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. Snigglebeach Says:

    i agree with pretty much everything Soam said

  2. Mr.Miner Says:

    @phrlorida. I said that too. maybe Piper…

  3. albert walker Says:

    not a dumbass at all kid

    I wish I had the deep knowledge of music at your age. there were just grumpy old dead heads that gave me shit before I saw a few so it gave me a weird vibe you seemed so jaded

    plus shit your first 20 shows are supposed to be all great. I would have done anything to catch that run at MSG when I was still first seeing shows.

    it was all good back then.

    but def no hard feelings you’re a great kid. it’s the shows weren’t that rough IMO and I thought you were being a tad harsh for someone just kinda getting into it.

  4. albert walker Says:

    may change when I spin them but live I really dug the patient space of the cities and how Much dissolved it into space even if it could have gone longer

    still think that tweezer had a sick floaty page rhodes led feel to it

    usually I spin this shit immediately. probably get into some later tonight.

  5. Dorn76 Says:

    BK you are one of the nicest dudes on here, and you clearly love the Phish from VT. We all have strong feelings about the things we care about most.

  6. Fly Says:

    Piper was one or two, Cities probably one

    RnR top five, 2001 top five, D Sky top two, Carini probably one, Tweezer probably top five, Paug maybe top five, Bowie maybe top five, YEM one or two

    Don’t know about Light, still haven’t listened

    Not to mention the face melting Contact

  7. Mike in Austin Says:

    Thanks Butter. I really do like reading your posts.

  8. albert walker Says:

    wow yeah Paug and YEM too

    there really was a lot of hot phish here

    it was just kinda like a practice session. Trey would be like “let’s just play this one”

    really hard to get into any kind of groove. but some really great phish all over the place

    really dug jibboo last night. crushing page.

  9. phlorida phan Says:

    @miner. a close second to the dicks piper I think

  10. Mr.Miner Says:

    Really only GREAT jams were Carini -> Tweeze, Piper, and Light, Rock and Roll -> NICU. Sad output for for nights.

  11. Mr.Miner Says:

    dicks piper kills. good point.

  12. Mr.Miner Says:

    this run was VANILLA, diet-Phish. They played us like the custies we are 😉

  13. Lycanthropist Says:

    From the couch we had a blast. It was a party throwdown and thats about it.

    The thing is, is that the party and the fun IS what Phish is about to a lot of people, the majority I would say.

    For the music critics, jam seekers, new frontiersmen, and long time vets these shows didn’t deliver a whole lot of new and I think that is what is rocking the boat for a lot of people.

    To me the Light > GA was pretty slick and Steam was through the roof. I would love to have six discs of highlights from this run, but it just wasn’t the Phish that I personally obssess over that came to play this NYE.

    I do believe however that the band probably isn’t feeling like this NYE was a colossal flop. They sure seemed pumped on stage.

    Still need to hear the Piper. Missed all of 12/30.

  14. Winter Queen Says:

    Has anyone talked about the theme of the NYE show? I believe it was “Beckon the Muse”. I know how much everyone loves the big jams and bust outs, but this NYE show had a greater purpose that will eventually reveal itself. It was subtle (not to me), but you just saw Phish become heroes. Happy New Year everyone!

  15. Fly Says:

    Cities was a great jam, short but def great

  16. albert walker Says:

    night kids
    no work tomorrow
    stoked

  17. Lycanthropist Says:

    I think Weekapaug made a big stride on this run personally.

  18. butter Says:

    word Miner, love ya too buddy 😉

  19. Fly Says:

    the darien paug was best of 2011 i’m pretty sure

  20. Mr.Miner Says:

    I love the message in the NYE stunt. We are all eternal souls dancing together forever…esp with all the loss in the community this year.

  21. Robear Says:

    Can someone tell me what @winter queen is talking about?

  22. Fly Says:

    I cant robearski

  23. phlorida phan Says:

    Some people have maps, such as the iraq

  24. BrandonKayda Says:

    Tweezer from the 28th is legit.

  25. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    “i agree with pretty much everything Soam said”

    really? i find i disagree with almost everything he’s ever said on this site. last time i said something about him, he came back and commented something that made no sense but was so horrendous and offensive that Miner actually removed his post and told him to calm down.

    “is trey using again? seems the natural quetsion?”

    offensive, disillusioned, and if it was a joke, not really funny.

    why stop by if thats what you have to say? there a site for that, its called PT

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