A Glimpse Into NYE Runs

Big Cypress 1999 - Return of the hot dog

100 people voted this past week for the show they thought would be the best, most talked about show of the upcoming five-show NYE run. Many people assume it’s a no-brainer, thinking that 12/31 and 1/1 will be the winners beyond a doubt. 1/1/11 won by just five votes in a close race with 12/30, my top choice. Here is the breakdown of the poll (this can also be found in the poll archive):

  1. 01/01 (31%)
  2. 12/30 (26%)
  3. 12/31 (23%)
  4. 12/28 (16%)
  5. 12/27 (2%)

The results did not surprise me, I understand people are especially excited for the interestingly dated and first time scheduled New Year’s Day. I also understand that the first two dates are flying under the radar relative to the weight that the three letters ‘MSG’ add to the following shows.

If I had to predict what the best shows were going to be, I would pick in this order:

  1. 12/30
  2. 12/31
  3. 12/28
  4. 01/01
  5. 12/27

12.28.1993 - The Aquarium Stage

Taking the three-set aspect away from 12/31 shows, often times 12/29 and/or 12/30 stands just as tall, if not taller, while getting far less recognition. The obvious example would be the ridiculous 12/29 and 12/30 shows from 1997, arguably better than 12/31 (I say arguably because I also love 12/31; the Mike’s Groove is redonk). The pattern of blowout shows surrounding the year’s pinnacle show started in ’92 but became obvious in ’94 when the band threw down the historic Providence Civic Center 12/29 show.

Set 1: Runaway Jim -> Foam, If I Could, Split Open and Melt, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Uncle Pen, I Didn’t Know, Possum

Set 2: Guyute, Digital Delay Loop Jam -> David Bowie, Halley’s Comet -> The Lizards, Hold Your Head Up > Cracklin’ Rosie > Hold Your Head Up, Good Times Bad Times

Encore: My Long Journey Home, Sleeping Monkey

While Runaway Jim -> Foam had been a common opener at the time, this was a Runaway Jim -> Foam. Instead of Foam starting up immidiately after Jim, it segues right into it, kinda like the Bathtub Gin -> Foam from 12/06/1997 on last week’s Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up. However, the real reason this show is historic is because of the second set. The 35 minute David Bowie is one of Phish’s most popular jams. The jam is complete with Lassie chanting and whistling, a 2001 tease, and a Paradise City tease. Last year, I was with my cousin at a bar with one of those internet jukeboxes–since this show is a Live Phish release, it was available to listen to for one dollar a song. We put on this Bowie at the bar on a Saturday night. We didn’t get the best reaction, we heard a lot of “what the fuck is this shit?”

Phish 1995

After the Bowie, the segue between Halley’s Comet and Lizards is particularly pretty too.

I am not arguing this show outshines 1994’s NYE show, it doesn’t. I am just saying that it’s easy for a preceding show to get some of the NYE spotlight.

1995 had another famous, and better known, 12/29 show:

Set 1: My Friend, My Friend, Poor Heart > Down with Disease > Taste That Surrounds, NICU, Stash, Fluffhead, Llama, Sweet Adeline

Set 2: Makisupa Policeman > Cars Trucks Buses, Bathtub Gin -> The Real Me -> Bathtub Gin -> McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Jam -> La Grange, Bouncing Around the Room, Fire

Encore: Golgi Apparatus

The second set opened with the unusual combo of Makisupa > CTB before heading into what might be the most famous Bathtub Gin of all time; dubbed “The Real Gin” for containing “The Real Me” by The Who–played for the first and only time since their Halloween show that year in Chicago. Aside from the stunning improvisation in Gin, another highlight came later in the second set when Mike brought out his old bass instructor for a bass jam (centered around a bass line Mike played in the Tweezer jam the night before) that led into the first La Grange by ZZ Top since summer of ’93.

NYE 1996 - Julius

1996’s 12/29 show turns heads (pardon the pun) too. With a wacky and all-star setlist, Phish strung together completely unpredictable songs and jams to make this night at the Spectrum one to remember:

Set 1: Poor Heart, Caravan, Cavern, Taste, Guelah Papyrus, Train Song, Rift, Free,The Squirming Coil, La Grange

Set 2: David Bowie, A Day in the Life, Bathtub Gin, The Lizards, You Enjoy Myself ->Rotation Jam -> Sixteen Candles -> You Enjoy Myself, Harpua -> Champagne Supernova -> Harpua

Encore: Rocky Top

La Grange was played for the third time since it was taken off the shelf exactly a year earlier. When the second set started with Bowie, people were having flashbacks to 12/29/1994’s version; while this version is nothing to shake your finger at, it’s hardly the highlight of this set. After a beautiful Day in the Life, Gin, Lizards combo, YEM gets the silliness started by entering an instrument rotation jam. Mike belts out “SIX!…..teeen candles…” and went into The Crests’ hit single before returning for the vocal jam. Expecting a Character Zero or something of the kind to close the set, “Oom pa pa” was belted out and we went on an adventure containing the Oasis hit, “Champagne Supernova”.

Phish kept the 12/29 tradition going through 1997 (as mentioned above) into 1998. 12/29/98 had a second set of pure dance grooves. The 2001 will make you melt, it contains a Crosseyed tease, and segues into Boogie On. The YEM is one of my favorites; one of the thickest funk jams ever laid down by them.

NYE 2009

When Phish hit Miami for NYE 2003, both 12/29 and 12/30 stand out. 12/29 opens with the epic Piper (I sure wish current Pipers were like that one) and has a jam-heavy second set. 12/30 opens with an unfinished Wilson (that is finished NYE night) before going into Sand and Shafty. The second set has a staple version of Tube before heading into an L.A. Woman that sandwichs Birds of a Feather. P-Funk came out later in the set.

Miami in 2009 followed suit of Miami 2003, having stand out 12/29 and 12/30 shows. 12/29 had one of the best jams of 3.0 inside the second set Tweezer. They played an interesting Gotta Jibboo > Wilson -> Gotta Jibboo sandwich that led into the modern version of Heavy Things (no more delay loop throughout song). 12/30 boasts the bust outs of Soul Shakedown, Tela, Corinna, and What’s the Use? They debuted Gone and Dixie Cannonball. The 18 minute Back on the Train is a fan favorite (although I think it is kinda a dud after the eight minute mark). The Boogie On > Boogie Like an Antelope will always be remembered as one of the goofiest and most fun versions of Antelope ever.

Now, maybe some of you can understand why I picked 12/30 and 12/28 to have such high standards this December. The reason I am not putting many eggs in the 1/11 basket is because Phish 3.0 seems to not play up to people’s standards when a show is obviously hyped (well, Utica is certainly an exception–Telluride is not). I also think they will have bust their musical nut by the end of the third NYE set. I predict 1.11 will just be a relatively tame show (relative to the awesome four shows before it.)

Let’s hope the two shows leading up to NYE follow the blueprint of almost all before them. If I were a betting man, I’d put 66% of my money on 12/30 and 33% on 12/28.

What say you?