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. Gavinsdad Says:

    @jtran – my NYC cheap eats list on a google doc anywhere still?

  2. Jerome Garcia Says:

    If you’re on the Nice list this yr you just might Gdad. But if you’re expecting a lump of coal then you’re shit out of luck.

  3. Gavinsdad Says:

    With you on Eataly @ Geo W. there is a small prime rub sandwich counter. Anyone can split one of those puppies w a friend and have a great base for Pregaming on top of.

  4. Gavinsdad Says:

    It’s nice to be important. But it’s more important to be nice.

    Or so said the rasta that worked my cafeteria at CSU.

  5. Jerome Garcia Says:


  6. dorn76 Says:

    Any NYC’ers try or heard any scuttlebutt on this place?

  7. Gavinsdad Says:

    I guess it’s about that time.

    MIA and Sumo always offer up great choices and suchlike for NYC. They are like the BB Rick Steves.

    I focus on food and Booze and some culture.

    If you hit Eataly, as u make your way down bway you might check out Hill Country Chicken. Excellent bird and pies. Top notch. Shake Shack right there in Madison Sq Park but beware long cold lines! On the bway side of the Ace Hotel is their most affordable food option, No. 7 Sub. Outrageously good sandwiches. I literally had a grilled cauliflower sub a couple years ago and remember the food boner to this day.

  8. Gavinsdad Says:

    Dorn – walked in front of it Last Nite in fact. My car was garaged on 45/9. Was stunned that a market style place like that would exist so far West. But now that high rise apts and hotels exist out there that place is totally filling a void. Even stranger is the super high end truffle store (!) a few blocks North.

  9. Angryjoggerz Says:

    Def hav spun wing suit 20x here, was pretty much all I listened to in November. Eataly just opened in Chicago, looking forward to hitting it up, good selection of local beers on tap too. Chicago beer nerds… half Acre releasing big hugs on Sunday, biggest release of year. Growlers and bombers. Should go in a day or two.

  10. Angryjoggerz Says:

    Big hugs being their once a year super coffee’d out 10% imperial stout

  11. jtran Says:

    2011 Phish New Years map with Gdad’s food recs (and some of my personal stuff I think)

  12. dorn76 Says:

    Gothamwest looks intriguing. Craft beer, noodles, tapas, cured meats, coffee, bike store and more all under one roof. If they do wingsuit repairs I may just post up there for the run.

    I’ve spun maybe 8-10 times…

    What’s the over/under on Wingsuit tunes at MSG.

    2.5? Too high?

  13. Gavinsdad Says:

    It’s personal.

  14. sumodie Says:

    Yup, got the nyc BB /gdad recommendation doc on my cpu. Good idea to dropbox it soon

    Museum special exhibitions have not looked unusually outstanding, except for Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring ( & 3 other Vermeers) on loan to the Frick

    Who knew Vermeer had such a cult following:

  15. DavidSilver Says:

    How do I get some Big Hugs aj? Store?

  16. sumodie Says:

    Gonna be based in the Lower East Side for the run. Very psyched to spend more time down in that area

  17. MiA Says:

    Check this place out Sumo and co.

  18. MiA Says:


  19. sumodie Says:

    I already miss that tripped out LED cube that was in Madison Sq Park last year

    That was srsly intense!

  20. little umbrellas Says:

    hope we see that Fuego spread Wild.
    ‘It would have to be the best stand of the era, but coming off the hottest tour of this era, why not?’
    Oh yes, that would be nice.

    here’s to Fuego, the right way

  21. little umbrellas Says:

    only listened to Wingsuit set about 1.5 times. A few songs an extra listen or two.

    looking forward to the album.

  22. jtran Says:

    over under on wingsuit tunes during the run?

    I think 5

  23. MiA Says:

    I think Silly Willy hit Good Beer last year too.

    So many options in LES now. Great hotels, etc.

  24. the Baker Says:

    So with the inevitable BACKWARDS… ripcord’n an AMAZING Jam; I pray that Trey doesn’t throw in a Devotion To A Dream ripcord on another night!!
    *WingSuit, FUEGO, MONICA, Waiting All Night& The 555 please*

    #changes the o/u-LINE to 5.5#

  25. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Where/When is the open BB not ready for prime time meetup?

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