The Return of New Year’s Eve

"New Year's Eve" (Photo: Wendy Rogell)

New Year’s Eve; out with the old and in with the new. As long as anyone could remember, Phish and December 31 went together like peanut butter and jelly. Whether in the cold of Worcester, Boston, and New York, or the warmth of Big Cypress and Miami, Phish and New Year’s Eve were one in the same. On a holiday where the entire point is to have a blast celebrating the year that was, Phish’s New Year’s Eve shows became rites of passage, culminating with 1999’s sacred millennial odyssey in The Everglades. But after this experience of a lifetime, Phish appeared only twice on New Year’s Eve over the next ten years. We hadn’t flipped the calendar with them since 2003 in this very same building on Biscayne Bay, thus New Year’s Eve ’09 took on a renewed feeling of excitement that had been gone for more than half a decade.

12.31.09 (W.Rogell)

Without the grind of their night-long parties of yesteryear, Phish came to bat on the 31st locked and loaded, building off, arguably, their two finest shows of the year. Just as each of the previous nights had a distinct theme, New Year’s Eve was colored by feel-good Phish from beginning to end, ringing in 2010 with songs of joy and upbeat jamming; everything we’ve come to expect from the band in their three-set, year-end parties. And before we knew it, we were off on a musical crash course with a brand new decade.

The ride got started with the energetic one-two punch of “AC/DC Bag” and “46 Days,” but got kicked into high gear by the fourth-song “Bathtub Gin.” A jubilant vibe painted the entire jam which moved from glue-tight structured territory into a heavier dose of groove; the latter segment pushed forward by none other than Michael Gordon, the unquestionable player of the weekend. His driving bass patterns attracted Fish, and, on the spot, they reinvented the pocket of the jam, and Trey and Page followed their lead. A fiery segment of holiday improv resulted from this group conversation, with all members completely in tune. “Gin” became the first taste of the band’s inspiring New Year’s themed playing, characterized by densely packed catharsis.

12.31.09 (Photo: Wendy Rogell)

The chunkier part of the set continued with full-speed runs through “Punch” and “Moma,” keeping the energy high and people moving to the beat. Breaking for a composition, Phish played only the second “Guyute” since summer, and its triumphant nature fit congruently on this night. But the most intriguing first-set sequence came next. Playing through their Billy Breathes segment, “Swept Away > Steep,” at the point where they used to scream, and more recently, just drop into a new song, the band fluidly drifted into a mellow, Beatles-esque psychedelia, led hand in hand by Trey and Page. If this wasn’t composed ahead of time, I’d be surprised, as Page and Trey immediately initiated the same melodic theme. One way or the other, Phish stumbled upon something gorgeous in this piece, and its inward journey served as a reflective interlude for the end of the year.

12.31.09 (W.Rogell)

As this jam settled, Phish broke into the opening of “Demand” for the first time since Ames, Iowa during November ’96, thus trumping “Tela” for the “biggest” bust-out of the weekend. Played like they’d kept it in rotation all along, Phish nailed the two minute piece and hopped right into “Seven Below.” A song that birthed two standout jams of fall stayed closer to its structure this time around, but still provided inspired improv with Fishman maintaining a strapping beat behind a melodic canvas. When listening to Mike on this piece, one will hear some of his most intriguing play of an outlandish weekend, offering up lines most musicians wouldn’t even conceive. Collectively driving this piece to the top, the band played as a four-headed monster flowing with effortless abandon, once again packing a whole lot of action into a very short time. Closing the first set with a rollicking “Julius,” Phish got off to a phenomenal start on their return to a night they once owned.

12.31.09 (W.Rogell)

A particularly short set break had the lights off way before anyone expected, and one of the weekend’s strongest sets kicked off with the 2009 anthem “Rock and Roll.” Sewing this stanza thematically together with a dense, uptempo musical thread, Phish began by tearing the opener into oblivion. As the music entered a potentially deeper plane, Trey elected to keep the set bumpin’ with energy, segueing quickly into “Piper.” Phish filled the subsequent ten minutes with over the top, compact improv at a dizzying pace. As if trying to summarize all the places the jam has reached during its epic year, the band threw down a concentrated, complex gauntlet that moved a mile a minute. Playing with ridiculous cohesion, the band straight annihilated the final “Piper” in a year that featured many magnificent journeys from the song. Combining two of 2009’s defining pieces, the band opened the second set like a musical incarnation of Usain Bolt.

The blissful vibe continued as the band morphed from an ambient landing into “Simple.” A song played only four times in 2009, none were more symbolic than this version on New Year’s Eve. Things had returned to an Edenic state in the Phish universe, and on the cusp of 2010, the lyrics never meant more to everyone, because once again, “…we’ve got a band.” Moving from a melodic jam into a spacier outro, Mike and Trey chased each others’ phrases into nothingness as the band faded into “Theme.” Keeping the fun, yet emotional, night moving, the band infused the song with a soaring energy and musicianship that brought the opening, non-stop segment of the set to a close.

12.31.09 (Photo: Wendy Rogell)

Giving a nod to their unforgettable “Exile” set from Halloween, the band used the album’s emotional peak, “Shine a Light,” as mid-set interlude. Another lyrically appropriate song for a celebration of all that is to come for the Phish community, this version came perfectly placed in an increasingly impressive set. And then came the expedition of the night in a multi-faceted, bass-led safari through “Ghost.” Trey laid way back as the jam began, allowing Mike to take center stage with his bouncing, envelope-filtered leads. Like a space-general, Gordon thumped out futuristic patterns as his band fell in behind him. The pocket grew Grand Canyon-deep, as Mike’s basscrobatics bounced brains like basketballs around D Wade’s building. Crafting one of the weekends most compelling pieces, the band continued their unified jamming that underlined the entire evening.

12.31.09 (Photo: Wendy Rogell)

As “Ghost” built into an dark, abstract realm, Mike took his effects off, allowing Trey to take the lead for the second half of the jam. Flowing with inspired melodies, Trey awed the arena with his path to the mountaintop, where the band slid into a post-peak series of grooves that became increasingly delicate and ambient. Trey wove a stunning “Auld Lang Syne” tease amidst this emotive musical tapestry before Phish swam into a drone soundscape. Just as everyone thought the band would ooze the set to a close, Mike brought us into the dentist chair with “NO2.” Maintaining their shimmering backdrop throughout his narration, the band buzzed into silence before dropping an explosive “Suzie” to close one of the superior sets of the run.

"Midnight" (W.Rogell)

After another abbreviated setbreak, everyone knew what songs the band had left to play. Miami’s final set would inevitably include “Disease,” “Fluffhead,” and “You Enjoy Myself,” but how it would go down would be the story of the final frame. Launching into “Party Time” with about six minutes until midnight, the band funked into the New Year, showering everyone with Phish’s first “Auld Lang Syne” since ’03. An always-emotional moment – one where I always feel so thankful for being in the right place at the right time – this one felt extra sweet after five years of differing midnight festivities.

Everyone knew that “Disease” stood in the on deck circle, but this year, this set wasn’t about surprise – at least not yet. Featuring another theme song of ’09 in the slot where its triumphant jam was born sixteen years earlier, this moment was about simply being there again; seeing those big balloons bounce in front of our favorite band as we spun into a new decade to the soundtrack of our lives. After such a smoking second set, this one brought high octane playing, all in the name of fun. Staying firmly within the box throughout the final frame, the point wasn’t exploration, but explosive celebration, and Phish certainly accomplished their goal to the delight of all.

"Disease" (W.Rogell)

"Auld Lang Syne" (W.Rogell)

Instead of providing musical twists and turns in their final set, the band chose to mess with our minds with a prank that left everyone disputing what the hell actually had happened long after the show ended. Having laid the groundwork with all of the vacuum shenanigans over the 28th and 30th, and having foreshadowed the gag with the 30th’s cover, “Dixie Cannonball,” the band had the audience right where they wanted them. After ending “Disease,” they brought a life size disco ball to the center of the stage, and Fishman crawled inside. Bringing out a cannon and illuminating a net above the soundboard, Phish created the preposterous illusion that they were about to launch Fishman into the rafters of the arena – and for a split second, it all seemed totally reasonable. Trey got behind the drum set and gave a dramatic roll as the cannon fired loudly. Material hung from the roof as if Fishman shot right through, as a faux helicopter’s search light descended over the crowd with full-on sound effects. But neither Fishman, nor the disco cannonball, was anywhere to be seen.

12.31.09 (W.Rogell)

Much like the previous night, the band called for someone from the audience to replace Fishman – this time on drums. Trey called someone out from the stands to the left side of the stage side, and a dark-haired girl made her way to the drum set. After gushing over Trey in a comic act, when asked her favorite Phish tune, she replied “Fluffhead,” to the roaring approval of the crowd. Trey then announced that the band would play “Fluffhead” with Sarah on drums. As she awkwardly starting the song, Trey looked over and seemed to help Sarah along, and soon she caught the groove and the band launched into the song much to everyone’s shock. What the fuck was going on?! And from the end of “Disease,” that is exactly what Phish wanted us to wonder – and they pulled it of with genius. In an incognito switcheroo, a wigged and costumed Fishman slid onto the drums with hardly anyone noticing, leaving everybody with a different theory as to what happened and how. After the show ended, a friend came up to me and asked, “So, did Sarah play the rest of the set with them?” ‘Nuff said!

12.31.09 (Photo: Wendy Rogell)

Featuring solid versions of “Fluffhead,” “Coil,” and “You Enjoy Myself,” this set, more than anything, brought the spectacle back to New Year’s Eve, while continuing the uplifting theme to the evening. And it worked out quite well. Poignantly fitting “Joy” into their final set as well, the band reminded everyone what this era is all about – our collective happiness. And after some lyrical, heartfelt thanks from Trey, a “Loving Cup” encore brought us home. Capping 2009 with a set defined by their prankster spirit, Phish hit every angle over their four nights in Miami, reclaiming their undisputed title as the musical pimps of the universe. And what a year it was!  From March 6 in Hampton to December 31 in Miami, and everything in between, 2009 saw the re-evolution of Phish; a force of nature unto themselves. And side by side, the return of our dreams. It all really happened.

Phish 2010, here we come!

I: AC/DC Bag, 46 Days, Water in the Sky, Bathtub Gin, Punch You in the Eye, The Moma Dance, Guyute, Swept Away > Steep, Demand > Seven Below, Lawn Boy, Julius

II.Rock and Roll > Piper > Simple > Theme from the Bottom, Shine A Light, Ghost > NO2, Suzy Greenberg

III: Party Time > Auld Lang Syne > Down With Disease, NYE Prank, Fluffhead, Joy, The Squirming Coil, You Enjoy Myself

E: Blue Moon, Loving Cup

"2010" (Photo: Wendy Rogell)

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Jams of the Day: 12.31.09 II

Rock and Roll > Piper

[audio:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/ph209-12-31t14.mp3,http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/ph209-12-31t15.mp3]

Ghost > NO2

[audio:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/ph209-12-31t19.mp3,http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/ph209-12-31t20.mp3]

The improvisational meat of New Year’s second set.

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

12.31.09 American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL < Torrent

12.31.09 American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL < Megaupload

12.31.09 (W.Rogell)

I: AC/DC Bag, 46 Days, Water in the Sky, Bathtub Gin, Punch You in the Eye, The Moma Dance, Guyute, Swept Away > Steep, Demand > Seven Below, Lawn Boy, Julius

II.Rock and Roll > Piper > Simple > Theme from the Bottom, Shine A Light, Ghost > NO2, Suzy Greenberg

III: Party Time > Auld Lang Syne > Down With Disease, NYE Prank, Fluffhead, Joy, The Squirming Coil, You Enjoy Myself

E: Blue Moon*, Loving Cup

*Trey thanks all members of the Phish organization by reading their names off a list “as quickly and lyrically as possible” to the tune of “Blue Moon.”

Source: Sennheiser MD441U > Edirol R4Pro ( Oade preamp mod ) @ 24/88.2 (Taper – padelimike)

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Video of the Day: Auld Lang Syne > NYE Prank

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702 Responses to “The Return of New Year’s Eve”

  1. Mr. Completely Says:

    As Zen Master Dogen Roshi once said

    “Harpua Guy is a moron and so are the Tela Brothers”

  2. Dr. Pronoia (ie, BK) Says:

    Great book recs Sumodie, and I’ve heard great things about Spirit Rock too.

    And Mr. C, you’re right on about the Tao of Physics… good metaphor, but bad philosophy AND science.

    And I’m sick of defending T of Pooh to specialists. Think Te of piggy turns mean spirited and judgmental a little, but that first book has all the wonder and playfulness that Taoism’s all about.

    Can’t believe I logged on just for a second and found another convo like last night’s!

  3. Lycanthropist Says:

    I absolutely love the Tao of Pooh.

    one of my favorites due to its effective simplicity

  4. flarrdogg Says:

    They probably had their own version of ‘Harpua Guy’ in the 13th century when Master Dogen was doing his thing.

  5. Mr. Palmer Says:

    @ Mr. C- a few weeks ago you recommended the Orsen Welles documentary “F is for Fake”. I just watched it, via netflix, and found it very interesting and intriguing. Not usually my type of thing and something i would never have checked out on my own. Thanks for pointing me in that direction. Welles is just a masterful storyteller with no equals in my opinion.

  6. Dr. Pronoia (ie, BK) Says:

    ^ yeah, he just kept shouting for the one-hand-clapping song!

    Die while you’re alive
    And be absolutely dead.
    Then do whatever you want:
    it’s all good.

    – Bunan

    Even better than books about meditation (and maybe even practicing it?), IMO, is Zen poetry. Really takes you right to the point. Guys like Ryokan…

  7. jdub Says:

    One of my favorite pastimes is getting stoned with my good friend Matt and then ranting back and forth about philosophy, life as we know it, the universe, phish, woodworking, etc. I feel I would have the same experience with any of you folks.

  8. verno329 Says:

    got my ticket to Charlotte! woohoo!

  9. stitchstash Says:

    Since Columbus Day was mentioned earlier and we are talking about literature, has any one read Howard Zinn’s History of the U.S? If you like history, it is worth the read. Even if you don’t, it is still interesting.

  10. Memories Igniting Says:

    @sumodie – thanks! i’ll check those out.. this is going to bug me till i can figure it out…

  11. KWL Says:

    @fromthetub,

    Goldstein Insight Meditation

    Goldstein & Kornfield Seeking the Heart of Wisdom

  12. jdub Says:

    A good history book is always a good read, thanks for the rec stitch. Finishing books has always been hard for me and history books are notoriously left half read. How complete is Zinn’s history of America, relative to other US History books?

  13. stitchstash Says:

    Zinn’s book starts with Columbus and may go as far as Clinton or Bush Jr.

  14. oldskool Says:

    I was just wondering if there are any other “audiophiles” on the board? I am not a huge fan of the word, but just wondering what kind of systems people rock out to at home?

  15. KWL Says:

    yes, tao of physics is really bad physics! also 35 years old now. but the idea is the merging of eastern philosophy and western science, which has merit on its own terms. Not going to defend the book any more than that though, I’m sure others have done it better than Capra

  16. stitchstash Says:

    ^That book has been on my coffee table a few times and has brought on some serious conversations with others who have also read it.

  17. stitchstash Says:

    I may still read the book on Physics though. I tend to shy away from the subject and have never found a book about it that could hold my attention.

  18. neemor Says:

    Hey all.
    Starting off the night with a hippie speedball, two loads of laundry and reading through Miner’s thoughts (again) followed by 615+ comments.
    I love this shit.
    Spinning Burgettstown ’09…reliving the pavilion pleasure that was August ’09. What I call the ‘Lost Show’ of Summer ’09 due to the fact that it’s the only error I found in the new Phish Puterbaugh Biography. He appended the book with up-to-date setlists, neglecting to include the Pa. show. Strangely. Good time.
    I went with my old friend and a new friend, both a couple of big fans of live music in general, had great seats ten rows back and danced my ass off. We were a nice mix, songs I don’t usually dig, they did…Heavy Things comes to mind. I distinctly recall the Bowie that had been looming at that point and it’s unflattering ending, fun nonetheless. The other memory was that bad-ass Tube. I sweat through the Antelope jersey for that one. Funky as hell.

    I love when Miner’s reviews spur me to bring up dictionary.com to learn new words and fully formulate his intended image in my mind….this one had me questioning ‘catharsis.’
    Definition:
    “the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, esp. through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.”
    Boy, what a fit. That word could be used at least three times in every review, I applaud him for not over-using it!
    Good stuff Miner.

    Just realized my cigarette smoked itself while I typed that.
    What a waste.
    The Burgettstown Wolfman’s was an early glimpse into what would become…good stuff.

    Saw Avatar tonight in 3D with my daughter…ridiculous.

    Finally, just received my phishthoughts.com long sleeve white tee in the mail today…I am going to wear the shit out of that bad boy.
    Well done, Mr. C. I love it on the white background. Great work.
    If you didn’t get a Series One BlackBoard Tee and were wondering if it’s quality or not that you’d be purchasing…rest assured. This is a Hanes “Beefy T”, a brand whose other versions I own have lasted fifteen+ years.
    Get some.

  19. neemor Says:

    Sorry, June ’09 was the Pittsburgh show.
    Silly me.

  20. stitchstash Says:

    I said this last night, but I would like to say it again. I can truely find something spiritual in going to a Phish show. It took me a little while to be able to get there, but the pay off was much more than I expected.

    When I first saw the Grateful Dead I was 15 years old. I was so dumb struck by the scene and we were so far from the stage that it was too overwhelming to take in at first. The next year I went again but was close enough to see Jerry’s expresions. The minute he belted his first tune, this feeling surged through my body. I was in awe.

    I didn’t feel that the first time I saw Phish, but if I were a new fan coming into the scene, I think I would have instantly felt that with this Miami run. Phish put their hearts and souls out on the stage. This is evident without even being there. I can reach zen with Phish.

  21. BTB Says:

    I scream Harpua from my seats next to the tapers at least 67 times per show.

    On a serious note, I was dead wrong on the ‘weekapuag is dead’ call, but I’m thinking Fluffhead gets shelved for a little while. Maybe just through summer, but you know. Mike goes back to saying no…

  22. chefbradford Says:

    neemor- Avatar-ridiculous

    Good or bad?

    am debating whether to see it, although I’d have to make a drive to see it in 3D

    Although, in all honesty one of the roommates brought a bootleg copy back from his Christmas vacation

    Still, if I’m gonna see it, I’d rather see it at the theater

  23. chefbradford Says:

    Am watching “Inglorious Basterds right now, or trying to. Good, but crazy graphic, whoo

  24. BTB Says:

    I had a similar experience SS, only I looked around at the the scene and I was like ‘these are my people’ (exact quote).

    Zen can be achieved during Phish shows, I agree. I often don’t find it within just myself though, IT often comes to me with my interactions with random people. Just people overhelmed with joy, and we’re experiencing it together. Zen for me is a random high five or an acknowledging nod of ‘yeah, we’re in this together and IT’s great’

  25. neemor Says:

    BTW, in a year full of obviously practiced and perfectly played renditions of some of their most intricate pieces of art, the Burgettstown ‘Divided Sky’ stands proudly in that class.
    Brilliant.
    If you like that sort of thing!

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