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The “Absolute Zero” Phish Theory is the Craziest Thing I’ve Ever Seen

Rob Slater | July 17, 2017

As we approach Phish's Baker's Dozen run at Madison Square Garden, the question rages on of whether or not the band will repeat a single song. If you're like me, you have a running document of unique Phish setlists with the hopes of hitting thirteen. Currently, I'm at twelve and the only hope of getting to thirteen is if Phish morphs into a Journey cover band for one night only. So, I failed. 

Or you could be like this incredible, precocious Phish fan who took matters into his/her own hands with a Facebook post for the AGES dissecting Phish's setlist habits and just how many songs it would take for the band to accomplish 13 nights of no repeats. This leads us to the theory of "Absolute Zero," where Phish would essentially play 273 songs over 13 nights to mark the lowest possible temperature of -273, or Absolute Zero. There's some "step into the freezer" joke here that I'll let you make. 

I don't understand any of this and I'm not entirely sure it makes sense or adds up, but I know I could not be more impressed by this level of fandom. This is like pre-Escalade Tiger Woods. Unstoppable. Everyone else is just playing for second.

For the record, I do think Phish goes 13 nights without repeats, but I only say that because stacking the deck in Chicago, Dayton and Pittsburgh with new songs (and surely more to come) will ensure they don't have to turn into a wedding band to get to the finish line. This is a much deeper level, like the human freezer in Westworld

Read below (via @PleaseMeHaveNoRegrets).
unknown wook savant:

Absolute Zero: What would it take for Phish to perform the entire MSG "Baker's Dozen" run without a single repeat?

To get an idea, I looked at some Phish Statistics from the last three years, starting with the MSG 2013 NYE run, and continuing up until their most recent shows this January in Mexico. I also analyzed specific 13-show consecutive runs from the last three summers.

From 12/28/13 to 1/15/17, Phish played 124 shows, performing 2,665 total songs, for an average of 21 songs per night.

During this time, 300 unique songs were performed. 98 songs were played were played at least ten times, or once every 12-13 shows. 30 songs were played at least once every five shows. 78 were onetimers; 222 songs were performed more than once. Ignoring Auld Lang Syne and Star Spangled Banner, this leaves 220 tubes which we can consider "currently in rotation."

In the last three years, 54 songs were debuts, meaning a new song was introduced every 2.25 shows. Since the MSG '13 run and Mexico '17 run included no debuts, the calendar years '14, '15, and '16 can be said to feature an average 18 debuts per annum.

Of these debuts, 18 were covers specific to the occasion, including Is This What You Wanted, Playing In The Band, Samson and Delilah, Take Me Out To The Ballgame, The Ocean, United We Stand, West LA Fadeaway, and the 11 songs from Ziggy Stardust. Additionally, Auld Lang Syne and Star Spangled Banner were both both performed three times, and can be considered to fall into the ad hoc cover category.

Of the 2,665 songs from the period in question, only three are considered "jams," Drive-In Jam (8/22/15), Jam (7/27/14), Tweeprise Jam (12/28/16).
Discarding these 23 ad hoc selections*, the band has 277 songs from the last three years to choose from, 57 of which are onetimers. Additionally, if the band keeps pace with their current debut rate, they could be expected to introduce up to 18 new songs in their MSG run, presumably 2-3 of which would be rolled out during their upper Midwest tour beginning this weekend. (*The GD songs would have the highest likelihood of reprisal, especially in the welcome event of guest appearance from any members of the Dead fam; and, since the band averages one "jam" per year, we could expect to see another during this run.)

Looking at runs of 13 consecutive shows from the last three Julys, the band averages 278 total songs and 145 unique songs per each 13-show period. This amounts to about 21 songs per night, in keeping with average of the last three years in total.

From 7/11/14 to 7/30/14, Phish performed 123 unique songs, 45 of which were onetimers.

From 7/21/15 to 8/8/15, the band performed 126 unique songs, 58 of which were onetimers.

From 7/1/16 to 7/22/16, they played 186 unique songs. 106 different songs in this run were played only one time.

During these periods in 2014 and 2015, most songs were played twice. In the 2016 run, most songs happened only once, largely due to the bustouts on 7/20.

For each of these runs, Fuego is (at least tied for) the most-played song, occurring seven, five, and four times, respectively.

If the band were to perform songs at the frequency of 2014, we could except to hear 23 songs played thrice over the Baker's Dozen run. If they perform with the frequency of 2016, there would only be 5 songs performed three times.

Over the 13 nights at MSG, Phish can be expected to perform about 21 songs per night, totaling between 270 and 280 songs over the course of the run.

To do so without any repeats, the band would probably have to include nearly each of the 220 songs currently in rotation. This leaves 50–60 songs to speculate on.

These songs will draw from a) those played only once over the last three years, b) debuts, either originals or covers, and c) bustouts of the nearly 600 additional songs found in the band's catalogue raisonné.

If Phish comes to New York City, and plays 270+ unique songs over the course of 13 shows, this will be the rarest period in the band's existence.

My predictions are:
Of the 220 songs currently in rotation, we hear 216 of these.

Of the 78 songs played only once in the last three years, we will hear 26 of these.

An additional 13 songs will be played from the band's repertoire that have not been heard in the last 124 shows. Chances are a bulk of these will wind up in a single set, i.e. 12/31/13 or 7/20/16.

17 new songs will be performed at MSG, including up to three debuted in the earlier July shows. 11 of the 17 will be part of larger project; the question remains whether these are covers or originals.

The band will play 1 untitled jam.

This totals 273 songs. −273° C is considered Absolute Zero, the lowest possible theoretic temperature. (Incidentally, 273 is also the number of seconds in John Cage's landmark "silent" piece "4'33".")

My prediction is that we will see 273 unique songs over the course of the MSG run, achieving "absolutely zero" repeats.

In conclusion, below are the songs in heavy rotation, each of which have been played 28 times or more over the last 124 shows. If they don't attempt a completely unique song selection, and the band approaches the Baker's Dozen as it would a typical run of 13 shows, you can plan on seeing about 4 Fuegos, 3 MoMA's, and 2 Gins.

Top 22 Most Frequently-Played Phish Songs 12/28/13 - 1/15/17
46 Days
Chalk Dust Torture
Harry Hood
Wolfman's Brother
Down with Disease
Character Zero
The MoMA Dance
The Line
Tweezer Reprise
Mike's Song
Run Like an Antelope
Weekapaug Groove
Backwards Down the Number Line
Bathtub Gin

What do you think?