Picture a sold out show at Madison Square Garden on the night before New Year’s Eve. For Phish concert-goers, this was an average Friday night in New York City!
I watched the show alongside dedicated Phish fans who have traveled all over the US to see the band 100+ times. Sharing that it was my first show almost felt silly in comparison, but I was excited to join the community. I didn’t know a lot before going to the show; I wanted to approach the experience with an open mind. Clearly, this band has something extraordinarily special that brings loyal and new fans alike to their shows. So by virtue of it being my first show, I can’t say that I’m too well-versed, but certainly a real fan in the making.
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This was the third show of a four-night run from December 28 to the 31st. We walked in right as the show was starting, and the fans were cheering in unison. If you’ve never been to a Phish show, it’s one of the best crowds you’ll ever be part of. Everyone was grooving and swaying along to every song; not a single person could be found standing still nor having a bad time. I felt like I was instantly welcomed into the community as people were exchanging comments about the music and checking in to see how I was enjoying everything. I was thrilled when a glowstick landed in front of my seat so, that when the music kicked up, I could join the glow stick tossing and launch it into the crowd. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of smoke around me, but that’s the only complaint I had. All part of the experience!
The band opened with “Carolina,” which I learned they hadn’t done since 2003 – 378 shows ago. It was a treat to be serenaded by an acapella rendition of the song. The vocals were authentic and raw, which was quite refreshing. The band members resumed their spots on stage, and I finally saw the unique Fishman dress with the red donuts that are found on Phish-inspired merch. They then jumped into “Blaze On” which was a cool way to kick off the set – a slower-paced jam. “The Moma Dance” was cool and funky; I loved the keyboard timbre and the wah-wah pedal on the guitar. I’m told the second set was a great series of selections with “Tweezer,” into “Sparks,” into “Ghost.” The crowd went absolutely wild and I loved the transitions. It seemed like everyone knew each song from the first couple notes and they cheered at the start of each one! I can’t pick a favorite song just yet, but I have to say that the improvisation all around was amazing. I would get blissfully lost in each chasm of music.
With this band, visual effects bring them to another level of excellence. I was a big fan of Anastasio (guitar) and Gordon (bass) on the mini trampolines bouncing in unison. Apparently, it’s not a new bit, but I thought it was great. Outside of the band’s movements, the accompanying lights were spectacular! There were numerous colored light beams illuminating the stage. It reminded me of lights at a Trans-Siberian Orchestra show, but I think the lights at Phish were more tasteful.
Overall, I really enjoyed the show. The musical experience and all of the Phish lovers in the Garden really sold me. I’d love to see more of Phish in the future.
Set 1: Carolina, Blaze On, The Moma Dance > Gumbo > Cities, The Old Home Place, Bathtub Gin, Things People Do, My Friend, My Friend, Wilson, Sugar Shack, You Enjoy Myself
Set 2: Tweezer > Sparks > Ghost > Light -> Party Time Jam, Wading in the Velvet Sea > Rocky Top
Encore: Rock and Roll, Tweezer Reprise