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”

  1. dusty Says:

    “Congrats to the ’96 NYE Run! Finally not the worst in #phish history anymore”

  2. Dorn76 Says:

    Liking Duke’s take.

    Also for the record, AW, BK did dial back much of what he said… The young whippersnapper…

  3. butter Says:

    Trey will change nothing because he sells out the Garden everytime its booked

    get a clue

    if you think he thinks this run was a flop, your tripin

    walking out of the suite level, after wishing, an MSG manager in a suit, a happy new year

    he said “we’ll be right here the next two years” with a shit eating grin

  4. Dorn76 Says:

    Fuckin-A! Yemsg ’12 & ’13!

  5. butter Says:

    Slave @Robear was an absolute magic carpet ride

  6. Chonz Says:

    Had a blast at the last three shows. Well, the second show did leave me a little flat, but I couldn’t be happier with nye and the 29th. 29th was pure energy which is what I needed after my long ney to msg, and I thought the storage jam light and new years psychedelia was awesome. Filled me up and that’s will that I can ask for. Enjoy the off season!

  7. word Says:

    utterly baffled by the 3rd set

    how does the energy inside msg, especially on nye, result in ‘alaska’ and ‘velvet sea’??

  8. butter Says:

    Light > Golden Age was almost a 21 minute centerpiece jam improv piece

    i have no idea the scale some of you guys are grading on anymore

    @Dorn -@MIA i agree with your thoughts and posts last page

  9. butter Says:

    to bring out the defribulators by launching into a diabolical version of First Tube, that had the entire building moving in a fluid, seismic rhythm.

    ^Denver_Machine pg 2

    holy shit was that an electric first tube, Trey just destroys it

  10. Gavinsdad Says:

    The business side of it is always there @butter. Fun to ignore it, but do so at your peril right?

    Like every other time this happens, we still, even those of us with the best inside sources, know absolutely nothing about what makes the band, and esp Trey, tick on a night to night basis.

    Dicks tweez to a lackluster set….dunno what ur gonna get. With all my “I’m happy all the time and I’ll listen to Nellie Kane all day” histrionics I also have to admit that I said to at least two people at Irish times before I hit my first show (12/29) how much I “regretted” hitting Dicks in Sept. why? Cause of the monster playing. Sure I crave filet, but I can’t get it all the time and I have to be able to accept that.

    ^think this is now known as the “Robear-Mignon axiom”.

  11. Gavinsdad Says:

    Regretted NOT hitting dicks that is

    Ewww

  12. SillyWilly Says:

    I apologize for starting the musicals debate.

    What I meant, but definitely did not articulate very well, is that I wish Trey was involved in a different kind of side project.

    He could write an absolutely awesome musical, and I’ll look like a total idiot (if I don’t already).

    Yes, I know this is place is for the free exchange of opinions, but my random musings aren’t worth risking being able to kick it with everyone in person.

    I don’t mean to be hugs and love all the time, but I can’t help it. I’m not good at feeling like I’ve offended someone especially kids who have all shown me nothing but straight up kindness.

    So, yeah. Hope you all are doing well.

  13. butter Says:

    i loved the concert

  14. Gavinsdad Says:

    Right on Butter.

  15. Mr.Miner Says:

    really butter? like your soul was satisfied? We all had “fun”, but Phish isn’t really about fun to me…

  16. SillyWilly Says:

    Mr. P’s Giants looking good.

  17. Mr.Miner Says:

    Light was solid—not close to most versions this year, and Trey pulled the plug WAY early on GAge. It had a 2:23 jam. Shit is wack if THAT was the only jam in 3 sets…

  18. Mr.Miner Says:

    @ Butter. the slave couldn’t have been more uber generic. You had the goods last night, eh? Love ya kid.

  19. Dorn76 Says:

    Thanks, Butter.

    After reading posts like today I almost question my musical knowledge, whether I can even recognize good and bad Phish or I just fluff everything for my own headspace. Gorge RnR, Tahoe Light, sure those are obvious standout improv moments.. But how far off that was 12/30 Piper?

    Matter of degree.

  20. SOAM Says:

    I missed this run but was not expecting it to be coventry 2…esp after the glen this summer. Is trey using again? Seems a natural question? Is he not as enthused as he was that weekend in hampton in 09? Is this what they get for not touring enough? Not respecting the music enough like jerry did? Or-is it that they haven’t played enough to satisfy fans and they were really counting on an epiphany w these 4 shows? Lastly-how do they start so well after a layoff only to suck as they get going? Things that make go :mmm? The only remedy is a 26 date spring tour.

  21. BrandonKayda Says:

    @aw

    Sorry if I offended you. Honestly, the last thing I want to do is offend any of you OG folks, because I respect the hell out of you guys and I certainly respect how long you’ve been doing this thing and seeing this band. I definitely don’t want to come off as an ignorant asshole who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. “Jaded couch tour vet” syndrome.

    All I was doing was firing some quick thoughts about the music I was hearing – like most gut-reaction things I’m sure it could’ve been more thought out, but I was just reacting in the moment. I wasn’t trying to disrespect any of you at all, but I understand why you would be offended. The last thing you want to hear is some dumbass kid who’s seen 4 shows talk like he knows what he’s talking about – which is definitely not true. I don’t know a damn thing about how the band works, hell, I’m not even out of high school, so it wasn’t my place to act.

    I’m probably taking this too harshly, but I’m really sorry if I offended any of you guys with comments last night/this past weekend. Happy new year, folks.

  22. Dorn76 Says:

    Of course I was there were more moments like that in 4 nights, but no regrets.

  23. albert walker Says:

    Dorn there was tons of real hot phish to my ears and I’m pretty picky but was quite spun so I’d rather listen first.

    not talking 25 minute ambient alien landing jams but just old fiery 90-92 style phish in a few. I thought the antelope was fiery and the bowie also.

    I thought the 2001 was quite crunchy with some sick page work.

    still love the page organ solo on RnR after I thought they’d wind it down post Trey wank off

    Carini > Tweezer is top shelf to me

    Piper seemed like a monster

    I thought the Steam guitar work although rawky was pretty fuckin sick and def the strongest version to date of that one.

    was there a perfect slow set like UIC1 set II or a jam of 3.0 like GOrge RnR no, but there was def a bunch of meat there.

    Trey’s Ocelot solo last night was right on point as was his fluffhead’s. I actually think Trey was a lot more on last night it’s just he was kinda in the more rocknroll mode.

    anyway. my last thoughts for now
    maybe more after I spin not spun.
    time for some w a x tubes.

  24. phlorida phan Says:

    Was there a song this run that was a better version then what had already been played this year? Imo, no.

  25. Mr.Miner Says:

    12/30 piper was DEF on the level of 2011 jams, don’t get me wrong. The problem was the overall lack of intent after the 28th. You don’t have to be a musical afficionado to have realized that.

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