January 3rd, 2015 marked the final hurrah of a hootenanny-filled New Years extendo-weekend in beautiful, sunny Miami. This had been the first time in a long time that I had spent part of the holiday season in a seasonable clime, and I can report that the sun and the beautiful weather added a wonderful…season…to the holiday.
The entire Miami experience had been great, most especially the weather. Now, I’m not one of those Canadians who has convinced himself that cold weather is a blasphemy against my very existence – the way some people carry on you’d think we all lived in igloos with the windows open – quite the opposite actually. And while I’ve taught myself to enjoy and even look forward to a nice chilly winter (by teaching myself how to snowboard and how to skate) I somehow found a way to appreciate the novelty of a hot and sunny New Years week. Shorts and sandals, frosty beers and patios, and four consecutive easy outdoor strolls from hotel to Phish concert…it’s something worth getting used to.
For this final night of the run I started my evening the same way I started all of them, trying to find cheap tickets out front of the American Airlines Arena. And while this night was the hardest of them all (I actually ended up being a bit rushed getting in the door in time for the show), just like the previous night I scored one ticket for zero dollars and the other for $20, bringing the price paid for eight tickets over the course of four evenings to a total of $100 even*. The face value would have been around $600, so what we saved on tickets probably paid for most of our expenses aside from hotel and flights. I suppose it’s inverse scalping, but I still manage to sleep at night.
But never mind the weather and never mind the ticket price, there was a whole concert to report on, and what a concert it was! With all the gold that Phish dished out on this final night of a no-repeat weekend I am at a loss to recall what songs they might have had available to play on the other three nights! I mean they started –started! – with one of my all-time favourites, Maze** followed by AC/DC Bag into one of their bestest dreamiest random-sounding globules of precomposed sonic bliss, Divided Sky (a song I’m convinced started out as a van-tour vocal jam based on a “divided highway” sign). The set ended with another pair of favourites, Split Open and Melt (the final bar of which always and aptly [in this setting, anyway] reminds me very strongly of Conga by Miami Sound Machine – once you hear it you will always hear it***) and a raging Character Zero that almost tricked me into thinking that the show was over.
The second set and encore grounded the whole weekend by reminding us all that at the heart of it Phish is simply a fantastic rock & roll band. Suzy Greenberg, Down With Disease, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, and a Led Zeppelin encore (Good Times Bad Times) kept the room dancing despite the collective exhaustion that bound us all together. It was all so very raging that I won’t even bother mentioning the late-set Harry Hood reggae-fest that saw my arms raised to the girders (though I suppose I just did).
In summary, while NYC is a fun place to spend NYE with Phish & Co. I would be very pleased if they booked the weekend in Miami just a little bit more often. As it stands this run was their third and thus far final time ushering in the new year down there, and given the vast differential of ticket prices and availability between the two cities I can’t really blame them for skewing northward.
*I only know one person that paid more than $20 for a ticket over the whole run, and almost all of my tickets were in the 100 level. On the last night there were people asking for face value, but I didn’t see anyone pay that amount.
**Aside from the great lyrics and just the overall grand composition of Maze the thing I really, really dig about the song and what elevates it to one of my hands-down Phish favourites is how the band staggers their parts against one another at the end, a rhythmically unstable cycle that comes so close to throwing off the entire tune that it actually holds the whole thing together. Every time I hear the band play it live I try to find the breakaway point and figure out how they do it, but in the moment I can never catch it. I would have to sit down and figure out everyone’s parts and while that would be really fun and probably pretty educational I’m worried that doing so would erase the mystery from the song and downgrade my interest in it. There’s a fair chance that learning the secret would do the opposite and somehow elevate my penchant for the tune, but I’m not sure it’s worth the risk.
***Just like how the verses of Halley’s Comet reminds me of 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.