Glazed and Confused: Phish’s Baker’s Dozen Preview

It’s time to make the donuts.  Whether you like your songs sprinkled with bluegrass or deep-fried in funk, the Baker’s Dozen run is sure to be filled with surprises and innovative decoration.  The colossally ambitious 13 shows in 17 days will bring Phish back to the “World’s Most Famous Arena” for the first time this year.  Soft rock pianists like Billy Joel wouldn’t be able to handle the New York state of mind for this many shows in such a short period of time, but die-hard Phish junkies lucky enough to scoop up the full Baker’s package are foaming at the mouth!

Hard to believe that Phish had only played Madison Square Garden a total of 13 times prior to the 3.0 era.  The 90’s saw the band transform from small venue jam band to arena-filling rock stars, and their initial visit to MSG in December of 1994 marked a significant new chapter in the band’s trajectory.

Phish had outgrown their tank by the mid-90’s and iconic Manhattan venues like The Wetlands Preserve were now reserved for bands following in their footsteps.  That same winter night in 1994 saw New York’s own Moe. play the first ever post-Phish Wetlands after party (Moe. plans on reprising their role as keepers of the party for the first night of the Baker’s Dozen run at the Playstation Theater on July 21st).

The original New Year’s Eve show at The Garden in 1995 is regarded as one of the best performances in Phistory and started the tradition of theatrically pranking the New York City crowd at each of the three 90’s New Year’s Eve gatherings (1995, 1997, and 1998).  In the era where “cowfunk” reigned supreme Phish reintroduced “Sneakin’ Sally” and busted out Eric Clapton’s “Crossroads” to a capacity crowd during their 1997 NYE Run.  On their final MSG show of the 1.0 era, Phish opened up with Prince’s “1999” to close out the year 1998 and the room swung back and forth as the band used “The Hose” to water The Garden in glorious fashion.

After a dozen epic MSG performances in the 90’s, Phish returned to their home away from Nectar’s for their first show after hiatus on New Year’s Eve, 2002.  The boys surprised followers by only playing one night instead of their usual multi-night Garden run, which created one of the most desperate ticket searches for their dedicated fan base.  The tipsy, groggy and short lived 2.0 era created a buzz reminiscent of their New Year’s Eve festival just three years earlier in South Florida, but they did not live up to the incredible Phish that phans had come to expect and only played one measly show at the Garden before their unfortunate “breakup.”

Just when everyone thought they would never get to swing from the rafters at an MSG Phish show again, the sky divided and the good Lord shined a light back on the midtown arena in December of 2009. Phish 3.0 was ready to knock three early December shows out of the park and although those years did not produce many jam heavy second sets, the energy in the venue was well worth the ticket price.  Since rising from the dead in 2009, the band has played 26 times at The Garden (that’s two baker’s dozens for those keeping count).  We have seen them ride in on a giant “Meatstick” to ring in 2011 and host a wonderful “Garden Party” on New Year’s Eve 2012.  They created a “Steam” dream in 2011, plunged below the waterline full of cats and dogs in 2016 and jammed an incredible “No Men In No Man’s Land” between beams behind a funnel-shaped screen in 2015.  Throughout each and every performance at the Garden, the band and the crowd give “IT” 110%. The 39 shows have created memories that will last a lifetime, but seeing that they are about to embark on 13 more, it appears that we are just getting started. 

“The city that never sleeps” may or may not be prepared for the amount of Phishery about to take place at the end of July into August, but there are a bunch of venues that are ready.  The official Baker’s Dozen Headquarters, American Beauty NYC, will be hosting unique events for phans on each of the 17 nights, including the nights that Phish has off.  Rest assured that your trip is short from Madison Square Garden to American Beauty, located only one block away on W. 30th Street and 8th Ave.  The venue plans to recreate one of the best parts of Summer Tour, the Phish lot, on the second floor which they have entitled “The Jerry Lounge.”  If you have post or pre-show munchies, American Beauty also offers free personal pizzas with every beer purchased, and their craft list is impeccable. If you want to keep your mind fresh after nights of partying, the bar will be hosting Grateful Dead and Phish trivia nights (Monday 7/24 & 7/31) for out-of-towners and locals alike.  Lastly, check out the venue’s event calendar to stay on top of all the late-night parties, including a birthday celebration for Jerry Garcia on August 1st.  Doors open for all pre-parties at 3pm and at 11:30pm for post-parties.

American Beauty is the same place that Jon Fishman used dildos as drumsticks during his side-project late night performance with Touchpants a few years back, so you know this place knows how to party.  Phish’s ever-growing artist community, PhanArt, is also coming to your town to help you party down. With the unique blend of artists selling everything from pins and prints to socks and hoodies, they are hoping when you get to your next show, you’ll be better dressed.  PhanArt will be setting up one of their popular art shows at American Beauty on July 29th starting at 3pm with pre-Phish help from Space Carnival.  If you are unable to pick up PhanArt work on the 29th, stop by Hotel Pennsylvania on July 22nd or August 5th, starting at noon.

If a Baker’s Dozen isn’t enough and you need more Phish in your summer diet, the tour starts this week at Northerly Island in the Chicago and runs through Dayton and Pittsburgh before hitting the Big Apple.  The Vermonters are finally going down to the central part of midtown Manhattan and excitement meters are about to reach 2009 Hampton “Fluffhead” levels.  Jaded tour veterans can sit back and reminisce about wearing their patchwork pants and mushroom cuts to all those insane 90’s shows, but let’s face it folks, there’s a golden age coming around and it begins on Friday, July 21st.  Glaze on.

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