Sunday 12/29/2019 by phishnet

MSG 1 RECAP - A PROMISING START TO YEMSG 2019

[Recap is courtesy of user @bobbker, Bob Ker, (@Phish1999at2019 on Twitter). Please remember that recaps are written by VOLUNTEER FANS. Their views are entirely their own and are not necessarily shared by anyone who volunteers to work on Phish.net. There is no such thing as an "official" dot net recap of a show. -Ed.]


The little-loved sibling of the annual New Year’s run, Phish’s concerts on December 28 have historically offered sporadic highlights but rarely, if ever, have produced a classic. More often than not, the band uses the night to limber up after a dormant period, eschewing strong setlist construction in favor of running through songs seemingly intended to get their muscle memory going. The enthusiasm of the audience and energy in the room makes it a worthy date on the Phish calendar, but in the opening night of the New Year’s run, the crowd traditionally writes a check that the band puts a 24-hour hold on.

© Phish 2019 - Jake Silco
© Phish 2019 - Jake Silco

Nonetheless, there was hope that this year could be different, by virtue of a late-fall tour that saw them perform deeper into December than any tour since 1999. In a year that found them folding two albums of new material into their repertoire, there was cause to expect a looser, more prepared Phish at the outset of this year’s run.

After opening with a debut of another new song, the fairly lightweight “Evening Song”—a curious selection seemingly chosen for the ominous line, “approach the night with caution”—and an assured if standard “No Men in No Man’s Land,” Trey got down to the business. The band broke into “Down with Disease,” a song that has, impossibly, never been on December 28, and a visibly giddy Anatastasio powered his way through the song and into a potent jam that offered numerous peaks. Mike Gordon and Page McConnell passed descending lines back and forth between them while Anastasio soared atop, shedding any doubts that the band would replicate last year’s only-OK opening frame. They seemed to know it too, ending the song with a climax one might expect from a show closer.

They then offered another debut, a cover of the old country song “20-20 Vision” (penned by Joe Allison and Milton Estes). The lilting, circus-like bounce offered a brief detour between “Down with Disease” and a well-played “Ghost” that effortlessly cycled through melodies and textures. An impeccably placed “Gumbo” trailed in its wake, followed by “Rift” (the oldest original song of the night), a delightfully funky “Weigh,” and the rarity “Dog Faced Boy.” A by-the-books “Twenty Years Later” and a “Tube” that outperformed its six-minutes-and-change running time set up the triumphant closer “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.”

Let’s pause on “S.A.N.T.O.S.” to reflect on how improbable it is to witness some 20,000 people lose their minds to a song the band wrote in year 35—it’s akin to Rolling Stones fans in 1997 relishing Bridges to Babylon on par with Let it Bleed. This simply doesn’t happen with popular music. It’s an ethos that band carried into the second set, opening it with “Everything’s Right,” “Beneath a Sea of Stars Part 1,” and “Set Your Soul Free,” three songs written in the last two years.

© Phish 2019 - Jake Silco
© Phish 2019 - Jake Silco

Those aren’t my three favorite Phish songs, and they’re not yours either—but they might currently be the band’s, and it’s impossible to deny that when Phish plays all three consecutively in 2019, it’s because they’re feeling themselves and they’re in a mood to explore. And so they did, through a stretch of music that was often deeply psychedelic, contemplative, and unpredictable. The highlight for me, if not for the chompers, was “Beneath a Sea of Stars Part 1,” the Ghosts of the Forest song that allows Trey to explore a Pink Floyd-like headspace that he’s rarely ventured to since The Siket Disc. Yet for all of Trey’s magic, Jon Fishman was the star of the song, filling the Garden with evocative, jazz-influenced fills that could have gone on much longer. What a joy it is to witness the two of them in such musical conversation.

“Set Your Soul Free” picked up the tempo, painting the room in brighter colors, and beginning the more playful portion of the evening. An increasingly funky jam inspired Trey to break out the riff to the classic “On Broadway” (originally performed by the Drifters), which Page picked up and transformed it into a full-on funky “On Broadway” jam. (Was this a moment of spontaneous inspiration or something to keep in your back pocket for the run to come? Stay tuned...)

They went on to weave “Set Your Soul Free” with “Gotta Jibboo,” flitting back and forth between riffs of one another. I’m not as enamoured of their recent trend of dropping frequent reprises as some people are, but it’s generally a sign that they’re feeling frisky, which paid off later in the set. At first, “Free” felt like a strange second-set choice, and a sign they might be inching into an awkward “just the hits” fourth quarter that has plagued some shows in recent years. Instead, they threw a curveball, taking the song’s breakdown for a longer walk full of airy funk, rhythmic gymnastics, and startling climaxes. It immediately became the first must-hear “Free” in some time.

After a fiery 10-minute “Piper” that was heavy with strobe-flashing peaks, “Drowned” made a rare appearance. Shortly after Mike finished singing the Who classic, they took the jam into deeper waters, layering on the effects and emerging into a finale that prompted Fishman to break out into the lyrics of twice-played “Guy Forget.” Ceding the floor to Fishman, he then offered up his “Ass Handed.” At this point, however, they were having too much fun to let it stand there, breaking into a variation of “Chalk Dust Torture Reprise” that utilized the “Ass Handed” lyrics, band introductions, and the kind of general antics that you hope for at every show. By comparison, the remaining songs (“Character Zero,” “A Life Beyond the Dream,” and “Rocky Top”) felt anti-climatic.


The show came promoted as the 25th anniversary of their first MSG appearance, and in retrospect it seems like they made the early December tour in part to rise to this occasion. If milestone anniversaries are your thing, then this year’s YEMSG run offers more to choose from—it’s also the 25th anniversary of the original Hot Dog Night and the 20th anniversary of Big Cypress. One milestone that won’t get mentioned but feels notable is this: the band formed in 1983, and by the 1993 New Year’s run they hit a major breakthrough that shaped the years to come. The 3.0 era began in 2009, and now the same amount time has passed. It’s 2019, and the band’s improbable second life appears poised to hit a similar mark.

© Phish 2019 - Jake Silco
© Phish 2019 - Jake Silco

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Comments

, comment by experiencechuck
experiencechuck You listened with the same set of ears I did last night, funny when that happens! Totally agree with the assessment of the weaving reprises... Regardless if I’m itching for them to stay on one track and ride it deeper, I’m usually still happy to hear them having whatever fun they can that’s outside the box, and last night it just so happened to pay off really well.

And yes, sigh, my only gripe was the chomp chomp chomp during the more delicate parts of the second set. Ah well.
, comment by TwiceBitten
TwiceBitten This may have been the most micro-jammed show I’ve ever seen. Then again as my friend says “micro jams, what are those? Just jams but they’re shorter? Sounds like that sucks.” Loved the show last night myself...
, comment by Col_Radicones_Ascent
Col_Radicones_Ascent @experiencechuck said:
You listened with the same set of ears I did last night, funny when that happens! Totally agree with the assessment of the weaving reprises... Regardless if I’m itching for them to stay on one track and ride it deeper, I’m usually still happy to hear them having whatever fun they can that’s outside the box, and last night it just so happened to pay off really well.

And yes, sigh, my only gripe was the chomp chomp chomp during the more delicate parts of the second set. Ah well.
Ah it was maddening during BSOS!!!
, comment by Col_Radicones_Ascent
Col_Radicones_Ascent This review was spot on! Everything's Right Beneath The Sea of Stars, Set your Soul Free.
, comment by golgischlem
golgischlem I was not thrilled by setlist this morning (to say the least). But, I'm listening to second set now and it is a thing of beauty. Just dreamy playing all around.

Don't judge a book by its cover, people.
, comment by Slewfoot
Slewfoot A very fun show and a great review! I wholeheartedly agree with it. Can’t wait to see what happens with the rest of the run!
, comment by PhishyFlocker
PhishyFlocker Excellent review, this is exactly what I was thinking walking out!
, comment by mgolia6
mgolia6 Such a well written review. I was captivated by its depth and accessibility. I thought your assessment of the opening three songs of the second set was spot on, as well as your take on much of the show. The band used those songs as a launch pads to the nether regions and set the tone for the entire set. Beneath a Sea of Stars is quite beautiful and the delicate playful quality of the music and tone are certainly some of my favorites musical landscapes that this band explores.

The two debuts, I felt, were well placed, well played, and well received. The “approach the night with caution” had me laughing out loud. My wife was like, what does that mean...and I was like, exactly what you think it means. Phish, once again, making it feel like they were speaking to me (or you, or the gal or guy in the front or back row, on their couch, in their car) which further strengthens the argument of their ability to connect to anyone in the room, even through a webcast. I had many reasons to re-listen to this show and your review gave me a bunch more.
, comment by SolarGarlic505
SolarGarlic505 Well written review! My only disagreement with the author is on the statement 12/28 does typically not produce some gems. Look to 12/28/98 or 12/28/12 for some Grade A shows that were anything but warmups IMHO. Straight fire Phish.

That being said, solidly played show last night! Interesting setlist and some strange song placement, but it gelled and the band played quite well. Will it be considered a great 12/28? Time will tell I suppose . . . Looking forward to another coveted date tonight in 12/29! Be safe everyone!
, comment by whatstheuse324
whatstheuse324 12/28/12 was the real deal. Probably the best show of that run.
, comment by nicklb89
nicklb89 Greetings from the Dead & Co California run. Thanks for such an amazing review. So descriptive and well-written. Can't wait to listen to the show.
, comment by mgolia6
mgolia6 @whatstheuse324 said:
12/28/12 was the real deal. Probably the best show of that run.
I remember being on the floor, Page side close to the rail, as the lights dropped for this show and looking around thinking this floor is empty. Obviously it filled up though I think it took two or three songs to do so as the garden was in the midst of its renovations and what used to be familiar territory was now uncharted territory. It through many, including myself, for a loop.

Lil Drummer Boy teases abounded that evening.
, comment by yEEt_1331
yEEt_1331 Don't like micro-jams, the arguable trademark of this year? Give the 12/4/19 Runaway Jim a listen and your mind may be changed.
, comment by Bigriver
Bigriver What a great recap, thank you! I loved your pause on S.A.N.T.O.S. to appreciate the singular achievement of Phish over the past three decades. They never run out of imagination or creativity and that is something to behold. I’ll be there Monday night with pipe smoking and bells ringing! Thanks for setting the stage for me so artfully.
, comment by Phaultyphan
Phaultyphan Thanks for the great review! I’m looking forward to the rest of the nye run.
, comment by s1177375
s1177375 Great review. . .i prefer stream of consciousness nonsense about what the reviewer did or feels that night but i love your history lesson
, comment by ColonelFichter
ColonelFichter GREAT recap of the sets! I fully agree about them feeling loose and frisky when starting a second set with such song selection. Tube 100% outperformed its 6+ minutes. Trey made sure NoMens>Disease, and Ghost were BIG TITTY first sets jams. The weigh was a litttle sloppy by Trey, but he rode the wah-pedal tone out and it was funky. Lastly, would like to appreciate how CLEAN that Rift was!!

Energy was very high last night. Thanks for the review, had a great time reading through it!
, comment by JiminyCricket
JiminyCricket To this relatively recent fan's ears, they've been sounding very low energy to me lately; I'm actually wondering if there is something going on with them.
, comment by PhishinMose
PhishinMose I know Also Sprach Zarathustra is essentially 2001... why is it listed differently? This might be a dumb question that everyone else but me knows but I'm still trying to figure this out...
, comment by Phaultyphan
Phaultyphan @PhishinMose said:
I know Also Sprach Zarathustra is essentially 2001... why is it listed differently? This might be a dumb question that everyone else but me knows but I'm still trying to figure this out...
I had the same question recently and did some online research. If I remember correctly, also sprach is an older version, and then 2001 is a remake made later. I’m not sure if there are any differences between the songs.
, comment by lysergic
lysergic I love the perspective offered in this review. Thanks.
, comment by Johnny_B
Johnny_B @PhishinMose said:
I know Also Sprach Zarathustra is essentially 2001... why is it listed differently? This might be a dumb question that everyone else but me knows but I'm still trying to figure this out...
2001 is a setlist abbreviation for Also Sprach Zarathustra, like YEM for You Enjoy Myself or DWD for Down With Disease.
, comment by unoclay
unoclay it is insane that the setlist doesnt even mention Guy Forget, played or quoted or whatever.
, comment by Kgonephishin
Kgonephishin Show as great, loved it, 2nd set had nice flow, can't wait to listen to the whole run over again.
, comment by BK237
BK237 The Black Sabbath smoke monster hidden in the depths of Drowned made me think of the Island Twist. I feel like the reviews of this show kinda blacked out their memory of this section (and I can understand why). Heavyweight level dark shit.

That Piper beforehand goes to 11
, comment by CTrygg
CTrygg @PhishinMose said:
I know Also Sprach Zarathustra is essentially 2001... why is it listed differently? This might be a dumb question that everyone else but me knows but I'm still trying to figure this out...
It's the "2001: A Space Odyssey" (Stanley Kubrick) theme song remade in 1968 by Alex North, but they jam on the version by Eumir Deodato de Almeida. The real name of this song is "Also Sprach Zarathustra" composed in 1896 by Richard Strauss
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