Musings on MSG

Madison Square Garden '09 (Brian Ferguson)

Madison Square Garden ’09 (Brian Ferguson)

Madison Square Garden is one of the most celebrated Phish venues in the land. Playing the Garden for five consecutive years between ’94 and ’98, the band continued adding shows to their stands in each year but ’96, topping out with a four night stand in 1998. Four-night stands at MSG seem commonplace in the modern era, however, as this upcoming holiday run will be the third in three years. No building has hosted Phish more times than MSG, and these upcoming shows will,  coincidentally, be their 28th, 29th, 30th, and 31st at the World’s Most Famous Arena. And this year the band will have a full head of steam heading into New York! On the heels of a smoking fall tour and recording their next album, Phish’s momentum will have had little time to slow come December 28th, unlike the past two years in which the guys didn’t play between Labor Day and the New Year’s Run. Needless to say, the time is near, the mission’s clear.

12.2.09 (W.Rogell)

12.2.09 (W.Rogell)

Though the band has played the Garden at least three times a year since their return, only a few of those nights have truly stood out—namely, 12.31.10, 1.1.11, 12.28.11, 12.28.12, and 12.30.12. If I had to bet, this year will be different. Does this year have the potential to go toe to toe with 1998’s hall of fame run, also a four-nighter at MSG? If the band plays their cards right and really throws down, perhaps we’ll have a debate on our hands. Wouldn’t that be something? It would have to be the best stand of the era, but coming off the hottest tour of this era, why not?

What used to define those legendary mid-to-late ’90s shows was a certain grit and grime that matched the old school arena congruently. This fall, with Trey laying back on rhythm more than at any time during this era, jams took on a far gritter and psychedelic feel than at any time in 3.0. If fall tour was any indication, and it always has been, we could be looking at the dirtiest MSG shows of a notably clean modern era. And wouldn’t that be the perfect way to cap a truly monumental year of Phish?

As a fun exercise, I ran through my memory and have posted my favorites of everything in MSG history. Enjoy!

Best show: 12.31.95

New Year’s ’95 was the peak of everything Phish had done in their career up to that point; a culmination of their career. Many fans view this show as the band’s finest night of music, thus is needless to say that it comes in 1st in MSG history.

Best Set: 12.29.97 II

This set delivers for the duration with not a singe lull. Jams for days, one of the best “Tubes” of all time and impeccable flow. The only weakness of this set is a fairly routine “YEM” that doesn’t quite do the rest of the set justice.

Down with Disease -> David Bowie -> Possum, Tube, You Enjoy Myself

Best Run: New Years 1998

Four outstanding nights of music, ending what I believe is their best overall year of their career.

Best First Set: 12.31.98

Nobody was quite sure what had hit them when the lights came up after this one.

1999 > Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Ghost -> Ha Ha Ha > Cavern

Best Third Set: 12.31.95

One of the best “Weekapaugs” of all-time and monster “YEM.” Plus a couple rarities to cap things off.

Auld Lang Syne > Weekapaug Groove > Sea and Sand, You Enjoy Myself, Sanity, Frankenstein

Best Encore: 12.30.97

The best encore in history, regardless of venue.

Carini – > Black-Eyed Katy -> Sally Reprise > Frankenstein

Best Modern Show: 12.31.10

A colossal night of Phish with a second set for the ages

Best version of (parentheses represent close seconds):

Tweezer: 12.28.12 (12.30.94) 

Reba: 12.31.95

Mike’s: 12.31.95

David Bowie: 12.29.97

Wolfman’s Brother: 12.28.98

You Enjoy Myself: 12.29.98

Piper: 12.30.11

2001: 12.29.98

Antelope: 12.29.97 

Weekapaug: 12.31.95 (12.31.97)

Harry Hood: 12.30.95

Gin: 12.30.10 v. 12.29.12—pick em (only versions)

Twist: 1.1.11 (12.28.12)

Ghost: 12.31.98 v. 12.31.10—pick em

Down With Disease: 12.29.97

Carini: 12.28.98 (12.30.12)

Light: 12.2.09

Tube: 12.29.97

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373 Responses to “Musings on MSG”

  1. Mr. Palmer Says:


    Coming to a baseball stadium near you?

    Texas Rangers draft Russell Wilson in the rule 5 draft today…..

    yes, that Russell Wilson..

  2. Stoney Case Says:

    Why aren’t any of you young ballets at Strings N Sol down in Mexico? Greenskybluegrass, Yonder, McCoury’s, beaches, etc.

  3. Stoney Case Says:

    Ballers! Not ballet! Damn autocorrect. Grrrrr

  4. butter Says:

    I read they are going to use him for motivational speech in spring training

    Blat boom bladatta boom bam

  5. Stoney Case Says:

    Nice work butter! Now Glow and Marcus know how to spell the second line. I see another t-shirt campaign.

  6. sumodie Says:

    I know it’s wrong but this is too bizarre not to be funny:

  7. Stoney Case Says:

    Sumo, you can’t make that type of stuff up! Guy was lifted on stage, hallucinating!

  8. Jerome Garcia Says:

    LP App 12/7/95 Dayton Slave > 2nd set. I see you Reba hanging out btwn Boogie & Guyute. I’m gonna getcha.

    Lovin The Baker’s avatar. Magnifico!

  9. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Headed to MSG tonight for a Ranger game. Plan on trying to get up to SkyBridge, will take pictures… Will pop on my twitter.

  10. Stoney Case Says:

    Nice Palmer! Stash a glass tube up there. No will suspect. Retrieve on the 28th

  11. Jerome Garcia Says:

    2nd set Timber openers in 3.0? Timber rather rare anymore eh? Just 3 times in 2013; 7/26 Gorge 8/3 BGCA 10/22 Glen Falls.


  12. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Stoney’s grizzled vet thoughts. Solid. Protip.

  13. DavidSilver Says:

    12/12/97 looks straight ill on paper. Saw it Again jam? Fuckerpants jam?

  14. joe Says:

    here’s how you stash it

  15. Timber, YO! Says:

    timber is MY jam yo
    two 2nd setters in 3.0: Jones Beach and UIC.
    shit peaked in 97 though
    been nothing but pinner versions ever since

  16. bob dylan Says:

    wale – mixtape about nothing

    its got a seinfeld theme but also some deep thoughts and a cameo by julia louis dryfus (sp?). found it randomly online but am digging it.

  17. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Nutter Center Boogie > Reba is buttery smooth

  18. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Yo Timber!

  19. sumodie Says:

    Tune in tonight for a special episode of Skybridgia: The Palmer Pics!

  20. joe Says:

    also a timber fan.

    I guess 12/12 was a good date for me as I saw 3 shows on this date in phishtory.

  21. dorn76 Says:

    The Skybridge is SO OVER

  22. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Nice joe.

    How did Dayton ’97 Reba not make the RLP? Atypical oversight by the BB. Well it’s getting added to the list of standouts. Wholly unique. Lovin it.

  23. dorn76 Says:

    Pirate Bay was cast adrift from Dutch shores, but land ho! They’ve arrived safely on Ascension Island. (.ac)

  24. Kaveh Says:

    Timber from Denver ’97; one of the most overlooked versions out there; due to the next night of music.

  25. Stoney Case Says:

    More MSG re-releases.


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