‘Steep’ Goes Deep: Night Nine Of Phish Baker’s Dozen Residency – Recap, Setlist & The Skinny
What delights would “Maple” bring? For maybe the first time in Phish‘s Baker’s Dozen run, the answer was not obvious…or it was certainly more enigmatic than most of the previous eight nights. Was it a Canadian theme or something sticky sweet or maybe even tree related? Well, it turns out, if you think creatively enough, it was all of those. Stretch your mind the way the band stretched out “Golden Age” and you can fit much of the setlist through a maple donut hole.
They opened the night with Trey leading a Hendrix-at-Woodstock distorted instrumental rendition of “Oh, Canada,” the anthem before the big event, and an obvious nod to the evening’s theme. The first half of the first set, eight nights in, had a warm-up feel, each band member getting a share of the spotlight. The theme maybe buried, but there more often than not if you knew where to look. Mike leading the band through his “Sugar Shack” (obvious maple syrup song), Trey singing the Los Lobos ballad “When the Circus Comes” (“name on a tree”), Page taking a turn with “Army Of One” (um, I’ve got nothing for this one, little help here?) and Fishman dazzling on the kit in the Gamehendge progger “McGrupp And The Watchful Hosemasters” (you didn’t know “hosers” was short for “Hosemasters?” And of course Dave refers to Dave Thomas, Canadian actor best known for his role as Doug McKenzie in Strange Brew).
That “McGrupp” was the keystone of an increasingly heavy-duty second quarter with bright Anastasio peaks in “The Wedge” (highway to the Great Divide Trail in the Canadian Rockies, clearly) and a creatively split “Guelah Papyrus” with Page doing a perfect piano run through the “Maple Leaf Rag” (Maple!). The set closed strong with a “Limb By Limb” (maple trees have limbs, duh!) that featured some egalitarian jamming, Gordon pounding the charge and a furious “Walk Away” that cycled peaks upon peaks upon, phew! peaks of Anastasio fury to finish the set with panache.
If you came for the maple-glazed donuts, you best have gotten to Madison Square Garden early. If you came for the deep jams, you had to wait for the second set. The opening “Golden Age” wasted no time diverging to an exploratory space, Mike opening a chunky funk with Fish lilting tempo on the wood blocks. Chris Kuroda lit the room with paired green and purple beams which twitched in the groove, a theme he returned to several times during the set. Each time, the color scheme seemed to spur a full-band collaborative spirit, Trey ceding control to the other three, who gladly doused the room in summer-17 spacefunk.
The “Golden Age” jam seemed to pass back and forth between two parallel universes, one slow/one fast, one light/one dark, one green/one purple. The jam just eclipsed the mythical 20 minute mark when they shifted into the freshly fallen “Leaves” the first maple reference of the set and a short breather before Anastasio’s serrated guitar rip in the latter stages of the new one. “Swept Away” slowed things even further (and was a not-so-subtle reference to the Canadian sport of curling), but the “Steep” that followed was perhaps the show’s surprise highlight. With the purple/green light scheme reappearing, the band followed Gordon’s room-reverberating bassplosions into a deep Page-synth groove and an unfolding cosmic space. Bliss met evil for the extended jam which had the Garden buzzing with question-marks paired with exclamation-points.
Trey eventually lifted things to a jubilant place before shepherding the foursome into “46 Days” that paired with “Piper” to create an expansive Drum/Space combination, the song portion of each merely opening a door to some creative improv and interplay, the “Piper” hitting far-flung weirdness before Trey overlaid the ending of “46 Days” to create an interesting intersection. A rather evil, red-lit jam in the show-closing “Possum” set up one of the more cathartic tension-release moments of the night, even if it lacked any overt Maple references (I imagine they do have opossums in Canada and the cars with which to hit them).
While several of the Baker’s Dozen shows have featured an encore with a new cover tune as a nod to that night’s theme, including songs by Canada’s own Neil Young, few were complaining when Phish finished the night with the second version of David Bowie’s “Rock and Roll Suicide,” first premiered at last year’s Halloween show. The tap has run dry for the ninth night of the run, four shows remain, what sticky, icing-drizzled sweets await? We shall soon find out.
Madison Square Garden [See upcoming shows]
47 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
12 songs / 8:09 pm to 9:16 pm (67 minutes)
8 songs / 9:51 pm to 11:15 pm (84 minutes)
20 songs / 13 originals / 7 covers
38.74 [Gap chart]
Oh Canada, Maple Leaf Rag
Oh Canada, Crowd Control, When The Circus Comes, Daniel Saw The Stone, Army Of One, Guelah Papyrus, Maple Leaf Rag, McGrupp, Walk Away, Swept Away, Steep, Rock N Roll Suicide
Swept Away/Steep - 192 Shows (LTP - 7/8/2012)
Golden Age 20:25
Maple Leaf Rag 0:39
A Picture of Nectar - 1, Rift - 1, Billy Breathes - 2, The Story of the Ghost - 1, Farmhouse - 1, Round Room - 1, Undermind - 2, Joy - 1, Misc. - 3, Covers - 7
86 degrees and Mostly Sunny
Capacity: 20,789 Donut Flavor: Maple
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