Although Phish‘s recent 13-night residency at Madison Square Garden spanned 17 days in total, Night 1 felt like a distant memory by the time “Tweezer Reprise” shook the midtown Manhattan arena to its core on Sunday, August 6th. By the thirteenth night, we were experts on the Baker’s Dozen. We were making informed setlist guesses based on pastry flavors (the Universe is a donut, after all), hoarding our souvenir beer cups (anyone else have cabinet full of those bad boys?), confidently debating the virtues of one concourse spicy chicken sandwich vs. the other. On the Monday morning following the run, we gushed about the impressive amount of material covered (237 songs, no repeats) and the glorious raising of Phish’s “championship” banner to the rafters of the “world’s most famous arena” as we proudly surveyed the heaping pile of grade-A jams we’d accrued like Hollywood kingpins counting their stacks of cash…But on Night 1, nobody knew much of anything. We were totally unprepared.

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Perhaps that’s the reason why Night 1–Coconut night–seems to have faded into the background in post-summer discussions of the Dozen. With so many incredible shows played in such quick succession over 13 shows at MSG, the accolades of the earlier performances in the run began to blur. That’s not to take anything away from night 1 as a singular show. There was a lot to be excited about from that night: “Reba” was kick-ass, as usual. “Tweezer” > “Seven Below” boasted some very cool, creatively open-minded jamming. “Shake Your Coconuts” was a perfectly random yet spot-on party-starter as the run’s opener, and one that we sincerely hope sticks around in Phish’s arsenal…

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But even with the inevitable haze that settled in as the shows went on, one specific song from the run’s first of 26 sets continued to stand out, cutting through the static: Phish’s 7/21/17 cover of David Bowie‘s “Moonage Daydream.” It wasn’t a theme-specific selection like many of the other previously-played covers they dusted off. It wasn’t an obscure, out-of-left-field selection; they had debuted it less than a year earlier, as part of their Ziggy Stardust Halloween costume set. It wasn’t 20 minutes long. It wasn’t 10 minutes long. Hell, it was just barely more than 5 minutes long. But it was undoubtedly–even after all the donuts had been devoured–one of the most exhilarating, ferocious, best jams of the run. And no one can convince me otherwise…

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Looking back, it’s almost as if the “Moonage Daydream” jam existed outside the thematic Baker’s Dozen circus. This was before we knew about the themes. Before we understood what was really going on. This was simply Phish introducing a song from a Halloween set into their rotation–as they’ve done with so many Halloween songs in the past–and emphatically making it their own. The “regular season” premiere of “Moonage Daydream” was a characteristic testament to Phish’s singularity as a live band: How shocking, how rare, how long, how theatrically or thematically significant a song may be only matters to a certain point. When it comes to Phish, the magic can–and will–always appear in the most unexpected places. That’s why we keep coming back.

You can watch great crowd-shot footage of Phish’s “Moonage Daydream” cover from the Baker’s Dozen, courtesy of YouTube user LazyLightning55a:

[Cover photo via Andrew Blackstein]