30 Years of Phish New Years Eve Shows- Ten 12/31 Standout Originals & Covers

December is an interesting time for Phish fans. While most folks are finishing their Christmas shopping and hanging their stockings by the chimneys with or without care, devotees of the eccentric Vermont quartet are confirming their hotel & travel arrangements and scouring the internet for last-minute tickets to attend what has become a time-honored tradition: Phish’s annual New Year’s Eve run at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. What started 30 years ago as a relatively standard two-set affair in a small exhibition hall on the South Boston waterfront has grown into a surreal three-set extravaganza that rivals Cirque du Soleil in terms of its visual pomp and circumstance with everything from flying hot-dogs to time machines and pirate ships.

After the inaugural 12/31/89 show at the Boston World Trade Center Exhibition Hall, Phish continued to annually perform on New Year’s Eve, gradually working their way through bigger venues until finally booking Madison Square Garden in 1995In 1999, the band eschewed their annual Northeast end-of-the-year run in favor of a multi-day festival held at the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation in the Florida Everglades. With over 80,000 fans in attendance – Phish’s largest festival to date – the band performed a now-legendary midnight-to-sunrise set to ring in the millennium in what is commonly referred to as “The Show”.  

Since then, the band has performed on 12/31 every year – the only exceptions being the “hiatus” and “break-up” years of 2000-2001 and 2004-2008 respectively – with all but three of those performances occurring at Madison Square Garden (2003, 2009 & 2014 NYE shows were held in the warmer confines of Miami’s American Airlines Arena)

As we near the group’s yearly return to the Big Apple, Glide celebrates 30 years of New Year’s Eve Phish performances with a look at 10 memorable 12/31 performances of original songs along with 10 standout covers:

Originals – 

1) 12/31/10 – “Ghost” – This funky version at MSG features a blissful second-half that builds to a euphoric climax led by guitarist Trey Anastasio.


2) 12/31/13 – “Reba” – To celebrate their 30th anniversary, the band performed a “throwback” set on top of an old touring van that had been driven into the center of Madison Square Garden during setbreak. Using hockey sticks as mic stands  – a nod to the band’s first show when those same sticks were used out of necessity – Phish played a set of older (and relatively rare) original material, many of which are fan-favorites. 


3) 12/31/95- “Mike’s Groove” – In what is still consistently ranked among the highest-rated Phish shows, the infamous 1995 NYE concert captures the band at a performance-peak and is oozing with must-hear versions of multiple songs. One of those highlights is the phenomenal “Mike’s Groove” that, in addition to a plethora of musical peaks, features a Digital Delay Loop Jam, a full setbreak and a working time machine. 


4) 12/31/93- “Auld Lang Syne”  “Down With Disease Jam” – Although the full version of “Disease” wouldn’t debut until the following April, Phish rang in 1994 with this incredibly catchy coda that features one of Anastasio’s most recognizable guitar licks. The band would go on to use “Disease” to segue out of the traditional “Auld Lang Syne” at midnight more than any other song to date (four times), with 2011 being the last time this pairing occurred. 


5) 12/31/02 – “Piper” – Phish returned to the stage after a two-plus year hiatus and wasted no time reminiscing as they plunged headfirst into a fiery version of “Piper” with an extended intro build.


6) 12/31/99 – “Sand” “Quadrophonic Toppling” – Technically played on 1/1/00, this was a musical highlight from the legendary ’till sunrise set that featured a dark yet determined jam that ultimately melts into some welcome digital delay loop inspired madness.


7) 12/31/10 – “You Enjoy Myself” – Sandwiched in the middle of this performance of what is arguably Phish’s most defining song, this “You Enjoy Myself”, is a humorous take on Dizzy Gillespie’s jazz standard “Manteca”. 


8)  12/31/18 – “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” – After making its debut just months prior as part of the ambitious Kasvot Vaxt Halloween set, Phish chose to welcome in 2019 with this upbeat rocker by performing it in the integral post-“Auld Lang Syne” slot with Trey and Mike dangling above the stage finding out “what space smells like.”

9)  12/31/12 – “Kung” “Chalkdust Torture” – It was only appropriate that, after singing about them for years, Phish finally got stage their very own runaway golf cart marathon during their links-inspired 2012 NYE show.


10)  12/31/99 – “Split Open and Melt” “Catapult” – Another highlight from Big Cypress, this version of Phish’s typically dark groove features some frenzied guitar work from Anastasio before organically flowing into the Mike Gordon oddity “Catapult”. 


12/31 Covers 

1) 12/31/95 – “Shine” (Collective Soul) –  Tucked into the middle of the classic Gamehendge pairing “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent” & “Fly Famous Mockingbird” was this 90’s rock-radio gem, featuring Phish lyricist Tom Marshall on vocals.


2) 12/31/96 – “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Queen) – Phish invited the Boston Community Choir onstage to aid in the performance of this classic-rock radio anthem. 


3)  12/31/93 – “Peaches en Regalia” (Frank Zappa) – This intricate instrumental, originally recorded on Zappa’s 1969 Hot Rats album, was a regular inclusion in Phish’s setlists after it’s 1986 debut until it was mysteriously dropped in 1989. The band decided to bring the tune back a few weeks after Zappa’s untimely death in December 1993 and continue to sporadically perform it to this day.


4) 12/31/98 “1999” (Prince) – Always appreciative of a good musical pun, the band opened their 1998 NYE performance with Prince’s pop-funk hit “1999”. While it subsequently appeared this would be a one-off rendition, Phish surprisingly resurrected the song nearly twenty years later in 2017 during their infamous “Baker’s Dozen” run, also at Madison Square Garden.


5)  2012 – “Garden Party” (Ricky Nelson) – Nelson wrote this tender ballad in response to getting booed off the stage at a 1971 Madison Square Garden concert with the likes of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. Phish’s only performance of this song was used to open their 2012 NYE show, with the stage appropriately adorned in artificial grass and shrubbery. 


6) 1997 – “New York, New York” (Liza Manelli/Frank Sinatra) – Originally recorded as the theme song from the 1977 Martin Scorsese film New York, New York, keyboardist Page McConnell handled lead vocals on Phish’s only performance to date during the encore of the 1997 NYE show. 


7) 12/31/99-  “After Midnight” (J.J. Cale) – Phish broke out this timeless rocker, popularized by Eric Clapton, to close the opening set of their historic 1999 NYE show from the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation in Florida. A harbinger of what was to come that evening, Phish later reprised the song in the middle of their all-night set.


8)  12/31/89- “Satin Doll” (Duke Ellington)  “Highway to Hell” (AC/DC) – Although Phish’s first NYE show may not have featured any elaborate theatrics, it did contain this clever musical juxtaposition which closed the evening’s opening set. 


9)  12/31/03 – “Jungle Boogie” (Kool & the Gang) – Phish was joined by the Miami Palmetto Senior High Band and cheerleading squad when they opened the third set of their 2003 NYE show with this track made popular later on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.

10) 12/31/95 – “Drowned” (The Who) – Arguably among the stronger versions Phish has ever played of this The Who classic, Mike Gordon’s powerful vocals give way to a rollicking jam led by McConnell before neatly segueing into “The Lizards” with a segment that some feel resembles The Grateful Dead’s “Fire on the Mountain”. 

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