New Year’s Eve ’95 is one of the most iconic shows in Phish history, let alone the greatest of their Madison Square Garden legacy. This night represented the peak of all the band had accomplished from their genesis through the end of ’95, and for three straight sets that flipped the calendar, Phish could do no wrong. Several jams from this show this have become household names, with “Mike’s Song,” “Drowned -> Lizards,” and “Weekapaug > Sea and Sand” leading the way. But the fireworks of this night started with the third song of the show—another classic piece of MSG legend—in a euphoric and poignant “Reba.” Sitting among the all-time versions, 12.31.95’s “Reba” underlined the subconscious communication that characterized the band’s playing throughout the show and the entire month of December ‘95. Tapped in to higher powers on this magical eve, the guys responded to each other with confidence, urgency, and intention; hesitation wasn’t in their musical vocabulary. The resulting jam became an instant classic while kick-starting one of the most memorable nights of the band’s career.
Sprinting through the composed half with less than immaculate precision, the band dove from the fugue’s final hits into a pristine pool of improvisational waters. Splashing into the jam without a hint of uncertainty, the band crafted a swift musical current. As if they were waiting on the tip of his tongue, Trey immediately began narrating complex, spine-tingling melodies. Mike embodied the band’s ultra-connectedness by echoing and responding to Trey with negligible reaction time. Fishman framed this conversation with a delicate beat and the entire band oozed IT from note one.
Trey held the reigns of this piece as passionate leads flowed from his ‘Doc with a effortless quality. Mike stuck with him every step of the way—an element of this jam that really shines on the remastered soundboards—and Fish’s ever-changing and nuanced beats anchored the silky groove. Page offered minimalist piano comps throughout this section, filling in the spaces left in the rhythmic blanket. The band members were totally synced in an astonishing improvisational showcase. The momentum of the jam continued to build.
The quartet spiraled towards “Reba’s” peak in complete cooperation and without a morsel of hindrance. And they kept rising and rising and rising, following the lead of their possessed guitarist who was playing as if expressing the secrets of his soul. Coming to a stunning crescendo in the earliest stage of New Year’s Ever, the band had an arena full of jaws on the floor, as we—collectively—embarked on one of the nights of our lives.
Jam of the Day:
“Reba” 12.31.95 I
Heaven in a Phish jam.
Tags: 1995, Jams, The Moment, Venues