Despite a lack of musical fire in the third set of New Year’s Eve, Phish, nonetheless, delivered a powerful and existential message with their annual midnight stunt. “Steam,” a song about the journey of the soul through the afterlife, is a spiritually-themed piece, and for entrance into 2012—the band created a powerful, and philosophically driven skit that delivered the poignant message that we are all eternal souls dancing together forever.
The Phish fan community recently suffered three tragic losses in the course of months. Three fixtures of Phish tour, Scottie Nowak, Dave Ryan, and Vic Harris, suddenly were no longer with us, and the band was aware of these tragedies. Leave it to Phish to have a pulse on their community, or more likely, it was another case of cosmic serendipity, but the meaning of the New Year’s skit struck a chord with many fans. As the narrative of “Steam” began, the smoke machines began to cloud the stage in mystery. And as the song’s refrain, “You’re soul joins mine in steam,” carried the band into the jam, a woman, rose above the stage, dancing to the dramatic music, representing the soul from the song’s lyrics. But then, things got far more symbolic.
As the snarling guitar-led jam progressed, fourteen other people—also cabled to the rafters—began to rise above the crowd, dancing with mini smoke machines releasing clouds of steam that surrounded each of them. Clearly representing souls, the people weren’t dressed as costumed dancers, but rather like Phish fans—your everyday concertgoers. It was visually awesome—clouds of smoke shrouding each apparition floating above the arena—and they were dancing to “Steam” like we were—together with us. There was an undeniable meaning to the performance. And as the “souls” writhed above the audience, the band’s instruments (that they weren’t playing) began to levitate as well.
Following the dark hard-edged jam, the first woman who danced above the stage counted down to New Years. Then, after “Auld Lang Syne,” the symbolism continued. As the dancers performed a choreographed, mid-air routine to “Down With Disease,” small circles of the stage under Trey and Mike began to lift the guitar players high into the air. Trey and Mike were some ten feet in the air playing in line with the dancers, uniting the entire arena in the skit. The ideas of the impermanence of human life and the unity of all souls seeped through the stunt as a legitimate statement of belief. By Trey and Mike joining the elevated dancers, the message was clear, this community—and all of life on his planet—is eternal and we will always be a united whole, dancing through the universe together. This earth is merely one part of that journey. Even the “Disease” lyrics, “Waiting for the time when I can finally say, this has all been wonderful, but now I’m on my way” took on a far more powerful meaning in the face of these theatrics. An affirmation of the eternal nature of the soul and oneness of all consciousness, this stunt had a lot more below the surface than the spectacle floating performers with smoke packs attached to them.
Though the band went on to play an innocuous third set, their New Years’ stunt had delivered a powerful message that served as an interesting and thought-provoking jump into 2012.Tags: 2011, New Years