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. Ulysses S. Wingsuit Says:

    They can look out of the same gimlet hole without winking.

  2. little umbrellas Says:

    gimlet points

  3. MiA Says:

    Affluenza? I read the article and I admit I hope someone else affluenza’s that kid or the judge.

    I don’t blame the kid or the parents. They are right. Rich people get away with everything without consequence. But the person letting them “get away with it” is the judges.

    The kid is more like John Belushi, and the judge is more like Carrie Fisher.

    So to speak.

  4. MiA Says:

    Ugh. Retract my statement. Too early. The kid and parents are dipshits and deserve a fate worse than I will type. But I understand why the entitled jerks think they can get away with it by asking for it.

  5. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    wash that ugh out of your head with a classic long form jam from todays gone by, MiA.

    12.12.95 Providence Disease
    31+ minutes of improvised leaps into the proverbial musical abyss

  6. phlorida phan Says:

    ^@T3, waterproof bluetooth earbuds $100, things look cool.

  7. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    thanks, phlo!

  8. Gavinsdad Says:

    I hope I can keep listening to the LP UIC 94 today. Took it from the top on ride home from NYC last nite.

    Absolutely blistering playing. To paint in early morning broad strokes, Fishman is the key to their propulsion back then. The whole “94 rah rah” thing for me has everything to do with what a freaking sick beast he was back then. Obvs all the other guys play intensely. Hard to put this to words but I was just imagining the band at the time. They played those shows with such confidence and gusto…I started to wonder if they knew just how good they were at the time. Such a breakthrough year.

    And that Bowie (and its awesome intro) is legend and never really comes up on my fave Bowie discussions. I apologize to myself for giving it short shrift.

  9. Spasm Waiter Says:

    @Phlorida- is there a mic on those buds to take calls with?

  10. Spasm Waiter Says:

    ^it appears that you can take calls w those, according to the manufacturers website

  11. Spasm Waiter Says:

    i live in Bluetooth headphones

  12. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    that’s the Bowie on the AlphaÜber, naturally

    so, lately I have been finding that 1992, particularly the run of shows they did late in the year in November and December are much closer to the style and acumen of the ’93 version of the band than I had thought. This makes sense, considering they are late in the year and we usually see this where the later shows tend to have spill-over similarities to what happens in the start of the year following (assuming they don’t take an entire spring off like in ’95 and then come out in the summer and freak everyone out with massive deep, dark hide-under-your-seat jams that really weren’t present so much in late ’94 or the New Year’s Run, but that’s a different conversation…). Good examples are when you look at late ’96 stuff having similarities to ’97 or late ’94 beginning to have the ’95 feel to it. I think you get what I mean here.

    anyway, that’s all set up to recommend to you the 12.12.92 show from The Spectrum in Toronto, ON. This was the band’s first headlining show outside of the US and they played like they wanted to impress from the Llama opener through the Reprise encore. There’s the typical Secret Language of the time, teases in several songs, great takes (for the time) on Reba and Tweezer, and the Davy Crockett YEM – not to mention a huge bust out in the Ride Captain Ride (337 shows). This is a band just about to hit their full stride, playing with youthful dexterity and inviting everyone to get in on the joke. It might not be the jammiest thing you hear, but take a spin of it and if you haven’t heard this version of the band in a while you may be surprised by what you hear.

    Saturday, 12/12/1992
    The Spectrum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    Soundcheck: Funk Jam, Uncle Pen

    Set 1: Llama, Foam, Sparkle, Cavern > Reba, The Landlady, Split Open and Melt, Poor Heart > All Things Reconsidered, Bouncing Around the Room > Run Like an Antelope[1]

    Set 2: Maze, Glide, The Curtain > Tweezer > Rift, Guelah Papyrus, You Enjoy Myself, Hold Your Head Up > If I Only Had a Brain > Hold Your Head Up, The Squirming Coil > Golgi Apparatus

    Encore: Ride Captain Ride > Tweezer Reprise
    [1] Simpsons, Random Note, and All Fall Down signals.

    · All Things Reconsidered tease in Bouncing Around the Room
    · All Things Reconsidered tease in Run Like an Antelope
    · The Ballad of Davy Crockett tease in You Enjoy Myself

    Notes: This show marked the band’s first headlining performance in Canada. All Things Reconsidered was teased by Trey in Bouncing and Antelope. Antelope also contained Simpsons, Random Note, and All Fall Down signals. YEM contained several Davy Crockett teases in the song and was also sung in the vocal jam. Ride Captain Ride was played for the first time since April 14, 1990 (337 shows).

  13. sumodie Says:

    Finding some unknown (to me) music nuggets on NPR’s Best of 2013 album list from previous page

    Dawn of MIDI – Dysnomia (jazz trio)
    DJ Koze – Amygdala
    Livity Sound – Livity Sound
    Juana Molina – Wed 21
    Daniel Avery – Drone Logic
    William Onyeabor – Who is William Onyeabor? (70s Nigerian funk comp)

    So much good music out there, so little time to take it all in

  14. sumodie Says:

    I’m so behind on exploring all that hot phish from 92-93 (& beyond) too

  15. DavidSilver Says:

    That Uic Tweezer may only be 15 minutes or so, but it’s always hovering near my fav jams ever. That whole set leaves me speechless.

  16. Gavinsdad Says:


  17. Gavinsdad Says:

    @ds – that was the last song I heard when I pulled into my driveway. Gonna wrap that set up.

    Glad I got in that room. Grateful. Same for Reading and Glens Falls this Fall. Gnarly sweaty stinky rooms ftw.

  18. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    my second example up there is incorrect. it should be 97 to 98 (or even 98 to 99, really). per my earlier parenthetical, there was a large gap between fall 94 and the 95 tour since they didn’t play until june.

  19. Gavinsdad Says:

    I really need to study phish’s Summer ’95. Was so out of the loop at the time. That was my last semester in college and I was solely focused on graduating that Aug.

  20. Stoney Case Says:

    Hecks yeah G’dizzle!


  21. Stoney Case Says:

    G’Dad, school got in the way of Fall ’95 for me. Was my fifth year and was determined to finish first semester. Pulled it off then headed out for the NYE run.

  22. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Summer ’95 Listening Project is a great time. I did it last year and would do it again. it is extremely well worth your energy and dedication.

  23. joe Says:

    a 31 minute drowned that I have no recollection of even though I was most definitely in the building that night

    (morning shifting at work and on the bb today feels strange)

  24. sumodie Says:

    Summer 95 I still believed places like Saratoga Springs and Jones Beach were too far from home (Boston then)

    Silly Sumo…

  25. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    joe, I hate to say it, but it is a largely un-engaging jam. it just never really goes anywhere, imho. that hartford show is one of the soft spots to the december ’99 run, unfortunately.

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