A Show For the Ages

12.31.2010 (Ryan Gilbertie)

Phish and New Year’s Eve has always been a highly combustible combination. Throughout the band’s career, this night of revelry has provided Phish the grandest of stages to play soundtracks for the passing of time. Regardless of where these new beginnings took place — from Boston Garden to Big Cypress — a special electricity always filled the air on the final night of the year. But when the band took their high holiday to New York’s Madison Square Garden, first in 1995, and then in 1997, 1998, and 2002, it became quite obvious that the venue was a perfect match for the party of the year. Matching the grandiosity of the music and the moment, MSG became the ultimate room for Phish’s larger-than-life holiday show. Thus, when the band announced New Year’s Eve would return to The Garden in 2010, they sent shock waves through the community, as everyone knew we were in for a special night; another magical convergence of time, place and Phish. And when the last piece of confetti hit the ground last Friday night, Phish had — as expected — added another chapter to their legendary legacy.

12.31.10 (Masthay)

Setting an upbeat tone early on, and bringing back memories of 12.31.95, Phish kicked off New Year’s Eve with ‘Punch You in the Eye.” Delivering a message of enthusiasm, Phish tore though the adrenalizing opener, getting everyone in The Garden on the same rocking page immediately. Continuing the high-energy vibe, the band followed with a crisp “AC/DC Bag” and a gooey “Moma Dance” — each of which hold a significant link to MSG via 12.30.97. The only conceivable lull in the show came next with the combination of “Scent of a Mule” and the debut of the mid-tempo, bluesy “Burn That Bridge,” a collaboration between Trey and Broadway songwriter and performer, Amanda Green. But the first improvisational dip of the night came next, in a dreamy mid-set “Ocelot.” Mike stepped out front, pacing the methodical jam as Trey favored early whales which gradually turned into swankier, sustained licks. The whole band tapped into each others’ playing, creating a cohesive whole. Page’s and Trey joined forces bringing the jam to a peak in which Trey unleashed a perfectly-fitting “Auld Lang Syne” tease, capping the version with extra excitement. “Beauty of My Dreams” and the second-ever performance of “Gone” set the stage for a closing “Rock and Roll.” As the band tore through a contained version of the usually open-ended vehicle, something in their communication clicked and caught fire. Revving up a thrashing rock jam that catapulted them into the rest of the night, Phish never looked back as they finished a year of phenomenal versions of Velvet Underground’s cover with a scorching exclamation point to the first set. Trey stepped forward and completely annihilated a never-ending solo that also got him warmed up in full for one of his most impressive sets of the run that sat around the corner.

Traditionally, the first set of New Year’s Eve is reserved for songs and compositions, the third is saved for celebrations, and middle set contains the evening’s most serious music endeavors. Following this pattern to a tee, Phish transformed the second set of New Year’s Eve into the night’s unquestionable highlight, providing stylistic diversity while crushing everything in their path. Opening with the hard-edged stylings of “Wilson” and “46 Days,” the latter piece turned into a tidal wave of face-melting arena rock as the entire band just about blew the roof off The Garden with airtight fury. Continuing his spectacular night, Trey’s comically-intense playing took center stage in an animated guitar blowout.

12.30.2010 (Graham Lucas)

Taking no time to rest, Phish launched into one of their central jam vehicles of fall tour — “Sand.” Placed under the white-hot spotlight of New Year’s second set in New York City, the gritty rhythmic juggernaut seemed destined to blow up. And over the course of ten ludicrous minutes, that destiny would be fulfilled. Trey leaped into the jam with his crack-like staccato-funk, while Mike and Page echoed and altered the same patterns, transforming the piece into an hyper-dynamic exercise in groove. Fishman laid down slick dance beats as all three members formed some of the most collaborative music to ever stem from the song. As Trey moved out of his staccato playing and smoothly into laid-back solo, the band’s communication translated into this second section as the piece turned into a more flowing build. The gritty and aggressive interplay fit congruently with MSG’s big-city surroundings as Phish put a shimmering close one of fall’s most indelible songs.

12.31.10 (G.Estreich)

The band took respite with the ska-pop of “NICU,” before diving into the defining musical sequence of the evening. When Phish bucked convention and brought out “Down With Disease” in an unorthodox, mid-set slot, it seemed like the beginning of an adventure. Always holding potential for open-ended action, “Disease” proved to be the first piece of the show that departed from structure. Following a raucous composed jam, highlighted by more ferocious guitar work, the band took the music into the abstract, shifting gears quickly but not abruptly. Oozing into a mystical, ambient realm, Trey emerged from this sonic sludge with the smooth opening licks of “Ghost.” As the band dropped into a “Ghost” jam on New Year’s Eve in The Garden, one could feel an oncoming journey. Beginning on traditional ground, Mike stepped out to lead the early jam as Page hopped onto his clavinet. Trey slowly joined in the fray with sparse licks, deferring to Mike’s leadership early on. Building his own part gradually, Trey subtly infused himself into the piece. But when he hit a gorgeous harmony with Mike and Page, the groove transformed into a tidal wave of bliss. While the rest of the band came together in emotional exchanges with a full head of steam, Trey rewrote the universe atop it all. Somersaulting into some of his most cathartic playing of the year, Trey transformed the jam into a showcase of his soul, spewing melodies that could save the world with subconscious mastery. A never-ending peak sent chills down the spine of anyone with a pulse, as Phish, led by their Jedi master, clicked in the type of musical treasure we travel the country questing for.

12.31.10 (G.Estreich)

Resolving this emotional masterpiece and to close the set, Phish dropped into “You Enjoy Myself.” A song that is virtually synonymous with The Garden, itself, a history of climactic versions wafted in the rafters of the famous venue. And on this night Phish added one more stellar version to the “YEMSG” collection. Harnessing the energy of 20,000 rabid fans, a smoking set, and a year’s worth of musical playfulness, Phish embarked on a thick jam that Trey soon transformed into “Manteca.” After dancing around “Manteca’s” rhythms and melody for much of the year, the band finally bust into the song, in earnest, on New Year’s Eve. Crashing back into “YEM,” the band periodically hit breaks where Trey, in rhythm, sang “Crab in my shoemouth!” in a display of Phishiness that brought the venue to the brink of implosion. As the band finalized their vocal jam and walked off stage, they left behind them a trail of musical vapor, and a set that any Phish fan had to love.

12.31.2010 (George Estreich)

A distinctly short setbreak ended as the lights dropped at 11:40 pm, far earlier than usual for New Year’s Eve. The band must of had something in store, but when they started up “Meatstick,” nobody’s wildest dreams could have imagined what was coming. As the band finished the Japanese lyrics and vamped over the funk, four African warriors emerged on stage and bust into a translated “Meatstick” chant with a powerful delivery! Then a Mexican mariachi band came up from the other side of the stage, playing a rhythmically coherent Spanish version of “Meatstick!” Then out came Hasidic Jews, and Swedish women, German couples, and before anyone knew what was happening the stage was filled with dancers in costume, representing ethnicities from all over the globe — all singing and dancing the “Meatstick!” And in one sublime moment, the entire troupe switched into a choreographed routine over “Meatstick’s” liquid funk in an unmatched display of theatrics. In a world divided by bullshit and politics, here was Phish, albeit symbolically, uniting the world with the “Meatstick;” and it was spectacle to behold. The dancers were so colorful and entrancing that it took quite a while to notice that the band had actually left the stage while their music was left looped throughout the arena.

The Meatsick (George Estreich)

As the dancers summoned “The Meatstick,” out came Phish from the back of the venue aboard their famous hot dog from New Year’s Eve 1994 and Big Cypress. The band rode over the crowd while pelting them with toy meatsticks, meatstick-shaped balloons fell from the ceiling, and faux hot dog stands emerged on stage. Climbing out of the vehicle, the band surrounded the hot dog stands, continuing to throw meatsticks at their adoring fan base while mayhem ensued! The band slowly got back on their instruments and the countdown on MSG’s scoreboard began at 15..14..13… When 2011 hit, Phish, in a classy act, backed off and allowed their guest performers take center stage for the New Year’s anthem “Auld Lang Syne.” Trumping any previous midnight “stunt” in history with a monumental affair, many jaws were left hanging as Phish tore into “After Midnight.”

12.31.10 (R.Gilbertie)

The “Meatstick” / “After Midnight” combo had Cypress allusions all over it, as Phish rang in the New Year with a song few saw coming. While balloons filled the room, the band tore through a high-speed rendition that was followed by tight versions of “Number Line,” “Piper,” and “Free.” In a frozen moment of dripping wah-funk, it felt like Trey might finally let “Free” out of its 3.0 cage, but before long he turned towards the song’s final chorus. After “Waste,” that continued to illustrate Trey’s passionate playing, the final set of 2010 came to peak with “Slave to the Traffic Light.” A delicate version floated in a beat-less space before setting sail for the sunset, and “Slave” put poignant punctuation on another year of Phish, and an unforgettable New Year’s Eve show that will go down in history. Favoring melodic themes we’ve heard throughout fall’s monster versions, Trey led the troops through a massive musical climax.

After “First Tube” finalized a cathartic evening of music, Phish took a well-deserved bow; not only for an amazing show, but for the transformative year of 2010 that saw the band migrate into the newest golden era of their career. And the best part of saying “Happy New Year!” to everyone while leaving the building, was that for the first time in history, the next sentence was, “See you tomorrow!” Phish was coming back the next day to follow up a New Year’s show that plastered smiles onto the faces of just about everyone in the building. After a celebratory evening, we still had one more night to celebrate. But thinking back on the entire run, that second set shimmers like a gem and the International Meatstick Extravaganza will live on forever in another truly memorable New Year’s Eve with the Phish from Vermont.

International Meatstick Extravaganza (G.Estreich)

I: Punch You In the Eye, AC/DC Bag, The Moma Dance, Scent of a Mule, Burn that Bridge*, Weigh, Ocelot**, Beauty of My Dreams, Gone, Rock and Roll

II: Wilson, 46 Days, Sand, NICU**, Down with Disease > Ghost, You Enjoy Myself > Manteca > You Enjoy Myself

III: Meatstick^, Auld Lang Syne, After Midnight, Backwards Down the Number Line, Piper > Free, Waste, Slave to the Traffic Light, Grind

E: First Tube

*debut, **w/ Auld Lang Syne teases, ^International Meatstick Extravaganza


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752 Responses to “A Show For the Ages”

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  1. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    thank you mr. miner

  2. purplehumpbackwhale Says:


  3. MisterChristian Says:

    Great write up again as usual. So sorry I missed all this.

    Still looking to trade a 1st night woosta code for NYE or 1111

    c_ iozzi @hot mail dot com

  4. treysoldguitar Says:

    Wow, what an amazing night! There is really no place I would have rather been than at MSG on NYE watching Phish. What I find most amazing is that every show I go to I get to see songs that I have either never heard before or have been chomping at the bits to see. On this 3 night run, there were like 10! I really can´t say enough about this band and what seeing them does to me. Thank you Mr. Miner for being so awesome this year, as usual.

  5. willowed Says:

    Did anyone else get all excited after readiung that.

    I did.

    Nice work Miner!! Happy New year to you! Thanks for everything!!

  6. tela'smuff Says:

    Thanks for a great year Miner!

    Still beaming about this show and I only watched the stream.

  7. Matso Says:

    Happy new year all! I’m also still buzzing from having watched the 1.1.11 stream. It took so much of the sting of not being there out of it. I really hope they continue to do webcasts from time to time.

    In the meantime, I devoured that Sand on the way into work this morning. Powerful stuff and probably takes the cake as version of the year.

    Btw, I noticed some musings on the history of the staccato-funk full band jamming over the past few days. Someone mentioned the Pong jam from Hartford 09, but it’s been around in one way or another a lot longer than that, since about 97 I would say. Check out the 8.13.97 Gumbo, 11.27.98 Yamar, 8.9.98 AC/DC Bag, loads of jams from 2.0 and Hampton 09 DWD. It’s evolved, especially as Gordo can now “solo” underneath all of the burbling raindrops from Trey and Page, but the parameters were established back in the day.

  8. albert walker Says:

    No doubt its similar matso

    I still hear a new style mostly since fall

    It’s the way they play it

    The Trey plays it and page repeats it echo style is new to my ears

    Mike creates movement under the echoed syncopated staccato and then after a few bars takes over the riff as the baseline as page and Trey melt off

    As seen in the sand

    This specific formula is fresh to my ears and has only been prevalent since fall

    Almost like a funk jam exercise

    Not just a typical late 90s funk groove imo

  9. albert walker Says:

    t its similar matso I still hear a new style mostly since fall It’s the way they play it The Trey plays it and page repeats it echo style is new to my ears Mike creates movement under the echoed syncopated staccato and then after a few bars takes over the riff as the baseline as page and Trey melt off baseline as page and Trey melt off As seen in the sand This specific formula is fresh to my ears and has only been prevalent since fall Almost like a funk jam exercise Not just a typical late 90s funk groove imo

  10. albert walker Says:

    Great write up miner

    What a night.

    Back to work. Lame.


  11. Matso Says:

    @ AW –
    Definitely not just a funk groove, but the full band staccato approach has been around for a while. I agree that Page/Trey relate to each other differently in it now, but Trey (for the most) still refrains from soloing in this context, while Fish keeps a pretty steady groove going underneath it all, which keep these jams, whilst fresh, within a recognisable genre. The key differentiator though is Mike’s ability to play freely in this context (previously he would have been glue to Fish or darting in and out of Trey/Page’s work). In some ways, it seems they have consciously adapted this style to bring it more in line with some of what Mike has been doing with his own band. In any case, it’s great, great stuff, but hasn’t appeared out of nowhere.

  12. ThePigSong Says:

    crab in my, crab in my, crab in my….

    stellar on point write up, thanks

  13. albert walker Says:

    I hear you Matso

    that’s what I meant to say anyway. you are more of the Phish historian than I. rarely listen to old tapes.

    but it def seemed like a fresh take on a old trick

    in 3.0 I doubt anything is 100% fresh exploration. just a new variation on an old trick.

    laterz kids
    back to the grind.

  14. Jtran Says:


    I don’t know if you’ve read back, but you’re famous. Congrats!

  15. Matso Says:

    @ AW –
    The other element which feels new is the over all sense of melody in the approach. For example, in both the 1.1 Tube and the 12.28 Hood, there is a melodic sensibility to the jams that wasn’t there in the past, when it seemed like a more static modal exercise. This is possibly by virtue of stronger implied chord changes in the jams (I’m on thin ice here with my analytical abilities though, so anyone who knows music, call me out on it).

  16. The Light Between Says:

    Just a little piece of Phish commentary, because I don’t have a blog, and I don’t where else to place it.
    I’ve been here, with them, since 94, since all the changes. At times, it was about freshness, weird guys doing weird things. Then Jerry died and it became this semi-movement, and things changed again.
    The reason I’m writing this, is that I am watching Bittersweet Motel for the first time in years, and noticed how f-ed up Trey was throughout, and how much the other members pandered to him/babysat him, because they were all finally getting RICH, and as much as it was always a group effort, Trey was always the songwriter, and thus the leader.
    And, yes, as Mike notes, Trey was playing a lot of notes, and as Trey himself says, playing the song perfectly became less important than the party…. and I remember sitting in the theater cringing through much of the flick, because it was the first accurate depiction of Phish many of us had had…..
    Anyway, I write this now, because the Phish ooze professionalism at this point. Even as they are looser than they have been since the comeback, what they seem concerned most with at this point is LEGACY. They are serious musicians, and they have largely been considered a joke in the mainstream, partly due to their early lyrics, and partly due to their own shenanigans, and partly due to a spaced out wookie fan base at the height of their popularity. But I think that rather than having a new year’s gag, presenting a new year’s presentation was a good indicator of where their mindset is now– making sure they are remembered as one as the greatest and most unique rock bands of all time.


    Great stuff Miner. Your writting the past year has been as transformative as the amazing music we have been priveledged to be part of this year. It has been a year unlike any other. Thanks for all that you do.

  18. Baxter Says:

    What a night. Still got Meatstick stuck in my head.

  19. pabalive Says:

    Meatstick ala Its a Small World….that was all I could think at the time. Nice write up Miner, agree on all points. At the time, I felt as though set 2 of NYE was one of the best of the whole year. Then I walked into the 1/1 show.

  20. Jtran Says:

    @The Light Between

    Great thoughts, thanks for posting that.

    @Cactus Prince

    Agreed. Thanks as always Miner for all you do for this community.

    Off to work. Gonna spin 1/1. Still haven’t gotten to that first set.

  21. butterflyeffect Says:

    @Neems from last night: Trey gets nailed right in his left hand with a glow stick earlier on in the Tweezer…don’t know if you could see it in the vid but I saw it plain as day from where I was sitting

    He looked pretty miffed and stopped playing for two measures or so

    As we all know, glow stick at band chucking is one of the highest forms of idiocy and douchebaggery

  22. Mitch Says:

    Anyone catch one of the meatsticks? They looked like dog chew toys.

    What a freaking night. Dancing to MJ and James brown at the blarney stone was fun too.

    AW, did ur girl get her jacket? Someone lift it?

  23. BTB Says:

    “Trey rewrote the universe atop it all.”

    Nice work

  24. Luther T. Justice Says:

    I like that line too @BTB.

  25. butterflyeffect Says:

    Can anyone help me on the tease in the 12/28 GBOTT from 6:45 to 6:47 or so

    It’s on the tip of my tongue

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