In the many traditions of Phish, none were greater than their three-set New Year’s Eve Show. Having performed on this night of revelry every year from 1989 through 1999, and again in 2002 and 2003, so many memories and legendary moments have taken place on 12.31. Each New Year’s Run culminated as the clock struck midnight, and the band oozed into Auld Lang Syne as fans popped celebratory champagne, hugged and kissed their friends while all felt warm and fuzzy inside. Yet, the moment that always cemented the Phish New Year was the song they bust into directly after the classic holiday tune. With choices ranging from incredibly creative choices to some incredible train-wrecks, there was always great anticipation for this “moment after” New Years. Let’s look at some.
12.31.1993 Worcester Centrum: In what is by far the greatest post-New Year’s moment in Phish history, on this night, they opened the third set with Auld Lang Syne, and as the song ended in all is celebratory gusto, Phish ripped into the debut of the Down With Disease jam- without ever having played the song! I was not there, but I must imagine that it was the best experience ever to hear the Disease lick rip into the jam for the first time as the peak of the biggest party of the year. Complete with shredding Auld Lang Syne teases, this choice was absolutely genius, as no one knew what was going on and were all experiencing what would go down as one of the most classic segments of blissful Phish ever. The band did not debut Down With Disease until the next show, April 4th of 1994, at the Flynn Theatre in Burlington, VT. Not only the most clever, but also the Phishiest move ever, this post-New Years moment takes the cake.
1995 MSG, NYC: Leaving the epic set II Mike’s Song hanging in the second set, after twenty minutes of scorching improv and a digital delay jam that left a silhouetted Trey on stage solo, the crowd was left in awe of what they had witnessed. As the band came out for the third set, they did their mad scientist routine, and Fishman was born as the New Year’s baby. But as they peaked Auld Lang Syne, FIshman slid into the quickened beat of Weekapaug as the crowd responded rambunctiously to the completion of the last set’s Mike’s. Transforming into one of the most heavily improvised Weekapaugs ever, eventually segueing into only other performance of The Who’s, “Sea and Sand,” this post-New Years moment could be the most musically significant of them all.
1996 Fleet Center, Boston, MA: Using the “jam of the year,” the band put together a shredding end of 1996 and beginning of 1997. Beginning with a newly-jammed out 2001 with a countdown on all the arena clocks, the band soared into the new year in space. Moving through the Auld Lang Syne, the band quickly dropped into Down With Disease. An unquestionable focus of the year, they used the launch pad as their New Year’s celebration three years after debuting the jam at the same time. Setting the tone for a blistering Suzie and Antelope, and the surprise Bohemian Rhapsody, this was one of the best third sets of New Years’ past.
1999 Big Cypress, FL: A trampoline into the next millennium, this post-midnight moment came as the show was just beginning. Choosing a monstrous and reflective Down With Disease to ring in 2000, this moment was as significant as any listed, as we were embarking on the longest Phish voyage of all time. Featuring tight, unique jamming, this started this magnificent night perfectly.
2003 Miami, FL: After four days of fun in the sun and incredible Phish music, the New Years’ moment in this show gets on the list for sheer absurdity. After opening the set with the out-of-nowhere cover of “Jungle Boogie,” the arena was bumping. With an entire marching band climbing out of a tiny car onstage, and costumed dancers along side, Phish celebrated their Miami New Year’s by ripping into Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” with the marching band’s accompaniment. The combination of the pre- and post New Year’s songs had the crowd confused and crazy. Before too long, the band leaped into their classic, Runaway Jim, using a familiar yet raging jam to bring everyone back to their Phish reality.
1997 MSG: After slaughtering the second frame of this show with set opening Timber and a rest-of-set Mike’s Groove sandwich, the anticipation for the third set of this New Year’s was huge. It would go down as the final chapter in one of the best years of Phish’s career. And they still hadn’t played the quintessential ’97 groove machine, Tweezer. As expected, the band came out to a 2001, and had the crowd in the palm of their hand as they dropped into the post-Auld Lang Syne Tweezer that was bound for glory, but it sucked. One of the biggest anti-climaxes in 12.31 history, Trey spent most of the song jokingly popping massive, obtrusive balloons that had descended and engulfed the stage. With no coherent jam and a lack of a Trey presence almost all together, this Tweezer was a huge disappointment in one of the best New Year’s Runs ever.
1998 MSG: With about as much zest as the year before, Phish finished a stellar four nights by ripping into Simple as the year’s post New Years song. A sloppy juxtaposition to the two sets of fire than preceded it, this aimless balloon-ridden jam had a serious lack of “rage” to the shows New Year’s celebration. This jam set the tone for a forgettable third set that is easily left behind in favor of the rest of the show.
Sometimes on point, and sometimes past their New Year’s Eve prime, Phish made every midnight juncture memorable. Each winter, if there was one thing you could could count on, it was Phish on New Year’s Eve. Regardless of what Northeastern city was the destination or what venue hosted the festivities, Phish on New Year’s became an institution for even casual fans. With this comeback gaining momentum with rumors of March 28 and 29th at MSG, one can only assume that come December, we will all be gathering somewhere to ring in the new year once again.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
The final show of their only Japan tour, the show is a keeper. With a beautiful opening Limb, a great first set Reba and a thematically flowing second set, there is a lot to listen to in this show. With an extended Runaway Jim that goes into some pseudo-electro grooves, the improvisation is on throughout this one. Great version of Slave, Bug and Hood also highlight the second set.
I: Limb by Limb, Back on the Train, Sample in a Jar, First Tube, Golgi Apparatus, Heavy Things, Dirt, My Sweet One, Bowie Tease > Reba, Character Zero
II: Runaway Jim, Theme from the Bottom, Dog Faced Boy, Driver, Slave to the Traffic Light, Julius, Bug
E: Bouncing Around the Room, Harry Hood