Phish Holiday Run 2010: A Week Long New Year’s Celebration
Can you name any bands touring today that play over one hundred different songs over a five day run? Though Phish shows retain the stigma of a Grateful Dead-esque hippie fest, much of the music Phish plays is intricate and complex and should be given a chance by anyone who truly appreciates the art of simply making music.
With lengthy jams fully improvised on the spot and no bells and whistles- just guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, and vocals- Phish is a breath of fresh air in a music climate populated by autotune and synthesizers. The band’s dedication to its live performance is also admirable. If you are new to listening to Phish, stay away from studio recordings- the live shows truly showcase their talents.
Phish’s five-day Holiday Run, an expansion of their tradition of playing a New Year’s Eve show, took place December 27-28 at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA and December 30-31 and January 1 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. I had the pleasure of seeing three of these shows live (the 27th, 28th, and 1st) and watched the live webcast of the New Year’s Eve show from the comfort of my couch. All of the shows are available for download at LivePhish.com, if something in particular strikes your fancy.
December 27, DCU Center: A good kick-off to the run, Worcester’s first night was filled with snow-themed songs- “Cool it Down,” “It’s Ice,” and “Seven Below” – references to the blizzard that had hit the Northeast just the day before. Surprisingly, it was also filled with many of Phish’s most radio friendly songs, including “Farmhouse” and “Wading in the Velvet Sea.” The MVP of the night was truly bassist Mike Gordon, who, in addition to playing excellent bass throughout the show, especially during “Weekapaug Groove,” picked up the slack for Anastasio’s hoarse voice, as the band played more songs that depended on Gordon’s soulful voice as the lead vocal, including “Mike’s Song.” Other songs of note included the rare Ween cover “Roses are Free,” the second “Mound” since 2002, and a rousing “Cavern.”
December 28, DCU Center: The band continued to move into more exploratory, jam-oriented territory on night two of Worcester. Set One remained relatively tame, but did include a funny introduction to “Alaska,” during which Anastasio played Sarah Palin quotes into the microphone using a voice recorder. The highlight of set one was absolutely “Stash,” which hinted at the intensity that Set Two would bring. The set ended with a special barbershop quartet rendition of “The Birdwatcher,” a true treat. Set Two began with a bang as the band played an unexpected and highly intense “Carini,” a personal favorite of mine. Another treat was the rare and eerie “Frankie Says.” The set came to a close with one of the best, most powerful “Harry Hood” renditions of 2010 as well as the joyful closer, “Bug.” The show left me assured that the continuation of the run at Madison Square Garden would be very special.
December 31, Madison Square Garden: Though I watched the show live via the band’s official webcast, it is unfair of me to make full judgments of the show without actually being present. However, it was certainly a special New Year’s Eve, including one of the band’s most intricate New Year’s Eve pranks to date, which you can watch at http://vimeo.com/18358933. Other show highlights include “You Enjoy Myself,” “Ocelot,” “Sand,” and “Piper,” another personal favorite of mine.
January 1, Madison Square Garden: On the heels of the excellent New Year’s Eve show, it was easy to anticipate an out of this world show, and Phish delivered. This easily is one of my favorite Phish shows I have ever attended. From funky “Tube,” which I have never heard live, to an incredible and simply beautiful “Divided Sky,” it was clear that the band was feeling extremely polished after the past four shows. The end of Set One brought the winning combination of “Reba” and “Walk Away.” Set Two opened with a song many fans had been hoping to hear that night: the always fun Talking Heads cover “Crosseyed and Painless.” The rest of Set Two followed this fun format and kept the crowd dancing the whole set with a funky cover of Robert Palmer’s “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Ally” with a vocal jam, a very special “Simple,” and a particularly dance-worthy“David Bowie.”
As an admittedly very passionate Phish fan, I was left feeling pretty fulfilled from these shows. Though I missed seeing the big New Year’s skit, I heard the band play songs in total top form. Each night had a totally different vibe and overarching theme. I am eager to see what else Phish has up their sleeves for this year- they certainly started it with a bang.