Night twelve. It feels like just yesterday that this thirteen night run was on the horizon, as fans eagerly speculated about what Phish would do for this historic residency at New York’s Madison Square Garden. As the Baker’s Dozen progressed, each show became its own special donut, flavored with one-off covers, big jams, and, incredibly, no repeated songs. Each and every show has been relished among the adoring crowd, hailed as some of the band’s finest of their 34 year career.
Now, we’ve arrived at the penultimate performance, and lots of heavy hitting song choices loomed over the final two proceedings. Not only that, but Saturday night’s performance was “Boston Cream” night; a show that fans have been eagerly awaiting since Page McConnell mentioned it in a 2007 Relix interview. Surely the cover of Boston’s “Foreplay/Long Time” would make its return. The band would obviously cover Cream. Lock it in.
While most shows have started with a theme-appropriate cover selection, Phish wasted no time diving into their repertoire with a rousing rendition of Bob Marley‘s “Soul Shakedown Party.” The smooth reggae tones got the crowd loose and the band looser. The celebratory opening number gave way to a cover of the bluegrass classic, Bill Monroe’s “Uncle Pen,” with Trey Anastasio ripping through the song’s complex leads. The band went to Gamehendge for the next number, bringing out a rocking version of “The Sloth” to keep the party grooving.
“Gotta Jibboo” saw Phish really get into their first jam of the night, as the whole band settled in for this first set fourteen minute groove fest. Once Page worked his magic on the grand piano, the jam shifted into high gear, and Trey raised the jam into a triumphant peak. After a brief discussion on stage, Mike Gordon took vocals on the band’s bizarre rocker, “Fuck Your Face.” The once long-forgotten number has had a revitalization in the 3.0 era, coming out of the woodworks to whip the crowd into a frenzy.
With the energy at full throttle, the band started out innocently enough with a cover of Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love.” Things quickly took a turn, however, as the end of the first chorus transitioned into Boston’s “More Than A Feeling.” It’s a Boston Cream medley! After running through some of the classic Boston tune, the band momentarily dove into what sounded like Cream’s “Tales Of Brave Ulysses,” before dropping into a jam on “Sunshine Of Your Love” once more. That quickly broke into “Long Time,” the second half of the famed “Foreplay/Long Time” that had been predicted – and that hadn’t been played since 1999. The chorus here was particularly interesting, as different band members sang choruses of “Long Time,” “Sunshine Of Your Love” and another Cream classic, “White Room.” The band finished up the medley with a return to the main riff of “Sunshine,” putting a cap on their “Sunshine Of Your Feeling” mash-up.
After they finished, Trey joked that “Kansas Metallica” was going to be the final donut flavor. They promptly explained that the joke was “20 years in the making,” and that they basically planned the whole run for this “Boston Cream” extravaganza. It was truly a fun moment in the band’s residency, adding an extra layer to the one-off covers that have been a cornerstone of the Baker’s Dozen. Side bar: Umphrey’s McGee fans must have felt right at home for this.
The set continued with its first cool-down moment, bringing back the Trey song “Frost” for only the second time ever, and the first since 7/17/13 (168 shows). My personal theory is that the song was a reference to the donuts themselves: the Boston Cream was actually the frost-ing instead of the filling. Likely a practical donut-making decision (read the NPR donut scoop for more), the mellow “Frost” was a fun reprieve for more high-energy songs to come.
“Scent Of A Mule” immediately followed, with some excellent solos from Page (including a “Sunshine Of Your Love” tease) and Gordo before the song’s exciting finale. The third Jimi Hendrix cover came next, as the band rocked MSG with some pure “Fire.” Trey was wailing in true Jimi style, keeping the excitement high. “Alaska” followed, as Jon Fishman kept the pace for a bluesy funk jam that had everyone dancing. “Plasma” closed out the set, with Trey taking the lead throughout an energetic jam that peaked in fine fashion. The guitarist’s final notes again teased “Sunshine Of Your Love,” adding one last dose of Cream to the performance.
With the “no repeat” rule in effect for the Baker’s Dozen, there were a handful of unplayed songs that came highly anticipated for the last two nights. Set two opened with one of these classics, as the blues-heavy riff of “Ghost” rang out through The Garden. Here we go. The whopping 21-minute take saw the band immediately lock into some thick funk, patiently building the energy through a pentatonic fueled groove. As the jam continued to gain momentum, the band subtly switched into a major key, allowing for some prime melodic improvisation from Trey and Page. Trey led the jam through countless emotional peak moments, continually upping the ante for a truly climactic conclusion. This was easily the jam of the night, as one might expect from a “Ghost” on the Twelfth Night.
The jam ended in some deep dark tones, before breaking into the first “Petrichor” since the song’s dramatic interpretation on New Year’s 2016. Though this version didn’t have choreography, horns, or falling silicone raindrops, the band adeptly wove their way through the ornate composition. Trey gave the song a little extra mustard near its conclusion, bringing things up before dropping into another 3.0 favorite, “Light.” This version went down and dirty with Page leading the charge on the organ.
As the “Light” jam ended, Trey strummed the opening chord of another Gamehendge classic, “The Lizards.” Another song highly anticipated for the last two nights, the band drew vigorous applause as they worked their way through the beautiful composition. They extended out the song a bit longer than usual, as is the new normal of the Baker’s Dozen, delighting fans with an all-time favorite tune.
After treating fans to four songs in the first hour of set two, the band wrapped things up with a handful of shorter selections, including “The Horse/Silent In The Morning,” Bob Dylan’s “Quinn The Eskimo,” and “Rocky Top.” It’s tempting to pine for fewer total songs in the second frame, but each of these songs are quintessential in the Phish catalog, and did a great job keeping the energy high at MSG.
The band returned for one more song, playing the ballad “Joy” as their encore. The message was loud and clear: “We want you to be happy.” Though this was one of the slowest encores of the run, the significance of the moment certainly left fans with smiles on their faces. If “Boston Cream” was the center of their Baker’s Dozen inspiration, then encouraging their fans’ happiness was an all-too-fitting finale for this penultimate donut theme.
Of course, the message of “We want you to be happy” has been at the forefront of this run. Phish’s dedication to the craft of live music is second to none, and the Baker’s Dozen is the ultimate example. As a native New Yorker, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to see more Phish in the last two weeks than I ever could have imagined. They’ve approached this run with such passion, challenging themselves to surpass our wildest expectations, every single night. It has been, in a word, incredible.
Thank you L4LM team, for giving me this (last minute) opportunity to, once again, share my love of Phish with your readers. Thank you Chris Kuroda, for consistently blowing my mind. Thank you to every single person I’ve met at MSG, for sharing in the groove. And of course, thank you Phish, for these legendary performances. Can’t wait to see what you have in store for the Baker’s Dozen finale.
Repeat Watch: At this point, I have “More Than A Feeling” that night 13 won’t have any repeats. We’ve come this far, right?
Today’s Donut: “Boston Cream” [“Sunshine Of Your Feeling,” the mash-up of Boston and Cream that we never knew we needed, with bits of “More Than A Feeling” (Boston), “Long Time” (Boston), “Sunshine Of Your Love” (Cream), and “White Room” (Cream). Am I the only one who heard “Tales Of Brave Ulysses” in there too? This page from the Zonkey playbook could not have been more fun.]
We Tired Yet?: We’ve been to 12 Phish shows in the last 16 days. What do you think?
SETLIST: Phish | Baker’s Dozen Night 12 | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 8/5/17
SET 1: Soul Shakedown Party, Uncle Pen, The Sloth, Gotta Jibboo, Fuck Your Face, Sunshine of Your Love -> More Than a Feeling > Sunshine of Your Love > Foreplay/Long Time, Frost, Scent of a Mule, Fire, Alaska, Plasma
SET 2: Ghost, Petrichor, Light > The Lizards, The Horse > Silent in the Morning > Quinn the Eskimo > Rocky Top
 Phish debut.
 Phish debut; incomplete.
Tonight’s Donut: Glazed, pink glaze with rainbow sprinkles.
[Photos by Andrew Blackstein]