piper was just under 30 min.

  22. voopa Says:

    Ghost>Piper>Light, that is
    (much better sequence, than above too)

  23. BNCB Says:

    Dicks and West Coast for Jams. Dirty indoor joints for full on body sweat freak outs.

    MSG for a Garden Party.

    Guyute missed Iron Man? Damn dog, u were the first person I thought of!

  24. kayatosh Says:

    12.30 is just an exceptionally great show. Jim didn’t do much for me, divided sky is becoming a drag, and maybe a cooler song choice than julius in set II, but other than that, airtight goodness and another instant classic carini jam.

  25. Guyute711 Says:

    I don’t know why anyone was at the Garden when you could have been down the street watching this.


    Longest….15 minutes….ever!!!!

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