Tis the season for giving, and if you’re this writer, receiving. When given the opportunity to be bought into Phish tonight for their first of a 4 night New Years Eve at Madison Square Garden, how could I pass it up? Before anything goes further we must slurp the Revered Justito, who gifts me with this ticket to the show tonight (and note that his holiday gift is to be mailed shortly), gifts me with the chance to see Phish. I’ve heard a lot of Phish-surprisingly enough not much of their music. I know several ‘Phans’ who speak of the band is Christ-like proportions. To give you an idea, the night before the show and throughout the morning I was reading tweets hashtagged with stuff like #OccupyMSG, and #YEMSG. Some folks were camped out all night-and they HAVE tickets. So there’s that side of the fence. Then I also have ran into a few friends who behave like, for lack of a better term here, “Haters”, when the band is mentioned. These people would compare a Phish concert to nothing more than a traveling circus of hacky sack and drugs. I chose to walk into this one with a non-bias attitude. I didn’t study up on the Phish catalog days leading up to the show-I didn’t read blogs or set lists. I’m a fan of spontaneity, that’s what the Jay Porks Never Ending Concert Series is all about; so here I bring you the 63rd installment, from the (newly renovated) World’s Most Famous Arena-Madison Square Garden in the heart of New York City, for 1st night of the Phish 4 night New Years Eve 2011-2012 run.
I get off the train around 630ish, and literally all I see is a sea of people standing in front of the Garden all holding up their index finger screaming “one?!?-who’s got one for tonight?” . Usually I’m at the show with extra tickets and I can’t give them away. All sorts of signs suggesting trades-I seriously considered a sign that was a two for one offer with me giving up tonight’s ticket for 2 tomorrow night. But I’m already here, so I’m sticking with it.
So a little after 7 I made it up to section 404, row G, seat 9. Holy crap- they sold out the seats behind the stage too ? I’ve never seen that before done at any arena. Usually they cut that area off the to public. If every seat gets filled(which it should be because it’s sold out), we’ll have at least 20,000 people here tonight.
At 8:07 We kicked off the night with “Free”, “Glide”, “Possum”, “Cities” and “The Ballard of Curtis Loew”.. It didn’t even take more than the first half of “Free” for me to begin enjoying myself. What would drive people to hate this? I mean, I guess if you don’t like musicians jamming out to groovy tunes then I could see your dilemma. But then you look around and realize this place is packed to gils-not an ass in a seat throughout the place..
The lights are something I’ve never seen before-how do the lights colors change mid-beam? How do you make the lights look like smoke rings? Haven’t seen a light show like this this side of Roger Waters.. And at the beginning of certain songs glow sticks are tossed by hundreds from the 400 sections raining down on the people in the lower levels. An arena wide celebration was what this night was about. My section was getting me a contact high before the set even began(thanks for sharing by the way #Sarcasm), people walking past me behind me asking each other “is that real?” referring to the wall. And I still don’t understand how many glow sticks needed to be purchased for the raining to still be going on an hour into the set.
“Stash” and “Contact”(a song the Rev Justito hasn’t seen live in 24 Phish shows) followed by “Sample in a Jar”, “Kill Devil Falls” and “Bathtub Gin” finished out what was to be Set 1.
So is this an intermission at 9:33? I would assume so considering nobody has left. If I was on a lower level, I’d duck out for a second for a cigarette since there’s a Nazi event staff guy who threatened to throw me out if he caught smoking again. So that’s right folks, the only person in this building not indulging in illegal drugs is the one who gets his shoulder tapped. Do I have a sign on my back that says “hey event staff please bother me at every show I attend in life!”. What the hell man, there is smoke EVERYWHERE, I mean everywhere. There’s probably more pot in this arena then I’ve ever smoked in my life and yet, my cigarette is causing a disturbance to this asshole stuck in a menial service position.
“Birds of a Feather” kicked off set number two at 10:02… And everyone is back to standing up. I tried to tape a couple a songs throughout the evening, but theres like a ceiling a few feet up, so I can’t exactly hold my camera above the swaying bodies in front of me. After Birds of a Feather it was “Carini” time, which was followed by “Tweezer” for the foreseeable future-they are jammin’ on this one.. This had to have gone over ten minutes (like most of the evening’s songs)n”My Friend My Friend” was up next. Isn’t the internet a wonderful thing? Without knowing the name of one song coming into this The setlist is being tweeted song by song. Now if only I could get this many web savvy people into the Meat Puppets, then I’d be doing my job as a social media assistant.
Then, wait a second I know this song-a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Rock N’ Roll”! Hell freaking yes! This is my FAVORITE Velvet underground song-had I got my camera out quick enough I would’ve been rolling film. “NICU”, “Bouncing Around the Room”,”Harry Hood”, and “Bug” all checked in before it was encore time..
“Tube”, “Rocky Top” and “Tweezer Reprise” served as a healthy encore for a “Phuphilling” night of Phish. The night came to an official end at 11:35pm. That leaves us with set one clocking in at an hour and twenty six minutes, and set two was an hour and thirty three minutes. I’ve seen bands not even play that long for ONE set, Phish come through MSG fries hearts and minds. Walking down the steps on the way out, I couldn’t help but overhear two buddies talking about how this was an “old school type of show”. As a first timer, I can’t tell you if that’s accurate or not-the Phans will judge by the setlist.
If you made it this far down, then you’ve probably enjoyed my first Phish experience, and I’ve enjoyed having you. Now I bid my readers a goodnight, because as I post this I have less then 2 hours to nap and get to my day job. Life and times of social media rockstar journalism. Again, huge thanks to the Reverend for giving me the chance to attend. Feels good to be baptized in the Phamily… LATE.
SETLIST: Set I: Free, Glide, Possum, Cities, The Ballad Of Curtis Loew, Stash, Contact, Sample In A Jar, Kill Devil Falls, Bathtub Gin
Set II: Birds Of A Feather, Carini > Tweezer > My Friend, My Friend, Rock & Roll > NICU, Bouncing Around The Room, Harry Hood, Bug
Encore: Tube, Rocky Top, Tweezer Reprise
Notes: I have a note to share about the show tonight. If there was one thing I could’ve done without, it would’ve been the intermission from 9:33-10:02. I’m not saying it took away from time that could’ve been spent playing songs-they do this every year I’m sure they can go as long as they want (especially with the Knicks are on a west coast swing)-I just don’t understand what was getting done in that half hour. It’s not like we can go grab some air here- it’s takes like 20 minutes to exit the building. Maybe if I was with Phriends I would’ve have something to do during that half hour. Oh well, there’ll always be next time.