In just 12 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. Over the years, The Garden has become the de facto home court for the Phish from Vermont. To date, the band has played the storied midtown room 52 times–usually surrounding New Year’s Eve–and among those 52 are some of the more exciting and memorable shows they’ve ever played. 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 over the course of 17 days featuring nightly donut flavors, surprise covers and bust-outs to cater the setlists to each evening’s respective donut “theme” and, oh yea, NO REPEATS, that ended 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.
Much of the excitement of the residency came from figuring out the game as it went along. By the thirteenth night, we were all experts on the Baker’s Dozen: We were making informed setlist guesses based on pastry flavors, hoarding our souvenir beer cups (anyone else have a 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 (230+ different songs) as we proudly surveyed the thoroughly baffling results of these 13 nights in NYC. But on Night 1, nobody knew much of anything. We didn’t know that the donut flavors held deeper meaning. We were skeptical of the band’s ability to play 13 shows with no repeats. We were totally unprepared.
Going back over the music of the Dozen is an extensive undertaking, and it’s been tough to know where to start in the months since, let alone how to rank these shows among the rest of Phish’s decorated history at MSG. So with the band’s historic summer at the Garden in the rearview and another four Phish MSG shows squarely in our sights, we’re celebrating this year’s Phishmas by reliving the magic of the Dozen 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, it’ll be time to add four more shows to the list, rounding out 17 in ’17–the biggest and baddest year of MSG Phish we’ve ever seen. Merry Phishmas, kiddos…
NIGHT TWO: STRAWBERRY
(Review by Sam Berenson)
— Phish (@phish) July 22, 2017
Following a fiery opening night full of coconuts, chloroform, some wicker and some cork, Phish set the roof on fire for Night 2 of their 13-night Baker’s Dozen residency at Madison Square Garden in New York City. As promised, Phish distributed donuts to the first batch of lucky fans that entered the World’s Most Famous Arena. Saturday’s flavor: Strawberry.
Appropriately sticking to the night’s theme, Phish got the ball rolling by singing a beautiful a cappella rendition of the Beatles 1967 hit “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Yes, the song was one of the first discussed by fans galore after the bands daily donut announcement, but to open the show with the beauty in such fashion was a pleasantly delightful surprise. After making their way back from center stage, the band continued with the night’s theme launching into a straightforward “Halley’s Comet,” asking the question of the night, “How would you like to have your thick strawberry goo?”
“Strawberry Fields Forever”
Up next was a somewhat-rare unfinished “Moma Dance,” which headed deep into funk-heavy Type-2 territory, bringing fans back to the glorious extended jam that took Saratoga Performing Arts Center by surprise over the 4th of July weekend this past summer. Last night’s 17+ minute funk voyage marked the longest jam of the show, flawlessly segueing into the blissful waters of “Breath and Burning,” which Trey Anastasio penned on the beaches of Mexico following the bands inaugural Riviera Maya excursion in 2016. Following a badass rage with Page (McConnell) at the dying of the light, the band showed no signs of slowing down, hopping into a high-flying “Funky Bitch” that concluded a 3-song segue for the ages.
After a well-deserved moment to catch their breath, the band delivered a palatial “Mound,” with Mike Gordon leading the way through the old-school fan favorite off of Phish’s 1993 masterpiece Rift. Full of meaty Mike-bombs and exquisite guitar work by Anastasio, the room was furiously bouncing, as it was all made so crystal clear that the band would be firing off on all cylinders as they leaped into 2017’s first “Foam.” This marked only the second time the bubbly jam has been performed over the past four years. This segment of debatably the best first-set of tour continues our series entitled, Why You Really Just Have To Go To All The Shows.
A resplendent “Roggae” brought the circus of light to the Big Apple, before set one came to a halt with a tear-jerking “The Squirming Coil,” marked by Page McConnell’s rapturous piano solo finale.
Our four favorite Vermonters wasted no time, kicking it into high-gear with the summer’s second monster “Down With Disease.” The band dug deep into the pocket, as Jon Fishman led the way with a beat so steady that it left no room for fans to focus on anything but the tenacious jam vehicle that blasted off deep into outer space. Seemingly fitting, Chris Kuroda demonstrated his jedi skills behind the light rig, tilting the beast diagonally to resemble a space ship, taking Madison Square Garden on one of many mind-boggling rides that we will continue to see as Phish’s illustrious 13-night run keeps on rolling.
“Down With Disease”
Next up was a complete curveball, with a funkified Phish debut of the 1971 Shuggie Otis classic “Strawberry Letter 23.” If these donuts are not making you go nuts, take a deep breath, collect your thoughts, and get ready to savor the tantalizing flavors that Phish has promised to bring to the table throughout the entirety of The Baker’s Dozen. A standard but emphatic “Birds of a Feather” took flight before the band took McConnell’s “I Always Wanted It This Way” for its longest and deepest journey since the band debuted the Big Boat gem Fall 2016. Dancing on a 2001-esque jam, Anastasio hopped behind Fishman on the Marimba Lumina, and the pair eloquently hammered out a percussion breakdown, with Fishman busting out MORE COWBELL!
“Strawberry Letter 23”
A sweet and soft “All Of These Dreams” came out of the closet for the first time since 2010, showcasing what the future holds for bust-outs galore the remainder of this monumental three weeks in Phishtory. An oddly placed “Split Open and Melt” followed towards the end of the second set, before Phish candidly blew the roof off of the Garden, jumping back into “Down With Disease,” leaving the room absolutely stunned. The last fully executed “Down With Disease Reprise” was 12/11/97 in Rochester, NY, unless you would consider 2/16/03’s “DWD>Seven>DWD” from Las Vegas. Saturday night’s reprise was a mighty experience, either way. The Rolling Stones “Shine a Light” closed second set out, and the strawberry goo mudslide of a night ended in grandiose fashion.
Phish busted out their second three song encore of the tour, following last night’s fruit theme with a juicy cover of Frank Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia,” followed by a Talking Heads‘ “Cities” that made it clear Phish has indefinitely found themselves a city to live in. “My Sweet One” brought the first Saturday night of Phish’s 13-night residency to a close, with Trey pausing during the last line, giving fans over a minute to applaud and salute these four triumphant warriors.
It may still take some time to process this beauty, but just remember, everything’s right so just hold tight as we float away into the blimp a lot. Get ready for a red-velvety Night 3, and as always, NEVER MISS A SUNDAY SHOW!
Hot Takes From Night 2:
REPEAT WATCH: Still at zero, and seemingly headed deeper and deeper into Phish’s mondo catalogue.
DONUT FLAVOR: Strawberry (“Strawberry Fields Forever”, “Halley’s Comet”, Strawberry Letter 23”)
WE TIRED YET?: Are you kidding me?! This is just the beginning!!!
SETLIST: Phish | Baker’s Dozen Night 2 | Madison Square Garden | New York City, NY | 7/22/17
I: Strawberry Fields Forever, Halley’s Comet > The Moma Dance > Breath and Burning > Funky Bitch, Mound, Foam, Roggae, The Squirming Coil
II: Down with Disease, Strawberry Letter 23 > Birds of a Feather, I Always Wanted It This Way > All of These Dreams, Split Open and Melt > Down with Disease > Shine a Light
E: Peaches en Regalia > Cities, My Sweet One
 Phish debut; a cappella.
 Phish debut.
[Cover photo: Andrew Blackstein]
We’ll see you back here tomorrow, when we’ll revisit Baker’s Dozen Night 3, as we re-sample all the donuts on our way back to the Garden for New Year’s Run 2017-2018. For a complete 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” – 7/21/17