Phish ~ 12.31.02 ~ M.S.G.
New York Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
I'm not a traditionally religious person; New Year's Eve is my holy day. It's a grand finale and a fresh start, rolled into one big, fat party. At my job, I worked Christmas Eve instead of New Year's Eve, insisting that NYE was more spiritual for me. With my brother in town and tickets for the first Phish concert in 2+ years (since Shoreline '00), I celebrated the end of another successful year and joined in a new one with my best friends from across the country. And on the eighth anniversary of my first Phish NYE concert, I was once again reminded that there is no better place to be.
I didn't take many photos of the band this night. I was too far away in the 300s to feel like I could get many good pictures. Besides, I was more concerned about the reunion with my friends.
Josh held true to his promise of never missing a New Year's Eve with us, despite initially being shut out on tickets. (Adam and I got lucky, both getting ticketmaster tickets to share with our significant others, Carmen and Beth; coincidentally, our seats were a row apart.) Marcus, wearing the pimp hat and a wifebeater, made it possible to share the event with my brother--wearing the 2003 googles--by hooking us up with an extra ticket. Sam and Doro Globus joined us a section below, making the event feel like old times.
Indeed, when Kenneth and Gabe joined me and Jordan minutes before midnight, our foursome reprised the attendance of the 1994 and 1998 New Year's Eve Phish shows. Every four years, like clockwork. Except now the circle had grown.
Sitting in my seat before showtime, soaking in the intense energy of the room, my hands shook and I felt a weird sensation in the pit of my stomach. Sensory overload from the growing anticipation simply overwhelmed me. Memories from more than 100 previous shows brought me back to a different time. My emotions ran amok, and I was gushing with glee. I was 100% sober, but have never felt higher in my life.
As for the music, well, it was fantastic. Phish opened with Piper, always one of my favorite songs. It starts from a few scant notes and builds for a lengthy time into an awesome groove. Sort of like the story of Phish. I wandered the arena with Adam for Guyute, and we found ourselves across the arena for the triumphant ending. Steve McConnell, Page's brother, fooled the audience (and MTV and the New York Times) into thinking he was Tom Hanks for a thunderous version of Wilson.
Wilson featured a video clip from the film Cast Away, in a scene where Tom Hanks hollers for his companion--the volleyball named Wilson. I instinctively thought of Phish when I saw this scene in the theater. Apparently, so did the band.
To me, the third set was the best. Coming on stage about fifteen minutes before midnight, Phish opened with a rocking Sample, the song that first got me into Phish nearly a decade ago. They then followed with a brand new tune, Seven Below, which I later dubbed the "MVP of the Holiday Run." With lyrics that refer to crystals of snow, the tune was one of Jordan's early favorites (for obvious reasons). Fake snow descended from the ceiling, snow angels danced on stage, and indoor pyrotechnics lit up the arena.
It was the prettiest version of Strange Design I had ever heard. Page was an all-star on vocals, and I was nearly brought to tears. Fortunately, the debut of Walls of the Cave had me grooving again, convincing me that Phish could still pound out epic new original compositions. Phish was back. And they were writing songs again--together, as a band. And the new songs were gorgeous. Glory be.
The encore had us all wading in the sea, as if MSG were one giant fishbowl. In fact, the underwater imagery was a theme throughout the night as Trey sang of silent trees and underwater caves. I was convinved we were all fish for one night. As the last notes echoed across the room, I had a chance to reflect on one of the finest musical/theatrical performances I had ever witnessed--and one of the most wonderful nights of my life.
But then it was on to Hampton for three more shows. Yes, Phish was undeniably back in action, back in the groove, and back in my life.