The Udder Ball

I solemnly swear not to post about Phish’s Fall tour of 1997 again until, say, 2017, but today marks the tenth anniversary of the show that capped it all, when the udder ball exploded in Madison Square Garden, and it’s worth one last huzzah. The culmination of a remarkable tour and a no less remarkable holiday run, the three-set show featured a strange thing hanging from the rafters which was used to project trippy animation of cheese, olive loaf, and the New Year’s countdown. At midnight, it disgorged giant balloons.

Musically, the band had a hard time topping the previous night, with its bust-out of Allan Toussaint’s Sneakin’ Sally and the greatest encore in Phishtory, which supposedly cost them hundreds of thousands in MSG overtime fees. Still, between Emotional Rescue, a segue-happy second set, and Also Sprach Zarathustra > Auld Lang Syne > Tweezer for midnight (and Page crooning New York, New York to finish it off), 12/31/97 was a spectacular time. You can download the entire run for free; the incredibly funky 12/29 is also available from LivePhish.

Here’s the NYE97 clip from Bittersweet Motel. If you squint, you can make me out dancing like a fool somewhere in the 300s on the far right when the ball bursts.

And that’s enough nostalgia for now — I’ll spend the rest of the day looking forward. So, happy 2008 one and all. Perhaps I’ll see you tonight at the ReBirth? Either way — Prost Neujahr!