"Is this like anything you've ever seen?" asked Jake Steinberg, 20, a college student from California. Steinberg was just one of the small army of Phish fans who flew here in hopes of scoring tickets and getting inside Madison Square Garden on New Year's Eve to see the band's first live show since its hiatus about two years ago.
The legendary jam band from Vermont with the whimsically improvisational style and worshipful fan following announced in October 2000 that it was taking a break to recharge its creative batteries. Inside the Garden, fans bolted out of their seats when the band hit the stage at 8:20 p.m. with "Piper." The capacity crowd shook the floors as fans danced in their seats and in the aisles.
For Phish's legions of fans, known for trailing the band from show to show a la followers of the Grateful Dead, its return was not to be missed.
All day, fans wearing dreadlocks, Rastafarian knit caps and flower-print dresses swarmed Seventh Avenue, many holding up their index fingers (as in, "need one ticket"). Ariel Stein, 18, a college student from Virginia seeking two tickets, was offering $800, a place to stay in Hampton, Va. -- the band's next stop -- and a Gary Sheffield baseball card. He said he harbored no resentment even after paying $1,000 for two tickets he discovered were fake. "It's the most pure fun you can have today."