Monday, December 31, 2012

Phish MSG Night 3: Won't You Come Out to Play

What a difference a night makes. Just when I thought maybe I was being too harsh/critical about Saturday's show, Phish took the stage on Sunday and let it rip, quickly leaving any of those memories in the dust. Repeating something they did on night one, Phish's second set was only six songs... which gave them plenty of room for improvisation, exploration, and deviant alchemy. If you're a fan of the darkside of Phish, prefer "evil jams", or like falling down rabbit holes, then Phish's offering on Sunday night was designed especially for you with a pair of second set volcanic eruptions with Down with Disease and Carini.

There's something about 12/30 that makes it a unique night mainly because I have super low expectations about NYE shows. With the exception of the millennium blowout in 12/31/99, I've always felt as though Phishy NYE shows were not as strong musically as other shows from earlier in that holiday run (ergo why 12/30 shows usually stand out), or as epic as other big nights along the year (Halloween, festivals, tour closers, etc.).

I'm fortunate that I've seen ten gigs on December 30th spanning three eras of Phish. Sure, previous performances are not indicative of future returns, but I don't think anyone in the Phish community was expecting a mediocre 12/30 gig after a mellow show the previous night on the 29th and knowing that the band is usually distracted/wasted and slightly off the mark on NYE. If there was going to be battle for the hearts and minds of Phisheads with a line drawn in the sand... it was going to be bravely fought on 12/30.

Poster by James Flames

On the subway after the show, I turned to my girlfriend and said, "I can't tell if it was a good show by itself, or if I thought it was a good show compared to the mellow offerings from the night before." After some reflection and sobering up, I'd say it's a little bit of both. I certainly appreciated the Sunday show much more after getting a lackluster evening of improv on Saturday night. Like I said many times before... I love those six-song second sets. The only thing better? Four-song or Five-song orgies.

We rocked out all night on Page side. During four-show runs at MSG, I like mixing up the vantage points on different nights. For at least one night, I don't mind being behind the stage at MSG, or side of stage posted up near our hero Page McConnell. On Sunday, we right on top of the stage with a perfect vantage point to watch Trey's footwork after viewing his rig videos (part 1 and part 2). I came away from the evening the most impressed with Fishman.

With the exception of Trey, I've been the most critical of Fish since the boys re-took the stage at Hampton in 2009 and launched the 3.0 era. Fishman's focus the last decade is not on musical side projects like Trey or Gordo, so he's not constantly on the road during Phish's downtime. He's doing stuff more similar to what most of you do... the daily grind of family life... which made him a wiser and more complete person, but he's lost some of his drummer chops. The older you get, the harder it is to stay in peak form every night, especially when you don't tour 200 nights out of the year. But in the last four months, I think Fish has been doing P90X workouts, or breaking into Gordo's roid stash. Fishman looks "buff" and in much better shape. As a result, his drumming is tighter and more powerful. He sounded better on the first night especially on Maze. But because we had a better vantage point on the stage, I watched Fish about 80-85% of the time and that little guy was a machine all night!

Jim is a standard opener and sometimes Phish phones in those "throw away songs" to open a show, but this version had a little more gusto and let everyone inside the Garden know that it's the dawn of a new day. Mellow got dropped from the vocabulary and they were going to focus on rocking tunes. Cities always gets play time in the tri-state area. The pre-show music included a little Talking Heads, so it was on everyone's radar. With Cities served up early on, I resigned to the fact that a Crosseyed second set opener was not going to happen. G-Money noted that Trey had sat back on Cities and let Page "drive the train."

My girlfriend, a musical theatre geek and knows "voices" much better than me, noted that Trey was a little scratchy in Cities and that his voice got worse as the show went on. She also had a theory that some of the song selections late in the second set (Julius and Slave) were played to cover up Trey's vocal shakiness. It's definitely an interesting theory... and after re-listening to a couple songs from the show, she had a valid point.

Divided Sky was the moment that solidified my thoughts on buff Fishman. He was absolutely crushing it. Divided Sky is one of those songs I love hearing outdoors during summer tour in the first set. It's perfect for those big lawns like Deer Creek or in magical places out west like Telluride or the Gorge. However, I'm a bit of a sound snob and prefer indoor Phish to outdoor Phish, so a song like Divided Sky takes on an entirely different meaning when comparing indoors/outdoors. MSG has astute acoustics that it's kinda cool to hear crisper notes in Sky. Plus, the crowd going apeshit indoors during the pause gets so loud that you feel like your eardrums are going to pop.

Back on the Train was the first instance of the band trying to stretch out a jam... but they never deviated too far from the path with aggressive elements of dirty blues and crispy-fried-funk. Gordo really stepped it up during the Train jam, but many moments during the night it was hard hearing him in the mix because Trey sometimes drowns him out.

Being on Page Side Rage Side for Ride Captain Ride is a treat. It's one of those one-hit-wonder songs from the 70s, but I've always been a fan of a rendition by Blood Sweat and Tears. Phish and Page add their own unique style to Ride Captain Ride, which has been sneaking into the rotation more frequently in 3.0. I vaguely recall a fun version at Amherst a few years ago and the crowd went nuts during a version at Bill Graham this summer (the lyric about the "San Francisco Bay" got everyone rowdy).

Ocelot is the track from Joy I listen to the most. The live-version of Ocelot usually clocks in around 8 minutes... but the band has been stretching it out past the 10-minute mark during 2012. I don't think the band is bold enough to play a 20-minute Ocelot in the middle of set 2, but I wouldn't be bummed if they tried to pull it off sometime in the future.

Phish went a little Calypso with Ya Mar  but more importantly, we got a "Leo!" shout out. It's always an added bonus getting to sit on Page side whenever there's a "Play it Leo!" moment.

We got a quickie Horn then conjuring up an evil jam in My Friend My Friend, which was sloppy as hell but it felt like you were getting chased around a crazed maniac with a butcher's knife.

A sizzling Antelope closed out the set. Fishman showed off his guns on this version. I swear I heard Shakedown Street teases (around the 4:30 mark), but I couldn't tell if that was wishful thinking because I caught my very first Dead show at MSG when I was in high school, so I have no idea if the ghost of Jerry Garcia was playing tricks with me.

First set highlights.... Divided Sky, Back on the Train, Ocelot and Antelope. I gotta say, I was more than a little schwasted during the first set and everything kicked in during Antelope. I didn't realize how fucked up I was until the lights went up at set break and I sat down and everything was still moving while I was sitting still!  I couldn't wait for the lights to go back down and the second set to begin... you know how that Dead song goes, "If you get confused, listen to the music play."

The second set featured only six songs and anchored by Down with Disease, but the craziest jam of the run occurred during Carini, while Slave delivered as per usual. I'm not the biggest fan of Backwards in the middle of a  second set, but it was well played and the "fluffiness" of the song was a short and sweet change of pace after the dark, grittiness of Carini.

Down with Disease incorporated some of my favorite things about Phish like taking us on a flyby through the depths of Hades, and then getting jazzy (one stretch had those Love Supreme undertones by Coltrane and another reminded me of Miles' Bitches Brew). Gordo is almost always the MVP of DWD mainly because he has to wrestle away the lead from Trey on more than one occasion. Fish continued to keep up his thunderous pace on drums. Someone behind the stage got the genius idea to create a glowstick snake and it got bigger and bigger during DWD and eventually took on a life of its own and wiggled its way from 100 level to 200 level. It slowly made its way around MSG before breaking into two smaller snakes.

DWD jam could have gone in a dozen different directions. I swore I had a vibe on Steam and figured that would be the next journey. Then I thought I heard some 2001 licks and a potential jaunt into No Quarter territory.

I can understand why some friends didn't like the placement of Twenty Years Later, but you know it's a good show if Phish plays a song with proficiency that you don't necessarily want to hear. I dig Twenty Years Later... mainly because I'm an older phan who can actually look back at their lives and see how two decades of hard living can really make an impact. If you're 23 and think Twenty Years Later sucks... yeah, I totally get it. But if you're in your late 30s, then you have a better understanding of where Trey's lyrics are coming from and you can appreciate how Trey summed up the complexity of relationship dynamics after twenty years of life on the road.

The thing about Twenty Years Later and any "newish" song is that it takes several years for the band to truly figure out the best way to play it live. We're talking years of experimenting and tweaking before they cranked out much smoother and palatable versions. So if you think it sucks, the good thing is that Twenty Years Later is vastly improving every time they play it. If you dig it, then it's all gravy.

With that said, the vibe of Twenty Years Later was a definite departure from DWD segue that everyone was expecting (like say a 2001 dance party). But that's what the band wanted to play. There in lies the message from the band to themselves, their families, phamily, and even us dippy-schwilly loonies.

The eccentric Carini jam was just fucking bizarre and drowning in paranormal weirdness... and I loved it because I'm the type of guy who wants to hear foreign shit like Ravi Shankar playing Egyptian scales backwards on a flute made out of giant alien bones. The most abrasive dissonance and intimidating segments of the Carini jam is what your friends who hate think Phish sounds like all the time. At some points it sounded like Trey was playing Little Drummah Boy in a minor key but Fish was making these thunderous tribal sounds.

Carini jam downshifted into Backwards, a lighter and fluffier foil to the deviant occult shit they were conjuring up during the last part of Carini. Julius quickly won back the malcontents in the crowd, which is always an energy turbo booster.

Everyone has weird Phish rituals or quirks or superstitions. Well, my strangest Phish quirk: I love Slave to the Traffic Light so much that I don't want to ruin it so I do not listen to it except at live shows. Slave  is my all-time favorite Phish song something that went to the top of the list around 1998 and has not budged since. I adore Slave so much that I do not listen to it. At all. That's how much respect I have for that specific piece of sacred music... it's so powerful and overwhelming that I'm glad they don't play it as frequently as something like Possum, because it would lose its significance. I only hear Slave when I attend Phish concerts or happen to catch a live webcast. Sure, Slave was probably on while riding in friends' cars or at their houses or parties/bars/party buses a few times in 2012, but whenever Slave pops up on my iPod shuffle, I insta-skip it. I never listened to Slave once during the hiatus between Coventry 2004 and Hampton 2009.

Whenever Phish includes Slave, I know it's a good show and particularly when they end a second set with it.

The encore was a double dip of Harry Hood and Show of Life. The way Hood is structured, it builds and builds and builds up to this beautiful ending and climax... and Phish conjures up so many emotions during that song that it's the perfect show ender. Yet, Show of Life is and always will be a total buzz kill. Almost anything after Hood would have been a let down, which is why song placement is so vital, especially in the encore. Coach Pauly would have called Shine a Light first and Hood second.

Here's my other quirk... I blame the party favors but I always end up singing the last song Phish played on the way out of the show. The other night I hummed First Tube, but my girlfriend and friends get annoyed when I sing Show of Life in an obnoxious falsetto while trying to get down the crowded stairs at MSG.

Overall, Sunday had one of the best sets of the run. The overall show was fun. Everyone in my section was cool and professional party people. No wook tickets were issued.

By the way, you know you're still a lit monkey at MSG when you walk out of the show and you're going down the escalator, but you feel the escalator moving even though the escalator is not on or moving at all. Yeah, that happened on Sunday night. Like I said, it was a good show.

* * * *

Here's recaps from the other nights... MSG 1: This Time It's Gonna Be Different and MSG 2: Mellow Mood. Also, here's an index of recaps from 2012 summer tour.

Mike Gordo Shows Off His Bass Rig

It's been cool to see every member of Phish show off their gear. It's now Gordo's turn...

Here's Page's rig. Here's Trey's rig.

Phish MSG Setlist: 12/30/12 Night 3

Night three of four at the Garden.

12/30/12... Les Phish, MSG, NYC

1: Jim, Cities, Divided Sky,  Back on the Train, Ride Captain Ride, Ocelot, YaMar, Horn, My Friend My Friend, Antelope

2: DWD > Twenty Years Later > Carini > Backwards, Julius, Slave

Encore: HOOD, Show of Life

The show is available for download via We encourage you to support LivePhish because they donate some of the proceeds to the Mockingbird Foundation.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Phish MSG Night 2: Mellow Mood

Remember the key to Phishy MSG run? Low expectations. I'd love for Phish to blast us off to Pluto every night and play a 2-song second set with Ghost > 2001, but they'll never do that. Phish is not going to melt your face every night because that's not humanly possible. Ebbs and flows. Sometimes it's a raging river. Other times it's a soothing trickle. If you have lofty expectations, then you're setting yourself up to get let down. Phish is at its finest hour when they do something at a time you're least expecting it.

We got a soothing trickle on Saturday night at MSG with a few moments of sheer craziness. That's my honest assessment; I love Phish and thrilled to see them play any gigs but at the same time, it wouldn't be right if I sugarcoated the truth and wasn't what the legendary Lester Bangs described as "brutally honest and unmerciful."

Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish 2012.

From the moment we took our seats in Section 102, the overall crowd was amped up and rowdy and ready to rage, but the band was on a different wavelength. From the outset with Crowd Control, you knew it was going to be a departure from the Greatest Hits melange that the holiday run is usually structured for. Then again when a rare Mound got busted out in the second spot, it gave me some hope and flashbacks of Phishy NYE in 2002. Yeah, I got goosebumps with Mound. Even jaded vets like myself still have some warmth in our cold, blacken hearts. That Mound moment from 2002 was a decade ago... and the band, the community, heck the world has gone through monumental changes since the moment the 2.0 spark was ignited.

Rock and Roll batted clean-up instead of its usual spot at the top of the second set. That was an interesting curveball. Rock and Roll, or I should say that any Velvet Underground cover is a personal highlight, but the Velvet's cover was a shade over eight minutes and barely enough time for the band to weave a little Phish magic into the limited jam allotment.

I don't know what to make of Sugar Shack. I want to like it, but for some reason it chafes me in a weird way. It's like Gordo and his scarves. It's not my thing, but I respect the guy if he wants to wear it. Gordo has always been a guy who waved his freak flag. Anyway, something is odd about Sugar Shack. Strange right? My girlfriend, who rarely has anything bad to saw about Phish, even suggested that the Shack disrupted the harmony of the set. I dig it more when Gordo's band plays it but for some reason it's not as smooth when Phish performs it. The night before just around the same time in the show, Trey encouraged Page to play Army of One, which resembled one of those 80s ballads from Paul McCartney's Wings era. It worked for Page and for the band, yet on Saturday, Trey cued Gordo's Sugar Shack and that seemed a bit clunky. Will a Pork Tornado song from Fishman's wispy side project pop up on Sunday?

The second half of the first set was much stronger and I totally dug four out of the five songs (exception of Velvet Sea). Some of the notable boisterous moments happened in that stretch, but for the most part it was obvious that Phish was serving up a mellow evening rather than a rage fest so we had to take whatever rowdiness we could get.

The boys attempted to get the Reba jam off the ground but and as it reached its cruising altitude, it had taken on a serene and super mellow path. That's what was in the band's consciousness, but the crowd had an entirely different and contrasting vibe. I understood the crowd's sentiments; I felt antsy myself. The lunatics were trying to take over the asylum.

The only mellow I'd like to see at MSG is Carmelo "Melo" Anthony from the NY Knicks... not from the band that kicked my ass in San Francisco and Colorado this past summer. But you buy the ticket and take the ride. Sometimes you go up, sometimes you go sideways. That's Phish. That's life.

You could see a conflict arise during the Reba jam when the band settled into a softer vibe, yet the crowd was overflowing with abundant energy that they had yet to find an avenue to release it. The boisterous phans were quickly transforming into rowdy soccer hooligans and looking for any excuse to go berserk. Someone in the section behind the soundboard whipped out a bunch of green glowsticks and threw them toward the floor. That was the cue the crowd was waiting for and they let rip a raucous, primal roar. I almost felt bad for the band. They were in a totally different place and instead of an attentive crowd mirroring them during a calm and tranquil jam, everyone in the building wanted to dance their asses off and they went nuts screaming and yelling. The crowd tried to cajole and egg the band on to playing something more uppity, while the band continued to play what they wanted to play. Sometimes we forget that we're the passengers and Phish is the driver.

Despite the softened vibe, the evening included pockets of frenzied, volcanic explosions of energy from the crowd. We saw the first outburst during the glowstick war with Reba and we'd see it again during the frenetic Gin jam, where least that time the band and audience were on the same page.

As per usual, as soon as Halley's Comet got cooking, Trey pulled the ripcord. Fishman kicked ass on Limb by Limb and he does his impression of multiple African drummers, but the band returned to the mellow mood with Page's crooning on Velvet Sea.  Leo had an extended intro and for a moment I was praying for a Stones' cover of Let It Loose, or even Coil would have been an interesting choice. Yet the band wanted to keep up the mellowness and opted for Velvet Sea. Normally that's a "Pauly Takes a Piss Song" but a significant amount of the crowd headed for the pissers and I couldn't beat the rush.

Bathtub Gin more than made up for the cordial Velvet Sea and the band finally gave the crowd a chance to go bonkers and apeshit bananas. If this were any other "jamming night" then I'd say that Gin was just a bit average, but considering the entire subdued atmosphere, Gin was far and away the rocking highlight of the set. However, as soon as the jam reached the outskirts of thermo-nuclear territory, Trey cut it short. The entire first set was a very short 77 minutes. Only two songs from the first set clocked in over ten minutes (Reba and Gin) and both were easily the early highlights.

Is it me, or did the entire show feel like it was a summery outdoors show? It didn't have the mood and texture of a MSG gig.

In my other life I'm a sportswriter so I watch a fair amount of sporting events so I'm going to use a hackneyed sports cliche... it seemed like the team had an off first half, but then the coach was going to tear them a new asshole at halftime  and they'd regroup with a stronger effort in the second half. Personally, I was struggling with a physical ailment. I'm getting old. I have a chronic bad back and it flared up on Saturday night. I wished I could have gone into the locker room at halftime and have one of the Knicks' trainers shoot me up with cortisone or some other wonder drug they inject into Amare's ass that would dull the pain so I could dance my butt off in the second set. Despite the back pain, I plugged onward and got as wasted as I could. I  hoped that Phish played more upbeat songs so I could get my groove on. As soon as they slow down the pace, my back gets tight. At first it was funny that the Colorado crew started calling me the "Brett Favre of the Lot", but on nights I'm limping and feeling old and achy, then it's not so funny. Then again, it could be worse... like being called the "Mark Sanchez of the Lot."

Golden Age is one of Trey's favorite indie songs to cover. I've caught quite a few versions that knocked me on my ass, but in this version I spent way too much time mesmerized by CK5's pretty, sparkly funnels of light. At one point, the band was noodling around a purple light jam before CK5 flicked on the UFO lights that swirled back and forth. While I got hypnotized by the lights, I sort of lost time after falling down a worm hole. Any old-school acidhead will tell you that Phish has the ability to open up wormholes with their Type-II jams. They ripped a hole in the fabric of time and space and lots of weird shit rushes through (like at Dick's) but on the flip side, sometimes one or two wooks holding crystals and tour dogs get snatched up into the vortex never to return.

Initially, I was eager for Waves. At its core, it is a harmonious song with ample room to explore and stretch it out. After three performances in 2009, Waves got benched in 2010, yet returned to the mix last summer at Bethel and popped up intermittently since then. The Superball and UIC version of Waves stood out as eye-openers. Alas, something was amiss with MSG's Waves.

The Joker summed it up best: "Trey and Page got out of sync during the Waves progression and then it was like they didn't have the confidence to take any chances the rest of the night."

When Phish says, "Fuck it!" and takes off down the rabbit hole, we have no choice but to follow along or get dragged down to the netherworld with them. But when you play scared, then you lose all faith in your ability to take chances. Cavalier risk taking is the one thing that made Phish an amazing band because of their eagerness to take chances during live gigs no matter what. However, a choppy execution of Waves spooked them the rest of the set.

At the end of Waves, the band repeated "under water" vocals accompanied by an ambient jam that eventually morphed into Prince Caspian. I understand that Phish shows have lots of peaks and valleys, and you cannot appreciate one without the other, but Caspian right after a confidence-shattering Waves was not what the audience wanted. You could feel the seething undertones from the crowd until Gordo gave the flat-billers a mini-demonstration of his favorite Skillrex bass-farts before he ripped into Boogie On.

Stevie Wonder to the rescue! Boogie On was perfectly timed because the crowd desperately wanted to shake their booty. Gordo flexed his muscles during the brief Boogie rumpus, but it was Page who rose to the occasion during Suzy Greenberg. Trey sensed he lost the crowd after Caspian and was trying to quell a mutiny ("got to keep the loonies on the path"), so he attempted to interject some life (any semblance of life) into the second set with an infusion of funk-addled song. Page destroyed the Suzy jam and it was one of my favorite moments of the evening. Too bad Boogie On and Suzy was a mere fifteen-minute interlude in an otherwise tragic wasteland of mellowness.

I got jilted during Bug because of the smelly guy in our row who took off his shirt. Yeah, amatuer hour at MSG! Some bro's molly kicked in and he decided to strip and go shirtless.

You know the guy who takes off his shirt at shows? Don't be that guy. Never be that guy.

Everyone else around us in our section were professional party people and were fun to hang out with. Everyone imbibed without any incidents until one schwilly guy decided to show off his bare chest and sing along loudly to Bug.

Cavern was the ying to the Bug's yang. Or is it the other way around? The second set was anchored by 46 Days, which has taken on a stronger role in 3.0 as a song that the boys are willing to blast it off into the farthest cosmos. The 46 jam often climaxes to one of those frantic moments when it feels like you're getting chased down the hallway of an insane asylum.

The entire night it seemed like we're the loonies and we tried to take control of the loony bin, but Phish had other (mellower) plans for us.

I was shocked that the band walked off stage at 11:15 after only 65 minutes. WTF? There's always been a "midnight curfew" so I kind of expected something monstrous for the encore perhaps a YEM or some sort of three-song feast. We didn't get YEM, but we were treated to trio of... Squirming Coil, Grind, and First Tube.

I could have listened to Page go off at the end of Coil and peck away at a solo for fifteen minutes while a single spotlight shone down on him. Page only tickled the ivories for a brief solo before the rest of the band regrouped in front of his piano, where they performed an a capella version of Grind. When Trey returned to his guitar stand and picked up his axe, the crowd exploded. The ravenous audience was still starving and didn't want their heroes to exit the stage after two short sets.

A thunderous tidal wave of emotion was released during the initial notes to First Tube. Trey had held back in the wanking department for most of the night. He did the same thing on Friday and waited until GTBT to really show off his chops. That's the type of restraint I prefer to see from Trey... more listening and "dishing" early on... and waiting to the encore for a unbridled display of self-indulgent wanking.

Then again after a mellow night, I certainly appreciated the delirious moments during 46 Days and the invigorating reaction to First Tube. As much as the band was in a mellow mood most of the night and had their confidence sucked out of this dimension during Waves, they corrected the ship and ended the evening on a positive note. I walked out of the Garden thinking about Jedi Trey holding his guitar over his head, and how they shook the rust off on Friday and flushed all the mellow shit out of their system on Saturday, so we had two more nights of madness, heavy hitters, and rage your face bliss.

Two down. Two to go.

Here's my recap from Night 1.... MSG 1: This Time It's Gonna Be Different. Also, here's an index of recaps from 2012 summer tour.

Phish MSG Setlist: 12/29/12 Night 2

Night two of four at the world's most famous arena. Here's what you missed...
The Phish, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

Set 1: Cowd Control, Mound, ACDC Bag, Rock and Roll, Sugar Shack, REBA, Halley's Comet, Limb by Limb, Velvet Cheese, GIN

Set 2: Golden Age > Waves > Caspian , Boogie On, SUZY, Bug, Cavern, 46 Days

Encore: Coil, Grind, First Tube
The show is available for download via We encourage you to support LivePhish because they donate some of the proceeds to the Mockingbird Foundation.

** Phish poster is by James Flames

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Trey Talks About His Guitar Rig, Part 1 and 2

Trey talks about his rig... Parts 1 and 2

Here's Page's rig. Here's Gordo's rig.

Phish MSG Night 1: This Time It's Gonna Be Different

Same band. Same venue. Same dates. Different year.

I can't think of a better way to end any calendar year than embarking on a four-day bender with Phish performing as the house band and you party down with friends and strangers while ringing in the new year. I grew up in NYC, so seeing Phish at the end of the year inside MSG seems... normal to me. It was cool to head down to the swamps of Florida for the millennium all-night orgy along with two sidetrips to Miami for 2003 and 2009. But MSG is the place to be for a Phishy NYE run. It just makes sense.

Our view of MSG #1 (via @Change100)
 What you give up in a  "lot scene" or camping vibe, you more than make up in the historical significance of the venue itself. The Garden is often billed as "the world's greatest arena." Say what you want about the poppy crapola that infects the airwaves, and those watered-down bands/acts might sell out MSG when they breeze through town, but none of them are truly important enough to set aside for nights in a row to close out the year... year after year... so Phish and thier adoring legion of fans could throw down for four bacchanalian nights in a row. The beancounters at MSG know what's up... Phish is a moneymaker... and the suits gladly kick out the Knicks and Rangers (when there's an actual hockey season, but that's a rant I'll write next week on Ocelot Sports) and make them play games on the road while the open MSG's doors to hardcore hippies, bros, brahs, funkiest bitches, heady mommas, spunions, and every Phishead in the Northeast Kingdom in a scene that would horrify most square people, but I'm proud to say that those freaks are my people... my friends... my scene. Robert Hunter summed it up in a popular Grateful Dead song... "Ain't no place I'd rather be."

Phish had not played a show since they exited the stage at Dick's outside Denver on Labor Day weekend. The Dick's run and the FUCK YOUR FACE show was one of those watershed moments in Phish history that solidifies the band's legendary status. However, that was almost four months ago. It's damn near impossible to replicate that magic after a lengthy hiatus. One of the only bad things about a naked NYE's run is that the band is coming in cold. It's not like they were playing a December tour of a dozen or more shows and took a week off for Christmas before returning to MSG to finish off the year. That's why it's important to go into the MSG with low expectations. It's hard not to think about the San Francisco run or the Dick's shows when conjuring up warm memories about 2012 Phish, but you have to put those fun times aside and go in with low expectations. I've been let down too many times because I created impossible expectations in my head and when the band failed to deliver, I walked out of the show a truly jaded vet. But... if you go in with low (or zero) expectations, then everything else is gravy.

A friend scored tickets for my girlfriend and I right behind the soundboard or four rows off the floor. My section was mellow and everyone was well behaved except the one drunk guy who talked nonstop during Fluffhead, but all things considered, it was a pleasant experience. We had a seat with optimal sound. Funny thing is that only four or five actual tapers were recording the show. It was weird to see a GA floor at MSG and friends were telling me about the nightmare scene trying to get down to the floor. Just a heads-up... if you have floor tickets the next few nights, give yourself extra time to get down there.

Phish was rusty, which was expected, and it took them about a half of a set to shake off the rust and blow out the cobwebs. It was around the end of the second song when I got a text from my buddy Bruce (the Grateful Dead Guru among my NYC friends and we caught the last run of Dead shows together before Jerry died in 1995) who is also a drummer, so I rely on his assessment of Fishman's playing to gauge whether or not we're in for a fantastic night. Bruce though Fishman was on point during Moma Dance. The injection of the funk instrumental always gets everyone moving and grooving. The crowd was already fired up before the band took the stage. I love that abundance of anxious and frenetic energy that fills the air inside MSG on the first night of the four-show run. The band feeds off that vibe and vice versa. Somehow the Garden harnesses those vibes, which helps raise the building several feet off the ground during the actual concert.

The early highlight of the first set was Tube. It's one of my favorite Phish songs and my only gripe is I wished they really stretched it out for ten minutes. At this juncture, we only get those succinct versions of Tube, so it's what happens in those three minutes of the impromptu funk jam that makes life worth living. I chase around Phish so much to experienced those short bursts of glorious exploration, which you never know when or where you'll find it. I prefer Phish sets with fewer songs because it gives the band more wiggle room to crate something out of nothing. The hard part is knowing that the MSG run will take on a Greatest Hits vibe, so you have to take what the band gives you. In this instance, it was 180 seconds of funkified bliss.

Stash is like a trip to that part of town your momma would have a heart attack if you she knew you were hanging out in the dingiest, darkest back alleys of deviency. That's one of the elements of Phish that I dig... that they can take you on a journey to the dark side of the force... except they don;t do it as much as I'd like. Stash is precisely one of those songs that is a shortcut to those dark alleys. The Stash jam (starting around 7 minutes in) hit that "Evil Jams" territory. I was probably most impressed  with Page's contributions as they pulled out of the Stash jam after deciding they weren't going to dig too deep.

Free was on my radar because one of the moments from last year that stuck with me the most was the Free opener to kick off the MSG run. In this year's version... Trey included some dirty, gritty tones on the end of Free, which made it stand out from the rest of the set.

Wolfman's Brah was the highlight of the set and one of the overall best moments of the night. It had all the elements of a Phishy highlight... the ground shook the entire time while he crowd hanging on every note during a heavy storm of funk jamming and a little playful tease and full blown section of the Little Drummer Boy that was sandwiched in between two heavy Wolf jams. The fun began about five minutes in with a bit of stripped down jamming anchored by Page milking the clav while Trey sat back and let Gordo, Fish, Page play off each other. Coulda sworn I heard Frankenstein-like teases from Page. Around ten minutes in Trey added the notes to Lil Drummer Boy and eventually everyone caught on and the crowd began to sing along. I dunno if it translated well through the live feed or on the download, but that's one of those "you had to be there moments" when Phish does something cooky like that and the crowd helps them pull off those hijinks.

The foray into Drummer Boy stopped on a dime about the 11:30 mark and the boys returned to jamming out Wolfman's although it took on more of a hard-edged blues vibe with a bit of funk remnants. The crowd went totally bonkers at the end of Wolfman's and that would be one of two moments (Tweezer was the other) during the night went everyone went apeshit berserk.

A twenty-minute version of Tweezer kicked off the second set and I didn't realize how long it was until I checked. It seemed much shorter, but that's when you know you're having a good time when you think a 20-minute jam was brief. No complaints. I love my Tweezers to clock in at least 18 minutes long... because it's in the nether regions where Phish's alchemy works best. The Tweeze jam had three main components... the first one was your standard launching pad for some shredding, although I kinda got lost in the second one (at times it sounded like Page was playing a Coil-like jam), but the boys really floored me on the third segment (it's about 15 minutes in) when Trey wavered back and forth between a Slave-like noodle jam before a short reprise of the Wolf jam before finessing the end of the Tweeze jam. Then without stopping... the little drummah boy Fishman cued them up for Maze.

Maze is another one of those songs in which the band takes you on a journey over to the dark side of the force. Sometimes they get you lost in one of those terrifying hedge-like mazes from The Shining. Other times it's like an old school episode of Tom & Jerry cartoons with a cat and mouse chasing each other around the entire time. The speed of Maze impressed me the most. It's not like the mid-90s when Phish played with precision-like speed and absolutely nailed segments. These days, they can get a little sloppy or lazy or take short cuts by skipping over some notes, but the second half of Maze was as close to one of those Maze's of my youth... back in the days when I'd eat a fistful of shrooms and follow Phish circa 93-94 while they played blistering-fast cocaine-fueled versions of Maze. The MSG Maze reminded me of the end of Tom & Jerry cartoon when Tom is running full speed trying to catch Jerry, but Jerry escapes the clutches of Tom and darts into a tiny hole in the wall and Tom crashed head first into the wall. In 3.0, there were some stellar versions of Maze from the 2010 summer tour, but for the most part Phish slows down a bit in order to "thread that needle" but in this instance they had the confidence to go full speed ahead. All the credit goes to Fishman for flooring the pedal and going balls to the wall. They could have totally crashed but... didn't. Was it the best Maze of 3.0? No. Not even close, but for they executed this version with speed and precision... like Ben Johnson on roids.

Yeah, it's weird. I actually dug Maze more than Tweezer. But that's what I love about Phish... you never know what you're going to get on any given night.

Trey wanted to give Fishman a shoutout for being the little drummah boy as a reprise of LDB blended into the intro to Twist. Earlier this summer, Twist had become its own beast starting off at Bader Field with all the "Woooooooos!" Phish had fun with Twist this year as it became a favorable vehicle for them to let rip some wraparound jamming. If there was a point in which Trey was "playing too many notes" it would probably be in the middle of the Twist jam that eventually bleed into a frantic smorgasbord of four-way jamming with Page slamming the ivories so hard that I thought he was going to break a few fingers. Twist jam ended up with Trey/Page interjecting more LDB notes. I'm glad the band reinvigorated Twist in 2012 because it had become kinda stale and it seemed like the band was going through the motions in earlier 3.0 versions. Glad they decided to kick down a few doors using Twist as a battering ram.

Theme was well placed. They needed to give Fishman a few minutes to cool off and the build up to the crescendo is always one of those amazing moments to experience at a live show. Theme is one of those songs that feels 100% different when you're at a show versus listening to it on tape... mostly because of the emotional rollerscoaster the band takes you on. I firmly believe that humans can feed off the energy of each other and Theme is one of those songs in which you can close your eyes and feel the transference of energy/emotions/vibes. Okay, maybe I'm wrong and that's just the acid talking... but next time you're at a show and they play Theme, just close your eyes and try to see the music in terms of melodious bundles of energy.

The crowd lapped up Fluffhead but the middle of the song was ruined for me by a drunken asstard behind us. Help clean up the scene... if you're friends with the "Drunk Guy" or "Schwilly Girl" who won't stop talking during a show, it's your moral obligation and duty to politely tell then to shut the fuck up. Yeah, boisterous talking during shows is a huge pet peeve of mine. With the exception of bodily fluids and someone pissing/puking/shitting/jizzing on you at a show, there's no greater offense that a loud drunk trying to talk over the music. Usually friends of said drunktard try to be quiet as a "hint" but that's bad enabling behavior because it gives the drunktard more opportunity to continue to blabber on about stupid shit. Do everyone a favor, and shush your drunktard friends.

Anyway, the crowd let it rip during the climax point of Fluffhead and that's gotta be one of the Top 10 greatest moments during a Phish show... right after the "bundle of joy" mumbling and at the apex when everyone screams out "Flufffffffheeeeeeeeeeeeeeead!"

David Bowie closed out the set. It seemed slightly ordinary and kinda rushed except for that little extra hot sauce they added to the end with a little stop/start breaks.

During the encore break, I sent out a tweet half-joking that I like it when Phish does not automatically play Tweezer Reprise on the same night as Tweezer and they save it for a later show. I was expecting a typical two-song encore with Tweeprise. Usually, they let Page belt out Loving Cup, but in this instance they opted for Bouncin'. Tom's friend was seeing her first Phish show and she wanted to hear Bouncin' so it's always kinda cool when you're not familiar with Phish's vast catalog and they play one of the few songs you know. Had this been in the first set, I would have taken a piss during Bouncin'. In this instance, I took the time to smoke a quick bowl.

Phish ended the show with a bong-rattling version of Good Times Bad Times. MSG is one of the few venues on the planet that has those perfect acoustics for a hard rocking Zeppelin tune. Heck, the ghost of John Boham has spent many a night backstage... so it was fitting that Trey went into full wanker mode and tore the shit out of GTBT. Instead of a Stones cover (Cup or Shine a Light), Phish went the Zeppelin route. My favorite part? When Page screams, "I know what it means to be alone!" and the crowd screams along with him.

First show is in the books and as expected, Phish shook off the rust in the first set but got their juju back with a blistering Wolfman's Brother that included some Little Drummah Boy hijinks. Phish's  six-song second set was anchored by a 20-minute Tweezer and a precision-guided missile in Maze. The only thing better than a six-song set would have been a five-songer, which is something I prefer to those 10+ song disjointed sets when Trey ripcords everything and tries squeeze in too many greatest hits instead of just picking a few songs and stretching those out organically.

One down. Three more to go.

Please check out my other recaps from both legs of summer tour. Don't forget to follow @CoventryMusic for in-game tweets during the MSG run. also, follow @change100 for her phan-fashion reports.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Trey Talks About His Guitar Rig, Part 1

recorded from the 12/28/12 MSG Setbreak Webcast...

Phish MSG Setlist: 12/28/12

The Phish returned to MSG for the first night of a four-show run. The shows were streamed via In case you missed it, here's the setlist info...

Phish, 12/28/12 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

Set 1: Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan, MoMA Dance, Funky Bitch, Army of One, Tube > Stash, Nellie Kane, Kill Devil Falls, Free, Wolfman's Brotha > The Little Drummer Boy jam->Wolfman's BraH

Set 2: Tweezer > Maze, Lil Drummer Boy > Twist, Theme From the Bottom > Fluffhead, David Bowie

E: Bouncing Around the Room, Good Times Bad Times

[1] Little Drummer Boy teases and quotes

According to Little Drummer Boy last time played was April 16, 2004 (187 Shows).

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Background Beats - Winter 2013

Brand new Background Beats just in time for Christmas.  Enjoy this Winter 2013 edition:

Track List:
track. song / artist 
01. Resist - Pnfa
02. Why It Got To Be So Damn Tough - Nautilis
03. Jazz Funk (Original Mix)- Nigel Hayes
04. In the Waiting Line (Dorfmeister Remix) - Zero 7
05. Invitation To Love - Cfcf
06. Ennophonic - Redlounge Orchestra
07. One-Eight Left - The Counterfeit Junkies
08. Mountain Path - Badmarsh & Shri
09. No Action - Purple Penguin
10. Overwhelm - Blu Mar Ten
11. Life - The Mighty Bop
12. Something Stronger - Saru
13. Duel With A Soul - A Forest Mighty Black
14. Ten - Dj Sun
15. Youths - Slow Magic
16. We Are Water - Papadosio

Merry X-Mas!

On behalf of everyone here at Coventry and Disco Santa, I want to wish you a very jolly Merry Christmas. And to all of our Jewish friends, Happy Tuesday!!

See ya at MSG for four nights of throwing down with the PHISH!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Monday Morning Key Bumps: Pusherman

What could be better than an appearance by Curtis Mayfield lip-syncing on Soul Train? Crank it up. It's Monday and only 4 mo' days until MSG!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Guest Post: Let's Talk About MSG Sets

Editor's Note: Here's another guest post from Tom. He shares his thoughts on a perfect opening set. Enjoy!

MSG Sets by Tom B.

Let’s talk about sets.

With all the excitement building up to MSG, it seems like everybody has a little something on their wish list and they are more than happy to share. My favorite aspect of the multi-night run, aside from getting to see shows on consecutive days without traveling, is that the band really seems to treat the entire run like one mega-concert. The sets build off of one another while maintaining the integrity and professionalism a band has to display when performing in front of potentially disparate audiences. The multi-night run allows for some really interesting and creative individual sets and it seems like there is always something for everybody over the course of 3 or 4 shows.

We get the rocking set, the ambient set, the staples, the covers and sometimes we get the “WTF?” If we are really lucky, we get a legendary set. After seeing what they pulled off at Bill Graham and Dick’s over the summer, I think we are all pretty excited to find out what tricks they have up their sleeves for MSG.

So what would a legendary set look like to you? Okay, other than Gamehendge? On second thought, maybe we should save the “dream set list” for another day. How about this:

Friday night, Dec 28th and MSG is bursting with anticipation. All the familiar chants, claps, smells and buzz fill the air. It’s been too long since Dicks, everybody is full of holiday cheer and the moment we’ve been waiting for is almost upon us. The lights go out and the crowd erupts as Phish takes the stage. Page, gets in his chair, Cactus straps on the bass, Fish hides behind the kit and Big Red takes a moment to smile and wave a few folks in the crowd before checking the settings on his rig. The boys make eye contact, Trey counts off 1,2,3,4…

In this already perfect world, what do the next 90 minutes have in store? You get to call the shots tonight and the entire first set of NYE run 2012 in in your hands.

What’s it gonna be?

This is my version of the perfect MSG night 1, set 1.

I am more into the rockers than the ambient type II but not by a large margin. Call me cliché, I am a 3.0 after all, but I want to start out with a few obvious tunes to set the tone.

Batting leadoff, Free. I know, I know. What can I say? I’m a total nube. Give me a good 7 minute Free and we are off to a smokin’, if predictable start. Maintaining the theme of predictability I am rolling right into Wilson. Nothing shoots a laser beam of energy into a ready to rock building like a little call and response.

Given the high energy created by those first 2, it’s now time to set the party off and let everybody know we aren’t messing around tonight. YEM. I love the first set YEM. Dicks this summer, MSG night 2 last year, it is still an unexpected fire bomb that ignites an arena. Even though this seems like an impossible spot for the bands’ definitive piece I think we all know that nothing is to be assumed or taken for granted in Phish-world.

After those three, the obvious thing to do here is slow it down and take a deep breath, but not when I am writing the setlist. Batting cleanup, The Lizards. Time to let Page work those keys and keep the room buzzing. Now that he’s good and warmed up we go straight into Water in the Sky. Not that new slow version Trey does with the orchestra either. Full on, album speed Water in the Sky.

So let’s recap. Thus far we have: Free, Wilson, YEM, The Lizards, Water in the Sky

The next choice is crucial because the set can really go in any direction from here. If this were actually happening, we could expect a cover or something from Joy but since I am calling the shots, we get Golgi Apparatus. I know that aside from YEM these are pretty tight and straightforward selections but I love the fast paced, high-energy set. I have seen very few bands that can build a tidal wave of momentum the way Phish can and I find that wave to be at its most mind blowing when they keep it simple and just melt your face off.

My grandmother taught me at a young age, there is only one way to follow up Golgi, Fluffhead. Well I couldn’t agree more so Fluffhead it is.

We are now 7 songs in and I think it is finally time to bust out the lone cover in my dream MSG Night 1 set. While My Guitar Gently Weeps. I have a real soft spot for this Beatles’ cover. There is something about the absolute love and respect that Trey puts into the ending solo that gets me every time.

What better way to move out of that amazing solo than roll right into a blistering Axilla I? Trey get out the machine gun and just mows us all down.

I know we should only have 1 song left but these are pretty succinct by Phish standards so I am allowing time for2 more tunes. We are going to put the whip cream and cherry on top of this sundae with a double shot of NICU and Slave to the Traffic Light. But not just any Slave. Give me a nice 13-15 jammer. Go all kinds of type II ambient on my ass. This song has not been pushed much beyond 10 min during my phandom and in the three times I have heard it, I found myself wishing for just a little more. So much potential with even another 3-5 minutes.

So there it is. My perfect set to open up NYE run 2012. Certainly not a list of my favorite Phish tunes, far from it actually. Just some of the tunes I am really hoping to hear at MSG and if they all happen to get played consecutively, well at least one person would be deliriously, excruciatingly happy.
Tom's perfect MSG set opener:

Free, Wilson, YEM, Lizards, Water in the Sky, Golgi, Fluffhead, WMGGW, Axilla I, NICU, Slave
What do you think?

Does the nube have any appreciation for Phish or should we have this conversation again after my 183rd show? What do you think they have in store for us on 12/28? What would you put down if you could pull a Jedi mind trick on Trey and take control for that first 90 minutes?

Thanks for reading. Any suggestions for next time? I am trying to bring a new perspective to the site and I sincerely hope I can find some traction and deliver at least semi-enjoyable and thought provoking content.

Tom B. can be found on Twitter at @tbrecken. This is his second guest post for Coventry. Check out... Confessions of a 3.0 Phan.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Flashback: 12/18/99 Hampton and Bob Mayonnaise

Hampton. 13 years ago today. The Phish threw down and summoned the Mothership. How hot was 12/18/99? It's the infamous BOB Mayonaise show that included a HOOD opener. Oh and how the second set opener? It was a mind-melting, Kubrick-haunted, 18-minute blastoff with 2001 that was peppered with Frampton teases, which took it's time before it trickled into a 15-minute Sand.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Frank Zappa (1968)

Here's Frank Zappa and Mothers of Invention during a tour of Europe in 1968...

Here's the track list...

King Kong (9/28/68 Essen, Germany)
Improvisations (10/6/68 Bremen, Germany)
King Kong (10/6/68 Bremen, Germany)
Pound For A Brown (10/6/68 Bremen, Germany)
Sleeping In A Jar (10/6/68 Bremen, Germany)
Uncle Meat (10/6/68 Bremen, Germany)
Lohengrin (10/6/68 Bremen, Germany)
Let's Make The Water Turn Black (10/6/68 Bremen, Germany)
Octandre (10/6/68 Bremen, Germany)
Improvisation (10/23/68 London, England)
King Kong (10/23/68 London, England)
Oh In The Sky (10/23/68 London, England)

H/T to @JezmondBerzrker.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy 50th Birthday to the Cassette Tape

Happy belated 50th birthday to the cassette tape. Sources close to me report that on December 3, 1962, Phillips began producing the audio cassette, changing the way we shared our favorite music forever.

Some of us are old enough to remember the art of crafting a mix tape, and even dabbled in tape trading circles into the late 1990's. Heck, I continued to run my ipod through a tape deck adapter in my truck up until a few years ago.

Here's a video by Ithica Audio commemorating 50 years of the mixtape. Happy belated birthday, you wonderful inanimate object.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Flashback: Dylan and the Dead - 1987

This video is great because it gave me goosebumps. Dylan's sit in on Touch of Grey is an afterthought, although he's playing a much tighter rhythm guitar than Bobby. At that point in the summer of 1987, Jerry emerged from a coma, relearned how to play guitar, and was clean and sober and looking slim and animated. If anyone saw the last legs of the Dead in the 90s, then they know how the Jerry in this video (inspired, bubbly, gregarious) is the one they wished took the stage every night (instead of the somber and sullen junkie who just stared at the ground and nodded off in mid-noodle).

I keep searching for old Dead videos on YouTube because Deadheads have been migrating their videos collections to the digital realm. I dig the fact this grainy VCR tape made it to YouTube. I love the 80s-style trippy graphics toward the end of the clip.

Here's something from the same show, but just the Dead (no Dylan) covering Traffic's Dear Mr. Fantasy...

RIP Ravi Shankar

The world's most famous sitar player, Ravi Shankar, passed away on Tuesday. Here's his raging set from the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967...

And here's Ravi performing on the Dick Cavett Show ...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Guest Post: Confessions of a 3.0 Phan

Editor's Note: Here's a guest post from a cool guy I met on tour this summer. Tom will offer up a different and unique perspective on the band and community. Enoy!

Confessions of a 3.0 Phan

By Tom B.

Some of my favorite memories revolve around the Decembers of my youth. It isn’t one particular moment that stands out; I think life has to be lived a little before we can accrue enough perspective to recognize the sentinel moments when they happen. No, these are memories of an overarching time and place. The wonder in the air as the weather turned brisk, the music on the radio turned sappy, the lights on the house turned gaudy and I turned into a selfish little toy monger, carried with it a certain type of magic that gradually starts to fade as we get older and see things more clearly.

It’s funny because, by and large, I do not carry a lot of memories from the Christmas Mornings of my childhood. No, it is that last week of school and that final few days before Christmas Eve that stand out. The anticipation, the lists, the last minute push to make sure all behavior was modified just in case a final display of good behavior was required to get my name implanted firmly under the “Nice” heading on the Big Man’s binder full of boys and girls. That is what I remember with great fondness.

I thought my days of spending December getting worked into such a frenzy that only the grandest of times could contain the ferocity of my of my excitement once it was unleashed onto the world were long gone. Never again would I spend nearly 10% of the year, an entire month, pretty much unable to focus on anything other than one happening so massive that it dwarfed all other components in my life. Until 2009 that is; the year I attended my first Phish show. Now here I am in 2012, preparing for my second NYE pilgrimage to MSG and I am, quite literally, like a kid on Christmas Eve.

So yeah, the cat is out of the bag. The scarlet letter has been affixed. I am a 3.0 nube.

I was not at Coventry, I was not at Big Cypress, I sure as hell was not at Plattsburgh. I was, however, at the Fox Theater in St. Louis on June 16th, 2009 and I have been at 17 shows since. I have spent many nights at home watching every available webcast and streaming in pirated broadcasts of the shows that were not available. I have 99 Phish albums in my iTunes library and I have listened to every single song. I even spent two hours in the car last week comparing nearly 20 years of live performances of Fluffhead to seek a greater understanding of the band’s evolution. I have read a few books, supported the charities and I plan my work travel schedule and mini-vacations around Phish tour. I am committed, I am intense, I am still treated like an outsider by many tour vets.

Leading up to MSG, I am going to write a few posts for all you fine Coventry readers sharing my perspective as a highly dedicated, intensely passionate, fresh off the boat lover of (almost) all things Phish. I do not really know where this will lead and I have way too many topics in mind to cover everything I want to discuss in just a few posts over the next few weeks but hopefully we can all have some fun with this and use it as an opportunity to share an outlet for all the pent up excitement before lights go down on December 28th (only 17 f’ing more days!).

For this inaugural post I am going to focus on what is most important, the music. Primarily the live experience but I have some thoughts on the studio stuff as well.

3.0 Phish is the tightest and most powerful this unit has ever been. Period. I do not care how amazing of a time you had a Lemonwheel or Vegas ’96. It is great that you hold so dearly to those hazy, drug fueled super parties of your youth. Obviously, I can not speak to the scene or the experience but I can critique the music and most of 3.0 blows the other eras away. Especially 2.0. Good lord, I love a 47-minute Runaway Jim as much as the next guy but if you just sit back and listen to those shows, it is amazing the band retained any credibility or brain cells for that matter. There is something to be said for the adventurousness of many 2.0 shows but what they added in creativity they lost in quality. Give me a tight, focused 8-minute Ocelot over some whacked out, 27-minute, machine gun Split Open and Melt any day.

Which brings me to my next point, quit being assholes and hating on anything from Joy. I get that is a bit of a departure stylistically and it is a far cry from the mind bending, drug induced psychedelic wizardry from days of yore but... A) it’s good, well written music, and B) Trey clearly loves that shit.

On a personal level, I hate feeling like a leper just because I like to get my groove on to Backwards Down the Number Line but as a fan it pisses me off to see this loyal and wonderful group of people turn on somebody who has provided them with so much joy (pun intended) through the years. Trey has gone through hell and back and these tunes are so obviously close to his heart. How about showing a little respect and not letting out a collective groan and starting a mad dash for the bathroom the second you hear the first notes of Kill Devil Falls?

Did you guys used to treat anything from Farmhouse with such disdain? I’m curious as to how, when and why Twist and Heavy Things went from being buzz kills and became staples.

Now that I have gotten that little rant off of my chest, I think I will wrap up "Confessions Vol. 1" with a few thank yous. First and fore most, thank you to the band. You guys are amazing and you have changed my life for the better. You have allowed me to open up my mind to new things (not chemically induced either) and you have served as the backdrop for many of the best nights in my life over the past three years. Phish has been the vehicle for many friendships gained and strengthened over the past 3 years and I am seriously grateful. Thank you to Pauly for being an example of why Phish culture can be so damn exciting and inclusive. Also, thank you, Pauly and the Coventry Crew for giving me this space to share some of my thoughts. Finally, thank you to all the phans out there who have helped me on my journey. 90% of the people at every show are just the most amazing, caring, generous folks one could ever hope to meet. As for the other 10%? Well, that seems like a good topic for next time.

Tom B. can be found on Twitter at @tbrecken.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Morning Key Bumps: The Commodores and Machine Gun

You might know this instrumental song because it appears on the Boogie Nights soundtrack. It's an original by The Commodores, which is the band that Nicole Ritchie's father played in during college. Here's the Commodores performing on Soul Train. We totally dig the dueling keyboards...

Here's the Machine Gun scene from Boogie Nights, which is one of my favorite parts of the film...

"Jack, do you want me to use the Spanish accent?"

Sunday, December 09, 2012


Last night, Phil Lesh and Friends encored a cover of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds on the anniversary of John Lennon's death.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Phil Lesh and Friends: PLQ Setlists, Video and Turbo Review for 12/7

On Thursday night Phil Lesh kicked off the first of four gigs with the original quintet of friends otherwise known as the PLQ (John Mollo, Jimmy Herring, Rob Baracco, and Warren Haynes).

Much like last week's run with a different line-up, Phil invited some of his closest friends to join him for a four-night jam session at his own venue, Terrapin Crossroads, in San Rafael, CA. Phil webcast the evening  for $7. Great fucking deal that allowed everyone to rock out couch tour and get a little melodious Dead flow beamed right to your home for the price of cocktail. Phil is webcasting all of his shows over at Terrapin Crossroads' website.

I was busy on Thursday night and missed the webcast. I stumbled upon a video of the 12/6/12 show...

Here's the setlists thus far for Thursday and Friday's shows...
 12/6/12 - PLQ - Terrapin Crossroads - THURSDAY

Set I: Jam > Passenger > Doin' That Rag, China Cat Sunflower > Midnight Rider > China Cat Reprise, Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues, Althea > Viola Lee Blues

Set II: Playin' > Shakedown Street > Can't Find My Way Home > Caution > Don't Step On the Tracks > Southern Cross > Terrapin > I Know You Rider

Encore: Donor Rap, U.S. Blues

* * * * *

12/7/12 - PLQ - Terrapin Crossroads - FRIDAY

Set I: Jam > Golden Road, Soulshine > Good Lovin, Sugaree, Acadian Driftwood, Mississippi Half-Step > Cumberland Blues

Set II: Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain, Patchwork Quilt > St. Stephen > Good Times Bad Times > St. Stephen > Eleven > Jessica > Unbroken Chain > Going Down the Road Feeling Bad > We Bid You Goonight

Encore: Donor Rap, Casey Jones

Here's a Turbo Review of PLQ 12/7/12...

Yes, the h3tty turbo review is back by popular demand! I had awesome evening and got to cap it off with PLQ. Earlier in the day, I bought a Christmas tree with my girlfriend and we decorated it, before I watched a few NBA games (bet on all three and won... see Ocelot Sports for more details), and then fired up the webcast. Phil was a little late and joked that they "were on MST or Musician Standard Time."

Set 1 opened with a slow-plodding jam for few minutes before tearing into a peppy Golden Road. Glad they got Soulshine out of the way early, ah just kiddin', I actually dug this reggae-flavored rendition. Rob cheesed it out on Good Lovin', but he much more subdued these days (I think he's taking his meds or eating a lot less diet pills). Back in the day Robby B got a little too enthusiastic... like your friend who loves to tell the punch lines to your jokes. Sugaree was the highlight of the set, but was impressed with their version of Arcadian Driftwood. Jimmy was cooking (like serious, redneck BBQing) on Cummberland Blues.

At setbreak, I played some of the highlights from the Thursday show (like that silky smooth Althea > Viola). Second set opened up with a fatty, thirty minute version of Scarlet > Fire. I took a piss during Patchwork Quilt, but I was fucking pumped for St. Stephen > Good Times Bad Times > Eleven. Although GTBT was unfinished, it was cool to hear them give it a rip while sandwiched in between Stephen/11. The first set was peppered with Jessica teases, and the boys waited until the middle of the second set to unleash the beast, and we got to hear Southern fried licks blended with NoCal's phinest. It almost seemed like they ran out of gas for the final stretch of Unbroken Chain > GDTRFB > Bid You Goodnight. The encore was... my favorite Dead song... Casey Jones. That was the perfect time for Robby B to go nuts on a super-speedy-turbo-charged ending. He must've done like six biker rails in the bathroom before the encore.

PLQ will return for two more shows on Saturday and Sunday. Visit Terrapin Crossroads for more info.

Read more Turbo Reviews of Phil Lesh and Friends from last weekend... 11/30 - 12/1 - 12/2.

Ben Whitesell's NYE Languedoc Poster

Editor's Note.... Ben's poster is already sold out!!

Way cool. Ben Whitesell's latest NYE poster is an homage to Languedoc.

For his latest and final piece of Phish phanart, Ben Whitesell went big. His New Year's Eve poster is a steampunk representation of Trey's Languedoc guitar and it's nearly life-size. The Print measures 15.5 x 40. He is only printing 20 of these posters and selling them on his website for $30 + s&h. Each poster is signed and numbered by Ben.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Show - 12/7/97

Much like 5/8/77 is considered the Holy Grail of shows for Deadheads, 12/7/97 has taken on a similar role in the nation of Phisheads.

Did Phish achieve perfection on 12/7/97? They certainly came close. They were on fire for most of the year... and it's those random nights in 1997 that so many jaded vets have been jonesin' for for a decade or more.

Phish as a band is constantly evolving. Like a shark, Phish must move forward or die. But if the Ice Age returned and froze Phish forever, it would be somewhere around 12.7.97 that I'd like to hear for eternity. 

Here's the "show" of all shows. Dayton. 1997. Pay you respects. Crank it up. Piss off the neighbors. Time to celebrate the Year of the Funk.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Guest Post: A Review of Crossfire Hurricane by GMoney

Editor's Note: Here's a special contribution by our good buddy GMoney.

A Review of Crossfire Hurricane... and Hopefully Some Stuff You Might Not Know About “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band”

By GMoney

Now, don’t get all excited about that opener. Let me qualify that statement. In terms of impact, longevity and true rock and roll groove, the Rolling Stones have to be considered at or damn near the top.

Crossfire Hurricane is a great documentary. In 118 minutes of film it does a fine job of capturing all that was so great about the Rolling Stones. They are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. You cannot cover the whole deal in a two hour movie. They did a great job of focusing on 1963-1981 which were truly the greatest years of the band.

Mick Jagger oversaw this project and I think he did a great job both in terms of film archives and the voiceovers describing what they are showing. When the film first starts and they mention that no cameras were allowed in the room during the interviews, I was initially a little disappointed. But I quickly got over that when I realized what had occurred in the absence of cameras. Because there was no camera peering into their “souls”, they were able to relax and just watch the footage Mick, and I am sure many others had put together and speak from the heart. I have never heard Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts speak so much, and so honestly about what was going on during those years. I have read that they recorded 80 hours of interviews and they sure picked some great moments to include in the film.

A few reasons I really loved this film:

• Mick Taylor was included in the interviews. They spent a good deal on his time with the Stones (1969-1974), considered by most to be the band operating at their peak. It also includes comments from almost all band members (Mick, Keith, Charlie and Mick Taylor himself) on the circumstances and significance of him leaving the band.(More details on this later)

• They took their time covering the early years of the band (1963-1965), when they were nothing more or less than an English Blues Band, doing covers of their heroes-Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Elmore James and many others. Watching the crazy Beatlemania-Like reaction to them on their early tours was a revelation. I never realized that just like the Beatles, they could often only get in 4 or 5 songs during many shows before the whole place would explode, and they would be overrun by fans and have to stop the show.

• The film does a great job of showing many peak moments of this great band. Many of my friends who are not quite as old as me, have their first memories of the Stones from either the late eighties or nineties or the early 80’s with Mick and David Bowie prancing around singing “Dancing in the Streets” or the albums Undercover of the Night and Dirty Work. I am grateful to have first heard them in the Seventies. I have a vivid memory of putting my cassette deck next to my old Phonograph/Stereo Speakers and recording live the Memphis Show from the opening night of the 1978 Tour as it played on WMMS- the Cleveland Classic Rock Station I grew up with. Needless to say, the sound of that TDK-D cassette was craptastic, but I did not know that then, I only knew I had a live tape of the Rolling Fricking Stones.

The documentary begins with the Stones in their prime-the end of the 1972 U.S. Tour- Madison Square Garden. Truman Capote and Andy Warhol are hanging out backstage. Tina Turner kisses Mick hello. Mick does coke off a knife blade as part of his pre-show ritual. They get out on stage and kick it in. Street Fighting Man sounds great and then even do a Yardbirds rave-up at the end , which I have never heard them do on that song.

The film then goes back to the beginning, or close to it, showing quite a few clips of the Stones in their Chicago/Chess Records Blues period. “I Wanna Make Love to You” “Route 66” and “Around and Around” are all featured. I don’t know who did the commentary when they showed all the girls in the audience going mental and pissing themselves, but hearing him describe the craziness and talking about the flood of “your-on” in his quirky British accent, was quite hilarious.

Realizing after the release of their first album The Rolling Stones in April 1964 (all covers), that someone needed to start writing some original songs, their producer Andrew Loog Oldham, started prodding Mick and Keith to start writing some songs. I loved the footage of them siting on beds in hotel rooms, working on “Sitting on a Fence” and their first “official” song that appeared on the next album, “Tell Me.”

We move ahead to 1965 and “Satisfaction” becomes a smash hit, and the band becomes a sensation. They briefly show the 1967 Psychedelic Period of Their Satanic Majesties Request, and then it is on to a video they made for Paint It Black. This is one of my favorite parts of the whole film. I ended up going on YouTube afterwards and watching the entire video a few times. What a freak show. They are all painted up like Indians on the Davy Crockett Show. Keith and Brian have on these crazy Oversized Sunglasses suited for an Andy Warhol movie. It is probably my favorite Stones video ever. There was some type of shift that had happened with the band, and I think this song and the rest of Beggars Banquet signaled a new sense of direction and sound. The mood was getting darker and dirtier. Tribal grooves, country, and Stax like soul were being added to the original stew as new influences.

I also enjoyed the brief segment on the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus Show. This event envisioned by the Rolling Stones and recorded on Dec 11 1968. It featured not just the Stones, but Jethro Tull, Taj Mahal, The Who, and Marianne Faithful. The most interesting band at the show was a one- time super group, “The Dirty Mac”, which was John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, Mitch Mitchell and Keith Richards (playing bass). Check out the whole show if you get a chance, it is worth seeing at least once. Watching Mick and Keith sing “Salt of the Earth” in the middle of the audience is reason alone. I read recently that the Stones did not release this for 28 years because the Who had basically kicked their asses. The Stones had not toured in a few years, and they were not a well- oiled rock and roll machine at that point. Brian Jones is reduced to shaking Maracas during Sympathy for the Devil. He looks like a wasted zombie, with his eyelids drooping and his slack jaw daze. Have a few more pills and maybe some booze, huh?

It was obvious by this point that things had to change for the band. The band met with Brian at his home, and all agreed that his time with the band was over. He was dead 3 weeks later.

The big show already scheduled in Hyde Park became a memorial for Brian. It was also Mick Taylor’s first show. There is a DVD of that show called The Stones in the Park (here it is onYouTube) that is pretty good.

“Honky Tonk Women” is then shown from Madison Square Garden 1969, the site of their wonderful Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out- a truly great and often overlooked album from the Mick Taylor era. It captures the new band as they are just embarking on a five year period of epic albums...
Let it Bleed
Get Your Ya Ya’s Out
Sticky Fingers
Exile on Main Street
Goat’s Head Soup
It’s Only Rock n’ Roll
Footage from the famous Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama is included as they record Wild Horses, Brown Sugar and You Gotta Move, all which appear on Sticky Fingers. I would have liked to be a fly on the wall at that studio session.

This brings me to one of my very few critiques of the film, and that is they spend a little too much time on Altamont. I guess I am just sick to death of the media making such a canned reference to this as the end of the sixties, summer of love, the opposite of Woodstock , etc. Maybe it was but it really wasn’t. Things had been shifting in the music and drug subculture for a few years at that point. Altamont was just one of the few chances that we are able to see it on film.

The Exile on Main Street footage is great to watch. It shows our heroes as they spend time hanging out in the south of France as tax exiles, while recording the new album at Keith’s Rented Mansion with the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio Truck.

A few nice quotes on the subject:
“We worked from 9 at night till 6 or 7 in the morning. The idea of playing a note before the sun went down was ludicrous” (Keith)

“It was a nightmare. Instead of working on a song for 2 hours, you worked on it for 2 fuckin’ weeks” (Bill)
There is also quite a bit of footage from the 1972 U.S. Tour, much of it from the bootleg movie “Cocksucker Blues” (watch it on YouTube) One of my favorite moments was watching Annie Leibovitz snapping pictures of Keith as he lays splayed out across a folding chair, wasted beyond belief. This is probably my favorite Keith picture ever.

One of the most important quotes regarding the uniqueness of the Stones sound is bestowed upon us by Bill Wyman. “When we got together, something magical happened. Every band, they follow the drummer. We don’t follow the drummer. The drummer follows Keith. So the drums are very slightly behind Keith and I(the Bass) tend to play ahead(of the beat) and it has a sort of wobble to it. And it can very dangerous.”

That "wobble" was also very often on the verge of falling apart, but when it was locked in, they swung like no other rock and roll band.

I was also very interested in hearing the reason(s) Mick Taylor left the band in 1974. I knew from reading about the period a few of the reasons, but it was cool to hear it from the band themselves. Mick offers up: “I have no idea why he left the band. That was the stupidest idea I ever heard.”

Keith mentions his frustration that this version of the band was being broken up after he had spent some much time getting it together. But he also says,“There is another part of me that thinks somehow it was inevitable.”

Mick Taylor offers up his own reasons, but I could tell he was holding back a little, saying that in the end, it was a matter of survival. He had slowly slipped into heroin addiction over his last few years with the band, and getting away them and those influences was the only way he could see to get himself free.

I was thinking the other day about what a whirlwind this must have been for Mick Taylor. He joined the band when he was just 20 years old. He was part of 5 classic studio albums and probably twice that many tours over that five year period and now he was done and retired from the Stones. He was only 26 years old. If he could have been smarter and got his act together instead of quitting, he would probably still be playing with them today. Life is strange like that sometimes. The choices we make and have to live with.

So instead of Mick, Ronnie Wood becomes the second guitar player. This brings on a whole new version of the band in terms of dynamics and guitar playing. With Mick Taylor and Keith, there was a clear cut delineation between lead and rhythm guitar. Keith hardly took any leads. But when Ronnie joined the band, Keith and Ronnie started trading roles back and forth all the time, often in the same song. Their guitar tones were very close as well, so after a while it was hard to tell who was playing what. Keith calls it the "Ancient Art of Guitar Weaving" and it's pretty awesome stuff.

I have watched video of Ronnie just starting into a lead, and looking out of the corner of his eye and seeing that Keith is inspired and is going to take the solo. He then slams into the Rhythm part immediately and covers that end without anyone in the audience knowing that it really was not planned that way. That is a very hard thing to be able to pull off well, but Ronnie is a great and very intuitive player.

They conclude the film up with a montage of the band from 1975-1981. We get to see Mick run around in his NFL football pants again, thank God. A quick clip from the Shine A Light film from a few years ago and it’s a wrap. Like I mentioned before, it was wise to focus on the best years of the band and as I only noticed recently on the Cover Box of the Film, the subtitle of the film is “The Rise of the Stones” I think they got the job done.

GMoney is a special Guest Contributor for Coventry Music. He's a musician from Ohio. Follow him on Twitter at... @777GMoney.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

NYE Ticket Giveaway By

Our friends at sent out a new press release... Press Release December 2012

NEW YEARS EVE TICKET GIVEAWAY!!!, the official face value ticket trading community, would like to say Thank You for 'Embracing the Face' in 2012. To show their continued dedication and support to all who have participated, is giving away 14 tickets to 7 bands this New Year's Eve. Join the voice and support this fair trade marketplace, the Internet's own face value alternative.  Spread the word and help the website reach 20,000 registered members. now includes personal storefront pages that give creative members the chance to brand themselves and sell their arts, crafts, clothing, jewelry, and the like. Best of everything on, its completely Free!

Also, amongst the 'friends' feature, there are now individual group options, in which members can create their own groups in efforts to better trade with those they are closest with, or within a particular sub group, like a Facebook group, or maybe an old group of college buddies.

From the trading of tickets, to hotel reservations, airline miles, clothing, jewelry, and even work or has become a trading hub were members feel safe connecting with like minded folks who are friends of friends and support one another.

Stay tuned as they launch many new features in 2013. Thank you for your participation.

NYE GIVEAWAY (14 tickets / 7 bands)

Anyone who sells products can now set up a store in a few minutes. Like everything COT *ITS FREE*

You can now be part of an exclusive group with your close friends and enjoy the tools of the COT platform.

A post on COT shows up on 13 partner websites. Become a partner today !


HAPPY HOLIDAYS! and see you on New Years.
- Brando and Dusty from