Phish New Year’s Eve 2018 Recap: “This is What Space Smells Like”
(Writer: Cody Lantz)
After an exciting three nights of music, Phish rang in 2019 with their 60th performance at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The Vermonters and their fellow fans celebrated over the course of three sets, which included a theatric NYE spectacle and gag.
Phish chose “The Moma Dance” to open the show, getting the NYE dance party started. After a standard take on the funky favorite, the quartet turned to the first Kasvot Växt song of the evening with, “Stray Dog.” Up next it was bassist Mike Gordon’s turn to lead the band through his song, “555.” A fierce “Sand” followed which hit on some nice “type I” jamming, with hot guitar licks from Trey Anastasio, while the rest of the band kept a tight rhythm. Keyboardist Page McConnell then thanked and welcomed the audience, wishing them a Happy New Year, while also proclaiming, “It’s still Lawn Boy!” (Referring to the “Baker’s Dozen” residency) before leading the group on the Phish classic. Next, straightforward takes on “Steam” and “Chalk Dust Torture” kept the energy moving before taking a breather with the gorgeous instrumental, “What’s The Use?”
(Photo: Frankie Cavone)
The set continued with the Kasvot Växt tune, “Play By Play”, which featured some funky clavinet work from Page. Trey then made a guitar switch before starting up “Waste”, in the evening’s ballad slot. After a brief pause drummer Jon Fishman turned to the microphone and said, “We have a request from the guitar player.” Trey stated that this was his, “favorite” Phish song, leading Fishman to proclaim to the audience, “This is your favorite Phish song too, you don’t even know it!” And launched the band into “Ass Handed.” Trey then started up, “Run Like an Antelope” to close out the first set.
If you came to tonight’s show for the jams, then look no further my phriend. This second set contained great improvisation and musically was the standout set of the show. The band hit the stage and after some spacey sounds, bassist Mike Gordon signaled the beginning to the reliable jam vehicle, “Down With Disease.” This lengthy jam featured great playing and improv from all four members, keeping with the 2018 style of jamming. Phish then cooled things down with, “Farmhouse” before picking the jams back up with, “Seven Below.” “Seven Below” featured outstanding interplay between the band, showcasing Phish’s ability to be focused and in tune with one another. This blissful jam gradually picked up tempo before falling into a tight groove.
(Photo: Frankie Cavone)
The quartet then shifted gears to a clavinet heavy funk segment, complete with stop-start breakdowns and “woo’s” from the audience. After more than seventeen minutes, the band brought the “Seven Below” jam to an end and transitioned perfectly into, “Twist.” While not of great length, this song still covered some ground and featured Mike Gordon pumping out strong bass lines. Up next, Jon Fishman signaled the intro to “Harry Hood.” However, before the “Hood” jam really took off, the band segued into “Passing Through.” As the Kasvot Växt tune faded out, Phish picked up the “Hood” jam right where they left off, concluding the song and the second set.
At 11:43 p.m. Phish hit the stage for the third and final set of the night. Trey and Mike were both wearing silver metallic space suits and wireless microphones. Just like during the Halloween Kasvot Växt set, Trey was also playing a white Fender Stratocaster guitar. This was all a sign of what was to soon come. The quartet chose, “Mercury” to start the final set and were joined by acrobatic dancers on stage. The dancers who were supported by nets, were hoisted above the band as they hit, “The net’s unbreakable” lyrical section of the song. The dancers continued to float and perform above the Vermonters while a computerized voice then began the countdown to Midnight. As the clock struck twelve, Phish played the traditional, “Auld Lang Syne” as balloons fell from the ceiling of MSG. Trey and Mike were both hooked to harnesses before firing up the Kasvot Växt track, “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S”, as the first song of 2019. The New Year’s Eve gag continued as the band reached the, “This is was space smells like” chorus of the song. Then Trey and Mike were also hoisted above the stage, continuing to perform through the celebration.
The duo eventually landed backdown to Earth to conclude the song. From there Trey switched out his Stratocaster for his trusty Languedoc guitar and continued the set with, “Simple.” Next was a segue of, “Saw It Again” > “Limb By Limb” before ending the third set with a cover of The Velvet Underground’s, “Rock and Roll” and the classic Phish staple, “Suzy Greenberg.” For the encore, Phish took us back to Gamehendge one last time with a performance of, “The Lizards” before the heavy rocker, “Character Zero” closed out the four night run.
And what a strong New Year’s run that was! Phish brought it all over the course of the weekend with Kasvot Växt songs, covers, bust outs, lengthy jams and theatrics. It was certainly a spectacle to behold. 2019 seems to be yet another promising year for the band. Phish returns to the stage in February for three nights at the Riviera Maya beach resort in Mexico.
Set 1: The Moma Dance, Stray Dog, 555, Sand, Lawn Boy, Steam > Chalk Dust Torture > What’s the Use? > Play by Play, Waste, Ass Handed, Run Like an Antelope
Set 2: Down with Disease > Farmhouse > Seven Below > Twist > Harry Hood > Passing Through > Harry Hood
Set 3: Mercury > Auld Lang Syne, Say it to Me S.A.N.T.O.S., Simple, Saw It Again > Limb By Limb > Rock and Roll > Suzy Greenberg
Encore: The Lizards, Character Zero