Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Set 1: PYITEPunch You In the Eye, SlothThe Sloth > Reba, CoilThe Squirming Coil > Maze, Forbin'sColonel Forbin's Ascent > MockingbirdFly Famous Mockingbird > Shine > MockingbirdFly Famous Mockingbird > Sparkle > CDTChalk Dust Torture
 No whistling.
 Narration discussed how Phish makes time in the Phish Time Factory.
 Phish debut; Tom Marshall on vocals.
Noteworthy Jams: Reba (highly recommended), Drowned (key version), Runaway Jim (highly recommended), Mike's Song (key version), Digital Delay Loop Jam (key version), Weekapaug Groove (key version), You Enjoy Myself (highly recommended)
Average Song Gap: 20.48
Notes: Reba did not have the whistling ending. The narration in Mockingbird discussed how Phish makes time in the Phish Time Factory, which set up the New Year’s Eve stunt. The Phish debut of Shine featured Tom Marshall on vocals. Drowned included a tease of Fire on the Mountain shortly before Lizards. Trey teased Shine in Runaway Jim. Mike's Song contained a Dave's Energy Guide tease from Page. The second set ended with a Digital Delay Loop Jam out of Mike’s, and the third set opened with the Phish Time Factory machine. All four band members dressed as scientists playing with synths while lights flashed and Van de Graff generators zapped. Fishman was lifted up in a bed as Father Time and was reborn as the Baby New Year. Weekapaug featured Auld Lang Syne, Dreaming (Blondie), and Spooky teases and was unfinished. This was the first performance of Sanity since June 24, 1994 (147 shows). This show was officially released as New Year's Eve 1995 - Live at Madison Square Garden.
Songs by Debut Year:
Posted to RMP in early 1996:
12/31/95 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
You've seen the reviews. The PYITE Sloth opener was the first in history, and was better than any dream opener I could have imagined. Reba was fiery with non-stop action from Trey; a great version, up here with my favorites (Lowell, Ween 94, Deer Creek..). Mockingbird had some glaring mistakes from Trey (if they played this more often he wouldn't have as much trouble ... ;^), but I was still psyched to hear it (Shine was very amusing, but I think I would rather have heard Icculus... w/ Tom Marshal! ;-). Sparkle Chalk was average, and a frighteningly simple close to an otherwise **SICK** setlist.
The Drowned > Jam > Lizards to open the second set was AWE-INSPIRING, and must be heard at all costs. We were hosed, frankly, throughout sets two and three of this show. There were/are Fire on the Mountain teases in the JAM preceding Lizards (listen to the tapes, you can't miss them.. one is more subtle than the other, but the second tease is strong as hell and occurs roughly 15 seconds or so before Trey starts playin' Lizards, and right when Fish drops the groove into a Fire-esque beat). Drowned was for me a dream come true, since it was the song I most wanted to hear brought back from Quadrophenia... and it was jammed out severely!! Runaway Jim was actually a Runaway JAM... it was about 16 minutes long, and is without question my favorite version ever. I was at Walnut Creek last summer, and this Jim is just more exciting and rockin' than that somewhat spacey 6/16 version.
The Mike's Song to close the set was the best version I've ever heard (I own about 140 versions), but I'm anxious to hear Hershey (at least I think it is Hershey at which a great MikeS was allegedly performed). The MikeS has some truly great grooves in it (no bullshit tramps dissonant jam), incl. a Dave's Energy Guide-like groove (briefly), and it was topped with a mellowing digital delay loop JAM from Trey, reminiscent of Bomb Factory, the Bozeman Tweezer, the Providence Bowie, and the opening of Maze at NYE last year (you know, the digital delay loop jam...). Very gentle close to an insane set of Phish.
The third and final set also witnessed some ferocious jamming, particularly in Weekapaug, YEM and JBG. Weekapaug was arguably the best version I've ever heard -- just sick, non-stop jams... no spacey or dissonant experimentation. It was also twice as long as the average Weekapaug (well, maybe not twice as long as average 1994-95 Weekapaug), at about 13 minutes, and it segued magnificently into Sea and Sand. YEM was very good, with some serious Oye Como Va jamming at times from Page and Trey especially (this is not uncommon, of course, but doesn't usually occur with the same degree of intensity as it did in this version). I can think of many YEMs that are comparable to this version in their gloriousness... it was still an excellent, above average YEM.
Sanity was the first since the Murat in June 94, and was quite a treat. I had forgotten at the time that they had played Sanity twice in '94, and thought it had been the first since '92 (oh well). It was a remarkably fun version, though, and you could tell that the band enjoyed playing it. Frankenstein was typical, albeit a killer closer. The JBG (E) was the best version Phish has played. I've been lucky to have heard *live* all of the JBGs that Phish has done, and this version certainly cleaned up.
12/31 was the best Phish show, next to 10/31/94, that I've ever seen live, and certainly one of the best Phish shows that I've heard. I cannot recommend it enough -- but get the whole show, for Icculus' sake, and don't pick and choose sets like a tyro. The show as a whole needs to be listened to and admired. For those of you who didn't make it, I am sorry, but you'll get it on tape (and you were thought of). The band was playing for its die-hards on 12/31, wherever they may have been at the time. Anyone afraid of improvisation and jamming should stay the fuck away from this show!
Best wishes to all, and thanks to Phish, for making this NYE run the best run of four shows -- Dead or Phish -- that many of us had ever seen!!
And here's my two cents on this show as published in The Phish Companion:
12/31/95 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Charlie Dirksen, San Francisco, CA
1995 had been the most improvisationally thrilling year of Phishtory, and everyone was excited pre-show about what was to come. How could the band top the Gin -> Real Me -> Gin from 12/29, or the 12/28 Tweezer, not to mention numerous jams from the Fall tour? Few if any predicted that this New Year's show would -- even years later – be glowingly referred to by Phish fans as one of the best Phish shows ever performed.
The PYITE Sloth opener was the first in history, and was better than any dream opener I could have imagined at the time. Reba was fiery with non-stop action from Trey. A great version, up there with fan favorites like Lowell and 'ween 94. Mockingbird had some glaring mistakes from Trey (if he only played this more often...), but everyone seemed just as psyched to hear it as I was. Shine was hysterical, and I'm glad that The Tom Marshall New Year's Run Tradition continued. Sparkle and Chalk Dust pleased the crowd even more, and ended the first set powerfully.
The Drowned -> Lizards to open the second set was AWE-INSPIRING, and must be heard to be believed (along with the "Fire on the Mountain" tease, which occurs within forty seconds of Lizards' first notes). Drowned was for me a dream come true, since it was the song I most wanted to hear brought back from Quadrophenia. It was passionately and melodiously jammed out, and is still, to this day, a version to hear at all costs. Runaway Jim was actually a Runaway JAM. It was about 16 minutes long, and was the most spectacular version I'd heard since Walnut Creek 6/16, when they first took Jim for an experimental run. The Mike's Song to close the set contains some of Phish's most brilliant improvisation to date. It also closed with a mellowing digital delay loop jam. A very serene end to an enchanting set of Phish. People were awe-struck by what they'd witnessed, and almost afraid of what was to come.
After some Gamehendge Time Lab frolicking, Weekapaug segued raucously out of Auld Lang Syne, starting 1996 out on a GREAT note. The Weekapaug went from the high-energy, mellifluous soloing we all know and love into an improvisation so spine-tinglingly good that itcharmed people into thinking that it was composed. This jam segued beautifully into a gorgeous Sea and Sand, masterfully sung by Page.
YEM contained a haunting, mesmerizing jam segment, which to this day commands respect. Sanity was the first version since June '94, and was quite a treat (the band seemed to enjoy it as much as the audience!).
Frankenstein was an appropriate close to a frighteningly awesome show. At this point, I couldn't have cared less whether Phish played an encore. But they came out and buffalo-billed Johnny B. Goode, taking him for strong and performing a version that is still very compelling.
The glorious improvisation at this show profoundly affected thousands of lives, including those of the band. What we believed would be a once in a lifetime experience, though, soon proved to be simply another exalted show in the career of one of rock history's greatest bands.
punch and sloth open this one up with a tone of energy. they are nice and rocking and really get the crowd into it. then in a year where they were dropping killer reba's left and right, they drop the best of them all. this reba is a killer. it passes through a wide range of emotions and moods. very good playing by all here. a rare mid set coil shows up before a barn burning maze. this one does not get too over the top right off the bat, but it finishes strong. then they drop a nice forbin's>shine>mockingbird. good stuff there. chalk dust and sparkle are pretty straight forward.
then they kick the second set off with a raging drowned. i hear many say this is the greatest version ever, but i think they have passed it over since then. either way, this one is very, very strong. as for the fire on the mountain tease, i don't hear it. the lizards works well as does axilla part 2. then they get back to jamming with a very strong run away jim. strange design and hello my baby appear poised to close down the set. oh, they are grabbing instruments again, surely it will be something quick and easy. they bury an over the top 20 minute mike's song. like reba, there were a lot of good takes of this song in '95, but this might be the best of the bunch. they end with a digital delay loop/dave's energy guide deal.
after some time factory goofiness, they welcome the new year with a glorious weekapaugh. the whole band is in sync hear and they ride this one out pretty far before landing in a nice take of sea and sand. after so much having already been played, where do they go next. well, they play a killer you enjoy myself. sure, they played a top 3 yem a little bit north about 3 weeks ago in albany, but went ahead and give it another go in ny. this one really takes off, and they came into the jam portion really rolling. gordon was really hot. then they drop a nice little sanity>frankenstein combo to close this doozy of show out. johny b. goode sends everyone home smiling.
there are possible all time greats smattered up and down this set list. if you like '95 phish and you have not heard this show....well, i just don't know what to say.
the must hear list from this show:
drowned>lizards, run away jim, mike's song
auld lang syne>weekapaugh's>sea and sand
I, myself, n00b100 (and find yourself a fainting couch, post-haste), generally consider this the third-best show of December 1995 (maybe fourth; I go back-and-forth on 12/7). Not the third-best show ever (although even that would surely raise some eyebrows), the third best show of the month. That's hardly any sort of insult - 12/95, of course, is one of the greatest stretches in the band's history. But I find myself reaching for 12/14 and 12/29 a lot more often (to say nothing of many, many other shows), and I occasionally find myself wondering why. And I think the best answer I can come up with is that December 1995 shows always feel pulsating with life, with energy, with an almost *seething* desire to push the envelope and batter every jam to within an inch of its life, and I think 12/14 is the absolute best example of that (hence the reason I consider it the show of the year). 12/31? Not the best example. I still love these jams, but (to me, of course), they're missing that explosive je nais se quoi that made the month so legendary. Heck, a second-tier show like 12/1 has that special something that 12/31 (again, to me, of course) doesn't. Lots of classic jams, lots of fun all around...but the 12/1 Mike's Groove just *grabs* me by the throat, and I'm not sure the 12/31 version does. Or, at least, not in the same way.
This doesn't really matter, in the end - the show's classic, beloved by just about everyone, and you'd have to listen to it no matter what if you want any sort of understanding as to why Phish is so beloved. But, in one man's estimation at least, the longer you persist in your Phish fandom, the less you'll love it so much yourself. This is a truly incredible show, make no mistake of that. But there are better.
I'm a long time fan and I'm disappointed to see that kind of hating in a main phish.net review
This has been my most consistent opinion for some time now about my favorite show (whereas previously, "x" concert was my favorite for a day at most). It is of my opinion that New Years' Eve 1995 at Madison Square Garden is Phish's grand concert masterpiece.
As a whole, it's very concise. Throughout the show, in all the highlights and one-off songs, there is a not a single wasted note or beat, or song that seems to "drag on." It's all there: the playfulness of Set I (Mockingbird narration, PYITE and Sloth gave us two nipples). Set II was the serious jam-oriented set with an impressive "more with less" jam in Drowned, exploratory Jim, and the epic 20 minute long Mike's Song->DDLJ. This Mike's Song starts out with an eerie jam that the band turn into beautiful ambient dissonance at the end of the DDLJ. This was also the last set of 1995, which is kind-of symbolic and poetic of itself. The Mike's Song had the audience waiting for Weekapaug, which would not be delivered until set III (technically 1996 at that point in the show). To me that sums of 1995. It was a highlighted and heralded year that left fans wanting more.
Set III opens with Auld Lang Syne->Weekapaug Groove (the first song of 1996) and the Groove is exactly that. Page shines and, to my ears, acts as a foreshadow of the following years, where Trey takes a back seat in the middle of the jam to let Page and Mike and Fish do their things (a la 11/22/97 Weekapaug Groove, or 11/6/96 Mike's->Jam). The following Sea and Sand is a nice and welcoming small song which leads into the 2-part YEM, where Trey is clearly the leader, but he's not "showboating." There's some nice blues-style jamming which leads to the climax and a more simple riff-based jam into the vocal jam. Another "more-with-less" jam whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Sanity, Frankenstein, and Johnny B. Goode were great for non-pressure playing to bring an end to a marvelous year.
1995 by itself was saying a lot about Phish and how far they'd come in even just the last year. And if that was the statement, then this show is the exclamation point.
It is certainly just a great all around listen. And I realize "perfect" is subjective, but one cannot deny the cohesiveness of this whole show. Even after repeated listens, it's like listening to it for the first time.
This concert has been dissected to the point of, "Why bother? It's all been said."
Briefly, from my (at the time) newbie perspective:
End of Set 1: Left plastered back in my seat, feeling like the Memorex Guy.
End of Set 2: Found myself floating somewhere in deep space, wondering where the Earth had gone.
Phish Space-Time Laboratory: May have witnessed the Big Bang.
(Completely forgot, until countdown, that it was NYE)
End of Set 3: Ground beneath my feet gradually becoming stable, leaving me intent on never missing another show.
Reality proved that an impossibility, but I sure did try...
Every so often, as I am doing right now, I haul out my copies of this run and play them back to back. After many concerts attended and many more listened to, these are still hard to beat.
Thank You, Boys!