Show #80: 12/17/88 The Stone Church – Newmarket, NH

Saturday, 12/17/1988
Old Stone Church, Newmarket, NH

Set 1: Divided Sky,  You Enjoy Myself >  Slave to the Traffic Light,  Foam >  Possum,  Colonel Forbin’s Ascent >  Fly Famous Mockingbird >  David Bowie

The Stone Church in Newmarket, NH
The Stone Church in Newmarket, NH

The last show of the year almost feels like an extended encore. We only have one set to work with but it’s a strong set, full of Phish favorites. The sound on this is just fantastic, almost like it’s taken straight from Junta but we do have introductions from Trey to make sure we know it’s a live recording. “Divided Sky” hits a blistering peak with soaring leads from Trey. Trey banters about the new album and the album AFTER the new album. “Our FIFTHcoming album,” Page says. Not to be confused with their forthcoming album being the joke. “You Enjoy Myself” has a really nice jam beginning at the 10-minute mark. Serious early funk. “Slave” had a decent peak but still work to be done. The interplay in “Foam” continues to improve and is slowly becoming the whole band showcase it will be. The “Bowie” here is top notch and really finds some true jamming. The intro continues to get extended, hitting that more modern feel. Around the 5:30 mark, Trey hits the “Secret Language” trill, which he still uses today to say he has an idea. He then plays an tight solo over the top that leads into a nice little stop/start jam. They also have nice full band riff towards the end around the 11-minute mark that is on fire. Really showing strides as moving as unit on this version. Overall a lovely set for 1988.

Top 5 of 1988:

Now for my top five shows of 1988. This will included whenever we reach the end of a year. I will merely rank and link to my reviews. No need to retread what has already been written.

5. 11/3/88
A polished Boston debut

4. 5/24/88
Early out-there jamming

3. Colorado ’88
An important step for Phish

2. 12/10/88
Only one cover is huge. Also it’s below the radar status means it needs some love.

1. 7/23/88
Pete’s Phabulous Phish Phest is a night for all-time.

Show #79: 12/10/88 The Red Barn at Hampshire College – Amherst, MA

The Red Barn at Hampshire College.
The Red Barn at Hampshire College.

Saturday, 12/10/1988
The Red Barn, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA

Set 1: I Didn’t Know[1],  Golgi Apparatus,  David Bowie,  The Lizards,  Foam,  Fee,  Mike’s Song >  I Am Hydrogen >  Weekapaug Groove,  Wilson,  Colonel Forbin’s Ascent >  Fly Famous Mockingbird

Set 2: Alumni Blues[2] >  Letter to Jimmy Page >  Alumni Blues,  You Enjoy Myself,  Contact, The Sloth,  AC/DC Bag ->  Possum,  Good Times Bad Times

Encore: Run Like an Antelope

[1] Fish on trombone.
[2] Additional lyrics.

This show may be overlooked by many even within just the year 1988 but this show is just as important as Pete’s Fabulous Phish Phest and the Colorado trip. Part of that might just be the fact it’s a “late addition” to Phish history. This show didn’t appear in any version of The Pharmer’s Almanac but did appear in the 1st edition of The Phish Companion. So, it finally hit circulation in 2000, the near end of tape trading. This show is a benefit for the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws or NORML. This would mark a rare Phish benefit show and the first. The interesting perspective of that is Paluska had convinced the organization that Phish was big enough draw in the Pioneer Valley for the fundraiser. Of course the location helps to. Hampshire being a kindred spirit to the band’s home base of Goddard College; two progressive schools that foster free thought and independent learning. So it’s no wonder that in this sphere, Phish throws down a tight performance. The star here though isn’t individual tracks, though we will run down some highlights as always, or a band member’s growth. The highlight here is the setlist. If you give it a rundown, you’ll find there’s only one cover! This is a major breakthrough. Even at the Molly’s show, they still were averaging about two covers a set. To pull up to a big gig like this one and finally have the confidence in the material is a huge step forward for the group and almost puts a big exclamation point on the transitional year that was 1988. I wish this was the last gig of the year for that reason but history sometimes isn’t neat and proper. We have one more from ’88 to go.

The interior of the Red Barn during a wedding.
The interior of the Red Barn during a wedding.

The music within the setlist is also worth the listen. Everything here is played pretty note perfect. I’m sure working on Junta around the time of these gigs was a huge help as the band was doing take after take of the material, in addition to usual band practice. YEM is hot with inspired playing by Page. You can hear how comfortable with the material he is and is starting to take risks within the structure. “AC/DC Bag” is played a little slower, more at the tempo we know it today, and the band pulls an amazing segue into “Possum”, pushing the tempo to its rollicking beat. A wild “Good Times Bad Times” closes set 2 and it’s worth listening afterwards to hear the crowd chant “Phish” like they just burned down Madison Square Garden. It’s almost like the closing scene of a biopic, where they flash forward and the same chants going on but in a much larger room. The crowd is rewarded with the first Phish encore on record and they bring the house down with a smoking “Run Like An Antelope”. This show is a great early show and right up there with the best of ’88. I recommend you listen to it RIGHT NOW.

Show #78: 11/11/88 The Stone Church – Newmarket, NH

Photo credit: The Stone Church
Photo credit: The Stone Church

Friday, 11/11/1988
Old Stone Church, Newmarket, NH

Set 1: I Didn’t Know[1],  Good Times Bad Times,  You Enjoy Myself,  Possum,  Fluffhead, Take the ‘A’ Train,  David Bowie

Set 2: Golgi Apparatus,  Colonel Forbin’s Ascent >  Fly Famous Mockingbird,  Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen >  Weekapaug Groove

Set 3: Mr. P.C.[2],  Fee,  Bold As Love,  The Lizards,  Whipping Post

[1] Carl Gerhard on trumpet.
[2] Carl Gerhard and Russ Remington on horns.

When you’re a touring band starting out, you’ll play in any room that will take you. When you’re an upcoming band in New England, fortunately that includes the Stone Church in Newmarket, NH. Since 1969, this former Universalist meeting house built in 1832 has been a haven for live music. Besides Phish, the many artists that have graced its tiny stage include Buddy Guy, Aerosmith, Bonnie Raitt, John Scofield, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and a whole host of others. It’s unique location, a small town placed between the University of New Hampshire and the bustling seaside city of Portsmouth, gives the venue the crowds they need to be successful. This will also give the gig a more relaxed feel because it’s not in the high-pressure world of the Boston music scene. The venue remains a stalwart of the jamband community to this day.

Photo Credit: The Stone Church
Photo Credit: The Stone Church

As for the show itself, we don’t get a lot of it. We get a very solid “David Bowie” from set 1. A forgettable “Mike’s Groove” from set 2. Though I will say the “Weekapaug” is striding towards its formidable modern form with a faster pace than before. After Weekapaug, Trey advertises a gig of Savoy Truffle and Ollie and the Patriots at the M.U.B. Trey doesn’t know what M.U.B. is right now but we’ll all find out soon in the band’s career. Most of the meat is in set 3. It kicks off with a lovely cover of John Coltrane’s “Mr. P.C.” featuring future Giant Country Horns members Russell Remington and Carl “Gears” Gerhard. Unlike the always present “A Train”, “Mr. P.C.” foreshadows the band’s desire to speed up tempos in future gigs as this one is played at full “hard bop” speed and it’s a delight. A real look at how the jazz chops were as important as the rock chops. This, I think, is a key factor in what made Phish stand out among other bands. Like the Grateful Dead before them did with bluegrass, they took these jazz influences and fused them to progressive rock in ways no one had yet and these old jazz standards show the importance of that. The rest of the set is pretty similar to previous gigs. I wouldn’t say these tracks are must listen but the importance of the Stone Church in the band’s history can’t be understated. Of course, having a giant “Terrapin Station” sign over the bar and stained glass windows of Jerry Garcia and Frank Zappa couldn’t of hurt either.

Show #77: 11/5/88 – Hamilton College Clinton, NY

The Sigma Phi house at Hamilton College as seen today.
The Sigma Phi house at Hamilton College as seen today.

Saturday, 11/05/1988
Hamilton College, Clinton, NY

Set 1: Slave to the Traffic Light,  Time Loves a Hero,  Fire,  You Enjoy Myself >  Possum,  Take the ‘A’ Train,  Golgi Apparatus,  Walk Away,  Fluffhead >  Alumni Blues >  Letter to Jimmy Page >  Alumni Blues,  David Bowie

Set 2: Wilson >  Peaches en Regalia,  Bold As Love,  The Lizards,  AC/DC Bag ->  Fee,  Mike’s Song >  I Am Hydrogen >  Weekapaug Groove,  I Didn’t Know[1],  Good Times Bad Times

Set 3: Icculus,  Suzy Greenberg,  Sparks >  Divided Sky

[1] Fish on trombone.

Yesterday, we talked about Phish, walking the fine line between being silly and being professional. Well, the duality of Phish has another dimension for today’s show. They also have two different circuits they’re currently playing on. The circuits are very similar and overlap but there’s something completely different about them. I’m talking about the club circuit vs. the college circuit. Yesterday, on the bar circuit, we had the first gig in a major music market and so everything felt tight and calculated. Your ability to bring patrons in the door and buy drinks, factors into your ability to come back and hopefully grow into larger venues. Today, we’re back on the college circuit. The gig’s most likely already been paid for. The people who are going to be there are already there and allows a band to relax and just play the show. There’s no pressure. On, it’s noted in Mike’s journal that even he could feel how relaxed this gig was. You can feel this during this show immensely. It’s not the most interesting show but there’s a different vibe to the songs.

This gig takes place in the Sigma Phi fraternity house. You can actually visit the building as it has since been taken over by the University and is now Siuda House, home of the admissions office since 2003. Of course, it’s been totally renovated so it won’t look anything like when Phish played there but still something cool to say. Musically, the show doesn’t have too many differences from previous shows. There’s a really cool move from the “YEM” vocal jam to “Possum”. There’s the last performance of Little Feat’s “Time Loves a Hero” until Star Lake ’98. It’s a shame because it’s probably their best performance of it and would have only improved if it had stuck in rotation. I think the relaxed vibe also might have helped with the relaxed vibe the song needs. A real solid early “Bowie” with a fun reminder that they’re Phish from Page. Page really used to talk a lot. That gives 3.0 a more old school vibe. The “Wilson->Peaches” combo remains but Trey does also get in the “Blat Boom” before the transition. Gamehendge gets mentioned a lot unlike at Molly’s where it wasn’t mentioned at all. A nice tight early “Mike’s Groove”. The silliness gets unleashed with an always fun “Icculus”. All-in-all, a good listen but nothing required but also good to show the contrast between the two worlds Phish is involved in during this period of their career.

Show #76: 11/3/88 – Molly’s Cafe Boston, MA.

Tavern in the Square in Allston at 161 Brighton Ave. This occupy the spot where Molly’s Cafe was in the late 1980s/early 90s.

Thursday, 11/03/1988
Molly’s Cafe, Boston, MA

Soundcheck: Shaggy Dog, Foam

Set 1: Fire,  Golgi Apparatus,  Fluffhead >  Possum,  Fee,  Alumni Blues >  Letter to Jimmy Page >  Alumni Blues,  Good Times Bad Times

Set 2: Time Loves a Hero,  Walk Away,  The Lizards,  Shaggy Dog,  Whipping Post,  Contact, Bold As Love,  Take the ‘A’ Train,  Run Like an Antelope

Set 3: Suzy Greenberg,  Foam,  I Didn’t Know[1],  Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Harpua,  David Bowie

[1] Fish on trombone.

A theme I’ve been hammering on these last few posts is the fine line between being silly and being professional. As the members of Spinal Tap put it, “There’s such a fine line between stupid…and clever.” And the reason for this is we’re not only seeing this duality right now as Phish expands beyond their hometown crowd of Burlington but I want the readers to know this is a very common theme of Phish’s career. They have such silly lyrics but such serious musicianship that towing that line is very important and will impact the band’s direction for the entirety of their career. I once had a history professor that said the entire history of the United States can be charted on a graph that shows the struggle between Liberty and Security and every moment pulls one way or another. Phish’s career could be marked the same way with Silliness and Professionalism replacing Liberty and Security. I will to use that to put this show into context. At this point, no band from Vermont had really broken into the important regional music hub that is Boston, Massachusetts. So, when Ben “Junta’ Hunter was able to book Phish into Molly’s this November night, there was a lot riding on the show.

The Allston neighborhood of Boston is well known as a music hot spot, so much so that it’s earned the nickname “Allston Rock City”. The place used to be a bevy of clubs due to its proximity to Boston and Harvard Universities and easy spot on both the B branch of the MBTA Green Line and the 66 bus from Harvard Square. This means that its the epicenter of the collegiate world with its low-cost housing and many nightclubs. In the late 80s, there was a huge college rock scene happening in Boston. Many of the bands who were playing the same circuit were Pixies, Mission of Burma, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Dinosaur Jr. But you think of those names and it’s all punk rock/ska/grunge, almost the opposite of Phish. The band could find their own niche here in Beantown if promoted right and Ben Hunter thought he was just the man to do that. He and John Paluska teamed up to work with Phish, Paluska handling Western MA and the Northampton scene and Hunter taking on Eastern MA and the Boston scene for now.

Mosko’s at 161 Brighton Ave in the 1950s. (Photo credit: Dirty Old Boston blog)

Hunter, in an interview with Ellis Godard for The Phish Companiondescribes Molly’s Cafe as “It was the kind of place that had live music only one night a week. If memory serves, they had Dead cover bands and the like on Sundays, and the rest of the time it was a rather, if you’ll excuse the expression, “Euro-trashy” type of dance club.” But, he said “there was a band called Chuck & Helen who used to play a couple of times a week at several Allston (the part of Boston affectionately dubbed “the student slums”) bars (they probably still do). They played some Dead songs and all the other predictable covers – “Love the One You’re With,” “Moondance,” etc… Anyway, they always played to a packed house, which meant a hundred, maybe a couple of hundred people on Friday and Saturday nights. They were a merely adequate outfit and they did very well in terms of people coming out to see them, so I knew there was a market of hungry music fans just waiting for a quality band like Phish. But since they hadn’t played any gigs in the area they weren’t an attractive booking for any local clubs. I thought to myself, Why not just rent a room and tell all my friends and basically throw a huge party with great entertainment? As it turned out, at both those shows there were hundreds of people who showed up.” You can read more of this interview over on

So, the gigs ended up being a success and put Phish on the Boston music map. As for the music itself, user Shae_Dougall writes, “This show is unremarkable in almost every way. It’s not bad under any circumstances, but this is nothing that the band hadn’t played before in terms of adventurism.” But I doubt Shae understands the importance of the gig. The move from Burlington to Boston is as important as the Beatles going from Liverpool to London. It’s not the giant jump across the pond to Ed Sullivan but if the Beatles don’t win over London, then rock music would be dead on arrival. So it also goes for Phish’s career. Sure, they might have moved on, maybe tried to make a splash in New York but if Phish can’t get into Boston and its college rock world, it might have been the end. So, if you’re playing your first gig on a huge music scene, do you bust out Gamehendge? No, the talking alone would have killed the room, even if a good chunk is Hunter’s friends. You play your best material as tightly as possible. Even when they do get silly late in the 3rd set with “Harpua”, it’s about the shortest cleanest “Harpua” yet. The play “The Lizards” and the only banter is a dedication to Mike’s girlfriend Cilla for feeding them dinner that night. You lead off with a smoking Hendrix cover and close the first set with a hot Led Zeppelin cover. I’m sure Trey worked hard on this setlist like he hadn’t before, making sure everything fell into place. “Whipping Post” is kept neat with the only jam really being “Dave’s Energy Guide”. “Foam” improves upon its debut. In Phish 3.0, this would be called a “festival set” and derided by many. I think this actually a really strong night of Phish in 1988 and I like it better than 10/29/88. Next it’s out of the bars and back to the college circuit.

Show #75: 10/29/88

The interior of the Sculpture Room at Goddard College. (Credit: Fleming Museum at UVM)
The interior of the Sculpture Room at Goddard College. (Credit: Fleming Museum at UVM)

Saturday, 10/29/1988
Sculpture Room, Goddard College, Plainfield, VT

Set 1: Suzy Greenberg >  The Lizards,  Time Loves a Hero[1],  Golgi Apparatus,  Bold As Love,  La Grange,  Contact,  Costume Contest ->  Harry Hood

Set 2: Halley’s Comet[2] ->  Whipping Post,  Fee >  Alumni Blues >  Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues,  Walk Away >  Divided Sky,  The Ballad of Curtis Loew[3],  Mike’s Song,  Take the ‘A’ Train >  Fire

Set 3: Fluffhead >  AC/DC Bag,  Foam[4],  Terrapin[5],  Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Timber (Jerry)[6],  Slave to the Traffic Light[6],  Donna Lee[7],  Run Like an Antelope[6],  I Didn’t Know[8],  Wilson[9],  Peaches en Regalia[6],  Funky Bitch[6]

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] Richard Wright on vocals.
[3] Bobby Brown on harmonica.
[4] First known performance.
[5] Fish on trombone.
[6] Russ Remington on saxophone.
[7] Russ Remington on saxophone. First known Phish performance.
[8] Russ Remington on saxophone, Fish on trombone.
[9] Russ Remington on saxophone. Unfinished.

Even if you’re making leaps and bounds in your professional career, you’ll probably always have a soft spot for home. So, with this newly gained experience, Phish still came home to Goddard College for their Halloween bash entitled “Resurrection of the Sculpture Room”. The band, clearly excited to play a relaxed gig, perhaps got a little too relaxed for this show. The band’s sounds just a little bit slower and just a hair out of sync. I don’t find it to be that amazing a show (at least compared to 9/24/88) but there are some fun highlights to be found within. We get the first version of Little Feat’s “Time Loves a Hero”. Again it’s little slower than I’m used to and I would find a bigger connection with the song much later in the band’s career but always a treat to hear it. “Bold as Love” continues to be well played but Trey layers on this very odd sliding effect towards the end that just grates on me by the end. “Contact” is played very slowly in order to get as much audience participation as possible it seems. This leads to a very fun moment with a loud crowd singing the song’s chorus. Following “Contact” is the costume contest where “Colonel Forbin” and “Tela” both win dates with Fishman and “Harry Hood” is the contest winner, prompting the band to play the song. No such luck for “Makisupa Policeman” or “The Tire”. “The Serial Friends of Jesus” are disqualified before the contest even begins. “Hood” is another strong version.

Set 2 brings out the first guest of the evening, Richard Wright sings the vocals to his original tune “Halley’s Comet”. “Divided Sky” gets its second run-through but first for the “home” crowd”. It’s not as tight as the first but still is received warmly. “Curtis Lowe” has Bobby Brown on harmonica again and is a nice moment. But Set 2 closes horrible. “Mike’s Song” is WAY OFF and out of sync. The band had no right playing hat tune right then and then they fallout up with a mellow “A Train” that isn’t exciting at all. They then close with a version of “Fire” that sounds straight out of 1986 and not in a good way. It’s just Trey wanking at its worst, no thought to his notes and just a lot of them over the rest of the band. It’s almost like they took two steps back on that song.

Set 3 is know for a few things. It has the debut of “Foam”, formerly known as “Marijuana Hot Chocolate” from 4/22/88. The complex tune was once considered the band’s biggest work as the interlocking lines are difficult to maintain. They pull it off here albeit a little slower than the tune would come to be known for. Impressive for a band only celebrating their 5 year anniversary. Fish comes onto ask what Syd Barrett song he’d like the crowd to hear. They go nuts for “Terrapin” over “Love You and “Bike”. After the enthusiasm for “Terrapin”, Page jokingly plays the riff from the Grateful Dead’s “Terrapin Station” instead and Fish sings the guitar part along before dismissing the notion. It’s a funny moment when you consider Phish would actually play “Terrapin Station” nearly 10 years later. During “Terrapin”, Fish sticks with the trombone as he also does on “I Didn’t Know”. Why no vacuum tonight is a curious thing. The end of the set features saxophone player Russell Remington. This is interesting because it’s the second appearance with horns the band had this year so far. I don’t know how Russell hooked up with the band, none of that is documented anywhere but Remington would be an important figure as a solid member of the Giant Country Horns, which we’ll learn more about in 1991 and a member of Trey Anastasio’s solo band starting in 2001. The addition of horns here is a little hard to discern as Remington did not seem to be mic’d up and so we only get the pickups from the other microphones. We do get the premiere of the Charlie Parker classic “Donna Lee”, a tune that would become a seminal part of Phish’s repertoire. The rest is well-played but not noteworthy. Of note though, the GCH tour would feature horn charts, while these parts all purely improvisation, giving a different feel. Wow, 75 shows down, far too many to go. Onward to Boston…

Show #74: 9/24/88

Saturday, 09/24/1988
Humphries House (The Zoo), Amherst College, Amherst, MA

Set 1: Golgi Apparatus,  On Your Way Down,  Alumni Blues >  Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues,  You Enjoy Myself ->  Wilson >  Peaches en Regalia >  La Grange,  Take the ‘A’ Train,  Divided Sky[1],  Bold As Love

Set 2: David Bowie,  The Lizards,  Walk Away >  Possum,  Fee ->  Sparks >  Whipping Post

Set 3: Good Times Bad Times >  Fluffhead,  The Curtain >  AC/DC Bag,  Dinner and a Movie, Contact,  Big Black Furry Creature from Mars

[1] First known complete version.

This gig looks fairly tame. It’s a former frat house turned co-op living down in Amherst, MA, the Pioneer Valley of course being a dense region of colleges being a perfect landing point for Phish. The actual name of the building is Humphries House, if you’d like to go looking for it. I’ve mentioned before in the post about 3/12/88 that future band manager John Paluska was in the house and it was based on the strength of Gamehendge that he booked Phish for the Zoo’s Full Moon parties, a tradition that apparently remains today. Well, the first Zoo gig was April 2nd and while not much is known about it, clearly it went well enough for a second gig. This is that second gig but as notable as it was that Paluska believed in the band enough to keep booking them at his place, John also had a long-time friend in Boston named Ben “Junta” Hunter. Yes, this is who Phish named their first album after. More detail will come on that later. However, by seeing the band’s “legendary” Zoo parties, he felt that there could be room in Boston’s busy club scene for a band like Phish. This would escalate mere months later but more will detail about that in an upcoming post. No history will be written until it’s time.

There’s something about this show that feels so different from the club gigs though. I think the easy feeling that a friend was running the show but the band at ease. The result is a much more balanced setlist, putting ample emphasis on originals and covers. No doubt the strength of the originals here and how well they meshed with the covers selection furthered Hunter’s thoughts on the band’s marketability. Set 1 kicks off with “Golgi” minus the extended intro from 8/27/88 and it’s well played. “On Your Way Down” is pretty standard as is the following “Alumni>Letter>Alumni”. The “YEM”, dedicated to host John Paluska, is where the show picks up. It’s a tight version with an awesome segue right into “Wilson” with Trey using the song’s chords as the marker and it also ties in “Peaches” again with Trey using the “Boom Blat” section to sound out the drum intro as on 9/13/88. A ripping “La Grange” follows with a loud crowd into the selection. Trey plays rock star and wails on the ending. Taking it down a notch properly, Page gets a nice showcase on “A Train” as per usual. Again, setlist building is coming along there. But it’s all fodder compared to the main event. For the first time, Phish plays “Divided Sky” in its entirety. Combining the original opening snippet heard in earlier shows with the closing segment to “No Dogs Allowed”, everyone knows it’s a masterwork. There’s still some kinks to be worked out. Trey plays a weird ascending riff during the opening segment when Page has his piano fills. Trey hits a few flubs on the crossover point between the two songs. But the jam is beautiful with some “Popeye the Sailorman” teases thrown in. Not even the old stop/start style outro here as it goes full blast and picks up speed to the ending. The crowd erupts. How do you reward that enthusiasm? You bring the house down and end the set with a screaming cover of Hendrix’s “Bold as Love”. Trey hits the tone just right and it’s truly triumphant. Best version yet.

“The window is now ajar.” – Trey
“Once a window, now a jar.” – Mike

Set 2 kicks off with another Phish original “The Lizards”. With the energy of the new “Divided Sky” in the books, this ends up being a ripping version of “Lizards” played at a faster temp than usual. It has a beautiful “If I Were A Dog” segment that not even the crowd clapping can destroy. Hot cover du jour “Walk Away” follows and it’s a very nice concise version that’s much cleaner than previous attempts. The “Possum” that follows is also quite good. This is one of those gigs where the band knows it has home-field advantage and it’s going to run with it. It’s clear on this Possum that Trey’s solos feel more melodic and less chaotic. He’s hitting the right notes instead of playing notes just to play notes and that restraint is coming across beautifully here. “Fee” is performed without the megaphone and is played note for note. Almost catching the fact that most of the set has been original material at this point, the band decides to close with two covers. The Who’s “Sparks” from Tommy serves a bridge from “Fee” to “Whipping Post, making it’s first appearance in a year. The “Whipping Post” is noteworthy because previous versions had been rather unwieldy, building into a cacophony of noise that almost loses the rhythm. This one maintains subdued and Fish opts to keep the high-hat running rather than join in the solo and it makes the song more melodic but also keep it tied together as Page and Trey get spacey during the jam. It works much better in this aspect than “crazier” versions. Again, this show of restraint will be very important for the next few years in establishing a fan base.

We don’t get all of Set 3 but what we do get is pretty amazing. A ripping “Good Times, Bad Times” to kick it off is always a great idea. Knowing they have the audience now, they go right into “Fluffhead”. It contains another “Popeye” tease and Mike actually gets the crowd to sing along to the “Bundle of Joy” section humorously. Keeping it going, the band launches into “The Curtain”, the intro being picked out amazingly. My only beef is Page is a little low in the mix but the band hits those out of the park. The recording closes out with a very well-received call of “AC/DC Bag” and you can hear the enthusiasm from the crowd. The band gets really loose and funky on this version. It’s probably the loosest version yet. They’re slinking along just behind the beat in all the right ways. It’ll make you want to groove right wherever you are. The jam is also a lot of fun and has some fun teases by Trey including “Popeye”, “The Flintstones Theme”, and “London Bridge”. Again, the song ends and you can hear how loud the crowd is. Clearly, the band is staring to find faith in their original material and its strength. The covers will help keep the crowd interested and gain new fans but the fans are coming around. They are just starting to hit the high gear down in Amherst and you can feel the shift forward on this night.

Show #73: 9/13/88

Tuesday, 09/13/1988
Sam’s Tavern, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Walk Away,  Funky Bitch,  You Enjoy Myself,  Flat Fee,  McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters >  Wilson >  Peaches en Regalia,  Good Times Bad Times

Set 2: Ride Captain Ride,  Boogie On Reggae Woman,  Cities >  Dave’s Energy Guide > Cities,  Run Like an Antelope,  Fluffhead

Set 3: Jam,  Andy’s Chest[1] ->  Big Black Furry Creature from Mars ->  Dave’s Energy Guide ->  Big Black Furry Creature from Mars,  Sanity ->  Jam[2],  Fire

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] Fish on vacuum; first known public occurrence of Fish playing the vacuum.

Night 2 at Sam’s Tavern and what a night for history. The only problem is we don’t have the tapes. We only have the first two sets minus the “Good Times, Bad Times”. This is a total bummer. I wonder if it was another case where the taper had to leave early or if it was the tape was destroyed or lost. We may never know or maybe Phish Inc. is sitting on it waiting for a historic reveal. Only one man knows and I unfortunately am not that man…yet. Let’s focus on what we do have and end with what we don’t have. lists Set 1 and 2 as one long get where breaks it up. It is unclear not he recording as “Peaches” seems to go right into “Ride Captain Ride” but that might just be due to the loss of “GTBT”. The first set is pretty “Smokin’!” as Trey said at Mont Alto. Two opening rippers int he for of “Walk Away” and “Peaches”. A “You Enjoy Myself” almost played at half-speed. I can’t tell if this is them learning it in anticipation of recording it (for Junta) or a tape imperfection causing playback at a slower speed. Might even be both. It’s definitely a candidate for slowest “YEM” yet. A quick spin through “Flat Fee”. This is interesting because it will be the last performance of “Flat Fee” until the Giant Country Horns tour of 1991. It may be a short jazz tune but it is dearly missed and I can’t wait for it’s return. This “McGrupp” forms a wonderful early showpiece for the stylings of Page McConnell almost taking on a modern “Squirming Coil” feel. The 1st set highlight though is the pairing of “Wilson” and “Peaches”. Right when Trey would normally break in to the “Boom Blat” lyric, he instead yells out the drum into to “Peaches” and it’s a beautiful early segue.

Set 2 kicks off with a trio of covers. First, we get a “Ride Captain Ride” that’s well played but has botched lyrics. The only performance of 1988. Then after a request of “Aborigine Women?” per Trey, he deciphers it for Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman.” This is not a very good version and the band rightfully shelved the tune afterwards. While common today and a huge fan favorite, this would be the last performance of the song until 12/7/97 in Dayton, OH. Hopefully, they’ll hit it better after almost 10 years of practice, right? Another nice performance of the “Cites>DEG>Cities” combo but nothing outstanding. We get the first “Run Like An Antelope” since Colorado. This is important because it’s a 19-show gap for the song, the 3rd longest. We’ll have one more long one in 1992, so fortunately for me I like the song and can’t wait to see where it goes. This version gets very jazzy during the build-up and Fishman’s drumming seems a little more erratic, which is fun to listen to. “Fluffhead” ends the recording and gets cut off before it can finish.

Now let’s talk about what’s missing. We’re missing an untitled jam that would have been cool to see unstructured jamming from 1988 before songs could go “Type II”. We’re missing the only known version of Lou Reed’s “Andy’s Chest”. This is the last song by Reed performed by the band until 1995, taking the Velvet Underground influence away until formally acknowledging it in 1998 with Loaded. We’re missing an I’m-sure-wild performance of “BBFCFM>DEG>BBFCFM”. Some real punk rock potential there. The big missing puzzle piece here is the jam out of “Sanity”, which is the first known performance on the vacuum by Fishman. Fish playing the vacuum has become such a huge piece of lore that it has it’s own line of Phan art. Crosswalk signs with him pulling the vacuum would become seen everywhere. It won them the battle of the bands at the Front later.It was the centerpiece of this past New Year’s gag. It would be amazing to hear what that first solo sounded like or the crowd’s reaction to such a wild idea.  Again, I’m not sure if we’ll ever know what it was like and that makes this historian a little sad. This however does earn 167 Main St. a place on the Phish history map.

UPDATE: So, I told Kevin Shapiro about an error on the 9/13/88 setlist page of It listed “Ride Captain Ride” as “Mystery Train”, two totally different songs. Not only did he fix that but confirmed “Ride Captain Ride” as the Set 2 opener. I’m gonna leave my original test as is but it has been updated on

Show #72: 9/12/88

Monday, 09/12/1988
Sam’s Tavern, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Shaggy Dog,  Take the ‘A’ Train,  Fee,  Bold As Love

Set 2: Timber (Jerry),  Satin Doll >  The Lizards,  The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu >  Bundle of Joy >  Camel Walk,  The Practical Song[1],  Harry Hood, Esther[1]

[1] First known performance.

As with early shows, you’re going to get some real rough tapes that are either late generations or perhaps were not recorded that well. This show is unfortunately one of those tapes. It’s got tape clicks and poor balances but what survives has some interesting moments. No real banter here just solid playing back at the smaller Sam’s Tavern. “Fee is performed with the megaphone. “The Lizards” unfortunately has the “If I Were A Dog” outro cut. Avenue Malkenu has a “Chag Sameach” greeting from Mike on the occasion of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year that had begun the night before and segues effortlessly into a rare “Bundle of Joy” outside of Fluffhead”. Trey tries to milk time by debuting “The Practical Song”, a song about stocking up on peanut butter. A solid “Harry Hood” is ruined by the poor quality of the tape. The set closes with what probably make this show have any significance. This is the first known performance of “Esther” and it also has different lyrics. This version has more detail about the puppet and ends with the people chasing the old man and not Esther. Without the change, maybe Esther wouldn’t have died in Vegas…but that’s for a much later day. The only must listen is the early version of “Esther” but even then, the quality is poor enough to advise anyone to just skip this one.

Show #71: 9/8/88

Thursday, 09/08/1988
The Front, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Peaches en Regalia >  Walk Away,  Slave to the Traffic Light,  Wild Child,  AC/DC Bag, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent >  Fly Famous Mockingbird,  Bold As Love

Set 2: Possum,  You Enjoy Myself,  Cities ->  Dave’s Energy Guide >  Cities,  Good Times Bad Times,  On Your Way Down >  Whipping Post

Another week, another gig at the Front. As it’s still the top played venue in Phish history, we’re gonna have a lot of these. Not a lot to talk about with this show. It’s solidly played top to bottom. Phish t-shirts had clearly been around before this gig as they’re seen in photos from the Colorado road trip and there’s the legend that at the March 12, 1988 Frank Zappa show at Burlington’s Memorial Auditorium, he hung one on the clothesline on stage after a fan handed it to him. Much in the grand tradition of Phish Dry Goods, Trey doesn’t hesitate to tell the crowd they have new t-shirts available at the soundboard after a hot “Slave to the Traffic Light”. More things change, the more they stay the same. I wonder if it was just logo shirts or some unique design. Unless someone out there has one sitting in mothballs, we’ll never know. After this announcement, we get the last every played “Wild Child”. This Lou Reed tune was last played in 1985, making it a very early “bustout”. You can really hear the band on the verge of breaking in “Bold as Love”. It’s just fantastic and on par with any other version, clearly its band had the chops for something. After “Bold”, Trey announces home movies coming up.

Set 2 kicks off with a raging “Possum” and then it’s movie time. Trey, about to tell Paul a suggestion, decides to tell Paul “You know what you’re supposed to do.” It’d be interesting to find these movies and sync it up. I wonder if it was the band or actual old home movies or if they found random home movies. The most notable thing about this is shows the band was experimenting with making their live show more of a spectacle. The inkling that would fuel their holiday shows and festivals was a glimmer in the band’s eye from the very beginning. “Cities->DEG->Cities” is a combo that we’ll see a lot of over the next month. Very interesting that the band’s repertoire is growing but Set 2 closes with 4 covers in a row. Maybe trying to harness them for a growing fan base? We’ll see but they’re played well. This show had a Set 3 but apparently the taper had to catch his ride home! Too bad, might have been historic! I would have opted to sleep in my car that night instead. I know you can get away with it on Pine St. around the corner, pretty easily, at least 15 years later…