Wednesday 08/02/2017 by Icculus

MSG9 RECAP: STEEPED IN MAPLE

[We would like to thank Dr. Stephanie Jenkins, Ph.D., a professor of Phish, for this recap.]

Since the announcement of the Baker’s Dozen residency dates, Phish fans have speculated about ways the band might pay homage to the Grateful Dead during last night's August 1st show, which fell on Jerry Garcia’s 75th birthday. The revelation of Tuesday’s maple-flavored donut did not diminish fans’ hopes that their more than thirty-year wait for Phish’s next “Scarlet Begonias,” or debut of “Sugar Magnolia,” would come to an end. Some argued that the maple composition of Jerry’s Wolf guitar would elicit early 1970’s-inspired Dead covers. Rumors that Bob Weir was in the building also spread like wildfire before the show. Instead, with their ninth of thirteen shows at Madison Square Garden, Phish offered fans two Maple-themed debuts, an unprecedented "Steep" jam, and a comparatively mellow, yet crowd-pleasing, set list. Nine shows and 161 songs into the Baker’s Dozen, Phish continues its “no repeats” streak in a historic residency that has been un-jading vets one night at a time.

Photo © Stephen Olker
Photo © Stephen Olker

The band took the stage at 8:08pm, opening with Phish’s instrumental debut of “O Canada.” Lit with a bright white spotlight, Trey led the band through a powerful, distortion-filled rendition of the Canadian national anthem. Maybe I’m still riding the high of Sunday’s “Jimmies” show, but it’s hard to watch Trey’s “O Canada” guitar solo without recalling Jimi Hendrix’s August 1969 rebellious performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock. Was Tuesday evening’s opener Phish’s version of an oblique political protest? Maybe so, maybe not. One of my favorite aspects of this band is the undecidability of the meaning of their performances. Throughout the song, Kuroda joined the nod to our northern neighbors by lighting-up the venue’s red and white maple leaf Canadian flag, and immediately after the song, “Crowd Control” began. It was followed by the “maple steam” of “Sugar Shack.”

The first 2017 appearance of the Los Lobos cover “When the Circus Comes to Town” took the number four spot in the setlist. Despite the slower pace of the song, the energy that had been building over the previous eight shows was palpable in the building, with the audience roaring with the lyrics “never thought I would make it this far” and “burn this whole place down.” “Daniel Saw The Stone” picked up the pace a bit, and featured Trey’s trademark gleeful grin. Next came the first “Army of One” since the 2016 Halloween run in Las Vegas, followed by a standard “The Wedge.” An energetic, divided “Guelah Papyrus” sandwiched the third maple-themed song of the night: a brief Page solo performance of Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag.” The fan-favorite, “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters” preceded a short, but sweet, “Limb by Limb,” which featured the only jam of the first set. The James Gang single, “Walk Away,” served as a lively set closer.

Photo © Stephen Olker
Photo © Stephen Olker

While the first set did not feature any notable jams, it’s worth commenting on the dynamic vitality that exuded from the band and the audience during both sets. Upon entering the stage, all four band mates immediately settled into the comfortable, patient confidence of a band who no longer needs to show us why we came here (for 13 nights!). There’s a certain uncanniness that won’t translate to the webcast and audio recordings, even in Tuesday’s seemingly “warm-up” first set. Night by night, there has been a slow accumulation of details that, in other circumstances, might appear insignificant. While we are accustomed to intensely concentrated Phish music, memories, and friendships made over the course of a festival weekend, the allure of Phish-history-in-the-making these past several weeks at Madison Square Garden has been breathtaking. There is an affective and embodied understanding of the anticipated, but not yet solidified, impact of the Baker’s Dozen shows that creates a shared, joyful space of risk, freedom, and possibility. The distillation of this communal energy and space, what Michel Foucault describes as a “heterotopia,” explains the likely divided responses between phans who were in attendance and those who webcasted last night’s show. It has, after all, become clear after nine nights, that Phish owns MSG. What other band could not only change the venue’s water cap policy, but also have staff passing out free water (caps and all!) to fans as they enter the doors!?

The second set opened with a “Golden Age” that promised early on to develop into a layered, well-developed jam. Page leads the way through the age of miracles with a funky solo, before the band quiets to make room for a repetitive, spacey groove. Just as the jam enters into dreamy territory and crosses over the twenty-minute mark, the band transitions to “Leaves,” cutting short the potential of the jam. Fans of contemplative Phish will love the band’s second performance of “Leaves,” while others will consider it an energy killer. Either way, “Leaves” gave birth to “Swept Away>Steep,” which is all you really need to know; the last time these songs were performed was over five years ago, on July 8, 2012, at SPAC. The twelve minute “Steep,” which was the unexpected MVP of night nine, was glorious. It could easily have been mistaken for a "Tweezer" jam, and included a series of brown notes from Mike that retuned the audience’s souls. An abrupt transition lead to a combined twenty-five minute “46 Days > Piper,” which featured about three minutes of “Percussion Army,” or the drum/space-style improvisation with Trey on Marimba Lumina, and Mike and Page on percussion. (Thanks to my friend Yaron Marcus for properly naming this section, “Percussion Army,” at Dick’s 9/4/2016!) The “Piper” included at least three different themes, ranging from joyful to evil, and “46 Days” quotes from Trey near the end. A surprisingly dissonant “Possum” ended the second set, and the return of David Bowie’s “Rock 'n' Roll Suicide” as the encore concluded the show.

So you might be wondering, “should I listen to this show?” I’m of the opinion that, after this coming weekend, you should sit down and listen to all thirteen shows in a row, preferably with a good set of headphones. In 25 years we’ll all be buying commemorative Baker’s Dozen Box Sets and the chronological evolution is a significant element of the event. But, if you’re short on time, you can jump to “Steep> 46 Days> Piper.”

Photo © Stephen Olker
Photo © Stephen Olker

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Comments

, comment by ekstewie1441
ekstewie1441 On point review but real highlight is bustout of Foucault reference (first appearance on the Blog since 2014?! http://phish.net/blog/1409693578/on-the-philosophy-school-of-phish.html )
, comment by askesis
askesis @ekstewie1441 said:
On point review but real highlight is bustout of Foucault reference (first appearance on the Blog since 2014?! http://phish.net/blog/1409693578/on-the-philosophy-school-of-phish.html )
I never pass up an opportunity to cite Foucault.
, comment by pmc2kd
pmc2kd Is a Phish show at MSG some sort of reverse Panopticon (not the right phrase)? IDK I'm pretty far removed from being a scholar of Foucault, but have been thinking a lot about Foucault's criticism of the Panopticon lately.

We are certainly inclined to observe and normalize within the context of a Phish show/crowd, but at the same time everyone's pretty darn liberated. Our social quarantine at a Phish show actually seems to encourage our liberation from society?

Love the review. Gonna have to read some more. This is probably a dumb ill-informed comment.
, comment by askesis
askesis @pmc2kd Reverse panopticon comment is interesting! To answer your question re show as social quarantine: 1) Check out the "Of Other Spaces" article I linked to in recap on heterotopias. 2)There's a good argument to be made that show-going is a "practice of freedom," as discussed in Foucault's later works on ethics.

The discussion of the panopticon is from Foucault's text Discipline & Punish, which is a genealogy of disciplinary power (precursor to biopower). Contemporary Foucault scholars have updated Foucault's account of power to include tech developments, surveillance, etc. So think about tracking your steps dancing on your fit bit, phone tracking your location & text data, and webcast potentially broadcasting your behavior at a show. Colin Koopman has some helpful recent work on a concept he terms "infopower."
, comment by pmc2kd
pmc2kd @askesis said:
@pmc2kd Reverse panopticon comment is interesting! To answer your question re show as social quarantine: 1) Check out the "Of Other Spaces" article I linked to in recap on heterotopias. 2)There's a good argument to be made that show-going is a "practice of freedom," as discussed in Foucault's later works on ethics.

The discussion of the panopticon is from Foucault's text Discipline & Punish, which is a genealogy of disciplinary power (precursor to biopower). Contemporary Foucault scholars have updated Foucault's account of power to include tech developments, surveillance, etc. So think about tracking your steps dancing on your fit bit, phone tracking your location & text data, and webcast potentially broadcasting your behavior at a show. Colin Koopman has some helpful recent work on a concept he terms "infopower."
Thanks! Very interesting indeed, and I knew I was jumbling some things up... so much food for thought. Never would have thought Phish would be a jumping off point for me to dive back into Foucault. Glad we've got a community to foster this kind of exploration. Grateful for you taking the time to respond! (wish I could turn back the clock and take a course taught by you!)
, comment by askesis
askesis @pmc2kd Thank you! If you're interested, there's a variety of free public resources at philosophyschoolofphish.com
, comment by Yem2004
Yem2004 "Phish continues its “no repeats” streak in a historic residency that has been un-jading vets one night at a time." Made me chuckle. I think we are arguably seeing some of the most inspired Phish we've seen in a long time. And that quote does some it up nicely.

The transformation Phish has undergone since they returned in 2009 exemplifies why they are one of the greatest bands in rock history. This run has been incredible on so many levels.

It's also fair to say that there are few, if any, bands these days that could do this. It really says something about how special this band is. These last few shows should be interesting.
, comment by Piper72
Piper72 I feel smarter after reading this recap and comments, and hungry to listen (and hopefully watch)! I'm going to start my Baker's Dozen box set acquisition fund ASAP.
And, shout-out to second female recapper in that many weeks! Nice to hear from the phairer sex on these pages for a change.
, comment by SparkleHood
SparkleHood This is my first post to the Blog or Message board. I have been consuming all things BD including reviews. I am usually satisfied that the reviews and comments generally balance themselves out, representing the detailed insight of the old school veterans, the fun spirit of the newer fans, musicians who see Phish for the first time live and the class of "fan" i just call the "unappreciative, overly critical Generation Spoiled." From here I will call them Gen Spoiled (it looks like this group has mushroomed in the past few years but I'm not sure if actual age/generation leans toward younger or older)
I've often wondered how and why Phish Phans could focus exclusively on what Phish didn't do? When I first saw a Professor of Phish was the reviewer of the 8/1 show I was very happy. I attended the show, am named after Jerry, watched the Chicago Dead w/Trey and was ready for a deep, soulful assessment from someone who truly "gets IT" and all Phish provides (for me and my family .)
The review started off just that way. Some history and context. Then, Stephanie went in a direction that was contradicting then I thought really weird and even insulting to Phish.
Ok, here goes what upset me. She says the first set "lacked jams" but in the context of the 13 concerts something bigger was going on. I agree that something bigger is real and Phish OWNS the Garden, I thought Walk Away was really jammed out, Geulah a real treat and split by a Sugar song. OK, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Then, Stephanie asks a seriously weird question "some may wonder if this show is LISTENABLE?" What, I must have read this wrong. A Dr. of Phish would never raise a point that goes against the essence of seeing Phish Live. Each of us has our own experiences at shows driven largely bu our own unique experiences. We could be seeing them for the first time in years, perhaps due to economic situation, health issues, military service or just life getting in the way of seeing our favorite band. To that individual the show would not just be "listenable" but cherished as a wonderful life event. To make matters worse she gives her baseless opinion to just listen to a handful of 2nd set songs "if you are in a hurry." This smacked of Gen Spoiled. Strip Phish down to what suits You and tell the world about it. It's annoying when it's just a regular Phish fan. IS this what Stephanie teaches to her students? Take what you want, dispose of the rest, diminish the value of the piece of Art as a whole because it's ok if you have limited time! Oh my, this is making me shake as I write it. If this is what our college professors are teaching in colleges it makes sense Gen Spoiled continues to swell in ranks. I hope Phish didn't read this as I can only imagine they may be hurt by this. All Phish does is put on terrific performances and events for millions to enjoy. They deserve a whole lot more, especially from an"expert."
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Mike Gordon: August 13, 2017
4 days ago
The Pavilion at Montage Mountain

Set 1: Long Black Line, Whirlwind, Sugar Shack, Peel > Marissa > How Do I Know > Crazy Sometimes, Face[1], Victim 3D[1]

[1] With Greg Sanderson and Josh Schwartz on saxophones and Chris Brouwers on trumpet.

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