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.

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439 Responses to “The House of Energy”

  1. BingosBrother Says:

    Thanks for the Ween stream BK. They’re gettin out there right now. Diggin it.

  2. Dr Pronoia Says:

    Thanks to MIA for getting me very close during that piper

    So many ideas were passed back and forth

    Granted I have the ‘there’ bias but there seems to be a disappointed impression from those watching the run via Internet vs the uniform positivity of the people I’ve spoken too here

    If for no other reason I think I’ll pass on tomorrow nights stream…something isn’t translating

  3. Random Poster...Nutbag Says:


    There are plenty of gems to be plucked from tonight and the run thus far. It’s certainly not nearly as dire as some of the posts I just read, that’s for sure.

    Good stuff to come folks. A NYE show, the Lions hopefully beating Green Bay to put some doubt into that defense and some quality bowl games to be had. Enjoy, I know I will….

  4. frank Says:

    BK: “Set I and III probably won’t, but maybe I’m just being too negative. They don’t jam a lot in those sets most of the time.”

    REALLY? Three sets in my experience lends itsef very well to long, exploratory jamming… No usual curfew constraints. Not sure why you say this????

  5. frank Says:

    BTW, peeps on phishtwit agreed show tonight was 4/10. Sorry to those with post-show glow.

  6. Mike in Austin Says:

    Yeah, dug the Piper.

  7. Mike in Austin Says:

    Really enjoyed hanging out with AJ and Dr. P. Made the trip.

  8. BrandonKayda Says:


    I just mean, in 3.0 NYE shows, generally all the improv comes in the second set – the first set is a warm up type thing and the third is celebration/NYE prank focused.

  9. Little Buddy Says:

    Tonight was a ton of fun. Still a little rust but when your in the building dancing your ass off with your eyes closee that shit doesn’t matter. Firts set was a tad disjointed but the second set was some serious fun. The space ship landed during piper. Good stuff! All I have to say to the naysayers is… “can you still have any fun?”

  10. Little Buddy Says:


  11. DukeOfLizards Says:

    BTW, peeps on phishtwit agreed show tonight was 4/10. Sorry to those with post-show glow.

    Aw, shit, I guess tonight’s show was bad.

    Here I was thinking it was pretty good. Proven wrong by the internet again.

  12. BrandonKayda Says:


    I LOVED that Piper on the stream. I don’t know if the show was good or not though, need to wait for Miner to plug his thoughts into my head. 😉

  13. Mike in Austin Says:

    Exactly Duke. What even is a 4/10?

    I rate the name “PhishTwit” as a site name a 3/10.

  14. BrandonKayda Says:

    “BrandonKayda” is a 5.5 out of 10 – kind of gimmicky for my tastes.

  15. Mike in Austin Says:

    I rate that previous post a 7/10 BK. You can do better! 😉

  16. Little Buddy Says:

    Ahh yes. We must wait for Miner to tell us if it was good or not. It was a phish show. It was fun. It had a great jam. It was a dance party. It was occassionally weird. I’m sure Miner will provide a review that is fair and points out the great parts as well as the oddities and mishaps. I’m old and I’ve seen a shit load of shows. Tonight I saw another and it was a great, great time. I

  17. Random Poster...Nutbag Says:

    I know this will rate high on any scale out there….

  18. Fly Says:

    Show on par with 12.28. D Sky gorgeous, Sand ferocious. Nice meld out from Caspian into #Line, avoiding #Line opening measures. Piper was the money shot. 2001 and Bowie very good. More flubbery, but much more intracacy than 12.29. Solid, solid encore.

    Looking forward to Sand and Piper tomorrow on the relisten. What a fun run. Hope tomorrow slays. I will be couch tour style.

  19. Esteban Says:

    Damn, lots of sour reviews. Inside, I had a great time. Set unfolded like a mid-90s classic, one that we used to see a tape for and gawk. FWIW, barring the noticeable hang ups by Big Red, Page took hold and Mike wasn’t far behind. Solid songs, but I’ll agree the the flow isn’t what we’ve come to expect. Piper took off, which was a treat.

    I enjoyed tonight more than last night. Maybe it was my spot in the venue. Last night I stood Fish side right behind the speakers. I could hear the band’s monitors I think, and then a split second later, I coul hear the pinging off the back wall. No good.

  20. DukeOfLizards Says:


    Good talking at setbreak after blowing by you last night (my bad).

    I mean seriously – tight little Punch, Caspian>Numberline to open, hot first set Sand, wide-fucking-open Piper, certainly the best 2001 since AC ’10, ripping high-wire Bowie, and a supercharged Boogie, GTBT encore to close… but OH NOES THEY PLAYED H0RSE IN SET 2

  21. DukeOfLizards Says:

    For those that didn’t catch my post earlier:

    The answer for 1 Across in today’s NY Times crossword was “PUNCH.”

    Synchroniphishy at it’s finest.

  22. Cable Hogue Says:

    Outstanding show. My favorite of the run so far.

    Piper was the goods. great 2001. Sick Bowie. A couple of speedbumps? Sure. Sand and Piper>Twist made the grade.

    For my ears tonight took flight where last night stayed earthbound.

  23. Aquaman Says:

    Thanks to AJ and MiA for making tonight fun.

    Tonight is a show of disconnected moments of brilliance interspersed with some mistakes for sure. That said the highlights outweigh the flubs.

    See what you guys did? Making me blog while spun n shit.



  24. BrandonKayda Says:

    PT is having a nervous breakdown.

    In other news, Ween is KILLING it tonight.

  25. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    Hotel wants 16 bucks for wifi so I sneak the girl friends blackberry. Sorry to rain on everyone’s parade but existence of extra terrestrial life found in nyc tonight. Wtf went down inside the garden! The boys wrote a new chapter!

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