As the Clock Struck Midnight…

M. Mitchell

Miami '03

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.

MSG '02

MSG '02

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.

Jason Carlson

Miami '03 - photo: Jason Carlson

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.

Big Cypress '99

Big Cypress

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.

Miami Midnight Madness

Miami Midnight Madness

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.

Miami '03

Miami '03

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.



6.16.00 Zepp, Osaka, Japan, MATRIX < LINK

Zepp Osaka

Zepp Osaka

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


13 Responses to “As the Clock Struck Midnight…”

  1. Jerrydamule Says:

    Thanks to your postings, the memories keep flowing, as if cascading down a beautiful caribbean waterfall… I remember 12/31/91 at the New Aud, my first new year’s. At the stroke of midnight, a jack-in-the-box type apparatus on stage sprang open and shot out a bunch of confetti – and then, bang!, Runaway Jim, which to me seems to have most often occupied the on-deck position coming out of auld lang syne. While I’ll never stop appreciating the sincerity of that confetti, it’s been amazing to witness the ever-more thoughtful and complex NYE celebrations over the years, from that ’91 to, as you mentioned, the ’95 father time, to ’96 where, if I remember correctly, they went with large balloons alone, and so on and so on, through Big Cypress. In my humble opinion, nothing prior, nothing since, nor to come will ever top Big Cypress.
    Thank you, Mr. Miner

  2. jeff Says:

    Your thoughtful and insightful blog has taken on the role of Phish talk that was once help by the early net blazer Andy Gadiel. Keep it up! I was lucky enough to attend 95, 96 and Big Cypress New Years and they all were special in their own way, but 95 will always be my favorite. NYC, Weekapaug, Fishman got his hair cut during set break, the chess board. Everything was classic Phish then. For Big Cypress I spent most of the New Years set convinced that Y2K had shorted some of the speakers! I was just in a dead spot as it turned out, but that kinda sucked. Still that show is over time standing up to be the greatest set of Phish ever IMO. Thanks man!

  3. Zachary Says:

    Just wondering why you didn’t do a bit about their Halloween costume shows. Still a good piece, but given the day….

    thanks again for all your work.

  4. tubeopener Says:

    The MSG shows in 1997 were the best phish that I have seen to this point. I’ve been to about 83 shows since 1996 including NYE run ’98 and ’99 and nothing was even close to the quality and energy and all around vibe of those three nights in ’97. From the disease>bowie>possum to the ridiculous 2001 inverted 3D bubble jam those three nights changed me forever and from that point on I was severely hooked. It was no longer just going to a show. And everyone who’s been to phish at MSG knows what it feels like when that floor starts bouncing to the music. That room starts bouncing around the room. Thanks for the post! Good memories.

  5. Mr.Miner Says:

    For those wondering why I didn’t write about Halloween today– I already covered Phish’s musical costumes in a post called “The Best Cover Band Ever.” Trying to keep things fresh and not write about the same thing again. Point taken, however…

  6. JD Says:

    Utter balls in 97!! That was a sicky NY’s run. I def had one of my favorite Phish moments during that second set Mike’s. That jam, which flows from some serious evil funk into a laid back melodic groove is unreal. I do recall Fish walking to the fron of the stage and downing a bottle of champagne during the encore of that show as well.

    NYE 98 was a great experience as well. 1999->Mike’s!!!! I think my favorite point of the show was that sick Tweezer->Cities. You all know what I’m talking about as far as the Tweezer goes.

    For me nothing tops Cypress. That was just mind blowing and the fact that Magic Hat seemed to serve beer into the wee hours of that midnight to sunrise set was just glorious. I think I came away with about 30 of those plastic Phish cartoon cups!

  7. judd Says:

    phish should do another NYE in miami at AA arena.

  8. Soam24 Says:

    can you fix the japan link it isnt working!

    i have to agree with 12-31-93 woot!

  9. lanser Says:

    hello, tropical hot dog night!!!!!

  10. BDunn Says:

    as much as I dislike glowsticks, the 98 Hood was much fun from my vantage point. the show lacks far behind my other NYE’s shows is music quality.

  11. Cary Says:

    Attended every MSG NYE except 1995 and it was always a blast but walking out of NYE 2003 into the tradewinds of a warm Miami night was a very special treat especially for a Canadian.

    Miami was a 4 night run i will never forget and the band was ON as well

  12. themanatee Says:

    one other sea and sand at least. 7-20-98 ventura, ca second set

  13. MSGRocks Says:

    No one ever talks about the 12/30/97 show @ the Garden! It was one of the best shows that I’ve seen. Sneakin’ Sally and Harpua! It doesn’t get any love.

Leave a Reply