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. phlorida phan Says:

    Cowboys are
    quarterback is
    Diehard-greatest xmas movie eva

  2. angryjoggerz Says:

    Bulls.

  3. butter Says:

    Happy New Year guys

    Cavern and Wedge – the undercover synced up pocket between Mike and Fish was unreal. From a straight musicians angle the drums and bass were just so glued together and playing each other, with echoing bubbling chunky reverb sounds being made as a whole from Fish and Mike

    Ghost – chunky, rockin Dancefest Ghost that when it was time to leave the structure of the song Red was out of material, (i wanted to run on stage with a double lattle) Mike and Page wanted to jam. He didnt UIC 3 it or anything.

    We had our 10 min Ghost new years dance party

    If he doesn’t have a theme or idea he moves on, in 3.0

    That’s how it is

  4. phlorida phan Says:

    New bb name should be
    Clay, Bill Clay

  5. butter Says:

    Cavern, Wedge, Alaska all had the little Phish shuffle sound

  6. Mr. Palmer Says:

    NFC East Champs. Big Blue.

    Not a bad little weekend here. Time for some sleep.

    Love and respect…..

  7. butter Says:

    ^ run on stage and give Trey a double latte coffee

  8. butter Says:

    Peace, Love and Rock and Roll

  9. Fly Says:

    night y’all

    catch you on the flip

  10. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    @soam….

    whats your deal man? always making things personal…

    won’t get on your level man with the meaningless name calling. last time you flipped out on me it was because you said they would definitely play repeats at miami 09, i said they wouldnt.

    we all know how that panned out… lets see how your treys-on-drugs guess pans out. you have my number? my phone number? thats creepy but, call me when trey gets back to rehab, then we’ll have something to talk about. otherwise, i guess we dont see eye to eye and thats fine with me.

    youre the one who always makes it personal.

    always.

    p.s. when did i say the worst shows ever? all ive talked about is my favorite parts of the shows. i had an amazing time…

  11. Mr.Miner Says:

    im sick of people loving Phish unconditonally. It pisses me off.

  12. BrandonKayda Says:

    In non Phish-related news, Mahler’s 6th Symphony is incredible.

  13. kuboosh Says:

    I agree dude. Major disappointment. They played like ass. 12/28 was good, but in retrospect it was like the greatest show ever played compared to 12/29,30,31. Fact is, they were off. Trey seemed like he had other places to be–everything rushed and flubbed. No patience. No communication. Very disappointing.

    Now for that European tour.

  14. DryIceFactory Says:

    No love for the 6-10 guitar peaks in 46days? I thought that was definitely a highlight. And how do you not discuss the huge version of Steam? Maybe I was spun, maybe I was excited to be at MSG on NYE, maybe I’m being delusional, but i thought there were more highlights than youve reported Miner. Dont get me wrong, i thought the show was far from my expectations, but many more highlights should have been addressed before this blantant shredding of the performance.
    A couple thoughts – i found it funny how Page vetoed Treys attempt at the premature drop into Golden Age out of that SICK Light jam. That jam could – And should – have gone considerably longer. Ghost>Sally>46days could have been an epic but really only 46 popped. Ghost was fun too, but I just expected a bit more. First Tube was disgusting but sort of a cliche selection. Our section was speculating a HUGE set III after disease. I was thinking something like Timber>Jim>Limb>Reba,WotC. Would have much preferred that to wedge, Alaska, velvet sea, first tube. And I know my run of songs is much longer than what we got, but that show ended damn early. Something was off all throughout the run, and I’m disappointed. how does the band NOT ONCE address the fans on New Years fucking Eve? Not to mention tell us a story and/or pull any antics? Like… We didnt visit anyones houses, we didnt get any “WHAT?”s. New Years shows should do 3 things in my opinion. Create a major and wild fiesta that blows our mind from a nonmusicl standpoint, blow our minds from a musical standpoint, and review the antics of the previous year. We hit 1.33 out of 3 IMO because set 2 was def sick. That being said, I also think what was on offer deserves a bit more respect than this ripping Miner has posted. While I somewhat agree, this is a touch harsh. Then again Miner, you have seen more NYE shows than I have so I don’t disrespect your opinion. I just thought you could have covered some more highlights. My .02.

  15. DryIceFactory Says:

    And where the fuck was Waves?

  16. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    seriosuly dryice… that msg waves lingered… and lurked… and until it disappeared into the shadows…. damn. slipped away. could have used it where Wading was. oh well. i guess it was sort of a rarity until this summer it happened a little more often and we started to count on it. but it shall return… i guess we hafta wait till bethel 12

  17. DryIceFactory Says:

    Miner don’t get down just because people don’t agree with you. The fan base is changing. I can’t even tell you how many people walked out during Piper, during 2001, during ghost, 46 days ~ the list goes on. I told some kid behind me I wanted them to open set 2 with Drowned>Ghost>Disease>No Quarter and he goes (direct quote) “I would rather gouge my eardrums out than hear them play a fucking drowned”. The guy next to me told him he should listen to a few more versions of the song.

  18. Lycanthropist Says:

    @Miner

    why would unconditional love piss you off?

    i understand wanting to have a more critical view, but that is a personal decision.

    Doesn’t a huge percentage of your life center around Phish?

    Its ok if someone else blindly loves a band, in fact at times it could be better, because I am sure they aren’t feeling let down like the rest of us.

    You know I am with you Miner, but don’t forget that ultimately each persons relationship with Phish is their own and they have that right to it.

    Love ya man, and keep up the good work.

  19. thedayman Says:

    MSG PIPER

  20. DryIceFactory Says:

    Btw, it became clear he was serious when he asked my girl what Golden Age was.

  21. Robear Says:

    Miner, it’s the finality of this run, getting you down. You remind me of me after Amherst. I didn’t get to go to Manchester for the reset. Now you’ll have to wait for spring to satisfy your soul.

    Trey has an uncanny way of keeping us hungry.

  22. Lycanthropist Says:

    I think the band needs new material desperately but its just not coming to them.

    Its the only way forward..

    They cant get new jams out of songs they have been playing for 15 years.. not without a new sound to play with. The path to new energy or soundscapes is through new material.

    Unfortunately all new creativity is being hoarded by side projects.

  23. Mr.Miner Says:

    sorry. just being bitter. I’ll stop.

  24. Mr.Miner Says:

    i dont think they are playing until summer, fwiw. do u know otherwise @rob

  25. DryIceFactory Says:

    I think the band just didn’t feel like jamming as much as we wanted. Think of all the jam vehicles and jamable songs that went unplayed. Taste, Reba!!! (did they just forget her?), WotC, Timber, Undermind, Waves!, 20YL, Drowned, Asihtos, gumbo, Seven Below – add some more guys… #disapointed

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