Mini-Episode #14: Twist, 12/31/15, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
If New Year’s Eve is traditionally about celebration, reflection, and renewal, then NYE 2015 was tailor made for me. As I discussed in the first mini-episode of Attendance Bias, I was divorced toward the beginning of 2015. With Fare Thee Well and Phish’s extensive summer tour in 2015, I took every opportunity I could to clear my head and treat myself to every show I could manage that year. The shows were great in themselves, but the most meaningful part of my adventures was the social aspect; seeing friends I hadn’t seen in months or years, getting into the swing of traveling to new cities, new venues, and re-establishing my comfort of going on tour, since I had done it with my ex-wife ever since Phish ‘s return in 2009. But the most meaningful part of 2015 was right in my backyard—during the new year’s run at Madison Square Garden.
My plans for the first couple of nights were uncertain, but New Year’s Eve was where most of my confusion lay. For years I was used to attending shows with my ex-wife. Then, when I began to see shows with my new interest, I had to adjust to a new show-going routine. This is not as easy as it sounds. I thought that we would see the shows together since we had been saying for nearly six months at the time.
In retrospect, it’s clear that this was a terribly selfish way to think. But it makes sense; after being so horribly hurt, I was much more concerned with my happiness than anyone else’s. But expecting someone to change their show habits wasn’t the right thing to do, and it caused me mental turmoil over the course of the run.
12/31/15 wasn’t a perfect show, but it was the best NYE show, top-to-bottom, that I’d seen since 2010. Every set had highlights and pinpoint setlist choices. The “gag” was artful and aesthetically pleasing in every way. Even when the band played “Tube” for the encore at 1am, I was wishing that the show could go on for another 90 minutes.
The second set is where things got notable. A nicely-extended “The Wedge” and “Wilson” brought back memories of NYE 2012, with the golf setlist references. The band kicked things up a notch from “”Kill Devil Falls” through “Twist.” Especially “Twist.” Oh boy, this “Twist.” My personal musical highlight of the show, and maybe the entire run (“Tweezer” from 1/2 is another contender). BIG, DRAMATIC power and a patient, building jam–my favorite kind. The band clearly thought the same as an official video of the song was released soon after the show:
With no words, Phish delivered me again, as they had before. I needed them and they were there for me. The next two nights of the run, and most of 2016, didn’t quite compare to what I experienced in the calendar year of 2015. But if I were to end my Phish year on any particular point, I’m glad that it was New Year’s eve 2015. This Twist is a moment that will stay with me forever. It’s not usual that I can pinpoint, in real time, when I feel my soul being cleansed and a force outside myself communicating that it’s time to move forward. But this Twist did just that.