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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

MGS11-12: It's About To Get Steamy

   Considering a few of our more anxious contemporaries have used the Mayan calender to predict the end of the world in 2012 (OK, so it's not supposed to happen until next December) I find it fitting to round out 2011 - an incredible Phish year - with a four-night run in NYC at the legendary Madison Square Garden. Last year's run, which included two shows at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA (apparently because they couldn't book MSG for four nights last year), produced five of the better shows of 2010...and 2011 (the unprecedented 1/1 show). The hot dog fed everyone for the third - and most likely final - time as what seemed like hundreds of dancers from all over the world sang and grooved to Meatstick on stage. It was a pretty special run, capped off by an incredible NYE show and an unprecedented NYD show. What's the plan this year? Apparently - according to my rock solid sources - Phish is planning on doing something that has never been done at Unless they're talking about helping the Liberty win their first WNBA Championship, I like what I hear. Perhaps Steamed Hot Dogs??? Nah, I'm sure every one's had their fill of hot dogs. Whatever it is it'll blow our minds, that's for sure. What about the music? Hopefully the boys warm up a bit in VT or NYC after a 104-day break (almost twice as long as the break between Halloween and Worcester last year), but if last year's NYE Run set lists are any indication this run will be a barn burner, complete with song debuts. Let's review last year:

12/27/10 DCU Center, Worcester, MA

Set I: Sample (5:59), Funky Bitch (7:22), Cool It Down (8:45), Roggae (10:13), Heavy Things (6:16), What Things Seem (8:03), Roses (5:15) > It's Ice (7:11), Mountains in the Mist (6:51), Julius (9:40) (T = ~75 minutes)

Set II: Mike's (9:04) > Mound (5:50), Weekapaug (8:57), Farmhouse (6:19), Seven Below (9:23) > What's the Use? (5:53) > Twenty Years Later (6:51) , Velvet Sea (7:00), Possum (9:47) > Cavern (4:30) > Bowie (12:08) (T = ~86 minutes)

E: Loving Cup (6:31)

   The first set was a classic warm-up set. A Sample opener was followed by a standard Funky Bitch before the boys launched into Cool It Down for the first time since Albany the year before (54 shows). A long, sick Roggae and hoppy Heavy Things followed before the first set heated up a bit with the second What Things Seem ever (MG song) and the clear Set One highlight Roses > It's Ice. Mountains In The Mist and Julius closed out the set. The Second Set was like a different show as Phish had clearly warmed up.
   A pimp Mike's > the first Mound in 74 shows (Red Rocks '09). A somewhat standard but rockin' Weekapaug closed the 'Groove before Farmhouse provided the breather. The next 15 minutes was a personal highlight for me with a sick Seven Below > What's The Use? > Twenty years Later. TYL is great, but TYL really should be reserved to cap the longer jams. In other words, if Seven Below > WTU? is 40+ minutes, give me some TYL...if the jam is <20 minutes total, let's figure something else out. Or how about this next time: Mike's > Mound, Seven Below > WTU? > Hydrogen > Weekapuag. It blends beautifully, try it. Velvet Sea - which is practically the same style song as TYL - followed before the set rounded out with 26 minutes of standard Possum > Cavern > Bowie, although the Bowie was slightly long. Trey told us to take care of our boots instead of our shoes in Cavern. The standardization continued with a Loving Cup encore. The Second Set had it's moments, but all in all Phish used the DCU Center to get warmed up Night One. It worked.

12/28/10 DCU Center, Worcester, MA

Set I: KDF (10:05), My Mind's Got a Mind of its Own (2:49), Alaska (10:32), She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride (4:21), Wolfman's (10:49), Pigtail (6:46), Stash (13:40), Bouncin' (3:40) > Rift (6:19), STFTFP (7:12), Birdwatcher (2:38) (T = ~80 minutes)

Set II: Carini (8:51) > BDTNL (7:40) > BOTT (9:19) > LxL (8:53) > Wedge (6:36) > Frankie Says (5:25) > Albuquerque (4:40), Harry Hood (16:39) > Bug (9:56) (T = ~79 minutes)

E: Shine a Light (6:10)

   I love KDF and feel it's one of the best tunes to kick off any show. This 10-minute rocker was perfect and set the place on fire right off the bat. MMGAMOIO followed - the first in 56 shows (Albany '09) - and hasn't been played since. Next was Alaska, which featured Trey playing Sarah Palin saying "Alaska" in her high-pitched, backwoods, moronic tone through some recording device - it was fucking hilarious. "Alaska"..."Alaska"...everyone was cringing and laughing at the same time, like we were collectively watching a drunk chick fall down a set of stairs at a party on the jumbo-tron. Classic.  Bombshell time: She Caught The Katy And left Me A Mule To Ride!!! 323 shows since the last time played (7/21/98 Phoenix) and only the second time since my 10th birthday (7/30/88 in Telluride)! Some times those bust-outs are worth the price of admission alone. A nice long, funky Wolfman's followed before the debut of Pigtail. A large Stash was consumed before we Bounced right into Rift. STFTFP followed before Phish closed out the set with their collective debut of the A Capella Birdwatcher.
   The Second Set blasted off with almost an hour of Carini > BDTNL > BOTT > LxL > Wedge > Frankie Says > Albuquerque. BLAST OFF. BOTT contained Streets Of Cairo teases, Frankie Says ended an 82 show absence streak (6/16/09 St. Louis), and Albuquerque was beautifully played for the first time in 60 shows (11/21/09 Cincinnati). A classic Hood followed, complete with Spanish Harlem teases, which > Bug to close the set. The 'Stones cover Shine A Light, in which I have replaced the lyrics "Good Lord" and "they" in the chorus with "Kuroda" and "Phish", respectively, encored to close out the Worcester section of the 2010 NYE Run and as usual, it didn't disappoint... entirely. I'm not saying the Worcester shows were weak by any stretch, but they were relative to old school Worcester shows. Either way it was a great way to kick off the run as the boys prepared for mayhem in Gotham City.
12/30/2010 Madison Square Garden, New York City

Set I: Cities (5:50), Chalkdust Torture (6:32), Gumbo (4:47) > Quinn the Eskimo (4:25), Halley's Comet (6:11) > Camel Walk (4:51), Maze (11:31), Driver (4:12), Bathtub Gin (12:35), Fat Man in the Bathtub (5:32), Timber (Jerry) (5:55) > Golgi Apparatus (4:43), Character Zero (7:29) (T =~85 minutes)

Set II: Tweezer (18:48) > Light (9:33) > Theme From the Bottom (7:23) > My Friend, My Friend (5:40) > Axilla (3:22), Fluffhead (14:09), Boogie On Reggae Woman (5:20) > 2001 (6:57) > Suzy Greenberg (7:26) (T = ~78)

Encore: Run Like an Antelope (10:47) > TweepriZe (3:44)

   The first night in MSG set off immediately with the expected Cities, and this version made it clear that Phish intended to shake frames. Chalkdust followed, possibly a nod to those in the audience who had just finished a semester. We found plenty of time to stash the Gumbo, which went right > Quinn. Everything was pretty standard and on the short end, but nothing lacked on the rock or roll end. Then things got a bit out of control. Halley's > Camel Walk, which was so bomb that the PA system couldn't handle it. A long, sick, dark Maze followed then Driver, which hadn't been played since the previous NYE Run (Miami 12/29/09, 49 shows). The next 30 minutes burned the fucking place to..the...ground. A sick Gin started things off before the kept the tub theme going with Fat Man In The Bathtub, only the second time played ever (Halloween '10). The always bomb Timber rolled on us right > Golgi before Character Zero rounded out the set.
   The Second Set took no prisoners right off the bat as the boys launched into a segue for the ages that began with what might have been the longest Tweezer of the year or since at nearly 19 minutes! Tweezer > a sick Light > THE Theme From The Bottom > into a My Friend My Friend that cut us up (no "myfe" ending) > a witch-out-the-ditch Axilla that had the place on edge. Think about it: Those are four serious tunes to segue through. And they took almost 45 minutes. DAMN. Fluffhead, an obvious phan phavorite, but a somewhat long an overplayed song (despite many Fluffhead-free years) followed. Don't get me wrong, Fluffhead is a classic, but you know what I mean. Phish has several "suites" (YEM, Fluffhead, Hood, Slave, Guyute, TTE etc.), and I love them all. But if you're particularly tired of one...OK, if it's to the point where you can't fucking stand it...then they can be difficult to deal with, if not for anything else because you're in it for 15+ minutes. That might be where Fluffhead is for some people...just saying. It was still great and was followed by a sick segue to round out the show with a monster Boogie On > a too-short but still groovy 2001 > that bitch Suzy Greenberg...that's a classic "Yeah...ehh...meh" segue, but a rager no less. The encore featured a decent Antelope which > in the inevitable TweepriZe to close out Night One at MSG. We were hunkered down and ready to take in the next few nights...with a few chuckles about the absence of any modern era banners hanging from Madison Square Garden to pass the time. (By the way, the real Garden was Boston, don't get confused. When you refer to "The Garden" you're talking about Boston...I don't care what anyone outside of NE you call MSG what it is: The Madison Square Garden. If you need a history lesson, I'll be happy to meet you in the MSG halls for a quick tutorial.)

12/31/11 Madison Square Garden, New York City

Set I: Punch You In the Eye (8:34) > AC/DC Bag (6:26) > The Moma Dance (6:40) > Scent of a Mule (8:38), Burn That Bridge (6:55), Weigh (5:13) > Ocelot (8:37), Beauty of My Dreams (3:32), Gone (5:43), Rock and Roll (8:15) (T = ~70)

Set II: Wilson (4:46) > 46 Days (7:27), Sand (10:23), NICU (5:16) > DWD (10:02) > Ghost (13:48), YEM > Manteca > YEM (17:55 total) (T = ~70)

Set E: Meatstick (18:21), Auld Lang Syne (1:12), After Midnight (6:40), BDTNL (6:58) > Piper (5:01) > Free (7:16), Waste (5:21) > Slave to the Traffic Light (10:50), Grind (2:40) (T = ~64)

Encore: First Tube (8:37)

   Like I've said many times in the past PYITE is the jump-off. I challenge you to find a shitty show initiated by PYITE. PYITE > AC/DC (uh oh...out of order Gamehenge...jk) > Moma Dance > Scent of a Mule. Now that's how you start a fucking show! 30 minutes of heat to warm the place up immediately. The debut of Burn That Bridge followed before the boys busted out the first Weigh since Portland (11/29/09 56 shows)...Weigh...what a fucking treat. Weight > Ocelot, which contained Auld Lang Syne teases. Beauty Of My Dreams - the first in 133 shows (7/22/03 Deer Creek) - followed and was quite the XMas/Hanukkah gift. Another drought came to an end with the second Gone ever and first since 12/30/09 (Miami 49 shows). A rare set-closing R 'n' R ended the set as the atmosphere in MSG was reaching epic proportions.
   Wilson kicked off the Second Set and blasted right > 46 Sand...jesus. This was going to be ugly...and I'm coining "Ugly" as a positive adjective. NICU with more Lang > a ridiculous DWD > an even more ridiculous Ghost. 30 more minutes of MAYHEM. Looked like my first NYE in four attempts was going to live up to expectations, which is saying a lot considering Phish's NYE phishtory. It only got better: YEM > Manteca > YEM to close out the Second Set. What the fuck??? 301 shows since the last Manteca!!! The Utica Manteca was only given tease status, so this Manteca, which continued in the YEM Vocal Jam, was the first since the pre-Halloween Vegas show in 1998!!! Dude, what were the guys planning for ball drop?
   Well, what they were planning was exactly what I could've hoped for missing so many prior NYE shows. THE HOT DOG!!! Oh, wait. OK, so the came out for the Third Set and blasted into Meatstick...uh oh. Meatstick was just fucking crazy, that's about all I can say. The boys left stage after roaring through Meatstick and kept the tune on loop...which was a mind-fuck in itself. As Meatstick rages but the boys were no where to be seen, dancers dressed in garb from around the globe filled the stage singing Meatstick in their respective languages!! WHAT?! Dude, there were like 100 people on stage from around the globe singing and dancing to Meatstick! WHERE THE FUCK WAS PHISH?!?! Yeah, they were boarding a hot dog, THE hot dog, which floated in the air above the crowd as Phish threw plastic hot dogs - that would end up on eBay for $100 - all over the crowd...fucking floor rats, you lucky pricks. This hot dog slowly floated below the rafters as Meatstick raged on loop as smoking hot faux Swedish chicks danced and sang on stage. EPIC. The show could've ended there, but it didn't. The boys launched into Auld Lang Syne after landing and then blasted into a most appropriate After Midnight. Absolutely crazy...we were dead center in the back with hands on heads and smiles you couldn't have shot off. I got my hot dog...I got my NYE moment. Now I can die. Things slowed down a bit because 1) the boys are old and 2) the previous mayhem would be tiring for anyone at any age. But that's not to say anything disappointed. BDTNL > Piper > Free. Waste > Slave followed (a possible nod to those trying to navigate the crazy Times Square area NYE streets after the show) before the boys capped it off with A Capella Grind. A rockin' First Tube closed out my first NYE show after touring since 1997, and I have to say it was one of the greatest Phish experiences of my life. Unbelievable song choices, space funk, mayhem, debuts, bust-outs, hot dogs, hot Swedes, NYC, NYE...shit, it was unbelievable. Now we had the unprecedented 1/1 show...shit show.

1/1/11 Madison Square Garden, New York City

Set I: My Soul (6:23), Tube (4:41) > Runaway Jim (7:33) > Foam (8:16), Guelah Papyrus (5:44) > Divided Sky (16:25), Round Room (4:31) > Walk Away (6:48) > Gotta Jibboo (10:13) > Reba (12:24), Walls of the Cave (13:31) (T = ~97!)

Set II: Crosseyed and Painless (12:29) > Twist (9:50) > Simple (11:45), Sneakin' Sally through the Alley (9:27) > Makisupa Policeman (8:15) > David Bowie (12:02) (T = ~65)

E: Fee (6:10), Frankenstein (5:20)

   Part of me almost says this show topped NYE. OK, not in antics, but possibly in music. My Soul - which hasn't been played since - opened the show and it was on. Tube > an incredibly short Runaway Jim > Foam. There's some classic Phish for you. The always spine-tingling Guelah Papyrus sailed us on the ocean of Osyrus right > The Divided Sky. There's some more classic Phish for you. A rare Round Room (only played five times, first in 140 shows - 7/13/03) followed the phishtory lesson which went > a SICK Walk Away > a groovy Gotta Jibboo > into a classic Reba sans whistling. The First Set closed out with my new favorite jump-off Walls Of The Cave. EPIC.
   The Second Set launched with Crosseyed which > a bomb Twist > a chest-thumping Simple. Skyballs and Saxscapers. They're everywhere in NYC. Salley was Caught Sneakin' Through The Alley behind MSG and we danced her to was sick...and went right > Makisupa complete with Trey's tongue-in-cheek references to smoking blunts and a kick-drum solo > Bowie. Insanity. Not a single song fell below 8 minutes, and nearly every song was 9:30+...a rarity theses days spanning an entire set. The boys encored with Fee, with Trey on the megaphone, and then rounded out 2010 with Frankenstein, complete with The Chairman on keytar. And so the year was finished - although it had technically just begun - and what a great year it was. Phish was reaching new jamming heights, they seemed full of life and having fun, and 2011 was full of high Phishspectations. The hot dog was revived and the boys were entering uncharted ground with an unprecedented 1/1 show. What would 2011 have in store? Well, we know since this review is from last year. Who knew a theremin would land in Page's yard and he would use it to take Phish to new levels. New levels like  we witnessed in Denver. New heights like we're about to witness in NYC this year. I'll see you there.

- Trigger Treinta Uno

Thanks to & LivePhish for the setlist help.