Show #49: 5/22/88 (5/21??)

Sunday, 5/22/88
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Funky Bitch, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page[1] > Alumni Blues, You Enjoy Myself, St. Thomas[2], Golgi Apparatus, Fire

Set 2: La Grange, Possum, The Lizards, Timber (Jerry), Tela, Happy Birthday to You,Fluffhead, Bike[3], Good Times Bad Times

Set 3: Big Leg Emma, Rocky Top, Cities, Take the ‘A’ Train, The Curtain With, Suzy Greenberg

[1] First played by Phish, then played only by Fish.
[2] First known Phish performance.
[3] Fishman trombone solo.

The date is disputed as Phish.com states this was 5/22 according to the flyer but Phish.net maintains this was 5/21.

This show has some relevance to the current tour (which closes tonight and you can watch for FREE) in that it has the only known performance of the Sonny Rollins tune “St. Thomas”. A personal favorite, it’s a spirited calypso-tinged tune. It’s nicely played, despite ending in the wrong key and a wonder that it didn’t make it into the band’s rotation like other jazz covers that stayed until the mid-1990s. It did however pop up recently as it was teased at Randall’s Island and CMAC during the recent tour. It’s also a sentimental favorite as back in middle school, I was a tenor saxophone player myself and sat down and transposed St. Thomas so that I could learn the riff to play along with the record. It’s the only time I recall doing such a thing and I still remember being excited about it. So that Phish had played it themselves just a few years earlier fills me with pride.

As for the show itself, it’s a fun night at Nectar’s. Opening a 3 night set, the main feeling is how different the vibe is from the previous show. The band is still having fun but it feels more tight and business-like. The band is here to play the gig and get paid. The sets have more covers in order to maintain the crowd’s interest. Highlights include “Letter to Jimmy Page” by request for birthday boy Del Martin, in which the band plays the song and then just Fishman plays the song on drums. A guy yelling for “Fluffhead” all night until they actually play it and he goes crazy. Another dub version of “Happy Birthday”. It also has the only known recording of Phish covering “Big Leg Emma” by Frank Zappa. It’s a goofy cover and I wonder why it was also dropped from rotation. This is also the first time I noticed a “Dave’s Energy Guide” tease in “Sneakin’ Sally” without reading the Phish.net setlist first. Seems my ears are getting serious about Phish. Lastly, the World Premiere of “Tela”, despite them having already played it once and an audience member yelling “Oh no! Not again” and sounds exactly like the guy who yelled “Oh no!” when the band cued up “Show of Life” during the encore of 12/31/13. It seems fans even then disdained new material. Same as it ever was. We’ll see what nights two and three of this 3 night stand bring.

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