Issue 3 of 3
Ah, December: home to the shortest days of the year and in many parts of the country, some of the coldest. For Phish fans, these days of short daylight hours, cold temperatures, snow and the accompanying winter doldrums are only made worse by the final push toward the annual New Year’s Eve run. In the previous two editions of my MSG Preview I discussed new covers in 2011 and those that were taken off the shelf this summer. A third aspect of Phish’s cover songs are those that lead to experimentation and venture away from the original version.
In 2011, we saw a handful of songs push the boundaries we’ve come to expect from our collective experience while a handful of others did not fare as well. There’s always ebbs and flows in the way a particular song or series of songs is treated at a particular show or over a given tour. For the typical jam vehicles in the cover repertoire, I believe the hallowed (and updated) halls of Madison Square Garden may prove to be the final proving ground for some, and future tease for others. Here’s a list of some covers that have wowed in the past, present and hopefully future.
Also Sprach Zarathustra (Longest 2011 Version: 8:46)
Oh 2001, what has happened to you in 3.0? Well, really, what happened to you in the end of 2.0? Once the consistent deliverer of 10-20 minute jams and a sign of a memorable set to come, 2001 is now unfortunately a middle of the set transition piece. And in extreme regular rotation. With the longest version of 2001 coming in at 8:46, calling the song a jam vehicle in 2011 is somewhat of a misnomer. Some memorable versions are out there, including the tease-laden 6.3.11 and 6.8.11; however, at the same time, versions under five minutes (!) were found on at Superball 1 and Outside Lands. Can 2001 bounce back as we usher in 2012? One can only hope.
MSG Likelihood: 9.75/10
Crosseyed + Painless (12:45)
It’s an odd time when a song has already been played at a particular venue in a particular year when Phish has a show there on the horizon. This is exactly the case with Crosseyed and Painless in 2011. Kicking off set II of MSG 3 (round 1), Crosseyed and Painless found itself back in line for shows regularly in 2011. A song being played eight times in a year isn’t necessarily news, unless of course it was only played 15 times in the previous 15 years. Phish’s last performance of Crosseyed and Painless at UIC 3 saw the clock strike 12:16 and teases return in Timber, Piper, Character Zero, Run Like an Antelope, Funky Bitch and Tweeprise. Perhaps this C+P blowout at UIC was a sign that the song will return to the shelf. Perhaps they’re just getting started with it.
MSG Likelihood: 8.0/10
One version in 2011? I was just about to start thinking about forgetting Drowned before I wrote this article. Drowned has never exactly been commonplace, but certainly more so than one version a year. With the band killing it on NYE in 1995, including the oft-debated Fire on the Mountain tease, pushing it past 20 minutes on several occasions over the years and stretching it over 17 minutes as recently as 2009, fans may be wondering if MSG may be the place to bring back this fantastic jam vehicle. With the band’s history with this song and noticeable lack of attempts this year, I would hope fans will be treated to a lengthy and upbeat version that dives into Type II territory before a segue into the likes of, say, Undermind, much like the PNC 1 jam into Maze. Whatever the band does – or doesn’t do – with Drowned at MSG will be telling for its future.
MSG Likelihood: 6.5/10
Golden Age (13:03)
What started as an interesting choice of the band to cover for many fans has turned into a shining star in the Phish cover catalog. Not always a true jam vehicle in length or departure from the original tone, Golden Age has emerged out of great jams and lead to others. Notable versions include the band’s longest, 13:03 on 7.2.11 and the landing pad it became out of the fantastic Tweezer at Dick’s. While Golden Age has become a great Phish cover, over Leg II it became commonplace as well. Let’s hope a particularly special version at MSG leads to more sporadic, yet memorable, playing of the song in 2012.
MSG Likelihood: 8.0/10
Rock and Roll (20:15)
Some may say the jam of the year in 2011 was Rock and Roll at the Gorge. At the very least, the West Coast fans were treated to one of the top five jams of the year. No stranger to long versions across Type I and Type II styling, Rock and Roll shared the stage with Crosseyed and Painless as being the second-most covered song in 2011, one behind Also Sprach. Versions in 2011 reached 13:12 (6.17.11), 16:45 (7.7.11) and 20:15 (8.5.11) in 2011. Its regularity and “She puts on a New York station” line all but guarantees its play at MSG, but will the band opt for a spacey Type II jam or high-tempo Type I like perhaps overlooked version that closed out 12.31.10 I? The case can be made for why each may be better – let’s sit back and see what we get.
MSG Likelihood: 9.95/10
Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley (13:01)
Along with Crosseyed and Painless, Phish has already played Sneakin’ Sally at MSG in 2011. Also along with Crosseyed and Painless, I don’t expect that to be an issue for its play during the NYE run. MSG ’97 served as the massive (919 shows) bust out for Sally and the song hasn’t ventured too far away from the rotation since. A great representation of the recent “Plinko” jams can be found in 2011’s Blossom version and on 8.10.11 the Golden Age > 2001 > Sneakin’ Sally is of note for this article if nothing else. A fun song that historically can reach over 12 minutes (see Blossom’s 13:01 version), Sneakin’ Sally is likely this run – but will it be five minutes or 15?
MSG Likelihood: 8.5/10
Be sure to check out… (download the playlist)
- Drowned – 5.31.11
- Sneakin’ Sally – 6.4.11
- 2001 – 6.8.11
- Golden Age – 7.2.11
- Rock and Roll – 8.5.11
- Golden Age > 2001 > Sneakin’ Sally – 8.10.11
- Crosseyed + Painless – 8.17.11