Show #27: 8/21/87

Fishman and Marley!

Friday, 08/21/1987
Ian McLean’s Farm, Hebron, NY

Set 1: Dog Log, Peaches en Regalia, Divided Sky, Funky Bitch, Harry Hood, Clod, The Curtain With, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone, Shaggy Dog, Wilson, Camel Walk

Set 2: Mike’s Song -> Hold Your Head Up[1], Harpua[2] > Bundle of Joy[3] > Harpua -> Golgi Apparatus > Sparks[4], Flat Fee, Fee, Skin It Back -> Low Rider Jam -> Back Porch Boogie Blues -> The Sloth

Set 3: Big Black Furry Creature from Mars[3], McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters -> Stir It Up Jam, Makisupa Policeman Jam[5] -> David Bowie[6] > Sanity, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] Restarted after the opening lyric.
[3] First known performance.
[4] Extended intro.
[5] Freestyle reggae rapping from Trey.
[6] Unfinished.

We’ve reached what many believe to be the peak of Early Phish, the period from 1983-1987, Ian’s Farm. Or the shown know as Ian’s Farm. The actual full title of the gig is Ian McLean’s party (or pig roast depending on who you ask) at “Connie” Condon’s farm. Nobody seems to know who “Connie” Condon is though I bet Ian McLean does. He’s still friends with the band and was acknowledged as in attendance at SPAC last summer. Hebron is located in the Glens Falls/Saratoga Springs area so it’s interesting that 25 years later he still lives there. It’s important to note this is the first recording that was not in Vermont. While most likely the audience is friends, there might be people in the crowd that helped spread the word of the band. When listening to this show, take a few moments and imagine seeing the band on a farm in the warm summer. Surrounded by friends and family, it’s an intimate gathering. According to legend, there were many dogs as people. Throughout the recording you can hear their barking, as if they too wanted in on the fun. The friendly attitude seeps in the songs as it feels less rushed than the previous two nights at Nectar’s. You can feel it in the song selection as well. There’s less emphasis on the covers and besides the lone request of “Harpua”, more of the band just playing in the groove.

The show doesn’t start off too excitingly but is a fun listen. “Dog Log” is well-played. Probably the best call for an opener over with how many dogs were at the show. “Peaches en Regalia” rips. The shortened “Divided Sky” is played very well and sounds fully sketch, despite being unfinished. “Funky Bitch” rips. But the real fun starts with “Harry Hood. The band feels relaxed on the tune by now. It’s been worked in enough to fit like an favorite pair of pants or an old baseball mitt. The barking of dogs fits the recording, giving the song a Pink Floyd Animals feel. “Hood” also has the now standard spoken “Thank You Mr. Minor” instead of the old singsongy edition. But the end jam, Page hits the keys just right and there’s a tenderness in the playing that hadn’t been heard yet. Trey also has finally found the phrasing; with his playing interlocking well with Page and Mike. Trey’s arpeggios at the 11:30 mark are spellbinding. The ending is not to be missed as it’s all tied together into the “You Can Feel Good” refrain. It’s so good, Fishman comments “That’s why I’m in the band”. “Clod” gets the extended treatment with a very funky breakdown beginning at the 3-minute mark. Fishman gets in some very good cowbell into the jam. “The Curtain With” comes next and just plain cooks. Hitting all the changes. Trey milking the notes just right in the “With” jam and getting the best out of his tone. Page creating the right feeling with the perfect painting of chords. I’m getting hot and bothered just listening to it. “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” gets taken for a walk and the band gets OUT THERE. After the 2nd verse, the band gets into some deep type 1 and just enjoys to the end. They don’t even go back into the song. Trey teases his guitar to keep the dogs barking. In thinking about the dogs, we get another fun version of “Shaggy Dog” (with backup dogs!) . “Wilson” is still not the powerhouse we know today, this version does come closer to the version found on Trey’s thesis. Also has a weird, dark breakdown at the 4-minute mark. Trey also doesn’t do the signature “Blat Boom” offering a more low-key quick one-off instead. A very oddly intro puts the band into “Camel Walk”. The band plays with keys and tempos and arrangements in a weird way. At least, interesting to hear the band play with the song here as they close set 1.

Set 2 opens with “Mike’s Song” and here it lives up to its name as the jam is led by Mike’s bass. He even leads Trey into a “Ring around the Rosie” tease at the 4-minute mark. It’s the first real time we’ve had such a strong performance from Mike but he really is in the zone here and Trey just sits back and lets him own the jam, which is brilliant to hear. At the 9:45 mark though, we hear Trey finally take the song back, leading Mike into a speeding chase the feels like they’re both going down the wormhole, twisting around, not knowing where they’ll land. The landing point turns out to be a sinister version of Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up”. Today the tune is known as Fishman’s entrance song but somehow it ended up being the odd ending to this killer “Mike’s” jam. In the pause, trey plays with some effects that sound like the solo towards the end of “Esther” on Junta. It only makes sense that in a show full of dog’s barking we get a “Harpua” by request. This version’s a little different because we don’t get a story about Harpua and Poster Nutbag (to be explained later) and also we don’t get the end of the song. We get the first part but as it’s only the second performance, it’s a little rough. So much so, that they stet the song twice, work on the acapella intro a few times over the chord progression, and Trey slows the song down so that he’s actually speaking the lyrics at one point. Not the best version but an interesting listen to the beginnings of a Phish classic. In the middle, we get the debut of the last part of “Fluff’s Travels” in “Bundle of Joy”. The tune actually doesn’t seem too out of place joining the “Harpua” jam but is clearly more comfortable in it’s current role of building the tension to the “Fluffhead/Arrival” moment. The ending of “Harpua” gets quite funky and danceable, which is not something I usually say about that tune. I like it but I’d rather have the current “rock opera” ending. “Golgi” follows and is pretty good. “Sparks” gets an extended intro while Fishman apparently “squeezes urine from his bladder” as Trey puts it. A fan calls for “Fee” but they need to wait for Fish.  At one point, it almost sounds like Trey wants to play Tom Petty’s “Here Comes My Girl” but it moves into “Sparks”, which features a lot of flourishes from Trey to give it that Pete Townshend feel. Trey gives the audience the option of “Fee” or “Flat Fee” first. Trey decides on “Flat Fee”, a jazz number he wrote in an exercise with his mentor Ernie Stires. I love “Flat Fee”. I’d love to see it brought back. Apparently, Trey teased it before Jones Beach 2009. Maybe this summer finally. Phish really needs to bring back the jazz influence that had in the 80s and early 90s in my opinion. “Fee” finally gets played by request, still sans megaphone and a standard version. The set ends with a huge jam segment. It kicks off innocently enough with “Skin It Back”. Trey rips off some hot licks at about the 2-minute mark. The jam is going along great but at the 7-minute mark Fish pushes the tempo and Trey answers the call with fast flying fretwork. The jam breaks down and lands into jamming on War’s “Low Rider”, led by Mike entering the bass line. Trey gets into the fun as well, yelling for his dog Marley, and singing the chorus of Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” over it. It’s a cool moment after the madness of the “Skin It Back” jam, almost like a hidden outro on an LP. It’s short lived however and the band picks up the tempo again and Trey plays the opening licks of “Back Porch Boogie Blues”. The pace quickens as the song develops almost reaching boiling point before cooling down. It’s cool to see the band push tempos and stay together. Mike starts with the bass line to “The Sloth” and it ends the jam.

Set 3 opens with a debut. Trey says it will be a song from Melanie entitled “I’ve Got a Brand New Pair of Roller Skates; You’ve Got A Brand New Key”. Thankfully, it is not the song and we get the first “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars”. I like this version because it feels more punk rock and less noisy than other versions. It sounds like it could be a real punk tune here. Trey’s opening riff is on point. Solid debut. Next is “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters” introduced by Trey as the “Gala Event” with another “Hold Your Head Up” intro. Still waiting to start up, Trey teases the Dead’s “Slipknot!” much to the dismay of some attendees. “McGrupp” is interesting because it’s heard in it’s final form with the lyrics sung to the tune instead of spoken word. It’s a great version with a pretty Page solo at the 5:30 mark. It segues nicely into the “Stir It Up” jam, cued by Mike with the bass line. What follows is a really nice jam on the chord progression with none of the vocals. A short pause and then the band fires up the “Makisupa” chord progression to keep the reggae vibe going. Trey proceeds to rap over the band, book ending “Dog Log” with lines about stepping in doogie doo and the mouse house. Besides that fun, the jam doesn’t really go anywhere but with Trey playing with effects over the top. It does however transition very nicely into David Bowie with Trey playing the riff. It’s a very low key intro with a slow playing of the chords before speeding up to normal tempo as Mike drops bass bombs. There’s also nice “Tom Sawyer” tease to enjoy. The jam also has some fun flourishes and ends with Mike hitting the bass line for “Sanity”. They asks the crowd to “sing it out!”. The set ends with “an original song…by a slave” and the jazz arrangement of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” sends the audience to bed. A silly ending to a phenomenal show. If you haven’t heard this one, hit up the PhishTracks link above and enjoy. Next we head back to the Ranch in Shelburne!

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