In 10 short days, Phish will settle in at Madison Square Garden for their traditional end-of-the-year run. Phish is no stranger to the Garden, having now played the famed venue in the heart of New York City 35 times over the course of their career. From their MSG debut in 1994 to their most recent appearances at the very beginning of 2016, the storied room has played host to some of the most treasured shows in the band’s history. As we inch closer to this year’s New Year’s Run, we will be bringing you our 12 Days Of Phishmas series, highlighting a different milestone MSG Phish show each day until we all head back to the Garden on the 28th. It wasn’t easy narrowing 35 down to 12, but we think you’ll be pleased with these classics from the Phish catalog. Enjoy!
30 years is a long time for anything, especially in the music world. When you consider just how many artists have come and gone in the period between 1983 nd 2013, it’s beyond impressive that Phish has been able to create, build, and nurture such a devoted following. All of those emotions were on full display on the final day of 2013, when Phish treated fans to a one-of-a-kind-performance at Madison Square Garden.
So, on the third day of Phishmas, we’re looking closely at the famed “JEMP Truck Set” that Phish played for their fans on New Year’s Eve of 2013. The show was a true celebration of Phish’s 30th birthday, even including a piano-shaped cake that the band presented, and distributed to nearby fans, at the end of the first set.
The first set of the show, and really the first three days of the run, were a great warmup for what was to come. In honor of their 30th birthday, and possibly in protest of Billy Joel, the band decided to go all original for their four night stand at MSG. Throughout the first three nights of the run, not a single cover was played, as Phish instead decided to hone in on their true Phishiness. All in all, Phish played 84 of their own songs over four nights, as each show raised the anticipation for what was to come.
Indeed, the first set of the 12/31/13 show essentially follows the theme of the previous three shows as a musical self-celebration. There was the rocking “AC/DC Bag” opener, the darkness of “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing”, the call and response of “Wilson”, the beauty of “Divided Sky”, some newer songs in “Ocelot”, “Sugar Shack” and “Halfway to the Moon” and, to close it all out, the pill-induced saga that is “Fluffhead”. It was a set that brought a smile to the fans’ faces to set the stage for what was to come.
During the setbreak, a video aired showing drummer Jon Fishman searching through old NYE props and finding a broken truck labeled “JEMP”. As fans would quickly surmise, JEMP was an acronym for the first letters of each band members’ name: Jon Fishman, Ernest (Trey) Anastasio, Mike Gordon and Page McConnell. In the video, Fishman restores the trucks and races it to MSG, when all of a sudden the truck is literally carried into the middle of the floor. Not only that, but the top of the truck was adorned with Phish’s set up from their earliest days, even down to the hockey stick microphones.
Watch the JEMP video and a pro-shot highlight compilation released by Phish, below.
As Phish set themselves up with their earliest equipment, they also stuck to their earliest material for the entire set. They opened the set with “Glide”, a rarity that was written in 1981 and found its way onto the Picture Of Nectar album. The song hadn’t been played in over 80 shows, and still remains a rarity. Its choice as the set opener only raised expectations for a set filled with oldies, bust outs and more.
The great songs kept on coming as the band broke out into a funk fueled “Llama” jam atop their JEMP Truck. The party kept going with a classic pairing from the Gamehendge saga, “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird.” The “Mockingbird” narration was short, reflecting on the band’s 30 year anniversary.
The band then dusted out one of Mike Gordon’s earliest tunes, a little song called “Fuck Your Face.” They then brought out a fan favorite in “Reba,” bringing one of the biggest jams of this celebratory set. Though “Reba” gets more airtime than most of the songs in the setlist, its inclusion was a perfect reminder of just how many great songs Phish actually has. The song’s dichotomy between rigorous composition and free-form jamming is quintessential Phish.
Of course, one of the biggest highlights of the JEMP set, as a whole, was their version of “Icculus.” The rarely played Gamehendge song featured a lengthy discussion from Trey about how, after 30 years, fans still aren’t reading the book. He shouts, “Read it! Read it! Read the fucking book!” after a long build up, before finally introducing the titular character “Icculus.” It was a real treat to see the band indulge their true silliness, something that was on display frequently in their earliest days.
Afterwards, Trey and Page took a moment to reflect on how lucky they were to perform music as silly as “Icculus” in the middle of Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve, 30 years into their careers as Phish. It was quite the celebration, and the crowd’s cheers were only amplified when Trey played the opening notes of “The Lizards”. The beloved Gamehendge tune sent chills throughout the audience, but the set wasn’t over! The band ended their JEMP Truck display with a “Split Open And Melt” for the ages, finishing up the set with one last jam that dates to their earliest days.
Fortunately, full video of the JEMP Truck Set can be seen below.
The rest of the show was certainly no slouch either, as the band brought out “Character Zero” before counting down the New Year with “Auld Lang Syne.” They then went into one of their newest songs at the time, “Fuego”, as a signal of bringing new music into 2014. They would ultimately release an album in 2014, titled Fuego.
The final set also included some fun jamming in “Light” and “Twenty Years Later,” a fun “Bouncing Around The Run” and the opus of “You Enjoy Myself.” What would a 30 year celebration of Phish be without YEM? Finally, they wrapped up the show with an encore that included the a cappella “Grind” and the reflective ballad, “Show Of Life.”
It was simultaneously a perfect celebration of the New Year and Phish’s legacy, all in one glorious night at Madison Square Garden. Check out the Phish.net setlist below, and merry Phishmas!
Setlist: Phish | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 12/31/13
Set 1: AC/DC Bag > A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing > Wilson > Divided Sky, Ocelot, Sugar Shack, Halfway to the Moon > Fluffhead
Set 2: Glide, Llama, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, Fuck Your Face, Reba, Icculus, The Lizards, Split Open and Melt
Set 3: Character Zero > Auld Lang Syne > Fuego > Light > Twenty Years Later > Bouncing Around the Room, You Enjoy Myself
Encore: Grind, Show of Life
This show was webcast via LivePhish. After the conclusion of the first set, Trey and Page carried a keyboard-shaped cake out to the front of the stage (with a giant two-dimensional mountain behind it, this created a tableau of the cover of Phish’s Colorado ’88 release), and proceeded to slice and serve cake in honor of their 30th anniversary to fans near the front of the stage. After the cake was served, a video was played showing Fish collecting various props from the band’s previous New Year’s Eve concerts and driving a replica of the band’s “JEMP” truck down to New York City. The truck from the video appeared in Madison Square Garden and was moved to the center of the floor. All of the songs played during both setbreaks were from the year 1983. The band performed the second set standing on top of the truck, using a stripped-down stage setup including hockey sticks for mic stands. Melt contained a DEG tease from Trey. During Grind, the “days lived” stated by the band referenced how old they would be when they returned for their 60th anniversary. During the encore break, a video montage of photographs and film from throughout Phish’s history and previous New Year’s Eve concerts was shown. After the encore, a video image was shown of a “Save the Date” card for Phish’s 60th anniversary show (on December 31, 2043) with each band member digitally aged.
Stay tuned over the next ten days for more Phishmas! ‘Tis the season!
On the third day of Phishmas, a Phish phan played for me… Three Phishy Decades (12/31/13)
Don’t miss out on any of the fantastic pre-shows and after-parties around NYC during Phish’s upcoming MSG New Year’s Run!
12/28: Aqueous + Mungion @ DROM (Phish After-Party) – tickets
12/30: Phan Art w/ Formula 5 @ American Beauty (Phish Pre-Party) – FREE SHOW
12/30-31: Spafford & Magic Beans @ American Beauty (Phish After-Party) – tickets