Show #9: 11/23/85

The campus of Goddard College.

Ah, we finally made it to Goddard. Already the school of Page McConnell, almost a year later, it would become where Trey and Jon would finish their studies as well. Goddard College is a very interesting place that unfortunately is under threat of disappearing forever. In fact, it has already changed, for better or for worse, when it ended its traditional residential undergrad program in 2002. Located in Plainfield, Vermont, just east of Montpelier, the capital, Goddard College grew from a preparatory school for Tufts College in Medford, MA to its own college in 1938. The college was founded under the progressive principles of John Dewey. The school is unique in that instead of traditional curriculum, the student gets to choose their own curriculum and experiences and have narrative transcripts from the advisors and teachers to guide them as opposed to letter grades. It’s in this free form learning that allowed Phish to spread their wings. Other notable alumni of Goddard include playwright David Mamet, Jonathan Katz of Dr. Katz fame, William H. Macy, and lyricist Howard Ashman.

This show as played in the cafeteria of the Haybarn, one of the oldest and most classic buildings on Goddard’s campus. The campus is of note in that they took an old farm and made the existing buildings the school. It’s worth a trip if you’re in central Vermont. The Haybarn is pictured in the center of the above photo. You might think “Another short set? Please.” BUT DO NOT MOVE ON! THIS IS MUST-LISTEN PHISH. The “Mike’s Song” is a bit of a throwaway. The heart of this recording is the “Whipping Post Jam”. It is as good a jam as you’ll find in the band’s career. I feel it has been so overlooked at how locked in this band has been from very early on in their career. This is 27 minutes of where the band is going! There’s “Norwegian Wood” teases from Mike. There’s “The Other One” teases. In my first post, I said Phish could have been Vermont’s best Grateful Dead cover band. This is the closest the band comes to BEING the Grateful Dead. It’s as if they channeled ’67-’68 Dead in this jam. It has that wild, unified cacophony feel that capsulated those early Dead jams so well. I don’t hear Whipping Post at all in the jam so I’m unsure where that link came from but it doesn’t matter. We get some great ambient guitar parts while Page plays a nice piano solo over Mike’s bass and Jon’s steady cymbals. You tell it’s building. Even Jeff plays a great rhythm part with Jon’s drumming. The so far unweildy five-piece is actually sounding great for once. The tension and build is steady for a good solid 3-4 minutes and then there’s a shift, the drums change and there’s a slide guitar cue and then it gets into some early Pink Floyd vibes as well, as if anything can happen with the mood and atmosphere created. At 9 minutes in, the building tension finally releases and we’ve gone over the edge. The band begins charging along. The tempo increases and all members begin putting things in motion. The “Other One” teases hit but it’s about more than that as Trey keeps soloing over them. It almost all disintegrates but the twin guitars of Trey and Jeff just drive harder, taking the jam in a new direction. This gallop goes for another 9 minutes, slowing and speeding, bending the flow to create new ideas. it’s frenetic and well-paced but nothing compared to what begins at the 19 minute mark. There’s a few “Dark Star” teases and also some “Slave to the Traffic Light” quoted but the band hits its first ever peak. The uplifting chord profession seeps out of everyone as Trey flies over the top. PURE GLORY. I’d put it against anything I’ve heard so far in the catalog and the fact they were playing like this LESS THAN TWO YEARS after their first show is nothing less than astounding. The jam then ends with a reggae jam that sounds like the start of “Harry Hood”. If you have to come back down, at least let ’em dance right?

The tape then fades out and when it comes back in we’re deep in “Run Like An Antelope”. It has some good playing and the song is starting to get its signature feel but there’s not too much noteworthy about this version. The recording then closes with a “Dave’s Energy Guide” that is similar to other versions except it goes off the rails and is a bit more wild. But the jam. Holy cow! It’s such a harbinger of what’s too come from Phish. Luckily the band was successful or else this would be a mark of what could have been. The show is also important because it’s well-marked as the show where Mike had a “peak experience” or his epiphany. It was at this show, most likely during that jam, that he decided he wanted to play music for the rest of his life. He explains in Phish: The Biography by Parke Puterbaugh,

“It was the night I decided I wanted to make music a full-time career. I wrote two full journals just about that one night of playing. I had this incredible self-actualization, and I dedicated all future journals to figuring out what happened that night and what makes a peak experience like that occur.”
[Puterbaugh] asked whether that particular show was taped and whether the band might ever release it.
“I taped it, but I’ve never even listened to it,” he said. “I vowed never to listen to it. There’s no possible way that listening to it would ever be the same. It would be like being an entirely different person listening. So I just wanted to save the memory.”

With an experience like what I heard, I don’t blame him either. Moving on to a big year in 1986! Next on “One Show at a Time”.

Show #8: 11/14/85 or 11/19/85

The space at 242 Main, the club now occupying the Burlington Memorial Auditorium basement.

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1985-11-14

Thursday, 11/14/1985 or Tuesday, 11/19/1985
Memorial Auditorium Basement, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Slave to the Traffic Light[1], Hurricane[2], Makisupa Policeman[2] > Piggies[2] ->Makisupa Policeman[2] -> Drums[3] > Alumni Blues[2] > Dear Mrs. Reagan[2]

This show’s date is disputed because Mike’s notes say it was on the 19th while Del Martin’s tape is label the 14th. Regardless, this show found the band stopping down for a short unplugged set alongside fellow local artists The Joneses and The Visions for some type of benefit show. The recording comes in with the only known performance of Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane”. Trey makes notion of the importance of the song in that the song’s subject, Ruben “Hurricane” Carter, had finally been released from jail without bail that month. The song isn’t particularly noteworthy excepted to hear Trey drop a rare n-word. I will say that in this show, you can really hear the evolution of Mike as a bass player. His bass lines are very melodic and really add depth to the performance. The band goes into “Makisupa” and again the keyword tradition has not begun at this point. However, it again is used for band introductions. It’s also interesting to hear Trey sing that Mike is NOT smoking a spliff unlike other band members. Splitting up the “Makisupa” is a cover of “Piggies” by the Beatles. It’s a little odd because they maintain the reggae feel through the cover, so it’s not as true a cover as we’d hear 9 years later in Glens Falls. It’s also interesting that it’s dedicated to “Howard Mitiguy”, referencing Harry Mitiguy, the then-president of Howard Bank. I like this reference because I grew up with Howard Bank in Vermont and miss all the small, local banks we had as kids. Now they’re all owned by larger companies, Howard Bank notably becoming in the larger TD Bank chain. Fishman’s intro from “Makisupa” leads to an extended percussion solo which fades out the recording. It is interesting to note that Fish is only playing percussion and not his full drum kit to fit the acoustic theme. Phish, going unplugged before it was cool.

Show #7: 10/30/1985

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1985-10-30

Wednesday, 10/30/1985
Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Harry Hood[1], Dog Log[2] > Possum, Slave to the Traffic Light, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, I Wish, Revival, Alumni Blues[3] > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Prep School Hippie, Skippy the Wondermouse
[1] First known version.
[2] First known public version.
[3] Lyric referenced pumpkin pie.

“This is Phish. They are bad.”  So begins the 7th show in our series as Phish returns to Hunt’s for the first time on tape since March 4th. This show has a lot of good banter. The band is still in its odd 5-piece configuration at this point with two guitars and keys. This show holds a soft place in this author’s heart it marks the debut of my favorite Phish song, “Harry Hood”. Trey introduces the song being about “a story of the man who lives directly across the street from us right now. This is the story about his trip across the globe to the sunny beach of Greece and it all starts as our friend Brian places a carton of Hood milk in the refrigerator door.” This is significant because the origins of the song actually do come from Greece. On the aforementioned trip to Europe in the summer of ’85, Trey, Fish, and Brian Long decided to take LSD and swim in Greece. A fast moving storm came in and they almost did not escape unharmed. Somehow after this incident, Trey wrote the music to “Harry Hood” on that beach. The remarkable thing about this version of Harry Hood is how it hasn’t changed much in 29 years. The song structure is intact. While many Hoods would have better peaks and more blissful jams, the fact that the bare bones for he song were in place from this first performance on is pretty incredible. One minor difference is the “Thank You Mr. Minor” line is a little more light and “singsongy” than the angry intonation it would have on later performances. Someone who sounds like Fish chimes in, “We’re gonna get sponsored if it kills us. One day they’ll pay us to play that. I know it. Not Yet!”

The band decides to keep the debuts coming and slides into “Dog Log”. “Dog Log” is fun tune that’s seriously about stepping in dog shit. The tune has a fun intro that finally shows off what Page is adding to the band with some fine organ coloring over the opening rhythm. Other than that a simple reading of the song but more noteworthy “Dog Logs” are coming for sure. The band segues from “Dog Log” into the first recorded, second ever “Possum”. Now, this “Possum” is a little different than what you’re used to using for a piss break at today’s shows. It’s got a slower rhythm, some different guitar parts, and some weird harmonies over the lyrics but the core elements are there. It’s also of note as Jeff sings lead goals and Page has a solo.

Before going into “Slave to the Traffic Light”, Trey thanks those who came to seem them at Goddard College over the weekend, referencing a Halloween gig they played and that “it’s good to be back in the real world.” “Slave” is dedicated to their friend Brickle; it’d be interesting to know who that is. Besides that, this is pretty standard early “Slave”. The band kicks into dance mode with the first recorded version of Robert Palmer’s “Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley.” An early staple in the band’s career due to it’s very danceable groove, the song has recently seen a big comeback in the band’s repertoire. Starting about 5 minutes in, the band shows off their combined vocal chops is very nice vocal jam that is on par with many future “Sally” vocal jams. Not bad for very really on in their career. “A dance song” is announced and someone retorts, “Hey, hippies have a right to dance too.” The band then launches into the only recorded version of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish”. Jeff holds down the lead vocal and it’s just out of his range. There’s some good guitar parts but you can easily see why it was dropped from the lineup after just two performances.

The covers keep coming with the band’s version of the Allman Brothers’ “Revival”. Trey and Jeff easily handle the dual guitar parts in the intro and Trey plays very tasty leads over Jeff’s rhythm. It’s a gorgeous cover and makes me wonder why we don’t have more version of it. I’m fairly sure the band probably played it more than was able to be recorded. I’d consider it a must listen if only to hear Jeff’s technical prowess at the time. Jeff thanks the crowd for coming out but Trey then hopes everyone is listening to Peter Becker’s radio show on WRUV on Wednesday nights. Wonder what prompted that. The band then kicks into the slow shuffle of “Alumni Blues” with a great drum build-up by Fish to lead into it. After that it’s a fairly standard “Alumni>Letter>Alumni”.

Following it however is a big Phish rarity, “Prep School Hippie”. One of my favorite “old” tunes, having, like Trey, attended a New England prep school, I can relate to the lyrics. I hear it and think of me and my friends, who would listen to and go see Phish. “Big tent kegger at the frat or watching Jerry shake his fat” might be one of the best lyrics Trey has ever written. The song also has a nice jam between the last verse and the outro refrain of “I can’t wait ’till I’m 21 to dip into my trust fund!” It’s a song I’d love the band to bust out sometime, if only to hear “trust fund” in 4-part harmony one last time. The recording closes with “Skippy the Wondermouse”, making me wonder why the band back and forth between “Skippy” and “McGrupp”. To me, “McGrupp” is the much better of the two songs and to “fall back” on “Skippy” seems like a step backward but as a much later song would state, “you’ve got to take it with you if you’re going forward” and at this point the band was very much going forward.

Show #6: 10/17/85

Finbar’s at the corner of Church and Main, currently Manhattan Pizza.

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1985-10-17

Thursday, 10/17/1985
Finbar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: T.V. Theme[, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues > Mike’s Song,Dave’s Energy Guide, Revolution, Anarchy, Camel Walk, Run Like an Antelope, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters

Finally a full set of originals. Sure Phish covers are fun and we have a lot more of them to go through but it’s nice seeing the band become the gang we all know and love. Considering they had more than enough covers to fill 4 nights at Madison Square Garden, it’s nice to know this was the first solid recording to support that. This show was played at Finbar’s, which you can see it’s current iteration above. It’s interesting that most of these location still exist as bars in Burlington, as the number of bars have dwindled and they were all concentrated on Main Street. I’d except to see some Church and Pearl but no, the band really did play Route 2 for most of their career as Trey said at Bangor ’94. Anyway, more on that in a later post.

This show is also important because it’s the first since Trey, Tom, Marc, and Fish all went to Europe for the summer and essentially backpacked and wrote music. Some very important songs in the Phish catalog and as they’re introduced,  I’ll note which ones came from this trip. It’s also important because it’s the first recording that Page is a permanent member of the group. This was announced on 9/26/85 on UVM’s radio station WRUV. Sometime between saying Phish is a two-guitar band and then, most likely talking it over with Fish in Europe, they both agreed Page made the band stronger. And that’s something I think we all can agree on now, Page Side Rage Side for life. Unfortunately on this recording, Page gets buried in the mix making it hard to feel his contributions.

This version cuts off the TV Theme. Don’t really understand why but not an issue, not a big miss. It drops in with “Alumni Blues>Letter to Jimmy Page>Alumni Blues”. The song was a pretty common track in the days and this is a ripping blues version played perfectly. A great early danceable number in the set. Mike’s boppin’ bass line is especially funky. Next we get “Mike’s Song” introduced here as “Microdot”, filling in for “Mike Wrote That”. The name would stick for a few gigs before simply reverting to “Mike’s Song”.  A fairly standard version but also retains the odd outré before again segueing into “Dave’s Energy Guide”.

After the standard “DEG”, Trey introduces “one of our few punk songs.” A fan yells out Leunig’s Sucks, which indicates the band has accumulated a few fans at this point since Leunig’s Sucks used to be the title of the tune, which is now called “Revolution.” Leunig’s being the name of a fancy French restaurant on the corner of Church and College that apparently Trey had a beef with at some point. They wail through it yelling Revolution over the short song. Then Trey says, “We actually do have one other punk song. Since you reacted so well to that one, we’ll do this one. This one’s called ‘Anarchy’. The joke being that “Anarchy” and “Revolution” are the exact same song just with the words changed.

The band kicks in to dance mode again with a very funky “Camel Walk” that has a nice extended intro. It jams out for about 3 minutes before dropping into the familiar shuffle of the tune. The tape cuts and dropped into a raging “Run Like an Antelope”. Obviously, the bar has gotten more people as the crowd gets louder. Still it’s a tasty jam, filling out more of the traditional song structure and getting more of that familiar “Antelope” feel as compared to 5/3/85. We also get the lyrics too! Clearly a song that had been worked on since May. The available music closes with “McGrupp”. Again, the lyrics are in the spoken-word form, not quite yet set to the music. The song also closes with a nice jam that begins at about the 6-minute mark and takes it out until the tape ends.

And that’s 10/17/85. If you have suggestions, feel free to drop me a line and follow me on Twitter @harryphood. See you tomorrow!

Show #5: 5/3/85

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1985-05-03

Friday, 05/03/1985
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[1]

Set 3: Scarlet Begonias > Eyes of the World -> Whipping Post[2] -> McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Makisupa Policeman[3] > Run Like an Antelope -> The Other One[4]

Encore: Anarchy

[1] First known Phish performance; Bobby Brown on harmonica.
[2] Jeff on vocals.
[3] Reggae jam.
[4] 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!

Show #4: 3/4/85

Hunt’s aka The Woodbury Armory.

Monday, 03/04/1985
Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Anarchy[1], Camel Walk, Fire Up the Ganja[2], Skippy the Wondermouse[3], In the Midnight Hour
[1] First known version.
[2] First known Phish version; Bobby Hackney and Jah Roy on vocals.
[3] With McGrupp lyrics.

This isn’t a complete show, so sure, you could call it cheating but it does exist so it needs a post. The show, according to Phish.net, was a African Relief benefit for OXFam at Hunt’s. Hunts was a club located in the old Woodbury Armory building at 101 Main Street. As outlined in this article from Seven Days, Hunt’s was a major player in the Burlington music scene. Roy Orbison, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and B.B. King all played there linking Montreal and Boston dates on their national tours. The place was even owned by Fred “Chico” Lager, who would later become the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream during their rise to national prominence. So, to get anytime there meant a move in the right direction for a local band.

It is unclear whether Phish was alone on this night or maybe part of a larger bill due to it being a benefit show. The recorded part kicks off the first known version of “Anarchy”. Little more than a play on punk and new wave. It’s 30 seconds of fast chords and drumming with the word Anarchy screamed over it. A good joke on the popular music of the time. The band then introduces ” a funk song” and finally a complete version of “Camel Walk” is heard. Not much is noteworthy about this version except that Jeff says that no one has actually danced the Camel Walk to “Camel Walk”. It is also interesting that it does not include the strut your stuff vocals. It is interesting that now 29 years later, the band plays it almost the exact same way. There’s a fade out and then the tape fades into “Fire Up The Ganga.” Essentially just “Fire On The Mountain” with new lyrics about smoking weed obviously. However it is important because it’s a meeting of two Vermont music powerhouses. Granted Phish at this point was still rising the ranks but Lambsbread has been the cornerstone of Vermont’s reggae scene for 30 years. I remember seeing them at the Vermont Reggae fest nearly every year. Also, of note, is that Bobby Hackney, who appears on this track, and his brother Dannis, were actually members of the proto-punk band Death, from Detroit. This band has been in the news due to their recordings being re-released and being revolutionary for their time. Pretty interesting throwback, eh?

Now here’s a head scratcher for you though? “Fire Up The Ganja” fades out and then the next track to fade in is marked as “Skippy the Wondermouse”. And sure enough it sounds like “Skippy,” but when the lyrics kick in, they are clearly the familiar lyrics of “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters.” Now why is this curious? This show’s date is March of 1985. In Trey’s senior thesis of The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday aka Gamehendge, which was submitted in July 1988, He says that the poem was not received by him until 1986. Phish.net even states he didn’t get it until fall of 1985. So, why is it here? Well, it might be explained in an upcoming post! Stay tuned. The recording then closes with the last known performance of “In The Midnight Hour”, a danceable version if not outstanding. It does at least emphasize how much Phish just wanted people to dance. Something, most would say mission accomplished.

Show #3: 12/1/84

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1984-12-01

Saturday, 12/01/1984
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Soundcheck: Fluffhead

Set 1: Jam, Wild Child > Bertha, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, Camel Walk, Jam, In the Midnight Hour, Scarlet Begonias > Fire[1] > Fire on the Mountain > Makisupa Policeman, Slave to the Traffic Light[2], Spanish Flea[1], Don’t Want You No More[3] ->Cities[1] -> Drums[4] -> Skippy the Wondermouse[5], Fluffhead[6]

Encore: Eyes of the World

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] First known performance.
[3] First known Phish performance; missing final lyrics.
[4] Marc Daubert.
[5] First known Phish performance; Dude of Life on vocals.
[6] First known performance; Dude of Life on vocals.

So far we’ve reviewed the first show, the “phirst” show, and no we come to probably what is actually the first REAL Phish show. The band introduces some originals, displays the trademark silliness the band would continue until the late 1990s. This is also the first bar gig on record at the legendary Nectar’s on Main Street in Burlington. The bar scene would prove very important to Phish. Trey Anastasio explained it this way to PBS News Hour:

“There were more bars per capita in Burlington than anywhere in America and that was the year the drinking age changed. It was grandfathered, Vermont was the last state to change the drinking age. So I was 18. That’s why there were so many bars. There aren’t more bars in Burlington today. That was the last 3 years that there were. There were 53 bars in a small town. Every bar wanted a band. So when you got a gig in Burlington in 1983, it was for 3 nights, 3 sets, I mean, we played like 6 hours a night. And the owner of the bar of the bar we would play in would come up to us and say, “Play a slow one, play a fast one, play a cover, play a Beatles cover” because there was no cover, we were just the band in the corner. We got really good at playing live and I think if we weren’t in the right place at the right time, I don’t think any of this would have happened.”

In this recording, we only have one set. Now Nectar’s in the 1980s was VERY different from the Nectar’s you would visit today. Nectar’s was not split up into two separate venues with an upstairs (now named Club Metronome) and downstairs. The entire space was one venue with bands performing upstairs and the traditional restaurant downstairs. It was in the upstairs space that this gig would be played and most of the gigs would be played. The band would play many different bars all over Burlington in the coming years but Nectar’s was always marked as the place where it all began, partly due to this tape. It also was the oldest available Phish recording until 11/3/84 surfaced and the first clear soundboard recording of the band.

The show leads off with the interesting pairing of “Scarlet>Fire (Hendrix)>Fire”. This differs from the 12/2/83 version in that the band sounds much more relaxed playing the two Dead covers and instead of just mimicking the Dead, puts more of their own sound towards the songs. The band’s transition betweens songs is also on point with using the end of Scarlet Begonias for both, taking it down to Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”‘s key to transition into that and picking up the riff again at the end to transition into Fire on the Mountain. It’s a key omen as the band has learned how to work a “set” of songs properly for good flow. The recording debut of “Makisupa Policeman” follows and has no special keywords but is a great introduction to the band’s reggae original and playful riffing on reggae and “smoking herb”. A break in the action has playful banter with Trey explaining they wrote that in down in Kingston to which someone replies Kingston, VT! (There is no town as such but Granville was named Kingston at one point.) They also do a bit about the emergency broadcast system in which they say that no one will have time to know what to do in an emergency. Marc Daubert yells out the next song is about the Burlington parking situation and the band launches into another original, “Slave to the Traffic Light”. The song doesn’t have the patience that will be exhibited in future versions but it’s interesting to hear the song with keys and with a twin guitar attack. Also, Trey doesn’t have his signature sound yet and some of the harmonics we all know and love fall flat.

“Here’s the magic band you’ve all been waiting for, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass,” states Trey as they go into the next track, “Spanish Flea”. This is worth it alone for the early band introductions by Marc Daubert. I would love to petition fans to give the Milkman nickname back to Mike Gordon. Trey sets up the next tune by saying here’s a band that was not as popular, the Allman Brothers Band. Audience members shout out many other bands while the band tunes up and then launch into “Don’t Want You No More” from the Allmans’ debut album. Not much is noteworthy the beginning of the rack but around 4:30, the band slips out of the more bluesy followthrough of the track and gets into a funk jam that would not be too uncommon in today’s Phish shows. It’s tasty really glimpse at where the band would go. Mike drops the bass line to “Cities” and the band is off. It’s a fairly straightforward performance of the song except using Phish’s own slow tempo version in stead of the faster “dance” tempo found on Talking Heads’ Fear of Music. Amazing is that this now band staple disappeared for a long time and was discovered by most on Slip, Stitch, and Pass years later. A long drum solo with Daubert and Fish ensues. Trey might have even jumped in but it was unclear.

To close out the set, the band also debuts two Phish originals but with the assistance of another very special guest. With a slow-building intro, Trey brings out for the very first time, the Dude of Life! The Dude guests on the debut of “Skippy the Wondermouse”. “Skippy” does not live on but its music does in the form of “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters”. The lyrics of “Skippy” get lost in the beauty of the song and are very throwaway. Luckily the tune did not. The debut of “Fluffhead” is, in fact, very different from the Fluffhead we all know and love. None of the delicateness or slow build that accompanies the tune today is there. It also does not include the “Fluff’s Travels” section of the song. The bouncy tempo and jangly guitars make the tune actually sound more like what I’d picture Dave Matthews Band covering “Fluffhead” would sound like. Overall though, not a bad first try. The show ends with crowd pleaser “Eyes of the World” which doesn’t sound too different from the version presented on 11/3/84. Not a bad little show and definitely sets the Phish “vibe”. Tomorrow: we begin 1985!