Shows #50 and 51: 5/23-24/88

Monday, 05/23/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Take the ‘A’ Train, Golgi Apparatus, You Enjoy Myself, Rocky Top, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone, I Didn’t Know[1], Peaches en Regalia > Possum, Good Times Bad Times

[1] Fish on trombone.

On today’s post, we get the rest of the 3 night run started at the last show. The last show’s date waffled between the 21st and the 22nd. Evidence from this recording of 5/23 points towards 5/22 being the correct date. reflects this but does not. During 5/23 at the start of “You Enjoy Myself”, Del Martin makes a request and the band reminds him they played a request for him last night. “Last request, we’re even gonna give you! After you graduate from graduate school, man. Del, if you get a Masters degree, we’ll play another request for you, ” says Trey. Which makes me wonder if Del Martin ever did go to graduate school? Did he get another request? After he allegedly fled with some of the 1980s master tapes, does the band even talk to him anymore? Trey and Del seemed to be such great friends during these recordings. I wonder what his story is. That’d be a great article to work on and blow wide open. Other than that nugget, not a lot of highlights here. A flubbed but roaming “You Enjoy Myself”, a tight “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”, and a solid “Possum” are the things to listen to here but you can really just focus on the next night.

Tuesday, 05/24/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: The Curtain With, Rocky Top, Funky Bitch, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page> Alumni Blues, Peaches en Regalia, Golgi Apparatus, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley,Suzy Greenberg, Fire

Set 2: Jesus Just Left Chicago, Fluffhead > Whipping Post

Set 3: Ya Mar[1] -> Jam[1] > Halley’s Comet[2] > The Sloth, I Didn’t Know[3], La Grange,Fee, I Know a Little, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Corinna, Harpua, Run Like an Antelope

[1] Jah Roy on vocals.
[2] Richard Wright on vocals.
[3] Richard Wright on drums, Fish on trombone.

· Theme from The Flintstones tease in Big Black Furry Creature from Mars
· One Love quote in Jam

Phish today is known as a jamband but on these early tapes, while they are great improvisers, I really don’t get the meandering feeling of a jam band. Most people wouldn’t recognize this band with how short the playing is. When people today complain that Phish “doesn’t jam enough”, I kind of laugh to myself because Phish is just being Phish. They’ve always just been a very tight rock band that happens to take things for a walk now and then. However if you want to hear early leanings of the band’s ability to jam then 5/24/88 is a show for you. A strong “The Curtain With” kicks off the show in grand style. The outro jam is a must listen. “Rocky Top” also has a strong early version here. This Nectar’s run really solidifies the song as a staple of the Phish catalog and the earliest of the band’s bluegrass leanings. “Here’s one for this guy right over here!,” says Trey. “Oh yeah, hey you!,” says Mike. “Way for you to show up man!” We’ll never know who that is but he’s getting a “Peaches en Regalia” and maybe some shots it sounds like. Nothing like a call out from the band. “Sneakin’ Sally” also gets loose and is well played.

Second set is the real highlight here. The band kicks off “Jesus Just Left Chicago” and Mike asks the band to “take it down” and to “take it down again” even though the band is playing the song about as slow as it can without falling apart. It also is real quiet below Page’s vocals. It as if they want to make it as dirty as possible. Page plays a great solo going from piano to organ. He sings another verse and then it’s time for Trey to ale over and he lifts the band back up to heights, playing a wailing solo. There are great moments of sustain in “Slave to the Traffic Light” and “Divided Sky” but Trey here is just urging so much out of his guitar, it’s a must hear. It’s every bit as good as the vaunted “Jesus” from Slip, Stitch, and Pass. Mike follows it up with “We’re gonna slow it down a bit. I’d like to thank Kevin, the owner oft his space for letting me use it tonight,” which is weird considering the gig is at Nectar’s, owned by a man named Nectar at the time. Maybe it’s a reference to another show. A really solid “Fluffhead” follows it up. Then, the band gets lost with “Whipping Post”. It starts off innocent enough with a basic reading of the tune but it starts to go off the rails slowly. It never goes type II, leaving the structure of the song. If this was 1997, it might have but for a huge Type I jam, this is stellar. It even almost breaks down at about the 8 minute mark with Trey playing some really dissonant playing in and out of time. Fishman goes nuts for the whole 26 minutes with John Bonham-like enthusiasm. He even has breaks to let Trey show off. The band even brings it down for another verse and then slowly builds to another screaming jam. A milepost on the journey of Phish. Trey announces a break and that’s it. A 3-song second set. Unprecedented. Even the set containing the longest Phish jam ever, 11/29/97 Runaway Jam, was a 5 song set. Whoa.

But they weren’t done yet. They fire up “Ya Mar” for a danceable third set opener. They then bring Jah Roy of Lamsbread on stage and he leads the band into a reggae medley, the centerpiece of which is a cover of Bob Marley’s “One Love”. This is not listed as a song played on but upon hearing this, I feel like it should be. The whole band even gets into the call and response part of the song and feels as much a cover as “Cannonball” from the 5/7/94 Tweezerfest. Another guest comes up int he form of Nancy to play his two songs. He helps with vocals on “Halley’s Comet” but the song really is notable for the killer segue into “The Sloth”. Trey yells it out for the band an they nail the transition as if they had practiced it (which they might have.) Just another great flash of how all 4 members think together. Nancy moves over to drums so Fish can play Trombone on “I Didn’t Know”. While the band nailed “The Sloth”, they still have some learning to do as Fish misses the best on “Fee” where he’s supposed to match Trey’s lyric. He plays it twice to make up for it but you can hear Trey’s chuckle in his verse as he knows how badly Fish missed it. Also in this show, you can see how the band is starting to piece together set lists. The best example of this is the placement of “Corrina” to “cool down” the audience after the hard edge of “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars”. It’ll be interesting to see this develop over time. We also get the first “Harpua” THE RIGHT WAY as finally Poster Nutbag is “hot lunch” for Harpua instead of the other way around. It’s a standard “Harpua’ but important for this note. The set closes with a very strong “Run Like An Antelope”. Next show, we move on to the larger and more professional The Front, down Main Street and across Pine from Hunt’s! See you then.

Show #49: 5/22/88 (5/21??)

Sunday, 5/22/88
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Funky Bitch, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page[1] > Alumni Blues, You Enjoy Myself, St. Thomas[2], Golgi Apparatus, Fire

Set 2: La Grange, Possum, The Lizards, Timber (Jerry), Tela, Happy Birthday to You,Fluffhead, Bike[3], Good Times Bad Times

Set 3: Big Leg Emma, Rocky Top, Cities, Take the ‘A’ Train, The Curtain With, Suzy Greenberg

[1] First played by Phish, then played only by Fish.
[2] First known Phish performance.
[3] Fishman trombone solo.

The date is disputed as states this was 5/22 according to the flyer but maintains this was 5/21.

This show has some relevance to the current tour (which closes tonight and you can watch for FREE) in that it has the only known performance of the Sonny Rollins tune “St. Thomas”. A personal favorite, it’s a spirited calypso-tinged tune. It’s nicely played, despite ending in the wrong key and a wonder that it didn’t make it into the band’s rotation like other jazz covers that stayed until the mid-1990s. It did however pop up recently as it was teased at Randall’s Island and CMAC during the recent tour. It’s also a sentimental favorite as back in middle school, I was a tenor saxophone player myself and sat down and transposed St. Thomas so that I could learn the riff to play along with the record. It’s the only time I recall doing such a thing and I still remember being excited about it. So that Phish had played it themselves just a few years earlier fills me with pride.

As for the show itself, it’s a fun night at Nectar’s. Opening a 3 night set, the main feeling is how different the vibe is from the previous show. The band is still having fun but it feels more tight and business-like. The band is here to play the gig and get paid. The sets have more covers in order to maintain the crowd’s interest. Highlights include “Letter to Jimmy Page” by request for birthday boy Del Martin, in which the band plays the song and then just Fishman plays the song on drums. A guy yelling for “Fluffhead” all night until they actually play it and he goes crazy. Another dub version of “Happy Birthday”. It also has the only known recording of Phish covering “Big Leg Emma” by Frank Zappa. It’s a goofy cover and I wonder why it was also dropped from rotation. This is also the first time I noticed a “Dave’s Energy Guide” tease in “Sneakin’ Sally” without reading the setlist first. Seems my ears are getting serious about Phish. Lastly, the World Premiere of “Tela”, despite them having already played it once and an audience member yelling “Oh no! Not again” and sounds exactly like the guy who yelled “Oh no!” when the band cued up “Show of Life” during the encore of 12/31/13. It seems fans even then disdained new material. Same as it ever was. We’ll see what nights two and three of this 3 night stand bring.

Show #48: 5/15/88

“We’re gonna have a 5 minute pause while we re-gas the generator.” So says Mike here.Those odd remote gigs in the Vermont wilderness. Should have taken my break after reviewing this show for the laugh factor. Anyway, a recent post on Phantasy Tour seemed to fit nicely with the thoughts for today’s show. The post was that new material is the key to good Phish. The recent influx of Fuego songs seems to have put more fuel on the fire and the band is playing one their best tours in years. Taking this walk through Phish history I can definitely say I agree. I’ve been getting similar setlist after similar setlist for a while now. They’re all tunes I adore but some new blood would be helpful. But Trey says new songs are on the horizon so they must be coming!

This show was part of an event called the Vermont Farm Festival in Hinesburg, VT. A Google search for that term only shows this performance, so it’s unclear what type of event it was. says that Ian McLean threw the party. Hinesburg is not really known for anything. It’s not a ski town. It’s only about 20-30 minutes south of Burlington. My memories of Hinesburg is I had a camp friend from there when I was a kid and we used to drive through it on the back way to Burlington, sometimes stopping at Papa Nick’s for lunch. Not exactly riveting memories. This show is rely if you want to know what seeing Phish play a friend’s house or a wedding the 80s was like. Not having a real soundcheck so all adjustments have to be made on the fly as shown by all the breaks to do so. 

This show is more about banter highlights than musical highlights. The mics are open and live and catches some great moments, such as the generator comment mentioned earlier. It catches Trey asking someone to make a beer run after “Peaches en Regalia”. It catches Trey talking about his glasses falling off during “Fluffhead”. It catches Fish saying they always open with “Golgi” and Trey defending it. It catches a great bit about a lost dog. A great gag where Page is getting off and has forgotten everything about the show so far. If you love to hear the band having fun with an audience, this is the show for you. 

Not that there isn’t any great music here. We get a hot “Good Times, Bad Times”. A gorgeous early “Lizards”. The “AC/DC Bag>Possum” is no slouch. A really fun “McGrupp” with Fishman on trombone for the outro. A great “The Curtain With”. “Wilson” is getting closer to resembling its now world-famous form, still does not have the E chord intro though. A wild, dissonant version of “Take the A Train”. My favorite track of the show is “Harpua”. Unlike the late, rambling Harpuas fans have come to know and love, this is a very straightforward telling of the story. The other interesting part is Poster Nutbag is described as just as mean and ugly as Harpua. So instead of innocent Poster Nutbag, they are two evil creatures destined to face off. The outcome remains the same. This is a very solid 1988 show and I would recommend it to get a feel for the band at this time but not a must-listen. I would probably put it just below the Colorado ’88 shows.

Shows #46 and 47: 4/22/88 and 5/14/88

Friday, 04/22/1988
University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Set 1: I Didn’t Know, Golgi Apparatus, The Lizards, Fee, Shaggy Dog, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, You Enjoy Myself, Suzy Greenberg, Ya Mar, AC/DC Bag -> Possum,The Ballad of Curtis Loew, David Bowie

Set 2: Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, Fire, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues > Run Like an Antelope,

Hey I’m back! I went a little catatonic listening to 4/22/88 but I’m reloaded after hitting the first 6 shows of the current Summer tour and ready to get back on the Horse, despite it missing from the band’s rotation. These two shows are really more about banter than the music. 4/22/88 is anther UVM Earth Day gig. Highlights include a smoking “Antelope” to close the show, a great early “Forbin>Mockingbird”, and a “Fire” that just shreds. At the end of “Fire”, Trey introduces some songs “coming soon”, “The Tires” (now known as “Contact”), which Trey calls “hot”, “The 4-Track Song” (now known as “Poor Heart”), and “Marijuana Hot Chocolate” (now known as “Foam”). These songs clearly were not ready in time for the next gig either as they do not debut there. The reason I went crazy listening to this show is the Fluffhead through Harpua versions on PhishTracks are IDENTICAL to 3/11/88 and I thought I was losing my mind. Fortunately, seemed to agree even though they are still listed on the setlist. When you listen to hours of Phish and you find an identical track, it’s a little scary.

Saturday, 05/14/1988
Goddard College, Plainfield, VT

Set 1: Fire, I Didn’t Know[1], Halley’s Comet[2] > Light Up Or Leave Me Alone, You Enjoy Myself, The Lizards, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Jesus Just Left Chicago[3],Fluffhead > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Take the ‘A’ Train[4]

[1] Richard Wright on drums and additional vocals. Fishman on trombone.
[2] Richard Wright on additional vocals.
[3] Bobby Brown on harmonica.
[4] Carl Boyle on saxophone.

5/14/88 has more in common with 2014 Phish than you would think but listening to it along side the recent shows gives you the feeling that Phish is still the band we know and love all these years down the line. This show is more about being silly and banter than other shows. Much like the end of 7/27/14 from Merriweather Post, the band here has fun with the performance. Trey dedicates “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars” to Walter Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan. Trey sings “Who is She?” to Marley, a precursor to the band’s publishing company. He also asks “Who’s the Mar-Mar?”, a phrase that would find its way to the headstock of one of Trey’s Languedoc guitars. Playing bits of .38 Special’s “Rockin’ into the Night” and Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up” before playing the set closer. In an even more direct link, Trey introduces Fishman as “Moses Heaps, Moses Brown, and Moses Dewitt” again and at the 7/8/14 show at the Mann, Trey still called Fishman these nicknames. Who remembers that 26 years later? Obviously, friends with a deep connection and history. It’s these little quirks that reveal how tightly woven the band is and how integrated the history is. The music here is pretty weak. The main highlight is a smoking “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”, an interesting Page led section after the “Bundle of Joy” section of “Fluffhead”, and a honking sax guest spot on “Take The A-Train”. Just as today, sometimes Phish is serious business or sometimes it’s just 4 goofy guys having fun with each other and an audience. Here’s to more fun.

Show #45: 3/22/88

Tuesday, 03/22/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Harpua, Wilson > Peaches en Regalia, Funky Bitch, Golgi Apparatus, Suzy Greenberg, You Enjoy Myself, The Lizards, Good Times Bad Times, Happy Birthday to You[1], Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Icculus > Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird > AC/DC Bag

[1] “Dub” style.

The third in a 3-night stand at Nectar’s (Night 1 doesn’t exist on tape) finds again no jams here. That does’t mean this recording is a waste, in fact quite the contrary! We only have one set so there might have been more going on, but there’s some very nice selections here. The lead-off of “Harpua” is classic Phish. Trey gives an amazing band introduction. I wish there was video to see what he did during this. Mike also chimes in with his bike/clown horn, giving a glimpse at his know well-known goofy side. We get the basic narrative with no deviation and the classic story of the nice cat Poster Nutbag facing off against the mean dog Harpua here. The rock opera ending. It’s all here and played amazingly. “You Enjoy Myself” also slays all day. Again, not mind-blowing just tight perfectly performed compositions. “YEM” unfortunately gets cut off just before lift off but we follow it up with a tight “Lizards” featuring outstanding work from Page. It’s all going so well and then Trey begins the “If I Were A Dog” outro. And then….clapping? Seriously? One of the most beautiful pieces of music in the Phish catalog and the crowd starts clapping along. You think the Woos are bad? This is just disgraceful. Luckily, it didn’t stick or else I might just wait for Soundboard recordings. Yuck. The outro remains very nicely played though. The most interesting section closes the set. Trey announces it’s time to go back to Gamehendge and that they’ll skip the beginning and move to the middle. Hey begins to describe “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent” before asking if everyone knows who Icculus is? People respond no so Trey calls an audible and the band goes into “Icculus”. Now, most fans know Icculus as a silly song where it builds and builds as Trey eludes to who Icculus is. This version is the most straight version I’ve ever heard. Trey actually describes who Icculus is and why he’s important to Gamehendge. If you’re new to the song, this would be a great place to start. “Colonel Forbin” begins with the lounge singer/piano style intro. It’s interesting and might work in a small club but no surprise it eventually got dropped. It goes seamlessly into “Mockingbird” with no narration but again just change after change is getting nailed. The recording closes with “AC/DC Bag”. It has finally lost it’s intro, which is a shame because I dug the little funky intro it had. Alas, it is a bit more effective dropping to the main groove. The band starts to finally loosen up but then the cut. Who knows what delights the rest of the veining had but it’s a fun little glimpse into the waning days of Nectar’s.

Show #44: 3/21/88

Monday, 03/21/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Suzy Greenberg, Golgi Apparatus, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters,Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Divided Sky, Boogie On Reggae Woman > Timber (Jerry), The Lizards

Set 2: Fire, AC/DC Bag > The Chase > Possum, Dinner and a Movie, I Didn’t Know[1],Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird

[1] Fishman on trombone.

A complaint amongst a portion of today’s fans is that Phish doesn’t “jam” enough. In defense of today’s Phish, I’d like to present a glimpse of what a jam-less show is really like. This show at Nectar’s has only two long tracks and they’re not that great. We have a meandering 8-minute “McGrupp” and an 11 minute “Lizards”. Every other track is quite short and does not deviate much from the song structure. The whole first set is effectively a throwaway. Not a lot going on here and you can tell that the energy of the crowd is not that into the set. Not even the resurrection of “Boogie On Reggae Woman” is a highlight here. 2nd set is where all the action is but there’s not even any jam vehicles. The “AC/DC>Chase>Possum” is quite good with the Possum being the top pick there. The crowd also starts to get into the vibe a little more. “Dinner and a Movie” is slayed here, if short. The recording closes out with “Forbin>Mockingbird” without narration, which is interesting considering, two shows ago, Gamehendge was debuted. The “Forbin” is coll because it has an odd jazz piano intro, where Page plays the melody of the verse and then accompanies Trey’s vocal but as a solo player before the band come sin. That’s very cool and worth a listen; my personal highlight. The recording cuts out during “Mockingbird”. Maybe all the jams were in the 3rd set that night. We’ll never know.

Show #43: 3/12/88

Saturday, 03/12/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Jump Monk[1], McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > The Lizards > Tela[2] >Wilson > AC/DC Bag > Colonel Forbin’s Ascent[2] > Fly Famous Mockingbird > The Sloth >Possum, Run Like an Antelope

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

One of the problems in reviewing a band’s career in retrospect is you know what happens next. In addition to the problems reviewing 3/11/88 that were explained in that post, there’s also the anticipation for a bigger show that’s just around the corner. Such is the case for 3/12/88. The importance of 3/12/88 is that it marks the first live The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, or Gamehendge. The story of this gig is so much more though. The entire band, by all accounts, had previously gone to see Frank Zappa play Memorial Auditorium, just a few blocks up Main street from Nectar’s. At some point during the show, someone had thrown a Phish t-shirt on stage. Frank held it up and the crowd went nuts. Maybe with the knowledge that freaks were out and about that night for the FZ show and that letting their freak flag fly would be par for the course, or that Trey knew he would have a large audience to unleash it on spurred the decision. Regardless, the band decided to go for it.

This would also prove to be an extremely important decision for the band’s future as well. That night, local band Ninja Custodian had a friend in town named John Paluska. Ninja Custodian insisted that they head to Nectar’s to see Phish. He walked in and caught the Gamehendge set and thought they’d be great for his Zoo house parties at Amherst. This ended up with him booking them for April and they quickly built a following in western Massachusetts, the next enclave outside Burlington to take to the band. Paluska’s success lead to him begin asked to manage the band later in 1988. Paluska’s Dionysian Productions would manage the band from that day until the band’s “breakup” in 2004. You can read more about Paluska’s experience on with the “This Month in Phish History: March 1988” entry.

As for the recording itself, we only have one set. Luckily, it’s the Gamehendge set and if you’ve ever heard the studio recording, it’s very similar. However, the narration is a bit clearer here. Trey sounds less scripted and more off the cuff. The set opens with Charles Mingus’ “Jump Monk”, a jazz cover that would only be played once more; which is a shame because it’s very well done in the same manner of later cover “Donna Lee”. Quickly though, we get to the main event. The band launches into “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters”. This is important because “McGrupp” was actually the poem that launched Trey into writing the “TMWSIY” story. It’s odd that other versions don’t use it again as this is the only rendition that opens with “McGrupp”. “McGrupp” closes, which I don’t think is as effective. “McGrupp” sets up the tale much better. Over Page’s outro solo, Trey begins to tell the tale of Gamehendge, which I will narrate here as well. “Once upon a time, there was a man…” That man turns out to be Colonel Forbin, a retired military man who stumbles upon a door in the middle of a field. He opens the door and begins making his way down the corridor found within. In the corridor, he finds Rutherford the Brave. Rutherford begins to tell him about the strange land he is now in during the song “The Lizards”. This “Lizards” is pretty note perfect. It doesn’t even have much of a pause between the verses and the “If I Were A Dog” outro. With Rutherford having drowned at the end of “Lizards”, Forbin doesn’t have much time before being spotted by Tela and her two-toned multibeast. Forbin is instantly smitten with here and contemplates this in the song “Tela”. The version here is much longer than other versions and it does drag for a bit because of it. Still sounds great though. Tela and Forbin ride to the rebel camp and Trey describes Errand Wolfe, actually in more depth than in his senior thesis. We learn more about Errand in his singing of the song “Wilson”. We then get a song from Wilson in “AC/DC Bag”, which the crowd loudly cheers. Forbin realizes that the only way to help everyone is to get help from the wise and knowledgeable Icculus, who lives on the mountain over the land. Forbin climbs the mountain in “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent” and Icculus’ response is to fly the Famous Mockingbird to get the Helping Friendly Book from Wilson in “Fly Famous Mockingbird”. Much has been made about the narration between “Forbin” and “Mockingbird”. Recently some said they wished the one from the JEMP truck set on 12/31/13 was too short but here, in the first ever rendition, the narration is also very short. The playing is also amazing here. The band just nailing it like a well rehearsed Broadway pit band. The Famous Mockingbird successfully gets the Helping Friendly Book and Forbin returns to give it to Errand. Errand, now consumed with power, kills Wilson with the help of “The Sloth” but also puts Forbin in jail. The “Forbin in jail” story isn’t repeated here. It really does’ thane an ending except for Icculus’ musings captured in Possum. This version of Gamehendge is also the only live one that ends with “Possum” and really isn’t as neatly tied up as others. How do you follow that up? With a scorching “Run Like An Antelope”. Not as powerful as the previous night but still a lot of fun until the recording cuts off. A historic evening at Nectar’s indeed.

Show #42: 3/11/88

Friday, 03/11/1988
The Base Lodge, Stearns Hall, Johnson State College, Johnson, VT

Set 1: The Chicken[1], Funky Bitch, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley[2], Take the ‘A’ Train,You Enjoy Myself[3] -> Wilson, Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light, Flat Fee,Corinna, The Lizards, David Bowie

Set 2: Fluffhead, Dinner and a Movie, Harry Hood, The Ballad of Curtis Loew[2], Harpua,AC/DC Bag > Alumni Blues > Run Like an Antelope[4]

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] Bobby Brown on harmonica.
[3] No vocal jam.
[4] Trey spoke the names “Marco Esquandolas… Poster Nutbag… Moses Heaps… Moses DeWitt.”

I almost didn’t know how to start this post as it’s a good show but wasn’t noteworthy. Then I began reading This Has All Been Wonderful by David “Zzyzx” Steinberg and having him say that a show can be great without an outstanding jam, it put this show really into perspective. If you’re not following PhishStats on Facebook or haven’t picked up a copy of the book, you’re missing out on some great Phish history notes by the master. Highly recommended. Click this link before buying and 0.5% can go to the Mockingbird Foundation! I also recommend as a dual layer to your Phistory, the blog 20 Years Later. The author is posting a review of that day’s show 20 years later obviously. 1994 was such  banner year and we’ll get there someday! Hopefully by late next year.

As opposed to when the band doesn’t sound inspired like our last show, sometimes the band is just on fire. Such is the case where nearly every song is well-played. Once again deep in the woods at Johnson State Collge, the remoteness as well as a crowd that the band won over by the end of the show, something really got everybody ready to throw down. Which is considerable considering how the show opens.

Trey almost half heartedly introducing a James Brown tune, “The Chicken”. “The Chicken”, while being made famous by Brown, was written by his saxophonist Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis. This Phish version is actually more like the big band version found on Jaco Pastorius’s The Birthday Concert, hitting more jazz than funk. The set continues to build and you can hear the crowd go from chatty to interested. Crowd pleaser “Sneakin’ Sally” seems to be a big turning point. This version features local musician Bobby Brown on harmonica, adding a dimension to the setlist regular. “A Train” takes it down a notch before the band launches into “You Enjoy Myself”. The “YEM” is more notable for its segue as instead of a vocal jam, Mike hits the bass line to “Wilson” and the band goes into that. The “Wilson” is fun with an excellent intro jam before the lead vocal. A big first set highlight is “Slave” as it gets a gorgeous peak. “Flat Fee” and “Corinna” is as beautiful as a breather you can find. “Lizards” continues to amaze. The second peak is “David Bowie”. We get a “Bowie” with a long intro for the first time and they make the most of it, driving the crowd crazy with teases. In order, we have “Timber”, “Alumni”, “Smoke on the Water”, “Sunshine of Your Love”, “Money”, “Whipping Post”, and perhaps a preview of the yet-undebuted “Weekapaug Groove”. The song sounds pretty great as well but unfortunately the recording cuts out midway through ending set 1.

Set 2 kicks off with a complete “Fluffhead” suite. Nailed. Next is “Dinner and a Movie” where the band plays the signature syncopated Page solo for the first time. Nailed. “Hood” is good, naturally. The crowd knows it too. You can hear the energy seep into the performance. “Curtis Loew” with harmonica has a little more swing to it and is an excellent bridge song to the first recorded complete “Harpua”. The most interesting thing about is the story is told backwards. Trey says Harpua rounded a corner and came “face to fat” with the meanest and fattest cat Poster Nutbag! They then fight. In most versions, the nice cat Poster Nutbag meets the mean Harpua and the ensuing fight kills Poster Nutbag. Poster’s still dead here in the second half of the song (one fan yells “THE CAT’S DEAD!” before the reveal, showing the song had been played before. But that Poster is the mean one is an odd deviation. Still though, amazing the Who rock opera vibe is captured from the beginning. A tight pairing of “AC/DC Bag” and the “Letter”-less “Alumni Blues” slay as well. The “Run Like An Antelope” is a scorcher. The band really lets this one unwind, almost reaching the 15 minute mark. It’s got a very nice slow build to the “Rye Rye Rocco” break, which doesn’t happen until 12 minutes in, demonstrating an early mature patience that we haven’t seen much of yet. Also, we get a lot of Page here, which is fantastic. Really showcases his early chops in a stellar way. We also really get the first crowd reaction to “Been you to have any spliff, man?”. They yell loudly, showing that they are listening and are actually there to see Phish. It’s a great moment. Something special out there in Johnson, but no match for what would occur the following night, back home at Nectar’s. Don’t forget you can follow very post by following me on Twitter @harryphood or like this page on Facebook! See you tomorrow for sure!

Show #41: 2/26/88

UVM’s Living and Learning Center.

Friday, 02/26/1988
Living and Learning Center, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Set 1: The Curtain > Suzy Greenberg, You Enjoy Myself, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > AC/DC Bag >Possum, Phase Dance, Good Times Bad Times

Set 2: Fluffhead, I Didn’t Know[1], Golgi Apparatus > The Lizards, David Bowie, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Fee > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Dear Mrs. Reagan, Makisupa Policeman, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Whipping Post

[1] Fishman on trombone.

In a previous post, I talked about the band having off-nights. When you’ve played 1,630 shows, they’re bound to occur in your history. This is yet another example of an off-night (or day since I’m unsure when this show was played). There’s nothing here you have to listen to. The only cool thing I thought was you can hear the crowd clapping during “I Didn’t Know” showing how embraced the band was by UVM. Also, we have the entire “The Curtain” without here. The recording however fades out of “The Lizards” missing the “If I Were a Dog” outro. We’re missing a lot of the 2nd set. Unsure if anything of note happened in those tracks but overall, a show most people can skip.

Show #40: 2/24/88

Wednesday, 02/24/1988
Gallagher’s, Waitsfield, VT

Set 1: Funky Bitch, Fluffhead, The Curtain[1] > You Enjoy Myself, I Didn’t Know[2], The Lizards, Wilson > Peaches en Regalia, Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light, Corinna,Fee > David Bowie

Set 2: Mustang Sally[3], Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley[4], Sanity, La Grange, Harry Hood

[1] First known Curtain without “With.”
[2] Fishman on trombone.
[3] John Carlton on vocals.
[4] John Carlton on drums and Fishman on trombone.

Back in the Valley again, we get part of a wild night at Gallagher’s. The tape unfortunately does not include “Funky Bitch” or “Fluffhead”. It instead kicks in towards the end of the first “The Curtain” WITHOUT, meaning it does not contain the “With” section at the end. The show doesn’t really pickup until a very nice “Slave to the Traffic Light”. It has a nice closing jam and shows that the band is FINALLY learning what to do with the song. Second set is where the action is. Trey gets into it with a heckler and tells hime to come sing the song. They play “Mustang Sally” and it’s not that bad. The singer really tries to get into it. The more interesting note is that the only other person to guest on “Mustang Sally” with Phish? The one and only Bruce Springsteen. There’s some Phish trivia for you. Trey then introduces him as John Carlton and that this “man of many talents” will slide over the kit so Fish can “play his bone” on “Sneakin Sally”. Apparently Carlton was in a Vermont band called Blue Rose, according to No other history is available about this band. The result hover is surprisingly good. It’s actually an interesting listen to hear “Sneakin’ Sally” with trombone. I recommend checking it out. How do you combat an insane set of events? With “Sanity”, so the band busts that out. The other highlight here is a very fine “Harry Hood” to close out the recording. So, some highlights in this brief recording but worth a quick listen.