Rising “Steam” at Madison Square Garden (2011)
Using their song “Steam” as a theme, for New Year’s Eve 2011, the group rose to great heights, literally. Before midnight, a kettle placed on stage began to steam, foreshadowing the rest of the gag. With steam also starting to rise from the floor, some of the band’s instruments and lights slowly began to float off the stage. Shortly after, a woman planted in the audience rushed the stage and began to fly upwards, along with a security guard and one of the stage barricades. From there, other aerial dancers planted within the crowd rose into the air, along with the band’s guitarist and bassist, who were placed on platforms that rose from the stage floor.
Golf “Garden Party” at Madison Square Garden (2012)
In 2012, Phish hosted a “garden party” at Madison Square Garden, transforming the venue with artificial grass covering the floor and stage and the addition of actors around the venue, who sunbathed and played a variety of yard games throughout the performance. Keeping with the garden theme, the band opened with their debut cover of Ricky Nelson’s “Garden Party”. During the show’s first set break, golfers appeared on stage, using MSG as a personal driving range and launching golf balls into the crowd. Before the countdown, the band rode golf carts onto the stage and drove a few golf balls into the audience. For the lead-up to midnight, golf carts zipped across the stage while a dozen or so performers dressed as golfers joined the band, dancing and tossing golf balls into the crowd to ring in 2013. Phish finished out their set with golf-themed song selections, including “Sand”, “The Wedge”, “Lawn Boy”, “Wilson”, and Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like an Eagle”.
Disappearing Stunt at Madison Square Garden (2015)
To celebrate New Year’s Eve in 2015, Phish pulled off a visually stunning “disappearing act.” For the band’s third set, which led into the NYE countdown, the quartet started out on a small stage at the back of the floor of Madison Square Garden. Ahead of the countdown, a large hourglass-shaped canopy fell from the ceiling, completely hiding the band’s members. With psychedelic imagery projected on the hourglass and using pre-recorded audio, while fans were distracted by the second stage set-up, Phish stealthily made their way back to the main stage, just in time to play “Auld Lang Syne” at the stroke of midnight.
Raining Cats and Dogs at Madison Square Garden (2016)
After debuting a new song, “Petrichor”, in the fall, the group used petrichor’s definition — the smell of rain after a dry spell — to inform their 2016 New Year’s Eve gag. With the band playing “Petrichor” ahead of the countdown, the group curated a Broadway-worthy performance to ring in the new year. During the song, a dozen performers appeared, offering up a choreographed dance with umbrellas while small beads fell from the ceiling, giving the appearance that it was raining indoors. For the traditional NYE balloon drop, thousands of inflatables shaped like cats and dogs fell from the ceiling while samples of animal noises were played over the group’s rendition of “Auld Lang Syne”, effectively making it “rain cats and dogs.”
Soul Planet at Madison Square Garden (2017)
During last year’s New Year’s Eve show, Phish transformed the stage of Madison Square Garden into a pirate ship. A giant sail was suspended over the stage, complete with aerial dancers hanging off the mast, and cannons flanking the stage were loaded with disco balls and “fired” into the crowd. To simulate the appearance of the ocean, each audience member was given a light-up wristband, which changed colors according to where their assigned seat in the venue was. With over 20,000 fans in attendance for the sold-out show, the visual effect of the glowing bracelets was breathtaking.