Set 1: Divided Sky, You Enjoy Myself > Slave to the Traffic Light, Foam > Possum, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird > David Bowie
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.
Set 1: I Didn’t Know, 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 > 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
 Fish on trombone.
 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 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.
Set 1: I Didn’t Know, 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., Fee, Bold As Love, The Lizards, Whipping Post
 Carl Gerhard on trumpet.
 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.
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.
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, Good Times Bad Times
Set 3: Icculus, Suzy Greenberg, Sparks > Divided Sky
 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 Phish.com, 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.
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, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Harpua, David Bowie
 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.
Hunter, in an interview with Ellis Godard for The Phish Companion, describes 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 Phish.net.
So, the gigs ended up being a success and put Phish on the Boston music map. As for the music itself, Phish.net 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.
Set 1: Suzy Greenberg > The Lizards, Time Loves a Hero, Golgi Apparatus, Bold As Love, La Grange, Contact, Costume Contest -> Harry Hood
Set 2: Halley’s Comet -> Whipping Post, Fee > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Walk Away > Divided Sky, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Mike’s Song, Take the ‘A’ Train > Fire
Set 3: Fluffhead > AC/DC Bag, Foam, Terrapin, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Timber (Jerry), Slave to the Traffic Light, Donna Lee, Run Like an Antelope, I Didn’t Know, Wilson, Peaches en Regalia, Funky Bitch
 First known Phish performance.
 Richard Wright on vocals.
 Bobby Brown on harmonica.
 First known performance.
 Fish on trombone.
 Russ Remington on saxophone.
 Russ Remington on saxophone. First known Phish performance.
 Russ Remington on saxophone, Fish on trombone.
 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…
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, 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
 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.