Golf Shots in the Garden

12.31.2012, MSG (Jesse Herzog)

If any holiday embraces the theme of good times and fun, it is New Years Eve. For their fourth and final show of 2012’s Holiday Run at the Garden, Phish manifested this theme through three sets of high-energy rock and roll. Remaining largely within song structures, the band treated 20,000 fans to a rousing performance while infusing humor throughout the final set of the year. Playing with authoritative command, the band shook the World’s Most Famous Arena for over three hours highlighted by a golden sequence of “Ghost > Piper” in set two. After letting it all hang out on the 30th, the guys got back to polished rock music in their 2012 swan song and showed that even an improvisationally contained show can bring the house down.

12.31 Official (J.Flames)

Upon entering MSG on New Year’s Eve, fans were greeted by a floor and stage covered in Astroturf while “actors” dressed in country club attire were spread throughout the floor playing an array of lawn games such as mini-golf, badminton, and croquet. Additionally, the stage was covered in plant life with trees, shrubs, and assorted flora providing the feel of a true garden. Phish musically referenced their surroundings right off the bat with an out-of-the-blue opener of Ricky Nelson’s 1972 song, “Garden Party,” inspired by his experience at a Madison Square Garden concert. Through the lyrics to the song— “it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well / you can’t please everyone, so you gotta’ to please yourself”—it was clear that the guys had were going to have a blast in their year-end finale, and their musical confidence oozed from their high octane performance all night long.

The meat of the show transpired, as usual, in the second set with an eye-popping run of songs that were connected quite smoothly, though only “Ghost” and “Piper” were given room to breathe. Continuing their modern era New Year’s Eve tradition, “Ghost” transformed into the improvisational centerpiece of the night. Sparking the jam with hard-edged playing, the band united in a section of groove that saw all members contribute equally to the mix. Before long, however, the guys followed Trey’s lead out of conventional territory into an uplifting plane of harmonic convergence. Sprouting patient and soul-caressing leads, Trey spearheaded the most transcendent passage of the evening. Cascading guitar melodies brought the jam to its peak while coaxing spot-on piano accompaniment from Page. Reaching a plateau of creative reverie, the guys had, once again, sculpted a phenomenal New Year’s Eve “Ghost” to go along with the standout versions from ’09 and ’10. A mellow denouement to the jam brought the music smoothly into “Piper.”

12.31.123 (Jeff Thomas)

Juxtaposed against the beautiful music of “Ghost,” Phish blasted off into a full throttle version of “Piper.” Trey carved out gritty leads amidst a musical fury in which the band connected as well as they did all night. This high-speed chase upped the intensity of the second set and never relented as the band flexed their improvisational muscle throughout this torrid rendition. Trey’s leads and rhythm chops stood out at the guiding force of this voyage as he dictated the path and tempo with Fishman tightly glued by his side. When the jam did finally come to an end, the guys only took a moment to merge with the most prolific song of 2012, “Light.” Placed in the middle of the New Year’s second set, a monster version of the seminal jam felt imminent. Trey took a spectacular solo within the contained portion of the jam—something he did in virtually every selection of the night—but when the time came for the band to spring into the ether, they, instead, relaxed into an ambient washout and revved up “2001.” Keeping the setlist moving where it might have benefitted from a bit more improv, the guys closed the set with a run of “2001,” “Horse > Silent,” and “You Enjoy Myself,” none of which separated themselves from average versions. The second set, however, featured non-stop action from start to finish, and a certain flow to the action, fitting the vibe of the show congruently.

12.28.12 (G.Lucas)

Who knows what prompted the band to create a golf-themed third set of New Year’s Eve—perhaps it’s a hobby of their golden age (Trey and Page’s at least!) or perhaps it was a natural extension of “Kung’s” runaway golf cart marathon that was actually staged during “Chalk Dust”—but as usual, the band took it the extra mile. None of my friends nor I picked up on the golf-themed setlist in real time, but when I saw a tweet about it after the show it seemed hilarious that we hadn’t noticed. “Sand > Wedge,” “Fly Like an Eagle,” “Wilson,” “Lawn Boy,” “Driver,” and “Iron Man” made up the post midnight set, all with a golf references right in their titles. Later someone noted that “Party Time” (Par-Tee Time) kicked off the comic-laced set, leaving only “Tweezer Reprise” as the only non-golf related song in the set, but what an exclamation it made for the midnight hour! Following a rambunctious golf cart marathon within a compact “Chalk Dust,” the band, with assistance of their trusty New York City dance troupe, counted down to midnight. And after the tradition of “Auld Lang Syne,” they busted into their most adrenalized song in their catalog (which had been looming since the 28th) to ring in 2013, “Tweezer Reprise.”. Complete with strobe lights, dancers and a diva, Carrie Manolakos, belting out vocal melodies alongside Trey, “Reprise” created quite the midnight festivity!

“Tweezer Reprise” (J.Thomas)

Once the balloons had dropped and hugs were exchanged throughout the crowd, the band kicked into 2013 with a scorching dance session in the first ever third-set version of “Sand.” Though the show’s final set played out without much jamming, the band managed to throw three entertaining curve balls into the stanza with the debut of Steve Miller Band’s seventies anthem, “Fly Like an Eagle,” a rearranged, a cappella version of “Lawn Boy,” and the first full version of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” with Page playing the role of Ozzy Osbourne. Once again, fun was the pervading theme of the night.

Page recognized the onset of Phish’s 30th anniversary year during the encore, a year that allegedly holds a large touring docket the band. But this night was about finishing 2012 in style. This New Year’s show ended what was unanimously heralded as the band’s best year since their 2009 return, and in the heart of New York City on a stage they have made their home, Phish delivered a robust and celebratory performance. Thirty years deep and still going strong—only the Phish from Vermont.

I: Garden Party*, Possum, Roses Are Free, Rift, Sample in a Jar, Alaska, Mike’s Song > Walk Away, Weekapaug Groove, Character Zero

II: Birds of a Feather, Ghost > Piper > Light** > Also Sprach Zarathustra > The Horse > Silent in the Morning, You Enjoy Myself^

III: Party Time, Kung > Chalk Dust Torture > Auld Lang Syne > Tweezer Reprise^^ > Sand > The Wedge > Fly Like an Eagle*, Wilson, Lawn Boy#

E: Driver, Iron Man##

*debut, **Auld Lang Syne tease, ^Birds of a Feather tease, ^^With Carrie Manolakos on vocals and backup singers, #a cappella, ## first full performance

12.31.12,  MSG (Richard Lawless)

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369 Responses to “Golf Shots in the Garden”

  1. sumodie Says:

    Theres some low attendence figures in that list. See midwest dates esp

  2. voopa Says:

    Kendrick Lamar on SNL this month.

  3. sumodie Says:

    Low meaning 50% turnout or so

    While i know the band is making buck, i’d still love to see how gross sales compare with net profits

  4. voopa Says:

    Right sumo?

    A half-full venue witnessed the Cincy Twist? WTF?

  5. neemor Says:

    Halloween in Worcester.

  6. tela'smuff Says:

    noticed that about Cincy show. Phish loves it but that town is weak.

  7. Leo Weaver Says:

    I like that shitty old venue in Cincy…gotta see the astroturf.

  8. kayatosh Says:

    fresh band name:

    Hops Nipple

  9. tela'smuff Says:

    for sure @Leo, that was a nice upgrade and this summer was the best experience i’ve had at Riverbend. after living there for far too many years, the citizenry is more interested in Buffet and DMB, with a little Nickelback for good measure

  10. sumodie Says:

    Nice rumors…reposted cause why not:

    rumors rumors rumors

    0%chance of any Phish shows or runs until mid/late June. This is in complete stone.

    Festival will be in the northeast. (2 being considered Watkins Glen, Poconos, and a few Northern NY locations) the fest will be a “focus point”for “antics and stunts” Phish’s 30th summer celebrations. The anniversary shows later in the year will be in smaller venues so this is their shot to “go big for anyone who wants to come celebrate.”

    Fall tour 100% happening and ending on Halloween (East Coast).

    30th anniversary run in late November early December. “about a week long”

    Nye @ msg (end of contract)

    More info of the summer tour in early feb or so. They expect dates public in the first 2 weeks of march.”

  11. Leo Weaver Says:

    Ha. Sounds like the other Queen City.

  12. kayatosh Says:

    bunch of Oct. 98 MMW (w/ dj logic set II) shows up on

  13. Leo Weaver Says:

    Thanks a bunch sumo! Exactly what I was looking for.

  14. BingosBrother Says:

    The rumor that I am going to kick all kinds of ass in 2013 is not greatly exaggerated. Thats a fact jack.

  15. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    how about a big cypress release for the 30th year?

  16. dusty Says:

    funny miner I had a mutual friend forward that same rumors email to me today. I’d love to see an east coast dirty city tour though gdad. AC->Trenton->Bmore->hartford. Ugly but thats they way I like em.

  17. ren Says:

    Good call @DF! Haven’t even begun considering live releases yet

  18. BingosBrother Says:

    3 days no smoking cigs BB. I am gonna rage so hard in 2013 with fresh lungs. I’m ready to take this shit next level.

  19. RoosterPizza Says:

    The last five minutes of this DWD are something else. They enter the chill lounge, and then they follow it up with pure nastiness.

  20. MiA Says:

    I’m not sure you could “witness” the Cincy Twist from that lawn.

    Had a good time there.

    Favorite memory … looking over at Tela’s and Luther T. post Twist.

  21. voopa Says:

    Shoulda said “experienced” I guess.

    Nice that those Oct ’98 MMW+Logic shows are circulating again…have a bunch of ’em, time to round out the collection.

  22. snow Says:

    I’m surprised there were so many undersold shows. That said, none of them were shows that were destination shows, so it makes sense. There just aren’t 20,000 Phans in many cities. If they want to sellout shows, destination shows are the way to go.

  23. MiA Says:

    Cincy and Star Lake and Blossom are destination shows.

  24. snow Says:

    They are if you are a rockstar such as yourself, MiA.
    For the rest of us there is many a mile between those towns.

    TweePrise Lady Speaks

  25. gavinsdad Says:

    I’d take a dirty tour routing @Dusty

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