Your Soul Joins Mine

12.31.2011 (Michael Stein)

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.

The First "Soul"—12.31.11 (M.Stein)

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.

Trey "Rising"—12.31 (M.Stein)

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.

"Steam" - 12.31.11 (Graham Lucas)

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718 Responses to “Your Soul Joins Mine”

  1. Robear Says:

    Top of the mornin!

    I miss my SLF…thanks for everyone that stopped by the booth or gave a call while she was out there.

    @Palmer, we got it figured out.

  2. marcoesq Says:

    good thoughts, willowed. still definitely some great music to go around.

    Was excited for my first MSG experience on 12/29, had so much fun

  3. kayatosh Says:

    overall, I am grateful for the 2011 NYE run. Comparisons to coventry and suggestions that trey’s back on the sauce are ludicrous and in poor taste. Suggestions that these shows were a letdown or mailed in are also off base.

    I for one felt hosed by trey at time — the 94/95 feeling where he’s, without pause, peeling off sheets of rock n roll solo gold. The intense rock energy — trey over the top — was impressive but got a little stale. When the reigns were surrendered we had $$$ results, see e.g., RnR when Page takes the lead.

    There was some sloppiness, due to lack of playing together, but, with a few exceptions, they recovered from these minor blips. The other times of band gelling and rhythm section prowess far outweigh the rusty moments.

    and i’ve been pondering Butter’s point that we can find IT within tunes like cavern and wedge, and not just the jams. My example is MFMF, which once past the flubs has some of that magic phish cohesion.

    we’ve all heard these tunes a lot. so it comes down to mindset. Can I appreciate a well-played straightforward Roses are Free or a juicy Moma funk pocket? or is it only satisfying if it gets good and spacey/exploratory.

    Remember the original phish was all about percision and performance. they dropped jaws with chops and mad changes, not improv.

    No one does what they do. even a rusty modern day phish has plenty of band chemistry to satisfy the demanding customer.

    song selection could have been fresher, broader, but that is a almost trivial criticism. there will always be those that wish they had played this instead of that. I for one would have traded guyute for waves on 12.29 in a heartbeat.

    still grateful for what we got and how it all went down.

  4. kayatosh Says:

    and yes, lifeboy was nice. coil was well-played and very sweet as well. could have used a few more of these tender moments.

  5. kayatosh Says:

    may have to get the LP sbd for 12.29. The crowd kills lifeboy on the tapes.

    That’s a big obstacle for enjoying the shows, the general douchery that has infected the scene. If only more fans had the consciousness of the BB.

  6. kayatosh Says:

    The chain smoker to my left on 12.29 kept trying to talk to me during tunes. I kept shaking my head No and pointing to my ears.

    i ain’t there to talk during the tunes. btw. songs (if you must) and halftime.

  7. Dr Pronoia Says:

    I’ll be ready for serious re-spins once my shin bruises heal. Jesus, they’re black and blue pulp

    GO BADGERS!!! Let’s hope our roses are free today…

  8. Mr. Palmer Says:

    First listen back of the Rock and Roll > NICU.

  9. Lycanthropist Says:

    excellent thoughts kaya

    i have been having similar ideas about what criteria we should be using to judge a good show.

    i think Phish has found joy and new nooks and crannies to explore within the confines of the songs themselves, much like Butter and Kaya have already said.

    It was always a weird thing about Phish fans to me, to love a band so much but hate their songs too.

    I used to groan at cavern, but since they have been back i find they have taken songs such as these and made them explosive again. How can we fault a band to the extent of trying to hold them accountable for playing a mediocre show when they came out and played 9 sets of Phish? What exactly did they not do live up to their promise of playing those four nights in MSG?

    We all projected onto them that big jams were gonna be the theme of this NYE. How then do we give ourselves any room to not be disappointed when the band ultimately decides to go the other way?

    I am not saying that these shows are better than they were, but hell its four more shows that we didnt have, has some decent takeaways, and provided a entertaining backdrop to ring in the New Year.

  10. Mr. Palmer Says:

    The 12/28 band is a much different one than the 12/29-12/31 band.

    It would almost make more sense if night 1 was underwhelming also.

  11. alf Says:

    i thought it was a great run

    thanks miner, and thanks to everyone else here on the BB. great to see everyone and get a few of my lame dance moves in.

    happy new year comrades

  12. Lycanthropist Says:

    Looking back at my own words i see that the problem for most probably lies in this sentence:

    “…and provided a entertaining backdrop to ring in the New Year.”

    I understand that those of you who dropped mucho dollars to get there may want more than just a backdrop.

    For that, i can understand some bitterness. I dunno, I suppose the truth of the matter is, that is why I DIDNT spend lots of money to make it.

  13. marcoesq Says:

    “It would almost make more sense if night 1 was underwhelming also.”

    I think that’s the whole thing right there. When they were on, they sounded so fking good! The phrasing Trey and Page were doing was so on point. You could sense dark undertones to everything the 1st 2 nights.

    So when they (Trey) didn’t extend what was working, I think that’s what’s frustrating. Of course they sounded good, they always do. I just think the general consensus is that we wanted MORE of the good and maybe a few less songs.

  14. kayatosh Says:

    nothing underwhelming about mike’s>CDT>H2>week

    i could have used some more alf

  15. alf Says:

    and miner, congratulations on THE BOOK

    book signing was really cool to see, looks like you sold a lot of books, but more importantly it must have been amazing to see this project come to fruition, alongside a blog that spawned a legit community and all kinds of connections

    but even on its own the book is really, really impressive, a true work of art. and easily worth twice the price. great stuff, i look forward to years of enjoyment from it

  16. butter Says:

    Morn guys

    Good posts Willowed and Kaya

    “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.” -Miner

    Excellent explanation that I agree with 1000%

  17. kayatosh Says:

    yep, alf. I’ve been digging the book as well. The pages smell like premium wallpaper. Love the puzzle like arrangement of the book. Great collection of essays and pics.

  18. Mr. Palmer Says:

    That was a nice segment Kaya, agreed.

  19. kayatosh Says:

    Palmer: the 12.29 CDT popped. and the move into Hydrogen was downright ballsy and confusing in a good way. Loved it at the time and it holds up on tape.

  20. alf Says:

    phish thought: i was really struck more than usual this time how incredible the tones and textures of sound were in the room, and how flat they are on playback

    obviously this is always the case

    but it seems more pronounced to me this time. page’s clav work in crosseyed (to cite one example) was WAY out front in the room and created a psychedelic soup for the other 3 to slosh through that is nowhere to be found on the sbds

    when trey is prominent and out front (as he nearly always is on the sbds) there is much less texture, much less 4-way jamming – it’s just trey soloing over the other three, not a musical conversation embedded within the other 3

    i think this distinction has something to do with butter saying there is jamming everywhere, and i agree

    example 2: start of 2001 page and mike were prominent in the room, creating amazing sounds and textures that trey was darting in and out of, accenting, filling empty spaces

    on the sbd, trey is front and center and it sounds like he was leading the jam – when he was most definitely not, he was part of that broader conversation of sounds

    it’s easy to hear familiar sounding trey licks, look at how long the jam was, and conclude ‘nothing happened.’ but i heard a lot of amazing music over 4 days, even if (like everyone else) i wish there was more sustained exploration

    have a good one kids, i’m going to be enjoying this unofficial new year’s day

  21. Vomax Says:

    Great Post today. Whether or not this was the band’s intention, I’m CERTAIN they would be proud of this interpretation of the gag. I’m the number one fan of goofy phish, and hope that never dies, but looking at the prank in this light is actually quite refreshing. Nicely done, Miner!

  22. kayatosh Says:

    “and how flat they are on playback”

    ^^^ alf: try the audience tapes.

  23. alf Says:

    i do kaya, i’m a devoted gp420 follower. on good stereo equipment i’ll take auds over sbds 7 days a week and twice on unofficial new year’s days 😉

  24. alf Says:

    also came home with a trey guitar pic thanks to hhood, sweet

  25. alf Says:

    actually i came home with a lot of memorabilia from this run: occupy sticker (thanks stash/robear), THE BOOK, a mango bookmark to go in THE BOOK, a stolen glass jar (and something to fill it with), and the wook flu. good times.

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