“Oh Kee Pah > Yem” Part 1
“YEM” Part 2
“YEM” Part 3
“Oh Kee Pah > Yem” Part 1
“YEM” Part 2
“YEM” Part 3
“Birds of a Feather” Part 1
“Birds” Part 2
“2001″ Part 1
“2001″ Part 2
“Brother” Part 1
“Brother” Part 2
“Roses Are Free”
Can’t find the complete “Piper”
“Twist Part 1″
“Twist Part 2″
A historic chunk of Summertime Phish.
“Reba” 8.2.03 Limestone, ME
A daytime, post-hiatus gem.
“Sneakin’ Sally” 8.8.98 Columbia, MD
Quintessential Summer ’98 grooves here.
“Disease -> Free” 6.26.95 I, SPAC, NY
Simply put, one of Phish most superbly executed psychedelic odysseys.
“Chalk Dust Torture” 8.31.12 II, Commerce City, CO
Some of Trey’s most blissful and cathartic playing of Summer ’12.
“Light” SPAC, NY 7.5.13 II
This dense, virtuosic conversation kicked off Summer ’13 in earnest and is now my go-to version of the song.
“Crosseyed and Painless” 7.10.13, Holmdel, NJ
This jam has so much staying power—truly an all-timer.
“Harry Hood” 7.22.97 II, Raleigh, NC
After an intense, power-packed set of Phish, the band encored with this sublime “Harry Hood.”
A jam—especially in context—that caused ripples throughout the modern Phish universe.
“Ghost” 8.15.98 II, Limestone, ME
The essential nugget of late-Summer ’98 Phish foreshadowed the shift to ambient jamming come the fall. This relatively under-the-radar “Ghost” sneaks into my personal top five.
Here we go again! Yesterday, Phish dropped their next slate of dates—Summer 2014—and it doesn’t look very similar to recent summer dockets. Spending all but one weekend on the east coast, the band will pepper the Northeast and Southeast with 18 of 22 shows before breaking until the end of August for their annual Dick’s run in the Rockies. Holding true to rumors, the band declared, in fine print beneath their You Tube video, that “no additional east coast dates will be announced this summer or fall.” This confirmation leaves the door wide open for the all-west coast Fall tour that is supposedly in the works. The final piece of buzz from yesterday’s drop came once someone had translated the Chinese announcement video. The man holds up a piece of paper detailing a mission in Chinese, which closes with a reference to James Michner’s, historical fiction novel “Hawaii.” Fans hopped on this nugget right away, speculating that the band may be finally plotting the Hawaii holiday run was rumored in ’99. Regardless of the relevance of this off-coast finale, there is no doubt that winter changed to spring in the Phish universe yesterday, as fans can now look past Jazzfest to Summer Tour 2014!
The tour starts out in familiar northeast environs, kicking off at Great Woods before the band codifies the modern tradition of July 4th weekend at SPAC with another three-night stand. The staple Northeast venues, however, end there as Phish will the next five shows in venues that many fans have never stepped foot in—or at least not for a while. The band hasn’t played the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia’s Fairmont Park since their memorable two-night stand in 1995. These will be the band’s fourth and fifth shows at a venue that has become synonymous with the masterful “David Bowie” performed there on July 24th of ’95.
The highlight of the Northeastern portion of tour looks to be the three-night run at Randall’s Island in New York City. With a capacity of 35-40,000 and an all-GA policy, this will be the festival-like scene for the summer. Couple this three-day festi environment with the city’s nightlife, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a destination weekend. It seems that these pre-fab festival settings are more and more the way that Phish is going these days. Venues like Bader Field or Randall’s Island can hold the same amount of people that attended Indio and Super Ball, and without the massive work and overhead that goes into the classic Phish festival. While the results are not quite the utopias of Plattsburgh and Limestone, it sure is hard to argue with the logic.
After a single show in Canandaigua, site of the infamous “Fleezer” of 6/22/95, the only summer dates off the eastern seaboard will take place at DTE Amphitheatre in Clarkston, Michigan, and a three-night return to Northerly Island in Chicago. Phish played a stellar show in their only visit to DTE’s spacious shed in 2011, and I, for one, am anticipating their return. Were it not for the inclement weather last year, I actually loved Northerly Island in Chicago, but fans on the lawn didn’t necessarily agree. Hopefully improvements have been made to this makeshift venue and the weather will cooperate this time around, as Phish always seems to save the goods for the Windy City.
Following four days off, Phish will conclude their summer tour with a hearty, seven-show run through the Southeast, and you can be sure they’ll be firing on all cylinders at this point. A one-off performance at Charlotte’s former Verizon Wireless, always the site of great Phish, will kick off this run before the band heads north for two nights at everyone’s favorite venue, Merriweather Post (sarcasm font employed). Tour will then criss-cross back south, stopping at Portsmouth’s intimate nTelos Pavilion for two nights en route to two shows in Alabama! Not only stopping at Oak Mountain, the band will head further south to the gulf coast and perform in Orange Beach. I’ve already been told by a resident of the area (@FairhopeBrewer on Twitter), that the community down there likes to think that they live “south of Alabama” and the area contains a wholly different vibe that the rest of the state. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice. Tour will then close with a random single show in Alpharetta, a venue where Phish has only ever played two-night stands.
Needless to say, this isn’t your father’s summer tour. Absent are such classic haunts as PNC, Deer Creek, Alpine Valley, Star Lake, Blossom and the like, while some new and old stops have taken their place. Phish will cap the season with their fourth consecutive Labor Day Stand at Dick’s in Commerce City, the only other true destination weekend of Summer 2014. Though west coast heads may be disgruntled right now, they will likely get the last laugh as a west coast fall tour is the stuff of dreams. Not since 2000 has the band undertaken such a swing, but this year, it seems imminent come October. And as for Hawaii, the plane tickets are far cheaper from out here as well! Hey, one can dream right?
July 1 @ Xfinity Center – Mansfield, MA (Capacity - 19,900)
July 3-5 @ SPAC- Saratoga Springs, NY ( 25,100)
July 8-9 @ Mann Center – Philadelphia, PA (14,000)
July 11-13 @ Randall’s Island – New York, NY (b/w 35- 40,000)
July 15 @ CMAC Performing Arts Center – Canandaigua, NY (15,000)
July 16 @ DTE Energy Music Theatre – Clarkston, MI (15,274)
July 18-20 @ First Merit Pavilion – Chicago, IL (30,600)
July 25 @ PNC Music Pavilion – Charlotte, NC (19,500)
July 26 – 27 @ Merriweather Post Pavilion – Columbia, MD (19,319)
July 29 – 30 @ nTelos Music Pavilion – Portsmouth, VA (6,500)
August 1 @ Amp. at the Wharf – Orange Beach, AL (Approx. 10,000)
August 2 @ Oak Mountain Amphitheatre – Pelham, AL (9,936)
August 3 @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre – Alpharetta, GA (12,000)
August 29 – August 31 @ Dick’s – Commerce City, CO (26,000)
(Date list and capacities thanks to Jambase)
Phish’s dates are looming. And it’s brought me into contact with a feeling I haven’t had in a very long time—Phish is here to stay. Unlike previous times—when their very presence sometimes felt as fleeting as their live improvisations—the band has reached an anchored and steadfast place. And they seem to be in it for the long haul. The question this begs me, someone who has felt like he has needed to be there every step of the way, is—“Was it for this my life I sought?”
With a medium as ephemeral as live music, you’re either there or you’re not. The tapes tell a limited story of what happens each night, but they are powerless in recreating the overall experience. One never knows in which show Phish will dive off the deep end, making strategizing on what shows to hit a fool’s errand because even the most bullet proof logic often backfires. This is part of the reason so many of us simply removed that equation from our lives and hopped on entire tours. There’s nothing like the comfort of knowing that you’ll be there for every note played. The plotting of getting to and from tour vanishes and you can relax for the ride.
You see, I came late to the game, with my first show coming in the Summer of 1995, despite growing up in New England and having plenty of occasions to see the band. Only a few months later, in North Charleston in the Fall of 1995, I had an utterly transformative experience with the sublime combination of Phish and pure LSD, and I immediately became addicted to the experience.
Once I became hip to the scene, part of my mental trip became how much Phish I had missed! All of ’92, ’93 and ’94—and I had tickets offered to me in each of those years at least once. The thought that I could have seen New Year’s Run ’93 in New Haven or 10.8.94 in Fairfax, Virginia still stings a little bit. In retrospect, who knows if I’d be here now if I started then, we all have our paths. But with my newfound passion for the band, needless to say, I made it a point to see as many Phish shows as I could.
During 2000, we heard that Fall would be the end, rather a “hiatus” of the music and lifestyle that we all loved so much. It was bittersweet. They played “Let it Be” after the final show. We cried. We mourned. We moved on. Then, without much time passing, the band was back and touring in 2003. Yet, before we could turn our heads, they were gone again. And maybe this time it was forever. Things had gotten unhealthy for them and their lives certainly mattered more than their band. But regardless of circumstance, they pulled the plug quite abruptly and it was a colossal loss to everyone in the community. I still remember crying while staring at the half-assed message Trey posted on their site announcing the end. How could something so special end like this?
I made peace with Coventry and once again moved on. Unlike so many others, I was not sure Phish was going to come back for a second time. I had written it off. I had no other choice. But as soon as I heard the confirmation of their second return, in the Summer of 2008, I felt that burn in my heart again. That feeling that had been all but stored away as something that had happened in my past was now choking me like a frog in my throat. It was all happening. Again. And I simply could not escape the fact that the highs, emotions and level of spiritual connection that I felt at Phish shows had been unmatched in any other life experience. Thus, the draw of Phish tour was too strong to deny, even in this more mature world I was trying to navigate. And—quite honestly—one of the driving forces behind my unending desire to see every single show was the thought that I could wake up any day and Phish could be gone again. The fear was real. This experiment was bumpy and unpredictable the last go-round and addiction is a vindictive enemy. Was the band just coming back to right their wrongs of ’04? To save their legacy? Would they be ghosts in five years?
Well, here we are, five years later, and the answer is hell no. In fact, Phish is more stable than they’ve been in well over a decade. Band members have found balance in their individual lives with their families, side projects and a couple Phish tours a year. The health and happiness of the band is well documented, and not since the mid-nineties has Phish enjoyed such a rock solid place. When combining this state with their current proficiency and creativity, in a manner like never before, it feels like the band is in it for the long haul. Their tongue-in-cheek invitation to their 60th reunion was not an empty gesture. There is much more to come from the Phish from Vermont.
And as I get older, I’m realizing that the goal of life may not necessarily be to see the most Phish shows as one possibly can. At some point, one can max out the information they can learn from a single experience. I’m not quite sure that I’ve reached that point, but I may be getting close. And that is ok, because when the day comes to stop seeing every show, I no longer have that existential fear that Phish will vanish into thin air. They’ll be around. And so will I.
1st Team Type II Jam Vehicles of the Year: “Carini,” “Tweezer,” “Light,” “Down With Disease,” “Chalk Dust Torture,” “Golden Age”
2nd Team: “Ghost,” “Rock and Roll,” “Twist,” “Crosseyed and Painless,” “Piper”
1st Team Type I Jam Vehicles of the Year: “David Bowie,” “Bathtub Gin,” “Stash,” “Harry Hood,” “Wolfman’s Brother”
Jam Vehicle of Year: “Carini”
MVP: Jon Fishman
Best Music of the Year: “Down with Disease > Carini,” 12/29 MSG
Most Succesful Jam of the Year: “Down With Disease” 12/29, MSG
Most Sureal Jam of the Year: “Tweezer” 7/31, Stateline, NV
First Set Jam of Year: “Split Open and Melt” 7/6, SPAC
Most Sinister Jam of the Year: “Carini” 12/29, MSG
Grooviest Jam of the Year: “Carini” 12/29, MSG
Most Unique Jam of the Year: “Tweezer” 11/2, Atlantic City
Unexpected Jam of the Year: “Twenty Years Later” 10/29, Reading
Underrated Jam of the Year: “Carini” 7/5, SPAC
Best Under 10-Minute Jam of the Year: “Chalk Dust Torture” 7/16, Alpharetta
Comeback Jam of the Year:“Twist”
Best New Jam: “Energy”
Best New Original: “Fuego”
Deepest Pocket of the Year: “Carini” 12/29, MSG
Filthiest Funk of the Year: “Twenty Years Later” 10/29, Reading, PA
Most Adrenalized Moment of the Year: “Piper -> Taking Care of Business” 10/20, Hampton, VA
“Holy Shit!” Moment of the Year: “Woos!” in Tahoe Tweezer—like it or not
Phishiest Moment of the Year: “Bush” funk jam in AC “Theme”
Best Guitar Solo: End of “Down With Disease” 10/29, Reading, PA
Most Fluid and Cohesive Second Set: 7/12 Jones Beach
Most Explosive Second Set: 10/20 Hampton Coliseum
Smoothest Segue: 7/6 “Carini -> Architect” SPAC
Worst Attempt at a Segue: “Sand > Light,” 7/10 PNC
Shreddiest Peak: “Ghost” 10/19, Hampton, VA
Blissiest Peak: “Down with Disease” 7/22, Toronto, ON
Best Song in Non-Traditional Spot: “Sneakin’ Sally” E, 11/1 AC
Best 3-Night Stand: 10/31-11/2 Atlantic City
Best 2-Night Stand: 7/26-27 The Gorge
Best 2-Set Show: 12/29, MSG, NY
Best 3-Set Show: 10/31, Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City
Sleeper Show of the Year: 7/16 Alpharetta, GA
Outdoor Venue of the Year (Gorge not included): Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Alpharetta
Indoor Venue of the Year: Glens Falls Civic Center, Glens Falls, NY
Best / Most wide open GA Floor: Civic Center, Hartford, CT
Venue With Chillest Employees: Hampton Coliseum
Top “What Song Are They Playing” Moment: “Chalk Dust Torture,” 7/16 Alpharetta, GA
Most Underachieving Jam: “Backwards Down the Number Line”
Best Individual Performance at a Concert: Jon Fishman 8/31, Dick’s, Commerce City, CO
Best CK5 Moment: the “rain” effect at the drop of the Hartford “Tweezer” jam
Worst Show of the Year: 10/22 Rochester, NY
Most Absurd Moment of the Year: 7/19, Chicago—Canceled show mid “Caspian” with no rain
Hardest Rainstorm of the Year: 7/12 Jones Beach
Honorable Mention: 7.12 Jones Beach, 7.26 The Gorge, 7.31 Lake Tahoe, 8.4 Bill Graham, 10.26 Worcester, 10.27 Hartford, CT
10. 7/5 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY
On the second night of summer, Phish threw down a huge statement at SPAC, foreshadowing what was to come in 2013 with one of the most fluid second sets of the year. Infusing creativity at every turn after setbreak, highlighted by one of the most inventive “Lights” ever played, the band was locked in on this night, and never looked back all year. And the first set ain’t too shabby either, particularly the closing couplet of “Cities -> Bowie.”
I: Kill Devil Falls, The Moma Dance, Sample in a Jar, Roses Are Free, Birds of a Feather, Yarmouth Road, Bathtub Gin, Nellie Kane, Army of One, My Friend, My Friend, Cities -> David Bowie
II: Energy > Light -> The Mango Song > 46 Days -> Steam > Drowned > Slave to the Traffic Light
E: Character Zero
9. 7/10 PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ
Phish’s return to Northern Jersey came on the heels of Toronto’s last-minute cancellation, hence it was primed to explode. An it explode it did, as the band greeted PNC with Leg One’s strongest show. This second set is chock full of improv, featuring a popular pick for the jam of early-Summer in “Crosseyed > Hood,” and an underrated, late-set “Light.”
I. Llama, Wolfman’s Brother, Sample in a Jar, Julius, Halley’s Comet > Bathtub Gin, Lawn Boy, Ya Mar, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Theme From the Bottom, Suzy Greenberg
II: Crosseyed and Painless > Harry Hood, Axilla, Sand > Light > Good Times Bad Times, Slave to the Traffic Light, Rocky Top, Cavern
8. 10/29 Santander Arena, Reading, PA
Reading contained one of the best start-to-finish second sets of Fall Tour. With fluidity, multiple tour-highlight jams and a potent, retro-take on on “You Enjoy Myself,” this show did far more than set the table for Atlantic City. What is keeping Reading’s ranking this low is its pedestrian first set; one of the least inspired of the fall, salvaged only by a ferocious “Split Open and Melt.”
I: Cars Trucks Buses, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Ginseng Sullivan, Wolfman’s Brother, Sparkle > Walk Away, Divided Sky, Split Open and Melt > Julius
II: Down with Disease > Taste, Twenty Years Later > Piper > Backwards Down the Number Line, You Enjoy Myself, Grind
E: Bouncing Around the Room > Reba, Good Times Bad Times
7. 8/31 Dick’s, Commerce City, CO
Saturday night’s throwdown in Commerce City boasts two energetic sets, with a top jam of the year in the now-famous “Chalk Dust Torture.” Don’t forget the late-show, hard-hitting “Tweezer,” the subsequent version to Tahoe’s epic. The rest of the show was filled with rock solid playing and quality song selection throughout.
I: Buried Alive, AC/DC Bag, Wolfman’s Brother, Yarmouth Road, Fee > Halfway to the Moon, The Wedge, Halley’s Comet > Bathtub Gin, Bouncing Around the Room, Mound, Gumbo, Run Like an Antelope
II: Chalk Dust Torture, Light -> 46 Days > Steam -> Free, Joy, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Tweezer > Backwards Down the Number Line
E: On the Road Again > Tweezer Reprise
6. 12/31 Madison Square Garden, NYC, NY
This was Phish’s 30th Anniversary show and it contained a vibe like none other. Centered on the sonic recreation of the early ’90s during the truck top JEMP Set, this New Year’s show was a celebration of Phish past, present and future. The band brought their A-game for the entire night, including another fierce third set. And check our every Trey solo in the first set, they are all fresh, inventive and well-phrased. A gentle-turned-biting “Light” blossomed into the improvisational highlight of three-set show.
I: AC/DC Bag, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, Wilson, Divided Sky, Ocelot, Sugar Shack, Halfway to the Moon, Fluffhead
II: Glide, Llama, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, Fuck Your Face, Reba, Icculus, The Lizards, Split Open and Melt
III: Character Zero > Auld Lang Syne > Fuego > Light > Twenty Years Later, Bouncing Around the Room, You Enjoy Myself
E: Grind, Show of Life
5. 10/31 Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, NJ
Halloween 2013 was a one-of-a-kind evening. Never before had Phish played us a set of unheard music, a move that leveled the playing field by eliminating any possible expectations of what was to come. The anti-Wingsuit sentiment voiced by a faction of the fan base, in my opinion, spoke far more about the listeners and what they were bringing to the show, rather than anything he band did. Owing us nothing but continuing to give, Phish allowed all of us into the creative process, playing us a set’s worth of new material. And what a set it was! Paving the way for the next several years, Phish debuted more than a handful of keepers on Old Hallow’s Eve. And then they absolutely crushed the third set, something they hadn’t done, in any holiday show since 1998.
I: Heavy Things, The Moma Dance, Poor Heart, Back on the Train, Silent in the Morning,Kill Devil Falls, Mound, Free, Camel Walk, Stash, Golgi Apparatus, Bathtub Gin
II: Wingsuit > Fuego, The Line, Monica, Waiting All Night, Wombat, Snow, Devotion To A Dream, 555 > Winterqueen, Amidst the Peals of Laughter, You Never Know
III: Ghost > Carini, Birds of a Feather, Harry Hood, Bug, Run Like an Antelope
E: Quinn the Eskimo
4. 7/27 The Gorge, George, Washington
The second night of The Gorge was Phish’s finest night of summer tour, as they dropped a seamless second set laced with artistry, forethought and patience. Every time Phish gets to the Gorge, everything slows down and Phish’s music garners a spaciousness that is congruent with the venue’s natural surroundings. After an outstanding effort on night one, the band came back and topped themselves with this show. “Disease -> Undermind” and “2001 > Sneaking Sally” anchored—for all intents and purposes—a perfect set.
I: Architect, Golgi Apparatus, The Curtain With, Kill Devil Falls, The Moma Dance, Maze, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Roses Are Free, Say Something, Ocelot, After Midnight
II: Down with Disease -> Undermind > Light -> Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Walls of the Cave > Fluffhead, Run Like an Antelope
E: Show of Life, Good Times Bad Times
3. 10/20 Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA
The second set of this show was absolutely relentless and left the entire audience in a state of blithering state of bliss. It had been quite some time since Phish had thrown down that hard for the duration of an entire set. Deep dives in “Tweezer” and “Golden Age” anchored the exploration, while the band kept the dance music spinning all night long. One of the moments of the year came in the surprise segue out of a celebratory”Piper” into ” “Taking Care of Business.” And the show ended with “2001 > Sand,” “Slave to the Traffic Light.” I mean—really? This set was pure Phish fire.
I: Julius, Funky Bitch, Back on the Train, Roses Are Free > Sample in a Jar, Ginseng Sullivan, 46 Days, Divided Sky, Bold As Love
II: Paul and Silas, Tweezer > Golden Age > Piper -> Takin’ Care of Business, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Sand, Slave to the Traffic Light
E: A Day in the Life > Tweezer Reprise
2. 11/1 Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, NJ
This show makes the number two spot over Hampton on its balance and the strength of its first set. Additionally, the centerpiece of this show,an absolutely transcendent version of “Twist,” bests any improvisational segment of Hampton’s monster set. AC’s second set also remained quite strong after “Twist,” highlighted by a comically-laced “Makisupa” and a very underrated “Light.” Remember the encore of this one? A jammed-out “Sneaking Sallly” with a full-blown “Shaft” jam. Yeah, they were feeling it on this night.
I: Cavern, Runaway Jim, Sand, Halfway to the Moon, Halley’s Comet > Tube, Possum, When the Circus Comes, Sugar Shack, Jesus Just Left Chicago, David Bowie
II: Twist > Gotta Jibboo > Makisupa Policeman, Light > Chalk Dust Torture, Meatstick, Boogie On Reggae Woman, The Wedge, Slave to the Traffic Light
E: Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley
1. 12/29 Madison Square Garden, NYC, NY
This start-to-finish barn-burner featured the band’s best playing of the year—and in memory—in the all-time sequence, “Down with Disease” > “Carini.” I’d put this chunk of music up against any from the guys’ 31 shows at MSG, and that speaks volumes. After this gargantuan opening of the second set, the guys kept things moving in the right direction with a comedown of “Waves” and a sexy version of Twist.” The band sealed the deal with an intricate, rock-solid “Bowie” to close. Don’t sleep on the first set either, an energetic frame of Phish that featured depth-in-brevity within “Gumbo” and “It’s Ice,” not to mention scorching versions of “Stash” and “Walls of the Cave.”
I: The Moma Dance > Rift, Roggae, Sparkle, The Line, Stash, 555, It’s Ice,Gumbo, Walls of the Cave
II: Down with Disease > Carini > Waves > Twist > Golgi Apparatus, David Bowie
The 29th of December holds a special place in Phish lore. For several years in the mid to late ‘90s, this date yielded many of the band’s most prolific exploits and most outlandish shows of their respective New Year’s Runs. After a standout showing on December 29th of their comeback year in Miami, Phish had played a couple of genuine stinkers on this date in 2011 and 2012, after skipping it all together in 2010. Needless to say, the hallowed date of the 29th had taken a hit in pantheon of Phish dates. Within these more recent years, the guys had made a practice of knocking the first show of any given tour or run out of the ballpark. On 12.28 of both 2011 and 2012, Phish kicked off their MSG run with high quality performances that were, arguably, the best two-setters of their respective runs. But when the band came out on the 28th of this year with a fairly straightforward show, the entire run picked up a different trajectory. And so did the potential of the 29th.
The opening set possessed a palpable energy right from the start, as “Moma Dance” and “Rift” persuaded our souls to ignite. “Roggae” and “Sparkle” provided two quasi-rarities early in the game, and two of Wingsuit’s well-loved songs “The Line” and “555” gave a fresh feel to the set as a whole. Between the two songs, “Stash” led the band into their first jam of the night, one who’s ominous vibe provided a foreshadowing of what was to come. “It’s Ice” and “Gumbo” both featured enhanced improv—mostly between Page and Trey—and continued to raise the creative bar of the show. A searing rendition of “Walls of the Cave” punctuated the most complete first set of the run, while setting the table for the band’s most impressive playing of the year.
The opening 35 minutes of the second set, simply put, was a Phish fantasy; a deranged, indoor Eden, the likes of which we haven’t visited in quite some time. Straight up, “Down with Disease > Carini” was the stuff of legend. Not only were both jams developed and completely realized in concept, they contained lock step jamming and mind-bending creativity that covered a massive amount of the Phish spectrum. “Disease” traveled with criminal smoothness from its rock platform into a consciousness-altering ambient journey that was drenched in majesty. Melting into a dark, drone soundscape, the band showcased utter patience in allowing this excursion to unfold one note at a time. In the depths of the void, Trey unleashed mystical leads that cut through the darkness and formed a soulful peak. And then, in a genius maneuver, Fishman changed the shape of jam as he kicked into an upbeat rhythm, an idea that Trey jumped onto instantly. From this point, the band, collectively, worked their way back into an uptempo groove and seamlessly merged back into “Disease,” bringing the house down with their artistic triumph. But instead of basking in the glory, Trey wasted no time at all, morphing the final note of “Disease” into the first note of “Carini!” Ummm, yeah. The 29th was back.
Following the most prolific year of its career, with standout versions popping up almost every time played, “Carini” was the jam everyone was waiting for at MSG. Having gone in so many different directions in 2013, “Carini” had become the newest open-ended adventure, and its last three versions of fall were all highlights of the year. After scripting one all-time jam in “Down with Disease,” Trey was feeling IT, picked his moment, and went for another in “Carini.” And boy did he succeed.
When Phish are improvising at their highest level, their jams can reach a staggering fluidity in which every note is in the perfect place with a purpose—almost as if rehearsed. In their peak moments and passages, the band is able to compliment each other with such an airtight proficiency, it is as if they are controlled by a single mind. MSG’s “Carini” is one of these jams. Stylistically divergent from “Disease’s” multi-tiered jaunt into ambient space and beyond, this “Carini” was a clinic in evil, larger-than-life dance groove. Gritty, spacious and demonic, this jam evoked both the sound and feeling of vintage late-‘90s MSG Phish. The Garden—literally—shook with the intensity of sound and energy during “Carini,” a jam that united the band and audience like none other of the run. This was the filth, the gnar, the straight dope, the business, the bees knees—pick your colloquialism, because they are all true. Phish was locked and loaded with a comic book level of superhuman power, and they demolished this jam like the mechanical monster of lore. In the jam’s final sequence, used his Echoplex to create a dramatic and distorted delay pattern with which he nearly crumbled the foundation of New York’s legendary round room. This “Carini was one of those experiences in which time froze; one where you’ll always remember where you were and who you were with when it went down. This was a memory of a lifetime.
At this point in the show, Phish had dropped two consecutive first-ballot, Hall of Fame jams in a row, and upon the ending of “Carini,” Trey began “Waves!” Had we all died and gone to heaven? One couldn’t have predicted such a move, when a ballad or rocker seemed like the more probable call. But this was the 29th at MSG and the band was neck deep in an all-time performance—Trey wasn’t gonna’ let song calls throw off the night. A gorgeous, jamless version of “Waves” provided the ideal cool down from the set’s opening fireworks, and the end of the song melted into the beginning of “Twist.” It was clear that the guys were going to see this set through.
Instead of their usual late-set ballad, Phish popped into “Golgi” to bridge the main event to its closer, “David Bowie.” A focused and intricate version took several twists and turns before arriving at the song’s final peak, and when the guys, collectively, nailed the last note of the song—and of the six-song set—they put down their instruments, stood before us and bowed. But in all reality, we should have been bowing to them.
The 29th was a real deal, two-set Phish show that will stand among the best ever played at Madison Square Garden. Finally, the band dropped a modern-era MSG show that can hold up to those cassette and DAT tapes we wore to death back in the day! With world-class improvisation, an awesome setlist, creativity throughout and nary a lull, this show stood out not only witihin the run and the year, but within their 30-year career. Going into this MSG run, a distinct energy coursed through the community following an incredible Fall Tour. With so much momentum and with four nights to play, something monumental was bound to happen. And on the second night of the run—on a date that is now restored in the Phish universe—that something happened.
I: The Moma Dance, Rift, Roggae, Sparkle, The Line, Stash, 555, It’s Ice, Gumbo, Walls of the Cave
II: Down with Disease > Carini, Waves > Twist, Golgi Apparatus, David Bowie