Show #19: 3/6/87

Friday, 03/06/1987
Goddard College, Plainfield, VT

Set 1: Funky Bitch, Good Times Bad Times, Corinna, Golgi Apparatus, Quinn the Eskimo > Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley

Set 2: Free Bird[1], Happy Birthday to You[2] > Harry Hood, Tell Me Something Good[3] > Possum,Freeworld[4], Wilson

Encore: Slave to the Traffic Light

[1] First known Phish performance; Ninja Mike on vocals.
[2] To “Sue and Debra.” Long, reggae-influenced version.
[3] First known Phish performance; unidentified female lead vocalist.
[4] First known Phish performance; Jim Pollock on vocals.

So close to reviewing this in the 27th anniversary! Oh well, good thing it’s not a very notable show. The sound quality on the recording leaves much to be desired. Almost felt like a recording of Phish at the BBC in 1963. Not much to write about this one all the fun’s in the 2nd set. It features Phish’s first attempt at Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” with Ninja Mike of Ninja Custodian on vocals. It’s actually pretty fun as at the 2:20 mark, Trey drops the long slow buildup and the band just tears into the jam, shredding it to pieces. We then get a reggae version of “Happy Birthday to You”, which segues nicely into the opening of “Harry Hood”. Also, after months of teasing by Mike, we finally get a full band version of “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus. It also had an unidentified female vocalist. It’s quite good and also has a fun segue into “Possum”. “Freeworld” is a bit of fun nonsense as Jim Pollock (yes, THAT Jim Pollock, poster artist) spouts lyrics over a raging 12-bar blues. You can’t really make out what he’s saying but it sounds fun. This is the only known performance of that tune. The recording closes with another early “Wilson”. Hopefully more in the next show. Thanks for reading.

Show #18: 2/21/87

Slade Hall, 2007. Photo Credit: UVM.edu

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1987-02-21/

Saturday, 02/21/1987
Slade Hall, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Why Don’t You Love Me?[1]

Set 2: Fluffhead, Fire, Suzy Greenberg, Dear Mrs. Reagan, Camel Walk, Back Porch Boogie Blues, Blue Monk[1], Clod, Lushington, Peaches en Regalia, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,Boogie On Reggae Woman[1], Ya Mar[1], Corinna[1], Dog Log, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues 

[1] First known Phish performance.

Trey once famously said “Put all your money on 17.” I wouldn’t necessarily throw it all at this show but it’s a fun night nonetheless. Set 1 has the note but was not recorded or lost So, the recording starts with a fair version of early “Fluffhead”. Next, we have “Fire”, which hasn’t been on record since 12/1/84. The cover has developed nicely with Fishman driving the band hard and fast through the tune, as if to say to Trey, “Keep up with this!” We then get “Suzy Greenberg” without the Dude and immediately the musicality of the song shines through. Trey even tries to make re lines more sing-songy and almost pushes a 60s vibe on it. At about 4 minutes in, there’s a very nice Page solo. The band follows that up with “Dear Mrs. Reagan”. It’s unclear why the band keeps playing it although it seems very popular with the crowd, who sings along loudly to the chorus.

“Camel Walk” follows but it’s a very interesting version. It starts off with some interesting percussion from Fishman and odd start/stop jamming from each member that slowly builds into the “Camel Walk” chords. Still not a regular “Camel” though. Trey whispers and half sings, half talks the lyrics and it moves at a super slow pace. Probably the slowest “Camel Walk” ever. “Back Porch Boogie Blues” goes the other way. The band starts at normal tempo, which is already pretty fast and just gets faster and faster until it ends in a crescendo of noise. It’s a must hear. We get a call back to 4/15/86 as Trey introduces “Three quarters of the Bob Dylan Band” and Page, Mike, and Jon jam on “Blue Monk”. It’s interesting that even this early on the inside jokes are happening. It’s still cool to hear them as a trio. A groovy, loose “Clod” follows. The rarity “Lushington” follows. The bouncy tune just keeps getting better. Don’t get too attached though because it’s end is perilously near. “Peaches en Regalia” comes up next and it starts with a good laugh. The band is ready to go. Fish nails the into and everything’s moving and then it grinds to a halt on Page’s opening chord. One of my favorite things is when Phish screws up, they usually do it all out and this is no exception. I’m picturing Page making the face Trey makes in the beginning of Bittersweet Motel when Page misses his cue during rehearsal and it’s cracking me up. The band gets it together and plays a rousing rendition.

“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” is a great breather for this show’s main event. Here we get three new cover debuts in Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman”, Cyril Ferguson’s “Ya Mar”, and Taj Mahal’s “Corinna”.  “Boogie On Reggae Woman” comes from Stevie Wonder’s 1974 Album of the Year Fulfillingness’ First Finale. While not as funktastic as later versions, this early version still has Mike playing the bouncing bass line with force and it’s enough to get anyone up and moving. Trey also does not try to imitate Stevie’s harmonic line with a solo in this version. The soloing is left to Page here. It’s good for a first time. Mike had come back from the Caribbean at some point in his childhood with a tape of the Mustangs doing Ferguson’s “Ya Mar” and much later decided it’d be a great cover for the band with it’s fun calypso feel. He was right and it remains a staple to this day. This first version is fairly straight forward and does not include that “Play It, Leo” line that Trey would life from the original recording to give Page his nickname and institute the Leo Trio of songs. “Corinna” comes from the same album “She Caught The Katy” was pulled from, The Natch’l Blues. Differing here is Trey sings the lead part instead of Mike. Of the three, Corinna would become the rarest. The song also features some early band harmonies, which is always interesting to hear as they hadn’t yet become the vocal powerhouse they would in time. Again, Page leads the solo, which seems odd as he’s the newest member but I think the band was still figuring out his place. It’s a beautiful moment, really showing the band’s ability to have an emotional pause in the craziness of their sets. During the pause, we get to hear Marley the dog bark, which is a cool addition. In honor of Marley, the band busts out “Dog Log” again and then closes the recording with the ever popular “Alumni Blues>Letter to Jimmy Page>Alumni”. Interesting to note, the crowd there to hear Phish seems louder on this recording and reflects their growing fan base at home. Still some chatter but more applause and audience interaction, which is super cool. From Mike’s school to home base at Goddard on tomorrow’s review.

Show #17: 2/13/87

Stearns Hall – Johnson State College

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1987-02-13/

Friday, 02/13/1987
Johnson State College, Johnson, VT

Set 1: Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Possum, Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light -> Quinn the Eskimo, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues[1], Suzy Greenberg[2], Sanity[3], Good Times Bad Times

Set 2: Wilson, Melt the Guns -> Dave’s Energy Guide, Fluffhead[3], Harry Hood[3]

[1] No vocals.
[2] First known version; Dude of Life on vocals.
[3] Dude of Life on vocals.

Welcome to 1987, a year many consider the first real year of Phish since it is the first full year as a foursome and the band found their own sound in this year. We start it in the cold of February in the woods of Johnson, Vermont. Johnson is a small town about 30 minutes north of Stowe, a major resort town. Much like Goddard, being out in the woods tends to give a bit of freedom. This show was in the basement of the dining hall, known as Stearns Hall, in the performance space known as the Base Lodge. Don’t go looking for it as it has been renovated as of 2008. The remoteness of the woods again give way to a weird night of Phish and even drew in some of their friends along.

The show kicks off with a decent “Sneakin’ Sally” to get the blood moving and also a solid “Possum”. But you really get the feeling that it’s a pretty standard show, which is still better than 85% of most live shows out there. A light “Golgi Apparatus” rolls into “Slave to the Traffic Light”. The “Slave” is interesting because the band bails on it before it can even start up. Something happens with Trey’s guitar about a minute into it and the rest of the band continues as a trio, which is cool to hear Page riff on “Slave”. They bail about 2 minutes in and get into a nice funk jam, still as a trio. Mike steps up and starts dropping bass bombs like it’s 1997. Trey finally joins back in with some tasty chords and the song rolls into “Quinn the Eskimo” as Mike pounds out the bass line. A quick cut fires up “Alumni Blues>Letter to Jimmy Page>Alumni”. Now the PhishTracks version only has the ending of Alumni and plays it twice, a problem with the site. Downloading it from the Spreadsheet, I was able to get the whole version. I’m thinking I should just download from the spreadsheet and ETree when available. Regardless, this “Alumni” is quite groovy with great work from Mike holding down the bottom end. “Jimmy Page” cooks as always but the real note is that the closing “Alumni” is instrumental, just grooving.

Next, we get a very important Phish debut. It was this night that the crowd got to know “Suzy Greenberg”. A favorite of the band, the debut gets the Dude of Life on vocals. This is why I told you a trip to Johnson State brought their friends along too. This version lacks the trademark Fishman musings in between verses and the Dude sounds super pissed while singing it. He also sounds like Joe Cocker. It’s interesting for its historic quality but not really outstanding beyond that. The Dude’s angst level continues for “Sanity” as he yells his way through the song. The audio quality is also very poor on this track. With the energy already high, Phish pounds through “Good Times Bad Times”. A long pause gives way to an early “Wilson”, a song which is not yet ready for primetime yet. Luckily a music highlight follows in the form of “Melt the Guns>Dave’s Energy Guide”. It starts of simple enough with a fast version of “Melt the Guns” and then about 2:30 in we leave the structure oft he song and pretty jam envelopes. It almost goes Type II but not quite. At about 5:54, Trey begins to tease the riff and the band easily rolls back into “Melt the Guns”. A really great segue goes into “Dave’s Energy Guide”, which is even better with Page following Trey’s guitar part on keys. It rips and is definitely the best version by then and so far. It’s really high energy, no pun intended. The Dude of Life comes back out for “Fluffhead”. He spouts some really odd lyrics over the usual riffs. It’s interesting if only to hear this alternate version of the song. The recording closes with “Harry Hood”. The quality on “Hood” is brutal but Page’s keys sparkle above it. Overall, some highlights but brutal audio quality keep this from being a must listen even for the debuts. There are better shows not he horizon for 1987. Next, we go back to UVM.