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. negev79 Says:

    lol this band is the greatest

  2. MiA Says:

    This is the awesomest bunch of awesomeing that had has ever been awesome’d.

  3. tela's_muff Says:

    Cu kin aweOmw

  4. Angryjoggerz Says:

    What a band

  5. kayatosh Says:

    Hood was super tight. great version. and one more for treigh – SoL

  6. Angryjoggerz Says:

    What Telas said

  7. phlorida phan Says:


  8. BingosBrother Says:

    Sweet. Only heard Antelope and it finally delivered. Figured that would bode well for Set II. Fuckin love Antelope and they finally did one in 3.o to my liking. Psyched. Love SOL too. Perfect encore for me.

  9. Luther T. Justice Says:

    All is right again. That set was as sweet as a purple Corvette convertible pace car.

  10. negev79 Says:

    MiA – it was so bitchin

    c u all tomorrow night! I have dinner plans but then will be on for the second half…

    happy almost new year!

  11. [Not Tom] Says:

    Remember that time they played Carini? That was awesome.

  12. LukasChuck Says:

    After a minor letdown last night I’m stoked for a great show tomorrow. Thanks to everyone here for making couch tour so much fun and making a serial lurker feel welcome.

  13. MiA Says:

    With Farrah faucet driving it

  14. [Not Tom] Says:

    Will be with Leo Weaver and Guyute tomorrow night. Peace out!

  15. Fly Says:

    And all is well in the land of Phish. Lovely, poignant show, deep into the abyss and then soaring out upward into the empyrean. Good night all and Happy New Year!

  16. BingosBrother Says:

    Stewart Sink riding shotgun? 😉

  17. BooVT Says:

    Fantastic second set. G’night, everyone. Phish is gooood.

  18. Luther T. Justice Says:

    DWD has been a game changer in 3.0. Not always, but a lot.

  19. MiA Says:

    Hilarious Bingos. Damn autocorrect.

  20. c0wfunk Says:

    Mostly napped for set 1 after an adventure with some pbr, tincture, a large j, and a local bluegrass band to remain nameless. Second set had something going on.. Dwd seemed like pushing a boulder up a hill for a while, but hit on a cool thing with that power chord build… 20 years later fit well but obviously Carini was the stand out. Mystical magic in there and a few waves of it. Slave hood combo was breast for some meditations and the topper was sweet. Hope you guys had a lovely couch ride too.. Happy new year all

  21. c0wfunk Says:

    Was breast. Lol not even sure what I meant there. Night y’all

  22. c0wfunk Says:

    Looking back looks like phish wins. Nice job phanners go in there and push us over the edge tomorrow night. Wish I was in there too.

  23. Berkeley head Says:

    A+ for attempting the high dive into the deep end; big risk brings big reward… And disaster. That dynamic is exhilarating, and that is why I love the phish.

    But they seemed to have their toe on that line a few times tonight? I don’t know… I thought the dwd was a bit nomadic and messy. Or maybe I’m just the messy nomad.

    Keep having fun, y’all

  24. kayatosh Says:

    they were dancin on the edge tonight. jaw was dropped during dwd and carini. dwd vibe was off at first (was thinking trey badly need some chronic to chill) and that’s what made the ensuing jazam all the sweeter. tension, baby.

    respinnin 28th tweez. $$$

  25. DukeOfLizards Says:

    @Berkeley head

    Really excellently put. Thought Disease was wonderfully exploratory and really psychedelic but lacked that BIG IDEA to tie it all together. Whereas that Carini will soon be a “named jam.” “Mayan Death March Carini” being my favorite so far.

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