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. BNCB Says:

    Auld Lang Syne tease ended the Light jam. ‘PHISH’ spelled out in lights ended Ghost.

    Had some asshole Occupy lookin wOOk doing the full arm flail jump up and down tribal dance on the floor. Was too spun to say

    “Listen jack ass, I get that you want to dance. I do too, but we r all sharing a space here”. I just kept leaning on him until he was squeezed into others and out of any space.

  2. Mr.Miner Says:

    how did CDT have a golf theme? Was it just the golf cart marathon during it?

    ^ um. yes.

  3. MiA Says:

    Nice write up. Thoroughly enjoyed that read.

  4. BNCB Says:

    I’m with Voopa re: golf and torture.

  5. Kevin Says:

    Glad you had fun, Miner.

  6. Dorn76 Says:

    Thanks Miner. Have to say i appreciate your work here greatly. A place to stop by every day and share the ongoing conversation among people I don’t know but consider friends anyway.

    Good on you for making a change. Nothing can stay the same very long, Phish is one of the rare exceptions I know of in life. Sounds like you are in for some balance and a happier lady. All good things.

    What was it about the 29th? Wife and I were getting pushed out of 116 by a weird couple. Beefy kid and a tall skinny girlfriend. Dude was back to me all night, stretching and backing up inch by inch. My elbows caused him all sorts of consternation until his girlfriend had no choice but to switch with or risk his testosterone boiling over. Kid ignored my passes so eventually had us reaching across them to hook up a nice couple if kids from Iowa. He wasn’t pleased.

  7. Johnny B Goode Says:

    Couch toured the run… They really do web casting right. Personally thought the run was fabulous. Few botches, good doses of epic jams, great song selection… and the humorous tounge in cheek pun laden ridiculousness only these guys could pull off to end it… I’ve always felt by midnight on new years they have no shot at musical mastery… The mayhem and energy just don’t allow it… But these theatrics were perfect… Can’t wait to cue it all up again….

  8. BNCB Says:

    No more shows on Saturdays?

  9. nich Says:

    Kinda surprised that the first unfinished / slightly jammed out Wedge didn’t get any mention whatsoever. Only really left Wedgespace for maybe 3 minutes tops, and it may have just been a graceful way to get out of Trey missing his mark, but it’s stunning how smoothly they moved from that possible flub into an interesting jam out of a song they’ve never jammed anymore (That 10 minute one from 99 stays firmly within the lines) in a matter of a few heartbeats.

    As for Best NYE Run since the 90s.. It’s a close thing. I’d put the Carini, DWD & Tweezer up against anything from the 02/03 or 03/04 runs, but those are really the only jams that reminded me this was the same band who last played at Dicks over Labor Day weekend.

    Whereas the Miami 03 NYE run has (in order) – a really cool Bowie jam even if it’s derailed in the crescendo. A short but really unique Little Feat-y take on Tweezer, a Frankie Says that develops into an absolute smokeshow, a gnarly (really the only word that describes it) 19 minute Suzy, a Hood with an awesome turn towards darkness in the middle, a Piper utterly dominated by Page in spots, a sweet meatball infused segue from Twist->Boogie and subsequently into a Ghost that plays around with Guy Forget to nice effect, one of those 03 Divideds that’s inexplicably more improvsational than usual even though it’s hard to put your finger on exactly where and how, the totally overlooked Sand->Shafty->NICU seguefest, a Gin->2001 with Fishman entering the zone and never leaving, the last blown out Tube and sludgy -> Into a narcotic LA Woman and probably the best segue into Birds ever, a Birds with an absolutely gorgeous jam, Back to LA Woman which somehow manages to hit full blown hose AND a perfect segue into Maksupa despite being under 3 minutes total! Presumably some people love the P-Funk part i guess but I still find it to be more comprable to the Merry Pranksters at Darien than anything else, I dig the DWD and the weird way Trey brings the ending in, the best Contact ever, a Weekapaug thats one of those jams where you realize how crazy it is that Phish can make funk sound so many different ways, an excellent YEMmer, First Tube->Tube ain’t perfect, but it’s fun, the Stash is an absolute juggernaut, Probably my favorite shortish version of Seven Below, Chalkdust->Slave->Chalkdust may not be as fascinating as it looks, but the Slave and 2nd half of Chalkdust are both dope, Jim->Simple>Reba and an intensely peaked Antelope.

    Now, of course the Golden Age jam or Ghost->Piper might be on the same level as a bunch of these, but man.. i always felt NYE Run 03 was vastly underrated, and the amount of people saying “Best since Cypress” has really got me amped up about the good parts of NYE Run 03. It’s flawed beyond belief, but there is a shitload of jams worth relistening to.

    Feel The Heat!

  10. Dorn76 Says:

    I can email link to 12/30 webcast in the AM if anyone’s so inclined.

    B d r L j m 1976 @ google’s mail

  11. jp Says:

    probably blasphemy, but not that impressed with the 12.30 carini ~ prefer the disease > 20yrs later section than the quiet > storage-esque jam section of the carini close

    way more in love with the 8.31.12 carini, or providence 2010 fall tour

    great to have so many stellar versions of a song that never used to be in that kind of exploratory role tho and not saying i didn’t enjoy 12.30 ~ just not at Miner orgasm level

  12. Scott Bernstein Says:

    Great work, Dave

  13. Dorn76 Says:

    Very long, but I agree Wedge sounded great.

  14. DaNcInG fOoL Says:


  15. nich Says:

    I thought the Carini was pretty excellent, and I’m fine with how it ended. It seemed like they hit what they were going for so perfectly that they wanted to end it instead of possibly sully it..

    I’ve heard there were I Dont Care teases on this run somewhere, does anyone know where? I assumed in Carini, but I don’t hear it.

  16. BNCB Says:

    jP! Providence Carini! That and the preceding RnR easily the best of the forgotten 3.0 jams.

  17. nich Says:

    What’s the Fall ’10 show with the Manteca Reba encore? That 20 Years Later jam into FEFY (and the Reba, for that matter) are some of my favorite forgotten jams. Amherst maybe?

    Blossom Possum too.

  18. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    carini should’ve ended with either > walk away or > more dark jamming

    still fucking brilliant jam though. went NUTS during it

  19. MiA Says:

    Nice notes on ’03 Nich. You pretty much nailed the run. I thought the 29th was the bees knees of the run, and everything else turned sloppy/narcotic. Yet still had a great time.

  20. Mike Says:

    Pretty decent review. Is there an adjective you don’t know? Haha. I think it’s fair to mention that critics like you, yes critics can be overly. Harsh on phish. I agree that jamming takes precedence over safe shows but you’ve been unabashedly critical. A good critic recognizes this and should mention that the heart of garden party is a little directed towards Phans like you. You lost some credibility to me for taking the easy way out and glancing over the subtext of this song. You should have mentioned yourself a little in my humble opinion. I will continue to read your reviews but hope you can acknowledge this.

  21. bob dylan Says:

    Good lookin DF. Scored the 30th.

  22. MiA Says:

    Carini > No Quarter was my hope DF.

  23. BNCB Says:

    Augusta @ nich

  24. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    @nich, augusta, one of the best and most underrated 3.0 shows. sick b gin and above average mike’s too. oh and one of the best lights ever

  25. bob dylan Says:

    Ah yes providence. Skipped that to pass a kidney stone instead. Memories.

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