The House of Energy

12.29.11 (Graham Lucas)

One facet of Phish’s storied legacy is their profound exchanges of energy between themselves and their audiences, often reaching levels not experienced in any other place on the planet. Madison Square Garden has long been a venue where such interactions reach massive peaks, that energy—almost—becomes a tangible entity. Thursday night at the Garden was defined by this metaphysical interplay as tidal waves of shared energy rippled through the midtown Mecca from start to finish. Throughout two sets, and specifically the first, Phish drenched the arena in high-powered rock and roll. But when the show ended and the only risk the band had taken was a sublime and out-of-left-field transition between “Chalk Dust” and “Hydrogen,” and the only two true jams that could be named were “YEM” and “Weekapaug,” many wondered what had happened to the daring spirit on display throughout the first night of the run.

The show got an adrenaline shot directly to the heart in the form of a “Sloth” opener followed by a marathon dance session in “You Enjoy Myself.” And in 2011, with only four versions in the books before last night, this early-show shocker came as even more of a surprise. In the fifth version of the year, Phish showed love for their old-school opus, engaging in a fully entrenched dosage of “YEM”-funk to jumpstart the show laced with staccato guitar phrasing  and creative bass lines holding down the bottom end of a jam that has—literally—become synonymous with The Garden in the moniker of “YEMSG.”

12.29.11 (G.Lucas)

Then, in each subsequent song performed throughout the first set, the energy in the building continued to build, coming to mid-set swells in a rousing “Funky Bitch,” “Maze,” and “Roses are Free”—a version in which the energy, alone, in the room had to carry into something musically significant. But it wasn’t to be. And the same phenomenon befell the following selection, “Halley’s Comet.” Phish even carried the composed jam a bit longer than usual only to come to a routine ending that moved into a crushing, set-closing “Antelope” in the same exact slot on the same exact date as 1997, when the jam virtually crumbled MSG all by itself. All in all, a ferocious, old-school-themed and in-your-face frame of music set the table for what had to be a monstrous second half. But that massive set that would surely build upon the 28th never materialized.

Though the band certainly played quite well through each and every selection in the second set, their jamming had somehow left the building. If you had told me beforehand that the first two song’s of the second set would be “Crosseyed and Painless” and “Simple,” and the band would haven’t engaged in a bit of exploration throughout the entire two-song sequence, I would have scoffed at the notion. But, in fact, that is exactly what happened. “Crosseyed”—like much of the second set—was lead by high-powered, though straightforward guitar work, and when the band bled into an ambient ending, it sounded as they might go into “No Quarter.” But instead, they crashed into “Simple” in a somewhat of a head-scratching maneuver. And even when a second set, standalone “Simple” screamed for further caressing, the band turned a cold shoulder in favor of the one of the most welcomed treats of the night—“Lifeboy.” The mid-second set rarity hypnotized The Garden with its lucid reality, seemingly setting the stage for what had to be a huge jam vehicle. But when the band dropped into “Guyute” next, I was left wondering what date of the year it was.

12.29.11 (J.Herzog)

Surprisingly, the highlight of the show came from the unlikeliest of places—within the middle of a “Mike’s Groove.” Following an aggressive odyssey through “Mike’s Song” that saw Big Red earn his nickname with slashing guitar leads throughout, the band oddly entered “Chalk Dust Torture,” a song that didn’t really fit its placement, but certainly felt congruent to the vibe of the entire night. And just when you least expected it, the band tossed a curveball. Taking the piece into intense realms, Trey moved from the dark side into a melody that sounded oh-so-familiar. Within a moment’s notice, it became apparent that Trey was blending “Chalk Dust” into “Hydrogen” as the rest of the band chugged away beneath! In the unquestionable moment of the show, Phish brought the house down with an absolutely stunning transition that nobody in the entire city saw coming.

The dramatic musical move clearly juiced the band as their creativity spilled directly into a full-throttle “Weekapaug” jam that was fully on the level. One had to wonder where any of this late-set spirit had been when huge jams hung in the air for much of the second half. Finishing the night with an exhale in “Show of Life” and final bursts of spirited rock playing in “Character Zero” and “Loving Cup,” the end of the night maintained the same the vibe of the entire evening—smoking rock, but hardly anything that could be described as adventurous. Juxtaposing a night of jams on the 28th with a night an energy show, through and through, on the 29th, one has to believe the 30th will feature a bit more for the psyche. And in just a few more hours, we’ll find out.

12.29.2011 (Graham Lucas)

I: The Sloth, You Enjoy Myself, Back on the Train, The Moma Dance, Funky Bitch, Maze, Roses Are Free, Halley’s Comet > Run Like an Antelope

II: Crosseyed and Painless > Simple > Lifeboy, Guyute, Mike’s Song > Chalk Dust Torture-> I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Show of Life, Character Zero

E: Loving Cup


THANK YOU!—Thanks to everyone who came out to both the book signing and afterparty at The Irish Times! Both events had great turnouts and were incredibly enjoyable, and it was great to meet so many new people and hang with a bunch of old friends all at the same time! A great time was had by all.

Tags: ,

439 Responses to “The House of Energy”

  1. ThePigSong Says:

    frank Says:
    December 30th, 2011 at 10:34 pm
    BTW, peeps on phishtwit agreed show tonight was 4/10. Sorry to those with post-show glow.

    Well then, fuck this show.

    phishtwat said so.

  2. BrandonKayda Says:

    Listening to the Piper now…

  3. sumodie Says:

    i thought it rocked great tonite, easily my fav thus far

  4. BrandonKayda Says:

    10:00 in Piper is when Trey finally finds his groove and the jam starts to move forward – really glad they took the time to wait out the jam and see what came of it.

  5. Esteban Says:

    This book is large and in charge, Miner. Keeping me awake whilst I sit an wait for the gates to open at LGA, Bitches Brew setting the tone… Nothing like some 3 am post-show Miles.

  6. Esteban Says:

    Oh, and an empty airport feels a lot like a scene out of 28 Days Later or some other zombie flick…

  7. Corey Says:

    @Esteban, indeed. Walked (and curled) for several blocks with that book.

    Got drunkenly heckled for having purchased it. To drunken gent, if I may call you that, the worst effin’ investment is the cig you’re smokin’ and the lame “american” brew you’re drinkin’…not this thoughtful, insightful and above all, joyful book tucked under my arm(s).

    For some PHiSH related perspective…with regard to some of the “reviews…”
    Go to phish dot net and find 12.31.91 in the setlists section. Check out some of the reviews posted that were actually written back then. I see some uncannily similar thoughts with regard to song choice, unexpected changes, risk taking, rock v freer improv, and even a note about Trey playing part of a tune (Antelope) over another part of the same tune. 20 years later, Rocky Top>Tweeprise is filling the same slot (this former KY res. digs TN’s Rocky Top and has rocked with that on the field in Knoxville, just sayin’).

    Many forget that making music is in the moment. Save for the recorded history…here for a moment, gone forever the next. That’s beautiful.

    Lifeboy was beautiful. Trey’s solos in Mike’s, the Bitch and YEM were incredible, musical excursions of guitar wit and wonder.

    Despite the Phishnet review, Trey’s efforts to play a Chalk Dust infused Hydrogen were well received by this listener. That was a creative, risky, and yet intelligent, use of contrasting ideas. It sounded great! I loved the dive Trey took, shaking his head to Fish and Mike and, well, everybody…letting us know he wanted Hydrogen to be Tortured. It was a lovely move. Yet another inventive take on Chalk Dust.

    And then, a Week for Years!?! How about the fresh approach to the tune? And after killing with some wonderfully revved up groove…they go right back to the same style to finish? That’s PHiSH brilliance that we take for granted all.too.often.

    Thinking back, I still feel Lifeboy Guyute was pretty ugly.
    I also think that was by intelligent design.

    So, check a review like JT’s from 91 and see that PHiSH has been keeping us guessing and yet hungry for more, for a long time. 🙂

    Have fun tomorrow night all. No tickets for me, so, Chris Cheek @ the 55 bar it is. Can’t wait for that. You wantna talk improv and party…great tenor player.

    Night all. Again, been great putting faces to names (just like ‘netters in ’91) all week. Hope to do it again soon.

    …oh, and Bitches Brew is awesome to listen to any time, any place…

  8. multibeast Says:

    Amazing post corey.

  9. MrCompletely Says:

    hey so things got a little electric on couch tour and ended up kinda being the best night ever more or less

    storage piper…the crimson dago strikes again

    sooooo i heard you dudes like some ck5 so I put some ck5 in your ck5 so you can ck5 when you ck5

  10. MrCompletely Says:

    the above is for anyone who finds themselves in a New York State Of Mind tonight

  11. SillyWilly Says:

    Found a little cell reception out here

    Excited to hear the Piper!

    Sounds like a lot of people had a great time

    Tonight should be huge. So much on the table

    They could place a big jam vehicle in each set: DwD, Light, Waves, Ghost….plus they’ve got the always danceable wolfmans for the first set.

    All the pieces are in place for a nonstop highlight reel tonight

  12. PHiSH Beotch Says:

    Right on review miner. Lackluster run dotted with fleeting moments of mediochre greatness. A few times on the 30th i thought they were gonna just hang it up and walk off stage. And like miner, I love phish to my core, it’s just downright painful to watch some of this stuff that’s going on when there’s been so so SO much promise over the last year. This holiday run left me scratching my head and saying wtf, I dunno, maybe practice more?

  13. Nobodysjam Says:

    Nice call Corey! When I saw the official release of 12/31/91 I immediatly noticed the similarites. I hate to say it but the bands nostalgia for Worcester 20 years ago hurt this MSG run. In hindsight, it was like a 4 day commercial for the new release!

  14. Nobodysjam Says:

    Couldn’t resist expressing the multiple allusions to the nye gag in Lifeboy:

    Swinging on the lifeline
    Fraying bits of twine
    Entangled in the remnants of the
    Knot I left behind
    And asking you to help me make it
    Finally unwind

    But God never listens to what I say
    God never listens to what I say
    And you don’t get a refund
    If you overpray

    And when the line is breaking
    And when I’m near the end
    When all the time spent leading
    I’ve been following instead
    When all my thoughts and memories are
    Left hanging by a thread

    God never listens…
    Stranded on this slender string
    The minutes seem to last a lifetime
    Dangling here between the light above
    And blue below that drags me down

    But God never listens to what I say
    God never listens to what I say
    And you don’t get a refund
    If you overpray

Leave a Reply