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)


Jams of the Day: 12.31.09 II

Rock and Roll > Piper


Ghost > NO2


The improvisational meat of New Year’s second set.



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)


Video of the Day: Auld Lang Syne > NYE Prank

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

  1. neemor Says:

    “I can reach zen with Phish.”

    Avatar-ridiculously good. See it at all costs.

  2. neemor Says:

    Also, the ‘Walk Away’ bust out in PA. was really dope at the time.
    Love that song.

  3. BTB Says:

    I’m out people.

    If you have any more Phish Thoughts, please, post them in the comments section…later

  4. BTB Says:

    Neemor – The bassist from the James Gang lives near Chagrin Falls, OH where I’m from. I used to make him breakfast. Told him about PH covering ‘Walk Away’ about 5-6 years ago. He said something like ‘Oh cool, great’ and that was it.

    Small world.

  5. BTB Says:

    The dude on the left…way older now. His wife is super cool and very nice.

  6. stitchstash Says:

    Hi neemor. Did you see Avatar in 3D Imaxx or 3D on a normal screen? Did your daughter like it? My kids were so into it.

    BTB, zen for me is when I let the music take me where it wants me to go. I just completely take in the moment and forget everyone else is even in the room. Only with certain moments/songs though. Some songs and experiences are better shared with others.

  7. neemor Says:

    I’m so happy that I now know all of the lyrics to Tube so that I can sing along at home.
    I effin love that song.
    “What’s that rubber bottle doing here?
    How’s that napkin for a roof?
    Tens cents to a dollar now, for a shelf of pregnant hens.”
    I love Phish.

    Alaska is growing on me.
    Good time song.
    Lots of that this year.
    “I loaded up on bug spray and I found my daddy’s tent.”
    Happy Phish is great Phish…the best music in the world, IMHO.
    ‘Undisputed musical pimps of the Universe.’

  8. sumodie Says:

    Avatar 3D is the way to go. regardless of what you might have heard about the story, j cameron has created a most spectacularly beautiful alien world. looking to see it on an imax screen next time.

  9. neemor Says:

    Hi Stitch…
    Regular 3D and it was still bitchin’.
    It was a last minute thing, she didn’t ask to see it but we both ate it up.
    She normally just says, ‘yeah, it was good’ or something to that effect after a movie…this one we discussed at length, a sure sign that she dug it.

    Plus, hey…free cool lookin’ 3D glasses!

    Nice, BTB…small world, indeed.
    I never made breakfast for any rock stars, so there you go.
    I loved that Walk Away…

  10. sumodie Says:

    “I loaded up on bug spray and I found my daddy’s tent.”

    d’oh! flarrdog used almost that exact line here a few weeks ago & i didnt get it all. lol! so was he really going to alaska….?

  11. neemor Says:

    Zen Phish is the musical ‘zone’ that athletes talk about for me.
    Just me and the band…
    I always thought that was the place to be, but hanging around blackboarders like Hood, Leo, RoBear, jdub, purple, Mitch, anyone I’m missing?
    I digress.
    Bad ass people make talking about bad ass music….bad ass.
    It’s been said before, but knowing that any lot I pull into on tour I’ll have a friend or twenty is super cool. Feels very comforting.
    It’s a big world-even when it’s a small world. If that makes sense.
    Stitch, you and the hubby planning on summer shows?

  12. Marshall Says:

    Saw Avatar in 3D tonight. Spectacularly visual. Story is nothing new. It won’t get repeated viewings out of me, but was definitely stunning to experience.

  13. neemor Says:

    Boy the Burgettstown Bowie was pretty well botched.
    Oh well, can’t win ’em all.

  14. neemor Says:

    sumo, I forgot you.
    I’m so ashamed.
    Course, we didn’t get down…you and gavinsdad and gcub ditched my ass from the start.
    Maybe the Antelope jersey deserved a wash prior to the MSG shows?

  15. Marshall Says:

    It’s late in the day but I have to give some more love to the fourth note of Simple 12/31/09. Only with Phish would I be this touched by a single NOTE. If you are wondering what the hell I’m talking about spin Simple from Miami again and listen to the opening riff. The third note is almost imperceptible if you are counting them. But that fourth note – it’s from another world (it sure isn’t from any Simple I’ve ever heard).

    Again, only with Phish would I be posting about a single note.

  16. neemor Says:

    “Swept Away and Steep were played for the first time since July 1, 2000 (145 shows). Demand was played for the first time since November 14, 1996 (392 shows). N02 was played for the first time since July 13, 1999 (219 shows).”

    That shit is awesome.
    The Swept>Steep was gorgeous. What a gorgeous little thing they had going to close it out there.
    And to go into Demand? Who would’ve thought that would get busted out? 🙂
    Saw the last Nitrous at Greatwoods, a two night run that definitely changed my life.

  17. Leo Weaver Says:

    Before I head off to bed…

    @neemor…hope you’ve had a nice day today, you deserve one my friend. With your reference to “the zone”, you should probably check out that book that TIII and I have been pimiping here, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”. It’s a quick and really good read. Described a lot of what goes on in my noggin in “plainspeak”. Looking forward to reading some of the guy’s other books (and I don’t read!).

    @Marshall, now you and Neemor have added to the positive comments about Avatar. May just have to take the wife out for Dinner and a Movie this weekend and catch it at the local IMAX. And it looks like we might just get a decent blackboard crowd togegther for the TAB show here.

    Later y’all…have a good one…time to go sleep lengthwise.

  18. Selector J Says:

    Was searching for something on Amazon and stumbled on this free album from my very favorite reggae reissue label, Pressure Sounds. Some amazingly good dub and roots on there that they’re just giving away. If nothing else, check out (the man who taught the Wailers to sing) Joe Higgs’ track! wow! wow! wow! just had to share.

    Merry belated Festivus!

  19. neemor Says:

    Marshall, I hear what you’re hearing…like a flat, full, warm note in the intro.
    I almost hear like someone was thinking Free there…
    I have one exactly like that. I can recall it like it was yesterday.
    Halley’s beginning from Hartford ’00.

    Someone hits a double note that just blew my fucking mind.
    Just a simple flick of the wrist and the mood of the entire song changed for me.
    Good shit.
    What other band/fans can recall, not a version of a song, not a set or show, but a friggin note??
    That’s what this band means to me.

  20. neemor Says:

    Night Leo, thank you.
    You’re the man.
    You and Mitch caused me to try and grow my first beard.
    Went nicely (despite the grey’s), until I had a date.
    Can’t wook out on the poor girl!


  21. Selector J Says:

    wow! wow! wow!
    Just found a similar deal for (semi-defunct) Blood and Fire records. If they were still releasing stuff they might be my favorite label!
    Holy crap!

  22. neemor Says:

    Thanks, Selector.
    I’m in Phish world tonight, tho.
    For a change, right.
    Wearing an entire ensemble of Phish stuff my mom got me for Christmas.
    Yes, I’m 32.
    DryGoods hook up from mummy dearest (who, as many will recall, took me to Trey @ Carnegie Hall, tenth row behind Tom Marshall!)..
    Antelope Hoody.
    Black on black Phish logo ball cap.
    Patches and stickers galore.

    She got on the bandwagon HARD after I explained that Trey was sober now, and I was out of rehab for good….
    Phish brought my family closer together.
    If that ain’t a good 2009, I don’t know what is.

  23. Marshall Says:

    If I wasn’t 38 but was 18 instead, I’d see Avatar with Lucy.

  24. Marshall Says:

    Neemor – didn’t you say you were thankful for Phish at the Thanksgiving table and your mom did too? Cool.

    Thanks for spinning Simple and letting me know you heard what I was talking about. I can’t get that opening riff out of my head – that note. That note.

  25. Leo Weaver Says:

    Thanks Selector! Glad I didn’t close the ol’ laptop. Taht’s such a good deal I almost feel guilty…but not really. ‘preciate the heads-up.

    @marshall…couldn’t head off to dreamworld without hearing the note in simple. If I’m hearing the one you’re talking about, it sounds like the *right* note, but trey plays it with a little more gusto…maybe making sure everyone else was on the same page…I dunno. great simple regardless 🙂

    OK…off to bed for real this time…

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