Shake your coconuts, coco boys and coco girls–this party’s just begun! The moment is now, the day is here, and Phish‘s “Baker’s Dozen” residency at Madison Square Garden in New York City is finally, officially, underway. Earlier in the day, the band announced via their socials that they would be distributing donuts–real, edible, actual donuts–to their MSG guests as they arrive each night, a new flavor for each of the 13 days. Friday’s flavor: Coconut. Why does the kind of snacks the band gave out pre-show matter to the music? Don’t worry, it’ll all make sense soon…
The band got the ball rolling on the first of 26 Baker’s Dozen sets with the Phish debut of “Shake Your Coconuts,” an obscure 2003 “call to party” by Danish pop duo Junior Senior. With the last notes of the opener still ringing, Page McConnell launched the vocal sample for “Martian Monster.” After all, the Garden faithful had been selected as the first astronauts to explore the planet Baker’s Dozen. With the Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House track making its second appearance of the summer after landing during Northerly Island night two. This particular Martian trip may have been short, but the band took visible pleasure in the irony of the lyrics as they embarked on the longest single run in their history.
Next up was a slow-boiling “Timber (Jerry),” whose impending visit was foreshadowed with heavy teases during the not-so-simple “Simple” from Chicago. The Phish rode that Arkansas mule for 8+ minutes of focused type-1 improv, culminating in an anthemic build toward the first of night 1’s many grandiose peaks. A straightforward “555” came next, with some amusing antics coming at the song’s end, as Trey Anastasio cheekily asked the crowd “are we tired yet?” The audience roar that erupted in response answered Trey’s inquiry emphatically. Hell no, Trey. Hell no. After a long pause, the band counted into their next tune, but after a few drum beats, the “song” was abruptly cut short, with Trey introducing “Mr. Jon Fishman” behind the kit. Fishman responded to the mulligan in kind, joking “that might be our greatest composition yet.”
Sunny TAB ditty “Pigtail” followed, just its fourth appearance in the Phish setting–and its fourth successively better rendition. “Pigtail” will end up being a great Phish tune. Mark it. “Halfway To The Moon” followed, and it seemed that many fans were halfway to the bathroom when, suddenly, “Halfway” launched into orbit, with Trey and Page flexing their musical muscles and Chris Kuroda showing off his spectacular new rig, which moves, spins, and generally blows last year’s LED screen setup out of the water. We’re way beyond “stage lighting” this year, as Kuroda’s new toys encompass the entire arena, making for a jaw-dropping, 360-degree spectacle. The whole damn room lights up this year, guys [early review of the rig: 5-out-of-5 gooogley-eye emojis].
After an extended stop, the band kicked into the first classic Phish epic of the evening, “Reba.” After nailing the song’s complex composed parts, the band built out a typically high-flying jam, before skipping the tune’s whistling outro and opting instead for what was perhaps the evening’s most exciting song selection: David Bowie‘s “Moonage Daydream.” The first tune from last Halloween’s Ziggy Stardust costume set to appear since made an emphatic statement. Bobbing and weaving and shrugging off hits with the supreme confidence of a champion prize fighter, Trey lathered the “Moonage” jam with meaty guitar flourishes. For our purposes here, we can go ahead and call this tune Part 1-of-many in a forthcoming series entitled “Why You Really Just Have To Go To All The Shows.” A typically ripping “Walls Of The Cave” followed to close the set, leaving high expectations for what was to come.
An opening night “Tweezer” was near the top of many fans’ “guess list” for night one, and the familiar opening riff of the Picture of Nectar favorite prompted an ecstatic reaction from the audience. This 16+ minute “Tweezer” excursion packed an entertaining punch, Kurodas arena-enveloping visuals once again adding some extra “wow” factor. The band built “Tweezer” into a calculated groove, with Trey flutters foaming up over the top before Page and Fishman pushed the jam into “bliss” territory and, subsequently, into a classic “Tweezer” peak. Finally, Fish took the reins once again, driving the band into “Seven Below” for the second improvisational excursion in as many songs to start set two. “Seven Below” reached some great, minimal, synth-led 80s grooves that evoked a Phil Collins-type sound (think “In The Air Tonight”) with Page absolutely blaring as the song built to another impressive climax. While far from all-time versions, both jams highlighted Phish’s intentions for the run to come: Each member of the band was trying things, taking risks, connecting in different ways, pushing each other. We may not be “there” just yet, but it’s clear the band is determined to make this unprecedented residency something truly special.
A “Billy” breather came next, sucking some of the air out of a great set-opening pair of jams, before moving into “Sparkle,” which built to its cacophonous apex with a little more intent and purpose than your average “Sparkle,” if you’re into that kind of thing.
With the third-quarter breathers out of the way, Phish launched into “Everything’s Right,” one of the strongest songs from a selection of early Summer 2017 debuts. The song once again got the improv treatment, with Mike Gordon serving as the locomotive and Trey milking his previously-established 80s arena rocker finesse to fantastic effect before guiding the band into a towering “Slave,” which may or may not have made this writer shed a few emotionally-gobsmacked tears, before a tight-and-funky “Suzy Greenberg” appeared to end the set. However, since these are no ordinary Phish shows, the band had one more surprise in store–the debut of an a cappella rendition/quasi-vocal jam on ubiquitous tropical chant “Coconut” (original by Harry Nilsson), which saw the clearly-amused foursome put the lime right into the coconut as they held back giddy smiles–almost like they know something we don’t know…
That was when the big picture began to come into focus for all in attendance. Friday’s donut: Coconut creme. The opener: “Shake Your Coconuts.” The closer: “Coconut.” “Coconuts” in “Reba.” Starting to see a pattern? Just like that, the “Baker’s Dozen” mission was clear: 13 nights. 13 donuts. 13 special shows.
The band returned for their encore with a rare “Mango Song,” which made a welcome appearance despite Trey’s usual struggles on the tune’s tricky guitar theme before ceding to a red-hot “Good Times, Bad Times,” in which Trey reminded everyone who’s boss, and restored whatever faith may have been lost during the “Mango” flubbery.
It’s difficult to digest this show as a single, isolated performance. If this was a one-off–a lonely donut, if you will–it’s likely a lot more fans might feel like the show left something to be desired. But this show felt perfect as the start of something big. So come on down to MSG. We’re only one night in, but make no mistake–the “Baker’s Dozen” is already a thing, and it’s pretty fantastic so far. [Plus, tonight’s missing “Tweeprise” promises to make a big return in a couple weeks]. This run already feels intentive and significant. It’s the mo-fuckin’ Bakers Dozen–There will be no repeats. There will be no prisoners. Let’s do this. See you all tonight!
(Saturday’s donut is Strawberry, for those keeping track. Look out for a thick Strawberry Goo mudslide, coming in hot.)
You can check out a gallery of photos from Baker’s Dozen Night 1 below, via Andrew Blackstein.
REPEAT WATCH: 0 so far, since it’s only night one. But considering all the new tunes, covers, rare covers, and more, it sure looks like we won’t see any.
TODAY’S DONUT: Coconut (“Shake Your Coconuts,”, “Reba”, “Coconut”)
WE TIRED YET?: Hell no.
SETLIST: Phish | Baker’s Dozen Night 1 | Madison Square Garden | New York City, NY | 7/21/17
I: Shake Your Coconuts, Martian Monster, Timber Ho! > 555, Pigtail, Halfway to the Moon, Reba, Moonage Daydream, Walls of the Cave
II: Tweezer > Seven Below > Billy Breathes > Sparkle, Everything’s Right > Slave to the Traffic Light, Suzy Greenberg, Coconut
E: The Mango Song, Good Times Bad Times
 Phish debut.
 No whistling.
If you’re heading to New York for Phish’s 13-night Baker’s Dozen run at Madison Square Garden, don’t miss all the incredible late night shows going on in the City during the run! Check out Our Official Guide To Baker’s Dozen Late-Nights for all the info.
Live For Live Music Phish Baker’s Dozen Run Late-Night Shows
July 20, 21, & 22 – Twiddle @ Irving Plaza (tix) *
July 22 – The Werks @ American Beauty (tix)
July 22 – Circles Around The Sun @ Gramercy Theatre (SOLD OUT)
July 23 – Circles Around The Sun (early brunch show) @ Brooklyn Bowl (tix) #
July 25 – Turkuaz at Irving Plaza (tix) *
July 28 – Dopapod @ Gramercy Theater (tix) *
July 28 – James Brown Dance Party – 2 Shows @ Highline Ballroom (early tix/late tix) *
July 29 – Dopapod @ Gramercy (tix) *
July 29 – Perpetual Groove @ BB King Blues Club (tix)
Aug 2 – Matisyahu @ The Cutting Room (tix) *
Aug 3 – Greensky Bluegrass w/ Marco Benevento @ Ford Amphitheatre At Coney Island Boardwalk (tix) **
Aug 4 – “Kraz & Taz” – Eric Krasno Band w/ Brandon “Taz” Niederauer Band @ The Cutting Room (tix)
Aug 5 – Spafford @ BB King Blues Club (SOLD OUT)
* (L4LM & CEG Presents)
**(L4LM & Live Nation Presents)
# (L4LM & Brooklyn Bowl Presents)