Night 3 – If You Can Heal the Symptoms

Phish continued their run at MSG on Friday with incredible buzz swirling around [the date more than anything else]. After a night that saw YEM fill the number two hole for the first time in this era, Friday night’s show saw another random fill that spot.  Part of what most would consider a random – and more disjointed – combo to open the show, Prince Caspian found itself following PYITE and segueing into BDTNL as the band opened night three of a four night NYE stand at MSG. This opening would be a bit of an ominous sign of what was to come.

What followed this three song run was something of a transition. Three songs that many could take or leave were followed by Nellie Kane; leaving the band open to start over for the night and get themselves in tune for anther great 12/30 set. But, did the kind of show that most people have come to know on a 12/30 date emerge? After Nellie Kane and Divided Sky came a smoking Sand, on par with 2010’s MSG Sand, which found itself part of a great New Year’s set.

After the four songs that started the 2011 set, Sand opened up the floodgates for some fantastic energy and some of the best peaks of the run. The highest energy of the set, and perhaps the weekend so far, transitioned perfectly into the first Vultures in 25 shows, and only the fifth of the 3.0 era. Despite forgetting several of the words, Trey and boys put their back into the rarity and likened back to the days of Walnut Creek ’97.

12.29.11 (Dave Vann)

Rift and Joy were unexpected choices at the end of a first set that seemed to carry two flavors – confused energy to open the show and decided direction that drove Sand and Vultures. While Quinn the Eskimo is a fantastic cover at every turn, we’ve seen better; one of which that came almost exactly 365 days ago to the minute.

Set 1: Punch You In the Eye > Prince Caspian[1] > Backwards Down the Number Line, Nellie Kane, Divided Sky, Sand, Vultures, Rift, Joy, Quinn the Eskimo

Set 2: Wilson > Axilla > Piper > Twist > Julius > Golgi Apparatus > Also Sprach Zarathustra, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, David Bowie[2], The Squirming Coil

Encore: Boogie On Reggae Woman, Good Times Bad Times

A perfect opener for night three at MSG awoke the masses on Friday night. Following it up with the headbanging – albeit it wanked-out – of Axilla was just another high-energy moment of a crazy weekend. In any case, a Piper that went the distance – in these times at least – and found some transcendence worked to linchpin another set that brought the New York crowd into a frenzy without pushing the envelope into Pine Knob or Gorge 1 territory. Twist followed its friend Piper in what has always been a 1.0, 2.0 or 3.0 meeting of the minds. Twist has not been a rarity of late, but its trademarks have been something that connects fans of every generation of Phish.

Which brings us to the middle of the set. Julius > Golgi > 2001. A combination of everything that we come together to see Phish for, this run has been highlighted by these efforts at pure rock and roll mixed with distinctive segues – almost to the point that the segue is more important than the jam. Bottom line: if you’re looking to get down and couldn’t during this run of songs, well I think you’re not trying hard enough. But, is their place mid-second-set on 12/30?

I’m not sure when Horse > Silent became a second set combo, but I’d be willing to guess that it was Phish 3.0. Following the funk of 2001 with the deliberacy of Horse > Silent is not the kind of mid-set break people are looking for these days. However, this was overshadowed by seeing Piper re-emerge as a post-7:00 minuter is a fantastic sign for a jamband looking for another tune to reconnect around.

Closing out the set brought some more energy from Bowie and the crisp sound of the run’s MVP at the end of Squirming Coil, perhaps Piper’s cousin in the highlight of the night family. For the encore, the one-two cover punch of Boogie On and Good Times, Bad Times is all for the fans, and perhaps Trey, who locked on to these two as a saving grace for the night. Fans from the floor to the rafters made Phish’s MSG reputation known.

Saturday leaves a lot of questions unanswered:

  1. Will the band stray from the confines of a 7:00-12:00 song to push the boundaries of something standard?
  2. Are any new originals going to rear their heads?
  3. Is there another bustout looming?
  4. What can we expect from the NYE gag?
  5. Where does the band go next?

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One thing’s for certain, the place is ready to erupt for night 4!