Shows #33 and 34: 11/18-19/87

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November 1987 Promotional Photo. Credit: Phish.com

Wednesday, 11/18/1987
Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Slave to the Traffic Light, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu >The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Flat Fee, Wilson > Peaches en Regalia, Take the ‘A’ Train, Golgi Apparatus > Divided Sky > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Good Times Bad Times

Set 2: I Didn’t Know[1], You Enjoy Myself, Fluffhead, AC/DC Bag

[1] First known performance.

Thursday, 11/19/1987
Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters -> Sparks, Funky Bitch, You Enjoy Myself,Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Harry Hood, Fire

Set 2: Timber (Jerry), Fluffhead, I Didn’t Know, Fee, Corinna, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues

Set 3: Jam, Suzy Greenberg > Possum, Divided Sky > Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Dinner and a Movie[1], The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Whipping Post, Harpua, Take the ‘A’ Train, Camel Walk, La Grange, Bike[2], Slave to the Traffic Light

[1] First known performance.
[2] First known Phish performance.

Ah, the end of the early years. Or at least as they’re grouped on the Spreadsheet and PhishTracks. These are also the last known gigs at Hunt’s. Hunt’s proved to be an important incubator for these early years, almost in tandem with Nectar’s. While Nectar’s gets all the credit because it is still around and the band played there for much longer, the availability of Hunt’s is just as crucial. Before I get into reviewing those two shows, I would like to let you in on an idea I have, one that sparked the whole genesis of this blog.

You might see the full title includes “The Phishsonian Presents”. The Phishsonian is a concept I have for a museum/retail space in Burlington celebrating the history of Phish. I’d love to work with the band to display old artifacts and photographs and just have an official presence in the city. People can learn old landmarks and about Burlington’s history. What does this have to do with Hunt’s. Hunt’s is housed in a building called the Woodbury Armory, located at 101 Main Street in Burlington. The Armory had a fire a few years ago and has sat dormant but a recent project is reviving the building, attaching it to a new hotel. The redesigned Armory will have retail space. I’d love for this retail space to be the Phishsonian, the official museum of Phish. This project could bring in fans from around the world, have special events, and teach Vermont youth about the music industry, something I wish I had growing up there. It would also contain all of the fans’ journey as well. The Mockingbird Foundation, The Phellowship, Surrender to the Flow magazine, would also be part of the story. The largest part would be capturing fan interviews. We’d love to create the largest Phish fan interview repository, so we have everyone’s favorite shows and wild stories, giving the biggest picture of our phenomenon. If you want to know more, this page will begin to have concepts and more information. You can also write me anytime at thephishsonian@gmail.com. I’d love to get this in front of Jason Colton, Kevin Shapiro and the band’s management but for now, it’s just a dream.

Anyway, on to the music. 11/18/87 you can mostly throw away. If you do want to check it out, Set 2 is where the highlights are with a well-played “You Enjoy Myself” and the first “I Didn’t Know” and “complete” Fluffhead. Other than that, the energy is just very flat. Also, all of those highlights (except for firsts) can be found the next night. 11/19 just has better energy, a better setlist, and just overall better “vibes”. It also is a nice soundboard recording that, except for some isolation moments, really sounds quite good for the age. The show kicks off with a very nice “McGrupp”, notable for the first with a Page solo. Page nails his part here. The song segues beautifully into “Sparks”, which the band continues to beautifully play. Fishman nails the drum parts more than we’ve heard so far. Funky Bitch is alright. The “YEM” is a great short early specimen. “Sally” is fun. The “Harry Hood” is the highlight of the set. The band absolutely demolishes the peak with Page and Trey locking in together to bring it home. Only wish it didn’t have some of the isolation moments during the peak. Trey shreds “Fire” to end the first set.

The 2nd set is once again where the money is because this is one of the best “Timber (Jerry)”‘s there is or ever will be. It starts off innocent enough with Trey hammering out the rhythm while Fishman plays actually a different, more tribal pattern. And then it just goes OUT THERE. Trey shreds the song to pieces. There’s nothing left to do by the end but throw out a chorus to wrap it up. Seriously, a MUST-LISTEN jam. The 2nd ever “complete” “Fluffhead” follows and it’s a beauty. Clearly, they’d been working hard on all the parts. From “Fluffhead” to “The Chase” to “Who Do? We Do!” to “Clod” to “Bundle of Joy” to “Arrival”, it’s all there and all nailed. The outro solo is also a gem. Not to say those parts wouldn’t creep out as their own songs again, they still make a few appearances but it was clear, “Fluffhead” was finally a complete work. They follow it up with the 2nd ever “I Didn’t Know”. The song is not yet the Fishman showpiece it is today, whether it’s vacuum or trombone solo. It’s a fun song with a neat vocal arrangement. A great breather here. The set continues to mellow out with a standard “Fee”, still sans megaphone, a light but pretty “Corinna”, and a standard “Alumni>Letter>Alumni”.

Set 3 opens with Trey introducing “the Mike Gordon band”, a funny thought now that Mike has his own band, which is unofficially known as “the Mike Gordon Band”. Anyway, this prompts a short jam, in which, Mike riffs on James Brown-like quotes over the band. This leads into a nice, slow “Suzy Greenberg”. A fast moving “Possum” kicks the set up a notch. “Divded Sky” comes next, still in it’s short form. It’s not a good version here with the band hitting some confusion in the escalating scales section. You want a real Trey flub, here it is. They manage to finish it though and then tear into “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars”. The anger oft he flub comes out in this “BBFCFM”. The band then debuts “Dinner and a Movie”. Interestingly enough, it does include the slow off-beat prelude but kicks off right into the hard driving groove. If you’ve heard the song, it really doesn’t do much else and the nearly 8 minutes hear, really push the boundaries of good taste. Page does a pretty version of “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” to bring the crowd back in it. “Whipping Post” kind of goes nowhere and is not as fiery as previous versions. Interestingly, we get the debut of the 2nd half of “Harpua” next, still without any context of Poster Nutbag. It’s a sign of things to come but not fully realized yet. “Take The A Train” again displays the and’s jazz chops ably, despite Trey introducing the song as “Fuck Your Face”. “Camel Walk” is a little weird as Trey plays the chord profession in an odd fashion. It’s as if he’s trying to make the Holdsworth-penned tune his own. It doesn’t quite work and the song doesn’t sound quite right. “La Grange” is a highlight with the band nailing the changes and Trey showing off on guitar. Fish comes out to debut his cover of Pink Floyd’s “Bike”. Unlike his recent string of debuts, he actually knows most of the words and the song seems to fit his singing style at this point in his career. The set ends recorded 1987 on a high note with a very well played “Slave to the Traffic Light”. I’ve been a but hard on the band so far saying “Slave” hasn’t hit the peaks right yet. It doesn’t quite build how I like it but you can’t argue with how beautiful Trey plays and has those long sustaining notes, which will become his trademark. It’s a great early “Slave” and the perfect way to say goodbye to 1987.

Hopefully tomorrow, we’ll bust into 1988 with a show from my hometown! I’d also like to thank Twenty Years Later for a shout-out the other day. He’s doing a cool thing, reviewing 1994, exactly 20 years after the show. I’ll be doing that a few years from now but still a very cool concept. Be sure tog et in touch if you want more info about the Phishsonian and how to get involved. Thanks for reading!

Show #32: 10/31/1987

Saturday, 10/31/1987
Sculpture Room, Goddard College, Plainfield, VT

Set 1: Jam -> Whipping Post[1], Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley -> Back Porch Boogie Blues > Halley’s Comet > Light Up Or Leave Me Alone, Love You[2], AC/DC Bag, Possum,You Enjoy Myself > Big Black Furry Creature from Mars

Set 2: The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Peaches en Regalia, Take the ‘A’ Train > Timber (Jerry), The Chase > I Am Hydrogen > Who Do? We Do!, Fee > Divided Sky > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Who Do? We Do! > Clod, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues > Fluffhead, David Bowie

[1] “Slice my nipple” lyric.
[2] First known Phish performance.

Another year, another Halloween at Goddard. Once again, this show is a split bill with the Joneses. It was billed as the fanciful title “Your Local Underground Movement presents Sir Phillip S. Dark’s Supernatural Circus, featuring: the Joneses and Phish” and it would get a little supernatural for Phish in the second set. I’d like to think that somewhere in the multi-verse, there’s an alternate reality where the Joneses became the biggest band out of Burlington and Phish went nowhere. That’d be an interesting thought. Alas, it was not meant to be though they really seemed to enjoy playing with each other. This is evidently shown in the opening jam which features Most of Phish and half of the Joneses. Apparently Fishman and John Carlin of the Joneses were missing during this part of the show. The jam plays a lot off the “Low Rider” by War chord changes but is fun to hear such a huge force just having fun. The jam goes into “Whipping Post”. If you want to hear Trey play some scalding, soaring lead, this is your jam. He’s furious, almost angry while playing it. It sounds gorgeous. Introducing “the band” as “half of Phish and half of the Joneses”, Trey says Mr. Mike Gordon is on keys, Moses DeWitt on bass, Moses Heaps on drums, and Moses Brown on sound, a fun nod to the evening.

It is unclear if the next three songs also have the mixed lineup but I would think so given what happens later. “Sneakin’ Sally” is a great version with a fun vocal jam, which Mike cuts short by firing up the bass line to “Back Porch Boogie Blues”. “Back Porch” is standard and Mike again controls the show by launching into his vocal part of “Halley’s Comet”. “Halley’s” again features Nancy on vocals but also has Trey singing the falsetto part instead of Fish, who is till missing at this point. It’s interesting to hear for something else but not earth shattering. A nice tear through “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” leads to the main event which is heralded by cheering. Fishman finally appears, apparently shaved head to toe and covered in paint. On his head is a bra turned inside out to make “elephant ears” and his penis painted gray to match. He sings Syd Barrett’s “Love You” after his entrance. Fish must have been getting into Syd a lot in these few months as it’s the second debut of the fall. Fishman’s beginning to relish being the funny one at this point.

Laughs aside it’s back to business as usual as we get a cool “AC/DC Bag>Possum”. It almost feels like it’s going to segue but does not. The end of “Bag” though has a cool Page-led jam that feels like if it were 10 years later, would segue into an “Odd Couple Jam”. More on that in a few years. “Possum” has a quickened pace but other than that is standard. “You Enjoy Myself” is tight. Mike kicks off Page’s jam with a Parliament “Flashlight” bass line tease which is cool. No drum and bass but a wild reverb fueled vocal jam that goes into “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars”, which again is moving away from the original punk rock sound and more metal ending set 1.

“TMWSIY>Malkenu>TMWSIY” opens set 2. “Malkenu” has an interesting bass solo in the middle that’s cool to hear. Trey’s humor comes out again when he says “This one’s by request. We wrote this one back in the 20s.” The band rips into “Take The A Train”. It’s a great take with another great bass solo from Mike. Mike really was hitting a groove this evening. Keeping with the old school vibe, the band goes into “Timber (Jerry)”. This “Timber” goes out there. At about the 2 minute mark, the groove breaks down and the band gets very exploratory lead by Trey’s wandering lead. It’s not just Trey though, all 4 members are working on their own but together to create a psychedelic vibe. It almost has an Anthem of the Sun-era Grateful Dead vibe. Simply incredible. The real meat of set 2 follows though as the different parts of “Fluff’s Travels”, still not united, intertwine the middle of the set almost in the order they eventually will lock into place. “The Chase” kicks things off, fast and furious before ripchording into “I am Hydrogen”. This “Hydrogen” has a jazzy cymbal part by Fish that doesn’t quite fit but I can sense his wanting to keep the tempo from “The Chase” going as the transition was hard. “Hydrogen” also dumps into “Who Do? We Do!”, the section that eventually would follow “The Chase”. You can hear the same cymbal line meaning that potentially the band had practiced this but not yet but it in action yet. Now, granted this “Who Do? We Do!” is a little jazzier than the finished product but the basic idea is there, with the familiar chord progression. “Fee” follows the jazz feeling of this 2nd set, still no megaphone in sight but solid. “Divided Sky>McGrupp>Clod” is a nice one-two-three combo late in the set. The segue from McGrupp into Clod is solid and caps off the “Fluff’s Travels through Gamehendge” section.  A nice standard “Alumni>Letter>Alumni” follows and then we get actual “Fluffhead”, which is played well. A standard “Bowie” closes. Two shows left in 1987 and they will be combined into one review. A typical midweek at Hunt’s coming next.

Show #31: 10/14/1987

Wednesday, 10/14/1987
Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Peaches en Regalia, Take the ‘A’ Train > You Enjoy Myself -> Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light > The Chase[1] > Fluffhead -> Dave’s Energy Guide > Possum

Set 2: David Bowie, AC/DC Bag > Divided Sky > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Clod > Makisupa Policeman

[1] First known performance outside of Lushington.

Always interesting that not much is known about what Phish did for almost an entire month. There’s only 3 known shows between the last review and this show and one of them was found to actually be from February 1988. This got me very flustered as I thought I had missed a show and listened to the wrong one in prep. Fortunately that was not the case.

This tape is incomplete. Phish.com has “TMWSIY>Malkenu>TMWSIY” opening again but I’m not sure that is accurate and the “Peaches” opener on Phish. net makes more sense. The keyword for this show is “flow”. The band doesn’t take many breaks between songs, which is interesting for an 80s tape from a bar. The show also has a lot of segues. It almost seems like they’re learning proper construction at this gig. The tape drops into the middle of “Peaches en Regalia” and while the quality is about a B-/C+, it still captures the feeling well. A great “Take the A-Train” follows with fine solos from Trey and Page; excellent bass work by Mike here. A tight early “YEM” follows. the band really sounds dialed in on this one and it hits all the right notes. No real bass and drums or vocal jam here as it segues into “Golgi”. Mike’s all over this “GolgI” with really bright notes filling out the tune and the band just nails it. The last chord of “Golgi” is used as the first chord of “Slave to the Traffic Light” keeping the set moving. The “Slave” is pretty standard but interestingly, it does not peak or end, opting to just go into “The Chase”. “The Chase” gets closer to being in “Fluffhead” by leading into at least as the rage of the set continues. “Fluffhead”s well played if nothing else but it does have a tape anomaly at the 7:30 mark that dampers the amazing segue into “Dave’s Energy Guide”. It’s right as Trey plays the line and you can hear the band’s hard transition but the power is lost in the degradation. “DEG” then slows down and rolls into the rollicking groove of “Possum” played at a faster pace, more fitting of modern versions. “Possum” is also marred early on by a hot mic, making it hard for Mike to sing the verse. “Possum” grooves hard and when finished, Trey announces a short break. But the wall-to-wall music of “A Train” through “Possum” is impressive and shows how hard the band was firing at this point. Amazing.

Set 2 opens with “David Bowie”. This is a classic “Bowie”, again showing the high caliber the band was playing at for this show. After a pause, we get the 2nd “song suite” of the night. Trey introduces “AC/DC Bag” as “Hold Your Head Up” jokingly and then we get the funky intro riff to “Bag”. This “Bag” is pretty groovy if standard with excellent work by Page. During the ending, it gets cut short as Trey rips into “Divided Sky”. Still the shortened version, the band plays it at top speed uncharacteristically AND also plays underneath the chant lyric, which is odd and obviously did not stick. Replacing the last chord seems to be a theme of the evening, as if Trey wanted to play a set like the “Abbey Road Medley” as once again, he forgoes the end of “Divided Sky” to play the opening riff of “McGrupp”. “McGrupp” is short with no jamming and also goes right into “Clod”. Nothing flashy in “Clod” but it sounds good before dissolving into “Makisupa Policeman”. “Makisupa” begins to get weird but the tape cuts out before blast off. All in all, a very tight show with great playing. I don’t know if fans today would enjoy it due to a lack of jamming but the band was on fire. Next, the second ever Halloween gig.

Show #30: 9/21/87

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Photo Credit: @sarahzeee on Instagram

Monday, 09/21/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Clod > Slave to the Traffic Light, Funky Bitch, Wilson, Dear Mrs. Reagan, Golgi Apparatus > AC/DC Bag -> Possum

Set 2: You Enjoy Myself, The Curtain With, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Suzy Greenberg > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues

Set 3: Happy Birthday to You[1], Good Times Bad Times, Rocky Top[2], Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Fee > Divided Sky, Dog Log, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Run Like an Antelope, Makisupa Policeman, Flat Fee, Fire, Terrapin[2], La Grange, Fluffhead

[1] “The Birthday Dub”
[2] First known Phish performance.

A month after Ian’s Farm, we find the band back at Nectar’s. They play a typical show. Not a lot stands out here. A well played “TMWSIY>Malkenu>TMWSIY” kicks off the show. An odd lead-off choice and probably doomed the night as far as the crowd goes. “Clod” was also solid but again an odd choice. You can feel that the band wants more focus on originals and playing THEIR music, probably being over the confidence from a good summer. “Slave to the Traffic Light” is a real breakthrough moment as the band builds to a beautiful peak together with no soloing in the way. It’s not quite finished but a pivotal step to getting the right tone for the song. “Funky Bitch” is just kind of sloppy and uninspired. “Wilson” makes strides towards being bombastic. “Dear Mrs. Reagan” continues to grind my gears. “Golgi” saves things with an on point version that hits all the right notes. The set closing jam of “AC/DC Bag->Possum” has an odd cut before the segue due to patching sources. The 2nd source almost ruins the vibe with how muddy it sounds but the “Bag” jam is decent and the segue is well executed.

2nd set attempts to take the evening up a notch with an opening “YEM”. It has a cool breakdown around the 8-minute mark and continues to retain the “bass and drums” jam but other than that isn’t too appealing. “The Curtain With” is a real highlight of this show because the band found a way to play it in a completely different style. It could almost be called the “Cowboy With” as it has a real country hoedown feel with Trey’s riffs and Mike and Fish’s rhythm at the opening. While I’m glad they didn’t experiment further with changing the song (I believe), it’s a funny moment of experimentation. The “With” retains its glorious peaks and is a must-listen. “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars” follows and has shifted froth e angular punk feeling to a flatter sound. While moving towards the modern-day version, I feel that the song lost some feeling in the move and gives less of a satirical feel and edge. “Suzy Greenberg” falls flat with no punch. Set Two closes with a fairly standard “Alumni>Letter>Alumni”.

The 3rd set opens with “The Birthday Dub” dedicated to Spup! I wonder if anyone remembers who Spup is but ti’s fun way to kick off the last set. The energy continues with “Good Times Bad Times” and you can feel the crowd is finally into the show at this point. “GTBT” is well played and rollicking. A cover debut follows in the form of the Osborne Brothers’ “Rocky Top” and also marks an early foray into bluegrass for the band. It’s not the cleanest version but would be an important cover for the band over the years. The song also earned Phish a spot as a clue in the Bonnaroo category on Jeopardy! last month as featured at the top of this post. “Sneakin’ Sally” keeps the crowd moving. “Fee>Divided Sky” is an odd placement. “Fee” still is without megaphone and “Divided Sky” is still incomplete but both are a blast to listen to. “Dog Log” is fun but misses the barking of the last two recordings. “Curtis Loew” gives a nice break in the action. “Antelope” has a nice extended jam on the reggae part just before “Rye Rye Rocco” starting at about 7:30. “Makisupa” goes a little long. Going out on a high, the band hits a triplet of covers, the high energy of Hendrix’s “Fire” leads off, the debut of Syd Barrett’s “Terrapin” is an interesting middle piece that someone captured the audiences’ attention, and ZZ Top’s “La Grange” takes it out. “Terrapin” is very important because it marks the first recording of a Fishman feature! A quirky song for a quirky drummer? Makes all the sense in the world. It’s a shame that it’s too muddy to hear properly and also does not include the trombone solo but still is amazing that it survived. After the triple threat, “Fluffhead” appears to close the set but the recording fades. A pretty standard night but with some highlights nonetheless.

Show #29: 9/2/1987

Wednesday, 09/02/1987
Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: AC/DC Bag, Fluffhead, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Divided Sky, Wilson, David Bowie, Lushington[1] -> Possum, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Makisupa Policeman, Timber (Jerry), Shaggy Dog, You Enjoy Myself

[1] No lyrics.

This is a complete throw away show. No redeeming tracks or quality. The only highlight would be the isolated portion of Page’s piano during Fluffhead. The quality is poor due to multiple generations and there’s no standout tracks. This is one you can definitely skip without missing anything important. NEXT!

Show #28: 8/29/87

Saturday, 08/29/1987
The Ranch, South Burlington, VT

Set 1: Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Makisupa Policeman, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Flat Fee, Lushington, Suzy Greenberg > Hold Your Head Up > Suzy Greenberg, Mustang Sally, Ya Mar, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday

Set 2: Clod, Slave to the Traffic Light, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, The Curtain With, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters -> Possum, Harry Hood, Timber (Jerry), AC/DC Bag, Divided Sky, Harpua > Bundle of Joy > Harpua

Set 3: La Grange, Corinna, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen[1] > Who Do? We Do!, Shaggy Dog, David Bowie[2] -> Jesus Just Left Chicago

Encore: She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride

[1] First known “I walk awakening on the misty fields of forever” lyrics.
[2] Unfinished.

Teases:
· Wilson tease in Alumni Blues
· Hold Your Head Up and Sussudio teases in Suzy Greenberg
· Streets of Cairo tease in David Bowie
· Surfin’ Bird tease
· Call to the Post tease in Ya Mar

This show was a thank you show played in the Ranch’s living room for Eric Larson taking care of Marley during the summer. This small setting is immediately noticeable as the crowd is loud for a soundboard recording, almost as if the show is too large for the space. Also, the problem is again, when you’re listening to them all, after a really great show, it’s really hard to follow that up. The show does have some fun moments though that I’ll go over. There’s a very fine “Ballad of Curtis Loew”. “Sneakin’ Sally” has a nice vocal jam. “Suzy Greenberg” has a fun moment weaving in and out of “Hold Your Head Up”. Trey plays around with singing “Surfin’ Bird” after “Mustang Sally”. “Ya Mar” gets dedicated to Marley. “Corrina” has some really nice work from Page. “I Am Hydrogen” begins its brief association with “Who Do? We Do!” and gains a brief lyric that won’t last. Lastly, “David Bowie” has a serious thick blues jam at the end that segues nicely into “Jesus Just Left Chicago”. However, if you’re gonna choose between this and Ian’s Farm, Ian’s Farm takes the cake. But be sure to give it a listen at least once.

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!