In just 9 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, which 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’ve decided to celebrate 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, 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. Merry Phishmas, kiddos…
NIGHT 5: Powdered
(Review by Gideon Plotnicki)
— Phish (@phish) July 26, 2017
As Phish took center stage on Wednesday night—the fifth night of their exciting Baker’s Dozen residency at Madison Square Garden—hardcore fans of the band were, for perhaps the first time during this run, genuinely perplexed. The first four nights of Baker’s Dozen featured fairly obvious themes: “Coconut,” “Strawberry,” “Red Velvet,” and “Jam-Filled.” In comparison, night five’s “Powdered” theme had a lot of people scratching their heads, especially after night four’s instant-classic “Jam-Filled” affair. Of course, Phish always has some tricks up their sleeves, and they did not disappoint on Wednesday night, opening and closing the show with theme-specific covers while delivering plenty of loose “powder” references throughout the show. However, fans will not remember this show for its themed references; This show will be remembered for its insane six-song second set filled with fan-favorites rarities, heaping helpings of improvisation, and one of the biggest bust-outs in Phish history, taboot. It turns out that those powdered donuts were filled with jam after all…
Phish opened the show with an out-of-left-field cover: “Winter White Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes. The song, which appears on Fleet Foxes’s 2008 self-titled debut album, was delivered as an a capella number, performed beautifully with gorgeous four-part harmonies. This song answered a lot of questions about the night’s “Powdered” theme, as the “Winter White” snow reference showed that the theme would be treated differently than the preceding nights at the Baker’s Dozen. The previous four themes had been treated almost like a keyword, with song titles, band names, or jams directly stating that day’s theme. For “Powdered” night, the band would focus on references to powders, but not necessarily use the word itself.
After returning to their normal spots on the stage, the band started up the first “Cars Trucks Buses” of 2017, and only the second version of the song since 2013. Bouncing blues cover, “My Soul,” followed, which featured a nice organ solo from Page McConnell before guitarist Trey Anastasio pushed things into another gear for the raging peak of the short type I jam. Phish then trotted out Ween‘s “Roses Are Free”, a fun version that was decidedly not filled with jam. Phish moved from “Roses” into “The Very Long Fuse,” only the third performance of the blissful and ominous favorite from The Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. In keeping with the evening’s theme, “The Very Long Fuse” features a “gun powder” reference in its opening narration. The band then churned out standard versions of “Gumbo” and “Yarmouth Road” before starting up the Round Room rarity, “Pebbles And Marbles.”
“Pebbles And Marbles” is arguably the band’s best composition from the 2002–2004 era known as 2.0; surprisingly, it has only been performed nineteen times (including the Baker’s Dozen version) since its debut back in 2003. It hadn’t appeared on a setlist in over one hundred shows, dating back to August 3rd, 2014. Phish seemed to struggle somewhat with the song’s composed section, yet all was forgiven when they launched into a concise, blissful jam. The band had a similarly rough time with “Farmhouse,” with Anastasio missing several notes and lyrics before making it up to fans with a short-but-sweet piece of improvisation.
When Phish kicked off “Tube”, fans were expecting the standard version that has become so familiar in recent years. Phish fans love “Tube,” but it’s become somewhat of a disappointment in 3.0, as the speed-funk blues-banger isn’t typically used as a launchpad for improvisation. However, the Baker’s Dozen has been anything but typical, and Phish ran with that vibe, stretching “Tube” out past fourteen minutes, marking the longest version in the modern era. The jam itself was electrifying, as McConnell laid down some synth elements while the band created some atmospheric funk reminiscent of “2001.” The band included some teases of “The Very Long Fuse,” before moving into a Latin-style rhythm. Anastasio took the lead and transformed the jam into a fusion of hard rock and power funk, crafting a euphoric ending to the jam, which Phish fans have been waiting for over the past eight years. After some ups and downs in the first set, this very long “Tube” was the perfect way to bring the opening frame to a close.
— DidTheyJamOutTube? (@TubeJamUpdate) July 27, 2017
Phish emerged for set two and quickly started up the sinister “Carini.” They launched into a triumphant and lengthy section of improvisation, which featured lots of psych-rock guitar stabs from Anastasio. Lighting designer Chris Kuroda used his new moving light rig to full effect during “Carini,” making the lights seemingly float around the stage with red and blue flashes that were reminiscent of UFOs. The band responded by linking up for a blissful ambient jam, featuring a sci-fi bass effect from Mike Gordon that perfectly matched Kuroda’s lights. The band included several teases of “Pebbles And Marbles,” before drummer Jon Fishman started playing the beat for “Mr. Completely.” Eventually, the whole band caught on, and they segued into the Trey Anastasio Band favorite, which was performed last night by Phish for only the third time ever (following a 20+ minute version during Baker’s Dozen warmups in Pittsburgh on 7/19/17). “Mr. Completely” was huge, and showcased the variety with which Phish can rely on during their ecclectic styles of improvisation. The jam featured elements of rock, clavinet-based funk, the band’s trademark “plinko” style, and a transcendent peak with raging guitar and some deep and dirty bass bombs.
When things seemed like they couldn’t get any crazier, Anastasio started up the familiar guitar chords of Prince‘s “1999”. Needless to say, after a 524 show layoff since the band’s one-and-only time performing the song—at MSG on New Year’s Eve 1998—the audience completely erupted. Kuroda bathed the band and crowd in purple lights as the band took “1999” and turned it on its head, adding an unreal ten-minute jam following the main portion of the song. The “1999” jam had an ambient, driven type II build, which the band harnessed and unleashed with multiple, piercing peaks, complete with bright white light (…and the entire audience achieving enlightenment… Maybe that was just me). This was easily one of the biggest moments of the run so far, as the band evoked explosions of energy from the audience again and again with this standout moment of improvisation.
Watch some fan-shot footage of the “1999” bust-out below via Samantha Marusak:
Towards the end of the “1999” jam, Fishman brought the “Mr. Completely” drum part back into the mix, seemingly trying to get the band to segue back into the song, but Anastasio had other plans, as he moved into “Steam.” “Steam” continued the band’s focus on ambient, sci-fi themes, with plenty of dark rock thrown into the mix. Phish segued “Steam” into Led Zeppelin‘s “No Quarter,” and the audience once again exploded with excitement. While this version didn’t feature any improvisation, it acted as the landing pad after almost an hour of non-stop action. Both “Steam” and “No Quarter” make reference to “snow,” bringing back the night’s “Powdered” theme.
Watch video of “Mr. Completely” from Baker’s Dozen Night 5 below courtesy of LazyLightning55a:
After finishing up the song, the band took a quick breather before starting “Character Zero.” While this rocker typically rages, it’s usually a short song with no true full-band improvisation. On this occasion, Phish threw the audience another curveball, stretching the song out to eleven minutes long and featuring plenty of fresh ideas. The band seemed to tease “Martian Monster,” and Fishman and McConnell dropped out at one point to allow Gordon and Anastasio to have a rare axe duel.
Watch fan-shot footage of the Character Zero Trey/Mike face-off below:
Following a quick encore break, the band returned to the stage to rapturous applause, before they started up their first-ever version of Neil Young‘s “Powderfinger,” the evening’s final nod to the night’s “Powdered” theme–and one that many fans used their newly-earned Baker’s Dozen acumen to predict. While Anastasio’s vocals are not necessarily a perfect fit for Young’s nasally vocals, the delivery was heartfelt and the debut Phish rendition was ultimately solid.
On Powdered night, Phish continued to show what makes the Baker’s Dozen run so special. Five shows in, and the band has delivered multiple moments of standout improvisation each night. They have continued to bust out super-rarities each night, they have consistently included fan-favorites in each set, and they have performed several songs per night as part of the evening’s donut-flavored theme. Night 5 saw, the band stretch out “Tube” and “Character Zero”, break out rare originals like “Pebbles And Marbles” and “Cars Trucks Buses”, indulge a fan-favorite cover in “No Quarter”, and drop in one of the most surprising bust-outs in their history with “1999”, among copious amounts of incredible improv throughout the evening.
This is peak Phish, and we are all lucky to be experiencing it.
Check out a full gallery of photos from “Powdered” night 5 of the Baker’s Dozen below via Dave DeCrescente.
Hot Takes From Night 5:
REPEAT WATCH: None so far…based on the way they are playing, and the frequency with which they are delivering new originals, lengthy jams, and rare and out-of-left-field covers, it would be shocking if they started repeating songs.
TODAY’S DONUT: Powdered [“Winter White Hymnal,” “The Very Long Fuse,” “Steam,” “No Quarter,” “Powderfinger”]
WE TIRED YET?: We’ll be enjoying some rest & relaxation during the day off, but we are PUMPED for the weekend. Bring on more donuts!
SETLIST: Phish | Baker’s Dozen Night 5 | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 7/26/17
SET 1: White Winter Hymnal, Cars Trucks Buses, My Soul, Roses Are Free > The Very Long Fuse, Gumbo, Yarmouth Road, Pebbles and Marbles, Farmhouse, Tube
SET 2: Carini -> Mr. Completely > 1999 > Steam > No Quarter, Character Zero
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