Phish Rocks New Year’s at MSG for Fourth Straight Year

Frank Wilton, Editor-in-Chief

It took over 45 minutes, but when the undermanned Madison Square Garden security staff finally processed the over 20,000 Phish fans into the building, the lights went out and an epic show began.

The Vermont-based jam rock band Phish, comprised of frontman Trey Anastasio, bassist Mike Gordon, pianist Page McConnell, and percussionist Jon Fishman, has been selling out Madison Square Garden for years. Thankfully for tri-state fans, they have been granted the privilege of doing so on each of the past New Year’s Eves (and the three preceding days).

The band opened their fourth annual MSG New Year’s run with a rousing, a cappella rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, a fan favorite which had not opened a Phish show in over two years.  

The band then played “Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan” and “Lonesome Cowboy Bill,” seemingly as more of a warm up than anything (though seeing Jon Fishman on vocals was a treat for all involved).

Traditional Phish jamming began towards the middle of the third set with “Free.”  By the Mike Gordon solo in the middle of the song, the rafters of MSG were rocking; and, from my seat in the third deck, the building seemed as if it were going to crumble.

The first set was not quite as jam intensive as many fans were used to, but a variety of tried and true Phish songs were played, including “Prince Caspian,” “Stash,” and “Cavern.” The set was more so a demonstration of the talents of the group than a traditional jam show. The audience was in good spirits as the lights came on and the set break began, and the first set was a pleasant introduction to all in attendance.

Everyone got a sense that the second set would be more intense when Gordon came onto the stage changed out of a long sleeve button down into a short tee. The impression proved correct, as an epic jam of “Golden Age,” into “Simple,” and “Chalkdust Torture,” ensued, riling up the crowd.

Following this, the audience was told to buckle up and board the incredibly fast rocket ship, as an epic “Martian Monster,” jam ensued. Led by an epic performance by McConnell, the jam lasted upwards of 15 minutes, led into a reprise of the classic “Tweezer,” and back into “Martian.”

The set concluded the same way as Anastasio’s “The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday” did: with “Possum.” This lively classic got the crowd singing along and excited to end the evening.

As an encore, the band played Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times.” By the time the show ended and the band took their final bows, all were in good spirits and ready for the epic New Year’s run that was to ensue.