Phish Rings In 2016 At Madison Square Garden – Setlist & The Skinny

By Andy Kahn Jan 1, 2016 9:49 am PST

Thursday night Phish returned to Madison Square Garden for their second performance in as many days, ringing in the New Year at the historic New York City venue for the ninth time in the band’s career. The Mecca of entertainment in NYC, once again The Garden provided fertile ground for the foursome to deliver three celebratory sets for those in attendance and watching at home. As expected, 2016 was welcomed with a traditionally impressive spectacle featuring a second stage and elaborate visual display.

Speculation inside the arena started growing prior to the show’s start as a large white cone hung from the MSG ceiling and part of the seating below was roped off in preparation of this year’s gag. Set one got off to a feisty start via “The Moma Dance” filling the opener role for the first time this year and the quick transition to “Possum” helped boost the energy in the room as Page McConnell went to work on the organ and Trey Anastasio unleashed a rapid succession of guitar notes. Bassist Mike Gordon and drummer Jon Fishman laid a solid foundation during a nicely jammed version of “Wolfman’s Brother.” After a bit of on stage deliberation Trey counted off “Birds Of A Feather” and the foursome took off on a brief but intense tangent.

The acappella start to “I Didn’t Know” summoned Fish (introduced by Trey as “the man Mulcahy”) down stage to provide the final vacuum solo of 2015. The song concluded with the audience singing along with the band, prompting Fish to ask the crowd to sing one more song. “Happy Birthday” was then sung for his daughter Ella who turned 14 years old yesterday. An edgy “Martian Monster” reminded everyone their trip was short but nonetheless maniacally funky. A blissful peak highlighted a well executed “Reba,” accentuated with whistling at its conclusion. The first set drew to a close with the energy elevated once again by a ripping rendition of “Walls Of The Cave.”

The middle set initiated with a vibrant “The Wedge” followed by more audience participation in the form of “Wilson.” An abrupt start to “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing” soon gave Anastasio a platform for intense soloing. Gordon stepped up to lead the group through his bouncy “Yarmouth Road” as the second set strolled on. “Kill Devil Falls” shifted back to a rocking vibe as Anastasio led the group into an extended ambient portion of sprawling improv enlivened by Gordon’s sub-bass notes and McConnell’s plunky synth work. The most extensive jam of the night to that point eventually segued into “Piper” which was abruptly abandoned in favor of “Twist” boasting more exploratory group interaction, particularly during a secondary, multifaceted jam segment. A ferocious, tension-filled and richly melodic passage emerged as the highlight of the set ending “Twist” jam – and was one of the most memorable moments of the night.

After the second intermission, set three began with the 2015 debut original “No Men In No Man’s Land” and the band playing in the round on a small stage set up at the back of the arena under the looming white cone in the space previously sectioned off. As a sublime jam emerged, white sheets were lowered from the cone, creating a translucent hourglass-shaped tent for the band to play under. Lighting director Chris Kuroda illuminated the second stage with gorgeous visuals as Phish continued jamming deeper into ambient territory. The resulting effect was similar to one of the band’s famed “secret” improvised festival sets like the IT Tower Jam or this summer’s Drive-In Set at Magnaball.

A cacophony of light, sound and haze filled the back of the arena as the final seconds of 2015 were counted down and the familiar notes of “Auld Lang Syne” rang out with the band having made their way undercover back to the main stage. Like the opener, another 2015 debut “Blaze On” kept MSG rocking and bouncing under a sea of colorful balloons and confetti. Also like the opener, “Blaze On” expanded into a beautifully sublime jam, the band taking a delicate route to a soaring peak while still keeping an arena full of people utterly captivated. A typically sinister “Carini” quickly dove back into a mellow, blissed-out jam that again demonstrated patience and cohesive progressions. “David Bowie” brought about more relaxed playing prior to the song’s raging climax. A breather came from the combination of “The Horse” > “Silent In The Morning” and “Backwards Down The Number Line” brought the third and final set to an end with Anastasio thanking the audience. A punchy pairing of “Tube” and “Cavern” brought the festive night to a joyous end.

Phish has another sold-out show at Madison Square Garden again tomorrow, Friday, January 1.

The Skinny

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The Setlist

The Venue

Madison Square Garden [See upcoming shows]


32 shows — 12/30/1994, 12/30/1995, 12/31/1995, 10/21/1996, 10/22/1996, 12/29/1997, 12/30/1997, 12/31/1997, 12/28/1998, 12/29/1998, 12/30/1998, 12/31/1998, 12/31/2002, 12/02/2009, 12/03/2009, 12/04/2009, 12/30/2010, 12/31/2010, 01/01/2011, 12/28/2011, 12/29/2011, 12/30/2011, 12/31/2011, 12/28/2012, 12/29/2012, 12/30/2012, 12/31/2012, 12/28/2013, 12/29/2013, 12/30/2013, 12/31/2013, 12/30/2015

The Music

9 songs / 8:27 pm to 9:37 pm (70 minutes)

7 songs / 10:04 pm to 11:05 pm (61 minutes)

10 songs / 11:39 pm to 1:05 am (86 minutes)

26 songs / 24 originals / 2 covers


9.19 [Gap chart]



Happy Birthday to You - LTP 07/26/2013 (96 Show Gap)

No Men In No Man's Land - 21:23

The Horse - 1:24

Junta - 1, Lawn Boy - 1, A Picture of Nectar - 1, Rift - 3, Hoist - 1, Billy Breathes - 0, The Story of the Ghost - 2, Farmhouse - 2, Round Room - 1, Undermind - 1, Joy - 2, Fuego - 0, Misc. - 9, Covers - 2

The Rest

45°F and Cloudy at showtime

Koa 3 / Ocedoc

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