The MSG Live Streams Blew My Mind

12.30.10 (Dave Vann)

I was the only member of OPT that was unable to attend any of the NYE run. While I smiled to myself for dodging an expensive bullet by missing DCU shows, I am slapping myself in my face for missing the MSG shows. On the bright side, Phish made all three nights of their New York shows available through the internet.

I had a get-together at my place for the 12/30 show, went out and celebrated New Year’s Eve like a normal person, then had people over again for the 1/1 show. Going into the first night I was nervous and had a lot of questions:

  • If I order from my computer, will they allow the stream to be watched from my PS3 (or Wii)? I didn’t want to put my credit card info and address into the site using a a cumbersome joystick, but I also didn’t want to be locked out from the only thing I am able to hook up to my big screen TV and sound system.
  • Will the stream work properly on my PS3, including a full 16:9 picture?
  • Will the stream be choppy?
  • Will we have a fixed camera by the soundboard, or a multi-cam?

My experience ended up being wonderful. Much like a football game, my friends and I gathered around with plenty of drinks, some snacks, and a laptop (for OPT Live Show chat, of course). We watched some of the Alpine DVD until about five minutes to eight; ticket time was 7:30, but they almost never come on less than 30 minutes late. We turned on the stream and the video popped up within three seconds of me clicking the button. It was a camera looking from Fish’s side of the stage over the crowd abuzz in MSG: AWESOME. We were there for when the houselights went down and cheered with the crowd. “Oh, NICE, it is multi-cam!”, I exclaimed. I had a hunch that it would be, considering that there are both fixed cameras and camera men at literally every show since their return–it just seemed too good to be true. While the picture was not HD, it was about DVD quality.

The audio was obviously soundboard audio, however, I’m not positive if it was stereo or 5.1. Nevertheless, it was just like watching an official DVD of theirs–well, like Alpine’s at least. The camera shots covered the stage/CK shots, right down to Mike stomping on his floor bell (all the people that watched the first night probably know what I’m referring to, we were rolling with laughter at that–sorry that is an inside joke for the people that WERE NOT THERE). The cameras showed the band come up the stairs to the stage and back down at the end of each set. During jams, the camera crew was obviously knowledgeable (at least the person mixing the cameras), because, they picked the perfect times for close-ups: Fish on the blocks at the beginning of Walls of the Cave, then Page’s part right after; close ups of Trey’s feet on his pedals during jams (my favorite part).

The streams even got better as the nights progressed. The first night just showed the crowd of MSG before the band took stage; by the third night, they had a cool, translucent image of the ticket stub over the shot of the crowd. The first night it showed some footage of their crew prepping MSG for the shows during halftime. When the setbreak ran longer than the available footage, an image popped up, “PHISH will be right back”. By the third night, they had compiled a string of one liners to make a fake conversation with the viewers–the theme of the joke was that your computer was trying to communicate with you. Much like they did during setbreaks on Halloween ’09 in Indio with the video screens, Phish (Mike) injected our living rooms with their patented humor. I found it more than humorous, I shook my head while laughing, thinking “only Phish…”–it’s little things like this (or their ridiculous FAQ section for Festival 8) that keep Phish close in our hearts and us on our toes. The video is posted below (I suggest watching it); notice the types of words (epic, #couchtour) that are used and they way things are said (oh, it was from a private show at nectars, guess you’re not a real fan)–it shows you that Phish is paying close attention to their fan base. These are the little things that NO other band does. Following the “conversation”, they played clips of the dancers practicing for the Meatstick act.

Would this keep me from traveling to see a show? No way. However, I assume that if Phish does this again, it won’t be until a show is sold out. I’d bet they were planning on doing this with the DCU Center as well, but it never sold out (which is pathetic, people!). If they do it again, I would hope for the price/show to go down to around $10, rather than $15, but I’m sure it wouldn’t keep me from paying. I’m worried that if they do this, I will end up being a bum every night of summer while I’m not seeing them live–just sitting on my couch and drinking with friends.

So, yes, I predict they will do it this summer, but only for sold out shows, and it will probably be announced only a couple weeks before any given. It’s a cash cow, no doubt, for them–but they don’t want it to hurt ticket sales.