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. Fly Says:

    This Piper has serious replay value

    Keeps getting better on each listen

  2. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    botom paged but ill skip to the meat of my post

    “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

  3. Fly Says:

    Fishman just killing it, holding everything together while the others play around in space

  4. Jtran Says:

    Good to be home, NYC is huge

    Had a great time at all the shows, wish the music would’ve been more to my style, but it is what it is. The highlights will stick around my playlists for sure.

    Don’t really want to voice any further thoughts yet because I still need to reflect and process. Love reading everyone else’s opinions so far though.

  5. neemor Says:

    I’d just like to Weigh in briefly:

    Having been since 1.1.11 since I last saw the Phish, the 29th was a great show for me.
    Having taken the year off (for better or worse-context wise), I left MSG lacking nothing.
    That is not to say that I was “changed” as I used to be when leaving a show in 1997-2000.
    That is also not to say that I felt that at any point Phish urinated in my ears and I felt resigned to take it.
    Phish played (extremely?) well on the night I got back to Live Phish, the seemed generally enthused, locked in and centered and it produced a fun and engaging show.

    I loved the opener choice (Sloth), the second slot YEM dance party, a ripping Maze-as usual, a textbook and raging Antelope in it’s signature spot, the slick Chalkdust>Hydrogen transition but most of all, that Lifeboy I’ve been chasing after for the last decade of my life…a decade that included a long period where I wasn’t sure if I’d ever have the chance to see a Lifeboy again.
    Let alone an Antelope.

    I can never forget that.

    Especially when I’m at MSG with you guys.

    Pleasure to meet Miner, see all of you crazy cats at Irish Times and in the Garden and be a part of the fans that can hold down New York City for four days running up to New Year’s!
    Here’s hoping 2012 kicks 2011’s balls.

  6. Fly Says:

    and >Twist is so silky smooth

    this shit is the goods

  7. Lycanthropist Says:

    I was definitely amped and grinning ear to ear through out set 2 and the beginning of set 3.

    Thought this year’s stunt far outdid last year’s. At least for my personal taste.

    Love that something new got the big gag treatment this year and I think there was some fun creativity in the setlists.

    I will confer that I wish there had been some deeper jamming, but Phish 3.0’s best things are often not found in the likely places.

  8. Jtran Says:

    Respun Piper on the drive home, that’s a great one. $$$

  9. butter Says:

    @Miner – to your point about Golden Age having only a 2min jam:

    wouldnt the radio single of “Golden Age” be about 3 min long

    to me the whole song is a jam and the Light > Golden Age is a twenty minute jam

    i think i’m not really seeing eye to eye anymore with what you call a ‘jam’

    on one hand you use the term “open” or “type 2” to describe a jam, but then on the other hand you have your stop watch out now?

    and now for you jamming is only fully open ended improv?

    ok, well even if thats the case, then i can make a case that 12.30 isnt Piper isn’t true improv. it follows a structured path that they’ve paved before:

    high speed chaotic rhythmic interplay > slowed down to ambient spacey soundscapes, with quite tender improv. nothing new here. and word if thats your favorite jam, and the way you think Phish should jam.

    to me thats a stock 3.0 jammed Piper. you must have really been on the goods for that jam. Love ya kid

  10. Lycanthropist Says:

    but for what its worth, i have become a different kind of fan than i once was.

    I don’t feel the need to download every show that they play. I dont feel the need to listen to Phish all the time and dissect every instance. I used to feel this way.

    But now I listen to a LOT of other music and it keeps my palate cleansed for Phish, so that I can be wow’d by them time and time again.

  11. Robear Says:

    I liked the Piper. Had stream trouble and missd ‘Wilson, Axilla’. That’s addition by subtraction right there, folks.

  12. Jtran Says:

    I also think it’s funny that what I viewed as setlist freshness on the 28th with interesting selections all over the place really just ended up being an under prepared Trey (imo) who just seemed to not have thought about these 4 nights until after Xmas

  13. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    felt like the piper stood up with 90’s jams. listening to it made me think of ’99. not just because piper’s main year was ’99, but just the style of the jam overall.

    still havent respun the 28th, which was my favorite night of the run. really looking forward to it but might wait for the webcast video to leak later on or just check out the youtube situation.

  14. Fly Says:

    def some slop to be miffed at, but you can’t really be TOO upset at a run that had this beautiful Carini>Tweezer and ethereal Piper in it

  15. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    butter… i see your POV but careful now… you seem to be arguing in a sense that the piper jam was less creative than the GA jam. i get your arguing about the semantics of the word “jam” but just because Miner doesnt see it in GA doesnt mean you should view what he likes as shittier.

    dont take away from piper just because you also think GA jam was good. in the end, the piper was really more exploratory and it has nothing to do with length.

  16. Nobodysjam Says:

    I’m jumping my thread from 12/29 to point out that the NYE gag was all about Lifeboy, nuff said.

  17. butter Says:

    really butter? like your soul was satisfied? -Miner

    Fuck Yes

    the harmonic crunchy dance rhythms of Golden Age were morphing into visible love waves, Alien encounter Light, Cavern, Wedge, Steam, the whole circus act of souls flying around the Garden, Disease, Fluff, Suzy, First Tube

    all satisfied my soul

  18. Fly Says:

    Only Dick’s Piper rivals the MSG Piper in 3.0 as far as I can tell/recall

    And that Carini is just gorgeous. Those descending scales by Trey are so tasteful. Goosebump’d

  19. Robear Says:

    I thought the Tweezer was not all that, and enjoyed last night more than Miner I think. What does it all mean?

  20. garretc Says:

    I don’t remember who posted it, and I’m not looking back, but if you really thinker Miner thought Light was 12/31’s best jam solely because he’s some sort of Light fluffer, then you are clearly generally confused, because a) light is really the only sensible choice for jam of the show, and b) I have specific memories of Miner being unimpressed with Lights, see: 12/30/10…

    Also, either y’all are using a definition of train wreck that’s foreign to me, many of you are overreacting, or I was way higher than I thought all weekend, because sure, there may have been flubs, but not once during th entire run did I do much as miss a beat due to a wrong note…

    And! To top it all of, if Trey is using again as SOAM and some folks on PT have suggested, wouldn’t that mean more jams, based on the “sober trey doesn’t jam” theory?

  21. Esteban Says:

    Okay, everyone’s settled, and I’m starting to make my way back through the posts (as I think I left off on pg 7)… I just read an article on Jambands, and it had the video from last night’s countdown embedded, so I watched. (I missed the stream last night.)

    One thing’s for sure: If some dude next to me started levitating during a song where shit was already getting a bit weird and chaotic visually and I was on some serious party favors, I would’ve pretty much thought that was the coolest thing I’ve seen. Surely wasn’t what I would have conceived for a stunt, and it clearly was original (not to take away from the ’99 or ’10 Meatstick, which both used a gag from years before).

    The link:

  22. butter Says:

    not shitting on Piper at all

    i loved it, just explaining that its not covering new ground like some think it is

    dont shit on my Cavern

  23. Mike in Austin Says:

    I liked the Piper. Had stream trouble and missd ‘Wilson, Axilla’. That’s addition by subtraction right there, folks

    ^^^ha ha ha.

  24. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    robear, i think when they heard you werent coming they ditched Meatstick for this run

  25. garretc Says:


    Well clearly you can’t both be right! One of you must be wrong!

    Two men enter, one man leaves.

    Welcome to the Thunder(head)dome!

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