My dear friend, Bill Ed, was lucky enough to score tickets to Madison Square Garden to ring in the New Year with Phish. Here is his review of the show
Being from Texas there’s just something about seeing The Boys in the northeast. Sure… the people can be rude and the cities smell of human waste, but you just can’t find a more amped up crowd for a Phish show. Walking down 34th street towards MSG with random people chatting about the band you love to see on New Year’s Eve always marks a highlight of my year. Whether Phish plays well or not… I’m just excited to be hanging out with old and new friends on a cold winter night in New York City.
This year we wasted no time getting into the venue. We saw a ridiculous line for what we thought was the GA entrance. As we passed through security, no one seemed to notice that you could walk on over the merch stand. I walked over… no one said anything… so I purchased a poster and a few shirts to remember my trip by.
We took the escalator to the 100’s level and quickly found our section. The venue was filling up and the phans around us were nice, as always. After sitting down we realized, from someone that didn’t wait in line, that the long line out front was for posters. Guess we accidentally skipped that whole fiasco! The jaded vet was not pleased that we skipped the line, as his wife was still stuck in it. Don’t worry, she was able to get a print as well.
As the time ticked closer towards killing the house lights… the venue and the people in it became more and more excited. What started as a solo scream quickly turned into defining howls from every person in the venue. Just when you thought everyone’s voices would give out, Phish came on stage.
The covered a new original to start. I’ll be honest, at the time I didn’t know the name of the song. I just remember singing along with it because my mother used to play it in her car. We’d later realize this new cover was called “Garden Party” and man-o-man was this cover a hit. It was a slower start, probably because not many people knew what the bust out was… but then when went into Possum and the whole venue exploded. CK5 poured lights on the 20,000 person sold out crowd and the show had truly begun. Next up was Roses and Erin that always carries rose peddles was very happy to throw an entire backpack full at Trey. Needless to say, he loved it. The next few choices were good, but not the best I’ve heard. We got Rift, Sample in a Jar, and Alaska. I don’t hate these songs… but let’s just say that I was happy to knock these out in the first set. The closing combo of Mikes>Walk Away>Groove was the best I’ve seen all year. I know that many people haven’t been digging the Mikes Groove recently because of the lack of jams… but this version was well played, jammed well, and left the crowd wanting more. This is exactly what you want for a set break.
Birds of a Feather opened the second set and this was the first time that my fiancé had seen the tune. She loved it and the crowd reacted exactly as you would expect. This Birds was well executed and ended where it should have. Next up… was a series of songs that perfect sets are made of. The powerhouse (and personal favorite) Ghost was up first. Nothing like some mid-1990’s funk to blow the roof off of MSG. You pair that with a perfect transition into Piper, which since the hiatus hasn’t really taken off… but this was a stellar version. Blend that into the jam vehicle Light and we’re off to the races! Light featured some good jamming but it wasn’t near as long as some of the versions we heard in late summer. This didn’t really matter because the transition into 2001 (Also Sprach Zarathustra) was PERFECT. Seriously, do yourself a favor and listen to Ghost>Piper>Light>2001. The peaks in 2001 were exactly what MSG would want. Glow stick tosses, epic cheers and lights galore. It was pure bliss. The Horse>Silent in the Morning was a way for people to take a breather. Not that I had any time… during the end of Silent in the Morning we saw some stage hands walking the trampolines up the stage and we all knew what was coming. The band burst into an AMAZING rendition of You Enjoy Myself. If there is one song that IS Phish, it is YEM. The technical playing, compositions, jams, vocal jams, lyrics, and trampoline fun are what make this band. I can’t ask for a better song to close the second set. If the show had ended there it would have already been the best show I had seen all year. But… as we all know Phish has something in store for the faithful that come to celebrate New Year’s Eve with them.
Phish came back on stage for set three and played Party Time. I’ve seen this tune a handful of times and it’s always fun to hear. Nothing to special about this version, but it was a great way to let everyone know that it was time to get down. I am very versed in my Phish lore. I know that it is a requisite for Phish to play Kung to go to Gamehendge. When I heard them play Kung… I thought for sure we were going on a journey to the land that Phish hasn’t visited since July 8, 1994. Many Phish fans think they’ll never play a Gamehendge set again and I was very excited thinking that we might get this set. Needless to say, we didn’t. That’s okay. Phish did something even better.
During a third set of golf themed shenanigans we got 2 new covers and all golf related tunes. Chalk Dust Torture was played after Kung and helped the gag take us to New Years. Tweezer Reprise was finally played at the stroke of midnight with dancers, backup singers, and the craziest light show that I’d seen all night. The “Golf Set” started with a great version of Sand. It wasn’t the version that we’re now all so familiar with from Dicks, but it was still pretty great to hear this funky tune so late in the night. The Wedge was next and it blended perfectly with the cover bustout Fly Like an Eagle. Page absolutely NAILED the piano on this track and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this enter the rotation in the summer. Great jam potential on it for sure. Fan favorite Wilson came next and everyone had a great time trying to use what vocal chords they had left to chant his name. The “I must inquire Wilson, can you still have fun” line was the loudest that I had ever heard. That’s saying something since that was my tenth Wilson in thirty shows. They closed out the 3rd set with Lawnboy, which was perfect since the whole venue was covered in sod for the show.
The first encore featured Driver, a great little tune but it’s a little short for me. I was hoping for something a little crazier for the first encore. Now, there’s no doubt that Trey flubbed the intro to Driver. Phish fans from far and wide have been saying that was on purpose for the Golf Set because he wanted to take a “mulligan”. Whether that’s true or not is up for interpretation. Page came out and thanked everyone for a great New Year’s Run and tried his hand at the vocals of Iron Man. Phish had jammed this tune a few times but never performed it in full. Page KILLED the vocals and I’m sure that Ozzy would kill to be able to perform Iron Man like that these days. Page finished by saying that next year is the 30th year of Phish and will be one for the books. So stay tuned for that…
all photos by Bill Ed