In 12 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!
On the first day of Phishmas, we look back at the band’s first-ever New Year’s performance at Madison Square Garden in 1995. Though this wasn’t Phish’s first show at MSG (that honor came one year prior on 12/30/94), this was certainly one of the most memorable shows of the band’s career to date. The show that has everything you’d want, from big jams to silly hijinks to Trey Anastasio narrations and more!
After a great first night on 12/30, the band got right down to business with an energetic “Punch You In The Eye.” The song is an excellent opener, and quickly incited uproars from the crowd in celebration. They kept the first set Gamehendgey with “The Sloth”, before bringing out the fan-favorite composition, “Reba.” They then went into the ballad “The Squirming Coil,” before riling the crowd up once more with a whirling rendition of “Maze.” With the crowd at a frenzy post-“Maze”, the NYE shenanigans began.
The band then went into the famed “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird” pair from the Gamehendge saga, bolstered by a narration from Trey Anastasio about how Phish keeps time running when they’re not on tour. Trey talks about working at the “Gamehendge Time Laboratory” creating time, before proposing a hypothetical situation where they stopped working and got stuck in 1994. That was the cue to debut a cover of the uber hit “Shine” by Collective Soul, sung by famed Phish lyricist and Anastasio’s lifelong friend, Tom Marshall. Afterwards, the band jumps back into “Mockingbird”, with Trey talking about how Wilson stole the Helping Phriendly Book, which of course contained the recipe for time, thus preventing the fine people of Gamehendge from propelling into the New Year.
The story was left unresolved, and the band closed out the first set with “Sparkle” and a rockin’ “Chalk Dust Torture.” After a fun first set, it was the second set that brought some big time jamming to the New York fans. After setting things in motion by resigning their chess game against the audience, Phish opened the second set with a cover of The Who’s “Drowned”. While “Drowned” has since become a beloved bust-out jam vehicle, this was only the band’s second time playing the song after debuting it during their Halloween musical costume, two months prior. They followed up the jam with an excellent take on another Gamehendge classic, segueing cleanly into “The Lizards”.
“Axilla Pt. II” took the crowd for a rock and roll frenzy, before a 16-minute “Runaway Jim” odyssey stole the heart of the second set. This was all funk mayhem, as Phish soared through melodic motifs before bringing about the end of the song. “Strange Design” and a cappella “Hello My Baby” followed, but it was the “Mike’s Song” that deserves the credit for the jam of the show. While it starts off as a fairly standard “Mike’s” jam, the mood quickly turns dark as the band delves into a full on “Digital Delay Loop Jam”. This is prime Phish weirdness, the stuff of legendary improvisational sessions. They wrapped it up nicely to close out this glorious second set.
It wasn’t until the third set that Phish would complete their New Year’s stunt, as the band returned with the stage set up as the Gamehendge Time Factory. After some bizarre noises and flashing lights, out came Jon Fishman dressed as Baby New Year, tossing confetti over the crowd to usher in 1996. After an “Auld Lang Syne” to celebrate the New Year, Phish completed their musical suite with a funky take on “Weekapaug Groove.” Though “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug” were separated by a set break, the band clearly didn’t lose steam, as they absolutely dominate this high-energy version.
Watch video of the New Year’s stunt below, courtesy of darkstarsc.
The fun wasn’t over just yet, however, as the band segued into another song from their 1995 Halloween album, a cover of The Who’s “Sea And Sand.” This one left Page McConnell by himself, playing the intimate song and bringing the house down in the process. Of course there was still more fun to come, and the band broke into a monster “You Enjoy Myself” that spans nearly 26 minutes. This is another all-timer from 12/31/95 that demands a listen, getting weird in places and funky in others. Phish.net calls it “a fucking masterpiece,” so that really says it, now doesn’t it?
“Sanity” and “Frankenstein” closed out the monumental third set, and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” was the icing on the cake of this performance. If that wasn’t the best way to usher in 1996, we don’t know what is. You can watch a full video and/or listen to the remastered audio released by Phish, below.
Setlist: Phish | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 12/31/95
Set 1: Punch You In the Eye, The Sloth > Reba , The Squirming Coil > Maze, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird > Shine > Fly Famous Mockingbird > Sparkle > Chalk Dust Torture
Set 2: Drowned -> The Lizards, Axilla (Part II) > Runaway Jim , Strange Design, Hello My Baby, Mike’s Song -> Digital Delay Loop Jam
Set 3: Auld Lang Syne > Weekapaug Groove  > Sea and Sand, You Enjoy Myself , Sanity, Frankenstein
Encore: Johnny B. Goode
 No whistling.
 Narration discussed how Phish makes time in the Phish Time Factory.
 Phish debut; Tom Marshall on vocals.
Reba did not have the whistling ending. The narration in Mockingbird discussed how Phish makes time in the Phish Time Factory, which set up the New Year’s Eve stunt. The Phish debut of Shine featured Tom Marshall on vocals. Drowned included a tease of Fire on the Mountain shortly before Lizards. Trey teased Shine in Runaway Jim. Mike’s Song contained a Dave’s Energy Guide tease from Page. The second set ended with a Digital Delay Loop Jam out of Mike’s, and the third set opened with the Phish Time Factory machine. All four band members dressed as scientists playing with synths while lights flashed and Van de Graaff generators zapped. Fish was lifted up in a bed as Father Time and was reborn as the Baby New Year. Weekapaug featured Auld Lang Syne, Dreaming (Blondie), and Spooky teases and was unfinished. This was the first performance of Sanity since June 24, 1994 (147 shows). This show was officially released as New Year’s Eve 1995 – Live at Madison Square Garden.
Stay tuned over the next eleven days, as Phishmas is just getting started!
One the first day of Phishmas, a Phish phan played for me… The Gamehendge Time Factory (12/31/95)
If you’re attending the upcoming Phish run, don’t miss out on any of the surrounding events! For fans of the jam, head to any of these concerts in the area for a guaranteed good time!
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