University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
Set 1: Slave to the Traffic Light, Mike’s Song > Dave’s Energy Guide, Big Leg Emma
Set 2: Alumni Blues, Wild Child, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, Jam -> Cities, Bring It On Home
Set 3: Scarlet Begonias > Eyes of the World -> Whipping Post -> McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Makisupa Policeman > Run Like an Antelope -> The Other One
 First known Phish performance; Bobby Brown on harmonica.
 Jeff on vocals.
 Reggae jam.
 First known Phish performance.
First off, the McGrupp quandary has been solved. The 3/4/85 version is most likely from 4/6/85 instead, the actual debut of the song. It’s interesting because the setlist definitely has the similar tune “Skippy the Wondermouse”, which was probably played but not recorded. That note is missing on 3/4/85’s setlist page but seen on 4/6/85’s page. So that solves that mystery…for now!
On to today’s show, which is yet another important milestone in Phishtory. This show took place on the Redstone campus as part of the Last Day celebrations. The only known recordings of this show feature two songs of the first set and the entire third set and encore of the show. From the first set, we get, not the first ever, but the first recording of “Mike’s Song”, introduced directly by Trey as such. “Mike’s Song” is a long time staple of the band but interesting to hear without many of its usual pairings. It also has an odd outro that has it’s own lyrics but are mostly inaudible on this recording before going into “Dave’s Energy Guide”. “DEG” is an instrumental that focuses on trying to sound like King Crimson and the picking style of Robert Fripp. It may not reach that heights but it’s certainly and interesting pattern and this is a VERY good clear example of the song. This would be key because while the song does not live on, it is a common tease in many shows even up to present day. “DEG” ends and then the band chats for a moment before the big news.
“We’re gonna do one. Then we’re gonna take a very short break and then come back. We’ve got a very special guest with us today. From Goddard College, we have Page on keyboards and it’s gonna be a treat, so. And then the recording cuts out but we have the introduction on tape! So, how did Page from Goddard arrive to play with Phish. Well, Page was faced with the task of booking bands for Goddard’s SpringFest earlier in April. He booked Phish and shared the bill with them in his own band named Love Goat. Clearly, Page liked Phish’s work and asked to join them. Trey still felt Phish was a two-guitar band at the time but allowed Page to sit-in at this show. The difference is immediate from the start as we drop into “Scarlet Begonias”. Now, everyone wants to hear Phish cover the Dead these days. Having heard Phish cover “Scarlet” a bunch now and this being the final time, I really hope they don’t. I love both bands but Phish’s originals sound so much better. Anyway, in this version, Page’s keys really round out the version and add a layer of depth missing earlier. He’s a much more complimentary player to Trey than Jeff. The band has also been working on segues and the segue into “Eyes of the World” is perfect. It’s very ambient but it drops in nicely. It would not feel out of place at a show today in fact. This “Eyes” is definitely the best by the band in the 3 versions. They feel more relaxed and hitting the song’s groove better. It shows a maturity for the material not seen until this point. While I am glad they began to move on from Dead covers, a few more versions would have been interesting to see. The last 4 minutes are particularly interesting as they leave the structure of “Eyes” for a moment and jam. Mike fires up the bass line to Allmans’ “Whipping Post” and it’s off to the races. The jam actually backs off the intensity and goes out there. It’s gets very spacey which is an interesting choice. Some hot keys from Page hit the fills between Jeff’s driving rhythm guitar. Trey then uses his effects to throw huge waves of chords over the top, giving it the aforementioned feeling. It’s an interesting peak into the future of Phish jams. “Whipping Post” segues into “McGrupp” but is cut off.
The band then goes into “Makisupa Policeman”. It’s an interesting version in that it features the same lyrics as the last version to begin, something modern “Makisupas” do not do. Page also features on this with some great organ fills. The song then becomes a vehicle to introduce the band, which was a very cool idea. It then takes a serious turn with lyrics, “All you have to do to free the nation is free weed, free the rastaman, free reggae music! And the nations will be free.” It’s a fun jam that makes a silly song serious for a moment. The tape then goes to the first recorded performance of “Run Like An Antelope”. Now, this is only the jam section but it’s an early look at the bliss that the song would become. Page adds complimentary Rhodes parts underneath Trey’s solo. The tension and release that would become the band’s signature, really has its recorded origins in this delightful 6 minute romp. The band then closes the set with a ripping rendition of the Dead’s “The Other One”. One of my favorite tracks from the revolutionary 1967 album Anthem of the Sun, this rendition finds the band hitting in full stride. Around 7:40, Mike hits the bass line to “My Soul” and fits it nicely with Trey’s solo. The band then destroys all the beauty of the day in typical Phish fashion by encoring with the short thrash number “Anarchy” and Trey saying “See you next year!” Way to go guys.
Coming up, Fall 1985! Back from Europe with ideas! Hope you’ll join me again and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for all your Phishy updates @harryphood!