An Anticlimactic Ending

12.31.2011 (Jesse Herzog)

Well, at least they at least saw one jam to fruition. In what has to be considered the least significant New Year’s Eve show in Phish’s hallowed career, the band chose straightforward and unadventurous playing for the duration of the most climactic night of the year, less a single highlight sequence in the second set —“Light > Golden Age.” To have ended such a triumphant year in the flat musical fashion that has defined the past couple nights was nothing short of a  travesty. With the band’s improvisational gusto far from the level it was when they graced the stages of the nation this summer, Phish only attempted to infuse two songs with any real of creativity throughout three sets of music. This wasn’t the Phish that tore Bethel apart. This wasn’t the Phish that crushed The Gorge. This wasn’t the Phish that set afire to a soccer stadium in Commerce City, Colorado for three straight days in September. This was a band that—for whatever reason—was clearly not up to the task this week, playing a show—and a run—with very little inspiration. And it’s a shame to conclude the year with such a lack of intent, because 2011 was nothing short of a revelation for the band and everyone in their community. Now, one of the band’s esteemed traditions of the Holiday Run has left a sour taste in the mouth of many fans.

NYC Official Poster (DKNG)

Usually, the improvisational highlights of a show outweigh the other less significant portions and comprise plenty to write about, but for the second consecutive night, that just wasn’t the case. The first set contained a couple solid funk sessions in “Wolfman’s” and, particularly, “Jibboo,” while the third set is hardly worth writing about at all. In summation, last night was, unquestionably, the most vanilla New Year’s show in Phish history, and for whatever reason, it just didn’t feel like the band really wanted to take many risks. With only two legitimate jams over the past two nights, I’ve never felt feelings like this after a Holiday Run in my life. Boy. Man. God. Shiiiit.

The second set, though declining in creativity throughout, started quite strong. After a “Party Time” opener—a subtle sign that things just were never gonna’ get that musically serious—the band dove into the only great jam of the night—“Light.” Seemingly the start of a huge set, the band attacked their new era launch pad. Moving from the composed, guitar-anchored section into an abstract soundscape and then into a brief Theremin-laced storage jam, Phish showed signs of life as they dug into the experimental side for a bit. But as the band was entrenched in the murk, Trey decided to change the vibe entirely, forcing the band into “Golden Age” in a choppy and awkward transition. And once they reached the juncture from which to jam on the modern cover, the guys did just that—for about two and a half smooth and spectacular minutes. It really felt like they were going somewhere with this piece, reaching a patient whole-band groove on which a big-time set seemed to be building. Trey slinked in and out of the swanky music with rhythm chords before the band abruptly ended the jam and started “Theme From the Bottom.” Back to the songs; and that’s the way it would remain for the entire night.

12.31.11 (J.Herzog)

This trend seemed that it might shift as the band dropped into “Ghost” late in the second set—a 3.0 New Year’s Eve annual rite. But this version hardly compared to either Miami ‘09 or last year’s MSG ’10. Remaining completely in the box for the duration, and featuring only linear, contained jamming, the jam just never popped off. In such a thin show, this piece has to be considered the other “highlight” of the night, featuring strong interplay between Mike and Trey within the context of an intense but plain rock jam. Never did the band look to approach the “Ghost” from a rhythmic angle—just like a steam engine moving straight ahead. And then before anyone knew it, Trey was wrapping up the jam that had yet to go anywhere. Pretty rough scene. And if a lack of a creative “Ghost” jam wasn’t enough, when the band dropped “Sneaking Sally,” they included no jam at all. Instead, Trey opted, against the grain, for a heaping dose of arena rock in “46 Days.” Very odd calls all around last night, and the second set—which started off promising—had fizzled considerably.

12.30.11 (M.Stein)

The third set, while including nothing noteworthy in the music department, did feature an interesting New Year’s stunt as dancers hooked onto Peter-Pan-esque cables danced to “Steam” and “Down With Disease” while “floating” as souls above the crowd. But when the time came to jam “Disease,” the band’s one ever-reliable vehicle, they did so for a less than a minute, seemingly about to get into something serious. But, again, as soon as it started it was over. And after the New Year’s stunt, the rest of the set was composed of some of the more questionable calls in New Year’s Eve history. I’m not sure what was up with Phish last night, but for most of the evening it felt like they were playing to finish the show, not to create spontaneous magic. Sure, “Light” was engaging, but other than that, the creative juiced dried up like a desert riverbed.

If you had a great time last night, don’t let my opinion devalue your experience—that makes no logical sense. I’m, sincerely, glad you enjoyed it. But as someone who loves Phish as much as each and every one of you with every cell in my body, I have to be honest and call it like I see it, and this was the most uninspired version of the band we’ve seen this year. The 2011 New Year’s Run—as a whole—was a musical disappointment. Sure, we can make a CD of standout jams from the four night, but come on now, this was Phish on the holidays at MSG, and things simply didn’t come to fruition. I wish the year was ending on a more upbeat musical note, but things are what they are.

Happy 2012 to everyone, and here’s to whatever Phish throws our way in the new year!

I: AC/DC Bag > Wolfman’s Brother, Scent of a Mule, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Lawn Boy, Gotta Jibboo, Farmhouse, Pebbles and Marbles, Ocelot, Fluffhead

II: Party Time, Light > Golden Age, Theme From the Bottom, Heavy Things, Ghost, Sneakin’ Sally through the Alley > 46 Days, Suzy Greenberg

III: Cavern, Steam* > Auld Lang Syne > Down with Disease*, The Wedge, Alaska, Wading in the Velvet Sea, First Tube

E: Slave to the Traffic Light

*w/ floating dancers

12.31.2011 (Jesse Herzog)

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484 Responses to “An Anticlimactic Ending”

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  1. Blooby Says:

    I considered making the trek from Florida. I am glad I didn’t. The jams are what do it for me (and many others), and this run was lacking. I can’t say I agree with all your calls, but you seemed spot-on during this run (unfortunately). I also enjoyed your disclaimer about not letting your take on things spoil the experience for others. I am sure being there or on a multitude of couches was a blast for many. As with you, I look forward to seeing what Phish has to offer down the road.

    Happy new year, all.

    Blooby

  2. harryhood Says:

    First!! Happy New Year Everyone!

  3. Dr Pronoia Says:

    wow

    selfishly happy that my only NYE, 12/31/02, is no longer the worst ever, but I was really hoping for a redemptive show last night. maybe we’ll find out what happened with this run someday

    i think I’ll slink away and let the BB do its thing today

    have a wonderful 2012 everybody, with all the blessings and happiness pronoia sends your way

  4. seatac Says:

    Thats such a bummer. I only saw the Gorge shows this year. But from all accounts the guys were on 90% of the time.

    Wonder what the issue was @ MSG

  5. SuperREVERB Says:

    Minor – I totally agree. While phish on NYE is better than mo phish the song selection was a bit disappointing. I was hoping for an after midnight REBA but it never came. On a positive note you could tell that the boys were having a blast and that is really what matters most. It was still a fun NYE and I am totally happy to have rung it in with my favorite band.

  6. harryhood Says:

    Had a great time last night up in the 400 level with Mitch, Frankie, KWL, and Purple…… I agree with Miners assesment of the show, but I still had a great time. It was a little bit of a letdown given that it was my first NYE show, but still a good time nontheless……

  7. Dorn76 Says:

    You work too hard, Miner! Hopefully your high expectations didn’t take away from your enjoyment.

    We just lived a triumphant year of Phish, with a bright future ahead.

    I’m grateful.

  8. halcyon Says:

    Happy New Year.

    Love your family, your friends, your acquaintances, and all that you do.

  9. stapes Says:

    Best wishes to the BB in 2012.

  10. Phamiy Berzerker Says:

    At. Newark flying back. Had a great run! Lots of song based stuff this run. Some real inspired stuff sprinkled around.

    Would have loved to see and met more of the BB regulars I have yet to cross paths with.

    I won the dance-off for the run. Thinking of retiring undefeated. We’ll see what summer brings.

  11. Mike in Austin Says:

    Happy New Year. It was a huge effort of planning and coordination and $$$ for Phish to pull all of this off and for that I’m thankful.

    And when you consider that these tickets sold for like $70 (at the proverbial box office) it’s the greatest party value in town.

    The alternative was 8 months straight without Phish, which if I have to weight the two, I’ll take this and say “Thank You Phish!”

    The stream was great over here. I love that Phish does this for us, and it was a gift, as I see it.

    But no, there were nothing new in the jam department for ideas. They took 4 months off, hit the stage, and rawked it out. Trey borked some stuff. He definitely has a bit of A.D.D. right now and seems to lose focus, or is willing to pull the cord on something quickly.

    The great part is, I have a fantastic SBD of the “holy ghost” from last year, that I’m gonna spin on my walk. I really don’t care what the date on the track is. It’s in my playlist of “Great Phish to Walk To”

    Maybe that won’t have a lot from this 4 show run. Oh well.

    Off for a dog walk. HNY!

  12. Phamiy Berzerker Says:

    Oh yeah.

    Happy New Year and all that jazz!

  13. Mike in Austin Says:

    Wish we would have met up PB. Next time!

  14. jdub Says:

    Happy New Year BB!

    Listening to Piper and loving it once again. Kind of weird having so few highlight moments from 4 nights of Phish at MSG. But what is one to do?

    Yo Trey, I’m talking ’bout practice

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGDBR2L5kzI

  15. stapes Says:

    The simulcast really is pretty nuts. Was thinking that last night. Sitting on a couch halfway across the country watching Phish ring in the new year. Amazing. Starting reflecting on how it used to take months sometimes to get tapes of a show, and now we’re watching it unfold live without even being there.

    PB – were the 2D glasses in effect last night?

  16. Snigglebeach Says:

    Miner seems pretty much spot on. The band was so sloppy at times it reminded me of Coventry. There was definetly energy and some great points, but they totally seemed like they were just trying to get through the weekend and move on.

    I will say 46 days was crazy. thought the balcony was gonna shake right off the wall. And if they had played like that all night I think it would have. Also I want to repeat what others have said about the sound in MSG. It was all over the place, and fishman clearly could not hear trey’s guitar at times. Maybe construction has things screwed up, cause after 4 nights they should have things settled, but clearly that wasn’t the case.

    All in all, I still had a fun night, and Steam was really cool.

  17. kayatosh Says:

    P&M’s was a treat

  18. willowed Says:

    This will be an interesting day for sure.

    I guess it comes down to this.

    Do you go to shows to have fun and party down?

    If that is your primary goal, you will always leave satisfied.

    Do you go to shows for transformational experiences?

    Then this was not the run for you.

    I had a blast on coach tour because I wasn’t expecting to have the “transformational” expereince. I took it for what it was. Sitting on the coach with my wife sipping champaign.

    Now, if I was at the show, I would tell you a differfent tale. See my post from yesterday.

    Little risk, fun rocker run.

  19. Kuboosh Says:

    Just going to repeat what I said last night (when you folks got your panties in a bunch). When 12/28 is the best show of the run, then there is a problem. A big problem. 12/28 was raging! Even that first set was raging. That first set was better than any set from 29, 30, 31. The short: Worst NYE run ever. Definitely not going to hear 12/29, 12/30, or 12/31 again, unless it’s some weird exercise in boredom and pain. Absolute piss performance. But what a year, 2011! Some of the best playing ever! But nothing like 95′-99′. Ha! Later mongrels. PS: every time i make tea now, I’ll be reminded of this shittiest of shows, and the one-two punch of Alaska-Velvet Sea.

  20. Mike in Austin Says:

    Loved the Fishman clips describing his kit, and micro clinic, and the setbreak humor. Good stuff.

  21. RoosterPizza Says:

    The Fishman clips during the first set break were really informative. I was listening so carefully to which cymbals he was playing for the rest of the show. The part about reggae was really funny. “See, the thing about reggae drumming is…just forget everything you fucking learned.”

  22. Corey Says:

    Happy New Year!

    From the couch, staring at the entire NYC skyline from a Williamsburg pent. apt…the “gag” looked amazing. All the camera angles made for a trippy scene. Man, if the kitten next to me launched up into the sky, my instincts would be to grab her. The wild view from over head made you feel like you were hovering too.

    Though not as scary as the Tower set, I did get tense once the instruments left the ground…and then real tense when Trey and Mike were pushed up like human pez.

    Anyway, it never seemed to be the right vibe for Reba to come out and play, or otherworldly improv, for that matter. Next tour, next tour…

    I would correct an earlier post from another on the last page. When 12/28 is the most inventive…of the whole run…we do NOT have a problem. I’ve been selfishly wanting a bday show that stands up to the others, for 15 years. Seeing the first two satisfied this fan. They gave us a lot to chew on in those two, despite being relatively standard(ly good) performances.

    Shoot, I thought they all looked tired from the get go. Even when they ran around the stage. But, compared to the Jenny Lopez body stocking performance happening down the “block”…I’ll take PHiSH’s choreographed trampolining. Any.Day.

    Oh, and @multibeast, thanks for the kind response to my “review” from the last page. Music can transport one’s soul. In the moment, on several occasions, we were. Hey, they could’ve played TTE! :-).

    They keep us guessing and we’ll keep on going.

    Here’s to 2012 and an onslaught of great music…and hopefully, a little summer PHiSH.

  23. angryjoggerz Says:

    Oh well, not the hottest ending to a very hot year, but still fun. I, for one, really enjoyed my visit to NYC.

    Happy New Year!

    And, a drop:

    Joe Henderson – Power to the People

    http://www.mediafire.com/?c9l3azrvd3vlq2v

    This album has quite a few classic moments. At that point in time, tenor saxophonist Henderson was a sideman with Herbie Hancock’s Sextet, so Hancock was happy to perform as a sideman, doubling on piano and electric piano, with the all-star group, which also includes trumpeter Mike Lawrence, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Jack DeJohnette. Highlights are many and include the original version of “Black Narcissus,” “Isotope,” a lyrical rendition of “Lazy Afternoon,” and the free-form “Foresight and Afterthought.”

    Personnel: Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone); Mike Lawrence (trumpet); Herbie Hancock (piano, electric piano); Ron Carter (bass instrument, electric bass); Jack DeJohnette (drum).

    Tracklist
    01. Black Narcissus
    02. Afro-Centric
    03. Opus One-Point-Five
    04. Isotope
    05. Power To The People
    06. Lazy Afternoon
    07. Foresight and Afterthought

  24. c0wfunk Says:

    Fun background for the party last night once we got the choppy stream worked out. Cool that trey and mike got to fly.

    Very little phish for me in 2011.. hoping 2012 brings more to me. Songs pr jams or whatever I enjoy seeing the boys do their thing.

    3 years into 3.0 and the phanbase is solidly back to its old, jaded, what have you done for me lately mindset. Guess all is right with the world.

    Lookin forward to a year where composer trey sees his dreams come to fruition. You want serious musicianship check out orchestra tour and you’ll see a stage full of serious musicians and no improv at all. The two do not always overlap!

  25. Snigglebeach Says:

    Took a few minutes to realize mike and trey were tethered to the roof. Before that I started to get nervous. Like, how long can they stand still and rock out. If they fell they woulda gone spinning around.

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