"Corrina" was not only nice to hear, but well played and reminiscent of its bust-out on 12/30/99 (Big Cypress Seminole Reservation, Florida). "46 Days" had a swifter-than-usual tempo and a jam that was rocking in the first half, and pretty in the second half; but Trey pulled a 2011-style ripcord - within 30 seconds of Mike and Page establishing a nice vi-IV pattern that could have totally been explored, Trey forced a segue into a sloppy "Cities". The fun of the first set was a "Wolfman's Brother" into which Trey crowbarred elements of "Party Time", probably trying (but failing) to swerve the jam into that song proper.
Set II of 12/29/18 gave us the absolute best jam of the four-show run. Shortly into the opening "Carini" jam, they shifted into a major key, and instead of the usual 10-plus minute jam, we got a surprising segue into the jam-of-the-night in "Tweezer". People will be talking about this one for a while. There was such great interplay, with Trey and Fish initiating stops and starts to goad the crowd into some "woo"s and, afterward, they did a pretty, uptempo jam, followed by a segue to "Death Don't Hurt Very Long". But instead of taking the solo himself, Trey threw solos to Fish and Mike before another segue back into "Tweezer", which had another pretty but, by now, perfunctory jam which was brought way down for a segue into "No Quarter".
With "Death Don't Hurt" as well as "Turtle in the Clouds" played on Dec. 29, we had six remaining Kasvot Vaxt songs on the table as we arrived at Madison Square Garden for the Dec. 30 show. We had decent seats in section 202, across the arena, but with an almost head-on and unobstructed view of the stage. The sound was not so bad, either.
Opening with "Alumni Blues -> Letter to Jimmy Page -> Alumni Blues" followed by "Mike's Song" gave the show a classic '88 feel, but a big surprise came in the place between "Mike's" and "Weekapaug Groove" usually occupied by "I Am Hydrogen". Instead of that song, they busted out "Glide II", played exactly once before by Phish, on 5/16/95 (Lowell, MA) - though the real bustout was actually when Trey blew everyone's mind by dusting it off earlier in December during his solo tour.
Speaking of old dormant songs tested by Trey during his solo tour, the short acoustic number, "Bliss", from the 1996 album Billy Breathes that mostly serves as an introduction for the album's title song, also showed up for the first time ever at a Phish show on Dec. 30. It came off of a "Crosseyed and Painless" that was seamlessly segued out of "Weekapaug" and led into "Billy" as on the album.
After that, there was about 18 minutes of dancing, with "No Men In No Man's Land" laying down some funk and "Weekapaug" showing up again in the middle of a "Tube" jam. "More" closed the set to great and powerful effect, as it often does. As first sets go, that one was pretty hard to beat.
If Set I kept things mostly classic, the first two-thirds of Set II stayed firmly rooted in 3.0 with a fifth Kasvot Vaxt song ("Cool Amber and Mercury"), a large "Everything's Right" that included a big major-key bliss jam, a "Plasma" that had Page tearing it up on the clavinet, and a 20-minute "Light" during which Chris Kuroda's lights were the definite MVP of the jam - not that the band was too shabby either, especially when they peaked, brought it way down, and peaked again.
To close out the set, "Wading in the Velvet Sea" was a pleasant choice, and it was followed by a very 3.0 "Split Open and Melt" (and you know how I feel about those). That almost did not matter though, because the encore more than made up for it, with a rare four-song selection of classic-era tunes - "Funky Bitch", "Wilson", "Rocky Top" and a "Cavern" that included a nod to Kasvot Vaxt ("Your time is near, the mission's clear, you'll face plant into rock.").
Despite the lack of any 2.0 era songs in the show, and the way the 3.0 and 1.0 songs were played in separated clumps, this show felt like it had a ton of variety and, most importantly, the playing was incredible - a band doing what it does best on the night before its year-end spectacular. It was my 10th Dec. 30 Phish show and, once again, it did not disappoint. I came away satisfied with it being my last show of the year.
The next night was everything New Year's Eve should be, with big, fat jams in "Down With Disease" and "Seven Below"; a fun song sandwich that put "Passing Through" (KV song #8 after "Play By Play" was the seventh in Set I)) in the middle of the "Harry Hood" jam; and, of course, an elaborate production to ring in the new year (this time based around one of my favorite newer songs, "Mercury" and a ninth KV tune "Say It to Me S.A.N.T.O.S."). I watched it with friends at home on Jan. 1 and it felt like I got to ring in the new year all over again.
Fans seem to be using "This is what space smells like" (from "S.A.N.T.O.S.") as a catchphrase, but when it comes to Phish's New Year's Run, I think the next line is much more appropriate - "You will always remember where you were."