“Make Every Song Your Favorite Tune”
One of the best jams of the evening developed out of the Seven Below that followed the Demand bust out. Trey spit fire all weekend long and while he didn’t hit every note he sure played a lot of notes really quickly each show. More improv kicked off the second set via Rock and Roll and Piper. A quick and tasty jam connected the two songs before Piper gave way to Simple. Following a blistering Theme, Phish performed the first of two Exile on Main Street tunes – Shine A Light. This was the third Shine A Light and the band seemed to become more comfortable weaving their way through the song each time.
We all thought that perhaps Shine A Light would end the set but another impressive 3.0 Ghost came next. Once again the improv started in a funky jam space before Mike Gordon pushed the band into a more buttery major-key improv with Anastasio glad to oblige going so far as to drop a few Auld Lang Syne teases which the other band members picked up on pretty quickly. As if the Ghost jam wasn’t intense enough, Mike stepped up to the mic and started delivering the N02 rap. While this wasn’t as complete a N02 as the version Phish busted out at Great Woods in 1999, it was still appreciated by the die-hards in the crowd. Suzy gave everyone one last chance to dance before the final setbreak of 2009.
“This Has All Been Wonderful, But Now I’m On My Way”
During the second set break, a large net was lowered from the ceiling and a huge object – which was covered by a sheet – was rolled onto the stage by the crew. Shortly before midnight, Phish returned with a Party Time to kick off set number three. As the song raged on, Page would count off the time left in the year – “two minutes!” The crowd reached a fevered pitch at this time and I was thinking the gimmick might be the roof tearing off of the venue. The clock hit midnight and a few bits of pyro exploded at the front of the stage as hundreds of balloons fell on the crowd. A large disco ball that had been hanging over the stage was lowered and sat on a platform that said “2010” at the front of the stage.
Friends hugged, lovers kissed and spunions spun as the band performed the traditional Auld Lang Syne. Speaking of tradition, Phish continued a NYE tradition of playing Down With Disease after Auld Lang Syne every third NYE show (’93, ’96 and ’99), a great song for airing it out while the balloons bounced around the room and into the band member’s faces. Once again, Trey showed off his machine gun skills dropping one blistering run of notes after another. When Disease came to a close a number of crew members came onto the stage and moved the huge covered object closer to the band.
We were all pretty confused as to what was going on until the band members gathered around the disco ball and opened it up. Drummer Jon Fishman climbed inside and it became clear that the large object wheeled onto stage was a cannon that was going to shoot Fishman into that huge net that hung over the sound and light boards. Out came a huge bang from the cannon as Fish was supposedly launched through the crowd into the net. After the bang no one was quite sure where the disco ball had landed. Trey, Mike and Page all looked forlorn as they tried to find out what happened to their drummer. At this point the lights went down and helicopter sounds were played over the PA as LD Chris Kuroda shined spotlights all over the crowd as if it were search lights coming down from a helicopter. We were about five minutes into the gag and Fish was still nowhere to be found. Where was Fish?
“Does Anyone Know How to Play Drums?”
After a while, Trey stepped up to the mic and asked if anyone knew how to play drums. He even said “Rich?” referencing the hero of the Miami run who had played an epic vacuum solo the previous night. Eventually, the lights shined down on the section behind the stage where a woman was sitting who made it clear she could play drums. This woman climbed down a ladder and made her way towards the stage. Trey asked her what her name was and she responded “Sarah from Pittsburgh.” Sarah asked Big Red if they could play Fluffhead and he happily obliged. As they started the tune, Sarah struggled mightily before pulling it together in a big as the lyrics started. If it wasn’t clear before it was now clear that Sarah was actually Fish dressed in drag.
Now, after the show someone was incredulous that I thought it was possible that Fish was really going to be launched out of this human cannon. I explained that I never expected the band to really ride around the top of Boston Garden and throw ping pong balls at me in 1994, so certainly anything was possible. That being said, it was fairly obvious Fish really wasn’t getting launched into that net.
Phish raged through Fluffhead with Sarah on drums and continued through the third set with Joy, The Squirming Coil and an intense YEM. When the band returned to the stage for the encore, Trey once again stepped up to the mic and reeled off a list of the names of nearly every person who worked for Phish in 2009 giving them the thanks they deserved. The rest of the band paid tribute to the 13th full moon of the year by playing Rogers and Hart’s Blue Moon as the background music for Trey’s laundry list of thank yous. Loving Cup closed out 2010 after which Big Red told the crowd they would be back in the summer.
“I Would Love to Spill The Beans With You ‘Till Dawn”
All in all, we got more shows and more songs than we ever could have dreamed we’d get in 2009. Who would’ve guessed (besides DaveO) that Phish would play more songs in 2009 than any other year in their illustrious career. Phish was far from perfect, but the effort and intensity was there from Hampton onwards. There were plenty of amazing shows and a few duds, which is pretty similar to any other year in Phish history. The future appears bright for the band but to be fair that’s what we said after Miami 2003 as well. That’s why it’s important to enjoy every moment while we have them.
As we all walked out of the venue we found out what supposedly happened to the disco ball. It had crashed into a car sitting on the steps outside the venue which had a sign saying “powered by Vermont Maple Syrup.” Pranksters will always be pranksters.