In just 3 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: 3 shows left–an “ordinary” weekend run that was all but certain to be anything but ordinary. 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 long since been out: something very special was happening at The Garden.
Each successive show in the last weekend of the Baker’s Dozen felt like the toughest ticket we’d ever seen. Hundreds and hundreds of frantic fingers orbited The Garden’s surrounding city blocks. Everyone had at least one friend who needed a ticket. Even the most experienced and determined fans–fans who never have nor would ever dream of getting shut out of any show, let along these shows—were crying out for extras to no avail. Cash or Trade was a wasteland of ISOs with not a single FS in sight. StubHub had 300-level seats going for upwards of $400 apiece before showtime. At the end of each day, hundreds of people were shut out each night. The demand for these shows had reached unprecedented heights…
But for those who did make it in on that last weekend, it only made the shows that much sweeter. From the moment you walked through the Garden turnstiles, it was clear you were walking into a historic weekend of Phish. We had already done 10 nights of donuts–we knew what was at stake on these last three evenings. Despite a shorter list of songs still remaining, the Baker’s Dozen had taught us to expect the unexpected, and prepare for those expectations to be exceeded either way. As we wind down our 13 Days of Phishmas 2017, join us in reliving the culmination the greatest Phish run there’s ever been. Merry Phishmas to all!
NIGHT 11: Lemon
Review by Andrew O’Brien
— Phish (@phish) August 4, 2017
On Friday night, Phish began their final mini-“run” of the Baker’s Dozen with a “Lemon”-flavored performance. But although the official theme of the day may have been “Lemon,” in reality the word of the night was weird. With two more nights to go and a shrinking list of songs to work off, Phish turned in a fantastic start-to-finish show that resided virtually entirely in entrancingly dark, evil space, both musically and thematically.
The band started things off with yet another cover debut: a rendition of eerie post-mortem lament, “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.” The ghostly late-20’s Blind Lemon Jefferson number has hovered around some of the best live concerts going since its creation–including covers by Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Mike Bloomfield, Lou Reed, and even The Grateful Dead [whose 7/30/66 rendition, dubbed “One Kind Favor,” was immortalized on The Golden Road (1965-1973)]. The well-executed cover served to firmly establish both the evening’s “Lemon” theme and the ominous atmosphere that permeated the entire performance.
Watch Phish’s cover of “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” below via LivePhish:
“Punch You In The Eye” got the call next, getting the Phish started in earnest and spiking the energy in the packed-to-capacity arena despite some missteps from Trey Anastasio on the song’s arpeggiated “Landlady” bridge. “Party Time” came next, as Page McConnell powered the song to a fierce Type I peak for an amazing first set rendition of the Jon Fishman original. The “Party Time” also began to establish the final overarching theme of the evening, a theme that’s held true throughout the run but felt especially noteworthy last night: Chris Kuroda is a damn wizard, and this light rig is some seriously next-level shit. And somewhere along the way this run, they changed the lights, moved sirens up. They did do that, right? I’m not just crazy after 11 nights, right? Right?! After a second show in 218, behind the stage, right up in that beautiful beast’s grille, this fan is beyond sold. Hold on to this one, CK5. She’s a keeper.
The unhinged madness got stranger still as a particularly maniacal “Big Black Furry Creature From Mars” followed, before a well-received “Dinner And A Movie” was served for the first time since Northerly Island 2013. With the band tweeting prior to the performance that the entire weekend was completely sold out with no re-releases coming, the 164-show bust-out felt like a sly nod to all those who will inevitably be making other plans when they’re left on the block tonight and tomorrow.
Speaking of “left on the block,” “Ocelot,” slouched through The Garden next, as the band built its plodding groove to a high-flying peak. Page took the reins on the “Poor Heart” that came next, pushing the bluegrass ditty to its limits with incredible work on the ivories. “Winterqueen” followed, with its “Prince of Music on guitar” line receiving appreciative cheers from the audience. While always a slower, simpler tune during its composed section, “Winterqueen” began to resound and fill the space inside the arena, with more prime Page leading the way and several more “whoa” moments courtesy of the man behind the light board.
Jimi Hendrix‘s “Bold as Love” was powerful and celebratory as always, appearing days after many fans predicted it would on “Jimmies” night (where the Phish debut of “The Wind Cries Mary” held down the “Jimi-” end of the “Jimmies” bargain). Finally, Mike Gordon and Fishman powered the band into an appropriately explosive “First Tube” set closer, launching the rocker toward multiple towering white-light peaks. Trey was the star of the show on this one, emphatically bouncing to his left into “rocker pose” with each guitar hit during the song’s final buildup. Dancing, bobbing, weaving, and grinning from ear to ear, Anastasio was visibly and infectiously having so much fun, holding 20K fans in the palm of his hand. Trey loves the Baker’s Dozen–and in case you were wondering, Red, we whole-heartedly agree.
With the funk already firmly established in set one, “No Men In No Man’s Land” felt like a perfect call to start “Lemon” night set two–after all, I doubt we’ve ever collectively been more “happy to be here.” The Big Boat jam vehicle was delivered in fine form, as a fantastic vamping guitar jam (and still more “did you see that?!” lights from Kuroda) led into still more dark, bass-heavy boils.
Watch Phish’s set-opening “No Men In No Man’s Land” below via LivePhish:
After a time, a pretty, faraway breeze swept in, and Fishman began to play a rattling drum pattern that sounded like…no..it can’t be…it is! Phish is playing Radiohead! One of the worldwide alt-rock heavy hitters’ most celebrated songs, Kid A opening track “Everything In Its Right Place”, is a staple at Radiohead’s live shows, and the crowd erupted with approval at its unlikely appearance during a Phish show as the song’s “Yesterday I woke up sucking on a lemon” refrain echoed through the world’s most famous arena. Trey took great joy in playing with his Kaoss Pad effects processor throughout the song, virtually ignoring his guitar to help add surreal, haunting sonic texture to the cover.
Phish’s “Everything In Its Right Place” marked the first time that a Radiohead tune has been covered by Phish, but it’s certainly not the first time we’ve heard the two mentioned in the same breath. Last Fall, fans of both bands were excited to see Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien at Phish’s Vegas run–after which he, Mike and Trey appropriately nerd-ed out together. Adorable. In addition, as Mike Gordon had explained late last year in Phish’s full-band feature interview in Rolling Stone, “When I’m really liking it, it doesn’t feel like a jam band – it feels like Radiohead, meditative and creative.” On Friday night at the Garden, you can be sure that Mike Gordon was really, really “liking it.”
Watch fan-shot footage of Phish’s cover of Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place” below, via William Corcoran:
Following “Everything In Its Right Place,” Trey pulled the band back from outer space with “What’s The Use?,” the closest thing Phish has to an answer to Radiohead in their extensive catalogue. As always, the song was an emotional powerhouse, flowing from near-silent delicate musical romancing to grinding, mechanical gears, to towering rock peaks with endless beauty and grace.
The rest of the set finished in supremely strong fashion, with notes of Radiohead-inflected, Kaoss Pad-assisted weirdness peppered in throughout. “Scents and Subtle Sounds” made its second appearance of the summer out of the mist of WTU?, stretching out into a big, gritty, sexy jam (with “sucking on a lemon” vocal ad-libs replacing Fishman’s “colors in the void” refrain) before returning to “No Men In No Man’s Land” for a truly impressive climax. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better, more powerful, soul-wrenching peak than the “No Men” “reprise.” Listen to this one at all costs. Listen to this whole set at all costs. Hell, listen to the who damn run at all costs. But definitely, without a doubt, listen to this “Scents and Subtle Sounds”.
Watch pro-shot footage of the “Scents and Subtle Sounds” from Lemon night below via LivePhish:
The “Scents”/”No Man’s” jam climax eventually gave way to “Prince Caspian,” the whole arena singing along for yet another big, emotional ride. The final, biggest peak built methodically, its tension rocketing to a glorious release with masterful control and patience. Finally, with time for one more big song to close the set, Fluff finally made his hotly anticipated trip to New York. “Fluffhead,” as always, was the perfect exclamation point on an uniquely incredible set of live Phish, taking on the evening’s ominous tone with more Kaoss pad work from Trey and “Everything In Its Right Place” vocal quotes from Fish.
When the band returned to the stage for the encore, Page grabbed his keytar–evoking flashbacks to the incredible “Jam-Filled” Tuesday performance on Night 4. As expected, the keytar’s cameo signaled “Frankenstein,” and the fan-favorite encore mainstay continued to carry the surreal, echoing Radiohead-type sound into the mix, making for a particularly memorable version of the tune.
The fact that Phish continues to one-up themselves this deep into the run is legitimately stunning. Just when you think you’ve seen them do it all, Trey, Mike, Fish and Page throw you a curveball of a show like this, and bring an entire arena to its knees. Two more nights to go. The long alluded-to “Boston Cream” show on the docket for Saturday night. Baker’s Dozen. Home stretch. Let’s party…
You can check out a full gallery of photos from Lemon night below courtesy of Andrew Blackstein.
Hot Takes From Night 11:
Repeat Watch: No Repeats. No Prisoners.
Today’s Donut: “Lemon” [“See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” (by Blind Lemon Jefferson); “Everything In Its Right Place” (“Yesterday i woke up sucking on a lemon”)]
We Tired Yet?: Remember sleep? I don’t. Maybe I just don’t need it anymore…Baker’s Dozen Phish is better for your mind, body, and soul than R&R could ever hope to be.
SETLIST: Phish | Baker’s Dozen Night 11 | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 8/4/17
SET 1: See That My Grave Is Kept Clean, Punch You In the Eye > Party Time, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Dinner and a Movie, Ocelot, Poor Heart, Winterqueen, Bold As Love, First Tube
SET 2: Dem Bones, No Men In No Man’s Land > Everything In Its Right Place, What’s the Use? > Scents and Subtle Sounds > Prince Caspian > Fluffhead
 Phish debut.
 No intro.
 Page on keytar
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
- Night 11 – “Lemon” – 8/4/17
[Cover photo via LivePhish]