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. ren Says:

    That YEM certainly translated through the stream for me…..POWERFUL STUFF!!!

  2. RoosterPizza Says:

    Fact: I am not ordering plane tickets for Japan until I know dates for Summer Tour.

  3. jdub Says:

    Those are some juicy rumors. Already salivating over thoughts of fall tours and summer festivals.

  4. IrieWalton Says:

    Nice rumor, Miner!

    The best one you laid down was the idea that we would know everything by March. That would be a huge help in the planning department.

    Pretty nice timing that their 30th Anniversary coincides with me getting 5 weeks of vakay this year. Two of those are going straight to tour especially after not catching a single live note in 2012.

  5. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    shit i need to make some money

  6. tela'smuff Says:

    nice, just read those rumors on reddit. Festi, Dicks, Halloween (Vegas), Anny Run (Hampton?). perfect destination tour.

    ^for those that missed this over the holidays. good winter tunes

  7. butter Says:

    so Radio City Music Hall and the Barclays for Anny run??? just taking a stab at some smaller venues

    gotta get back to work

    peace all

  8. voopa Says:

    We’ll probably know the *Summer* dates in March, others will be rolled out later.

  9. butter Says:

    oh yea Hampton for anny run, duh

  10. ren Says:

    Woosta for the Anny Run too!!!

  11. Dorn76 Says:

    going over to the Phish reddit was not a good move…

  12. snow Says:

    What up BB? I’m hooked on reading the commentary again.

    RL – Totally impressed with the attitude change and you are inspiring me to try and be a better person.

    Garden Party- I’m thinking more and more that it wasn’t a jab at any of their critics, but more of a positive affirmation for themselves. I think they may have been baring their souls instead of being defensive. I think it’s a very positive move for the band and the fans because the message isn’t ‘quit your bitching’, it’s ‘hey, have your opinions all you want but we are going to please ourselves’. That simultaneously frees us to be critical and for them to not worry about it.

    Thanks for the rumors update Miner.

    Spelling ‘Phish’ in the lights is so cheesy. I will now sing Garden Party to myself to save CK5 the trouble.

    Everybody – you’re awesome. BB crew FTW. Let’s take it to the next level in 2013.

  13. snow Says:


  14. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    don’t forget the toronto rumours!

  15. kayatosh Says:

    agree w/ snow. The band is not angry; they’re not taking jabs at anyone, especially their fans.

  16. kayatosh Says:

    RUT short trades locked and loaded. it’s WC time.

  17. gavinsdad Says:

    we go to phish shows for the same main reason people went to GD shows or skydive or go to a baseball game or golf — to realize that blast of excitement and elation that seldom accompanies our usual activities, a moment when time is irrelevant and everything seems to jell.

    ^THIS is 100% where i’m coming from at all times. if you’ve met me or read my blatherings you’ve picked up on it as well. thanks for articulating this @kaya.

  18. Calpain Says:

    just passing through, but a good time as Miner drops the “rumors” that we have been hoping for.

    Thanks for all the write-ups and everything you do Miner, well appreciated.

    For the newer folks around here if you haven’t already, grab a copy of Miner’s book. It’s a beast.

    May actually stop by the BB more often in the evenings as I need to make a habit of library studying.

    Thanks for all the reporting from the front lines Beliebers!

  19. gavinsdad Says:

    ps: thanks for rumourz @Miner.

    wife is gonna be chapped w how many tri state shows i’m gonna catch between Sept-Dec 31. so much life to live and witness before phish this year. always a pleasure when they finally get here tho.

  20. Dorn76 Says:

    Made the mistake of visiting that Phish reddit. Shudder.

    Girl leaving Bisco killed by a subway?!

  21. kayatosh Says:

    you got it, meldiddy.

    you see my latest email re. Jan. 19th? We’re in. hit me back.

  22. Dorn76 Says:

    annnnd, that’s a stabbing.

  23. kayatosh Says:

    just had the pleasure of spinning 8.22.12 Piper — $$$. musical density and fluid as can be. something to be said for developing ideas and group chops over the course of a tour vs. 4 days.

  24. Jtran Says:

    not enough west coast love in miner’s rumor!

  25. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    jtran moved a couple years too early

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