Phish celebrates 2011 with a BANG! in New York City (12/31, 1/01)

Phish fans always say, “Never miss a holiday,” and there is a good amount of truth in that statement. Their Halloween sets always include covering a whole album by one of their favorite artists; last Fourth of July they played the ever-rare “Harpua”, with a cover of Rage Against the Machine, and hell, they even acknowledge their parent’s birthdays (see Hampton, 3/08/09). So, what better way to exit 2010 and enter 2011 with a double dose of Phish? That’s two holidays in a row! Therefore, logic would dictate one would be in store for two very epic shows. And trust me, nobody had any idea what they were in for.

Last year, Phish chose Miami’s American Airlines Arena (LeBron James’ new stomping grounds), and it was a trek only a certain breed of Phish fans were willing to make. This year, though, they kept it a little closer to home, playing two nights at Worcester, Massachusetts’ DCU Center, and three nights at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, just a few blocks from Times Square. The other shows were filled to the brim with Phish fans, but it was clear people cared most about December 31st and January 1st. Tickets for New Year’s Eve were being sold on Craigslist for over $200 a piece, while legions of fans roamed the corner of 7th and 33rd on New Year’s Day with fingers in the air, praying to find that one person who MIGHT sell one ticket for close to face value. As always, ticket sales for Phish’s shows were competitive, and many people got burned. But once you’re in, you’re in….so who cares?

Phish’s New Year’s extravaganza kicked off at eight o’clock (30 minutes later than all the other shows), but they arrived just after 8:30 p.m.. The lights went out, people began to scream as they cracked their glow sticks, and Phish promptly launched into “Punch You in the Eye”. The opening chords rang through the crowd like a ripple of water, as everyone began to simultaneously groove and shout, “Oh Wilson! /Someday I’ll kill you until you die/Oh Wilson! /Punch you in the eye!” Phish kept us in Gamehendge, their own personal land of make-believe, with the classic (from Trey Anastasio’s senior thesis) “AC/DC Bag”. The band kept people moving for the first set, with the electric funk of “The Moma Dance”, the bluegrass hee-haw of “Scent of a Mule”, debuted the song “Burn the Bridge”, and a closer cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll”. This is New York, after all.

The fantastic foursome spent no time fucking around on their second set. The lights quickly went out and the crowd was greeted with the double-eighth note E intro of “Wilson”. Hippies all over the venue began to rock out excitedly and even (dare I say it?) head-bang. After that adrenaline-filled number, the band played the catchy “46 Days”, and segued into “Sand”, a mellow and jammy rarity that smoothed the crowd over like peanut butter on toast. To bring people back to life in the middle, Mike Gordon picked up the pace with his bass by starting off “Down with Disease”, arguably one of their most notorious and fastest songs. This went on for about ten minutes, until the band faded into a funky and extensive version of “Ghost”. And to wrap up another victorious set, Phish played their classic “You Enjoy Myself”, complete with Anastasio and Gordon bouncing on trampolines, a beat box finale, and a jam on their track “Manteca”, halfway through the song. And we were still one hour from midnight.

What happened next is something that will be discussed in Phish-lore for years to come. When this period of their career is archived and analyzed, the third set of 12/31/10 will be brought up. It is reasons like this that Phish’s showmanship and stage presence are unparalleled by most bands touring today. The third set began at twenty minutes before midnight with the sing-along and choreographed gem “Meatstick”. As the song went on, repeating the same words over and over, dancers from all over the world in their traditional cultural clothing filled the stage. In fact, there were so many people, nobody noticed Phish vanish from the stage, only to reappear above the crowd, suspended in the air on a giant flying hot dog. Balloons cascaded from the ceiling as they soared across the venue, only to come down in torrents at midnight when the band finally reached the stage again, while the crowd cheered, hugged one another, and kissed their significant others, wishing them all a Happy New Year. To kick off 2011, Phish played the appropriately titled “After Midnight”.

While the intro to the third set was a powerhouse, the party really mellowed out afterward. Everything became very somber and slow, causing many people to sit down and the hardcore, drugged hippies to sway hypnotically back and forth in the stands. People reflected on the past as they played “Backwards Down the Number Line”, and everyone mellowed out or passed out to slower tracks like “Waste”, “Slave to the Traffic Light”, and a set closer of the Barbershop tune “Grind”. But to finish it all off, the band did an encore of the instrumental and rocking song “First Tube”, which got everybody back on their feet for another 10 minutes of chaos.


Follow Consequence