Having seen my fair share of New Year’s shows, I have to say that this NYE show stands as my favorite. 12/31/93 was where everyone in the room understood that this was a cusp moment. At the February PPAC Providence show tickets out front had been going for ten bucks and I’d stood three feet from Trey, snapping photographs while he hammed it up for me and shredded the frets. Now here I was a few months later at the Centrum, a place I’d grown up seeing world-class rock bands like Rush, Iron Maiden and The Scorpions, watching the room fill up with Phisheads in front of the aquarium-themed stage. It slowly dawned on the Lysergic Groupmind of the room that Phish wasn’t just a cool band from Vermont anymore, they were becoming a widely popular band. To left and right, there was nothing but smiles at being in the right place at the right time.
When the lights went down, you could feel how ready the audience was. Everyone’s timing was flawless this night, especially the band. Everything seemed so BIG, the music, the crowd energy, the fact it was New Year’s. When Trey asked “Is Everyone in?”, he didn’t just mean if we were all physically in the room. This was a threshold moment, and we knew It. The frame of the fish tank glowed at us, framed the band for us. Waves through the room carrying the memory of Frank and Trey captures them into a clean “Peaches en Regalia” that the band would thread expertly throughout the night. Energy sparked in jagged peaks during Antelope and Tweezer and they fucked with everyone’s heads during Halley’s Comet (are they saying “Hell is Coming” or “Halley’s Comet?”). The Possum went on for so long but I always think of this version when I think of the song. The first two sets are still two of my all time favorite live experiences.
I recall the gag was that four people who might have been Phish floated down in scuba gear to the huge sea clam sitting in the middle of the stage. Moving like they were under water, they climbed into the clam, and then it did the countdown to midnight. It was pretty hilarious at the time. The rest of the show rocked adequately, though not as intensely as the first two, though I agree that the Hood and Golgi brought it home.
It certainly left us all in a lofty realm as we streamed giddily out of The Centrum and into the year of our Lord 1994. The sparkling smiles all around me assured me that it was going to be a great year to be alive, especially if you were a Phish fan.