01 January 2008

NewYearStaglia Cont'd

So, the other day I did a reminisce on the Phish 97 NYE run... I later realized that that run was the last time I saw Phish on New Year's eve. Kinda strange. I had tickets to go see them twice after that. Once for the millennium blowout in Florida, but we ended up bailing out, for better or worse and going to Atlanta instead. Then I was all set with tickets for the return of the prodigal band 5 years ago at the Garden. But once again, we decided not to go and instead had an amazing night of crazy copious amounts of next-level music. The best part about that was we were able to parlay all our tickets into 3 different shows, each of which was probably more exciting to me than Phish would have been at MSG. Anyway, I wrote about that for JamBase back then, so enjoy some 5 year old blathering here.

On the theme of rerouted New Year's Eves, last night was only the 2nd time in 15 f'in years that we did absolutely nothing on the "big night." The 1st time was when we had our 9 day old baby keeping it "real" and had to go to bed knowing the 1st songs Panic played after the birth of our daughter were Little Lil(l)y > Papa Legba. That was acceptable. Last night we were just lame, although a week that brought me back in touch with the Word and partying til 4:30 with George Porter was still a pretty good one. Last night I just went to bed thinking of 15 years ago, the first time I saw any music on New Year's and...

[Download a matrix of Phish NYE 1992 here]

So 1992, 9 shows under my belt, most certainly time to consummate the marriage to my obsession and ring in the New Year with 'em, right? For better or worse, we had to wait for buddies Z&A to make it from Virginia before driving to Boston, so we couldn't do any of the shows leading up to the big 'un... the crux of which was that I missed seeing Ride Captain Ride for another 7 years, but what can you do? More unfortunate was the fact that brother Liffy had a little surgery over his Christmas break and wouldn't be able to sit in the car long enough to make the trip. Bummer for him. The rest of us headed east.

The show was at the Matthews Arena which was basically the basketball/hockey gym for Northeastern in Boston. We got there early enough to carve out some space a short distance from the preferred spot, but still pretty much dead center in front of Trey about 5 bodies back from the rail. Excellent!

Looking back, the New Years show 1992 says more about where the band was about to go than where it was at that moment. By 93 the band had a relatively elaborate stage production in place and within 5 years they'd be dropping immense amounts of immense balloons from the ceiling of the world's most famous arena. But in 1992, things were a bit more homegrown. The big "stage number" was during the Forbin narration a guy (Brad Sands) came out dressed in a big bird costume -- he looked like the San Diego Chicken, to be honest -- and then being hoisted above the stage by a low-tech rope. "Look! It's the Famous Mockingbird!" Perfect, just perfect. I don't know why they ever strayed from that formula. At midnight they had your standard issue confetti cannons shoot into the crowd, the festive detritus making no further than 10 feet into the crowd and at least one of the cannons never firing at all (later, for the a cappella encore, Fishman would manually fire the thing into the crowd... I later found out the charge of confetti went right into a buddy's chest. Classic story.). Really, the most high-tech the evening got was the Big Ball Jam.

Which isn't to say that the night was not a spectacle befitting the band. Setlist/musically, the night was supercharged. They added their own fun to the night as well. Local radio WBCN was broadcasting the show live which was cool in its own right. Phish, of course, needed to take that a bit further: on the way in we were handed leaflets describing the broadcast and how they'd like to join forces with the crowd to freak out the at-home audience. The idea was a glorified version of the "secret language" which had taken hold in a few short months. The band would hold up signs that corresponded to different actions/sounds the audience was supposed to make. So, there was one sign that had the crowd doing the finger-in-your-lips bubbling noise (used to good effect during the Harpua) and another had us laughing out loud for no reason, etc. The band was never content to just rock shit up, always as much as they could pull off and occasionally more.

The setlist was sort of a standard fare circa 1992 setlist, but played to the utmost with incredible energy. Getting both the Forbin and the Harpua was a sort of extra-special treat, especially with the twists and silliness they put into them. The third set was a total gem. I remember it getting very close to midnight and waiting for the band to come out to do a countdown or something. Instead, they came out without comment and just started up Mike's Song. I was in a naive, WTF? state, cause there was no way they were finishing that before midnight, but they were just blazing away. Finally, Trey gets on the mic and starts a countdown while the rest of the band was raging behind him. The Mikes>Countdown>Auld Lang>Weekapaug set the stage for, the year and Phish beyond. The first time they did a Mike's/Groove without a Hydrogen in the middle, it seemed to be opening up the possibilities. Harpua story was dark and evil and eventually had a Kung in the middle of it -- my first time seeing this (actually, the 1st time in 3+ years they had done it) and it kind of freaked me out: Fishman rising out of his drum kit in a crazed, haggard state and channeling something from deep within. Whoa!

The last dollop of something extra was an appearance by the Dude of Life -- who seemed harmless at the time -- coming out for a 1st/only playing of the Seals & Croft classic Diamond Girl. The mashing together of a nasty, grooving Mike's, the out-of-body evilness of Harpua and the light, fun pop magic of Diamond Girl, all in one set, that's what this show was all about. That was a great 10th show, mazel tov!

The next day we hit some breakfast and headed back out of town. Good news for us, the show was being rebroadcast. We listened deep into the Massachusetts mountains until the static overtook the BCN signal. We just hoped it would take us through Diamond Girl, we were totally smitten with the cover... the signal died on the closing notes from the Dude of Life & Co. and we made it home contented, looking forward to 1993 like nobody's beeswax.

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