Phish Kicked Off 2023 New Year's Run WIth An Old School Heater

Article Contributed by Jamie Huenefeld | Published on Saturday, December 30, 2023

Phish returned to the iconic Madison Square Garden in the heart of New York, NY on December 28, 2023, for their eightieth show at the famed arena. They also commenced their annual four-night New Year's run for a sold-out crowd of donut-clad individuals. Like a fine wine, this band only gets better with age, and the proof is in the pudding: a first night full of old favorites and a four-song encore.

Phish | Madison Square Garden

Phish has consistently done one thing as a band since they have been together, besides playing great music, and that is never doing what the fans expect them to do. Typically, the first night of a four-night run, for any band, is the night everyone establishes their footing. It's usually the least eventful night of the four. This was certainly not the case for Phish, as they steamrolled through 1.0 tunes. Perhaps the age-old adage should be changed to "Never miss the first night of a four-night run."

Keyboardist Page McConnell | Phish

This brilliant night of music began with one of the few relatively newer tunes, "No Men in No Man's Land," from Big Boat, which was fortified in funk. Guitarist Trey Anastasio was all grins, as the on-point tension and release were unleashed early in the night. The band also teased "San-Ho-Zay" during this song. "Halley's Comet" followed, along with a delightful crowd singalong. Keyboardist Page McConnell unfurled dark notes, as this jam went for a succinct, long pass, and was easily a catch. This foursome from Vermont was in lockstep from this moment onward.

Guitarist Trey Anastasio | Phish

"Sample in a Jar," proceeded with a short but sweet version. An energized "Runaway Jim" had the crowd dancing like no one was watching. This song debuted almost thirty-four years ago and is still fresh after all of these years. Again, McConnell contributed beautiful and melodic notes during the blues rock jam that followed.

Phish | Madison Square Garden

Several quick tunes were up next, starting with A Live One's "Bouncing Around the Room." The fast-paced "Axilla (Part II)" with its tasty guitar riffs hopped into the set list next. Drummer Jon Fishman showed his incredible versatility throughout this tune, as the ending slowed considerably while the jam morphed into a psychedelic-inspired moment. Bassist Mike Gordon belted out a vibrant "Funky Bitch," by Son Seals, to cap off this trifecta.

Phish | Madison Square Garden

McConnell tickled the ivories as the band sunk into "Bathtub Gin." This tune debuted in 1989 and certainly has stood the test of time. This seventeen-minute banger only gained steam as the jam evolved and started to touch type two territory, but quickly launched back into "Bathtub Gin." The set ended on a high note with "Ghost." Gordon quoted "No Man in No Man's Land," bringing this set full circle. The music veered back in the same direction as "Runaway Jim's" jam, with a layered quality that sent everyone into set break with a smile. These last two songs are worth an absolute re-listen.

Phish | Madison Square Garden

Phish emerged from the set break revitalized, and they began a non-stop second set with a newer tune "The Howling," from Sci-Fi Solder. The crowd enjoyed the back-and-forth with the band, further elevating the mood. Little did they know that this squad was about to unearth a twenty-three-minute "A Wave of Hope." Perhaps it was McConnell on the piano, Fishman's steady, but pronounced cadence, Anastasio's fiery guitar licks, or Gordon's dynamic bass that glued all of this together. Regardless, the band served up what proved to be the jam of the night during this tune.

Bassist Mike Gordon | Phish

A stellar segue brought the music to "Rift," from the 1996 release of the same name. The fast-paced tune was reminiscent of the 90's and had fans singing along with joy. A start-stop transition was executed with perfection, and led to none other than "Mike's Song." They typically save face-melting tunes like this one for dates later in the run. A solid jam followed, and allowed the music to flow into another old-school favorite, "Simple." The crowd erupted when the band sang "We've got skyscrapers, cause we've got a band," as many folks in the crowd reside within the skyscraper-filled NYC Metro Area. The jam once again developed legs and jettisoned into another Big Boat song, "Blaze On," which ended this flaming hot set.

Phish | Madison Square Garden

The music was not quite done yet, and the crowd was clearly ready for anything. They stepped back on stage after a quick encore break and played the contemplative "mercy" for only the second time ever. "The Squirming Coil" proceeded, which also debuted in 1990. This euphonious tune felt like the end of the show, but alas it was not. As the song wound down, Gorden's signature bass thumps made an appearance while gradually increasing the cadence, and the band moved into "Weekapaug Groove." At this point, many were expecting the show to end, and "Mike's Groove" to be completed a later date. This was not the case, as Phish went full throttle into this funky gem. Fishman was notably on point with percussion.

Fans enjoyed night one | Phish

Once again, the fans were heading for the exits, thinking the music was done for the night. The band took a right turn at 33rd Street, and landed squarely in the high-energy "Say It to Me, Santos." This ended the four-song encore and first night of music with an absolute bang.

Drummer Jon Fishman | Phish

Phish is back for two more nights at Madison Square Garden to close out 2023. Tickets are sold out but can be procured via Hop on over to Phish's tour schedule for more details about future dates.

Check out more photos from the show!

Set One: No Men In No Man's Land, Halley's Comet, Sample in a Jar, Runaway Jim, Bouncing Around the Room, Axilla (Part II) > Funky Bitch, Bathtub Gin > Ghost
Set Two: The Howling > A Wave of Hope -> Rift > Mike's Song > Simple > Blaze On
Encore: mercy, The Squirming Coil, Weekapaug Groove > Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.
Trey teased San-Ho Zay in No Men In No Men's Land. Mike quoted No Men In No Men's Land during Ghost. Mike's Song contained sound effects used earlier in the show during The Howling.

Phish | Madison Square Garden

Keyboardist Page McConnell was feeling it | Phish