Sunday 05/19/2013 by Icculus


IT can be good to take a break. You catch your breath, relax your limbs, clear your head... feed your soul. Five months into 2013, as we near July and Phish's impending Summer Tour, the highlights of their 2012 MSG New Year's run still sound fresh and fantastic, even if my $0.02 about them are not.

12/28/2012: The run opened with a first set that, on the whole, tended to exclude the possibility of disappointment. While the set concluded well with one of the finest versions of “Wolfman’s Brother” in recent memory, and “Tube” was tight, “Stash” had a jam segment that aimlessly meandered about. As you have likely heard, this show is all about the second set, which opened with a twenty minute “Tweezer” that featured “hose” in its most readicculus sense. The “Tweezer” jam, about nine minutes into the song, soared in a melodic, bewilderingly-gorgeous way, even as Trey began to call only the hettiest of whales in an atypically expert usage of his well-worn pitch-shifter. While the improvisation in the rest of the “Tweezer” ranged from hit to miss, it was mostly hit, particularly when Trey began a catchy theme that the band locked in on to bring things to a fierce peak. And I count myself among those fans who far prefer to see the band improvise and take serious risks, even if things don’t always gel, than perform yet another typically-straightforward-but-still-fun jam in [INSERT NAMES OF YOUR FAVORITE JAMMING TUNES HERE]. The rest of the second set was for the most part well played. Even the show-closing “GTBT “ was strong, though, and given this show’s demonstrable highlights, you should download it if you have yet to hear it. A portion of the proceeds from Live Phish support The Mockingbird Foundation, so please support this site by supporting Live Phish -- a win-win for both you and the Foundation!

12/29/2012: Unfortunately, this show was as weak as 12/28 was strong. (And it helps fortify the rule that to have “above average” shows, there must be an “average” that factors in “below average” shows, too.) “Reba” and “Gin” are certainly good in the first set, but not really “must-hear good,” unless like me you're obsessive and you must hear everything that Phish performs, of course. (I have listened to this "Gin" at least five times at this point, but it's still not a top version of the song, given the song's awe-inspiring history. See the jam chart for ideas if this version blows you away.) The power of these jams is what “average-great” Phish is all about, though. We are supposed to get jams like them at Phish shows. Phish is a great band. They perform great improvisation and wonderful music. “Par for the course” can be and is GREAT, particularly if, like me, you completely suck at golf. That said, if you're one of those fans who doesn't have time to hear everything except for the most thrilling of highlights, then skip the "Reba," but hear the "Gin," because this is still a "Gin" worth hearing, even if it's not a top 25 version.

The second set, like the first set, is as a whole not worth hearing again, even if its highlights (like the first set’s “Gin”) are worth multiple listens. It certainly doesn't suck, and it opens with a strong "Golden Age." (In my opinion, no Phish show in the history of the band has ever, truly “sucked,” despite what you may have heard. There are hundreds of shows I never need listen to—as a whole—again, but not one of them "sucks." And if you're thinking that Coventry's music "sucked," please reconsider.) Page and Mike and Fish are the real stars in the "Golden Age" opener, and it's a highlight for sure. Trey betrayed a lack of practice in “Waves,” his “looseness” detracting from the version as a whole, at least to careful (uptight?) listeners. But Trey is quite brilliant in “Fuckerpants" (check it out even if you're not a "Caspian" fan), and the show on the whole is well-played, arguably as consistent an effort overall as the impressive 12/28 show the night before. But with no significant highlights beyond the foregoing, this ain’t a show I intend to listen to again… unless, perhaps, one of you artfully flames the deafness clean out of me, igniting a spark to listen again.

12/30/2012: A good first set. (How many times have you said that about a first set?) “Divided Sky” and “Back on the Train” are wonderful songs and these versions do not disappoint. "Ocelot" is good, taboot. The set-closing “Antelope” is another short-but-strong version of this magnificent rock song. But this nevertheless isn't a set that inspires multiple listenings. The second set, on the other hand, is clearly a “well above average” set of Phish. “Down with Disease” and “Carini” are largely excellent. At one point in “Down with Disease,” I thought a segue into “Carini” was imminent, but it didn’t occur (“Carini” did follow “Twenty Years Later” a song later, though). Trey also began repeating a theme toward "DWD's" end that I found (and still find) a bit annoying, but whatever. The “Carini” in this set, as wild as it is, is a mixed bag. It's very improvisational, and while I think it's worth hearing for sure, some fans might find parts of it noisy, scrambled and directionless. Regardless, don't go into it expecting the greatest "Carini" ever. (There's a chart for those.)

The second set itself is a “highlight," though, given how effortlessly smooth it is. Trey is very soulful in his solo during “BDTNL" in particular, and the rest of the band plays exceptionally well, too, making this a stand-out version of the song. (Was Trey bromantically playing this version of “BDTNL” for Tom Marshall, who was likely in attendance? Do you care? No? Not that there is anything wrong with that?) This is not to say that the “BDTNL” was perfect, because it wasn’t. But then neither are lasting frendships. And while the “Slave” in this show is only “ok,” and therefore arguably below average, “Hood” is patient and wonderful, and easily above the norm for “Hood.” This show as a whole is therefore easily recommended, and you've probably already heard it... but please check it out if you haven't.

12/31/2012: (Click on this hyper-linked date to see the setlist and read a summary of the “gag” of this golf-themed New Year’s gig, which I have no comment on, except “FORE!”) None of the volunteers who run this site were sufficiently driven by this three set, obviously very enjoyable, night of Phish to review it on this blog... even those who attended the show. (This is the’s blog for f’s sake. What the Hell are you lazy people notpaid for!?!?) But in their/our defense, I suppose no one was inspired to review it at least in part because they didn't want to deal with the flames after calling the first set what it was: through the motions, at best. "Solid, I guess," said one, "Below average, even for a first set," said another, in an MSG bathroom line. "Garden Party" was an amusing opener and debut, to be sure, but it's not the sort of song you'd expect a rock band of Phish's stature to open with at MSG on New Year's Eve. (Then again, perhaps this is to Phish's credit...) Anyway, the "Mike's Groove," for example, is fine, and who doesn't enjoy a first set "Mike's Groove??" But Phish has usually played it with more intensity in the past than this version. The set was and is FAR from a despicable wookery, to be sure, though, if only given the “Character Zero” that closed the set quite well, no doubt entertaining the hundreds who heard it echoing off the walls of thoroughly-soiled bathrooms MSG-wide.

No one even offered to review Phish's 2012 New Year’s show as a "Guest Blogger" for (yes, we love guest bloggers!). Perhaps because they would have felt obligated to overrate the second set, as many before them have done, because IT IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN THE FIRST SET!!! Had they bothered to post a review, they might have felt an urge to say things they might later regret (after being flamed). Things like, “The ‘Ghost’ was very pleasant, but let’s face it, forgettably so. It was forgettably pleasant. And while ‘Piper’ is SIIIICK and SPECTACULAR for the most part, too, we all love these songs, and they are usually at least ‘solid,’ right? Yes, Page and Fish in particular are great in 'Piper' (Fish was tearing it up all night frankly), but if you’re impressed by these versions, then check out any ten versions on the jam charts of ‘Piper’ and ‘Ghost’ at random, and prepare to be blown away. And geesh a large part of the ‘Light’ in this second set is meh (average) at best, and even its tease of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ isn’t that great. Sure, the set ends with one of many fans' favorite Phish songs, ‘YEM,’ but this version seemed through-the-motions. Nothing worthy of giving one’s left nut to play, much less hear. But damn, this set was MUCH MUCH better than the first, even if it’s not worth a second listen.”

Indeed, if anyone had tried to review the music of Phish’s 2012 New Year’s Show on this blog, they may have chosen to focus on the third set, which is a BLAST to listen to, and I’m sure was a heck of a lot of fun to experience at MSG, surrounded by friends. This third set is among the many reasons I love Phish and try to see them whenever and wherever possible. Is it musically “above average” or “must hear”? Sortof, in part, I guess, maybe, but it’s extremely entertaining, what with its unique, golf-themed song choices after Phish ripped through “TweePrise” (arguably Phish's most popular song) to bring in the New Year. The “Party Time” and “Kung” third set openers are cool (“Kung” has a long spacey intro, taboot), and “Wedge” is the set’s musical highlight other than the “Sand,” because it has a two minute closing jam that is not a common feature of the song. A must hear for “Wedge” fans for sure. “Fly Like An Eagle” is awesome (a song I love, and I love that Fish used the ride cymbal so much, like in the original... though not enough..). And to close the set with an a cappella “Lawn Boy”!? Just a wonderful set! And then “Driver” and “Iron Man” encores, of course. Even if they weren't perfectly played, so what. They were entertaining and that was the point. FUN FUN FUN!! If someone left this show disappointed, that’s a shame. Even when the music is hit or miss, Phish almost always does SOMETHING to make you remember why it’s worth all the coin and energy to try to see them at every possible opportunity.

Summer Tour cannot come soon enough! And I sincerely hope that Phish opens with "Possum," and tears that filthy, ubiquitous, roadkill a new... "In A Hole." See you in Bangor! $0.02.

If you liked this blog post, one way you could "like" it is to make a donation to The Mockingbird Foundation, the sponsor of Support music education for children, and you just might change the world.


, comment by steamstash
steamstash Loved the read, and agree with you on just about every critical comment.
Thank you for an exceptionally pleasant few minutes of reminiscing.

Write on Sir!
, comment by westbrook
westbrook I think the 12/30/12 Slave is one of the better 3.0 versions. Certainly above average in my opinion.
, comment by spaced
spaced Always appreciate these recaps. I'm surprised you're not more positive about the 12/30 Carini though. That might be my favorite jam of the run, though the 12/28 Tweezer gives it some stiff competition.
, comment by spaced
spaced @westbrook said:
I think the 12/30/12 Slave is one of the better 3.0 versions. Certainly above average in my opinion.
Yeah, I agree. I don't think that second set has a weak link.
, comment by Spirit
Spirit i think that Light n4 s2 is probabally the worst phish song ive heard, live or otherwise, i dont know where trey was in that one.
, comment by dogogbyn
dogogbyn Thanks for this well written review. I'd add one thing: On 12/30 the Ya Mar, Horn > My Friend segment is well worth checking out. The band was clearly having fun while deep in the pocket.
, comment by AlbanyYEM
AlbanyYEM @Icculus

Can we get an old school, surgical review of the jams from Dick's maybe? I'd be very interested in getting your take on those and it might be kind of fun to do.

Anyway, the corner was turned at Dick's. While I applaud your even-keeled approach, I'd be lying if I said this New Year's run wasn't a bit of a let down. If they happened in the June segment of the tour, I'd be raving about it but given what just happened it seems to be a step backward. Probably my own fault for having my expectations set so high.

Certainly, 12/28 and 12/30 are above average shows, but 12/29 and 12/31 were just bad. Really bad. I guess I need to put things in perspective here and recognize that the Dick's run was a watershed moment in 3.0 phish history...but the question still remains: is the Dick's run the aberration or is the New Year's run the aberration? Can we expect the band to hit the commitment to jamming of Dick's at least somewhat regularly or is the New Year's run a more likely standard?

I'm really hoping that the truth is somewhere in the middle. That say, 12/29 and 8/31 represent the extremes of the spectrum, where the occasional (like twice a tour) 12/29 is followed by standardly strong shows like 12/28 with a few 8/31's (or 9/1+9/2) sprinkled in. The mere fact that they raised the bar to break through with such consistent, quality, and sustained jamming at Dick's means that they may just drop that at any show from now on. That's got me extremely excited and planning to hit more shows than I was ever able to before. The hard part is not expecting that to happen at every show. It does seem like every year in 3.0 was better than the last, so bring on 2013.
, comment by Brandonclick77
Brandonclick77 Carini is where it's at...
, comment by Mr_Incompletely
Mr_Incompletely I was livid when the wedge came on. THought it was out of place and cut off a potentially crunchy sand jam. THen I realized it was a golf set.
, comment by dick_tatertot
dick_tatertot @westbrook said:
I think the 12/30/12 Slave is one of the better 3.0 versions. Certainly above average in my opinion.
Holds up wonderfully on relisten. My favorite slave I've seen. The peak screams.
, comment by waxbanks
Regardless, don't go into it expecting the greatest "Carini" ever. (There's a chart for those.)
it would seem reasonable to never ever listen to any music expecting 'the greatest ____ ever,' ever. indeed, it anyone who listens to this music hoping to collect 'top' versions is causing unnecessary trouble for him/herself!
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks ...indeed the very idea of a 'standout' version of a song is (one might argue) only relevant to people who listen to so much phish that they don't wanna spend time on 'average' versions.

i wonder if the desire to 'fast-forward' young/new fans past the awkward adolescent stage of fandom -- where everything is The Best Ever OMG -- isn't counterproductive, especially now when you can instantly listen to any version of any song without waiting, without even literally fast-forwarding a tape...older fans love saying that things were in some ways better when you had to *wait* for your music, or make an effort to acquire it; but the same goes for familiarity and 'expertise' (whatever that means here). and jadedness, which definitely means something (bad).

the golden moment for me, as a fan, was that time when i was listening to all the phish i could, grateful for all of it, curious about every show. i cherry-picked which tapes to get, because tapes cost money, but it was all fantastic, because both familiar and new, and all of it was a blessing; you can't go back but why push further away from that? i think a *consumerist* attitude toward the music does that -- having music 'under your belt,' as if that had value except as a marker of how long you've been alive, which there are other ways of keeping track of, i think...

it irks me, somewhat, to hear the first set of NYE dismissed as 'going through the motions' -- that's not a bad thing! ask nomar garciaparra, right? the first set is part of the second set, which is part of the 3rd, part of the show, the Night. distinguished or not. and 'garden party' was a thing.

but it's not important. noobs: enjoy these shows!! they were performed competently by well-paid professionals who have children, and are (mostly) sober now, and don't take the same risks they took when they/we were young, but whose hard work on behalf of this band and the idea of it -- of us, right? -- is good and noble and can lift you up. i hope it does.
, comment by spaced
spaced @waxbanks

You make a very good point (er... several actually). But at the same time, I wonder if the work of keeping from a "consumerist" or dismissive attitude shouldn't be happening on the demand side rather than the supply side, so to speak.

In other words, those values are important, but so is discussion of honestly held opinions. It would be a shame if people were dissuaded from commenting/dissecting/obsessing just because they were bored or not otherwise enthusiastic about a performance and therefore worried about the effect they would be having on newer fans. (I don't think that's what you are suggesting necessarily, but still...)

A better way to say what I'm trying to say is that I think doing the work of holding on to that initial enthusiasm and putting critical opinions in proper perspective is best done primarily by those doing the reading, not those doing the writing. There is a certain type of fan who can't stomach negative assessments of Phish performances, because (I would guess) it genuinely and profoundly affects their enjoyment of the music. And that's a shame, because it is possible to gain value from those with "expertise" or whatever you want to call it without losing appreciation of how great garden-variety (heh) Phish is. Maybe that's wishful thinking, but I'd like to think it's true to a large extent.

Again, I don't think we are necessarily disagreeing, just wanted to point that out.
, comment by spaced
spaced Also, admittedly people being dissauded from commenting/dissecting/obsessing, as I put it, isn't an incredibly likely state of affairs, but I think the point still stands.
, comment by ProfJibboo
ProfJibboo That Twenty Years Later doesn't get enough love.

It fit in seemlessly between DWD and Carini and sounded like it belongs in the midst of an amazing second set. Thought the same thing on 9/2/11 when it was Piper > 20YL > Lizards but it got lost in conversation after that amazing Sand. But even after 9/2/11 - it was 12/30 that made me say that this song has real promise.
, comment by whatstheuse324
whatstheuse324 The BDTNL is played on 12/30 for Fishman's daughter's birthday, not Trey's bromance with Tom Marshal. They have done it the last three years on 12/30.
, comment by Icculus
Icculus Thanks so much everyone for your comments, they are greatly appreciated. Couple things:

(1) @ProfJibboo: I love 20 Years Later. Just because I don't mention something in my summary blurbs about these shows doesn't mean I disliked it. It does mean that I didn't think it was an especially noteworthy version, but in any event, I agree with you about it fitting "seamlessly between DWD and Carini..."

(2) @westbrook: It's very tough for me to rate one 3.0 Slave over another. They really all seem to be in the same ballpark, but I say this having never listened to all of them back to back... so perhaps I'd agree with you about 12/30 being above avg for 3.0. But I strongly stand by my comment that the 12/30 Slave is "ok." I love Slave and love to get it and loved to get it at the show (for those for whom it matters, I was fortunate enough to attend 12/28 and 12/30 this year). By calling it "ok," I simply meant it was "average great" to my ears. It was fine. There are a ton of "Slaves" I would sooner recommend. See the jam chart, especially the versions in the mid to late 1990s.

(3) @AlbanyYEM: I cannot get enough of the 2012 Dick's run. I listen to its jams regularly. They all have "four or five stars" in my iTunes. Maybe not weekly, but at least a few a month at this point. As for dissecting them a la my ancient YEM, Mike's Groove, and Tweezer reviews, I just don't do that anymore. I might make an exception at some point, but I doubt it. I think if I undertake a review like that of anything any time soon, it will be the 9/3/2011 Dick's Tweezer, and then maybe the 12/28/2012 Tweezer (so people can then understand why I think there is some "miss" in it, I guess, and call me a deaf idiot).

(4) @waxbanks and @spaced: excellent comments you two. I agree that by urging newer fans to check out the versions on the jam charts, it might fast-forward them into becoming pseudo-jaded vets at an earlier stage that they might otherwise become such vets. Because, quite frankly, virtually every experienced Phish fan eventually comes to appreciate certain Phish songs and types of jams more, or less, than others. As human, we can't help but prioritize what we like and prefer, and I have yet to meet anyone who listens regularly to Phish who loves ALL Phish unconditionally at ALL times. It seems that everyone at least has their own personal "TTE," in other words. I actually know a vet who doesn't like Tweezer, but loves Walfredo. WALFREDO!!!

Anyway, I guess my only point is that it's inevitable that anyone who loves Phish's music enough to discuss it on a website is going to become a vet in relatively short order, even if they have only attended a single show, and only listened to a handful of complete shows start to finish. And even the crustiest, grey-hairded, jaded of vets often make "noob" errors in entertaining ways, like yelling "MAZE!!!" when Bowie's hi-hat intro begins, or yelling "FUCKERPANTS!" on the opening notes of BDTNL (they're wicked close intros!).

I actually think its ridiculous that anyone continues to find being called a "noob" insulting, because it's the most wonderful type of fan to be. I envy Phish's newest fans so, so much, and often consciously try to aspire to their fresh perspectives at shows. I for one enjoy pretending at a show that I'm hearing "YEM" for the very first time, like when I fell in love with the song in fall 1988. Or was it early 1989. Something like that. Anyway what was I saying? Oh yeah, we're all noobs when it comes to something, and I continue to learn about Phish's music and still make errors that I made in 1994 now and then.
, comment by BigPimpinNYC
BigPimpinNYC ba rum pa pa pum
, comment by Icculus
Icculus @whatstheuse324 said:
The BDTNL is played on 12/30 for Fishman's daughter's birthday, not Trey's bromance with Tom Marshal. They have done it the last three years on 12/30.
Thank you. While I was just kidding, I never knew that Fish's daughter's birthday is 12/30. Please wish her a belated Happy Birthday for me.
, comment by phunky58
phunky58 imho it's alll about the tweezer and carini. must hear stufff
, comment by LightsWentOut
LightsWentOut 12/28 has my all-time favorite Tweezer which I am not afraid to admit. I think it represents pretty much everything I love about Phish 3.0. Anyway, I am glad I got that out of the way. I really came here to mention that I was checking out 12/28 the other night and noted that the first four songs of the run are spread out over the 4 members of the band. Trey takes the vocals in the Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Fishman takes the main vocal duties on Moma Dance, then Mike takes over on Funky Bitch, with Page taking on Army of One next. The pattern seems to be abandoned after that. It's not a major deal or anything,but I noticed it and thought it was a cool way to open a three night run after a long-ish break. I thought those first four tunes were really well executed and fun, too.
, comment by phunky58
phunky58 also piper isn't long but it packs one hell of a punch
, comment by guyuticacny
guyuticacny Hey Everyone! I think we all need to go to a phish show! It is much more fun to argue there! Phish 1.0 is phish 2.0 is phish 2.5 is phish 3.0.-----They are the same musicians and sure havent gotten worse. Practice doesnt do that. Love You All!!----and yes, if we didnt take breaks from listening to only Phish for the past 29 years.......we would be as good as drones.
, comment by Bradford33
Bradford33 Great reading some love for 20 Years Later! Who else thinks it needs a long-a$$ jam at the end? That song is always just getting started as its ending...
, comment by DoubleM
DoubleM I keep listening to this Carini and the last 7 minutes or so of it is some of the most unique jamming ive heard them do in a very long time
, comment by funkbeard
funkbeard don't forget these:

12/28 studio tight arena powered Fluffhead/Bowie
12/29 Suzy cowbell was almost funny
12/30 Page brought the N'Orleans funk the whole first set. Slave had Trey on sustain with trills, and brought tears to my eyes.
12/31 was too tight at times. Orchestra tight, sometimes trumping over raw energy. Weekapaug is worth studying for thematic variation. Set 2 was also profoundly tight, taking away from certain possibilities. A little better than party music there. Set 3 was interesting, with cheesy broadway vocals on Tweeprise, a missed line in KUNG. Sand so sublime that I just don't hear the second hald (which sometimes reveals the precious jewels once unearthed), and was all in good fun. Fishman can still stand to wait a little longer before dropping fills so that he doesn't detract from the groove by over-popping that snare.

Thanks for the great read, Charlie! Peace.
FACTSAREUSELESS Thought at the time (I posted it) and still think now that the 12/28 Tweezer was a HUGE version of what I believe is the band's most self-defining song. It's hugeness grows with the passage of time, sort of like the Light from 9/1....

Have enjoyed the mostly uplifting and intelligent feedback your excellent piece of writing has inspired, Icculus. Hope you write more often. Not only do I really enjoy both your style and your perspective, I actually think you bring some of the best of this site out into the open from the dark corners in which it often hides.

Also, Waxbanks...good stuff in your posts. Thoroughly agree with most all of what you shared. I feel like my life is somehow better today after reading this thread. Perhaps I'm close to death.
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