[The recap of the final Baker’s Dozen show is brought to you by James Palatini / @TheBull288]
There are rare occasions in life that we truly appreciate as we experience them. More often than not, only after a significant amount of time has passed, are we able to take a step back and realize how fortunate we were. The Baker’s Dozen is, and was, the former in spades.
Quickly in this run, it became impossible to ignore the fact that we were living something incredibly special. Tonight, our collective Baker’s Dozen journey with notes of Will There Be Repeats? (No) > Will I Get A Donut? (Debatable) > Will Jam-Filled Donut Night Be Jam-Filled? (Yes) > Will I FINALLY Get “Izabella”? (Yes x2) concluded with a joy-filled finale on Night 13 on “Phish Day,” dubbed as such per mayoral decree in New York City.
There was a palpable celebratory energy in The Garden tonight – an energy I’ve never felt at any Phish show before. We’re always happy attend a show with 20,000 of our closest friends, there’s always anticipation before a show, etc., but this felt different. This energy was akin to Game 4 of a Stanley Cup Final, when you’re at home and you’re leading the series 3-0, or leading the World Series-clincher by five runs heading into the ninth inning – victory is a forgone conclusion. Phish had won 12 straight at The Garden – and we knew we were in store for one final victory.
As I settled into my seat in section 114, just a handful of rows from Mr. McConnell’s setup, it was that sense of happiness/appreciation/gratitude that dominated the chatter in the area. And before we knew it, the final show of the Baker’s Dozen was underway.
Despite the fact that so many tunes were “off the board,” my mind naturally wandered on where we’d start tonight – “Icculus"? “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”? “YEM”? – but we were treated to a grooving rendition of “Dogs Stole Things” to kick us off. As wild and unique as many of the openers have been in the run – “Chocolate Rain” to “O Canada”, “Way Down in the Hole” to “Shake Your Coconuts” – “Dogs” was fairly straightforward, allowing all of us to settle in. It was clear the crowd was looking for a moment to burst , and it came with the opening notes of “Rift.” While I’ve felt the floor/stands at MSG bounce numerous times, the wave of 20,000 souls that were simultaneously persuaded to ignite set the tone for a first set that showed The Phish From Vermont had plenty left in the tank.
Trey briefly struggled to find the proper key in “Ha Ha Ha” before finally landing in the right place, and blew any of our flubby blues away with the initial riff to “Camel Walk.” Always a crowd pleaser in its usual early first set slot, this “Camel” oozed funk from its humps down to is toes.
The high-octane energy of this first set continued with Mike’s “Crazy Sometimes.” I loved this tune when I watched it on the Dayton webcast, and it looks like the guys enjoy playing it a lot. It allows each member of the quartet to shine, and I hope we see it included more often in the rotation. The craziness continued with “Saw It Again,” and little respite came our way with “Sanity” as the gritty first set powered on.
We finally took a collective breath with “Bouncing Around The Room,” before being treated to what shaped up to be a star of the first set. “Most Events Aren’t Planned” from Page’s Vida Blue side project began, and while most in attendance didn’t recognize the song at its start – myself included – we sure knew it by the end. This tune achieved liftoff after about four minutes, and didn’t let up. For a song that was a band debut, it sounded like it had long been a part of the repertoire – no doubt a credit to the comfort and consistency provided by the Baker’s Dozen residency. “Most Events Aren’t Planned” was a major highlight and worth the listen.
Following the first Set I “Bug” in just over four years (8/3/13 at BGCA), Page was summoned once more. Trey and Page indulged in some witty banter. Trey quipped, “Hey Page, how ya feeling after 13 nights?”… “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m feeling pretty glazed tonight,” in reference to the final donut, before the fifth “I Been Around” in history. From my vantage point in 114, I had a clear view of Trey’s face as he was rocking out during “I Been Around,” staring at Page. Before I knew it, I was smiling so hard because Trey was smiling so hard. While a brief ditty such as this can often be overlooked in a setlist, I’ll never forget this one because of the pure happiness I saw from Trey.
But what to close the first set with? Decisions, decisions. Ah, hell. “IZABELLA!” I admit this isn’t the song I’m DYING to see, but I’m well aware that it IS for so many fans out there. Seeing those wishes answered tonight and feeling that overwhelming emotion in the room – a moment which clearly meant something very specific and personal to the vast majority of fans in the building – was impossible to ignore, and something I know I won’t do justice in attempting to condense in a few lines. I will say that, to the surprise of no one, Trey absolutely shredded it like a rock star. The applause flowed from a crowd that understood the significance of this rarity to wrap up a hard-hitting 70-minute first set.
The twinkle in the eye of the germ of the inkling of what we all hoped this run could possibly become was born during Set II of Night 2 in Chicago on July 15, when the band launched into a monster “Simple” that caught everyone’s attention. Perhaps it’s only fitting that they held off until Night 13 to play it at the Baker’s Dozen. “Simple” kicked off tonight’s Set II with cheers of skyscrapers, and while the Second City’s rendition may hold top honors, tonight’s Simple was nipping at its heels. After its composed section, gorgeous interplay in the song’s natural F major key included Fish shining on his grand cymbals, and Page taking a twirl on his synth, before Trey led us into a blissful B flat space. As has been the key throughout these sustained 20-plus minute jams this summer, there was a distinct patience shown by the band. This patience paid off with multiple peaks, including a dissonant build that took my mind back to the sustained dissonance of Possum on 8/1. After nearly 25 minutes, Page made his way to the theremin(!), although from my vantage point, Trey may not have seen the move, as he cut things short before Page could really get going.
This led to “Come Together” of TAB fame, followed by “Starman,” which made its first appearance since Halloween 2016. Mike’s vocals shined on the Bowie tune, the third of the run following “Moonage Daydream” and “Rock N’ Roll Suicide.” Following a brief conversation between the quartet, Trey counted us down to the inevitable “You Enjoy Myself.” As the fanbase is wont to do, expectations were set high – in fact, beyond high – for what this “YEM” could bring. With the bar set by many to a near-unattainable level, the gents delivered what amounted to a top-notch YEM featuring an “Izabella” tease, encouraged by Mike. This “YEM” shined brightly, delivering our second 20-plus minute tune of the evening, with a four-minute vocal jam to round it out. The beautiful buzz created from the heady “Simple” and “YEM” resulted in a “Loving Cup” that capped a five-song second set that put the band’s wide variety of skills and attributes on full display.
The symbiotic gratitude was cranked to 11 at this point, with Trey grabbing flowers from the fans on the rail, among other gifts from the crowd, which applauded ad nauseam to show its thanks. Just before the band reemerged for the encore, the Baker’s Dozen banner was raised to the rafters, another wish for many that was again answered on this night. Following a band photo, from my seat, I saw what I thought was Trey wiping his eyes pretty vigorously. I tried to dissuade myself of this notion, despite my own welled eyes, but it was fully confirmed by Trey and Page’s quivering lyrics on Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again.” Trey then led the band on a Tweeprise-themed “Lawn Boy Reprise,” as Page informed us that yes, this was still indeed “Lawn Boy,” before a “Weekapaug Groove” tease, and the “Tweezer Reprise” we knew had been coming since Night 1. One final time to yell. One final time to jump through the roof. One final time to say thank you. And as quickly as it began, the Baker’s Dozen was over.
The beauty of these shows – and the waves of cheers and applause in the corridor as we streamed out towards 7th Avenue after each of them – is that unlike a Rangers or Knicks game, Phish won every night. We all won every night. Tonight was a coronation of what had been years in the making, and it was done in style.
We can all sit here and extrapolate meaning from the choice of “On The Road Again” in the encore slot, and the clear emotion shown by the band. I choose not to go down this road. Many songs tonight referenced living in the moment (Sanity, Most Events Aren’t Planned, Bug, etc). We’re all fortunate to have experienced the Baker’s Dozen, whether you attended all 13 shows on the floor, or simply watched a few at home on the couch. We witnessed our favorite band accomplish an incredible feat, taking creative chances that are at the root of why we come back time and again – and we all had a lot of fun doing it. The Baker’s Dozen has undoubtedly earned its seat atop Phish’s Mount Rushmore of festivals/shows/runs, and as the days and weeks go on, the argument can easily be made that perhaps the Baker’s Dozen stands alone.
Over the past 17 days, we were treated to things we may never see again from this band. We can only hope that the life Phish loves is indeed making music with their friends – and that they can’t wait to get on the road again. Based on what we saw through 13 shows, 26 sets, 237 unique songs, and roughly 2,079 minutes of music over the past 17 days – I’ll say the glass looks more than half full.
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Jazz Mandolin Project: January 23, 1998
20 years ago
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