Phish Shares New Year’s Eve Gag 2019 – 2020 Pro-Shot Video
Phish shared pro-shot video of their New Year’s Eve gag from Madison Square Garden in New York City on December 31, 2019. The 28-minute clip can be viewed below.
Phish’s New Year’s Eve production was overseen by Carmel Dean and Jon Rua, who helped choreograph 40 dancing and singing “clones” of Trey Anastasio, Jon Fishman, Page McConnell and Mike Gordon. The design featured each band member performing on an elevated platform that moved up and down while accompanied by the clones, though Anastasio quickly became stuck while hanging several feet above the stage.
Here’s how Aaron Stein recapped the final moments of 2019 and first of 2020 for JamBase:
Now, it’s a rare thing to find yourself in that setbreak between the second and third acts of a Phish show, something that typically happens only once, maybe twice, a year. There’s a special energy there, especially on New Year’s Eve because the discussion is not just about what they just played or about what they’re about to play, but also a weird anticipation about how they’re going to play it. Will there be aerial dancers or Broadway-style set pieces, will a truck be driven into the center of Madison Square Garden, will light-up bracelets join Chris Kuroda’s light show? I mean, what is going to happen? is the question of the hour, a question that can be pondered all setbreak long without ever coming up with a guess that’s even close to what the band finally decides to do. That’s a pretty cool energy to feel at a show. What’s going to happen?
When fans returned to their seats after roaming the MSG concourse to find out the answer to that question last night, they were perhaps a bit surprised to find that the stage had more or less been stripped bare. Like, completely bare, the stage was empty: no amps, no instruments, no nothing. Was the gag that the band had left, an Irish Goodbye of epic proportions? (that’d be a helluva gag, by the way).
Without giving a blow-by-blow of the entire set, and the production was a setlong event, I can safely assure you that yes, the band did come back. After some goofy banter over the PA about doing a set of a capella jazz standards, (I think there might have been another Zamfir mention in there — only Phish could be so delightfully bizarre to work Zamfir into their New Year’s Eve gag) the band appeared dressed in monochrome jumpsuits: Trey in green, Mike in yellow, Page in blue, Fishman in an inverted-tone version of his Zeroman dress.
They came to the center of the stage where a microphone waited and sang their version of “Send In The Clowns” with new lyrics (gotta find those lyrics, pretty funny) and changing the song to “Send In The Clones.” And then the clones appeared. Yes, about two dozen each of Treys, Mikes, Pages and Jons came on stage, all wearing the same jumpsuit/dress as their original, even having the same hair, each looking enough like their original to put a smile on at least my face. Four square platforms, one each for the band members, their instruments and monitors sitting atop them, lowered from the lighting rig, the original versions of the band members of Phish (at least, we can assume they were the original members, I’ve seen the Netflix series Living With Yourself, and I know you can’t be entirely sure they weren’t cloned “better” versions of themselves) climbed into their respective spots and were raised into the sky.
Now the songs they played and the music they made was, of course, important. That’s why the place was sold out to the rafters, that’s why everyone got dressed up in their sparkly best, to dance and get wowed by the music. But sometimes on New Year’s Eve, the music takes a backseat to the production and the entire third set was a choreographed delight. “First Tube” opened things up, but this was more than just your typical blissful electrofunk “First Tube.”
That’s because all those clones back down on the stage were dancing and singing along, coordinated movement that was halfway between the crazed chaos of Phish’s improvisation and the complex planned journey of their composed masterpieces. The obligatory “Auld Lang Syne” said adieu to 2019 and let’s dance! to 2020, leading to “Sand,” wherein the chorus of clones uncovered color-coded risers, the lights sticking to the red/blue/green/yellow motif as did the balloons (did I mention the balloons? Of course, there were a lot of them that continued to fall and bounce around and pop themselves silly through much of the set).
One of the great things about live music, perhaps the thing that makes it scary in the same way a Haunted House is scary, that unknown that lurks around the corner waiting to surprise you, is that you never know what’s going to happen. When “Sand” ended and three of the four platforms came back down to the stage while Trey’s green platform stayed aloft, it quickly became clear that something had gone wrong.
A short delay ensued while whoever was in charge of the up-and-down of those things assumedly tried to fix it, but, goshdarnit, the show must go on! and Trey finally said, more or less, “let’s just roll!” and played the rest of the set from a slightly askew, stationary platform suspended a good 20 or 30 feet above the stage. I must admit this was a bit disconcerting to me to watch, but you have to assume the professionals knew what they were doing.
Watch “Send In The Clones,” “First Tube,” “Auld Lang Syne” and “Sand” from NYE at MSG here: