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. sumodie Says:

    Carini lumped my head!!!

  2. sumodie Says:

    At the Pig, 36th & 7th

  3. Dr Pronoia Says:

    Both Disease and Carini were top shelf phish improv, getting dark and menacing at times

    Rest of the set was uplifting and light, which i thought hit a pretty good balance for a set. Something for everyone.

    I was really close though so my perspective may have been warped. People seemed to be loving it, and the band was jovial to ecstatic throughout that second set

  4. c0wfunk Says:

    Mayan death march you nailed it. Got forceful in there.

  5. kayatosh Says:

    wolfman’s from night one — wow! $$$. maybe hotter than the tweez. funktastic.

  6. tba Says:

    imho 29 was not as bad as 28 was not as bood ,although 28 was more good than 29 bad sorry using a ps3 typing is tedious , some nights are just not going to be jam out excursions. plus many attending may be hearing songs for the 1st time live. even though i feel summer spac is another level, also think phish has not played horribly.
    i missed most of tonight but to the person who called loving cup ithought i heard it too before hood
    happy happy all my bb friends love the regs here thanks for all the great writing

  7. kayatosh Says:

    crowd sing along for little drumemr boy sounds amazing on the aud. fishman droppin the science during this section. wow. sounds like it wanted to smooth right into a sally.

  8. Berkeley head Says:


    I like it. “The Holiday Run MDMC”

  9. tba Says:

    ps i love dark theme phish where the music is literally terrifying especially when it’s in the form of a mikes medley of some kind

  10. bob dylan Says:

    Watching fishman from behind stage from page side during carini was killer. He was going to fucking work. Just staring at him “I’m settin a fuckin beat and you will jam to this” dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum

    Anyone been on the adventure express at kings island in Cincinnati? It’s like the dudes at the end of the ride.

    Then they #line and trey asks me if I know why we’re still friends. Yes trey. Because you made a belieber outta me after I was chugging hater-ade all day.

    Can’t wait to hear that carini again!

  11. kayatosh Says:

    fishman is the most talented cat in the band. and he is still the man.


    carini ftw!

  12. MiA Says:

    Shows like Sunday night’s at Madison Square Garden leave me scratching my head, wondering what, exactly, the band was intending to do by blowing my skull into a million little pieces?

    Following a second night that laid the groundwork questioning the sanity of the entire band, the guys came out on one of the 2nd holiest days of the Phish calendar, 12/30 and blew up MSG.

  13. SillyWilly Says:

    Pig N Whistle

  14. Willowed Says:

    On the train totally blissed. out.

  15. Willowed Says:

    The old pig and whistle play. Works every time.

  16. SillyWilly Says:

    Sometimes you just need something reliable. Something you know will get the job done.

    That’s when you go to the ol Pig N Whistle

  17. ren Says:

    Yeah MiA!!!! Shit was badass!!!

    Made my way around the Garden over the past two nights….ended up in sec 208…pretty high up there…and finally felt at home. Lots of all memories came back (especially during the hood).

    Wondering what tomorrow may hold…leaving the Garden happy and hope everyone rages it proper (however phish decides to read the crowd).

    Kind of upset I didn’t get to connect with the BB.

    House full of guests….and and constitution that needs set break for breaking.


  18. Willowed Says:

    Pig and whistle. Where relationships are made, then broken, then made again

  19. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Carini!!! Why I go!

  20. bob dylan Says:


    ^1:45 in the video is fishman going to work video

  21. ren Says:

    ^^^ughhh this hurts!!!

    Paradigms of a wife that goes to shows…some good points….some bad stumbling incoherent points

  22. RoosterPizza Says:

    Captain Morgan Long Island Ice Tea Mix
    Splash of Coke
    doterra (www.doterra.com)
    Downloaded Tonight’s Show
    Good night of getting some work done ahead of me
    Vacation hours and new Phish are fucking awesome
    Nature boy…wwoooOOOOOOO!

  23. ren Says:

    She’s a 3.0 lady….keeps up with me for the most part. Trading the Pig for some “tasty bevs” at home is not such a bad deal I guess

  24. RoosterPizza Says:

    *Lemon drop of essential oil in the Long Island. Mad H3tty brah.

  25. ren Says:

    Glad Mr. Palmer brought the jams tonight 😉

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