21 in 21 of 2017: #6 07/21/2017 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – Baker’s Dozen N1 “Coconut” (Peter Kern, @pkilla_29)
What can be said about The Baker’s Dozen that might not have been said already? I am sure many have and will continue to put the Dozen in a greater context as well as rank, rate, and compare each individual show. I could do these things for this review and discuss the rank of “Coconut” Night in the greater order of the Dozen. I could try to talk about the greater symbolic meaning of what happened on 7/21/17 at Madison Square Garden. I might even talk about if the Baker’s Dozen is the second peak of Phish, potentially on par with Big Cypress.
But on 7/21/17 we didn’t have any hindsight or anything else to go off of. What we had was potential, wonder, anticipation for something great, and our own ideas of what was to come in the next 13 shows. That’s why I want to have this as simply just a review of that night, in a singular time that doesn’t take meaning from the 12 nights after it. I want to write as close to what my thoughts were at around 11:30pm on July 21st 2017.
I think it is important to start a few hours before any music happened to get our first nugget of info about what we were to expect from this Baker’s Dozen idea. We got a flavor: Coconut. Phish Inc. put out a social media blast saying that the flavor of tonight would be Coconut and that Federal Donuts would be giving away free donuts inside MSG before the show. What could this all mean? So many questions and ideas were running through everyone’s heads. Would they play coconut-themed songs? Are they going to fly around in a giant coconut? Are they simply just feeding us? We would get a clue within the first few notes of the show.
“Shake Your Coconuts” was the name sent out by Phish From the Road on Twitter and, to the more musically inclined, it would be recognized as a Junior Senior tune. But, to the rest of us, we had to wonder where this most perfect opener came from. I personally thought it was a new tune from Phish, written specifically for this event, which had my mind spinning about if they might write a song for every night! 13 new Phish songs? That would be an amazing feat in and of itself. Though this was not the case, the potential was filling us all with huge amounts of joy and the chorus would lead us to just keep on dancing now, as the future would sprawl out before us.
The next few Tunes of “Martian Monster,” “Timber Ho!,” “555,” “Pigtail,” and “Halfway to the Moon” would be pretty standard fare, though I have always had a soft spot for “Pigtail” because of the drunken guy that kept yelling for it in his thick New York accent behind me at my first show (12/28/11).
There was a bit of a nice jam in “Timber” and “Halfway” showing that this was a special night and that the guys on stage were ready to give this run all they had. The next nod to the night’s flavor came in “Reba” with the “coconuts and chloroform, some wicker and some cork” line getting a rise out of the crowd as well as giving Trey a bit of a laugh. “Reba” also has a little bit of extra “kapow” on it and the lack of whistling at the end led us right into what would be the first of the Ziggy Stardust tunes to be played outside of the MGM Grand Arena. A classic “Walls of the Cave” closed out a very solid first set. Even though this set was pretty standard, we could tell that some big things were to come and just knew it was a solid show, taboot.
The second set would make us all realize that the band wasn’t playing around and that this run was going to be something special. Opening the second set on the first night with “Tweezer” sent phans into a frenzy. First of all because who doesn’t get goosebumps when Trey comes out of the gate with that pentatonic riff? Secondly, because if the rumor/idea going around of no repeats would come to fruition, this would be the only “Tweezer” we would hear over this 13-night run, and on the first night at that! This “Tweezer” bubbles up from a simmering funk to a perfect double stop bliss peak that would become a staple jam style for the rest of the run. The “Seven Below” that came next would have a similar style trajectory with perhaps a bit more of a spacey, simmering period. The transition into “Billy Breathes” is so perfect and very reminiscent of the “Down With Disease” -> “Mountains in The Mist” which is the cherry on top of this jam. This “Seven Below” from what I have seen online and in reviews, is generally spoke of as the *key* jam of the night or the one that most would go back to. While I agree that it is a fantastic jam, I wanted to highlight the “Everything’s Right” that would come after a bit of a rough “Sparkle.”
This jam, to me, is the most interesting and unique jam of the night. It has a great, dark funk groove with delay line layers being laid down by Trey that would move into “Good Times, Bad Times” into esch double taps. Mike lays low underneath, locked in with Fish, just slowly moving the jam along like a funky slug going to grab a bite to eat. Page is really the mover and shaker of this jam, moving from funk clavinet to spacey electric piano lines and finally, to airy synth leads that really progress this slinky, dirty, funk jam to a pivot to a major key which segues perfectly into “Slave to the Traffic Light.” While the “Slave” itself is a solid version, the transition into it is flawless and probably the highlight of the song. “Slave” dades into “Suzy Greenberg” and the set closes with a perfectly placed acapella version of “Coconut,” or, as most know it” “You put da lime in da coconut.” Another great quirk and song selection to make us wonder what was still in store for us. The tropical-themed “Mango Song” continued in the same vein as Coconut night and then, the previously foreshadowed “Good Times, Bad Times” ended the first night of the Baker’s Dozen.
The thing I love most about firsts is the wonder of what is to come and what will come next. Nothing is difficult at the beginning — you only have forward to go and a million possibilities of what is to come. We tend to get caught up at the end of putting everything into perspective and we might tend to miss that feeling we forgot at the beginning of it all — how excited and nervous (yet thrilled!) we felt to have this event occur. The first night of the Baker’s Dozen gave us a road map of what we would find out later to be the defining traits of the entire run. However, at the time, we were just excited to be hearing the start of this grand experiment at Madison Square Garden and we should try not to forget that feeling.
Check out my Internet Radio Show “The Buffalo House Show” this Wednesday, June 27th at 9pm right here http://alllocalradio.com/. It also airs every other Wednesday. I am also a musician working on new music with my band “Sheridan” who will have new music out shortly so check in on Twitter at @SheridanMusic1 to keep up to date with us! You can also follow my personal twitter if you enjoy hockey ramblings and drunk thoughts: @Pkilla_29.