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. Stoney Case Says:

    Miss that old building. 94 and 95 New Years runs. Amazing times. Have no memory of where we slept each night.

  2. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Just like the Knicks and the Rangers..James Dolan has managed to ruin my favorite concert venue.

  3. Stoney Case Says:

    98 still my favorite four nights of Phish. Things really changed come summer 99 in the scene.

  4. Stoney Case Says:

    Yeah Palmer. Crazy. With the rings gone, the place is very non-conducive to WW vols. with no rings, behind stage is always packed now. #Robummin

    Gotta find a new ‘spot’. Our official guest sticker spot is the back corner in the 400 level in the concession area. Yeah.

  5. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    i, too, miss the old msg set up. it is no longer the great musical venue it once was, but it is still a blast. i posted this on here before, no more msg for new years (is the contract up?), but stay in nyc- brooklyn!

  6. george w. kush Says:

    Heady, I thought Phish has first right of refusal for the next 7 years or something. Barclays would be amazing for NYE. Could BK handle that? would def be cheaper!

  7. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    @gwk- i have no idea what phish’s deal is with msg. i am sure the garden loves having them- easy sell out, lots of concession sales, etc. i just miss the old msg, but want them to stay in nyc- barclays seems like the answer to my whining

  8. george w. kush Says:

    I’d love to see the biz numbers for Phish at MSG. Concessions vs. labor vs. ticket sales etc…

  9. bob dylan Says:

    This burns. Missing MSG is that shit I don’t like.

    Yoga poses however. Are we taking bets on who is headys ex?

  10. sumodie Says:

    “Brian Says:
    December 11th, 2013 at 5:58 am
    FWIW, they played MSG on 10/21 and 10/22 in 1996.”

    Yup. Miner wasn’t forgetting 96; he was saying that the band played the same # of shows in 96 as it did in 95, two, and then bumped it up to 3 and then 4 shows in 97 and 98 respectively

    My single biggest reason for visiting NYC over the years has been to catch Phish

  11. sumodie Says:

    I wouldn’t mind a switch to Barclay’s either. Band would likely make more $ too as MSG is more expensive to rent for concerts

  12. bob dylan Says:

    I have my gripes about them killing MSG but it’s still one more turn at phish in the garden! New York City phish is fun. Leave the venue and there’s still stuff to do.

    Bring on Barclays, I really like it inside there. And bring jay to guest again. Or shit, have jay open for them.

  13. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I haven’t heard great things about Barclays when it comes to concerts either..

    If the reason for switching is better concert environment, I’m not sure this solves it.

    I’m all for them going elsewhere. I wouldn’t go, but thats ok.

  14. sumodie Says:

    Guy on cashortrade wants to trade his 12/30 for a case of Heady Topper

    Move over, bitcoin, here comes beercoin….

  15. phlorida phan Says:

    Bobby D, I got my $$$ on pic number 9 or 17. Which one was she @Heady?

  16. bob dylan Says:

    Does the chive have anything besides the equivalent of attractive women in buzzfeed style posts? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    I’ve only been for basketball but I heard good things about concerts at Barclays.

  17. Stoney Case Says:

    New terminology:

    “Meatstick to Monica Ratio”.

  18. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    @bob
    apparently, they also appropriate WWII British slogans for their own bro-tastic devices too, so much that many think it is where the slogan originated, sadly.

  19. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    hey, time wasters!

    you know how you have raided archive.org for free live music of many bands? well, did you know that you can also raid it for the old school computer games of your youth?

  20. sumodie Says:

    New terminology:

    “Meatstick to Monica Ratio”.

    ^^ a necessary switch for those who dont want moobs mixed in with their mounds

  21. chris Says:

    Miner, I’m glad you included 12.2.09 Light on that list. Great jam that really holds up.

  22. Dr Pronoia Says:

    I enjoyed the sound at the jay z show I caught at Barclays. It’s comfortable and new and shiny. But it doesn’t have the mobility factor that is the biggest thing I miss at the new garden so I say keep it in the round room.

    Will miss this year unless it’s a last second miracle somehow. Twins arrive any day now (btw congrats AW!)

  23. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Sweet Dr. P. Positive vibrations to you and your family.
    Agreed on the 12/2/09 Light$$$

  24. bob dylan Says:

    games from my youth!! starts looking for doom 2.

    i never related mounds to boobs. could just be me but i thought of the corresponding parts to the meatsticks.

    speaking of british slogans, stoney has a nice one made up in sticker form.

  25. Spasm Waiter Says:

    I thought mound was BushBushBushBush….

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