Boy, Man, God, SHIT!
January 6, 2020 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Anticipation was high at Madison Square Garden as Phish took the stage shortly before midnight and kicked off their annual New Years Eve theatrical performance or "gag" with an acapella version of Stephen Sondheim's Send in the Clowns Clones. As the four band members stepped onto platforms that lifted them up above the stage and jumped into the opening groove of First Tube they were joined on stage by 40 band member lookalikes who began a song and dance routine below them. The countdown to midnight and Auld Lang Syne went off without a hitch. Everything was going perfectly until...

...midway through the next song, Sand, the platform holding guitarist Trey Anastasio came to a sudden halt, tilting a bit and requiring the frontman to grab his microphone stand to keep his balance.

After the song ended and the rest of the band was lowered to the stage, there was a few minutes of awkward silence and darkness as the automation team and choreographer tried to figure out what to do. When it became clear to the guitarist that he wasn't going up or down any time soon, he made a few jokes about falling to his death, and then did what he does best, he improvised. "Fuck it, just leave me up here."

The band continued their set, keeping 20,000 fans nervously wondering if this was part of the gag or if their hero was in danger. It was not part of the gag and OSHA regulations would ensure he was not, in fact, in any real danger, though the tilted platform required that he occasionally play from a kneeling position. The rest of the band and the clones continued their routine while the guitarist remained suspended above the stage.

When the set ended and he was unable to leave the stage for an encore, Anastasio declared "ok, we just walked off stage and came back. This is the encore." before busting out the Phish standard Tweezer Reprise.

At the end of the show the three other band members said their goodbyes to their bandmate as he serenaded the crowd. The Rescue Squad ascended on an adjacent platform to bring the guitarist home, but not before he sat down behind Jon Fishman's drums and composed a little ditty to his rescuers, which will surely be requested at Phish shows from now until the end of time, or the end of the next jam, whichever comes first.

You were going to make a Spinal Tap joke and/or tell us how much Phish sucks but I already did that so you don't have to. But, yeah, this is a total Spinal Tap moment.
posted by bondcliff (33 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
But, yeah, this is a total Spinal Tap moment.

You think you are pretty slick, but have you immunized your post against Taylor Swift gags?
posted by thelonius at 12:33 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


My most recent truly terrible ex was a big Phish phan and, bondcliff, it is only my fondness for you that keeps me from making apparently-unwarranted generalizations about people who like Phish.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:45 PM on January 6 [28 favorites]


We're all mostly boring old dads now whose families sigh deeply and roll their eyes when they get in the car and we have music playing.
posted by bondcliff at 12:50 PM on January 6 [27 favorites]


Yikes wow, I'm really glad that the malfunction didn't result in any injuries - that's pretty darn high off the ground. If I were teching that thing I'd be hella tempted to leave a giant inflatable something or other down there just in case...

The colors are super cool too - gave me an OK Go vibe.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:53 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


+1 for the title!
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:58 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


I doubt that's the highest Trey's ever been for a show.
posted by chavenet at 12:58 PM on January 6 [38 favorites]


I love Fishman's quip while Trey's riffing about falling to his death: "Don't worry, death don't hurt very long."

Looking forward to the next iteration of the Rescue Squad song sometime this spring.
posted by vverse23 at 1:41 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


This was so delightful we got up on the 1st and rewatched it. I'm so glad it didn't end badly. What an incredibly charming group. <3
posted by Bacon Bit at 1:44 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


[Previously.]
posted by Token Meme at 1:59 PM on January 6


lazaruslong: If I were teching that thing I'd be hella tempted to leave a giant inflatable something or other down there just in case...

They didn’t bother with one because they didn’t want Trey Bouncing Around The Room.
posted by dr_dank at 3:14 PM on January 6 [11 favorites]


I put this on for my kid the other day and we had a rare old time dancing together. It made me hope that in a few more years when my kid is old enough we can go together for an MSG NYE just like the good old days. I hadn't seen Phish for about 15 years (prior to that? Several dozen shows under my belt including as couple NYE runs) and you know what? I had a fucking great time and they sounded tight and awesome. So haters to the left etc.
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:39 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


I would love to know the origin of that blue Nord in Page's rig. Blue custom Rhodes cases are a bit easier to find, but that Nord... I want it.
posted by emelenjr at 4:04 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


You think you are pretty slick, but have you immunized your post against Taylor Swift gags?

OK seriously after watching those video clips my respect for T Swift increased like 100%. Talk about grace under pressure.

If I were teching that thing I'd be hella tempted to leave a giant inflatable something or other down there just in case

One assumes (given the bit about OSHA regulations) that the band members were safety-harnessed to something, but the first thing that sprang to my mind as soon as I saw a bit of the video was "Hows about some fucking GUARD RAIL!!??" I can't build a 3-foot high stage in the city of Cleveland without 3/4 of the stage being surrounded with guard rail . . .
posted by soundguy99 at 4:40 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


"Hows about some fucking GUARD RAIL!!??"

And no hard hats...tsk.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:50 PM on January 6


As a non-Phish person, I have to say this was exceptionally entertaining.

The longer-than-expected suspension incident aside (which was handled with grace, all things considered), they put some thought into this show, particularly into how it would look on camera.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:15 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Also, killer balloon drop.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:19 PM on January 6


I just listened to my very first Phish song! It was pretty entertaining.
posted by Biblio at 5:23 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


When Phish decides to pull a stunt you can generally be assured it's going to be very silly but very well-executed.

As an old head, I have to say, being able to just go to the internet and watch a show that's been professionally filmed and edited just a few days later.... What a time to be alive. (And actually when I first crossed paths with this set a few days ago it was in the form of a fan-filmed video from the audience and it was also crazy high quality and I was like man, 1998 me is having her mind fucking blown right now.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:27 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]


Soren, you just made me reminisce about college and listening to awful streaming RealAudio of Phish shows on some goofy website....and oh my god SugarMegs still exists in all its late 90s glory.
posted by HeroZero at 5:47 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]


I just listened to my very first Phish song! It was pretty entertaining.

Congratulations! I'll call the recruitment office and they'll send you out a welcome kit. Before you know it your friends will wonder why you won't shut up about something called The Nassau Roses.

+1 for the title!

That's a direct quote from the performance!
posted by bondcliff at 6:01 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


Brilliant post! A grand story well told and full of fun! Thanks so much for this!
posted by hippybear at 6:26 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


OK, I had to stop watching. The DSR chain holding his platform is entirely slack, ie NOT HOLDING ANY WEIGHT, and that freaks me the fuck out. I have no words for how unsafe it is for someone to be standing under this platform, never mind on it.

I know far better riggers than I made the call to keep going, but "the show must go on" is such a dangerous mindset. I know a lot of people see this as lighthearted joy and a story of triumph through adversity, but this is how people in my business get killed.
posted by mollymayhem at 6:32 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


+1 for the title!

That's a direct quote from the performance!


And from I believe the first Phish song I ever heard. I remember being impressed (and amused) at the amount of angst and torment he imbued those 4 words with.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:40 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


PS: Jump to 17:44 in the video and you can see the chain entirely slack.
posted by mollymayhem at 6:42 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


But aren't there three other chains?

My understanding, from a comment I read elsewhere (and admittedly I have no experience in such things) is that most likely one of the motors (hoists?) seized up and the other three stopped automatically as a safety measure, and that's why one of the chains was slack.

In any event, as you said, this is a multi million dollar operation with an entire crew of the industry's best people working on this. Given the care and safety steps they went through when they moved him to the other platform, I'm just gonna go ahead and assume they would have shut the whole thing down if there was even a possibility it wasn't safe to continue.
posted by bondcliff at 6:54 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


Well. I've not been a Phish-phile, but that is some danceable music, of which I approve. and the savoir-faire, the sang-froid, the chill and confident response, is something else. Excellent post, bondcliff.
posted by theora55 at 7:04 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


one of the motors (hoists?) seized up

I see what you did there.
posted by panama joe at 2:06 AM on January 7 [6 favorites]


We would also have accepted "But today that thing malfunctioned" as a post title.
posted by emelenjr at 4:37 AM on January 7 [4 favorites]


And yet, accidents happen. There was the collapsed stage for radiohead in Toronto some years ago, which happened during construction and I believe killed someone. Large structures not behaving like they should are flipping scary.
posted by kaibutsu at 7:03 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


collapsed stage

Curtis Mayfield was paralyzed by a stage lighting scaffold that fell in heavy wind.
posted by thelonius at 7:11 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


> I would love to know the origin of that blue Nord in Page's rig.

I'm betting vinyl wrap.
posted by ardgedee at 3:41 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


I just noticed that about 12:00 in the "from a kneeling position" video link Trey struggles to use a wah pedal and fails. Must have been harder to keep his balance than it first looked. (And a couple minutes after that he turns away from the camera and you can clearly see the safety strap mounted on his back. I assume they were wearing harnesses under the jumpsuits, probably the same things window washers use.)
posted by ardgedee at 4:00 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


Closure: Trey opened his TAB winter tour with a cover of The Beatles "I'm Down.", complete with a custom verse about the Rescue Squad.
posted by bondcliff at 8:20 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


« Older We're not too low the cloth to weave But too low...   |   Let's talk about Dark Souls one last time wait... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments