The best moments from Phish's NYE MSG run

Categories: Jam Bands

Eric Gruneisen

When Phish set up shop in New York last week for New Year's, there was a lot of talk about city Stop and Frisk program, warnings to fans to be mindful when hanging out outside Madison Square Garden. And while those admonitions proved to be prescient, the most pressing thing on everybody's mind was what stunt the band would be attempting to pull off this year for its 30th Anniversary. There was talk of Gamehendge, perhaps another cover set or maybe even Fishman flying through the arena in a wingsuit, but when the truck started to drive out into the crowd, we all knew we were in for something very special. Here are the best moments leading up to and including the Phish New Year's Eve celebration for its 2013 winter run.

See also: The twelve best moments from Phish's fall tour

10. "Wolfman's Brother" - MSG, 12/28/13
Page McConnell took the lead with the intro, causing Trey and Mike to quickly jump back to their mic stands and almost miss their cues, and they were off to a fun and playful start. The fuzzy, funky jam kicked off with Trey and Page trading licks back and forth, when suddenly this dirty screaming echo came from Trey as he leaned over to play with the Echoplex, a tape delay effect within arm's reach. The audience roared approvingly along with the tone until Anastasio went back to a clearer sustain and a shredding rock solo. Pure, unadulterated rock poured out onto the crowd as the song went back into the final refrain with the guys building to a thrilling crescendo.

9. "Down with Disease" - MSG, 12/29/13
The band came back on stage for set two, tinkering with their instruments until a pretty little ambient jam came out, after which Trey told the crowd "Thank you. We wrote that." The familiar swirl of "Down with Disease" then began, causing the usual crowd explosion, as the guys went into the jam in full, upbeat rock and roll style, with Fishman just never letting up on the cymbals. Trey made things a little darker, quickly strumming the same chord before dropping down into space and echo land. Despite it all being improvisational, it sounded compositional and intentional, as if they were playing something that was cut from the Siket disc. Gordon let loose a couple bass bombs that shook the building before the band moved into a happier, major-key jam that built up and built up. This version was noted for them actually ending the song with Trey transposing the melody to the right key just when the final refrain began.

8. "Chalkdust Torture" - MSG, 12/30/13
While the blissful "Camden Chalkdust" played during the 30th Anniversary video montage was the best version of this song for the run, this version was still a beautiful, swelling rager that had the audience punching fists in the sky. Gorgeous sustain came from Trey as he reached higher and higher in melodic ecstasy. The band stuck to the fast-paced groove, with twinkly piano notes interplaying with Fishman's cymbals while each measure building before dropping into atonal madness that sounded as if it was going to sizzle out, but then it swooped back up into total bliss.

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Excellent article but an excellent writer. Keep them coming, Leslie. Thanks!

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