Phish rang in 2020 to a sold-out crowd at New York CitysMadison Square Garden like theyve done a dozen times before. While they have played other New Years Eve shows outside of the Big Apple over the years, no place feels quite as much like home as the Garden. The newest decades gag did not see the band pull off a midnight-to-sunrise set, a runaway golf cart marathon, a JEMP truck ride, or hot dog flight, but it was the third set that fans new and old will remember forever.
Looking back to previous Garden parties, the 12/31 calendar date does not typically top the other nights of the run in terms of musical exploration, expansive jams, or massive bust-outs, but that doesnt stop Phish from being unapologetically Phish at the transition of each new year.
Following their stellar, jam-filled 12/30 show on Monday night, the band took the stage loose and excited to have fun as the Disney sample from 2014s Chilling Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House Halloween set blared through the arena. The Martian Monster opener was followed by Buried Alive in its customary early-first set position. Digging further back into their massive repertoire, Trey Anastasio shined as Phish continued to get this show on the road with a sing-along AC/DC Bag.
The World Most Famous Arena in the central part of Manhattan was treated to a lengthier-than-usual Halleys Comet next, complete with an impressive light display by designer Chris Kuroda. Since Comet returned to orbit in 2009, it hasnt been given the improv treatment fans of earlier Phish years enjoyed, but Tuesday night was another story as Mike Gordon and Page McConnell developed a funky synth-bass groove that eventually morphed into Prince Caspian.
A standard, high-energy Sparkle and a short but potent Axilla led to the first banter of the antics-filled night. All four band members continued the hit in the head with a pan story tangent from the 12/30/19 show, adding a new layer to the true tale. After Storytime Trey amusingly placed the pan story version of himself in a hallucinated recreation of the classic Steven King movie, Carrie, Trey and Page joked that they were fuzzy on the rest of the details of the strange saga.
It was Gordon who finally chimed in on the saga of the pan with a useful new insight: You know, Im starting to figure something out here, Mike hypothesized. Its a different kind of pan! Its the panflute. Who was the guy from the TV commercials that played the pan flute?
Oh, I think, are you saying Zamfir? Fishman offered. I remember that guy! He continued, And there was a weird thing about that guy. That, uh, I think the guy died, but if you say his name, you can conjure him. All you gotta do is say his name, hes got one of those magical names. Fishman then put that theory to the test, calling out the pan flutists name. As he did, haunting pan flute melodies and TV infomercial audio began to play over the sound system. Just like that, Zamfir (a.k.a. tour manager Richard Glasgow), ambled onstage with his pan flute. Yes, it was just as strange as it sounds. Weird sh*t happens when you hit me in the head with that pan, Fishman confirmed. This is amazing, added Trey, doing his best to hold back his laughter.
Phish Zamfir Story 12/31/19
To finish the whacky story and introduce Maze, McConnell utilized the THX Deep Note effect introduced with much hilarity at the 11/30/19 show in Providence, Rhode Island. The Chairman of the Boards took the spotlight during the rocking Maze, jumping from organ to grand piano before Anastasio kicked off an always-welcome Fluffhead. Rise/Come Together closed the interesting first set, giving fans a few moments to discuss the Zamfir story and sit-in with appropriate confusion.
Punch You in the Eye opened the second set for the first time since the standout July 19th, 2017 rendition and immediately got the floor of the arena shaking once again. Wolfmans Brother was funkified by a juicy Clavinet-bass groove that Anastasio used as a launchpad for his intricate riffing. While the experimentation didnt exceed the 10-minute mark, Tuesday nights Wolfmans once again contained a dark improv section, as it has throughout 2019.
An excellent Light kicked off the strongest portion of the set with a synthy, ethereal section that moved into a heavy peak before Anastasio pulled the plug and dove into Twist. Gordon plucked away to create dank bass undertones that paired nicely with Fishmans choppy drum fills. The guitarist summoned the spirit of Jimi Hendrix and developed a dirty riff reminiscent of Foxy Lady as the entire band built upon the sinister Twist to combat the tranquil Light that came before it, completing a two-song segment thats surely worth revisiting.
Soul Planet reminded New Years Eve veterans of the 2017-2018 run inside the same venue, where a massive pirate ship brought the glowing-wristed fans into January 2018. A danceable, funky breakdown in Soul Planet was short-lived as the band transitioned into a relatively standard Mercury and a faster-than-usual, dynamically varied Possum to close out the second of three sets.
As the lights came up for setbreak number two, a swarm of stagehands descended upon the stage, presumably to set up for whatever shenanigans were coming in set three. Except Wait, are they putting everything away? Sure looks that way. As setbreak wore on, the crew quickly packed up all the gear on stage, leaving only a few nondescript black boxes and a chorus of confused queries of but what are they going to play on? echoing throughout the crowd as the clock approached midnight.
As the lights went down to beckon the final act of the nightthe stage still conspicuously emptythe voices of the band members began to emit from the PA. Hello? Hey, Trey? These microphones are not on, are they? asked Page. Nope, Treys voice responded. Our microphones are not on. No one in the Garden can hear a single word we say.
As the Garden roared with laughter, Page continued, unaware that the crowd could hear him, I am so excited right now, I cannot contain myself. I cant believe we are about to walk on stage and perform an entire set ofjazz ballads, a cappella, for our New Years extravaganza. Added a giddy Trey, 25 years into our career at MSG, we arefinally gonna give the people what they want and walk on stage and do an entire set of jazz a cappella ballads for our New Years set. Its gonna be perfect. The crowd cheered and groaned as they crossed their fingers that this was, indeed, a joke.
Fishman continued, That is, provided that Zamfir does not show up at the last second and hit us with a pan. Because whenthat has happened in the past strange things have occurred.
You know what I think, Mikes body-less voice added. I think thats him right there walking toward us! So weird. The requisite sound effects ensued as the Garden heard the pan flute master once again accost The Phish with his pan.
With that, the members of Phish slowly strode onstage in peculiar outfits as the piano intro to Send In The Clowns began to play. Fishman donned an inverted version of his ubiquitous muumuu (red dress, blue donuts), while the remainder of the band sported solid-color outfits and headset microphones: Page in blue, Trey in green, and Mike in yellow. True to their word, the four colorful musicians started into a (mostly) a cappella rendition of the classic number from the 1973 Stephen Sondheim musical, A Little Night Music. So theyre actually doing this, huh?
However, as Send In The Clowns continued, fans quickly became aware that something strange was afoot. With excitement, Trey altered the lyrics of the song to Send In TheClones. The rest of the lyrics proved to be telling, as well. File away me here at last on the ground, you in mid-air, one who keeps tearing around, one who cant move, making my entrance again with my usual flair and well maybe next year for later
As the band reached the end of Send In the Clones, Trey emphasized the songs final lines. Where are the clones? There ought to be clones! Send in the clones! Send in the clones! Send in the clones!
Phish Send In The Clones 12/31/19
After a moment of suspense, the band cleared the stage once again, only to reappear shortly after when four free-hanging, colored platforms filled with colored instruments matching the bands outfits descended from the ceiling. As Phish launched into First Tube while suspended in mid-air, dozens of clones of each memberwith outfits identical to those worn by the band, down to shaggy, red wigs worn by the Trey clones and the bald-spotted wigs for the Page clonesflooded the empty stage underneath the floating musicians.
The Phish clones would remain onstage throughout the set, performing elaborate, synchronized dance numbers and choral flourishes as their originators played overhead, rising and falling in time much like the lights on Kurodas rig. Later, theyd pull out a set of long, thin mirrors to reflect the stage lightingeffectively cloning Kuroda, as well.
As the final minutes of 2019 ticked away, the platforms were lowered back to normal stage level while the clones constructed appropriately colored risers behind the band out of the mysterious black cases left onstage at setbreak. The colorful Phish clones served as the backing choir the customary New Years countdown and ensuing Auld Lang Syne and balloon drop before helping the still-floating band usher in 2020 with a Sand extravaganza. The clones continued to dance and sing through the theatrical Sand as the bands platforms lifted and droppedthat is, except for Anastasios. Strangely, he had stopped moving with the rest of the band
Phish w/ Clones First Tube > Auld Lang Syne 12/31/19
A sense of anxiety soon began to set in for the Garden crowd. Was a clone going to replace Trey for good? Was he actually in danger? Was this all part of the gag? Phish loves to elicit that oh-so-familiar what the f*ck is going on? reaction from their fans, but even the band shared this sentiment as the reality of the situation set in. As the rest of the bands platforms dropped to stage level, Trey remained conspicuously suspended. The green-suited guitarist was, indeed, stuckthe band here at last on the ground, Trey in mid-air.
Heres where things got hairy. A long pause ensued as the MSG crew tried to figure out how to get Trey down while Anastasio no doubt reflected on the Murphys Law situation going on before his eyes: There he was, just after midnight on New Years Eve, at the dawn of a decade, in a green suit, at a sold-out Madison Square Garden, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the bands first MSG show with an elaborate, aerial stuntand his sh*t just broke in mid-air. The situation had moved beyond gag status. This was real. Trey was stuck hanging precariously above the Garden crowd with half a set still left to play. What in the world do you do from here?
After several minutes (which felt like an eternity) of waiting nervously, Trey began to cautiously joke about his current predicament. Well, he said with sincerity, I guess, if Im about to fall to my death, I might as well tell you guys all how much I love you. So much! At least this is gonna be one of the great rock and roll deaths that youll all be a part of. Kind of always wanted to go out with a bang, so
Fishman tried to add some levity to the situation, joking that I think youd just get maimed from there its not high enough for death. Dont worry. Death dont hurt very long But the comic relief did little to quell the mounting nervousness that permeated the Garden. Even Treys quip about how this would be a good time for him to do one of thoseEddie Vedder crowd divesyou guys will catch me, right? did little to ease the tension.
As fans will remember, the 12/30 Pan Story ended with Trey joking about how he felt like he had walked himself out onto the edge of a cliff with nowhere to go. As the New Years gag born from this bizarre tale went further off the rails with each moment Trey remained stuck, that imagery became all too real.
After receiving word from in his earpiece that they were not, in fact, going to be able to get him down, Trey cautiously decided that the show must go on: Hey Carm, Im just gonna play it from up here. F*ck it, just leave me up here.
With that decision, Trey cautiously started into Drift While Youre Sleeping, the Phish clones below continuing their choreographed antics. Its probably worth noting that, despite the admirable, rock-and-roll character of choosing to continue, all four band members were notably timid throughout the song. With Phish, you can never really be sure whats real and whats a joke, but the truth shined through in the music. Both Trey and the clones below his faulty platform were potentially in actual danger, and it took the band more than a few minutes to shift their focus from that fact back to the music being played.
Despite the understandable timidness, the clone-assisted set continued admirably with Whats The Use?. While clearly planned ahead of time (see: elaborately choreographed dancing), this song choice felt cosmically appropriate. Whats the use in worrying about how Treys going to get down? Were here, were plugged in, and weve got a wild show planned. May as well go for it.
Its also worth mentioning the clearly apparent difference in Treys body language and playing as his best friends and bandmates continued to rise and fall as planned. When he was suspended solo, he was noticeably reserved, but each time Page, Fish, and Mike rose to his level, he seemed to momentarily regain his full confidence. Plenty of strange things have happened at Phish shows over 35+ years. When Trey was alone above the stage, he seemed to feel exposed, even kneeling to play at points to help keep his balance on the edge of this cliff. But as soon as his bandmates were at his side, he was ready to conquer any obstacle in his path. If thats not Phish in a nutshell, I dont know what is.
The clones cleared the stage as the rest of the bands platforms rose to meet Treys above the stage for You Enjoy Myself. While the band members remained necessarily stationary on their platforms, the Phish clones returned to act out their usual YEM anticsfrom Mike and Trey clones bouncing on trampolines to Trey clones dancing to the Mike bass solo section. As the band moved into the Boy, Man, God, Sh*t section, the aerial guitarist put a noticeable emphasis on the Sh*t!, a tensely amusing nod to his sticky situation.
Phish w/ Clones You Enjoy Myself 12/31/19
Unusually, the highlight of this YEM turned out to be the vocal jam, as the clone choir helped Trey conduct some call-and-response melodies with the crowd before eventually winding up in a clone theme of sorts to close things out.
We can assume that, at this point, the band had planned to exit the stage for an encore break. However, with Trey still stuck hanging over the Garden, Phish did what they do best: they improvised.
Thanks, everybody, thank you, a sheepishly giggling Trey announced, Okay, were gonna do something very strange here, but thats cool. Its fun. We just walked off, were back on. This is the encore, and then all four us are gonna watch you guys leave, and then were just gonna stay up here in the airuntil next year! Its the encore!
With that, Phish launched into the Tweezer Reprise that had gone missing on 12/30 as the clones once again took the stage for their final numbera climactic ending to a crazy set, to be sure. But for the crowd, the show was not over. No, we werent leaving until we were sure that Trey was safely on the ground.
As Mike, Page, and Fishman descended to the ground after Tweeprise and started to walk backstage, Trey laughed nervously. You guys are leaving me? What the hell?!
Bye, Trey, Fishman laughed. See you next year, added Page as a helpless Trey continued to laugh at his ongoing predicament.
As Trey continued to dangle, he took to his guitar to pass the time for a little (necessary) bonus improv, crafting an off-the-cuff ditty about how its time to leave. Its a whole new year, and someones coming to rescue me at least I hope so. This is pretty strange, but its kind of cool, I kinda like it up here, theyre gonna rescue me, goodbye, goodbye 2019, lets have a big cheerfor the rescue squad! he sang.
The crowd continued to cheerone could argue, louder than they did for any of the planned NYE anticsas the stage crew mounted Fishmans drum platform and rose to Treys assistance. They placed a bridge over to Treys platform and guided him over to the working lift to help him down. Once again, with nothing but time and an instrument in front of him, Trey sat down behind Fishmans kit and beat out an improvised Rescue Squad chant as he finallythankfullydescended to safety.
The Rescue Squad Saves Trey 12/31/19
The Phish Clones New Years gag was meant to be all fun, games, and spectacle, but after its precarious malfunction, it took on a more sincere air of significance. As we watched Trey dangle from the ceiling, fans throughout the Garden realized their deep love for this man and this band all over again. You cant just clone Trey Anastasio. Sure, its fun to see them do elaborate things like this, but everyone in the hallowed venue seemed to telepathically agree: Wed trade this admittedly amazing spectacle to ensure this mans safety and longevity any day of the week (or year, or decade). Now that hes down, however, were looking forward to the inevitable tsunami of memes, jokes, and future antics born from this stunt gone awry.
So goes the Phish Welcome to 2020. Lets maybe keep the New Years stunts on the ground this year.
Check out a gallery from 2019s Phish New Years Eve show below courtesy of photographerChris Capaci.
[Review by Ben Boivin & Andrew OBrien]
Setlist: Phish | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 12/31/19
Set 1: Martian Monster, Buried Alive, AC/DC Bag, Halleys Comet > Prince Caspian > Sparkle > Axilla, Maze, Fluffhead > Rise/Come Together
Set 2: Punch You in the Eye, Wolfmans Brother > Light > Twist > Soul Planet > Mercury > Possum
Set 3: Send in the Clowns, First Tube, Auld Lang Syne, Sand, Drift While Youre Sleeping, Whats the Use?, You Enjoy Myself
Encore: Tweezer Reprise, Rescue Squad
 Phish debut, with lyrics changed to Send in the Clones; a cappella Debut; only Trey.
Read the original here:
Phish Sends In The Clones As They Float Above MSG, Rescue Squad Saves Trey On NYE [Photos/Videos] - Live for Live Music