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. roberto luongo Says:


    no hard drugs. no pharmies.
    more psychedelics
    make a lot more $$$$
    puff more Kush

    I’m a simple kid. sounds like a good program though.

  2. roberto luongo Says:

    def willowed

    Tory wanted Steam for a bit out of something DWD maybe?

  3. DukeOfLizards Says:

    Shut out tonight. Oh well. Rage it, kids.

  4. Dorn76 Says:

    RL is always good for an apt descriptions when Phish breaks in with some new sound.

    “full band tonal improv space rock”. I like.

    Thanks for sharing these resolutions, @GD. You mentioning deleting FB got me thinking I won’t just half-ass my resolutions this year.

    But now you gotta go and read my mind, drop the whole, “wake up earlier, exercise more” stuff.

  5. lonespanger Says:

    Phish is back … they’re the best they’ve ever been … no they’re not … they don’t jam … they suck … wait … they did a great jam … they’re the best … wait … too songy … they suck … they had an all time jam … clearly they are back …

  6. voopa Says:

    Clif Bar

    And I step right up to the cliff side

    Standing on the edge of a cliff

    Never need a cliffside push

    I cling like a lizard to the side of the cliff

    Two more cliff songs in the catalog…wonder if they’ll play ’em tonight?

  7. BNCB Says:

    13:28 of Carini has that Denver Light swank tease

  8. gavinsdad Says:

    Hey @duke you know people specifically hold extra nyes to stoke people with. If its not raining and a short hop to the venue I’d have my finger up in the air for serious.

  9. [Not Tom] Says:

    I checked last nights comments and people were hearing bits of Steam near the end of the DWD jam

  10. Willowed Says:

    Not that I would change a thing from last night but DWD-Steam-20 yrs-Carini looks dope.

  11. gavinsdad Says:

    31st and 8th, NE corner always got me in back in the day

  12. gavinsdad Says:

    And to be frank, I don’t finger in the air. I get in people’s faces and say “I will PAY for your extra”

  13. gavinsdad Says:

    Most folks with extras don’t wanna deal with the wook hustle.

  14. kayatosh Says:

    steam flavor was there in dwd.

    ticket hunter sharing his art

  15. roberto luongo Says:

    no doubt

    hit groups of middle age yuppies getting out of cabs

    cash for your tix.

    a couple chunks of sick OG doesn’t hurt either when you’re out east

  16. DryIceFactory Says:

    My response to the OPT kids.

    While I agree with your point that Carini should have absolutely fucking exploded after the tribal sacrifice jam, I think you managed to poorly review the music on offer, and write an incoherrent feature all together. You simply just offered your opinion on how the music compared to other shows you’ve listened to on your iPod – while basically negating your thesis.

    First off, your message seems to be that Phish shows are only “good Phish shows” if the band dives DEEP into improvisational jamming (I agree), but you then stated that the band managed to improvise a significant amount last night, and build good soundscapes. They did, and you said it yourself! But because they didn’t find the improvisational plane that YOU wanted them to find, from what they had already built, you are going out and calling it a bad Phish show. The musical planes they touched on during Carini and Disease were incredible, you admitted it yourself. So because they didn’t tear open Carini, that music becomes insignificant? You are essentially complaining about music that they didn’t play, while having no problem with what they did play. That seems a little ridiculous to me.

    With that said, I highly doubt you were even at the show last night. I hope you had fun on your couch trying to compare this show’s jams to 12/30/97 AC/DC Bag->McGrupp and Big Cypress Split->Catapult!

    I apologize for the sarcasm above^, but as a blogger, you should expect to have your writing critiqued. As a fan of the band, I know at times can be hard to not let emotion creep into your writing, but you should focus on reviewing the music they played, not the music they didn’t play. They jammed their asses off last night and played music that at times sounded straight up composed. THAT is what we look for, and THAT is why we go. There is some good news though! Maybe you can ask the band to refund your $14.95 webcast charge because Trey didn’t take a solo in Ya Mar! (Just kidding)

  17. kayatosh Says:

    that crowd roar in the middle of the tender part of reba kills it for me on playback. boo.

  18. roberto luongo Says:


    lack of jamming in Cities and Ya Mar had me first set salty last night

    I LOVE Ya Mar but like Mike’s I’m hating it until it gets some love again

    used to be good for one surprise jam every ter back in the day

  19. Spike2518 Says:

    Hi everyone happy new year evening has everyone got there emails to re watch the shows?? I’ve just got the first night I can’t watch tonight save 4 tommorow night just hope it works any help pls

  20. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    RL no one liked set 1 last night

  21. [Not Tom] Says:

    Ya Mar should open shows not be thrown in late in the first set, IMO.

  22. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    carini felt very tweeprisey to me, thought they were going into walk away at the end, which would’ve been way better than #line. hopefully we get another tweeprise blow up tonight like at BGCA.

  23. [Not Tom] Says:

    @ spike – I did NOT get one after the first night, but I did get one after the second night. Random, I know. I think you can email LP customer service and “Tela” will get your code to you.

  24. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    what’s opt?

  25. Oldskool Says:

    Norv and Andy Reid both fired as well

Leave a Reply