University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
Set 1: AC/DC Bag > Dear Mrs. Reagan, Prep School Hippie, Quinn the Eskimo -> Slave to the Traffic Light, Makisupa Policeman, Have Mercy, All Blues > Dog Log > Possum, You Enjoy Myself, Anarchy, Camel Walk -> Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues
 First known Phish performance; approximately one minute long.
Well, Phish as a five-piece was fun while it last but if not for graduation, he might have been left in a men’s room in Colorado sometime. I’m only idling but with graduation looking, this is the last recording I have access to which has Jeff Holdsworth as a regular member of Phish. Jeff would graduate from UVM in May and go off to seek his fortune in electrical engineering. Some say he found God and condemned his work with Phish. He did have this to say according to Relix magazine, “I have not made any effort to follow the ‘Phish phenomena,’ other than information that comes freely my way. I feel there is a certain psycho-spiritual void in this generation making the transition from adolescence to adulthood which Phish has ‘hooked’ into.” Regardless, he has kept very quiet.
The show was the UVM Earth Day concert and took place outside Bailey-Howe Library on the school’s campus. Itkicks off with “AC/DC Bag”. Again it has a different intro but the one used in this how is not as slick as the one on 4/1/86. I wonder what promoted the change. The band kicks into two newer tunes with the one-two punch of “Dear Mrs. Reagan” and “Prep School Hippie”. “Reagan” again feels out of place even on such a political day as Earth Day. “Hippie” on the other has great chemistry between both Jeff, Trey, and Page working together. The refrain “I can’t wait until I’m 21” being sung in the style of “Not Fade Away” is also a highlight and gives the tune another dimension as it does speak towards 80s Deadheads. Continuing the theme, the band launches into popular Bob Dylan cover of the Grateful Dead, “Quinn the Eskimo”. There’s a hilarious moment about 3 minutes in where the entire band except Mike stops playing and the whole song breaks down. The crowd laughs. Trey introduces Mike. Shortly there after, everyone picks it back up and continues the song. It’s a lighthearted moment clearly planned by the rest of the band.
Phish goes into “Slave to the Traffic Light”. The “Slave” sounds good put is pretty standard early version. “Makisupa Policeman” comes next with a heavy bass intro from Mike with “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus teases. The song finally stays seriously and has great jams from Page and Trey. Similar to the previous show, it goes from a Phish reggae original to their reggae cover du jour, “Have Mercy”. The song goes just a hair more out there than last time but feels less urgent and cohesive. Jeff then introduces the trio you’ve all been waiting for, “The Bob Dylan Band”, again references the previous show at Hunt’s. Very clear the band’s starting to have inside jokes with their fans, a trademark even to this day. Jeff points out someone has asked for “lively dance music” to which another person wells “Help on the Way”, calling for the Dead tune. Trey retorts, “That’s lively dancing music as far as I’m concerned!” The band then jams out on the chord progression to “All Blues” by Miles Davis for a minute while Trey gets his other guitar.
Once Trey’s set up, we’re back with a dedication to all the dogs out there, especially Marley the Wonder Dog! Marley would be a figure of the band through out the first part of their career, dying mere days before the band took their first hiatus. The dedication is “Dog Log”, which is fitting because Marley’s poop probably was a big inspiration. “All you people in bare feet can appreciate that one!,” someone remarks. After “Dog Log” comes Possum, still in it’s early incarnation, with more bluegrass stamp and oddly timed lyrics. It’s not the powerhouse it is now but fun to hear with Jeff on vocals, as it would be the last time on record. They then go onto “You Enjoy Myself”. “YEM” is still in the building stages and isn’t the epic well all expect now. This version does however have the “Boy, Man, God, Shit” lyrics at last and is inching closer to the tune we all know and love. It ends with a pretty funky jam and a short vocal jam.
Trey then introduces that the Joneses and The Sierra are playing Slade Hall that night and dedicates “Anarchy” to them. They play it actually 3 times in a row, changing the lyrics to “Jim Tasse” and “African Killer Bees”. Phish then gets back into dance mode, taking everyone down to the disco with “Camel Walk”. Jeff paints the picture with “colored floors and a disco ball” as he goes into the verse. This “Camel Walk” is at slightly faster pace than others and gets quite funky. The show closes with a very short “Alumni>Jimmy Page>Alumni” also at a faster pace.
The impact of Jeff Holdsworth on Phish is probably largely forgotten. Jeff was important. His solid rhythm allowed Trey to build confidence on lead and his control on difficult Dead and Allmans covers helped push Phish to fill Burlington bars. This marks the turning point where Phish set their sights on careers in music, something Jeff didn’t see happening. Trey and Jon would leave UVM and follow Page to Goddard College, where they could freely learn music. Page himself would earn $50 EACH for getting his friends to enroll. The added freedom allowed Phish to become the monster they are today but they’ll always remember those steady chords that help served as their training wheels as they got launched down the driveway toward rock immortality.