As Phish’s 13-Night “Baker’s Dozen” run rolls on at Madison Square Garden, the question of what will be played–and what sort of outlandish covers will be busted out–has begun to embody the majority of the pre-show chatter each night outside of the World’s Most Famous Arena. At this point in the game, there is zero doubt in any fan’s mind that this is the pinnacle of Phish; an historic summer that will be discussed for years and decades to come. While Friday night’s “Double-Chocolate”-themed show (while still “miraculous” at times) may have showed a few signs of fatigue, the band came out in full force for Saturday’s “Cinnamon Glazed” gala and glazed on in dignified fashion. Mirroring the words and beautifully chaotic essence of Woodstock, an announcement rang over the PA throughout the arena pre-show; “WARNING, DO NOT EAT THE BROWN DONUTS!”
Although we all love our a cappella openers and having our four favorites huddled at the front of the stage, it was a pleasant surprise to see the band hold their positions on stage and jump straight into an enormous “Llama” opener, marking only the second Gamehendge bust-out of the tour. Before the bouncing arena could catch their breath, Trey Anastasio kicked things up a notch with the infamous “duhhhh duhhh, duhhh duhhh” guitar intro, continuing along the path to the land of Lizards with “Wilson,” which garnered some brief but interesting improv.
Watch the show-opening “Llama” below, courtesy of LivePhish:
Just as “Wilson” came to a halt, the band powered through a standard “Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan,” with Mike Gordon hammering away on his Modulus as the band patiently worked their way through what’s become a favored heavy hitter off of 2009’s Joy. With Gordon once again keeping things rolling and taking charge, the band hopped into a bubbly “Ya Mar”, telling everyone what “IT” is; this crazy show of life that we’ve all gotten the gracious invite to.
Next up was “Tela”–as if night 7 wasn’t already spoiled enough with first-set Gamehendge tunes. With Page McConnell leading the way, the wind from beyond the mountain swept across the Garden, and the second Saturday of Baker’s Dozen provided no time for “piss breaks” or chitter-chatter between jams.
As the beauteous closing lyrics rang throughout the arena, McConnell took a stand and started up the sample for “The Birds” from the Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House, making a statement that the boys from Vermont are here to attack, and there is absolutely no turning back. A quick run through “The Line” and “Water in the Sky” gave fans a brief moment to catch their breath, and out of nowhere “Vultures” came moving in from the depths of the Phish catalogue for the song’s first appearance of the year.
A blissful “Train Song” followed, with Phish showcasing their tear-jerking harmonies over the relative rarity, before effortlessly flowing into “Horn.” Finally, the band brought the first set to a close with a rare and thrilling cover of The Beatles‘ “I Am the Walrus,” making just its fourth-ever Phish appearance. As a beautiful Saturday first-set came to a close, it was hard to ignore a major theme of the set, ANIMALS! Whether Phish thinks we’re a bunch of animals for following this grandiose journey, or the City has turned into a zoo, this wild ride shows no signs of slowing down.
Phish returned from the break with a set-opening “Blaze On,” marking yet another 20+ minute jam that will go down one of the best versions to date. The band took their time to patiently navigate through an adventurous and groovy rendition of the song, reaching multiple fiery hot peaks and resoundingly claiming its crown as the jam of the night. Trey Anastasio let it all hang out as lighting designer Chris Kuroda continued to blow minds, tilting his moving light rig back and forth as Phish’s center of gravity tilted throughout the evening.
Watch the second set-opening “Blaze On” below, courtesy of LivePhish:
Next, Phish glazed on into a powerfully dark “Twenty Years Later,” allowing Jon Fishman to take the lead as he crashed on his cymbals before fizzling out into a bold and interestingly-placed set two “Alumni Blues”>”Letter to Jimmy Page”>”Alumni Blues.” With Trey belting out “I’m ALLLLLLRIGHT” as the band played follow the leader with “HE’S ALRIGHT,” Anastasio took an extended pause before the band brought the bouncy rager to a close.
For the remainder of the set, Phish delivered one of the most elegant one-two punch combos yet of their perfectly planned and completely insane 13-night run at the Garden. An immaculate “Meastick” brought any fan sitting to their feet, and the band took the jam out for a walk, with screeching guitar solos accompanied by McConnell’s synth-heavy licks, before dropping into a poignantly powerful “Dirt” that left this particular fan with tears on his cheeks. “Harry Hood” continued the blissful track, bringing another mondo second set of Baker’s Dozen to a close. After a continuous pattern of “Mountain Jam” teases and jams, it would have been a crime wrong to not include that during the intro to “Hood”–but Trey dropped in a bold tease of the Allman Brothers classic that had the sold-out arena howling at the top of their lungs.
For the encore, Phish turned to its second consecutive Neil Young cut in the encore slot, covering an appropriately-placed “Cinnamon Girl” for just the fourth time ever, and the first since 1997. The boys absolutely nailed it and continue to prove that there is nothing that can get in their way at this monumental moment in rock and roll history. If you are lucky enough and have a ticket in hand for the last six shows of Baker’s Dozen, tie your shoes up tight and get ready for what is sure to be an unimaginable peak of this golden age for Phish.
Repeat Watch: Still no repeats and by this point in the run I think we can all agree that there will be NO repeats over the remaining six shows. Every song is getting taken out for the ride of its life and this trend will surely continue.
Today’s Donut: Cinnamon Glazed [“Don’t eat the brown donuts” PSA announcement from Woodstock movie; “Cinnamon Girl”]
We Tired Yet?: It’s the second Sunday of the run, and although the back and legs may have some aches, the best of the best is still yet to come!
SETLIST: Phish | Baker’s Dozen Night 6 | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 7/29/17
SET 1: Llama, Wilson > Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan > Ya Mar, Tela, The Birds > The Line, Water in the Sky, Vultures, Train Song > Horn, I Am the Walrus
SET 2: Blaze On > Twenty Years Later > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues > Meatstick > Dirt > Harry Hood
ENCORE: Cinnamon Girl
[Cover photo via Dave DeCrescente]