O Holey Night: Night Ten Of Phish Baker’s Dozen Residency – Recap, Setlist & The Skinny
The stock response given by fans to those unfamiliar with Phish when asked why they would want to see the same band multiple times over the course of one tour is “because they play a different show each night.” Phishheads can now point directly at the band’s Baker’s Dozen residency at Madison Square Garden in New York City as an example of just how different the Vermont jam act’s concerts can be.
Wednesday’s show was the 10th concert of the run and the band has still yet to repeat a song. Yet the historic nature of the residency spans well beyond what increasingly appears to be a repeatless run as outstanding jams have come from both the usual suspects and songs that rarely serve as improvisational springboards. Then there’s the inventive themes each night. How would the quartet work “Holes,” the variety of Federal Donuts given to fans on Wednesday night, into the setlist? It didn’t take long for the capacity crowd to find out.
Before we get into the details of Wednesday’s show, let’s take a moment to applaud the efforts of the “fifth member” of the band. One of the unsung heroes of the Baker’s Dozen residency is Phish LD Chris Kuroda. Phish scrapped the video panels of 2016 as Chris is using a new rig which includes moving trusses that have blown minds each night. So, for this tour Kuroda has had to formulate a whole new game plan from what he employed last year. “CK5” and his team spent many hours and days creating and programming over 100 “looks” he chooses between as he “plays” each song with the band. Just like the quartet, he has to re-learn every tune to make sure he has his cues down. Kuroda especially shines when Phish is jamming. The designs he has come up with accents the improvisation perfectly.
“Holes” immediately played into the action when Phish opened with a debut cover of Tom Waits’ “Way Down In The Hole.” Guitarist Trey Anastasio handled lead vocals on a song best known to many as the theme to the HBO series The Wire. Keyboardist Page McConnell served up a powerful organ solo for the slow and throbbing rendition of “Way Down In The Hole.” Up next was the first ever “Buried Alive” played at The Garden. Anastasio shined on the instrumental which featured a false start courtesy of drummer Jon Fishman. The 2017 debut of “Kill Devil Falls” was a standard shred-fest and was followed by the first “Guyute” in 50 shows.
An element missing from the run leading up to Wednesday’s first set was Jon Fishman’s Electrolux vacuum cleaner. Fish finally dusted off the vacuum for a solo in the middle of “I Didn’t Know.” Trey introduced the solo by telling the crowd, “You know what they say…the more holes…the more complicated the vacuum cleaner.” A nearly flawless “NICU” came next marking the first song of the night that had been played previously in 2017. Bassist Mike Gordon then stepped into the spotlight to lead the band through one of the most unusual versions of “Meat” in Phish history. Not only did the members of the quartet each add cool vocal accents throughout “Meat,” but the song was extended with a loping jam segment following a rare miscue from Fish that garnered a “sorry, let’s try that again” from the drummer. Anastasio’s guitar screamed throughout the deliciously weird final minutes of the Story Of The Ghost funk workout.
The opening stanza continued with “Maze” which as usual featured crowd-pleasing solos from McConnell and Anastasio. Phish then dusted off a cover of Norman Blake’s “Ginseng Sullivan” for the first time in 80 shows. While “Waiting All Night” was played an average of every four shows between its debut on October 31, 2013 and Summer Tour ’16, the Fuego track has become rare of late. The foursome only performed “Waiting All Night” once last fall and the version that followed “Ginseng Sullivan” on Wednesday broke a 28-show gap, the longest in the song’s nearly four-year history. Up next was “Heavy Things,” another former staple that has become less frequent recently. The lyric “leaving two holes in my face” received cheers from the crowd ahead of the start of the set-closing “Run Like An Antelope.” With seemingly only one chance to play “Antelope” over the run’s 13 shows, the band patiently built the jam to a rolling boil with impressive Trey/Page interplay.
There have been many surprises this summer and one was the absence of “Mike’s Song.” Set two kicked off with “Mike’s,” ending a gap of 20 shows between plays. Phish debuted “Mike’s” in 1985 and the only longer gap in the song’s 32-year history took place in 1988 (and it’s possible a “Mike’s” was played during that 62-show stretch in 1988 and just wasn’t documented). On August 4, 2015 the quartet brought back the second jam in “Mike’s” thanks to the efforts of Phish whisperer Drew Hitz. The second “Mike’s” jam re-appeared five nights later then disappeared again until Wednesday night. The Baker’s Dozen “Mike’s” started with Phish exploring blissful, major-key terrain. Page showed off his new synths and electric piano as Trey strung together beautiful melodies. As “Mike’s” became the latest member of the 20-minute club, Phish built the second jam to a huge climax. The first 20-minute “Mike’s Song” since December 2, 1997 eventually gave way to an a capella rendition of “O Holy Night,” get it?
A bit of spacey jamming connected “O Holy Night” to “Taste.” This is the Baker’s Dozen run we’re talking about, so of course Phish took “Taste” beyond its normal boundaries. Wednesday’s take saw the band modulate between keys multiple times in a way they never had before during “Taste.” The must-hear version featured bombastic drumming from Fishman, glorious fills from McConnell, driving bass lines from Gordon and varied leads and rhythmic work from Anastasio. Forty minutes into the set Phish had played just two songs along with an extremely short a capella number and there was little noodling. The Vermonters made nearly every note count over the course of the “A Taste Of O Holy Mike’s.” Up next was a “Wingsuit” played with extra flair and panache.
Trey, Mike, Page and Fish rounded the corner for home by dropping the band’s beloved cover of “Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley” after “Wingsuit.” While “Sally” didn’t break form, Anastasio’s solo was a ripper filled with wah’d out leads. Jon Fishman was charged with directing traffic on the transition from “Sally” to the expected “Weekapaug Groove.” With the curfew quickly approaching, Phish would have been excused for racing through “Weekapaug,” but instead they took their time to build to a powerful peak.
There were yet more “Holes” references to end the show. A cover of The Beatles’ “A Day In The Life,” complete with its lyrics about “holes,” served as the encore. Phish is nearing the finish line with just three Baker’s Dozen shows to go. The residency continues on Friday night. A webcast is available via LivePhish.com.
Madison Square Garden [See upcoming shows]
48 shows — 12/30/1994, 12/30/1995, 12/31/1995, 10/21/1996, 10/22/1996, 12/29/1997, 12/30/1997, 12/31/1997, 12/28/1998, 12/29/1998, 12/30/1998, 12/31/1998, 12/31/2002, 12/02/2009, 12/03/2009, 12/04/2009, 12/30/2010, 12/31/2010, 01/01/2011, 12/28/2011, 12/29/2011, 12/30/2011, 12/31/2011, 12/28/2012, 12/29/2012, 12/30/2012, 12/31/2012, 12/28/2013, 12/29/2013, 12/30/2013, 12/31/2013, 12/30/2015, 12/31/2015, 01/01/2016, 01/02/2016, 12/28/2016, 12/29/2016, 12/30/2016, 12/31/2016, 07/21/2017, 07/22/2017, 07/23/2017, 07/25/2017, 07/26/2017, 07/28/2017, 07/29/2017, 07/30/2017, 08/01/2017
12 songs / 8:10 pm to 9:36 pm (86 minutes)
7 songs / 10:10 pm to 11:29 pm (79 minutes)
19 songs / 14 originals / 5 covers
27.53 [Gap chart]
Way Down In The Hole (Tom Waits),
Way Down In The Hole, Buried Alive, Kill Devil Falls, Guyute, I Didn't Know, Meat, Ginseng Sullivan, Waiting All Night, Heavy Things, Mike's Song, O Holy Night, Taste, Sneakin' Sally, Weekapaug Groove, A Day In The Life
Ginseng Sullivan - 80 Shows (LTP - 8/9/2015)
Mike's Song = 22:37
O Holy Night = 2:23
Lawn Boy - 1, Rift - 1, Billy Breathes - 1, The Story of the Ghost - 2, Farmhouse - 1, Joy - 1, Fuego - 2, Misc. - 5, Covers - 5
73° and Partly Cloudy at Showtime
Capacity: 20,789 Donut Flavor: Holes
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