A Sterile Saturday Night

12.28.12 (Graham Lucas)

Shows like Saturday night’s at Madison Square Garden leave me scratching my head, wondering what, exactly, the band was intending to do. Following an opening night that laid the groundwork for a stellar run, the guys came out on one of the holiest days of the Phish calendar, 12/29, and barely attempted a lick of open improv. Following Denver’s revelation and a monumental “Tweezer” on the 28th, one had to expect at least a chunk of musical risk-taking on night two. But with one sonic body blow after another, they guys made it a point try absolutely nothing. There is no doubt that they played their songs quite well, and nobody can take that away from them, though we expect Phish to play their songs proficiently at this stage of the game. However, if we are calibrating shows by their level of cerebral engagement—music that enraptures one’s wildest imagination—12/29 was the least impressive of the year by leaps and bounds.

12.29.12 Official (J. Flames)

Before going any further, let me state—once again—that I go to Phish shows to see them jam; to witness the band weave musical memories in real time. If I wanted to listen to Phish songs, I could throw one of many CDs to happily meet that desire. But shows are supposed to be something more. Phish shows are the times when we have the privilege to be awed by the superhuman powers of the most magical musicians on earth. But there was nothing magical about last night at all. With little rhyme or reason, the guys sculpted a piecemeal setlist that possessed no direction or vigor whatsoever. I would love to write about the improvisational highlights of the show but there were none. Zero. Zilch. A few minutes of bland, quasi-connected, atmospheric funk out of “Golden Age” represented the band’s only attempt at any sort of jamming. Even songs like “Rock and Roll,” “Reba,” “Bathtub Gin” and “Waves” that almost always feature exciting improv were delivered in straight forward and unspectacular fashion. There were plenty of high-energy moments—specifically “Suzy Greenberg” and “46 Days”—but those are meant to be the supporting cast, not the lead actors.

The concern that now comes into play for this Holiday Run is whether the 28th will wind up as the best show of the run, just as it was a year ago. It felt like Dick’s provided a pivot point in the development of modern Phish. It seemed that the guys had their hearts rededicated to sophisticated musical experimentation, and that the “hit or miss” aspect that has annoyingly pervaded 3.0 was a thing of the past. But after last night’s song-based snoozefest, that all seems like wishful thinking. Perhaps the 29th was just a bump in the road, but by anyone’s standards, it felt virtually inconceivable that the band would pull out such a performance on Saturday night at the Garden. But they did. And there is nothing to do but smile, put it behind us, and comeback on the 30th for a massive bounce back night of improvisation.

I: Crowd Control, Mound, AC/DC Bag, Rock and Roll, Sugar Shack, Reba, Halley’s Comet > Limb By Limb*, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Bathtub Gin**

II: Golden Age > Waves > Prince Caspian*** > Boogie On Reggae Woman, Suzy Greenberg, Bug, Cavern, 46 Days

E: The Squirming Coil, Grind, First Tube

*Follow the Yellow Brick Road tease
**”Susie Q” quote from Fishman

12.28.12 (Graham Lucas)

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673 Responses to “A Sterile Saturday Night”

  1. bob dylan Says:

    Jdub found the last piece of the ring not demolished. I’m not into LotR but I’d def be all “my precious” if I find that spot. Ill guard it like that little troll too.

    Nye ghost most certainly will slay. Lets see if they can surprise us with killer sets 1 and 3 also. Tomorrow is the party time.

  2. RoosterPizza Says:

    This new iMac is the shit. This thing allows me to keep my work much more organized than I am traditionally capable of doing on my own.

  3. jdub Says:

    The ring still has some fire to it. You just can’t get around. Management killed MSG as we knew it. But if you find your precious spot…

    Great night. Had a blast in the city once again and Phish delivered in spades.

  4. sumodie Says:

    Carini crushed my skull!

  5. xpun Says:

    Tonight was fucking EVIL. Needed that slave and hood to get us back to our happy place.

    Great post show w @willy and his friends.

  6. xpun Says:

    Tonight was fucking EVIL. Needed that slave and hood to get us back to our happy place.

    Great post show w @willy and his friends.

  7. Boris Says:

    where you guys listening to this mystical carini with his lumpy head ?

  8. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    @boris, madison’s square’s garden’s

  9. RoosterPizza Says:

    It is a fact that I am at least 10X more productive when there is new Phish to be heard.

  10. Boris Says:

    Surely they have left the building by now.

  11. SillyWilly Says:

    Closed the Pig N Whistle

  12. SillyWilly Says:

    Tonight was amazing

  13. RoosterPizza Says:

    DId I just catch a my woman from tokyo tease in DWD?

  14. SillyWilly Says:

    I do not want to go to sleep because then this night is over. And this was the best night ever

  15. RoosterPizza Says:

    I am 16:00 into DWD, and I can’t believe that this isn’t the best of the night. This Carini must really be the goods.

  16. RoosterPizza Says:

    I happy for you for being at this show. Wow!

  17. ren Says:

    Tonight was redic! Glad the opinion is resounding. As I said before…the Garden is still alive and well in the upper 200’s…under what used to be the “endurance” ring…where all the smoke collects, it’s like a good 20 deg warmer…sweat lodge type shit. Apt for the menacing totem rhythms.

    On a side note: Shelly Knap makes the sickest kaleidoscopes. Great toy for right about now….git one

  18. ren Says:



  19. RoosterPizza Says:

    I go back to the grammar police’s comment about how he didn’t want Carini to end, and it sure seems like it is on the way out around 9:30. The rest is history.

  20. RoosterPizza Says:

    Even Julius sounds good.

  21. ren Says:

    Dreaming about finding 2 NYE tix

    I know it’s a long-shot but if anyone’s plans change or you get flaked on 😉

    I’ve got cash and plenty of tradable fare

    paulny123 at gheemahl

  22. butter Says:

    Nice job tonite Phish

  23. BennyNOLA Says:

    I’ve only been to 6 phish shows, but i love these guys just as much as anyone and this was the only night of the run i made it too. And I have to say, you are correct that they did not do any far out jamming but the second set of this show was a boogie fest, and loads of fun. For you to say that this is the worst show of the year? Na…

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