[We would like to thank Cotter, the youngest fan ever to recap a show for this blog, for recapping last night's NYE show. (Note that he also recapped MPP2 in June 2019 for us.) Happy New Year's everyone! -Ed.]
Last night was the single most memorable night of my life. The tangible excitement surrounding the holy grail of all Phish shows was contagious as it spread from me, to my mom, my dad, and even my twelve-year-old brother, who’s first show was a three set show!
My family made the drive in from LeHigh University after an interview regarding my college admissions, so unfortunately we were not able to make the behemoth that was the 12/30 show. We did have our own dance party in the hotel room to get in the zone for New Year's. By the time we got in to New York, it was mid-afternoon, so all we had time to do was get lunch and get ready. We were four of the seemingly 20,000 waiting outside the ticket office entrance, as the clock ticked past 6:30 to 6:35 to all the way to a quarter 'til 7, until the doors to the World's Most Famous Arena finally opened.
We made our way to our seats, and my dad surprised us: he had bought us tickets in Section 116, much to the monetary dismay of my mom, which glued a smile to my face that didn’t leave until after “Sand." Everything seemed just about perfect, and we engaged in excited jargon with our neighbors about what the “gag” would be, and it seemed as if no one knew what they we’re going to do. The lights eventually set after what is always the longest hour of the day, that between 7 and 8, in which the arena slowly fills and the clock-checking becomes obsessive. Watching my little brother's face as Phish tuned their instruments, getting ready for what was sure to be one-hell-of-a show, was the first of an evening of moments I will not soon forget.
The show began with a short and sweet “Martian Monster,” which transformed The Garden into a funkified dance party. Wasting no time at all, Fish began the all-too-recognizable drum sequence that is “Buried Alive." Trey seemed especially fired-up for this version, which took the garden from a funk dance party to a blues dance party. The genre-fluid band then began my mom’s all time favorite, “AC/DC Bag." This also happens to be the one song my brother knows all the words to, so it was a special moment watching him sing along with the band.
The first jam of the night came on a rather long, for 3.0, “Halley’s Comet." The Page-led jam didn’t explore new territory, but it restored the funk theme of the night in the last quarter. A slightly awkward transition into “Prince Caspian” had most people groaning, but with that being said, I don’t think a single person wasn’t primordially yelling “OOH” with the likes of Page and Mike. The jam petered out after a few minutes before transitioning into “Sparkle." This is a song which does not get the rep it deserves in my opinion. Something about Page’s fills along with our fearless leader's 56-year-old hands [Watch it there kiddo. -Ed.] moving as fast as they possibly can always seems to inspire great amounts of energy. On the same vein of energy, the rocking “Axilla” came next, sending the rail riders into a headbanging frenzy, and having everyone hungry for what came next.
What came next was the continued “Pan Story" from 12/30/19. I freaked out because of the leaked picture from yesterday (12/31) in which "Harpua" had followed the story. Unfortunately, it was just a continuation of the previous day’s story, with rather cool effects from Page, the same THX sound effect which (for example) had ended the magnificent 11/30/19 “Harry Hood," and quite amazing acting from Trey. Richard Glasgow (aka Dickie Scotland) then appeared on stage dressed as Zamfir “the master of the pan flute," and threatened to hit both Fish and Trey. [Please click the Zamfir link, it's hilarious, and will help educate you whipper snappers about Zamfir's majesty. -Ed.]
At this point, I just wanted something else to happen, but was still hoping for the elusive “Harpua." Instead, a rather fiery “Maze” came next, which made up for lost time and seemed to endlessly peak. A personal favorite “Fluffhead” followed, which sent The Garden into a frenzy, and included a rather flubless, to my ears, composed section. The “Fluffhead” was nothing exceptional, but included some fantastic interplay between Trey and Page. Trey’s solo seemed filled with emotion as it peaked multiple times and gave way to the newish song “Come together." While not being one of the “soul songs,” it fits into the same shoe. This version saw an excited Trey on vocals, which translated into a Hendrix-like solo, and seemed like a perfect ending to a great set of music. All in all, the first set was very first setty, and it had incredible energy and everything was played very tightly.
The second set is where every single fan got their money’s worth. It was the epitome of the “microjam," everything was between 9 and 13 minutes, but god damn it did those micro-jams deliver. The set opened up with a tight “Punch You In the Eye,” which seemed longer than usual, and followed suit with the first set’s funk theme. Page, IMO the MVP of the night, did some fantastic organ work, which sounds better with every relisten. It seemed like the band was on a mission; they weren’t messing around this set. A particularly funky “Wolfman’s Brother” came next, and 20,000 people seemed to move as one in the same slow side-to-side rhythmic dance, my dad and I included. One of the funniest moments of the set came when Page played an extra riff, and Trey shot him a look that would’ve made a drill sargent shiver.
After the Mike-led funk groove came a fantastic “Light." One of the best 3.0 jam vehicles, this version delivered. The bliss jam saw several pockets explored by Trey and included a fantastic double peak, sending The Garden into PANdemonium. Speaking of PANdemonium, the jam that came next rivals the legendary Chocdust (7/28/17's "CDT") as my favorite ever witnessed live.
If you haven’t listened to it yet, do yourself a favor and spin this A1 “Twist." The beginning of the jam features some very patient playing by all four members of the band. Mike is cranked-up in the mix, too, as the four follow the MVP of 3.0’s lead. Trey then finds a pocket at 7:00, which elicited a “THIS IS NASTY” sentiment from my dad. Mike fills perfectly and Page plays with as many toys as he can, while the snarl on Trey’s face translates into a massive peak matched with whites from CK5. Trey’s shredding toward the end of the peak rival any jam from 1.0, and the fill from Mike while the jam is peaking is eerily similar to the “Ghost” from 12/31/10. I think Trey forgot what a breather was, as they played a short but incredibly funky “Soul Planet” on the two-year anniversary of its NYE debut.
“Mercury” came next, and a short and sweet rendition of the 3.0 jam monster then turned into "Possum." This was a better than usual version, which witnessed multiple peaks and was the first moment my little brother "got IT." He danced wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, much like me, in awe of the thousands of glowsticks being hurled from every direction. "Possum" seemed like a perfect ending to an otherworldly set, which will go down as one of the best of the year without a doubt.
Not two minutes after the end of "Possum," stagehands were taking everything off of the stage. Still, no one had any idea what was about to happen. It felt like, in years past, people had an inkling of what was going to happen for the "gag," but this year no one seemed to know a thing. In hindsight, the setbreak music, which included “Double Vision” and color themes should’ve been a hint. Around 11:45, a prerecorded Page and Trey track was played; they had a back and forth discussion about an all “acapella jazz set." Zamfir (Dickie Scotland) then showed up and hit them all on the head with a pan, while they played the same sound effects from earlier. They then performed an acapella “Send In the Clones,” in which Trey admitted he was “Losing his timing this late in his career." Platforms then emerged and descended from the ceiling, one band member on each platform, each band member wearing a different colored outfit and strapped in, and “First Tube” began. Clones then emerged dressed as their respective band member; for example the Page clones had a massive bald spot, which I found hilarious. [Of course you did you're like 18 years old. -Ed.] The gag seemed to be going perfect.
They ended “First Tube” and began the countdown at 11:58, but in the words of Trey, “Ah what the f***”. “Auld Lang Syne” then began and the thousands of green, blue, yellow, and red balloons dropped to the crowd with eager arms extended. The band then broke into “Sand," a possible shoutout to the legendary “Sand” which took place twenty years prior. Their platforms, still working correctly, moved up and down, while the clones danced below them, and the dances the clones had memorized and performed were truly impressive to say the least.
So going back to the beginning of the review, when I said this show was the most memorable night of my life? I said that because of what came next.
At the end of “Sand,” all the platforms lowered except for Trey’s. (!) I know some people believe it was all planned, but they are wrong. The gesticulations from a worried Mike and five minutes of uncomfortable balloon popping silence suggest otherwise. [As do other facts, including liability risks and attorneys, we won't mention here. -Ed.] I was scared out of my mind, and I sat holding two balloons to my chest the rest of the set, paralyzed by the fear of losing probably the most influential non-family member to my development as a person.
Trey got on a knee, as the platform appeared to begin to tilt. He then joked about legendary Rock and Roll deaths. People's cheers turned into a nervous murmur, as Trey sat 50 feet (or so) off the ground on a faulty, tilting platform. But the show must go on.
The band then played a hurried “Drift While Your Sleeping," half of which Trey was on his knees for. The line “A temporary reprieve from gravity” seemed all too ironic. Speaking of Irony, “What’s the Use?” came next, which saw the remaining band members float back up to Trey’s uncomfortable level. I still don’t think I’d moved by this point: my eyes still locked on Trey's faulty platform.
My favorite song, “You Enjoy Myself,” came next, and I finally peeled my eyes away from Trey, and looked at my dad, unable to say a word still stricken with fear. But if Trey can play guitar from up there, then the least I can do is dance to it. They then tried to get the crowd to sing one note, rather unsuccessfully, as everyone just screamed instead, but hey it was a good idea. The "boy, man, god, shit" part followed, which featured Trey screaming "SHIT" like he was on an unstable platform 50 feet above the stage, AND HE WAS, which sent the crowd, and myself, into hysterical “Is this funny now!?” laughter. They hurried the rest of the song, as the Clones jumped on trampolines.
Then one of coolest "YEM" vocal jams EVER ensued, with the backing of forty (40) clones, to put an end to the weird night. Trey then declared it to be the encore, as they physically couldn’t leave the stage, and began a longer than normal, “Tweezer Reprise." He then tried to wave goodbye from his precarious perch, yet not a soul left. In my mind, I was either going to see him safely rescued, or fall to his death, and no "beating of the lines" was worth that. Then the critically acclaimed "Rescue Squad" came to his aid, valiantly, lowering him via Fishman’s platform. The loudest cheer of the night came when Trey safely returned to the ground, and finished the new hit, “Rescue Squad." Maybe the 1.0 vets will get on board with this 3.0 number, although it's admittedly a little too wordy for their liking. [Calling the "Rescue Squad Reprise" opener in Mexico. -Ed.]
All in all Phish did exactly what they were supposed to do: they provided me with a night I’ll never forget, and left me hungry for more. Like always, and from the bottom of my heart, Thank You Phish!
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