Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Next Round - Episode 7: Splashh

I first heard the NZ/AUS/UK band Splashh when they were opening for Generationals at Bowery Ballroom.  I was hooked immediately by their volatile, grungy take on shoegaze.  The day after a rare US gig at the Brooklyn Bazaar, I caught up with frontman Sasha Carlson at the Gibson in Williamsburg.  We had some beers and discussed what's next for the band.  Hint: a new album recorded right here in New York.

Subscribe on iTunes, download directly, or stream below:

If you like it, please rate and review on iTunes.

Visit Splashh's website or follow them on Twitter.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Next Round - Episode 6: Beat Radio

Sorry for the podcast break, but I'm back with a long two-beer chat with Brian Sendrowitz of Beat Radio.  Brian and I met for happy hour drinks because like most of us, he has a day job.  But that suits him just fine, as it provides him the financial stability to make the kind of music he wants to make when he wants to make it.  It's an interesting listen, especially to hear the volume escalate as the bar gets increasingly busier.  Also I was getting over a cold when we taped it, so excuse the sniffles.

Subscribe on iTunes, download directly, or stream below.  If you dig, please leave a comment on iTunes.

If you'd like to check out Beat Radio's latest two singles, go to their Bandcamp.  They're also playing Saturday at Spike Hill in Williamsburg at 8pm sharp (Facebook invite here).

Due to a booking error, I won't be at Flannery's tonight as stated, but I will be hosting at Magooby's Joke House on Friday and Saturday.  Paul Virzi headlines.  LivingSocial deal available too!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Top 15 Most Anticipated Albums of 2014

15. The John Butler Trio - Flesh & Blood
Release Date: February 4
Why I'm Excited: It's been four years since April Uprising.  Even the undead are excited!

14. Robert Ellis - The Lights of the Chemical Plant
Release Date: February 11
Why I'm Excited: Ellis shared in a Rolling Stone interview that the new record would move beyond his country/folk roots... into R&B, bossa nova, and free jazz.

13. Chris Mills & the Distant Stars - Alexandria 
Release Date: January 21
Why I'm Excited: Mills played most of the tunes when he opened for Ken Stringfellow last February.  I've been waiting a year to hear them again!

12. Peter Salett - Suite for the Summer Rain
Release Date: TBA
Why I'm Excited: Peter's back in New York, and he's convinced this is his best work yet.

11. Splashh - TBA

Release Date: TBA
Why I'm Excited: Comfort was good, but it was really a compilation of singles recorded in a bedroom.  This time they're gonna stop using socks for mic windscreens, and record a  proper album in a professional studio. 

10. The Notwist - Close to the Glass
Release Date: February 25
Why I'm Excited: It's the 25th year as a band for the German electro-rockers.  Check out the title track below.

9. Mad Caddies - TBA
Release Date: TBA
Why I'm Excited: My favorite third-wave ska band is finally back in the studio.

8. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings - Give the People What They Want
Release Date: January 14
Why I'm Excited: The record was supposed to come out last year, but Sharon was diagnosed with cancer.  She's since kicked cancer's ass, and I'm ready to shake mine.

7. The Majorleans - Black Belt
Release Date: February
Why I'm Excited: I've heard early mixes of a few of the songs, and they rock.  Nicky Francis' talkin' blues voice makes the passing of Lou Reed easier to cope with.

6. Jack White - TBA
Release Date: TBA
Why I'm Excited: Blunderbuss turned me over to the White side.  I'm hoping he follows through.  Also, I'm a Third Man Vault member, so I'll probably end up with some super-cool edition.

5. Rx Bandits - TBA
Release Date: TBA
Why I'm Excited: They'd been on hiatus since 2011 until the 10th anniversary of The Resignation got them touring again.  Matt Embree's announcement that they were recording demos in late December was quite the Christmas present.

4. I Am the Avalanche - Wolverines
Release Date: March 18
Why I'm Excited: It's the last album with all the founding members, as Mike and Kellen are saying goodbye.  Their previous, Avalanche United, was scarily good.

3. Kishi Bashi - TBA
Release Date: Spring
Why I'm Excited: When I saw him perform at Irving Plaza in September, K admitted he'd already re-recorded lead-off single "Philosophize in It! Chemicalize with It!"  There's also a song on it about a dancing steak.

2. The Belle Brigade - Just Because
Release Date: February 11
Why I'm Excited: John Williams' grandkids team up again for their first LP since their eponymous debut, which was my favorite of 2011.  Download "Ashes" below.

1. Penguin Prison - TBA
Release Date: TBA
Why I'm Excited: You never know exactly what you're gonna get from Chris Glover, but you always know it's gonna be good.  If the new number he played at the Wall is any indication of what's to come, buy some new dancing shoes this year too.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Self Celebrates 20 Years at Gramercy Theatre

Before the word selfie entered the lexicon as a term for a photographed self-portrait, it had a different meaning: an obsessive fan of the Tennessee alternative band Self.  And last night at Gramercy Theatre, the selfies were out in full force.  It was the most crowded I've ever seen the venue; crowded enough that the coat check no longer had room for coats.  You see, it had been ten years since the band performed in the city, and ten more since they'd begun recording their debut album, Subliminal Plastic Motives.  The night was a celebration of SPM, both performed in its entirety and released on vinyl for the first time.

An instrumental version of Prince's "1999" welcomed the band to the stage, and the ageless Matt Mahaffey started singing, modifying the song to "1995" with lines like "The music was all grungy / There were Big Muff pedals everywhere."  After a chorus of two, it was finally time to to party like it was '95, and Self crunched into "Borateen."  Following a swell "Sophomore Jinx," Matt conducted the crowd on a singalong of the compass rose in "Stewardess."  "Where you been?!" yelled a crowdmember after the tune.  Matt responded, "In the words of Woody Harrelson: Drinking... a lot."  The Kingpin reference kicked off an ongoing game of Mahaffey's banter including film quotes from Groundhog Day to Toy Story.  "So Low" and "Marathon Shirt" both gave Chris James the chance to go off on the synthesizer, an essential ingredient to the Self sound.  "You guys are killing it!" shouted a selfie.  "Oh, good," said Mahaffey cheerily.  After "Cannon," he remarked, "You know, you guys are a little rusty too," pointing out that many had botched the last chorus by singing "unnecessary" instead of "unwanted."  "Next time!" he added with a smile.  He singled out a man in the crowd who had been singing along to every song.  "Why don't you come up here and sing this next one?" he asked.  The dude and his date were escorted onto the stage, and Matt handed him the microphone.  The guy revealed that he'd rewritten some of the words.  Something was up.  As he genuflected, we all knew what was coming.  "Will you marry me?" he questioned.  His genuinely confused and embarrassed girlfriend replied, "Uh... yeah," followed by an unamplified "What the fuck?"  She didn't put the ring on her finger though, so hopefully she was just still in shock.  But the show had to go on.  Following "Superstar" and "Mother Nature's Fault," Mahaffey confessed, "New York City, you're unstoppable!  Maybe I'll just have to stay up here all night."  He took the mic out of its stand, and danced around as he sang over the jazzy beat of "Big Important Nothing."  They wrapped up Subliminal Plastic Motives with a feedback-drenched "Lost My Senses," Mahaffey nodding knowingly to the crowd as he left.  "It's obligatory," he explained.

The selfies cheered for over a minute straight before Matt returned alone.  "The guys are going to the bathroom," he smirked.  Whether or not he was joking, he did take the opportunity to treat us to the chorus of the ultra-rare "Brooklyn" before his bandmates reappeared for "Dielya Downtown."  Then the whole group got their chance to tackle a deep cut with "Glued to the Girl."  Taking off his guitar, Mahaffey turned to the omnichord beside him and fired up "Trunk Fulla Amps."  It was the highlight of the night, the crowd taking the reins on each "Mother!"  The band even threw in a tease of "Empire State of Mind" for good measure.  "Meg Ryan" with its Sleepless in Seattle third act-referencing refrain was the obvious closer for an NYC show.

The house lights and music popped on, but I was unconvinced.  Sure enough, within a minute, Jason Rawlings emerged and took a seat the the drums.  As he kicked into the beat, the remaining members returned, along with opening act I Fight Dragons.  The newly enlarged band finished with a jubilant "Titanic," Mahaffey's Pixes/Weezer mashup/parody.  "I swear to you guys it won't be ten more years," Matt declared over the cheers.  There's going to be a lot of disappointed selfies if he doesn't keep his word.

SELF - 01.10.14 - GRAMERCY THEATRE (1 hour, 18 minutes)

1999 / Borateen / Sophomore Jinx / Stewardess / So Low / Marathon Shirt / Lucid Anne / Cannon / Missed the Friction / Superstar / Mother Nature's Fault / Big Important Nothing / Lost My Senses

Brooklyn (tease) / Dielya Downtown / Glued to the Girl / Trunk Fulla Amps > Empire State of Mind (tease) > Trunk Fulla Amps / Meg Ryan

Titanic (feat. I Fight Dragons)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Top 10 Albums of 2013

The Top 10 Albums of 2013

10. The White Buffalo - Shadows, Greys, & Evil Ways

The album is a narrative about a couple named Joe & Jolene.  With a voice that's a cross between Eddie Vedder and Cat Stevens, Jake Smith uses the story to tackle the topics of young love, PTSD, and forgiveness.
9. Lissie - Back to Forever

Lissie Maurus avoids the sophomore slump entirely with this stylistically diverse pop record, which ranges from the Fleetwood Mac flutter of "Sleepwalking" to the riot grrrl rawk of "Shameless" to the piano ballad title track.

8. The Flaming Lips - The Terror

It wasn't until seeing the FLips on the muddy banks of the mighty Mississippi that I was able to truly appreciate this album's horrifying bewitchery.  Those looking for Yoshimi singalongs will be disappointed, but it is infinitely better than both Embryonic and Heady Fwends.

7. Broken Anchor - Fresh Lemonade

It would've been even higher on the list if six of the songs hadn't been recycled from previous EPs.  Although, with the addition of "Canada," their catchiest song yet, it'd be a crime not to put it on.  (Learn the story behind "Canada" in my podcast interview with Broken Anchor.)

6. Generationals - Heza

Not really what you'd expect from a NOLA band, but it's a laid-back summer spin.  Put it on at the end of the barbecue when your mouth's full of s'mores and your head's full of dreams.

5. Phoenix - Bankrupt!

The four Frenchmen return with a more cohesive effort than Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.  It's a little darker than their previous records, suggesting an emotional depth that will hopefully stick around for their next release.

4. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

Like nearly every critic in the country, I was smitten with the warm analog electro-R&B of the band's long-awaited fifth LP.  The live instrumentation results in the most sentient offer from the robots, proving that they are in fact, human after all.  While the longer tracks "Giorgio by Moroder" and "Touch" are the album's most challenging, they also provide its best moments.

3. Goldspot - Aerogramme

Siddhartha Khosla mined his family's history from his father's unsent letters on napkins to his own childhood days spent in India to create a biographical work of art.  Chock full of instruments rarely heard in pop music on this continent, it's a feast for the ears.  Throw out your copy of Modern Vampires of the City, and replace it with this.  (Hear Sidd discuss the origins of several of the album's songs on my podcast.)

2. The Postelles - ...And It Shook Me

It may have all the hooks of a perfect summer album, but make sure to bring the tear-free sunscreen 'cause some of the songs have an underlying sense of melancholy.  Also beware, the hooks have barbs.  You won't be able to get them out of your head.

 1. Man Man - On Oni Pond

The faintly familiar brass and woodwind introduction eases you in, but it's all a ruse.  Once the organ blasts open the wonderfully weird "Pink Wonton" featuring spy movie guitar riffs and Chinese backup singers, you know damn well it's a Man Man album.  There's not a dud in the bunch either.  "Head On" is a radio hit, "Fangs" deserves a spot on your Halloween playlist, and "Paul's Grotesque" contains the grooviest jam of the year.  After I listen to it once, all I want to do is listen again.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top 25 Live Songs of 2013

In 2012, I made a list of the Top 20 Live Songs I'd seen.  I went to even more concerts last year, so here's 25.

25. "Snake Farm" - Sometimes We Sing Together, 07.17, Rockwood Music Hall, New York, NY
Adorable and hilarious.

24. "I Thought You Were My Friend" - Incidental Animals, 11.21, Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY
I'm not even sure if this is the name of the spunky number, but I hope it's on the next ALO album.

23. "Wild Places" - Chris Mills, 02.16, Mercury Lounge, New York, NY
From the first note, Mills made it clear he was an opener you couldn't ignore.  Stunning.

22. "If Only" - Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, 09.21, SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY
The first time the duo performed the song.  The pain in the lyrics was all over Dave's face.

21. "Patience" - Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, 06.28, Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas, NV
It may have been 100 degrees, but Jr. Gong delivered this one with cool precision.

20. "Woke Up This Morning" - Dragon Smoke, 06.24, Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY
A funktastic tribute to James Gandolfini mere days after his death.

19. "Flake" - Jack Johnson, 09.21, SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY
Lukas Nelson plugged in and reinvented this one with complementary flourishes of electric guitar.

18. "State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)" - Jim James, 02.19, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
Perfect opening cut, which built steadily to its electrifying conclusion.

17. "Is This Love" - Allen Stone, 08.02, Rockwood Music Hall, New York, NY
So good that even his bandmates didn't want him to stop singing.

16. "It's Not Over ('Til It's Over & Done)" - Bleu, 09.18, Bowery Electric, New York, NY
Eat your heart out, Jeff Lynne.

15. "I Wanna Be Your Lover" - Penguin Prison, 06.26, Commonwealth, Las Vegas, NV
It was a DJ set, so he was basically doing karaoke, but he fucking crushed it.

14. "Miss Pretty" - Shuggie Otis, 08.08, Metrotech Commons, Brooklyn, NY
Saw three Shuggie shows.  He annihilated the solo here.

13. "Bulls on Parade" - The Revivalists, 11.22, Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY
It's not every day you hear a Rage cover with baritone sax AND lap steel.

12. "Doesn't It Remind You of Something" - Ken Stringfellow, 02.16, Mercury Lounge, New York, NY
Hard to pick a favorite from this excellent show, but this duet with Darling Cait was superb.

11. "The Big Bad Wolf" - The Heavy, 08.24, Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY
I'd already seen them play it earlier in the night, but this time the stage couldn't contain Kelvin Swaby, who leapt into the crowd.

10. "Does It Really Make a Difference" - Galactic, 04.13, Terminal 5, New York, NY
If Galactic toured with a vocalist aside from David Shaw, it most certainly would make a difference.  He absolutely killed it.

9. "Third Stone from the Sun/If You Love Me Like You Say" - Gary Clark, Jr., 05.05, Beale St. Music Festival, Memphis, TN
Best guitar solo of the year.

8. "I Feel So Bad" - Steve Kimock, 02.23, Stage 48, New York, NY
This had very little to do with the Chuck Willis tune by the time Kimock and his friends sent it out on a journey through the solar system.

7. "The Road" - Frank Turner, 03.04, Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY
Sometimes one perfect scream is all you need to turn a good song into a great song.

6. "Always" - Broken Anchor, 02.15, Rockwood Music Hall, New York, NY
Impossible to believe it was only two dudes pumping out such a huge anthem.

5. "Spiderweb" - Jimmie's Chicken Shack, 01.11, Rams Head Live, Baltimore, MD
H1 may have flubbed some lines, but the energy was off the charts.

4. "Running Red Lights" - The Postelles, 05.14, Standard Hotel, New York, NY
Daniel Balk had enough swagger and soul in his voice to make Mick Jagger blush.

3. "Ghost" - Phish, 12.30, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
In a run full of improvised heady excursions, surprisingly this type-I jam was my favorite.  The joyful energy that radiated throughout the remainder of the second set could not have been there without this friendly "Casper" to guide it forth.

2. "Everybody's Brother" - Cody Chesnutt, 06.13, SOB's, New York, NY
"Oh... my... goodness!"

1. "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" - They Might Be Giants, 08.10, Prospect Park Bandshell, Brooklyn, NY
Over the past 11 years, I'd grown accustomed to seeing the song performed by the full band, but the Johns defied expectations with this amazing turn as a comedy duo. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard at a concert.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Top 15 Concerts of 2013

I saw easily over 100 acts last year.  Probably closer to 200, but I'm not gonna go back and count.  Anyway, these were 15 of my favorites.

15. The Flaming Lips - 05.05, Beale St. Music Festival, Memphis, TN
From a four-foot-tall platform amid a nest of sparkling tubes and silver globes, Coyne coddled a baby doll while he sang over the nightmarish groove of "Look... The Sun is Rising."  At the song's end, he informed us, "This baby's sleeping," and set it aside for a louder, more frightening version of "The Terror," the screen behind him rapidly hurtling through a succession of sharply toothed mouths. (Read full review)

14. George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic - 08.22, Beekman Beer Garden, New York, NY
"Nothing Before Me But Thang" took on a heady liquid groove as Greg Thomas skimmed the surface with his saxophone.  Then keyboardist Jerome Rodgers stepped in, his staccato notes injecting a chilliness that turned the jam into the march of an army of ice creatures. (Read full review)

13. Galactic - 04.13, Terminal 5, New York, NY
Corey took the mic to rap "From the Corner to the Block" and passed it to Shaw to lead the crowd on a singalong of ODB's "Got Your Money."  And then he sang "Better Off Dead."  Not many singers can transition so smoothly from Ol' Dirty Bastard to Bill Withers, but then again, not many singers have the chops that David Shaw has. (Read full review)

12. Allen Stone - 08.02, Rockwood Music Hall, New York, NY
This wasn't Allen Stone inciting a crowd to dance with a preacher-like authority; it was Allen Stone using his dazzling voice to make a room fall silent while his friend tickled the keys of a real, wooden piano.  Brent, on backup vocals, made hand signals to Josh to watch Allen for the end, but then found himself laughing in awe at Allen's vocal ability, not wanting the tune to stop. (Read full review)

11. Toots & the Maytals - 04.13, Terminal 5, New York, NY
At 70 years old, he sounds even better than he did on the Maytals' LPs from the 1960s and '70s.  Time has ripened his already rich vocal palate, and he made his way deftly through hit after hit: "Pressure Drop," "Time Tough," "Pomp & Pride," "Sweet & Dandy." (Read full review)

10. Jim James - 02.19, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
James came to the line "The power's goin' out," and the room abruptly went black.  The lights popped on again as the music returned, and the grinning audience immediately adapted to cheering "Woo!" on the return beat.  Those who listened to Regions of Light and were let down by the lack of guitar solos didn't have to worry about the Flying V going to waste, with James shredding a killer one here, and on two later tunes. (Read full review)

9. Jimmie's Chicken Shack - 01.11, Rams Head Live, Baltimore, MD
"Let's bring out the original recipe in this bitch.  And I'm keepin' my shirt on," Jimi said, as the other founding Jims, McD and Chaney, took their spots with Haha and Ché.  The band was back!  McD's guitarwork showed hints of the blues that the night's previous axemen did not have, and despite not having all played together in 15 years, they were remarkably tight. (Read full review)

8. Gary Clark, Jr. - 05.05, Beale St. Music Festival, Memphis, TN
"Travis County" and "Ain't Messin' 'Round" charged up the audience for the set's biggest moment: Clark's re-interpretive "Third Stone from the Sun/If You Love Me Like You Say" medley.  While returning to "Stone" from Collins' song, Clark transmogrified his guitar into a turntable, scratching out a string-breaking solo that dropped jaws.  "Y'alright?" Clark asked with a wry grin. (Read full review)

7. Broken Anchor - 02.15, Rockwood Music Hall, New York, NY
For new tune "Head is a Hole," Austin cut his number of strings in half, trading his guitar for a bass with only three strings that he played capoed and with a pick.  It was the perfect spot for the dour ditty, juxtaposed against "Always," which soared to anthemic heights, propelled by Duffy's blows on the toms with mallets instead of sticks. (Read full review)

6. Alabama Shakes - 02.14, Rocks Off Boat Cruise, New York, NY
Brittany put down her six-string and won everyone back with what I've come to see as their signature live song, "Be Mine."  All the more poignant on Valentine's Day, Brittany erupted in the last chorus, grabbing a few guys in the front row to dance with. (Read full review)

5. Phish - 12.30, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Anastasio revved up the rollicking "Chalk Dust Torture," and an arsenal of cow-patterned balloons exploded from the center of the crowd.  Trey's guitar evolved into a humpback whale, searching for mates across a swirling sea.  Then Mike dropped "the brown noise," clearing the air for a short, gentle section prior to the final uptempo groove. (Read full review)

4. The Roots - 05.04, Beale St. Music Festival, Memphis, TN
The first third of the set focused mainly on Roots classics like "Table of Contents," "The Next Movement," and "Proceed," with the first pause coming 33 minutes in, mid-"Mellow My Man."  Black Thought breathlessly remarked, "I need a cup of coffee, y'all," and they jumped back into the song, not breaking for another 28 minutes until a fake-out ending in "Immigrant Song." (Read full review)

3. They Might Be Giants - 08.10, Prospect Park Bandshell, Brooklyn, NY
When the band eased into "New York City" for their seventh song, I knew this show was different.  The tune is usually reserved for encores, especially when performed in its namesake.  And then the band made one of the most inspired segues I've seen, injecting into its finale the crashing chords of "Ana Ng," effectively reacquainting NYC with its '64 World's Fair. (Read full review)

2. Cody Chesnutt - 06.13, SOB's, New York, NY
He took another beat before crooning the first line, "I used to smoke crack."  "Oh... my... goodness!" clamored an awestruck female in the front, not at the admission to drug use, but at Cody's honey butter voice.  Marvin Gaye may have been murdered before I was born, but his spirit is alive and well inside Mr. Chesnutt. (Read full review)

1. Ken Stringfellow - 02.16, Mercury Lounge, New York, NY
I magically found myself in the front row when he parted the crowd like Moses to play "110 or 220V."  Now mere inches away from Stringfellow, I learned what intimacy was, as he played his guitar directly in front of me.  It was such a strange feeling, almost uncomfortable, yet welcoming at the same time, as the show transformed from a concert in a room full of people to an incredibly personal experience. (Read full review)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Phish 12/31 Review: Phans Get Their Cake & Eat It Too

After three nights of escalating energy, the audience inside MSG was literally buzzing with anticipation for the final installment of Phish's 2013 New Year's run.  Walking out to thunderous applause, the band members took their positions and ripped into "AC/DC Bag."  The fairly standard version unraveled at its end, and the boys plunged into "A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing."  The first Undermind track of the run, Trey opened it up a little with some shimmery licks.  Then those whose mouths had been watering since Saturday's fakeout finally got their "Wilson."  Page's gurgling organ was the high point of "The Divided Sky," but the mid-song pause went on a little too long and damaged the flow.  Towards the end, Trey was visibly laughing at some of his flubs.  They followed with "Ocelot," letting it breathe a little to nice results.  They took longer than normal to figure out what would be next, and "Sugar Shack," with some notably warbling vocals from Gordon, was not the best choice.  It was chased with the piano-based "Halfway to the Moon."  I'd never heard the song before, and judging from the tepid crowd response, neither had most of the audience.  Everyone, however, knew the song that came next: "Fluffhead."  It wasn't exactly a saving grace; more of a pretty ribbon to wrap up the weakest set of the run.  But as was evident the previous night, it's not about the first set.  The band carried a keyboard onto the stage as an homage to the photo on the cover of Colorado '88.  "We made everyone a cake," announced Trey as he began divvying up the 30th birthday treat. "We're gonna hand out some cake for the set break."  They passed out maybe three pieces, and left the stage.  Did anyone get a slice?  How did it taste?

The time to get a beer to wash it down wasn't yet.  The screen on the new scoreboard flickered, and a video began.  Dilapidated remnants of past New Year's gags were all collected in a rural junkyard.  Set to a "2001" jam, a bearded Fishman resurrected a box truck from the ruins, and started driving it south.  Aside from one major accident that scarred the truck's roof, he eventually made it to New York City and up the halls of MSG until the physical truck pulled into the corner of the arena.  As the truck made its way to the center of the floor, tunes from 1983 like "Let's Dance," "Rockit," and "Rock the Casbah" played out over the PA.  It was amusing to hear what the musical climate was like at the time of Phish's inception.
The band climbed out of the hatch in the truck's cab, and took their places on their new, much smaller stage.  With hockey sticks serving as mic stands and Page sitting on a cushion atop two milk crates, this was going to be interesting.  They began with "Glide," last played at MSG on 12.28.11, the only show I missed that run.  The rumble of Fish's opening salvo to "Llama" was met with cheers, and then they delved even further into Gamehendge with "Colonel Forbin's Ascent."  The mere mention of Icculus' name in "Forbin's" elicited a roar from the phans, so you can only imagine how nuts they went for the actual "Icculus."  Anastasio was convinced that some in the masses of people surrounding him were not getting the message, so he recommended that they read the Helping Friendly Book ("You can't get it at Barnes & Noble's").  Trey admitted at its end, "We used to play that song every Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday down at Nectar's in our little hometown, and I did not think, 'Hey, someday I'll be playing that at Madison Square Garden.'"  "I actually thought that we'd be playing it right here, tonight, thirty years later.  I had a premonition," jested Page.  Having barely spoken to the crowd in the last three days, it was great to finally hear them engaging on this level.  While I completely understand why this set was so significant for the long-time diehards, I started listening to Phish when Farmhouse came out in 2000.  Aside from the jaunty calypso of "The Lizards," I found a lot of their early work to be too proggy.  That's not to say I didn't enjoy it.  Quite the contrary, it made me want to hear some of the songs I was more familiar with performed in this stripped down setup.  "Reba" with its sweet jazz jam and "Split Open & Melt" were my favorites of the bunch, if only because I knew them better.  They climbed down off the truck, which backed out of the building during the final set break.

With just eight minutes to go before midnight, the band returned with a joyous "Character Zero."  The Madison Square Garden and Chase logos may have been glowing proprietarily at the top of the scoreboard the whole night, but make no mistake, at that moment, Phish owned that arena.  The countdown on the screen began at 30 (obviously), with the crowd counting down from ten.  As 2014 hit, balloons and confetti drenched the room, with Phish shifting into "Auld Lang Syne," the first and only cover of the entire run.  They transitioned into "Fuego" as roadies furiously used razors to pop balloons and leafblowers to clear pedalboards.  Anastasio forced the segue into "Light," but that became a distant memory once the song went off on a funky tangent that quickly smoothed out into a melodic summery groove.  His lighting options limited during the truck set, Chris Kuroda unleashed a rainbow of effects from his arsenal as the jam morphed again into a propulsive rock beat.  By the time it reached its dolphins-in-space resolution, the crowd was squealing with approval.  "Twenty Years Later" was a little choppy at the start, but it recovered with a balls-out, rocking finish.  A nicely layered "Bouncing Around the Room" rounded out the six-song continuous part of the set.  What now?  
A little "YEMSG" anyone?  Maybe Michael Gordon should pronounce the G in his name differently 'cause he slam-dunked this one.  And they all nailed the a cappella finale.

They departed, and center screen illuminated once more.  Beginning with animated versions of the band's first college flyers, a montage of classic Phish photos and moments played out for all to reminisce.  Even me, as it included the three latest MSG NYE stunts.  (Watch it below.)

For the encore, the fellas gathered around to sing "Grind," though Trey made a slight modification: "When I come here for my 60th anniversary with these guys, thirty years from now, we'll have lived for..." with each adding an extra 10,957 days to their ages.  Adorable.  They picked up their instruments and capped off the run with "Show of Life."  A "Save the Date" for their 60th anniversary on December 31, 2044, complete with a Photoshopped pic of the guys in their 80s, appeared on the scoreboard.  Even though the Garden likely won't be there then, I can't wait 30 more years to see them.  Looks like I'm gonna have to go to an outdoor concert.


AC/DC Bag > A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing > Wilson > The Divided Sky / Ocelot / Sugar Shack / Halfway to the Moon > Fluffhead

Glide / Llama / Colonel Forbin's Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird / Fuck Your Face / Reba / Icculus / The Lizards > Split Open & Melt

Character Zero > Auld Lang Syne > Fuego > Light > Twenty Years Later > Bouncing Around the Room / You Enjoy Myself

Grind / Show of Life