Jason Koerner There were Phish heads everywhere, maaan.
There was funny energy in the room before Phish took the stage to kick off its New Year's Run 2015 at the American Airlines Arena in Miami.
It's unusual that the first of a four-night Phish gig is also the big NYE celebration. Usually, that occasion is the climactic finale to the series of concerts. And usually, the band has the luxury of easing in to the run by starting a bit slow.
Last night, though, Trey Anastasio and company had to begin and peak at the same time. This process was initially a bit awkward. But Phish and the audience eventually achieved liftoff in a big way.
The first set had the feel of a gradual, easy beginning. The band played lots of comfortable songs without opening up the jam gates too wide. The only glimpses into the sort of jams that would come later in the night were during "Wolfman's Brother" and "A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing."
With a fierce rendition of "Birds of a Feather," the second set shattered the mellow tone established by the first, and it all got amazing very quickly. "Birds" dropped into a big "Ghost," which the band took deep and dissolved, before bringing back the main theme and peaking the jam again.
Then "Ghost" went into "Theme From the Bottom," which featured a surprise ending instigated by bass player Mike Gordon with some wicked licks through his phaser pedal. Instead of finishing the song in typical fashion, the band went with Gordon into a wonderfully nasty funk jam, which grew very thick before breaking into "Cities."
The set continued to pump at high frequency, not letting up until the band stepped aside for a huddle that resulted in a set-closing "Martian Monster" -- the first of the new songs debuted in Vegas on Halloween to be featured in Miami. It was a great outing for the new song and a big finish to a very special set two.
Set three began with an a cappella rendition of "Dem Bones" -- a song by the late Florida-born civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson. As the band was singing, drummer Jon Fishman broke away to play his vacuum cleaner, and this led to the band's traditional New Year's gag.
As Fishman was playing the vacuum, it apparently became stuck to his face. Anastasio apologized, telling us that this had never happened before, and the band repeatedly attempted to pull the vacuum from Fishman's face, with no success.
Fishman went backstage to resolve the problem, and bassist Gordon suggested that someone switch the vacuum "from suck to blow." These words echoed through the arena, again and again.
After a small explosion, an inflated balloon version of Jon Fishman floated from behind the stage and continued over the audience and up toward the ceiling as the band counted down the seconds until midnight, at which point it played "Auld Lang Syne" while hundreds of colored balloons and confetti dropped from the ceiling.
After the celebratory moment, Phish rounded out the evening with a great third set, featuring a big "Tweezer"/"Simple," soulful versions of "Bug," "Backwards Down the Number Line," and "Horse"/"Silent in the Morning." This was followed by a rocking "Julius" closer and "Golgi Apparatus" and "Tweeprise" as feel good encores.
A million hugs and high-fives occurred as the lights went up, indicating that a good year, and good run, had indeed been set into motion.
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