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:

    That Axilla didn’t throw you off, garret?

  2. SillyWilly Says:

    some serious phishthoughting going on

    im trying to read, not to see if i agree or not, but purely to see how different people listen

    it’s pretty enlightening

    there’s things going on i have no idea about

  3. Fly Says:

    oh yeah, this board has been killing it the past day or so

    love this board

  4. Fly Says:


  5. SillyWilly Says:

    i dream in streets of cairo

    the only fucking tease i can pick out

  6. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    @Silly – in the end, thats what i love about Phish.

    they cover SO MUCH ground, that some peoples worst shows are other people’s dream shows.

    what other band has people debating about shows the day after?

    “Green Day played their latest album last night WAY better than the way they played the same album earlier in the tour”

  7. Robear Says:

    @butter, Jerry once said something like ‘anytime we’re not singing, we’re jamming’. I see what u mean.

    I thought they had an awesome groove going coming out of the final verse of Golden Age. It was musically disturbing when they stopped abruptly, talked amongst themselves, and decided to drop Theme. The non phan I was watching with looked at me with the same look I had: ” Why’d they stop that!?”. So I see what Miner means too.

  8. Esteban Says:

    @Fly it’s great reading.

  9. garretc Says:

    Yeah Fly, in all seriousness, I had no idea anything was wrong with Axilla until I got home and read all the “worst since Coventry glide!” stuff over on PT…

    I don’t think Dayman or Tom really noticed either, although don’t let me put words in their mouths…

  10. Robear Says:

    Lol@ purple!

  11. SillyWilly Says:

    totally, purple

    I always have this idea in my head that every aspect of a good phish show is fulfilling it’s role perfectly.

    i always see this tapestry of people out in the crowd and everyone’s bringing their own addition to the table

    and all of the voices right now are part of that

    so im soaking it up.

    plus, I’m just not that smart, so I have nothing real intelligent to add.

  12. Fly Says:

    admittedly I was pretty sober for the shows

    Axilla killed me for about fifteen seconds but then I let it go

    glad it didn’t mess with you

    PT WILL mess with you, though, so tread carefully!

  13. Fly Says:



  14. garretc Says:

    Haha, yeah Fly, I don’t remember what induced me to venture over there that particular evening, but, well, it was scary…

  15. Mike in Austin Says:

    Pt is always wrong.

    Starting in the wrong Key was nothing like Coventry glide. Its like the difference between a foot massage and eating a bitch out. It ain’t in the same ballpark.

  16. Mike in Austin Says:

    You get the reference…

  17. BrandonKayda Says:

    @Silly you are really intelligent, don’t doubt yourself so much 😀

    I love this band and you guys.

  18. Esteban Says:

    @MiA It’s not even the same sport.

  19. SillyWilly Says:

    unless that sport is…seduction.

  20. phlorida phan Says:

    Preach in jule’s

  21. phlorida phan Says:


  22. Fly Says:

    12.28 is a killer, killer show. It could be a top ten show of 2011.

    You figure we’d have one show that wasn’t that good and NYE would be kind of gimmicky.

    So we were expecting one other hot show. 12.30 has an incredible Piper and solid first set, along with other set II goodness.

    Honestly I think if Trey doesn’t flub that Axilla (Silent was pretty bad, too, but I think that might have slid by) things would be very different right now. I know I’ve said that already but I have become pretty convinced of it!

  23. Mike in Austin Says:

    Vincent: You know, I’m getting kinda tired. I could use a foot massage myself.
    Jules: Man, you best back off, I’m gittin’ a little pissed here.

  24. garretc Says:

    Yeah SOAM what other possible reason could there be that after playing 30 some-odd shows over the summer they were playing at a great level, and then after not playing any shows together for 3 months they’re less good?

    I can’t think of a single reasonable explanation for that, so clearly drugs are the answer.

    “Lastly-you can’t have all these highlights at the worst shows of the year-they were either great-decent or they sucked. Which is it- we know what miner thinks…”

    And what the fuck does this mean anyways? Bad and decent shows can’t have highlights? Since when has that been true, ever? ’09 begs to differ

  25. Robear Says:

    Soam, come on now. No one needs to drop the gloves.

    Trey is sober. He loves the fans, the money doesn’t hurt, so they played a 4 night MSG run in their backyard. He is spending more time and energy on side projects, than Phish. They all have busy lives, ESP around the holidays, and didn’t make time to practice that much. The shows reflect that The silent majority is more satisfied than the vocal minority. We are all wishing we had more chestnuts to spin between now and march tour.

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