Tomorrow (!!!), Phish will make their triumphant return to Madison Square Garden in New York City for their traditional 4-night New Year’s Run at the world’s most famous arena. To date, the band has played the storied midtown Manhattan room 52 times–usually surrounding New Year’s Eve–and among those 52 are some of the more exciting and memorable performances they’ve ever turned in. In 2016, we counted down the days until New Year’s Run with “The 12 Days Of Phishmas,” a festive collection of our favorite Phish shows at the Garden over the years.
But that list was made before the Baker’s Dozen, Phish’s unprecedented run of 13 straight shows at MSG featuring nightly donut-based themes, surprise covers and bust-outs to cater the setlists to the flavor du jour and, oh yea, NO REPEATS, culminating with a “championship” banner being raised to The Garden’s rafters on a day officially designated as “Phish Day” by the Mayor of New York.
The Dozen was a different kind of beast: It’s difficult to pick apart the individual nights and rank them among the band’s other 39 MSG performances because these 13 shows were so inextricably linked. Those 17 summer days in the City almost felt like one long show, and so it only felt right to extend this year’s Phishmas by an extra day and relive the Baker’s Dozen as a complete set–sampling one donut at a time, the same way it was originally tasted. By the time we’re done going back through the Baker’s Dozen spoils, we’ll all be primed and ready to add four more shows to the list, rounding out 17 in ’17–the biggest, baddest year of MSG Phish we’ve ever seen.
After 12 long nights of instant-classic Phish, we had reached the final donut. We were now all experts in the art of the Baker’s Dozen. We had our routines, our meet-up spot, our confident setlist guesses, and all locked down, We were ready to “Glaze On” one last time. Tickets for the show were damn-near impossible to get, and hundreds upon hundreds of fans were surely left on the block. It was no mystery as to why: This was certain to be an historic evening for the Phish from Vermont.
And of course, the Phish from Vermont did not disappoint. Night 13 was as perfect an end to this historic residency as you could have asked for. On a day officially proclaimed as “Phish Day” by the Mayor of New York City, Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Jon Fishman, and Page McConnell finished their greatest run ever at the World’s Most Famous Arena with a fantastic, emotional performance, and embraced as their Baker’s Dozen “championship” banner rose to the Garden’s rafters, immortalized.
This wraps up our 13 Days of Phishmas 2017. Over the last 13 days, we’ve relived the glory of the Baker’s Dozen one donut at a time, and now, finally, it’s time to make some new ones. It’s the most wonderful time of the year–Phish’s 2017-2018 New Year’s Eve run in New York City begins tomorrow, and we couldn’t be more excited to visit the banner and finish out 17 in ’17 at MSG.
Merry Phishmas to all, and to all a good run! See you out there!
NIGHT 13: Glazed
Review by Gideon Plotnicki
— Phish (@phish) August 6, 2017
Phish finished their instant-classic Baker’s Dozen residency last night, and there’s a lot to digest. The band completed their thirteen-show run without repeating a single song, a remarkable feat that sets the bar extremely high for any other major touring bands out there looking to do something special for their fanbase. The finale at Madison Square Garden was light on donut references–the night’s theme was “Glazed”–and, after thirteen shows of no repeats, featured a somewhat predictable set list. Nonetheless, the band played another jaw-dropping show filled with the creative jams, epic bust outs, and the loose yet focused playing that’s become the norm throughout this run.
— Mike Gordon (@mike_gordon) August 6, 2017
The band set the tone for the evening right out of the gates by dropping “Dogs Stole Things” into the show-opening slot. This marked only the fourth performance of the song since the band reformed in 2009. After finishing the dark and bluesy number, Phish worked their way through a somewhat sloppy version of “Rift.” The band eventually synced up and built the song to its natural climax, spiking the energy in the room and drawing huge roars from the excited audience. A weird and dark version of the rarity “Ha Ha Ha” was up next, drawing still more roars from the excited audience.
Watch the show-opening “Dogs Stole Things” below via LivePhish:
A funky “Camel Walk” batted clean-up, and it was a home run edition of the song, with a nice, patient, funky groove that permeated throughout the track. The band followed that up with Mike Gordon‘s “Crazy Sometimes,” which was well-played and contained a nice Led Zeppelin-esque jam. This acted as a pre-cursor to the madness of “Saw It Again,” which whipped the Garden crowd into a hysterical frenzy, especially after a howling sample from the Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House Halloween set during the song’s huge build. “Sanity,” another cherished rarity from the band’s early days, followed the madness of “Saw It Again.” “Sanity” also featured a quote from “The Very Long Fuse,” tying the segment of the show together with Halloween samples.
After a quick version of “Bouncing Around the Room,” Phish debuted “Most Events Aren’t Planned,” a Page McConnell-led synth-rocker he crafted with his hiatus-era trio Vida Blue (which featured Oteil Burbridge and Russell Batiste Jr). Page hasn’t toured Vida Blue in many years, so fans were totally caught off guard by this bust out. The band locked in for a driving jam on the old track, easily making it the musical highlight of set one.
Watch the Phish debut of Vida Blue’s “Most Events Aren’t Planned” below via LivePhish:
A heartfelt version of “Bug” followed, and you could hear the echoes throughout the arena as the crowd yelled the song’s chorus into the skies. Page then got a chance to ham it up, as the band performed their first version of the Joy rarity “I’ve Been Around” since the memorable 7/27/14 “Tweezerfest” at Merriweather Post Pavillion. Page provided a nice joke during the song’s intro, telling the crowd “I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty glazed,” which got a huge response from the audience and elicited a nice laugh from Trey Anastasio, who just couldn’t hold it in any longer.
It seemed like “I’ve Been Around” would close the set as at MPP, as Anastasio took his guitar off post-song. But that proved to be a fake-out, as he actually switched to a different guitar and launched into an uproarious version of “Izabella” by Jimi Hendrix. “Izabella” is a holy grail song for many Phish fans, having entered the band’s rotation in 1997 and abruptly disappeared since the second set on July 31st, 1998 at the Polaris Amphitheater in Columbus, OH. This version of the song featured some huge moments, with Anastasio machine-gunning his way to glory at multiple points, remaining laser-focused even as he kicked a balloon that had floated on to the stage. After a 574-show gap, “Izabella” finally returned, stunning the crowd just in time for set break.
The band returned to the stage earlier than usual on night thirteen, signaling an improv-laden second set, a long encore, or both. Phish announced their intentions quickly, with a glorious second set-opening “Simple.” Many fans had predicted “Simple” as a thin reference to the night’s “Glazed” theme, which many considered a “simple” choice of donut. I’m not sure if this was a reference to the theme or just one of the two remaining major jam vehicles–“You Enjoy Myself” being the other–but I am sure that this was a remarkable version of “Simple.” The song’s jam kicked off with an ambient, rhythmic groove, with Anastasio using plenty of echo to help drive the spacey improvisation. The band continued to utilize a sci-fi vibe in their jams, with McConnell employing some wild synth wobbles while lighting designer Chris Kuroda matched the atmosphere with his moving and customizable light rig. After a brief moment that incorporated the rhythm of Queen‘s “Under Pressure,” the band linked up for a jangly moment of blissful playing before McConnell took over on electric piano, progressing the jam into a funky space reminiscent of “2001.” Phish continued to improvise, building up a patient major key vamp into a massive peak, followed by a huge sustain from Anastasio that drove the Garden wild.
Watch the triumphant Baker’s Dozen “Simple” below via LivePhish:
The band finally relented, dissolving into some ambient noodling before transitioning into Anastasio’s track “Rise/Come Together.” After making quick work of the uplifting Anastasio track, Phish started up David Bowie‘s “Starman” from their 2016 Halloween cover of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The real meat of set two, however, came when the band finally delivered the Baker’s Dozen version of “You Enjoy Myself.” The audience went bonkers for “YEM,” and they showed their enthusiasm with the biggest and most aggressive glow stick war of the residency. You could feel the Garden shake as Phish ran through the composed section of “YEM,” with the MSG crowd letting loose for presumably the final time.
When it came time for the song’s jam, the band were sublime, firing on all cylinders as Jon Fishman demolished the drums, delivering a pulsating groove and some great work on the ride cymbal, before McConnell took over with a blissful organ solo while the band worked their way towards a big peak. Anastasio took off his guitar, usually a sign that the “YEM” vocal jam is coming, but, after two bars of bass solo from Gordon, Anastasio couldn’t help it–and he picked his guitar back up to add some rhythmic effects to Gordon’s solo, which launched the band towards a tease of “Izabella,” another sci-fi-esque ambient section, and, finally, the song’s typical, bizarre vocal jam.
It seemed like the band would cap things off with “You Enjoy Myself,” but a clearly excited Anastasio turned to McConnell and directed him to start up “Loving Cup” by The Rolling Stones. The song was met with a rapturous response and gave the audience one more chance to go nuts as the band rocked the beloved cover. When the dust had settled, Phish had completed a rare five-song second set to close out the final frame of the Baker’s Dozen. The band took an extra long time taking bows and receiving gifts from the crowd before walking off stage for the final encore break of the run.
During the break, a folded-up drape was lowered from the ceiling, prompting fans to expect some sort of bizarre, Phishy surprise. However, after it touched the ground, MSG staffers unrolled the mystery to reveal a Baker’s Dozen-themed Phish “championship” banner, prompting roars of never-before-heard strength from the crowd. The banner hung in the middle of the room for a few minutes, while Phish returned to the stage to take some pictures in front of it before it was raised to the ceiling.
As a native New Yorker who grew up going to Knicks and Rangers games and has seen countless concerts at Madison Square Garden, it was mind-blowing to see Phish’s name go up into the rafters to join New York legends like Ewing, Reed, Frazier, Messier, Leetch, and Gilbert. There were some tears in the audience (or maybe it was just me) as that banner was triumphantly raised into the sky. After Mayor DeBlasio declared Sunday “Phish Day” in NYC and Madison Square Garden showed off a new Phish plaque that will hang backstage, it’s safe to say that this day was one of the most important days in Phish history.
— Phish (@phish) August 6, 2017
For the encore, Phish busted out “On The Road Again” by Willie Nelson for the first time since Dick’s 2013. The song fit the thematic conclusion of the residency’s final show. The emotional reprieve saw both McConnell and Anastasio swallow full segments of the lyrics, seemingly choked up by the massive moment. The sincerity behind the song choice worked out, though, and the sentiment rang heart-warmingly true for this band after such a singular accomplishment: “The life I love is making music with my friends.”
Eventually, the band dropped into a funky groove, with McConnell leaving his piano to take center stage. Page addressed the audience, telling them “all week long, people have been asking me…’Is this Lawn Boy?‘…It is.” The band then dropped into a funky, double-time version of the final verse of “Lawn Boy”–a “Lawn Boy” reprise, if you will–to the delight of the crowd. Fishman and Gordon then delivered a few bars of the intro to “Weekapaug Groove,” which had already been played in the Baker’s Dozen run, thoroughly confuseinb the crowd in the process–they’ve gotten through 26 full sets and they’re going to repeat a song during the final encore!? However, it was just one more fake-out from Phish, as Anastasio started up the dramatic intro to “Tweezer Reprise,” completing the “Tweezer” sandwich that started on night one.
When the song was finished, Phish walked off stage and the lights went up. The band chose to play “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel as the walkout music, a fitting choice as Phish now joins the Piano Man on the rafters of Madison Square Garden, forever immortalized as one of the venue’s most cherished acts.
Hot Takes From Night 13:
Repeat Watch: 13 shows. 26 sets. 237 songs. Zero repeats…and it’s still “Lawn Boy.” Legendary.
Today’s Donut: “Glazed” [“I’ve Been Around”; “Simple”]
We Tired Yet?: Goodnight.
Check out a gallery of photos from the final night of the Baker’s Dozen below courtesy of Christian Stewart.
SETLIST: Phish | Baker’s Dozen Night 13 | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 8/6/17
SET 1: Dogs Stole Things, Rift, Ha Ha Ha, Camel Walk, Crazy Sometimes > Saw It Again > Sanity > Bouncing Around the Room, Most Events Aren’t Planned, Bug, I Been Around, Izabella
SET 2: Simple > Come Together > Starman, You Enjoy Myself, Loving Cup
ENCORE: On the Road Again > Lawn Boy Reprise > Tweezer Reprise
 Phish debut.
The wait is over: Phish returns to MSG tomorrow for their four-night New Year’s Eve run. If you’re in town for the shows, don’t miss all the pre- and post shows going on in the city during the run. For a list of pre-show plans and late-night after-parties, check out our guide here.
13 Days of Phishmas 2017:
- Night 1 – “Coconut” – 7/21/17
- Night 2 – “Strawberry” – 7/22/17
- Night 3 – “Red Velvet” – 7/23/17
- Night 4 – “Jam-Filled” – 7/25/17
- Night 5 – “Powdered” – 7/26/17
- Night 6 – “Double Chocolate” – 7/28/17
- Night 7 – “Cinnamon” – 7/29/17
- Night 8 – “Jimmies” – 7/30/17
- Night 9 – “Maple” – 8/1/17
- Night 10 – “Holes” – 8/2/17
- Night 11 – “Lemon” – 8/4/17
- Night 12 – “Boston Cream” – 8/5/17
- Night 13 – “Glazed” – 8/6/17
[Cover photo via Rene Huemer/Phish From The Road]