In just 4 days, 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 shows 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.
At this point in our Phishmas retelling of the Baker’s Dozen saga, we’re in the final stretch of the run: 4 shows left; one more “regular” MSG run, if you will. The Baker’s Dozen was now a thing, and seemingly everyone had something to say about it–from style magazines, to city and national news outlets, to your thoroughly un-hip Aunt Martha, to passersby asking what all the donuts were about and why everyone had their fingers in the air (note: I usually went with “We’re doing a flash mob”). The secret had gotten out: something very special was happening at The Garden.
In the blink of an eye, each of the remaining shows–all of which had tickets available at the box office at the start of the run–were sold the f*ck out, and the horde of restless fingers in the air on 7th Avenue was steadily growing each night. Fans eagerly awaited the announcement of a new donut each morning, and made their calculated theme predictions for each successive show in kind. And with 9 shows down and not a repeat in sight, the list of songs still on the table grew shorter and shorter each night. In hindsight, the second half of the Baker’s Dozen was, in many ways, the most “predictable” stretch of shows Phish has ever played. More so than ever before, we went into those shows knowing loosely what to expect. But of course, that didn’t stop Phish from continuing to exceed our expectations anyhow…
So much fantastic ground already covered, yet still so much to come–the second half of the Dozen was uncharted territory in the Phish Universe, boldly going where no run had gone before. Come along, relive that (not so short) trip with us, and remember that euphoric feeling of being in the thick of the Baker’s Dozen. Merry Phishmas to all!
NIGHT 10: Holes
Review by Andrew O’Brien
— Phish (@phish) August 2, 2017
Last night, Phish took the Baker’s Dozen into double digits with their 10th performance in 13 days at Madison Square Garden. Unlike Tuesday night’s “Maple” theme, which predominantly left fans scratching their heads until showtime, Wednesday night’s donut, “Holes”–you know, like “donut holes”–immediately spawned a litany of guesses. Phish is at their best when their creativity is at its peak, and just like Sunday’s “Jimmies” donut, “Holes” was another clever, off-kilter flavor choice, allowing the band to stretch the thematic boundaries and check another chunk of songs off their ever-shorter yet still expansive list of remaining songs. Fans quickly scoured all the tunes still in play for the Baker’s Dozen, from originals to staple covers to outlandish guesses (which, on this run, are just about as likely as even the most often-played Phish songs), putting together a comparatively long list of potential picks.
Many of the calls turned out to be correct, the band clearly having designated them for “Holes” night from the start (“Buried Alive,” “Heavy Things,” “A Day In The Life”). But Phish still wound up proving the majority of their fans’ guesses incorrect. This fan was convinced that “Holes” night would finally signal the return of long-lost tongue-in-cheek ditty “In A Hole,” which was referenced at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on 8/30/14, but has not been played in earnest since December, 1989. Of course, this fan turned out to be wrong. That’s how it works with this band: Whenever you’re positive Phish is going to “zig,” the smart money says they’re actually plotting to “zag,” and last night’s “zags” far exceeded any pre-conceived ideas of what “Holes” night would entail; Who really wants to “zig” anyway? “In A Hole” is so 1989, and you can bet that these days, most fans would take high-concept, creatively finessed, fully realized 2017 Baker’s Dozen Phish over late-80’s goofiness any day of the week. There’s a Golden Age comin’ round…
The surprises got started early, as the band led off with their live debut of Tom Waits‘ “Way Down In A Hole” (which, for those keeping track, meant that the show began with the line “When you walk through the Garden”). While many in the crowd were understandably unfamiliar with the new and relatively obscure cover, the song’s opening notes sent what looked like about half the crowd into a frenzy. The cheering fans, no doubt, were the ones who have watched universally acclaimed HBO crime drama The Wire. The show used a different rendition of the song under its opening credits for each of its five seasons, including the original Waits recording and versions by The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Neville Brothers, DoMaJe, and Steve Earle. [Note: To the other half of the crowd that didn’t recognize the opener: Watch The Wire, already. Seriously, what are you waiting for?]
Watch the band’s surprise “Way Down In A Hole” opener below via LivePhish:
A fire-starting “Buried Alive” came next, quickly bringing the rowdiness that seemed to be missing at Tuesday’s “prettier” Maple performance. “Kill Devil Falls” followed, growing into a chugging Type I groove and, finally, a satisfying early-show peak, despite a handful of flubs from Red. Any KDF flubbery was quickly forgotten as the band moved into rare original “Guyute.” While the complicated composition wasn’t perfectly played, the “ugly pig” still pulled through, retaining his patented power and shadowy grit.
“I Didn’t Know” came next, as Trey coaxed Mr. Henrietta Fishman to center stage with a nod to the “Jimmies” night “Universe-As-Donut-‘Harpua’” (“You know what they say about holes: The more holes, the more complicated…the vacuum cleaner!”). Fishman’s vacuum chops can always be classified in varying levels of cringe-worthiness, and this attempt was no different. But the vacuum had yet to make an appearance at the Baker’s Dozen–where Phish is sure to pull out virtually everything in their bag of tricks at some point or other–and the antics served as an amusing interlude.
A brief and bubbly NICU followed, prompting big cheers with its “look back on those days when my life was a haze” line before giving way to Mike Gordon-led jaunt “Meat,” Fishman masterfully keeping the jive and stride alive. The song gave the crowd its first Type II taste of the evening, building into a twangy, plodding roll (Note: An actual Type II “Taste,” coincidentally, would pop up til later in the night, but more on that later…).
“Maze” finally punched its Baker’s Dozen ticket after “Meat,” as the band conjured a dissonant, avant garde atmosphere, augmented by spectacular light work from Chris Kuroda. The “Maze” jam reached not one, but two giant white-light peaks, the second of which featuring added sonic girth by a 60%-ish throttle Mike bomb (good money says he’s saving up the big boys for the monster “Tweeprise” that looms on Night 13). “Ginseng Sullivan” and “Waiting All Night” followed before ceding to the hole-referencing “Heavy Things,” depleting some of the energy in the room with a run of slower tunes. However, the audience quickly riled up once again as a mighty “Run Like An Antelope” closer set the gear shift back to “high,” where it would remain for the rest of the performance.
The set break chatter centered largely on “Way Down In The Hole,” as fans of The Wire nerd-ed out over the reference. The tune was all too appropriate for the Baker’s Dozen. The Garden has had a certain similarity to the notorious “Hamsterdam” over the course of the residency: With mischief-seeking fans traveling from all over to a dedicated area to indulge their societally frowned-upon proclivities, and the venue staff generally cultivating a permissive atmosphere for such behavior (as long as you’re in the agreed-upon space), the connection was hard to ignore–whether or not it was intended. [Note: For those who don’t get that clever, hilarious reference: don’t worry, it’s not a spoiler. It’s just one more reason you really do need to watch The Wire].
When the second set began with “Mike’s Song,” the Garden crowd knew they were in for a ride–but none could have predicted just how wild that ride would be. From funk feathered with gorgeous beams of blue, purple, and green; to a bright, foamy bounce; to a breezy, echoing vamp; to dark and murky cocktail lounge fare and a patiently realized and chill-inducing peak, this “Mike’s” went “out there” like no “Mike’s” has in almost a decade. This “Mike’s Song” broke the 20-minute mark for the first time since ’97, and marked just the third elusive “second jam” in the modern era. For now, let’s call this monster “Big Mike,” and imagine he’s a musical beer hall brawler who’s never lost a fight. As “Mike’s” dissipated, the fog machines came alive, billowing smoke across the stage over an ambient rumble. A choral refrain began to build. It took a few moments of unsure recognition to understand the play: Holiday season staple (and appropriate “Holes” night anthem) “O Holy Night.”
Watch pro-shot video of “Mike’s Song” (via LivePhish) as well as fan-shot footage of Phish’s haunting “O Holy Night” from “Holes” night at the Baker’s Dozen (courtesy of YouTube user rdeal1999) below:
After “O Holy Night,” Trey kicked into “Taste” for the first time since Texas last Fall. The “Taste” jam provided a second bona fide improvisational highlight for this thrilling second set, quickly moving into a charge reminiscent of the “Mike’s Song” jam that preceded it, continuing the considerable momentum it had established. Mike and Page bought the jam to a slow, rolling boil, which bubbled over into bright major-key ambiance. Trey picked up the reins from there, using single, solitary, sustained notes to sing sweet songs and pierce through the static like only he can, before bringing the jam to a close with a blues-rock peak.
Watch fan-shot footage of the tail end of the “Taste” jam below courtesy of YouTube user LazyLightning55a:
“Wingsuit” floated in on the pulsing Fishman fills that closed the Type II “Taste.” Hitting hard as always with a pretty piano jam and towering riffs from Trey, “Wingsuit” eventually landed on a brief “Sneakin’ Sally.” Finally, the band resolved the set-spanning “Mike’s Groove” with “Weekapaug,” before taking an encore victory lap through a widely-predicted cover of Sgt. Pepper favorite “A Day In The Life.”
Remember 2012? When we wished longingly but skeptically that Phish would revive the “Mike’s Song” second jam? When we wished they would dig deep in the catalogue, play the “white whales,” try out new and adventurous covers? When we longed for just one 20-minute jam, but reluctantly recognized that those days may have been behind them? The Phish we all wished for 5 years ago pales in comparison to the Phish we now get on a nightly basis in Summer 2017, and it only keeps getting better. Thank Icculus for the Baker’s Dozen!
[Cover photo via Chad Anderson]
Hot Takes From Night 10:
Repeat Watch: As Fishman says, “DUH.” The Universe is a donut, and the Phish will play no repeats at the Baker’s Dozen…
Today’s Donut: “Holes” [“Way Down In The Hole” (Bonus Points: “When you walk through The Garden…” opening line); “Buried Alive”; “Heavy Things” (“two holes in my face”); “O Holy Night”; “A Day In The Life” (“although the holes were rather small…”)]
We Tired Yet?: …Yes. Home stretch! Who’s got my 8/5 and 8/6?! (For real, though, shoot me a message…)
SETLIST: Phish | Baker’s Dozen Night 10 | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 8/2/17
SET 1: Way Down in the Hole, Buried Alive, Kill Devil Falls, Guyute, I Didn’t Know, NICU, Meat, Maze, Ginseng Sullivan, Waiting All Night, Heavy Things, Run Like an Antelope
SET 2: Mike’s Song > O Holy Night > Taste > Wingsuit > Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > Weekapaug Groove
ENCORE: A Day in the Life
 Phish debut.
[Cover photo via Chad Anderson Photography]
We’ll see you back here tomorrow, as we continue to re-sample all the donuts on our way back to the Garden for New Year’s Run 2017-2018. 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