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. DryIceFactory Says:

    I: Punch You in the Eye, The Sloth, Possum, Torn and Frayed, Gotta Jibboo, Heavy Things, The Wedge, Llama, Chalk Dust Torture>Rift, Character Zero

    II: Axilla I, Mike’s Song->2001>Weekapaug->After Midnight->Weekapaug Reprise

    III: Birds of a Feather->Tweezer Reprise>ALS>Light->Ghost, YEM

    E: Wilson, Quinn the Eskimo, Frankenstein

  2. DryIceFactory Says:

    No matter what happens, it’s all going to be nasty, I mean there’s so much choice material left it’s impossible for them to play just an average show tonight.

    Anyone who is lucky enough to be in the house is now my archnemesis.

  3. ren Says:

    Nice @dry ice. Better make sure I have EXTRA Doritos within arms reach tonight.

  4. SillyWilly Says:

    I thought BNCB’s career was in danger when they dropped Ride Captain Ride

    I hoped his memories of puffing on a big rock in Central Park with Stash, Henri Matisse Latisse, and Spilly would sustain him

  5. MiA Says:

    Wait, Palmer didn’t get a crosseye’d?

    Rats. Gdad’s FB was about the only one with good stuff on it.

  6. Mr. Palmer Says:

    The Disease may get overshadowed by the Carini, but it should definitely not be overlooked.

    Felt like Trey was painting up there on stage rather than playing guitar. Masterful performance.

    My cup is full.

  7. BNCB Says:

    Silly, I took that ride straight back to the waterwheel booth

  8. ren Says:

    Majestic is my new favorite word to describe Phish

  9. Guyute711 Says:

    “E: Wilson, Quinn the Eskimo, Frankenstein”

    We going for worst encore ever?

  10. voopa Says:

    Last night during DWD I heard something that reminded me of the Light jam from Greek 3. Which was also followed that night by 20 Years Later, and Hood and Slave were played that night too.


  11. SillyWilly Says:

    During the Carini jam, I kept thinking I was about to get stabbed.

  12. Dustin Says:

    “Those disappointed in Saturday’s straight-playing shouldn’t have much to complain about now. When the four members of Phish took the stage tonight, they had a mission: Start excavating some jams so in this banner year for your band, you’ll be ready to attempt to make 2012 surpass ’95 as the ultimate NYE MSG show.”

    Read full review here:

    P.S. Glad Miner enjoyed “Hood.”

  13. ren Says:

    As much as we like to hate on Broadway treigh…can’t help but feel its added to his showmanship and brought some new “drama” to his playing. Felt some extra special tension between the “dark” and the “light” of last nights show. Attacked the menacing parts of Slave with extra care.

  14. MiA Says:

    Washer wearing a white(ish) shirt last night? Swear I saw him about 12 rows back center

  15. Guyute711 Says:

    It’s also brought shirts with zippered pockets.

    Seriously though, I’m pretty sure the band makes Page work on the buses. That’s why he always has his work shirt on. Page, brought to you by Dickies.

  16. Luther T. Justice Says:

    There’s almost nothing more comforting than the secured feel of a zippered pocket. I used them extensively in the late 70s.

  17. gavinsdad Says:

    Anyone who is lucky enough to be in the house is now my archnemesis.

    ^for once i’m with DIF ;P

  18. kayatosh Says:

    speedy recovery, luther.

    lots on the table for tonight.

    last night’s improvisational meat dropped my jaw wide open — full band gooey goodness. nice one, phish.

  19. DryIceFactory Says:

    lol @gd, its true though right? tonight literally has (in my mind) the potential to blow the eff up and become THE BEST Phish show of all-time. All the variables are in place. The band hasn’t been reeling like this since December ’99.

  20. Guyute711 Says:

    Hey Dean Spanos, wake the fuck up and fire Norv…….I’m waiting, still waiting.

  21. xpun Says:

    Last night during carini I kept feeling like I was going to stab the guy next to me. EVIL.

  22. DryIceFactory Says:

    Anyone in house tonight has their tables set for a treat.

    I’m willing to wager that TeH PHiSH had a plan to blow out the garden with jams on Saturday too and they just couldnt find IT. When they finished Waves with mixed results, it seemed like they just said “OK, let’s have this be the anthem night.” They changed the setlist and went free form from there. That’s why we got weird selections at times, mixed up placements and stuff like that.

    Last night’s set list was definitely written. You will not convince me otherwise.

  23. Mr. Palmer Says:

    G$$- it’s like they want to torture you poor saps..re: Norv

    Xpun- great seeing you again. Thanks again for the water. Life saver. My brain was melted after Carini. The rest of the show was gravy from there. Slave Hood brought it home.

    Normally the Numberline, Julius segment would have annoyed me slightly but I was still blissed from the beginning of the set.

    Big set III Alaska coming tonight. 😉

  24. DryIceFactory Says:

    I never arrived at my point, my point here is that they have already written tonight’s set list. And I guarantee their aren’t many songs for each set.

    As sick as my list is, I still managed to leave Piper AND Sand out. What if they just played 4 song sets?

    I: Ghost->Piper>Gotta Jibboo, YEM
    II: Mike’s Song->Light->2001->Groove
    III: Tweezer Reprise->ALS>Sand->Chalk Dust Torture->Character Zero
    E: Guyute, Guyute, Guyute, Guyute

  25. Guyute711 Says:

    I know it’s going down but I want video and it to be in print. 2013 the year of Gruden’s Chargers!!!!!

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