In 9 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! 

For the fourth day of our trip down YEMSG memory lane, we’re fueling up our rocket ship and taking a look back at 12/29/98, a Class-A show from Phish’s ’98-’99 New Year’s Run. The show has no shortage of strong points, from fun cover staples (“Rock and Roll”, “Funky Bitch”, “Ginseng Sullivan”, “My Soul”, “Boogie On Reggae Woman” and even a set-closing “Free Bird”) to excellent performances of several classic Phish-y compositions (“Split Open and Melt”, “Guyute”, “You Enjoy Myself”, and “Divided Sky”), and a 5-song second set featuring on-stage dancers dressed as flowers, a turkey, and other strange beings. But the real highlight of this show is the truly incredible rendition of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (better known to the layman as “2001”) that anchors the second set.

For years before our space ship first blasted off “on a voyage of discovery” from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (on 10/31/14), Trey AnastasioJon FishmanPage McConnell, and Mike Gordon used “2001” as their go-to vehicle f0r outer space jam voyages. The tune–known to most as the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey–has taken on a life of its own in the Phish setting, defined by its musical structure of surging builds, massive peaks, and lethal funk breakdowns. While the improvisational meat of “2001” is usually found in the breakdowns–the space between the the song’s thematic builds–12/29/98’s version was all about the launch–its mind-blowing intro segment. Take a listen below and relive this epic voyage with us:

First, a pulsing, reverb-laced vamp slowly rises to a boil, echoing reverberations of deep space travel. This slow build lasts for more than five entrancing minutes before the song’s distinctive drum beat finally surfaces. Several more minutes of laser-focused guitar riffing and powerful bass and keyboard punches follow, propelled by Fishman’s relentlessly funky back beat. Nearly 9 minutes in, and we’re still in intro territory. Right as it seems they might start the song’s theme–the “countdown to blast-off”, if you will–Trey takes a left turn, instead teasing the melody of “Crosseyed and Painless”.

The first taste of “2001”‘s melodic theme finally arrives just over 10 minutes in, and after the incredible buildup, the crowd’s reaction is ecstatic–clearly audible over the music on most audience recordings. The rest of the voyage (though no less impressive) adheres more closely to the song’s usual structure, with each of the band’s members expertly taking their turn at the ship’s controls. By the time they end their extraterrestrial transmission in a haze of static and feedback, this “2001” has clocked in at just under 18 minutes, making it the longest version ever performed at MSG–and one of the finest overall performances of this fan-favorite jam.

Even after the incredible “2001” landed on 12/29/98, Phish still had plenty to offer fans, following the jam with “Boogie On” into a fantastic “YEM” to close the set, before finishing strong with a beautiful “Divided Sky” encore. Even among the impressive company that is MSG Phish, this show–and its improvisational “Space Odyssey”–still shine brightly.

Setlist: Phish | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 12/29/98

Set 1: Rock and Roll > Funky Bitch > Punch You In the Eye > Horn, Ginseng Sullivan, Split Open and Melt, Brian and Robert, Guyute, My Soul, Free Bird

Swt 2: Free > Limb By Limb > Also Sprach Zarathustra  > Boogie On Reggae Woman, You Enjoy Myself

Encore: Divided Sky

2001 included Crosseyed and Painless and Manteca teases. For this show, the dancers on-stage were dressed as flowers, with one dressed as a turkey.

Stay tuned over the coming days for more Phishmas! ‘Tis the season!

On the fourth day of Phishmas, a Phish phan played for me… Four Light Year Blast-Off (12/29/98)

Three Phishy Decades (12/31/13)

Two Sitting Legends (10/22/96) 

and The Gamehendge Time Factory (12/31/95)!

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