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.


Pauly said…
Great post Tom. See ya at MSG!

What Phish will probably play at MSG on 12/28/12...

Set 1: AC/DC Bag, Sample in a Jar, Funky Bitch, Kill Devil Falls, ICE, MoMA Dance, Stash, Faulty Plan, Possum

I would love if Phish played this on MSG 12/28/12...

Set 1: Rock and Roll > Carini, Tube > Gumbo, Skin It Back, Hood, YEM

davefan0609 said…
Great post ,Tom...Historically looking for 12/30 to be the strongest night of the 4...
the joker said…
thanks for the post, Tom!

my favorite first set songs, in no particular order: Punch You in the Eye, Tube, Moma Dance. i too agree with you about songs like YEM- there are songs that are usually second set songs that i feel like i get more pumped about them when they are in the first set because in my mind it is unexpected. the unexpected tastes better.

thinking back of greatest 1st set openers, its tough to top MSG 12/31/02 Piper or the Hampton 3/6/9 Fluffhead for crowd energy, but those were special circumstances. Some vets will groan at the "standard" openers of songs like AC/DC bag or Jim, but sometimes its nice when your girlfriend is taking too long or you are stuck in the beer line and the music starts and you haven't missed anything.

ps- i prefer the spelling "noob" or "n00b", you noob.
Unknown said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said…
Great post Tom B...very insightful. I think there will be even more excitement in the air with this being the first time for phish to break in the newly transformed MSG. Being the perfectionists that they are, I think we can expect a special few nights including what Kuroda brings to the table. Be there and be square!
Pauly said…
Ha... the boys actually played 5 of the tunes I thought they'd play in the opening set and I was kinda joking around.

Popular Posts