Along with the top-notch playing onstage at the 2018–2019 Phish New Year’s run at Madison Square Garden, various wholesome storylines emerged from soundcheck and the time surrounding the run’s four shows that made Phish fans love this band even more than they already do.

One such story began in the lead-up to the run, when Trey Anastasio‘s daughter, Bella Anastasio, organized a very special project in the Phish Chicks Facebook group as a Christmas surprise for her father. Bella put out a call for photos and stories about how Phish has brought people together and helped create lasting relationships. She compiled the submissions she received into a picture book, titled We Are Happy: A Thank You To Phish.

The book clearly made an impression on Bella’s dad and his bandmates, so much so that Trey penned a tear-jerking note about it on his own Facebook page prior to the band’s New Year’s Eve performance. You can read Trey’s grateful reflections below:

Dear Friends, Family and Everyone who so kindly took part in Bella’s book project…

I’m sitting here at home, on New Year’s Eve looking at all the pictures in this book yet again, as I have every morning before the last three shows. I wish there was some way that I could convey even a fraction of how much this book means to me, and what it meant of the other three guys when I showed them at band practice on the 27th.

There were many tears when I first saw it, and I had to actually stand up and leave the room for a moment, and there were more tears from Page, Mike and Fish at band practice.

None of the four of us have ever actually seen Phish, or stood in the crowd, so our perspective can be skewed, and all the photos of weddings and friends and laughing and kids and family were so powerful, and mirrored our own lives and experience so closely.

We all met our wives and friends thru Phish. Sue and I met at Nectars in the 80’s, Fish and Briar, Mike and Sue, Page and Heather. Last night I was backstage hugging Amy Skelton right before the second set, and we were laughing so hard, pals for 35 years. I first met Amy at the Doolin’s happy hour Phish shows in the early 80’s..she used to stand in the front row, when there was literally only two people at the entire gig. We are still lifelong friends. While we soundchecked yesterday there was a row of kids on scooters zipping around the arena… four of Fish and Briar’s kids, Mike’s daughter Tessa, two of Page’s daughters (his third is here too, but not on a scooter) and lots of their friends. My two daughters were in the building, Fish’s Dad was standing by the side of the stage, as well as my parents, stepmom, my nephew Jason, Mike’s aunt and uncle, and tons of friends, milling about… threads in a vast tapestry.

We are all so moved, so grateful, to be connected to all of you in this way. For us, the personal connections are the best part of this adventure, the best part of Phish. To be able to share these experiences over the years. I thank you all from the depths of my soul for sharing this deeply meaningful gift. I will cherish it.

Happy New Years to everyone on the Phish Chicks Facebook page and to everyone who so kindly took part in the creation of this Helping Friendly Book. … Read the fuckin’ book!!! Read it!

Yeah my children are old enough to do something so thoughtful and kind. Whoa… And for all these years I thought it was written by the great and knowledgeable Icculus, but it was written by the whole beautiful Phish community all along. Who knew? The Book of Life..eternal joy and never ending splendor.. the trick was to remember that we’re all connected. Part of something so much bigger than ourselves.

Thank you 🙏Happy New Year to you all! -Trey

Read Trey's Note

Along with Bella’s book, several other moving Phish soundcheck stories bolstered our love for the members of Phish—not just as musicians, but as people.

The first comes from 12/30, the penultimate night of the run. On 12/29, talented young New York-based bassist and longtime Phish fan, Karina Rykman, attended her 100th Phish show at the Garden. You may have seen her onstage playing with Marco Benevento‘s band, or perhaps leading a slew of talented artists decades her senior at this past year’s Brooklyn Comes Alive. Later that night, she shot down to the East Village’s Nublu for a sold-out late-night show with her band, the Karina Rykman Experiment. 100th show > sold-out headlining afterparty? Not a bad day for a 25-year-old Phish fan.

But the milestone day would gain an extra layer of magic the following afternoon when she visited Mike Gordon at the Garden for soundcheck. While poking around Mike’s bass rig, a couple other musicians you may have heard of joined her onstage, turning her rig tour into a full-blown jam session with Phish. We’ll let Karina tell you what happened, as explained in a post on her Facebook page. As she regales,

In between my 100th and 101st Phish shows, after my sold out gig last night at Nublu, I got to test Mike’s rig, and then before I knew it….well, this happened at The Garden. A dream, it’s true. I have no words and I am endlessly grateful. I don’t know what to say or do but I got to play with my favorite band at the world’s most famous arena and I am ready to collapse. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.

Karina Rykman Soundcheck Jam With Phish At MSG

Finally, there’s the heartwarming story of a very special guest that joined Jon Fishman at soundcheck on 12/29, as told by Phish fan Kristy Freeman. As she explains in a post on social media,

On December 29, I was able to take my buddy Alex, who has autism, to the Phish sound check at Madison Square Garden. Alex loves music, especially Phish! Sitting in an empty MSG with Alex and his parents, watching Phish play, and seeing the smiles on all of their faces made me realize how truly blessed I am. After the band was finished with the sound check, Fishman called us over to come up on stage. It was incredible to watch Fishman teach Alex how to play the marimba lumina. He then asked Alex if he wanted to play the drums. I was like, “be gentle Alex” and Fishman said, “No, have at it Alex.” As I stood there in an empty MSG, watching this young man that I’ve worked with for the last eight years, playing the drums in the greatest arena on earth… I fought back tears of joy! It was an epic experience for all of us! Thank you so much Jonathan Fishman, you are the best!

You can swipe through to see a few pictures from Alex’s MSG debut below:

Thank you for all the wonderful memories in 2018, Phish. We’re glad, glad, glad to have you in our lives.