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Phish NYE Gag Fills MSG Void with Fans, Smoke, Balloons

PLSN Staff • News • January 10, 2012

NEW YORK — If it’s New Years Eve and Phish is performing, you can be sure of one thing: Something unexpected is going to happen. In 2010, it was Jon Fishman, shot from a cannon in Miami. In 2011, it was the International Meatstick flash mob. In 2012, it started with a steaming tea kettle, then moved to aerialists disguised as fans, plucked from the crowd and hoisted 45 feet high, performing amid smoke, balloons and a random speaker cabinet. Behind the gag were scenic designer David Gallo, Phish/Red Light Management, production manager Hadden Hippsely, Zenith Pyro, Square Root Studios, Tait Towers and Tait’s flight director, Paul Sapsis.

More details from David Gallo Design (

NEW YORK —  In a sold-out arena of a four-day run, Phish fans are electrified during the third and final set as guitarist Trey Anastasio’s on-stage tea kettle begins to whistle and billow.  As the band moves into “Steam,” a song about the journey of the soul into the afterlife, smoke clouds the stage and a speaker cabinet begins to ascend.  It is followed by a bass then a keytar and eventually Jon Fishman’s famous Electrolux vacuum shoots up and hovers hauntingly above the band.

A ‘fan’ wielding a ‘Steam’ sign teeters on a barrier, escaping the hold of security and is transported high above the music’s flow (and the deck of the stage.) Transfixed by lyrics “I hear you singing through the steam”, cabled aerialists costumed as fans, wearing steam jetpacks by Zenith Pyro and Square Root Studios, begin to levitate throughout the arena lured by “your soul joins mine as steam.” They free flow in the air space of Madison Square Garden until Steam slows and the countdown begins followed by a magnificent balloon drop.

A rousing “Auld Lang Syne” segues into “Down with Disease” and the aerialist fans who are now outfitted with hand held lights are shot 45 feet into the air at nearly 20 mph. Balloons bounce around and mesmerized aerialists move Marionette-like beckoning the band to join them.  In full jam, Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordan climax “Down with Disease” by slowly rising 17 feet above stage on pedestal Ribbon lifts provided by Tait Towers.

Tait Towers provided an array of 15 T-winches geared to accelerate the performers to 18 feet/second, as well as four compact SmartMotor winches for the props over stage.  The power was controlled by Navigator under the care of Tait’s flight director, Paul Sapsis.  Navigator allowed the team to provide a portfolio of automation looks that flexed with the band’s ducks and weaves, while still remaining robust enough to recover from moments of performer distress or unplanned audience interaction.

For a video, go to:

Photo by Dave Vann © Phish 2012. All Rights Reserved

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