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The Baker’s Dozen Awards: A Democratic Look At The Best Moments Of Phish’s 13-Show Residency

Phish just finished their 13-show residency at Madison Square Garden known as The Baker’s Dozen, and the results are in: This was, without a doubt, a historic run from our favorite quartet from Vermont. Each show was special in its own way, with epic bust-outs, out-of-left-field covers and debuts, mind-blowing improvisation, and locked-in, full-band musicianship—forming what some might say was the best and most consistent run of the band’s career. At the very least, most Phish fans would agree that the Baker’s Dozen was the best run of shows since 1998’s Island Tour.

The Phish legacy is rooted in a sort of subjective objectivity. Phish fans have hit the road for two generations now in search of “best-ever” versions of songs like “Tweezer” and “Down With Disease,” however, most fans rarely agree when those “best” moments happen. Sure, there are standout occasions, such as the “Tahoe Tweezer,” the Randall’s Island “Chalkdust Torture,” and the “Roses Are Free” jam from the Island Tour (to name a few), that many agree are top-notch moments. But, for the most part, Phish fans tend to have trouble agreeing on what “best” really means.

For that reason alone, we decided to forego our typical post-Phish coverage to try and find some sort of consensus amongst, at least some small portion, of the fans. Thirteen shows with donut-themes is a lot to digest, so we made a survey that included ten categories: “Best Jam,” “Best Set,” “Best Full Show,” “Best Execution of Donut Theme,” “Most Delicious Donut,” “Least Delicious Donut,” “Best Donut Reference Cover Execution,” “Best Debut,” “Best Bust Out Cover,” and “Best Bust Out Original.” Each category had a few options to choose from, as well as a write-in option.

At first, we sent it around our company to L4LM staff, and then opened it up to friends and family, before deciding to include our friends in the Phish-focused Facebook groups, Phish Tour 2014 and Addicted to Phish, as well as the network of New York music family known as the Freak’s List. We ended up with over 500 rabid Phish fans filling out our survey, and you can find the results below. After analyzing the results, one thing is clear: the majority of Phish fans surveyed prefer their musical donuts filled with jam.


BEST JAM

“Lawn Boy” – Jam Filled Night – 7/25/2017 

The epic “Lawn Boy” from Jam Filled night was, without question, the top vote-getter in this category. It received 187 votes, totaling 38.64% of all votes. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the Jam Filled “Lawn Boy” was the talk of the Baker’s Dozen. The song, which typically lasts just under four minutes, was stretched to thirty minutes long! It started off with a keytar solo from Page McConnell, which allowed for the band to center themselves around a funky rhythm, and from that point on, they were off. Each band member took turns leading the band through this long-form piece of improvisation, with Trey Anastasio using his patented tension/release style to build up multiple peaks. The band went from funk to rock to ambient and back again several times, showcasing a patience and one-ness that Phish fans dream of catching.

The excited Madison Square Garden audience went absolutely wild in response to this outstanding version of “Lawn Boy.” The transition into the next song, “My Friend, My Friend,” was also incredible and seamless, adding to the legend of this instant-classic performance. The jam was so long and so incredible that “Is this still Lawn Boy?” became the meme to define the Baker’s Dozen run. Anastasio sported a shirt with that text on it during the encore of “Jimmies” night, and the band reprised “Lawn Boy” during the encores of both Jam Filled and Glazed nights, the latter being the final show of the run.

RUNNERS-UP: “Crosseyed And Painless” – Jam Filled – 7/25/2017 – 66 votes (13.64%); “Simple” – Glazed – 8/6/2017 – 59 votes (12.19%); “You Enjoy Myself” – Glazed – 8/6/2017 – 36 votes (7.44%); “Chalkdust Torture” – Double Chocolate – 7/28/2017 – 35 votes (7.23%)


BEST SET

Set One – Jam Filled – 7/25/2017

Sample In A Jar, Lawn Boy > My Friend, My Friend > Stash, Bathtub Gin

With the best jam of the run, comes the best set. Set one of Jam Filled night received 134 votes, making up 27.4% of the total vote. The band walked on stage that night and, in a true statement of dedication to the evening’s donut theme, opened up with a 10-minute version of “Sample In A Jar.” The song rarely includes improvisation, and the crowd immediately caught on, with huge swells of energy each time the band moved off the song’s normal path. After that exciting statement, the band went on a wild 50+ minute improv-filled extravaganza with the aforementioned “Lawn Boy,” which they brought seamlessly into “My Friend, My Friend.” They also added improvisation to the end of “MFMF” that eventually led to a transition into “Stash.” The band brought things to a close with a raucous 13-minute version of “Bathtub Gin” that immediately cemented this set as an all-timer.

RUNNERS-UP: While Jam Filled won, the voting was much closer in this category, as set two from Powdered night received 108 votes (22.09%), and the second set from Lemon night received 87 votes (17.79%). “Harpua” helped aid the second frame of Jimmies night into fourth place with 84 votes (17.18%), and the Baker’s Dozen finale—Glazed night—got 76 votes (15.54%).


BEST FULL SHOW

Jam Filled – 7/25/2017

Best jam, best set, best show. With 195 votes making up 38.31% of the vote, Jam Filled once again rose to the top as the best of the bunch and claimed the “Best Full Show” category. At this point, set one has been discussed enough to get the point across, but set two was equally as remarkable, with a 20-minute “Fuego” and a wild 33-minute “Crosseyed & Painless” serving as the set two’s anchors. The emergence of “End Of Session”—the long-forgotten, never-before-played ambient/spoken-word finale from Phish’s album The Story Of The Ghost—was easily the most surprising song performed at the Baker’s Dozen and served as the ultimate bust out to wrap-up a truly jam-filled night. The show received a 4.734 rating on Phish.net, making it the second-highest rated show on the fan-run website in Phish history.

RUNNERS-UP – Glazed – 8/6/2017 – 87 votes (17.09%); Jimmies – 7/30/2017 – 83 votes (16.31%).


BEST EXECUTION OF DONUT THEME

Jam Filled – 7/25/2017

No surprises here, as Jam Filled goes for the clean sweep with 253 votes, which makes up 49.83% of the total vote.

Going into the show, fans were wondering what exactly Jam Filled meant. Would they play songs by Pearl Jam or maybe “Black Betty” by Ram Jam? Perhaps they would play “Kick Out The Jams” by MC5? There were more than a few people who claimed to hear teases of “Mountain Jam” by the Allman Brothers Band , which signaled it was coming on Jam Filled night. In the end, the theme was pretty straight forward and gimmick free: The band filled their songs with jams. Lots of jams. Period. That dedication to the theme led Phish towards one of the best shows in their long and winding history.

RUNNER UP: Easily and far away the next highest vote receiver was Jimmies (7/30/2017) with 107 votes (21.06%). Jimmies night contained a smorgasbord of bust outs and classic old favorites. “The Curtain With,” “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent,” “Fly Famous Mockingbird,” and “David Bowie” all appeared in the first set, before Phish gave us a lesson in physics in the second set, teaching us that the Universe is a donut during a science-based version of the uber-rarity “Harpua.” Phish also worked in “Golgi Apparatus,” which Anastasio wrote with his songwriting partner Tom Marshall while still in middle school. To cap it off, they debuted a gorgeous cover of the classic Jimi Hendrix ballad “The Wind Cries Mary” in the encore slot. Jimi = Jimmies, get it?

Other top vote getters were Red Velvet (44 votes, 8.66%), with its dual Velvet Underground covers (“Sunday Morning” and “Sweet Jane”) and red lighting from Chris Kuroda, Double Chocolate (34 votes, 6.64%), and Holes (32 votes, 6.30%).


MOST DELICIOUS DONUT

People love their sprinkles Jimmies! With 117 votes (24.43%), the glazed donut with rainbow Jimmies wins out, although Maple and Glazed were hot on its tail with 111 (23.17%) and 110 (22.96%) votes, respectively.

People seem to be just as opinionated about their donut flavors as they are with Phish, as we actually received 141 write-in votes for this category. Many of the write-ins were fans lamenting that they never made it in time for a donut. It was REALLY hard to get one by the end of the run, with huge lines of people waiting for doors to open to get their donut and cheap pre-show concessions. If you got a donut, you are dedicated, as only 2500 were given out per show. The most write-in votes came for Double Chocolate, which had 18 votes. Lemon (15 votes), Strawberry (14 votes), and Boston Cream (13 votes) all got some love from fans as well.


LEAST DELICIOUS DONUT

Free donuts are nice, but sometimes they are disappointing. Let’s be clear: Federal Donuts did an AMAZING job with all of the FREE donuts that were handed out during the Baker’s Dozen. We appreciate their hard work tremendously. That being said, there were definitely a few swings-and-misses with the donuts during this run. Jam Filled (71 votes, 14.79%) was simply a donut hole stuffed with jam and left little to the imagination. Boston Cream—perhaps the donut everyone was most looking forward to (thanks to Page McConnell’s now prophetic interview that inspired the run)—was voted as the least delicious donut by 101 fans (21.04%), most probably because of the bastardization of the flavor, which traditionally comes filled with custard. This version instead used vanilla cream as a drizzled glaze on top of the donut, which left many fans scratching their heads. However, by far the largest vote-getter was the Holes given out on 8/2/2016. A simple donut hole covered with chocolate peanut butter dust left a lot to the imagination, which is why 201 voters (41.88%) named it the least delicious donut of the run.


BEST DONUT REFERENCE EXECUTION

Boston Cream – “Sunshine of Your Feeling” – 8/5/2017

Whatever 8/5/2017 lacked in deliciousness, Phish made that up in spades with a raging mash-up of Boston and Cream songs that they’ve called “Sunshine of Your Feeling.” Mixing Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”, “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” and “White Room,” with Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” and “Long Time” from their classic “Foreplay/Long Time,” the band delivered on Page’s promise made all of those years ago, turning in one of the most iconic moments of the Baker’s Dozen run in the process. “Sunshine of Your Feeling” received 216 votes, making up 42.27% of all voters.

RUNNERS-UP: Strawberry – “Strawberry Fields Forever” & “Strawberry Letter 23” (103 votes, 20.16%); Double Chocolate – “Chocolate Rain” & “You Sexy Thing” (by Hot Chocolate) (70 votes, 13.70%).


BEST DEBUT

“Strawberry Letter 23” by Shuggie Otis – Strawberry – 7/22/2017

As soon as this song started up, it was clear how perfectly it fit into Phish’s ever-expanding catalog. The soft-funk bounce and haunting melody of this underrated 70’s tune should’ve made its way into Phish’s songbook years ago. When it emerged out of the ether of a 20-minute, set-opening “Down With Disease” on Strawberry night, a shockwave passed through Madison Square Garden, as the stunned audience couldn’t believe their ears. With 178 votes (35.04%), “Strawberry Letter 23” wins the Best Debut award by a minuscule 8 vote margin.

RUNNERS UP: “Most Events Aren’t Planned” from Glazed night (8/6/2017) came in a close second place. This track from McConnell’s defunct world-music inspired band Vida Blue surely sent fans into a frenzy of confusion. The jam out of “Most Events Aren’t Planned” was inspired and easily turned this into one of the most exciting moments of the Baker’s Dozen. Some fans have even claimed this to be the most interesting portion of the entire run. 170 fans voted for this as the “Best Debut”, making up 33.46% of the vote. “Everything In Its Right Place,” the iconic Radiohead song that was surprisingly performed on Lemon night, came in a distant third with 92 votes (18.11%).


BEST BUST OUT – COVER

“Izabella” by Jimi Hendrix – Glazed – 8/6/2017

While “Cinnamon Girl” by Neil Young was technically the biggest bust out of the run, coming 629 shows after the song was last performed on 7/31/1997, the most exciting cover that was busted out during the Baker’s Dozen was “Izabella” by Jimi Hendrix. “Izabella” received 296 votes, 57.93% of the total vote, making this the only category where the winner was agreed upon by more than 50% of participants. After last performing the song on 7/31/1998—a mere 574 shows ago—the fans inside The Garden on Glazed night went absolutely crazy when Anastasio started up the aggressive psychedelic blues classic. Pinch me, because I still can’t believe that happened.

RUNNER-UP: “1999” by Prince – Powdered – 7/26/2017. Played once only as the band was celebrating New Year’s Eve 1998/1999, it was thought to be a one-time-only joke cover that fit the moment. Well, after thirty minutes of exploring “Carini” and “Mr. Completely” on Powdered night, Anastasio started up the famous guitar part for “1999,” and the Garden, after a moment of shock, erupted with waves of excited energy throughout the song. The band returned that energy in kind, with several minutes of euphoric jamming and multiple intense peaks. The impossible was made possible at the Baker’s Dozen, and this bust out was one of those “holy shit” moments that defined the run.

Only a few other songs got votes in this category since “Izabella” and “1999” were so dominant: Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” got 20 votes (3.91%) and the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane” got 19 votes (3.72%).


BEST BUST OUT – ORIGINAL

“Swept Away” > “Steep”

Technically two songs, “Swept Away” and “Steep” are always paired together, just as they are on Billy Breathes, so in this case, we’ll count them as one larger piece. The duo hadn’t been performed in 192 shows and has been performed only 4 times total since the band reformed in 2009. “Swept Away” was standard, but “Steep”  was stretched out to nearly 10 minutes, with plenty of dark improvisation to go around before Anastasio brought the song to a glorious climax. “Swept Away” > ” Steep” was the clear-cut winner of this category, receiving 223 votes, making up 43.98% of all voters.

RUNNERS-UP: “Sanity” – Glazed – 8/6/2017 (114 votes, 22.49%);  “Dogs Stole Things” – Glazed – 8/6/2017 (62 votes, 12.43%).


BEST OF THE REST

These awards weren’t opened up for voting, due to limitations with the survey software and because some of them were so obvious that it didn’t require discussion. So here is Live For Live Music’s unofficial “Best of the Rest” list to round out our Baker’s Dozen post-show coverage.

Most Unexpected Original: “End of Session” – Jam Filled – 7/25/2017

Least Unexpected Original: “Tweezer Reprise” – Glazed – 8/6/2017

Most Unexpected Unplayed Song: “Waste” – How did they play a 13-show residency without playing “Waste”???

Most Unexpected Theme-Specific Cover: “Chocolate Rain” – Double Chocolate – 7/28/2017

Least Unexpected Theme-Specific Cover: “A Day In The Life” – Holes – 8/2/2017

Best Pre-Show Hang: The Pennsy. Located mere steps from Madison Square Garden, the place was packed throughout the run, and they were met by music from Phish and Umphrey’s McGee, Phish-themed cocktails, several food stalls from some of New York’s best fast/casual dining options, and room for seemingly everyone. Shout out to 5 Boro Burger for turning their upstairs space into a Phish-fans dream throughout the run, with open bars, a fully Phish-themed menu, ticket giveaways, inflatable donuts for sale, and for being generally stoked about the Baker’s Dozen run.

Baker’s Dozen HeadquartersAmerican Beauty, who shockingly hosted over 16,000 people in their venue over the course of the run. Hats off to the staff at AB for making everyone feel so welcome throughout the Baker’s Dozen. The venue had late night shows every single night, free pre-parties almost every day, hosted a PhanArt show and streamed the Phish shows most nights as well. Legendary!

Best Poster: David Welker. . . Have you guys seen this thing? It’s amazing.

Best Chicken Sandwich: What would the Baker’s Dozen have been without the Spicy Chicken Sandwich in Section 119, aka David Chang‘s Fuku.

Best ManagementMadison Square Garden, who bent their rules in many ways to accommodate the Phish crowd. No, fans weren’t allowed to freely roam the venue, as they once could before the venue’s multi-billion dollar renovation, but the venue made a series of changes to make fans feel more at home. One example of their hospitality is that they allowed fans to keep the caps on their bottled water, which is something that hasn’t happened at Madison Square Garden in years. However, the true stroke of genius was offering fans 50% off of all food items in the first hour after doors opened. The combination of free donuts and half-off food had thousands of fans lining up in advance of doors opening to get that half-priced stadium food. Ask yourself, when’s the last time you saw people (besides those who ride the rail each night) lining up to get into a Phish show early? Kudos to the staff at MSG for going above and beyond to make us phans feel welcome at the World’s Most Famous Arena. Oh yeah, and thanks for raising a Phish banner to the rafters!


MY VOTES

For fun and transparency, here’s what I voted for in the survey.

1. Best Jam: “Lawn Boy” – Jam Filled – 7/25/2017

2. Best Set: Set Two – Powdered – 7/26/2017 (Carini -> Mr. Completely > 1999 >  Steam > No Quarter, Character Zero)

3. Best Full Show: Glazed – 8/6/2017

4. Best Execution of Donut Theme: Jimmies

5. Most Delicious Donut: Jimmies

6. Least Delicious Donut: Holes

7. Best Donut Reference Cover Execution: “Strawberry Letter 23” – Strawberry – 7/22/2017

8. Best Debut: “The Wind Cries Mary” – Jimmies – 7/30/2017

9. Best Bust Out – Cover: “Izabella” – Glazed – 8/6/2017

10. Best Bust Out – Original: “Ha Ha Ha” – Glazed – 8/6/2017