, attached to 2017-08-01

Review by toddmanout

toddmanout Following a wonderful stay at Shelburne Farms* on the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont in celebration of m’lady’s birthday, the two of us drove to New Jersey and booked into our friend’s house for our first two nights of Phish’s Baker’s Dozen concert bonanza at Madison Square Garden.

Instead of embarking on their usual summer tour, in 2017 Phish only played a couple of cities before taking up a record-setting thirteen-night residency at the world’s most famous arena. Apparently it’s a concept the band had cooked up decades ago; a doughnut-themed baker’s dozen of shows in the heart of New York City.

Part of the idea was to give out actual doughnuts to fans as they walked through the door. On the first night of the run the doughnuts handed out were coconut flavoured and whattya know, Phish pulled out two new cover songs that aligned with the theme: Shake Your Coconuts and (Lime In The) Coconut.

“So that’s how it’s going to be, is it?” thought Phish fans worldwide.

Speculation exploded online; what could be next? Pass The Dutchie? Raspberry Beret? Blueberry Hill? I threw my guess into the ring: a maple/bacon doughnut with a Canadian theme…Neil Young, Rush, maybe even (hope against hope) The Tragically Hip…there would be lots of great cover potentials available.

August 1st, 2017 marked the ninth night of the Baker’s Dozen run and sure enough Phish announced that the evening’s doughnut flavour would be maple. I tingled with anticipation all day. Our hosts barbecued up a delicious feast for the four of us before we drove into the city for the show.

We went straight to the Tempest bar where we met a dozen friends and had a drink with each of them. Much of the chit-chat was centred on the evening’s theme and somehow m’lady and I got it into our heads that the maple theme meant that the band was going to open the concert with O Canada, a cappella. We spread our theory far and wide throughout the back rooms of the bar until it finally was time to go. We all finished our drinks and walked kitty-corner across the street to Madison Square Garden.

M’lady and I were seated semi-behind the stage, a great place to be at a Phish show. And that’s where we stood at attention as the band did indeed open the show with O Canada. They did it Hendrix-style, which was so, so much better than our predicted barber-shop style, and frankly much easier to pull off. I stood and sang along in my best hockey-game voice as the spotlight shone on a Canadian flag that hung from the rafters of the storied arena.

What a cool band.

The show was epic – as were all of the shows on this run – and we just had the time of times. There would be no Neil Young (though they had played two Neil songs on the run already), no Rush (even though I was absolutely sure they were going to play Closer To The Heart. From my beside-the-stage vantage point I had noticed a second guitar behind Trey’s rig and had convinced myself that it was a 12-string. My hopes were dashed when I took a closer look during the setbreak – it wasn’t a 12-string after all), and there would be no Tragically Hip (obviously). The only other obvious nod to the doughnut theme at the show turned out to be a short solo Maple Leaf Rag from Page McConnell’s piano.

But c’mon, O Canada? Who saw that coming? Oh right, we did.

*Talk about understatement of the year! Set on 1600 acres of manicured land, Shelburne Farms holds a collection of palatial barns and a 150-year-old mansion full of antique furniture. The restaurant serves the freshest farm-grown everything, our room had a four-poster bed and a clawfoot bathtub, and the games room had a gorgeous old snooker table that was to die for. It was like staying at a museum. Or in a game of Clue; there was a library, a study, a drawing room…the whole shebang.

When we visited the barns I milked a cow (“Can adults try it too?!?”), an exercise that I found surprisingly masculine. Not that it made me feel masculine; quite the opposite actually. Let’s just say that it’s a sensation that heterosexual men are not quite familiar with. Entering the chicken coop instantly brought me back to the few times my family stayed at a relative’s farm when I was a kid, where it was my job to go out to the chicken coop every morning and bring back fresh eggs for breakfast. It was like nature’s own Easter hunt.

Rest assured, a stay at Shelburne Farms is expensive, but I really can’t recommend it enough. But guys, I would suggest that you don’t try milking a cow. Lordy, lordy; I sure wish I hadn’t.



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