Show #42: 3/11/88

Friday, 03/11/1988
The Base Lodge, Stearns Hall, Johnson State College, Johnson, VT

Set 1: The Chicken[1], Funky Bitch, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley[2], Take the ‘A’ Train,You Enjoy Myself[3] -> Wilson, Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light, Flat Fee,Corinna, The Lizards, David Bowie

Set 2: Fluffhead, Dinner and a Movie, Harry Hood, The Ballad of Curtis Loew[2], Harpua,AC/DC Bag > Alumni Blues > Run Like an Antelope[4]

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] Bobby Brown on harmonica.
[3] No vocal jam.
[4] Trey spoke the names “Marco Esquandolas… Poster Nutbag… Moses Heaps… Moses DeWitt.”

I almost didn’t know how to start this post as it’s a good show but wasn’t noteworthy. Then I began reading This Has All Been Wonderful by David “Zzyzx” Steinberg and having him say that a show can be great without an outstanding jam, it put this show really into perspective. If you’re not following PhishStats on Facebook or haven’t picked up a copy of the book, you’re missing out on some great Phish history notes by the master. Highly recommended. Click this link before buying and 0.5% can go to the Mockingbird Foundation! I also recommend as a dual layer to your Phistory, the blog 20 Years Later. The author is posting a review of that day’s show 20 years later obviously. 1994 was such  banner year and we’ll get there someday! Hopefully by late next year.

As opposed to when the band doesn’t sound inspired like our last show, sometimes the band is just on fire. Such is the case where nearly every song is well-played. Once again deep in the woods at Johnson State Collge, the remoteness as well as a crowd that the band won over by the end of the show, something really got everybody ready to throw down. Which is considerable considering how the show opens.

Trey almost half heartedly introducing a James Brown tune, “The Chicken”. “The Chicken”, while being made famous by Brown, was written by his saxophonist Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis. This Phish version is actually more like the big band version found on Jaco Pastorius’s The Birthday Concert, hitting more jazz than funk. The set continues to build and you can hear the crowd go from chatty to interested. Crowd pleaser “Sneakin’ Sally” seems to be a big turning point. This version features local musician Bobby Brown on harmonica, adding a dimension to the setlist regular. “A Train” takes it down a notch before the band launches into “You Enjoy Myself”. The “YEM” is more notable for its segue as instead of a vocal jam, Mike hits the bass line to “Wilson” and the band goes into that. The “Wilson” is fun with an excellent intro jam before the lead vocal. A big first set highlight is “Slave” as it gets a gorgeous peak. “Flat Fee” and “Corinna” is as beautiful as a breather you can find. “Lizards” continues to amaze. The second peak is “David Bowie”. We get a “Bowie” with a long intro for the first time and they make the most of it, driving the crowd crazy with teases. In order, we have “Timber”, “Alumni”, “Smoke on the Water”, “Sunshine of Your Love”, “Money”, “Whipping Post”, and perhaps a preview of the yet-undebuted “Weekapaug Groove”. The song sounds pretty great as well but unfortunately the recording cuts out midway through ending set 1.

Set 2 kicks off with a complete “Fluffhead” suite. Nailed. Next is “Dinner and a Movie” where the band plays the signature syncopated Page solo for the first time. Nailed. “Hood” is good, naturally. The crowd knows it too. You can hear the energy seep into the performance. “Curtis Loew” with harmonica has a little more swing to it and is an excellent bridge song to the first recorded complete “Harpua”. The most interesting thing about is the story is told backwards. Trey says Harpua rounded a corner and came “face to fat” with the meanest and fattest cat Poster Nutbag! They then fight. In most versions, the nice cat Poster Nutbag meets the mean Harpua and the ensuing fight kills Poster Nutbag. Poster’s still dead here in the second half of the song (one fan yells “THE CAT’S DEAD!” before the reveal, showing the song had been played before. But that Poster is the mean one is an odd deviation. Still though, amazing the Who rock opera vibe is captured from the beginning. A tight pairing of “AC/DC Bag” and the “Letter”-less “Alumni Blues” slay as well. The “Run Like An Antelope” is a scorcher. The band really lets this one unwind, almost reaching the 15 minute mark. It’s got a very nice slow build to the “Rye Rye Rocco” break, which doesn’t happen until 12 minutes in, demonstrating an early mature patience that we haven’t seen much of yet. Also, we get a lot of Page here, which is fantastic. Really showcases his early chops in a stellar way. We also really get the first crowd reaction to “Been you to have any spliff, man?”. They yell loudly, showing that they are listening and are actually there to see Phish. It’s a great moment. Something special out there in Johnson, but no match for what would occur the following night, back home at Nectar’s. Don’t forget you can follow very post by following me on Twitter @harryphood or like this page on Facebook! See you tomorrow for sure!

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