Even though the year hasn’t fully wrapped itself up yet, it’s pretty clear that 2017 was one of best years on record for the jamband titans from Vermont, Phish.
For those that may not have been keeping track at home, this post should serve as a good timeline of what this band laid down this year that blew everyone’s mind.
For the Phish fans in the room, there may be some discussion about whether or not 2017 was the best year musically we’ve ever experienced — for my money that’s still 1997 — but in terms of critical acclaim and overall creative delivery in the form of the Baker’s Dozen run, you’d also be hard-pressed to argue that it wasn’t one of the most impressive things you could have ever imagined any band doing. And your favorite band delivered on it… hugely…
Perhaps it’s the beautiful story-like arc of it all, the circular geographic return from how they started the year and how they’ll end this one at Madison Square Garden, that donut-shaped venue in the center of New York City.
What began as a lovely “Petrichor”-filled MSG gave way to a venue raining metaphorical-yet-not cats and dogs and a band on their way to the beaches in Mexico to aid and abet the loneliness. Then came the Super Bowl and we were already blown away and it was only February.
Follow along as we take you through the highlights, specifically 17 moments that really blew me away as a phan.
This Year In Phish History starts now…
Still hard not to be a little impressed by the sheer ridiculousness of this announcement. 13 shows at Madison Square Garden. In two weeks. 13 for the price of 12.
Sure, we had some idea that they wanted to do this, but it still never seemed like a possibility we’d actually see, especially since Page had played these cards in an interview during the hiatus.
2007 interview with Page pic.twitter.com/2pQrgx1lrU
— Mdawg👽 (@manning422) July 22, 2017
Re-live the announcement video below, which features donuts rolling through the city on their way to the donut-shaped Garden…
Pretty fair to say that nobody expected that, and it’s also pretty fair to say that Phish fans were all over it because a lot of hardcore Phish fans are into sports like they are into the band.
Obsessive. Stats-collecting. Ridiculously loud on the internet. Sports fans and Phish fans really do have a lot in common, and this was one of the crossover moments that phans will remember fondly. We are everywhere and such and such…
Watch the clip below.
— Marcus Gilmer (@marcusgilmer) February 5, 2017
How funny was is that Brad Sands and Trey exchanged a little text message or two over this also?!
And as of the time this post got published, it’s still looking pretty likely that this is going to happen.
Phans have pinpointed on the weekend of August 17-19, 2018…
Hotels in Watkins Glen confirming August 17-19 over the phone
Reserve em now #FestXI
— PhishatMSG (@PhishatMSG) August 24, 2017
And while nothing is final yet, don’t get mad at us if this never comes to fruition. But if you haven’t booked your RV by now, it’s probably too late bruh.
This one still blows my mind a bit. We’ve known that Fishman was busy helping out Bernie Sanders on the campaign trails wherever he could, but this was a great surprise to see that Fish is spending time in his downtime making his community a better place. I can’t help but imaging him busting out the vacuum at his first board meeting…
J/K. We obviously love this man quite a bit and it got us stoked to have this band’s wacky drummer as someone we can relate to who’s trying to make positive changes in the world.
With perhaps the best press photo ever taken.
And “Steps” became one of my go-to jams this year, an amazing track with an amazing groove. And fans were loving his latest solo shows and he’s taking his band on the road again early in 2018.
I like seeing the band busy outside of the band, it’s important to their growth and their creativity.
Ben & Jerry’s created a special flavor just for Baker’s Dozen.
Even as fans were gearing up for Chicago, the news of what was happening on the East Coast ahead of Baker’s Dozen had people already mentally thinking of those shows. Even Ben & Jerry’s got in on it by releasing this flavor for the run…
The flavor, sweet cream ice cream with a vanilla glaze, chocolate donut swirl, chocolate donut pieces, and fudge fish, will be available at the opening night of the run, July 21st, at an event just outside Madison Square Garden and on August 6th at a special webcast of the concert at Three Needs Taproom & Brewery in Burlington, VT. So start making your plans, because this flavor won’t last long!
The band plays Northerly Island in Chicago…
AND SERIOUSLY, “What’s the Use” started the entire tour. :::mind blown:::
We had to know at that point that something magical could be happening.
Our friend Abby Fox Photography shot that show for us, too, and her gallery was a spectacular post and definitely worth a second look. Especially if you don’t remember how amazing Gordo’s outfits were this summer…
Finally Baker’s Dozen arrives…
Phish opens a 13-night run at Madison Square Garden with a never-before played cover called “Shake Your Coconuts”. The donut theme of the evening was Coconuts! :::MIND BLOWN:::
Okay, so we knew it was going to be amazing but to immediate reference the donut theme that was handed out before the show could not have been anticipated to that level. It immediately opened up 12 more nights of possibilities based on flavors and colors that we hadn’t yet considered out of pure defense of our emotional psyche. We couldn’t over expect anything from the band, that’s exactly where they’ll know to let us down. Murphy’s Law or something like that.
But after the opener of Shake Your Coconuts, the crowd was absolutely lost in the madness of it all.
We had a Jake Silco on hand doing photos, check out that full gallery here.
The band also covered Harry Nillson’s classic “Coconut” which we’re hoping gets replayed again soon…
By night four of the Baker’s Dozen run, the band had completely let loose…
The show started off with a “Sample in a Jar” that got jammed and a 30 minute “Lawn Boy” that was one for the record books. Not surprisingly, the band featured it as official video.
If you haven’t given that a spin in a while it’s highly recommended. The new “Tahoe Tweezer” if you ask me.
People booked last-minute flights to get there after that. Any chance to get into the remaining shows became mission critical.
Case in point: they opened the show with a cover of internet-meme Tay Zonday’s odd AF song “Chocolate Rain”. LOL WUT.
Okay, so how were they going to top THAT?!
“Harpua” finally made its appearance during the second set and featured a narration that I wrote up as follows (while watching it on the LivePhish webcast at home)…
* – Trey and Mike sat down at the front of the stage with newspapers, then started talking about how it was really interesting that dark energy exists and waves and science-y stuff. All four band members had a little script in front of them that lead to them saying that the energy exists in a form of a donut. “The universe is a donut”. Definitely a funny little narration, uniquely nerdy and Phish-y.
How ridiculously nerdy and just…perfect. We already could see this run would have EVERYTHING that any Phish fan could have wanted. Plus they took it to the next level with their cover on “Lemon” night…
For “Lemon” night, the band covered Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place” with Fishman on lead vocals.
With mixed results if you were trying to gauge the fan reactions, but I thought it was incredible. Personally I was downright floored, well…couched that is. I could not believe what I was seeing from home…
Plus Trey was using some vocal effects and running a Kaoss Pad on stage, which was very futuristic for the band. You can watch it below…
Once that shaker started, I got chills on the back of my neck.
For “Boston Cream” night, the band played a mashup of “Sunshine of your Love” and “More Than a Feeling” by Cream and Boston, respectively.
The whole thing was a bit silly, but at least the band immediately made reference to it.
Started as “Sunshine of Your Love” but transitioned into “More Than a Feeling” by Boston before dissolving back into “Sunshine of Your Love”. There was a “Tale of Brave Ulysses” quote from Fish, then it transitioned into “Long Time” with quotes “Such a long time” … “I’ve been waiting so long” … “In the White Room…” — all played as a big jam. Sorted sounded like the funniest medley you’ve ever heard. It ended with Trey saying “tomorrow’s donut will be Kansas Metallica” flavor…”
And there we had it, the long-awaited joke delivered 20 years or so after the band probably first thought it up.
We really can’t gloss over ALL of the other covers the band laid down during the run, some of them first-timers and some of them bust-outs that needed to happen.
Listen to that crowd go nuts when they bust into “You Sexy Thing”…“I believe in miracles!” OH YES I DO
I was a huge fan of the show The Wire, so when the band opened “Holes” night with Tom Wait’s “Down in the Hole” I was left with goosebumps.
Once the crowd gets a sense that the band will be playing “Strawberry Letter #23” on “Strawberry” night….I mean, come on! People called this one, but duh, still nobody expected this to actually show up during a set.
August 6th was declared Phish Day in New York City.
The band finished the run in fine form and closed the entire thing with a special day dedicated to the band from the city of New York City. And to close the show and start the encore, there was a banner raising ceremony in the venue that showed the amazing feat of strength that was the 13 shows with no repeats.
To close the music, the band delivered an emotional version of “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson. I absolutely got teared-up watching it from home and seeing Trey work through those lyrics.
The Dick’s Run closed out the summer and had something for everyone…
Personally, I found there was some mixed opinion on this one while it was happening. Night 1 felt a little wild and messy to me…it felt a little out there. But I’ve also seen plenty of “Melt”‘s descend into a form of chaos that I quite enjoy. Meanwhile my friends were absolutely floored by how good that set two was on night one. Only way I can explain that is: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Don’t sleep on night two, which doesn’t look wild on paper but the playing was super confident that night. And I definitely loved some of the moments in night three, like the return again of “Most Events Aren’t Planned”.
It sums up the band perfectly to me right now: they’re really not planning anything, and they’re not saying no to anything either. They’re open to a new universe of music every time they step on stage and we continue to get to enjoy it the most.
The band has announced they will play New Year’s Eve at Madison Square Garden, marking it as a triumphant return. LOL.
I guess they’re taking a stand on touring too much, and who can blame them. If they can continue to play one of their favorite venues, sell out the shows and feel comfortable to deliver the type of music they played during Baker’s Dozen, we will really be in awe once again.
Personally, if the band came back, didn’t do a repeat from the first set of shows this year, and played that night one was just a continuation of the initial Baker’s Dozen run, I actually think some phans would just drop dead and die. I may personally find myself overcome with emotion while watching from the couch, something that definitely can happen (like that “On the Road Again” encore getting me super choked up).
Whatever the future holds for the band, we know it’ll be another run at MSG to pay attention to. The universe is circular, the world is a donut. And so on…