Show #26: 8/10/87

Monday, 08/10/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Peaches en Regalia, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Golgi Apparatus, Wilson, Quinn the Eskimo, Divided Sky > Good Times Bad Times

Set 2: Fire, AC/DC Bag -> Possum, Fluffhead, Fee, The Curtain With, I Know a Little, Mustang Sally, You Enjoy Myself, La Grange

Set 3: Icculus, David Bowie, Jesus Just Left Chicago[1], Whipping Post, Anarchy, Tush, Dear Mrs. Reagan

[1] First known Phish performance.

First off, I want to apologize for the long delay between posts. I’ve been dealing with some personal stuff and it made it a little hard to focus. But I’m here now and the show must go on! Of course, being that it’s very early in the band’s career, we don’t have as large a catalog to play from. So, we might get some very similar shows. Such is the case during the is two-night stand at Nectar’s. The repeats here are plentiful. “Peaches En Regalia”, “Golgi Appartus”, “Good Times Bad Times”, “Fluffhead”, “Fee”, “You Enjoy Myself”, and “David Bowie” all appear here again. Now, while some these we van’t heard yet or didn’t even hear the previous night’s version, the set lists are getting a little similar. So, I’m going to try and just hit the highlights for this show. “Peaches” features a great example of Trey’s early tone working for him. “Alumni Blues” has amazing organ work from Page with huge sweeping chords. Also has very early Mike bass bombs. “Letter to Jimmy Page” stands out as being less aggressive and has more of a full band feel to the song. “Quinn the Eskimo” ended up being the last performance of the song until 1998 and it features a huge swirling crescendo jam in the last two minutes that dumps into the last verse and chorus well. We get the first recorded “Divided Sky” though in this early state it does not include the middle section and only repeats the beginning for the ending. The introduction is impeccably played but it loses steam in the harder “jumping” section. Work needs to be done and it will but a decent second attempt. It’s interesting that “Divided Sky” rolls into “Good Times Bad Times”. It’s jarring but the dose of hard rock to end the first set and continue that momentum, tagging in Hendrix’s “Fire” for Led Zeppelin to open the 2nd set is an inspired choice. “Fluffhead” is still not yet complete. We get the first recorded “Fee”. No megaphone yet in this rendition. It also moves at a little too fast tempo; like the band is rushing to finish. “The Curtain With” continues to amaze as the band hits all the changes with aplomb. “Mustang Sally” swings and has that Phish groove that makes the cover unique. Fish’s drumming really gives the song its unique feel. The band also takes “You Enjoy Myself” for a serious walk with all 4 members taking things to the max on the jam. It’s a thundering powerful take on the song. “Icculus” gets dedicated to Paul’s mom but is fairly standard. “David Bowie” is a must-listen. The band finally breaks out of the song and goes, what most fans know as, “Type II”. Type II jamming is when the band goes outside the normal chord structure of the song and creates something new. More recent examples of this include the “Tahoe Tweezer” and the “AC Twist”. This is the first time we get outside the normal “Bowie” and just get free. It’s a glorious moment, occurring about 8 minutes into the song. The jam is strong too. All 4 members are in sync and on board. Fish leading the way with a steady but improvised beat. Page filling Trey’s rifts with strong keys and Mike’s bass filling the space between. It’s fleeting but a glimpse at what’s to come. 3 ZZ Top songs appear in this show, “La Grange”, “Tush”, and the night’s lone debut “Jesus Just Left Chicago”. A tune that a lot of fans would come to know on the 1997 live album “Slip, Stitch, and Pass”, this version lays the groundwork for all other versions that followed and it’s a great place to start with passionate playing from Trey and solid rhythm work from Mike and Fish. The other note is you can tell the band is starting to gain respect and some fans. There’s strong applause after each number and more and varied requests. You can feel the building energy. Next, I tackle the long vaunted “Ian’s Farm” show!

Show #25: 8/9/87

Sunday, 08/09/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light, La Grange[1], Lushington[2] ->Possum, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Timber (Jerry), Good Times Bad Times, AC/DC Bag, Shaggy Dog, Funky Bitch

Set 2: The Curtain With[3], Halley’s Comet > The Sloth[3], Light Up Or Leave Me Alone ->Skin It Back, Peaches en Regalia, Fluffhead, Fee[3], Harry Hood, Harpua[3], Suzy Greenberg

Set 3: David Bowie, You Enjoy Myself, Ya Mar, Divided Sky[3], Flat Fee[3], McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Corinna

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] No lyrics.
[3] First known performance.

I can’t believe this is my 25th review already. So crazy and yet so much more to go. To give you the actually feel of where we are, it’s late summer 1987. Phish has actually played 69 known shows at this point, of which only 25 tapes survive or have been made public. So where does that leave us? Back at Nectar’s on a Sunday night. Unfortunately, we don’t have all of this show, leaving out many important debuts. However, we do have some solid tracks. Let’s go to the audio tape!

The show opens with the growing crowd favorite “Golgi Apparatus”. I’m not sure if that was true or not but they played so much, some folks most of liked it, right? It’s a well played version. “Slave to the Traffic Light” follows and it’s gorgeous but they still haven’t nailed the peak yet right. I’m stating to wonder how long that takes. Trey gets to be a rock star next as Phish slams through ZZ Top’s “La Grange”. Full on rock and roll mode here. A really tight “The Chase” comes next. The band is getting really good at this small instrumental and it rolls effortlessly into “Possum”. The “Possum” doesn’t hit great heights but is a rollicking version. “Sneakin’ Sally” follows and is pretty standard with a good vocal jam. “Timber (Jerry)” has a great fast tempo in this version, outstanding playing by Mike, and a great groove. “Good Times Bad Times” has more rock star Trey but more impressive is the rest of the group maintaining the rhythm underneath the deluge of notes. “Shaggy Dog” provides a much needed breather. The harmonies just keep getting better. “Funky Bitch” closes the set with a raging dance number. Perfect placement.

Set 2 unfortunately is cut short but we get some interesting debuts. First up is “The Curtain With”. Interesting enough is the song is presented in the exact same style as it is played today. No changes at all were made except for Page’s keyboard parts which are a little smoother going forward. The band pulls it off and it’s amazing. What a set opener! The mood lightens as “Nancy” comes to sing “Halley’s Comet”. “Halley’s” is fun but it does a really nice transition into the show’s other debut that we have on record. “The Sloth” is the penultimate song in The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday but here it’s a interesting short tune with intricate guitar and keys. Not the most epic version but a good start. Jam of the night goes to “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”. The last 5 minutes of the tune are a fun speed blues jam with the band ratcheting up the tempo and letting loose. An awkward transition reveals “Skin It Back”. The only problem is as soon as the song gets rolling. It fades out. We also miss several key debuts including “Divided Sky”, “Fee”, “Flat Fee”, and “Harpua”. The notes from Phish.com say the information comes from Amy Skelton’s tapes. Maybe it’s in the vault and Kevin Shapiro will surprise us with these treats. Another night Nectar’s tomorrow with the first two shows in a row!

Show #24: 5/20/87

Wednesday, 05/20/1987
The Ranch, South Burlington, VT

Set 1: Wilson > Run Like an Antelope, Golgi Apparatus > Back Porch Boogie Blues >Lushington[1] -> Possum, Harry Hood, You Enjoy Myself, Alumni Blues[2]

Set 2: Fire

[1] No lyrics.
[2] Guests from The Joneses and Mental Floss on rhythm guitar and saxophone.

Our first video! We finally get to see what this band looks like at this time. Sure the quality’s not the best but it’s a 25 year old tape! If only the ability to digitize it had come sooner. But alas, I still suffer through my bootleg of Pink Floyd “The Wall” live at Nassau 1980, just to see what the spectacle was like. We finally see that while Trey has started to gain his signature sound, he is not yet playing his custom signature Languedoc. He IS however playing his red Timecaster, which was built by Paul at Time Guitars in Vermont. Trey also already has his custom built cabinets. Mike is playing a Time bass but not the Languedoc bass. Page and Fish are a little too darker to fully make out their look. Fish is buried behind Mike in this setup. This show is a split bill with the Joneses and believe to be tied to Graduation at UVM and/or Goddard. This might even be Mike’s classes party as Mike graduated from UVM in May 1987.

The band returns to fine form after the sloppy performance of 5/11. Wilson kicks the set off and is more like modern version. The E chord intro however is played under a drone form Page and also is a high E instead of the low E we know today. Definitely nailing down the power of “Wilson”. “Run Like An Antelope” is quite good with great leads form Trey on the middle jam. Looks like there’s at 20 people grooving at the show, including a couple on the roof! Wild to see a crazy 80s house party. It looks nothing like all those terrible movies. Except for Trey’s holes in the knees of his jeans. Those are quite real. He and Mike could have been stand-ins in Wayne’s World. We even see someone being an early “That Guy” wearing a Phish logo t-shirt to the show. I wonder if he still has that and what it’d be worth. After a lengthy pause with no good banter (but a Marley appearance!!), the band busts into “Golgi Apparatus”. Trey almost nails the middle solo. It’s hilarious when he flubs it and then looks to Mike and Page and shakes his head. He wants to be perfect so much at this stage. There’s an interesting run of notes up before the ending crescendo. Also, the vocals are much improved as Trey becomes more confident in his voice. Mike’s bass also sounds fantastic on “Golgi” as well.

Trey hits the opening lick to “Bach Porch Boogie Blues” and it’s time to get down. The band has perfected the tune. It’s an early glimpse at how amazingly the band would play bluegrass tankards later on. Page’s keys mirror Trey’s riffs quite well and he even has a great solo on the Rhodes early on. About midway through “Back Porch”, the speed demons inhibit the band and they get faster and faster. All the way, they maintain the vibe and it’s impressive to watch. Trey nailing hot licks and Page right by him; Mike keeping up with Fishman and the four-headed monster is just looking gnarly. The song dissolves into noise. This version absolutely smokes and it’s wonder that the tune has been shelved. I think it might be time for a comeback! Someone make a sign for SPAC! “The Chase” comes next and they are just nailing the odd time signature and structure. It quick rolls into a short instrumental version of “Lushington” before hitting the groove to “Possum”, which is played well and hits a fun groove if nothing else.

The band tunes and Marley (maybe other dogs) bark. It almost sounds like the band’s going to play “Slave to the Traffic Light” but we get the opening chords to “Harry Hood” The “Hood” is quite good here as Trey and Page play well with each other on the “landing” jam. The band also sounds really tight. Unfortunately, the end gets cut off so there’s no release. “You Enjoy Myself” follows. We finally get a nice long shot of Page! With a full head of hair! The band’s still working this one out with all the intricate changes and patterns but damn if they aren’t trying. The set ends with Trey inviting members of the Joneses and Mental Floss to the stage to do a Burlington All-Star version of “Alumni Blues”. It’s especially interesting to here Peter Danforth on soprano saxophone adding to the tune. The jam doesn’t really go anywhere that much but it’s always to hear a stage full of musicians rip through a Phish tune. The ending sax solo almost makes it seem like a Night Court jam before the ending chorus of “I’m Alright” kicks in. Another interesting day in Phishtory. As a bonus, I’ve included a clip of the Joneses playing the Grateful Dead classic “The Music Never Stopped” from the same day. Enjoy this piece of Burlington music history. At 3 minutes in, you can see Page stroll by the volleyball court.

Show # 23: 5/11/87

Phish circa 1987. Photo Credit: Mr. Miner

Monday, 05/11/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: You Enjoy Myself, Lushington[1] -> Possum, Slave to the Traffic Light, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Clod, Peaches en Regalia > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday[2] > Avenu Malkenu[3] > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Makisupa Policeman[4], Ya Mar

Encore: Golgi Apparatus, Corinna, Letter to Jimmy Page

[1] No lyrics.
[2] First known performance.
[3] First known Phish performance.
[4] Keyword referenced dioxin and Gaddafi.

Low points in a tour or series of shows are always bound to happen with a band like Phish. For 10/20/13 in Hampton, there’s 10/22 in Rochester. For every peak, there must be a valley. This is a very early example of that. I mean it was a Monday night in Burlington and Dollar Drafts at What Ales You was not a thing yet I would think. Also, theo recording quality is NOT GOOD. Only listen to for historical purposes. Right from the get-go, we get a less than cohesive “You Enjoy Myself”. The band doesn’t sound as with it as they did on 4/29. There’s no sense of moving as unit. The vocal jam is screechy and harsh. My mom quipped “They sound like a bunch of cats!”. After that we get a brief glimpse of “The Chase” segment that would become part of the “Fluff’s Travels” suite before rolling into the chords of “Lushington”. No lyrics on this one however. The fumbling continues until we finally land into “Possum”, which they plod through nobly. “Slave to the Traffic Light” gets the show in the right direction, sounding a little better. “Sneakin’ Sally” comes next, an attempt to revive the vibe. It may have worked form a crowd perspective but on tape it does not work. “Clod” turns out to be the highlight of the set with some tight playing from the band at long last. After a long pause, “Peaches en Regalia” finally comes out and it’s a fine version. Following that is the debut of “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday>Avenu Malkenu>TMWSIY”. This is important because it further signals that Gamehendge is coming. It’s still odd that this effectively background music is played as an instrumental during a set. It’s also interesting hearing a bar band bust out a funky Hebrew prayer mid-set. “Avenu Malkenu” translates into “Our Father, Our King”. Little is known about why Phish chose to do a version of the prayer but it’s a welcome moment. Trey lets the crowd know “That was called The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday and I’m going to get my head sharpened.” A standard “Makisupa” comes next. Introduced as going “from Jamaica directly to the Bahamas” and quick tease of ZZ Top’s “Tush”, the band lights into “Ya Mar”.  It almost feels like an attempt to save face for a poor set by ending with a danceable favorite. Nothing too exciting here except to hear Page say “Be sure to top your bartenders and waitresses.” Hopefully, moving to the Ranch next will liven things up.

Show #22: 4/29/87

A flier from Phish’s first two-night stand at Nectar’s. Nearly 3 month before this show. Photo credit: @Phish on Twitter.

Wednesday, 04/29/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Golgi Apparatus, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Fire, Skin It Back ->Cities, Lushington

Set 2: Dog Log, Melt the Guns -> Dave’s Energy Guide, Take the ‘A’ Train[1], Halley’s Comet > Quinn the Eskimo > AC/DC Bag

Set 3: Peaches en Regalia > Fluffhead, Good Times Bad Times, Anarchy, Makisupa Policeman -> Run Like an Antelope, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Timber (Jerry)[2], Slave to the Traffic Light > Sparks > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > The Ballad of Curtis Loew[2], Come On (Part One)[2], I Am Hydrogen -> Who Do? We Do!

Encore: Fuck Your Face[3]

[1] First known Phish performance; Jeff Friedberg on saxophone.
[2] First known Phish performance.
[3] Debut.

Now, I’m glad if you’ve been following since day one that hopefully you’ve listened to every show or at least the highlights as well. I’ve got some bad news though and it’s not that your cat died. Poster Nutbag hasn’t even been born yet! It’s that I could have saved you all a lot of time. ut you would have missed the sublimeness that was “Prep School Hippie”! One of the tent poles of the short range of 1987 shows, this night has a lot of highlights. B Heck! We even get three full sets! There’s a lot of music to get through so let’s dive right in.

The night begins with a nice standard “She Caught The Katy”. Good song to warm-up to and get the crowd interested. We then go into “Alumni Blues>Jimmy Page>Alumni”. Earlier, it would have been played as a standard blues but we’re starting to get that trademark groove. Someone out there may be able to better describe it but it has a certain feeling that makes it more danceable than standard blues. There’s a certain looseness, I think it’s Fish’s drumming that gives it an odd shuffle. It’s very white boy Meters feel. Also, instead if Trey wailing through it all, we get a very nice Page Rhodes solo about 4 minutes in. The end of the song also feels more like 4 musicians working together. The next song is introduced as “Duke Ellington’s favorite song” as told in his memoirs and relayed by Trey. It turns out it’s “Golgi Appartus” despite it debuting 12 years after his death. This “Golgi” is much improved with more movement from the band during the middle section and some much needed patience infused into the delicate melody. The buildup to the release also is well played. “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” comes next providing a cool vibe. Page also gets to take a solo which is much appreciated. Trey gets to noodle away next as “Fire” comes up and the band powers through it, infusing the set with wild energy. The dance vibe comes back though as the band grooves into “Skin It Back”. The song’s a little weak compared to other tracks but the end jam gets in there are Mike’s bass weaves around Trey’s guitar while Page holds down the groove on the Rhodes. The song segues weakly into “Cities”, showing that they still have work to do. I wonder if they listened back and analyzed how much stronger that could be. Obviously this was way before all their self-imposed rules so it’s possible. “Cities” also fizzles out a bit and goes nowhere fast. Set One closes with “Lushington”. ’87 will be the year of “Lushington” so you’ll hear a lot of it if you follow along. This version cooks at a nice clip and has fine keys work from Page. It’s a solid version.

Set 2 opens with “Dog Log”. This version has the jazz influences seeping more and more, making it feel more syncopated and loose. The band takes “it around one more time” and all 4 have at the rhythm, sounding together and disjointed at the same time gloriously. Fishman hits the cymbals and it sounds like “David Bowie” might be coming, even the rest of the band plays a funky jam over the top of it but Trey and Page hit the melody for “Melt The Guns”. It starts out pretty standard but at 3:30, we get into the jam and it’s a beauty. Trey plays a gorgeous soaring lead over a darker, dissonant piano part from Page. Mike even gets into it with a throbbing bass line. The last minute really ups the intensity and shows off the musicianship of all 4 members. The song also features a very strong segue into “Dave’s Energy Guide”. Less rough than pervious versions, they don’t actually hit the main theme until about a minute in, enjoying the groove until Trey finally starts the diamond pattern. Rather than disconnecting lines, the band hits the rhythm hard and hooks up quite well. At times, it even sounds like “On The Run” by Pink Floyd. It’s less noise and more actual music. The whole segment is definitely worth a listen. Once again, it’s Duke Ellingston’s birthday. So the band decides to play an actual Ellington tune, “Take the A Train” with guest Jeff Friedberg on saxophone. It’s a fun listen to hear Phish with horns well before the Giant Country Horn days. “Halley’s Comet” comes next and it’s fun but nothing outstanding. It does have a smooth segue into “Quinn the Eskimo”, which sounds good but is not too exciting. The tape then has a crossfade and we miss the cool intro but we go into “AC/DC Bag” to close the set.

The third set is the most exciting in my mind. It opens with a great intro from Trey reminding people to tip their waitresses and waiters and then Fish hits the drum intro to “Peaches en Regalia”, which is standard but rips nonetheless. “Fluffhead” comes next and it’s played at a fast and furious pace. The train is gathering steam and it’s headed down the right track. Can’t wait to see where it goes from here, especially with the Fluff’s Travels development. Keeping the crowd in it, the band rips into “Good Times Bad Times” and it ably shows Trey’s quick finger fretwork. The short punk basher “Anarchy” follows and they slam through it and one fan even yells “One more time!” and on cue they do it again. Taking it down a notch, the band fires up “Makisupa”. About 2 minutes in, Trey solos over Page’s chords and it’s interesting to hear him take the song for a walk. It rolls into “Run Like An Antelope” nicely with the band starting slow and increasing to normal tempo. The ability to maintain a groove while executing tension and release is on full display here and it makes Antelope quote amazing for how early it is in the band’s career. Getting the crowd back to dancing, “Boogie On Reggae Woman” comes next. The band tired hard to jam it out but it really doesn’t develop. The night’s 2nd new cover, “Timber (Jerry)”. Now, the interesting thing is only Phish would think about taking an old folk song from the 1930s and making it fresh with a new wave guitar part over the rhythm. Listening to it played by the son of one of its authors, Josh White, Jr., it really is a dramatic overhaul and makes it a lively tune to dance to. This first version is a must listen. It’s high energy with great soloing from Trey and an amazing beat pounded out by Fishman. “Slave to the Traffic Light” is a good choice for a breather. It’s played impeccably well. It still doesn’t the peak but instead of Trey’s noodling incessantly, He just pounds out the chords to build to release and Mike hits a great melodic bass line to close it. The set probably could have ended there but it’s not last call yet. Trey hits the guitar chords to “Sparks” and the band goes into it. Fishman hits the drum fills quote well here. “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters” comes next and retains its spoken lyrics. Luckily with less Bob Dylan style vocals and more just atonal shouting. Besides that it’s pretty standard. We then get the third new cover, “The Ballad of Curtis Lowe” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. This first version is interesting because Trey sings some of the verses where as modern day versions have Page singing all the verses himself. Trey continues his mastery of the southern rock style of guitar playing. Next, we get the last cover in “Come On (Part One)”. The song is base on the Earl King R&B hit but the version here is clearly based on Jimi Hendrix’s rendition from Electric Ladyland. This is the only known performance of the song by Phish. Trey would later play it with the 8 Foot Fluorescent Tubes and his solo band in 1999 a few times. The song mostly features Trey’s uncanny ability to mirror Hendrix in his own style. However, the rest of the band also moves at the quick pace with strong support from Page, a hot bass line from Mike, and flashy drums from Fishman. It’s a shame they didn’t take this one for a walk more. The evening winds down with “I Am Hydrogen>Who Do? We Do!” “Hydrogren” us fun because it’s played at a faster tempo than usual but is no less beautiful. “Who Do? We Do” is broken up on my copy of this show, which is interesting. It ends abruptly, ending the recording. Apparently “Fuck Your Face” made its debut as the encore but did not make the recording. A fine 3-set affair from Nectar’s in the books!

Show #21: 4/24/87

Billings Library (formerly Student Center)

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1987-04-24

 Friday, 04/24/1987
Billings Lounge, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Golgi Apparatus, AC/DC Bag -> Possum, Fluffhead, You Enjoy Myself -> Dave’s Energy Guide, Punch Me in the Eye[1] > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, I Am Hydrogen -> Who Do? We Do![1], David Bowie, Dear Mrs. Reagan > Slave to the Traffic Light

[1] First known performance.

This show celebrated the end of Earth Week at UVM as pointed out in the introduction at the beginning of the recording. Phish playing Earth Week had started to become almost tradition at this point. The building above is Billings Library, one of the signature buildings on UVM’s campus. It was the school’s original library until the construction of Bailey-Howe Library. Upon that, it became the student center until 2007 when the new Davis Center was completed. It will now house special collections. The show took place in the lounge, which makes up the round part shown above. I guess this makes this the first “Round Room” show.

The show opens with “Golgi Apparatus”. While late this song has been pushed aside, this sis a strong version. The key to this show is you can hear Phish moving towards their own sound and sound less and less like their influences. Trey asks Paul how it sounds but there’s no further banter. “AC/DC Bag” launches with it’s unique intro still in tact. I really dig Mike’s bass line at about 3:40 in. It has a neat little jam at the end that teases something but I can’t put my finger on it but it rolls so nicely into “Possum”, which also boogies hard. I’d consider this pairing a must-listen. A fun, tight “Fluffhead” follows but nothing extraordinary. “You Enjoy Myself” is not as well-played as 3/23/87 but it does have an interesting segue into “Dave’s Energy Guide”, with the ending vocals being repeated over the “DEG” pattern.

We then get the only ever performance of “Punch Me in the Eye”. Not to be confused with the popular “Punch You in the Eye”, it does have some similar lyrics but the music structure is completely different. Trey asks everybody to sing along with the falsetto vocals. The band giggles through, indicating the silliness of it all to start. However, the jam in the middle is quite intense and worth a listen. It’s a very interesting lost composed piece. Apparently, parts of it ended up in “Divided Sky” but I don’t hear the similarity. “Alumni>Jimmy Page>Alumni” comes up next. The only highlight being some “Possum” teases right before it goes into “Jimmy Page”. “I Am Hydrogen” comes back which is nice to give the crowd a little break. It’s also interesting because it segues into “Who Do? We Do!” “Who Do? We Do!” eventually becomes part of “Fluffhead” but in this setting it’s a gorgeous companion piece with some start/stop jamming. When the start/stop begins is when you’ll hear the part thats most recognizable. It’s typically played when Mike and Trey jump during “Fluffhead”. Trey introduces “David Bowie” next. This “Bowie”‘s a decent early Bowie. It didn’t blow my hair back but I was engaged. Snoozer “Dear Mrs. Reagan” comes out next. If I was at a show in the 80s, probably would have been my piss break song for real. The fans dig it though. The set closes with “Slave to the Traffic Light”. It’s pretty but still lacks the right peak. They’ll nail it one of these days. Next, one of my favorite early shows and probably the oldest show I had for a while until I discovered 12/1/84. You don’t want to miss this.

Show #20: 3/23/87

Nectar’s at Night. Photo credit: Ken Burris. (Ken, let me know and I’ll take it down but it was too pretty to not use!)

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1987-03-23

Monday, 03/23/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Funky Bitch, Mike’s Song > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues,You Enjoy Myself > Sparks[1]

Set 2: Fluffhead, Peaches en Regalia, Ride Captain Ride[1] -> Dave’s Energy Guide,Corinna, Why Don’t You Love Me? > Camel Walk, Golgi Apparatus, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

[1] First known Phish performance.

Finally back on back on Main Street in downtown Burlington, at least as far as the recorded tape goes. The band had, of course, been paying bar gigs the whole time but less of these from the early years survived. We do know that the band had been moved the lounge upstairs to the restaurant downstairs at this point in the band’s history. Most likely, to allow for the growing crowds that began to attend the shows. The show opens with a tight “Funky Bitch”, a good call to get the blood flowing. Trey dedicates the next song to The Residents, an experimental music group from San Francisco, whose trademark “Eyeball with Top Hat” logo t-shirt would be a wardrobe staple for Trey. The song dedicated turns out to be “Mike’s Song”. It’s a solid version which rolls into this show’s first highlight. “Alumni>Jimmy Page>Alumni” had been getting a little stale show after show but the version here is where the band finds a solid groove. There’s a nice blues jam between verses in the first half, “Jimmy Page” is tight”, and the ending jam is sublime. Quality early Phish. The energy continues as Phish rips into “You Enjoy Myself”. You can tell Trey really has been practicing this part intensely hitting the arpeggios with a fierce accuracy as Page dances around on keys. The “Boy Man God Shit” part also has very nice groove to i. The band just feels more rehearsed than before and it shows in the quality of this “YEM”. We even finally get the bass and drums jam! It’s short but closer to reaching the classic “YEM”. We don’t get a true vocal jam but we get Trey singing the children’s tune “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” over the bass line, which sounds like if James Brown had hosted a children’s program in the 80s. Has to be heard to be believed. “YEM” dissolves and we get the night’s first new cover to close set one. The band rolls into “Sparks” from The Who’s Tommy. It’s short but shows the band’s ability to pick up many styles. We’ll see “Sparks” come out a few more times over the years including during a could of very important shows. The Who’s influence on the band will not be understated as influence their more rock-oriented tunes of course being important to the year 1995. More on that in a future post.

Set two opens with Trey introducing Paul, the sound man, who also hand building the guitars, the rack, the speaker cabinet, and “most of everything else that you see.” He also thanks Sid, who runs the lights (obviously before CK5 hit the scene), and Willis, their new roadie, who plays a mean guitar. The band then starts up “Fluffhead”. Unlike the previous “YEM”, “Fluffhead” does not show the same amount of tight playing. The recording also has a tape cut at 8 minutes in so I don’t believe we have the full song from that night. Next we get another “Peaches en Regalia” that Trey flubs a little bit. If this was 3.0, people would be all over him. The next song, Trey dedicate’s to Paul, another new cover, Blues Image’s “Ride Captain Ride”. A rare cover, it does however remain in the band’s rotation to this day, having last been played on 10/26/13 in Worcester, MA. It’s also fun to hear another early Page vocal. Page doesn’t have the strong voice we now known but he does a great job with this fun 70s cover. “Ride” devolves into a fast jazz jam which segues into “Dave’s Energy Guide”. The end of “DEG” gets super loopy as notes are bent and Page plays around while Trey keeps the pattern strong. “Corinna” pops up again to slow things down for a spell. This brings us to the 2nd set centerpiece, a funky version of “Why Don’t You Love Me?”, originally done by Hank Williams but done much more in the /Jim Hendrix/Red Hot Chili Peppers funk style. This surely would have gotten people up and dancing in the restaurant that night. It definitely fits perfectly in the 1980s and Trey’s voice has a bit of David Byrne style to it for the song. Luckily the band left the song in the 80s and never played it again but it’s a must-hear due to it being a very early example of Phish doing funk. It also has a decent segue into “Camel Walk”. Unfortunately, for some reason the band decides to slow the tempo for “Camel Walk” instead of just maintaining the speed and ti’s gets choppy but the intro is interesting. Mike keeps up the slap bass for “Camel Walk” and Trey gets loopy with the lyrics but it’s a solid “Camel Walk”. A decent “Golgi Apparatus” and the “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” jazz interlude close the set. Some believe a 3rd set may have been performed but the recording does not exist. Next show, we celebrate Earth Day at UVM! Thanks for reading.