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. MiA Says:

    Stabbin’ … That’s only for hugging xpun at night cause you’re scared.

  2. snow Says:

    What if you aren’t scared and just want to cuddle?

  3. MiA Says:

    That just got weird.

  4. hazel mango Says:

    When the going gets tough, let’s go out and play a round of golf…

    Happy New Year all.

  5. MiA Says:

    Happy New Year Hazel Mango!

  6. hazel mango Says:

    Thanks! You too, MiA!!!

  7. P.S.H.S. Says:

    mia, you posted months ago the company you work for and a link to their page. remember browsing through, and seeing opportunities around me. could you do that again please, seriously considering a change in careers right now. or hit me up via email
    ryanbairdo at yahoo

  8. P.S.H.S. Says:

    ^spent my whole holiday “vacation” in a plow truck, and am about to murder someone. was suppose to have 12 days off…

  9. RoosterPizza Says:

    I am pumped for all Seattle fans right now. I had them for like 6 wins. Whoops. I love being a New York Giants fan. Just miss the playoffs or just make it and win the Super Bowl. Ohhh, how I forget about all of those first round ass kickings.

  10. RoosterPizza Says:

    I don’t know about the stabbing though. That shit sound too h3tty for me.

  11. MiA Says:

    You’ve got mail.

    My friend my friend he’s got a knife…

  12. jdub Says:

    @BingosBro, best of luck with the no cigs. You don’t need luck though cause you’re so fucking money. Seriously, in a month you’ll feel like a new man.

  13. P.S.H.S. Says:

    thank you sir

  14. Willowed Says:

    Jdub. Been off the cigs since Tuesday (I know only 2 days). You inspired me at MSG. So far so good.

  15. RoosterPizza Says:

    I would like to think of myself as a somewhat intelligent person, but my inability to get the bottom sheet on the bed within four tries suggests otherwise.

  16. PigSong Says:

    Bingos, you got this bro. Four months(ish) off here. It’s way better than I thought it could be. Make it through the first 2-3 months and you’re golden. I’ve slipped here and there, if it happens just d-w-a-i

    ::steps off soap box

  17. Link Says:

    Meatstick+steam+garden party golf cart marathon=msg

  18. SillyWilly Says:


    That bottom sheet fucks me everytime too

  19. Calpain Says:

    in protest of the lockout (a very nice take on the stunt @DancingFool) minor league hockey arena fall tour.

    @link, just blew my mind.

  20. SillyWilly Says:

    Rumors of a fall tour are exciting.

  21. xpun Says:

    Good luck all you non smokers. I’m pretty good at turning it on and off at will these days but can’t seem to keep it off. More about desire to not hear my wife bitch than health reasons.

    Watched stunt. Not sure I could have been further away so really had no clue what was going down on stage. Looked like band was having fun. I def don’t read to deep into any of it.

  22. Calpain Says:

    after a couple of Carini re-spins, I got the feeling at 10:19 in that they were summoning the evil drummer boy from the Wolfman’s (Trey tone bending is eerily familiar). also, another time where Ck5 puts “Phish” on the screen.

    thank you phish vimeo.

  23. dusty Says:

    aint a hoty without tanks in the elevators.

  24. bob dylan Says:

    I’m still pages back but the half full venues are prob cause the Midwest was do god damned hot that nobody wanted to go day of. Unbelievable heat. Walking on the sun.

    Lock down bethel house and a yurt at the gorge and count me in. Throw in a deer creek home visit and nye run and I’m already at 11 shows. Things might be tough with a new job…

  25. RoosterPizza Says:

    At around 9:00 minutes of Carini, it sure as hell sounds like they are about to kick into Taste. Luckily, the death march proceeds to crush souls.

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