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. MiA Says:

    Miner is a golfer isn’t he? It was fun. Witty too. Beats the hell out of the Meatstickin’ I got at Blossom this year.

    Some days you shoot 82 some days you shoot 92 or 102.

    Phish shot a 102 on the 29th and an 82 on the 30th.

  2. Mr.Miner Says:

    after 12/30, i was ready to accept anything.

    the run was solid. Great but not epic. 2 unreal jams, and dwd was outstanding.

  3. Mr.Miner Says:

    i heard from someone within the organization that 12/29 was a “weird day all around” for the band, and I think that reflected in the show

  4. roberto luongo Says:

    agreed man. it’s hard coming in cold with no fall. thought they did a great job.

    tweez and Carini stung from the couch. especially Carini. new phish at it’s finest.

    swanky little DWD there also.

  5. Mr.Miner Says:

    but I really think Carini was up there with Dick’s Light

    ^ 100%

    the 2 best jams of the year

  6. roberto luongo Says:

    also agreed. 2 different beasts which makes it that much better. polar opposites actually.

  7. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    next year they need a fall tour and a few shows leading up to MSG. /play in miami

  8. Willowed Says:

    I had a weird day on 12/29 as well.

    Fucking sweet tarts will do that to ya.

    Welcome back Miner! Thanks for all the great write ups this year.

    Much appreciated.

    Happy New Year to you and your family!

  9. kayatosh Says:

    12.30 ocelot can hang. trey’s got it together and lets it breath. $$.

  10. Boris Says:

    I am ready for the some good vibes this year. I am happy I purchased the webcast on 12/31. The lady was good with it, which always means it’s a go. I also have talked her into attending a show next tour. Yay!

    Now I just need to stumble upon a hiring manager who is a Phish head so my vibe dial can beacon me home to a nice job.

    I don’t know about you guys, but dear lord did last year suck hard. Health problems, friends dying, big fight with the lady. I need some light in a big way.

    Happy New Years you guys. I know I am a lurker, but I enjoy reading your thoughts. 🙂

  11. kayatosh Says:

    re. GA $$ effort; $+ payout.

  12. gavinsdad Says:

    earlier today wife and i just blocked out aug 3-10 for our time at the Jersey shore with our kids and another couple and their kids.

    so you know that’s when the festie will be. mark it.

    at least i’ll be able to make Dicks.

    hard to comment on 12/29…my only in person show…i had a fucking blast but i made that happen and i’m prone to dancing and merriment and not being particularly too critical when blazed. i think i called a number of things “sick”. but in hindsight the LXL and the Gin are noteworthy…perhaps not highlight playlist material. i’m def more interested in getting the 12/30 show to listen to.

  13. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    gdad, we must hit dick’s this year

  14. gavinsdad Says:

    all lurkers should delurk.

  15. BNCB Says:

    Set 2 was pretty psychedelic on 12/31. Well, for me it was.

    And I’m healed from the 2010 Meatstick scar, so there’s that.

  16. ren Says:

    you can hit Dicks….just don’t cross the streams 😉

    I resolve to get Dick’d this year!…..and will not miss the festi either….its been too long….13 years actually

  17. gavinsdad Says:

    df – i will not miss it, along with the rest of the fanbase, unless they throw a curve and schedule it right before the festie, during the week of aug 3 to aug 10. hehe.

    the guys that got the first two years of dicks were psyched. this year people are gonna jump all over it but it’s not going to change the fact that it’s an open air GA floor. that is my shit. and if it’s a 3 pack again that’s also the best scenario for me ever. those two factors are very important to me.

    i thought Tahoe would have struck way more gold…i created my own mythology around Tahoe…GA parking lot, up in the pines, kinda middle of nowhere, who cares that it’s at a casino, etc etc etc. the Light was still sick even tho Corey and i thought page bailed.

  18. MiA Says:

    Re:Fierce Melon’s blast

    12/29 was arguably “riskless” as Miner pointed out. But if you look at the setlist, it’s easy to say those are the kind of tracks you much wanted to hear.

    Still, what do I know? I loved BGCA II, but I was sweet tarted and in the first 8 rows. The whole experience gets more eurphoric when you’re around people raging a Mike’s > Simple > etc. No beer drinking, shoving, or stupid asshats talking around you. People respecting each other and having room to dance and good vibes. Makes a lot about the show.

    They had me at Simple…

    Set 1: Runaway Jim, Wolfman’s Brother[1], Nellie Kane, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Ocelot, Maze, I Didn’t Know > 46 Days, Tube > When the Circus Comes, Sugar Shack, Split Open and Melt, Cavern

    Set 2: Golden Age > Piper > Mike’s Song > Simple > Backwards Down the Number Line > Carini > Wilson > Weekapaug Groove, The Horse > Silent in the Morning > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Fluffhead > Loving Cup

    Encore: Show of Life > Character Zero

  19. roberto luongo Says:


    2012 was one of the worst years of my fuckin life. cheers man.

    I got this 2013 thing goin though. gonna be slick.

    you fuckers better be at Dick’s.

  20. Dorn76 Says:

    Shit that’s the same week I’ll be in OCNJ.


  21. RoosterPizza Says:

    Three set shows fuck my head up. It is like learning to listen to a show all over again for me.

  22. roberto luongo Says:

    I’m the same way Robear. at least half my music reviews should be immediately voided when I have a full head

    I’m just spun and happy and everything sounds great.

    Possum > Sample > alaska. sweet.

  23. kayatosh Says:

    i’ll pick you up at 8 as usual (for dick’s); listen for my horn

  24. roberto luongo Says:

    all jokes aside though Fish and Trey locked in for some old school drummer and guitarist chop chasing in that Piper

    some fire in that bitch.

  25. marcoesq Says:

    First respin of 12/30, had to watch the Mkdevo video of Carini. Hot damn.

    I got a pretty good pic of Carini taking off into the jam.

    Love the end of this Disease

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