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Phish - 12/30/2010 - 12/31/2010: New Year's Eve: Madison Square Garden, NY
Phish - 12/30/2010 - 12/31/2010:  New Year's Eve:  Madison Square Garden, NY
Concert Review by David Kemp on 1/2/2011   

Mystery Puddles and the Sound of Rolling

Wow. That’s all I can say. My first run of shows in NYC, my first Phish NYE shows (I know, I’ve never seen NYE. I’m such a slacker. ), and I am absolutely gobsmacked by them. The energy! The lights! The Meatsticks!!!!

I’m sure some of you are wondering about the entry’s title. I read an article in the New York Times about NYC after a huge snowfall. One of the dangers is mystery puddles, as in you don’t know how deep they are. And they are everywhere the sidewalk meets the road. The sound of rolling refers to all the pieces of luggage that people are always rolling to and fro past you. You hear it on the street more than car horns. In the train station. Go outside for a smoke. You hear it. Any other thoughts or ideas you have are figments of your own twisted minds.

I took the train out of Lancaster before noon on Thursday. Ran into my friend Vanessa and her husband Jon and we rode the Keystone Express up to the big Apple. Got in at Penn Station, located right under Madison Square Garden, and jumped on a subway to head up town to meet my peeps. Ate at a good Mexican place called Blockheads. Then visited our friend’s apartment on 42nd St. She lives in the heart of Manhatten and the place was much bigger than I could have imagined. Walked several blocks to our hotel, which is located only .6 miles away from the Garden. Spent a few hours pregaming and headed to the show.

MSG is designed to have several different layers, so it takes a good 25 minutes to get inside to the arena once you go in the doors. The process was structured to move as many people as quickly as possible. The security was so lax my friend brought his travel bag in with him that he was going to take on the bus after the show. They barely looked at it. Josh and Switzer had the best seats so we all (6 of us) went to their seats. We staked out our seats and hoped the owners didn’t show up. They did not and we were golden. We were in for like 10 minutes and the lights went down and the energy went through the roof. Below is the setlist.

Thu, 12/30/2010 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

Note: All descriptions are based on my memory, as I have not had time to relisten to everything again. Such are the pressures of a deadline.

Set 1: Cities, Chalk Dust Torture, Gumbo > Quinn the Eskimo, Halley's Comet > Camel Walk[1], Maze, Driver, Bathtub Gin, Fat Man in the Bathtub, Timber (Jerry) > Golgi Apparatus, Character Zero

Set 2: Tweezer -> Light > Theme From the Bottom > My Friend, My Friend[2], Axilla > Fluffhead > Boogie On Reggae Woman -> Also Sprach Zarathustra > Suzy Greenberg

Encore: Run Like an Antelope > Tweezer Reprise

[1] P.A. cut out.

[2] No "Myfe" ending

Notes: The P.A. cut out during Camel Walk. My Friend did not contain the "Myfe" ending.

The Cities opener had everyone dancing. A rare first set Quinn had us jumping for joy. The Camel Walk had the PA cut out towards the end. The band didn’t know it and the audience really shouted the “Camel Walk” at the end. During a quiet moment, I yelled What The Fuck?!?!? Hope the tapers picked that up. The Maze ratcheted up the tension to an unbearable level. The slower Driver was almost a relief so everyone could catch their breath.

Then came Bathtub Gin. The peak towards the end of the song just kept building and building. The other bathtub song they do followed. The energy at the end of Character Zero was almost scary. More Phish fist pumps than you could shake a meatstick at. Finally, set break and a chance to regroup.

The second set opened with a Tweezer that almost destroyed the Garden. 3 separate distinct jams and it went on for nearly 20 minutes. Then Light followed. Another formless space cruise ensues. Each song going higher and higher. Almost overwhelming. Fluffhead is tackled like it’s the first time. Still haven’t danced enough? How about Boogie On>2001>Suzy Greenburg. Then a double encore of Antelope>Reprise. WHAT?!?! Antelope is super rare in the encore slot and the Reprise was so good I actually think that might have been the best 3:28 of my life in public.

So we roll out of MSG but this is New York City, the city that never sleeps. Phish was the main course but who wants desert? We hope on the R train heading downtown and get to Canal Street, right on the edge of Chinatown. Two blocks from the subway station is the club with a Vermont Dead cover band called the Dead Sessions playing. Kevin Shapiro, Phish’s archivist, is one of the drummers. DJ Gravy was spinning shit downstairs as all the Heads waited for the upstairs to open. Thought we might have been ripped off but Switzer saw a lot of old school Vermont Heads so we  were golden. They threw down 2 sets, almost 2 and a half hours of music before we hoped back on the subway at 4:15ish and saw a rat on the subway platform.

Got back to the room and absolutely collapsed. I heard something fall or unspool as I fell asleep. Thought it might have been a rat but I was like, no way the Raddison Martinuque has rats. This is a classy place. So I’m asleep on the floor and we don’t have any extra blankets. I’m covered with three coats. I put Caroline (that is the name of Rachael’s fake fur. It’s embroidered on the inside lining. She bought is second hand like that.) over my legs and feet and Caroline worked like a champ.  DeLorean gets up to go to the bathroom and kicks my foot. I wake up in reaction mode because I think it’s a rat chewing on my foot. Love New York!! The pregame show madness for NYE had already begun!

We roll out of the hotel room at 2 PM and head to Stoudt’s for coffee, cocktails, and food. Real close to MSG and gets my rare 5 beard award for super heady pub. Back to the hotel to get ready and the HMLL’s (which stands for High Maintenance Lot Ladies. And if you don’t know any HMLL’s, then you must not attend too many shows) already are decked out in their finest. Head up to the insane throngs of people milling outside the Garden and go inside. Again, nice flow of heads and very little hassles. We scoped out Josh and Switzer's seats and had to do very little moving. Our crew was together, surrounded by very cool people (including Jen and Ken from Strong Island, Adam and his crew, and the kind peeps in front of us. Give it up for Section 204 ) Then, the lights go down, and it all begins.

Setlist: Fri, 12/31/2010 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

Set 1: Punch You In the Eye, AC/DC Bag, The Moma Dance > Scent of a Mule, Burn that Bridge[1], Weigh, Ocelot[2], Beauty of My Dreams, Gone, Rock and Roll

Set 2: Wilson > 46 Days, Sand, NICU[2] > Down with Disease > Ghost, You Enjoy Myself -> Manteca -> You Enjoy Myself[3]

Set 3: Meatstick[4], Auld Lang Syne[5], After Midnight, Backwards Down the Number Line, Piper > Free, Waste, Slave to the Traffic Light, Grind

Encore: First Tube[2]

[1] Phish debut.

[2] Auld Lang Syne tease.

[3] Manteca quotes in vocal jam.

[4] Portions pre-recorded; Lyrics sung in multiple languages.

[5] a cappella with Meatstick singers.

Notes: This show featured the Phish debut of Burn That Bridge. Ocelot, NICU and First Tube contained Auld Lang Syne teases. Beauty of My Dreams was played for the first time since July 22, 2003 (133 shows). Manteca was played for the first time since October 30, 1998 (301 shows) and the ensuing YEM vocal jam contained Manteca quotes. Before midnight, several groups of multiethnic dancers appeared on stage and sang the Meatstick lyrics in their respective languages. The band joined the dancers and then stealthily disappeared from the stage, only to reappear at the other side of the arena in the giant hotdog from past NYE shows ('94 and '99). As a result, portions of the Meatstick were pre-recorded. Appropriately, the post-show music was Captain Beefheart's Tropical Hot Dog Night.

Switzer called the Punch opener and it was on. Moma flowed like rainwater down the drain and Burn that Bridge is a welcome addition to the Phish catalog. Beauty was a  bustout but the place erupted when they did Rock and Roll. VU and Lou Reed’s gritty street attitude filtered through Phish’s Vermont headiness equals a first set that left us panting for more.

One of my neighbors, Steph from Florida, told me she saw NYE in Miami last year, so I figured she was hardcore. When the first set ended, she asked me if that was a setbreak. Wow, that’s an unusual question. She passes out shortly after the second set starts and is out for the rest of the entire show. She missed all their jams and all the Meatstick insanity. She then woke up as the show ended. Hope she didn’t pay too much for the ticket. Delorean, my West Coast HMLL, was all worried and wanted to get her some help. Being an East Coast guy, I said just let her sleep it off. Her chest was moving so she was breathing. East Coast vs. West Coast in a nutshell.

Supershort set break and it was really on. The Wilson for team Switzer/Talbert and an NICU for Rachael. The Sand was so overwhelming I can’t say anything about it. The Disease had the whole place bouncing and the Ghost has to be in the discussion for best ever. The ending of the space funk jam almost had me weeping.  You Enjoy Manteca had everyone flipping out and raised the anticipation for the 3rd set into the stratosphere. Another short setbreak. They came out at 11:37 and the last moments of 2010 were in front of us.

Meatstick started and all Hell breaks loose. They run through the song and then go into the Japanese lyrics. Then some Somoan warriors come out (nice shoutout to Troy Palomao) and sang it in their language. Then a mariachi band. Then people who looked like they were in ABBA. Then Russian dancers. And Germans in Lederhousen. All singing the Meatstick. Doing choreographed dances. And I can’t see the band. So much going on stage. Then smoke from the back of the arena. Oh my God!!!! It’s the hotdog from NYE 94 and 99. They’re riding the Meatstick over the crowd!! And throwing Meatsticks to the crowd. Mike’s videotaping it all. Sensory overload to the maximum. They reach the stage and then the Countdown. Confetti and meatsicks and balloons falling out of the sky.  Balloons shaped like meatsticks. Again, just overwhelmed by it all. SHOCKS MY BRAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!

They do Auld Lang Syne and then a super charged After Midnight. It just keeps building and building and building. An epic Backwards followed by Piper and then Free. So much energy unleashed. Gonna erupt up through the street. Destroy Manhatten and lay the city to waste. Escape to the Bronx! Waste allows us to catch our breath for the monster Slave and an accapella Grind. First Tube just churns and grows. Trey in full Jedi guitarist mode, throwing feedback like it’s the Force, and then it’s all done.

After we collect ourselves and say goodbye to our neighbors, go through 5 rings to get to the street we head back to the hotel. The doorman looks like the offspring of the actor who played Goldfinger in the James Bond movie and Nikita Krushchev. Hard core Russian accent. Then some Russian dude is waiting for the elevator. He tells DeLorean he was at the show. She asks him about the Meatstick and he says he was above the Meatstick but doesn’t know what she’s talking about. The elevator is taking forever and we are losing it. Take the stairs and get back to the room.

Only bummer whole night is we never saw my friend Christine. So we call her and decided their hotel is only 5 blocks away. We pull ourselves together, still wrecked from Phish. Go through more people on the street than are possible and meet up with them. Hilarity ensues as all the HMLL’s are together. Delorean almost got her meatstick but the guy was greedy about it. Head back to our hotel and she ran into one on the street. We own this town tonight.

Get a few hours of sleep to catch the 1:15 back to Lancaster. Would have loved to see 1/1 but I'm low and funds and I wanted to leave on the high that is NYE. Hope everyone had a safe and amazing New Year’s Eve. Let’s hope 2011 is ever better than 2010 and I’ll see you on the road. TIME FOR THE MEATSTICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dave Kemp
BA American Studies
PhD in Rock and Roll

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