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. [Not Tom] Says:

    For those of you not there or not watching the stream, during the deepest part of the jam Kuroda did that thing where all the lights were either directed at the stage or behind the stage. He did this for the better part of the jam and it gave it the actual glow of a tribal gathering in an otherwise dark space, as if you wandered up on it in the jungle.

  2. Oldskool Says:

    Sorry if this has been posted already


  3. [Not Tom] Says:

    im guess opt has something to to with phantasy tour??

  4. Dorn76 Says:

    opt out

  5. c0wfunk Says:

    “Cow, it can’t all be high energy rockers.”

    naw – and I do enjoy spaceout and ambience phish style. It just felt a bit uninspired at the time, as though “it’s coming” but not quite here. Then in Carini it certainly arrived for me. The big build at the end felt a little forced at first and then kind of took a life of its own, so maybe that’s the point kaya is talking about. I’ll definitely need a full relisten but I haven’t even gotten to night 1 yet so it’ll be some time 🙂 Can’t be going out of order or missing anything now..

    Anyhow I’m glad it was so well received and look forward to hearing with new ears..

  6. c0wfunk Says:

    “The big build at the end felt a little forced at first” at the end of dwd, not carini…

  7. voopa Says:

    Most of that OPT review is WTF, but I agree a little bit with Fishman not stepping up…seems like sometimes he’s just playing because Trey isn’t, or vice-versa.

    But watching these last 3 nights I’m reminded again how hard it is to keep momentum going in a set when everyone doesn’t know if the jam is going to continue. No other band has the sensitivity to react in the moment like these guys, and sometimes instincts aren’t always correct, but they sure do a great job of keeping it moving forward, most of the time. Just seem to be missing a little spice from Fish.

  8. BingosBrother Says:

    Fish needs to get Phishm’d.

  9. voopa Says:

    Side note: My wife, ever the fluffer (easy now) was complaining about Trey missing the Theme bridge on Friday. Funny.

  10. stapes Says:

    Gordon on a different bass for DWD? He switches them up right before 20YL

    First spin through this set. Liking so far…….

  11. alf Says:

    using derek davis’s mk41s (sounds great each night but only compared to other sources for night 1) to put together this set for my nye afternoon:

    I: Jim, cities, gin, GA>Waves, tube, LxL, bott, wolf

    II: tweezer>maze, RnR, DWD>Carini>slave

    E: Hood

    thanks for another great year miner & fLegionaires – happy new year comrades!

  12. c0wfunk Says:

    there was a spot last night when it spaced out and fish was keeping the big kick pulsing. That was a welcome progression – everything was really melding together. Musta been mid carini?

  13. BingosBrother Says:

    Yeah, Fish was not having the ripcord pulled. Coulda swore they were going into Lizards from Carini.

    Crosseyed Ghost Lizards

  14. stapes Says:

    Love Fish on Carini.

    Must go find something to sacrifice now.

  15. [Not Tom] Says:

    I still don’t understand how Trey can miss the bridge in Theme so often. I mean, he wrote it, he decided to add it (it wasn’t there initially), yet he cannot seem to get his fingers to do the correct fretwork. Odd.

    Or maybe he does it intentionally just to pi$$ us off.

  16. BingosBrother Says:

    He’s old. As a 96 kid it really grinds my gears tkoo

  17. Lycanthropist Says:

    just listened


  18. phishm Says:

    Oh to be able to fathom what the boys will play tonight. Some say a contained new years eve set that tries to satisy the masses. Others say a re run of the 95 explosion. I say, who cares. The boys sounded good last night to these ears. Actually liked the 1st set, but the 2nd is where things got interesting.
    My goal is to allow the creativity of the best 4 musicians in the world to be able to expand on a group thought that expands to a feeling in the air.
    Once this form of communication is presented to all of us, we will be able to expand a musical theme that comes from the cosmos as an etheral expidition in group conscienceness.
    Those in the audience tonight bring the open mindness that made this band what they are. Enjoy yourselves out there and bring the vibes into the building with all of you.
    Here’s to hoping to have another expanded communication session with all of you. Dark or light it will be an adventure in musical creativity. Peace all. Been a long time. Back to my hole in the cosmos.

  19. BingosBrother Says:

    Antelope was pretty tits last night too. Was watching the Midlands finals while half-listening to the 1st set and it got my full attention.

  20. Lycanthropist Says:

    There is no worth in reading OPTs reviews. The reviews are often very conflicting jumbled pines for the “glory days” of Phish. I wouldn’t mind the more critical point of view, but they often just spout out negativity for the sake of maintaining their “non-fluffler” cred.

    Waste of time in my opinion.

    Last night’s Carini should be celebrated as a true MSG NYE jam. True improvisational excellence involved in that.

  21. [Not Tom] Says:

    1. 12/30 II
    2. 12/28 II
    3. 12/29 I
    4. 12/28 I
    5. 12/29 II
    6. 12/30 I

    If you disagree with me then, in the words of Steve Jobs, “you were listening wrong.”

  22. MiA Says:

    Pretty good for a bunch of 48 year olds.

    My fingers don’t work anymore, so I don’t really care that they miss notes anymore. Axilla last year was terrible, but we haven’t had anything close to that.

    Trey has been screwing up Horn, Reba, Coil, DS, YEM, Oh Kee Pa, etc for a long time. Don’t get worked up at all anymore.

  23. [Not Tom] Says:

    The first picture above by G. Lucas looks like a giant plasma ball floating above the stage shooting out streams of energy.

  24. kayatosh Says:

    grateful for the improv we got last night. sashimi grade

    remember there was no phish for close to 5 years. to have them back is a gift. love this music.

  25. tela's_muff Says:

    I’m in the minority it seems but I enjoyed last nights first set. For webcast purposes we had fun standing around drinking, etc. good vibe to the set and I’m a sucker for Ocelot

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