On the morning of Dec. 31, hours before their 17th show at Madison Square Garden in New York in 2017, Phish sent out an email to ticket holders alerting them that they had been “selected to ring in the new year as the first travelers to explore the universe by cosmic wristband.”
The band is known for its holiday-show hijinks, so fans who had attended the first few nights of the annual four-show run had been searching for clues about what the quartet and its “fifth member,” lighting designer Chris Kuroda, had up its sleeve this year. “The countdown has begun, and your vessel is about to embark on its voyage of discovery,” continued the email. Fans were instructed to retrieve the “cosmic wristband” — a white bracelet with a large LED pod attached to it — from their ticketed seat and were assured it would start working just before midnight.
After two high-energy sets that included electrifying renditions of crowd favorites “Suzy Greenberg,” “Fluffhead,” “Character Zero,” “Possum” and “You Enjoy Myself” — the latter of which brought the second set to a roaring close — the band kicked off its third set around 11:45 pm with its debut of the Trey Anastasio Band‘s song “Soul Planet.” Soon after, red jumpsuit-clad aerialists appeared on a lighting rig above the stage and began to unroll a giant white sheet. The New Year was less than 10 minutes away when the “sheet” was revealed to be a giant sail and the The Garden was transformed into a glowing blue and green sea of fans as everyone’s wristbands lit up at once.
While a giant countdown projected onto the sail, Trey and company played “Auld Lange Syne” as confetti and balloons flooded the sold-out arena. Moments later fans heard the unmistakable first guitar riff of the song “Free” as the balloons kept falling and the cosmic wristbands continued to glow in sync to the music. After a few more nautically-linked songs — “Wading in the Velvet Sea,” “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing” and “Prince Caspian” — the sail was furled and the night was drawing to a close.
Soon the crowd erupted as the turbulent “First Tube” took over, and because three sets spanning more than five hours is never enough, the band took the stage a fourth and final time to close the book with an encore of The Rolling Stones‘ “Loving Cup.”
As fans spent the next few hours of the early morning contemplating the “voyage of discovery” Phish had taken them on in the year 2017 — some fans were lucky enough to attend all 17 shows at the Garden during the year (which includes the record-setting 13-show Bakers Dozen run this summer) — others pondered a larger quandary: “Will my cosmic wristband light up forever?” Sadly the wristband lights went out around 3:15 am. But rest assured, fans, your voyage with Phish will certainly float on into 2018.