Show #19: 3/6/87

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

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

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

Encore: Slave to the Traffic Light

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

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

Show #18: 2/21/87

Slade Hall, 2007. Photo Credit: UVM.edu

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

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

Set 1: Why Don’t You Love Me?[1]

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

[1] First known Phish performance.

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

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

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

Show #17: 2/13/87

Stearns Hall – Johnson State College

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show #16: 12/6/86

The Ranch. Photo credit: RockPeaks.com

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1986-12-06

Saturday, 12/06/1986
The Ranch, Shelburne, VT

Set 1: Funky Bitch[1], Possum, Peaches en Regalia, Makisupa Policeman -> Fluffhead

Set 2: I Know a Little[1], Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light, Shaggy Dog > Light Up Or Leave Me Alone[1] -> Camel Walk, Jam > Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Back Porch Boogie Blues, Icculus[2], McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Good Times Bad Times[1] -> Skin It Back -> Cities

Set 3: Mike’s Song -> The Little Drummer Boy[1] > Whipping Post, She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride[1] > AC/DC Bag, David Bowie -> Clod > David Bowie, You Enjoy Myself, Dog Log, Tush[1] > Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Prep School Hippie/

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] Steve Drebber on vocals.

Ah, we’ve come so far in just 3 years. The final lineup is formed. Gamehendge is creeping its way into sets. Covers are become more unique and crafted for the band. The band has a dedicated sound man on their crew. To quote Penny Lane and the Band-Aids, “it’s all happening”. This final recording of 1986 brings us to the Ranch. The Ranch, also referred to as Mead Ranch or Mood Ranch, was a house inhabited by Eric Larsen, Kent Moore, and Wayne Stout. It was located (and still may be) on East Dorset Street out in the wilds of Shelburne. Most people hear Dorset Street in Burlington and think of the South Burlington shopping district but if you keep going, it becomes quite rural. This would set the tone as a house party is a different animal then a bar or university gig. The band could get weird and the folks in attendance would most likely go along. Also a great place to test some new tunes and in this show we get a lot of new covers, some of which the band would craft for many years.

Phish opens with a new cover, Son Seals’ “Funky Bitch”. While today this probably one of the most loved covers of the band, it’s an interesting choice because it’s the first straight ahead blues song that we’ve heard so far. On Seals also marks the eclectic musical leanings of Phish. Another band would go Muddy Waters or BB King but Phish picks out the obscure 70s blues man. I saw Son Seals play the Discover Jazz festival in Burlington on June 6, 2002. Full disclosure was I went in hopes of a Phish sit-in, but was pleasantly surprised to see authentic Chicago blues. Son Seals had serious chops. This version is not terribly notable other than it is first. The band fires up “Possum” but they’re not clicking too well early on which continues into a slow, static “Peaches en Regalia”. Mike again teases Rufus’ “Tell Me Something Good” going into “Makisupa”. “Makisupa” has a very half-baked reggae jam that goes nowhere fast. The mellowness continues as the band plays one of the slowest “Fluffheads” I’ve ever heard. I almost would think the tape was dubbed but they sound in the right key. It almost painful how slow it is. It’s a must listen if only to hear how weird it is.

Set 2 opens with another new cover, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “I Know A Little”. The tape quality certain picks up with clearer vocals. It’s a pretty smoking cover and one I’d like to hear then bring back. I also like how the song again reflects the jazz influences that are creeping in. It doesn’t differ much from Skynyrd’s version but it’s a delight to hear. Following up is “Golgi” and the band returns to a slower than normal tempo. This time however, they nail a standard version. “Slave” comes next and it’s well done. The peak is still not finished yet but it’s inching closer. It definitely has more of that feel as Trey lays back at the end instead of playing wildly.

We get another fun rendition of “Shaggy Dog” which segues into yet another new cover, Traffic’s “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”. “Light Up” is significant because we finally hear Page on vocals. He’s not quite the powerhouse he will come to be in Phish’s arsenal but it’s still interesting to hear such a Phish staple in it’s early form. It’s also the first good jam of the show. They take the song out for a walk and all members are on fire. Mike’s bass intertwines with Trey’s guitar and Page’s keys set the tone while Fish keeps it steady. It’s a great early jam. The jam however doesn’t stick the landing and we get a rough transition into “Camel Walk”. However, once in “Camel Walk”, it has a very nice little jam at the 3-minute mark that’s worth the time. After a brief pause, the recording goes into a jam in progress. The poor sound quality returns making it a little difficult to hear. The jam is quite nice. Trey mostly shows off but Page finds a really nice groove on the keys that Mike locks into for a very nice layer. For a band only 3 years in the making, it’s pretty impressive. Definitely worth the listen even if the quality’s not fantastic. The jam kicks into “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” but it’s not the usual version we’ve been hearing, the band actually plays a Allman Brothers “Ramblin’ Man” jam before hitting the main tune. It’s fun to hear. The southern rock vibes continues as “Back Porch Boogie Blues” gets another go round, the end of which is pretty smoking. “Icculus” gets cut off before the ending and is rather worthless here. Another new cover follows it up as we get to hear Phish do Led Zeppelin with “Good Times Bad Times”. It’s a great early version, if only to hear Trey go off, but it also has a very clean segue into “Skin It Back”, which in turn segues into the set-closing “Cities”.

“Mike’s Song” opens set 3 and it’s interesting because Mike plays with the phrasing of the verses, giving it a jerky, David Byrne but stranger feeling. The band also starts the song of really slow and picks up tempo as it goes along. It also as a nice jam which goes into “The Little Drummer Boy”. Well, I’ll give them it’s the holidays and they have a little drummer boy in the band technically. Not like other times as we’ll see in the future. The Allmans’ “Whipping Post” comes next and while very good, it’s not the most barn-burning edition. Another cover and another blues standard, busting out Taj Mahal’s “She Caught The Katy”. Prominently known for it’s opening the Blues Brothers movie, this is more of the blues standard I was talking about earlier as an alternative to “Funky Bitch”. It’s a respectable copy. “AC/DC Bag” follows and is fodder leading to a real highlight. “David Bowie>Clod>Bowie” is pure dynamite. It leads off with some cowbell and fun riffs from Trey before hitting the main groove. At about 1:05, Trey hits a cool speed jazz riff that’s unlike any other “Bowie” I’ve heard going into the UB40 verse. The seque into “Clod” feels little bit like Pink Floyd or Yes’ “Heart of the Sunrise” which is cool. It’s also interesting to hear music associated with “Fluffhead” sitting in the middle of “Bowie”. Apparently the end of this “Bowie” must be heard. The problem is that on PhishTracks.com and Phish.in only repeat the first part of “Bowie”. Luckily there’s a great new sounding transfer of this third set on Etree. So, I downloaded it and it’s pretty amazing. It does have the described Allmans vibe but to also, just sounds like really great Phish.

Trey noodles a bit with a song about a camera but how do you follow a smoking “Bowie”? With a tight “You Enjoy Myself” obviously. It’s a pretty legit follow up. “Dog Log” is next with its alternate title “Doggone Dog”. It’s a hot version and probably the best so far in the band’s career. I recommend a listen. Someone asks for Barry Manilow and Trey introduces the night’s final new cover as such. The joke being the song is actually ZZ Top’s “Tush”. It’s pretty faithful but cooking nonetheless. A funky “Sneakin’ Sally” follows and then “Prep School Hippie” closes the set. “Hippie” has a nice soaring jam in the middle and increases in tempo as it builds to the finish. Thus ends 1986 on record. Onto the bigger and better (and more work) of 1987!

Show #15: 10/31/86

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1986-10-31

Friday, 10/31/1986
Sculpture Room, Goddard College, Plainfield, VT

Soundcheck: Bertha (performed by The Joneses), Blues Jam (with members of The Joneses)

Set 1: Mustang Sally, Camel Walk, Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light, Melt the Guns -> Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Halley’s Comet[1] > Back Porch Boogie Blues >Shaggy Dog, Fluffhead

Set 2: Jam > AC/DC Bag, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Peaches en Regalia > David Bowie[2], Have Mercy[3] > Harry Hood, Sanity, Skin It Back > Icculus, Alumni Blues

[1] Richard Wright on vocals.
[2] First known version.
[3] Jah Roy on vocals.

This post will most likely be a little shorter as this show is very similar to 10/15/86. But at least we have the first Halloween gig. While not the spectacle that later Halloween shows would become, when your band is tapped to play a holiday, you know you’re doing something right. This show is a split bill with The Joneses. A more low key affair then 10/12/86, it took place in a smaller room, probably more in line with the party atmosphere. The show kicks off with standard readings of “Mustang Sally” and “Camel Walk”, a good way to get people moving. Trey then makes it clear that the name of the next song is not “I Saw You With A Pistol In Your Hand” but “Golgi Apparatus”. “Golgi” is another great early version. “Slave” also shows it’s headed in the right direction with also another great early version. Again though, Trey doesn’t quite have the formula down to end the song. The band unveils a “new on record” cover next with XTC’s “Melt The Guns”. It’s also interesting that they have a “Fuck Your Face” and “Minkin” tease while Jon pounds out the cymbal beat. It’s a fun song with a quirky beat and lyrics that surely drew the band to it. It’s also interesting here that the Phish version is SHORTER than the original. A very smooth segue moves form “Melt the Guns” into “Sneakin’ Sally”. “Sally” is fine but nothing notable. “Halley’s Comet” is up next and features Nancy on vocals yet again. This is a mess. I can’t recommend it to anyone. The band effortlessly goes into “Back Porch Boogie Blues”. It’s well played but nothing notable. More notable is that Mike allegedly told the band it was an original to get it played but the truth is it’s a Max Creek cover. This would prove to also be interesting as Mike would later write songs with Scott Murawski of Max Creek! How weird the world turns. “Shaggy Dog” comes next and then the set ends with another early “Fluffhead”.

Set 2 opens with a jam. Always welcome when the band just takes off. It opens with Jon playing a driving hi-hat line with some textural drums underneath. Trey plays a sick funk riff over the top. The jam is a fast and furious little ditty that just shows how tight the connection is between Trey and Fish, with Mike jumping in with good measure. They take the energy and go into a high-flying “AC/DC Bag”. The “Bag” carries over the jam energy and is played at a quicker tempo. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” exercises the jazz chops once more. Another tight “Peaches en Regalia” follows and then we get to the main highlight of this show, the first-ever “David Bowie”. It gets a little rough in the beginning between David Bowie and UB40 but it’s interesting to hear them start out REALLY SLOW during the start of the jam and then bring up the tempo. Fun to hear the beginnings of that monster. “Have Mercy” gets an extended take with new lyrics from Jah Roy of Lambsbread. It’s fairly standard except for the length. It again gets paired with “Harry Hood”. “Hood” is solid as always. “Sanity” still hadn’t come the band’s way at this point and unleashed that fact on the crowd. Two fans begin clamoring for “Skin It Back” and “Icculus” so what’s a band to do? You play both of them back-to-back in the order requested. “Skin It Back ” comes first. The ending jam is quite tasty. “Icculus” is short but mentions he was born on Halloween 1948 in ancient Greece apparently. How do you send them home? With the shuffle of “Alumni Blues” of course! Let ’em dance one more time. That’s the first Halloween, kiddos.

Show #13: 10/12/86

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1986-10-12

Sunday, 10/12/1986
Haybarn Theater, Goddard College, Plainfield, VT

Set 1: Golgi Apparatus[1] > Slave to the Traffic Light, Wilson[1], Halley’s Comet ->Possum, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Makisupa Policeman

[1] First known performance.

And so it begins, the first show in the classic Phish lineup; Trey, Mike, Page, and Fish. The band has also graduated from the cafeteria to the stage of the Haybarn theater at Goddard College. Trey and Jon have enrolled there to focus on music full time. Mike has stayed at UVM and is in his senior year. It’s an interesting time of change but it also has given the band freedom to focus.

The show kicks off with a debut of “Golgi Apparatus”. A now classic Phish tune, this version finds the band playing it at a slightly slower speed but the tune seems fully fleshed out with even the angelic composed section in the bridge. The final notes segue into “Slave to the Traffic Light” and it’s on this tune you can really hear the space that Jeff’s departure has given to Page. Page’s synth gives the song great tone and doubles well with Trey’s guitar. Here we get the signature interplay between Page and Trey. The peak still isn’t built yet but the potential is captured in the ending.

The band chooses to debut another new song and rolls into “Wilson”. It doesn’t yet have it’s two-chord intro and of course the chant wasn’t even a fan invention yet. The song also has Trey doing weird Bob Dylan style vocals again. Can you imagine of Trey had recorded all of Gamehendge as Bob Dylan? It would not have the gravitas for sure. The crowd however clearly enjoyed the song and claps along to the beat before Page’s solo. Page’s solo has some “When the Music’s Over” teases and a very Doors vibe which Mike picks up on. The song even includes the Blat Boom section albeit closer to the end. The band also pulls out another new one, albeit having been played a few times at this point, “Halley’s Comet”. They also bring out the song’s writer Richard “Nancy” Wright to sing it. This version has no frills but can be noted for the smooth segue into the newly arranged “Possum”.

“Possum” has been retooled after the departure of it’s creator Jeff. It’s less bluegrass stomp and more back roads boogie. It also gets a more sleek vocal arrangement opening up the chorus for more fun. Trey rips off a nice solo here. Mike takes over the lead and lays the groundwork for every “Possum” most people know. The night’s only cover follows next in “Sneakin’ Sally”. It’s fun but fairly standard. The vocal jam is the highlight. The recording closes with “Makisupa Policeman”. This version also takes its now current form, with a Qaddafi reference in the keyword section. The jam goes out there with some serious reverb and effects. Same as it ever was with Trey tweaking and learning his rig.

Show #12: 4/15/86

The scene on April 15. Photo credit: Glide Magazine.

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1986-04-15

Tuesday, 04/15/1986
University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Set 1: AC/DC Bag > Dear Mrs. Reagan, Prep School Hippie, Quinn the Eskimo -> Slave to the Traffic Light, Makisupa Policeman, Have Mercy, All Blues[1] > Dog Log > Possum, You Enjoy Myself, Anarchy, Camel Walk -> Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues

[1] First known Phish performance; approximately one minute long.

Well, Phish as a five-piece was fun while it last but if not for graduation, he might have been left in a men’s room in Colorado sometime. I’m only idling but with graduation looking, this is the last recording I have access to which has Jeff Holdsworth as a regular member of Phish. Jeff would graduate from UVM in May and go off to seek his fortune in electrical engineering. Some say he found God and condemned his work with Phish. He did have this to say according to Relix magazine, “I have not made any effort to follow the ‘Phish phenomena,’ other than information that comes freely my way. I feel there is a certain psycho-spiritual void in this generation making the transition from adolescence to adulthood which Phish has ‘hooked’ into.” Regardless, he has kept very quiet.

The show was the UVM Earth Day concert and took place outside Bailey-Howe Library on the school’s campus. Itkicks off with “AC/DC Bag”. Again it has a different intro but the one used in this how is not as slick as the one on 4/1/86. I wonder what promoted the change. The band kicks into two newer tunes with the one-two punch of “Dear Mrs. Reagan” and “Prep School Hippie”. “Reagan” again feels out of place even on such a political day as Earth Day. “Hippie” on the other has great chemistry between both Jeff, Trey, and Page working together. The refrain “I can’t wait until I’m 21” being sung in the style of “Not Fade Away” is also a highlight and gives the tune another dimension as it does speak towards 80s Deadheads. Continuing the theme, the band launches into popular Bob Dylan cover of the Grateful Dead, “Quinn the Eskimo”. There’s a hilarious moment about 3 minutes in where the entire band except Mike stops playing and the whole song breaks down. The crowd laughs. Trey introduces Mike. Shortly there after, everyone picks it back up and continues the song. It’s a lighthearted moment clearly planned by the rest of the band.

Phish goes into “Slave to the Traffic Light”. The “Slave” sounds good put is pretty standard early version. “Makisupa Policeman” comes next with a heavy bass intro from Mike with “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus teases. The song finally stays seriously and has great jams from Page and Trey. Similar to the previous show, it goes from a Phish reggae original to their reggae cover du jour, “Have Mercy”. The song goes just a hair more out there than last time but feels less urgent and cohesive. Jeff then introduces the trio you’ve all been waiting for, “The Bob Dylan Band”, again references the previous show at Hunt’s. Very clear the band’s starting to have inside jokes with their fans, a trademark even to this day. Jeff points out someone has asked for “lively dance music” to which another person wells “Help on the Way”, calling for the Dead tune. Trey retorts, “That’s lively dancing music as far as I’m concerned!” The band then jams out on the chord progression to “All Blues” by Miles Davis for a minute while Trey gets his other guitar.

Once Trey’s set up, we’re back with a dedication to all the dogs out there, especially Marley the Wonder Dog! Marley would be a figure of the band through out the first part of their career, dying mere days before the band took their first hiatus. The dedication is “Dog Log”, which is fitting because Marley’s poop probably was a big inspiration. “All you people in bare feet can appreciate that one!,” someone remarks. After “Dog Log” comes Possum, still in it’s early incarnation, with more bluegrass stamp and oddly timed lyrics. It’s not the powerhouse it is now but fun to hear with Jeff on vocals, as it would be the last time on record. They then go onto “You Enjoy Myself”. “YEM” is still in the building stages and isn’t the epic well all expect now. This version does however have the “Boy, Man, God, Shit” lyrics at last and is inching closer to the tune we all know and love. It ends with a pretty funky jam and a short vocal jam.

Trey then introduces that the Joneses and The Sierra are playing Slade Hall that night and dedicates “Anarchy” to them. They play it actually 3 times in a row, changing the lyrics to “Jim Tasse” and “African Killer Bees”. Phish then gets back into dance mode, taking everyone down to the disco with “Camel Walk”. Jeff paints the picture with “colored floors and a disco ball” as he goes into the verse. This “Camel Walk” is at slightly faster pace than others and gets quite funky. The show closes with a very short “Alumni>Jimmy Page>Alumni” also at a faster pace.

The impact of Jeff Holdsworth on Phish is probably largely forgotten. Jeff was important. His solid rhythm allowed Trey to build confidence on lead and his control on difficult Dead and Allmans covers helped push Phish to fill Burlington bars. This marks the turning point where Phish set their sights on careers in music, something Jeff didn’t see happening. Trey and Jon would leave UVM and follow Page to Goddard College, where they could freely learn music. Page himself would earn $50 EACH for getting his friends to enroll. The added freedom allowed Phish to become the monster they are today but they’ll always remember those steady chords that help served as their training wheels as they got launched down the driveway toward rock immortality.

Show #11: 4/1/86

Early Phish. Photo credit: Phish.com.

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1986-04-01/

Tuesday, 04/01/1986
Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Quinn the Eskimo > Have Mercy[1] > Harry Hood, The Pendulum[2] -> Dave’s Energy Guide, Icculus[3], You Enjoy Myself

Set 2: Help on the Way[1] > Slipknot![1] > AC/DC Bag[3], McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters[4] > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues > Dear Mrs. Reagan

Encore: Not Fade Away[5]

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] With Zenzilé Madikinea. Madikinea recited revolutionary poetry.
[3] First known performance.
[4] Spoken in Dylan-esque fashion.
[5] First known Phish performance; with The Joneses.

Another tape. Another night at Hunt’s. The booker must have seen something in this gang. Would love to know who that is and pick their brain. This show was Hunt’s Festival of Fools. It was a split bill between Phish and The Joneses. The band’s would switch of 45 minute sets for 4 total. They then encored together. The show here’s a typical bar show but at much better quality with some surefire highlights and debuts. But we also have two full sets! So exciting for more history on tape.

The show opens with Bob Dylan’s “Quinn the Eskimo”. For a long time, this was marked as the songs debut until it was discovered that they had played it at least once earlier on 4/6/85. The song does not differ much from the version the band plays now, except for the extra rhythm guitar of Jeff, having last performed it on 10/31/13 in Atlantic City. It’s a great-off lead-off tune, getting the crowd energy up. One drawback, however, is that the crowd jokes the Phish is now the “Bob Dylan Band” for the rest of the evening. This leads into another cover, the Mighty Diamonds’ “Have Mercy”. “Have Mercy” is an interesting tune because it’s only been performed 13 times in the band’s history, 3 of those coming since the band’s return in 2009. Trey dedicates the tune to Pam as it starts up. So, thank you Pam for all the glorious shows with “Have Mercy” in them. Have Mercy’s interesting because it’s the first time we hear the band working on harmony fully. The three-part harmony of “Have Mercy” is not very easy and they don’t perfectly execute it but for a band that’s become known for barbershop, it’s an interesting first step. The tune out of side of that is not very noteworthy and will appear in a few more upcoming sets. Interestingly enough the seque from an authentic reggae tune to their own reggae jam, the opening of “Harry Hood”. Also of note, “Hood”‘s starting to become the monster we all know and love. The tension and release and peaks of the end are starting to take shape. It’s beautiful to again hear how powerful the band is even in the early years.

The band brings back South African poet Zenzilé for another performance. The song is uneven as the band plays a dirty blues groove underneath his poem. You can tell how loud the crowd is that they early were not on board. I, personally, am not really on-board at all. The instrumental track sounds like a fun jam but the crazy yelling over the top just distracts from the song. The band kicks into “Dave’s Energy Guide” as he finishes adding to the craziness. Zenzilé yells “Which side are you on?” as the dissonance of the song plays up. “Dave’s” continues the energy and it really is a ripping version that moves hard and fast with Jon’s driving drums.

The band takes a breather as a short Jazz jam with Page, Mike, and Trey. Fish says “We thought we’d play some seining for you as Trey [takes] care of his guitar.” Trey retorts, “Bob Dylan performing for you here. The Bob Dylan Band, ladies and gentlemen!” The jazz jam is quite good and shows how tight they are as a trio. Trey again, “The Bob Dylan Band just blowing my mind here on a Tuesday night!” The jazz jam ends and then gives away to an important moment in Phishtory. “This next song is written by one of our favorite bands, Sneeze Blood Eyeball,” says Trey but by the opening chords it’s time for the people to read “Icculus”! The version actually sounds very similar to the one just performed at Madison Square Garden, especially since Phish used their old instruments for that set. It’s however much shorter with less buildup then future versions but still funny nonetheless with the jam fake out.

Trey then mentions the 45 minute set length and invites the Joneses to kick them off stage whenever they want to. Trey then dedicates the next song to Peter, who’s here “all the way from Washington”. At 3:35, Mike plays a bass riff that sounds like part of the future “Mango Song”. After a long pause, the band finally launches into “You Enjoy Myself” to close the first set. This version is much better than the 2/3/86 debut, tighter and with a better groove. We’ll be taking about “YEM” a lot over the next year or so as it was played a lot even night to night in the 80s. Written during the trip to Europe, the lyric “Wash Uffizi Drive Me to Firenze” was allegedly inspired by a wild cab ride in Florence. Also, a German named Jurgen, also commented tot hem that “When I’m with you, you enjoy myself!” Whatever sparked the tune, thankfully it happened. This version still omits the “Boy Man God Shit” lyrics BUT does have the birth of the “YEM” vocal jam. It’s short but marvelous that it’s there.

Set 2 kicks off with the Grateful Dead’s “Help on the Way>Slipknot!”. It’s the only known version by Phish and while it does reach glorious heights, it almost feels like a backward step for the band. I’m sure it helps keeps patrons in the bar but the band’s original material feels much more fun and fresh. Grateful Dead covers, at least to me, feel tired already and it’s only 1986. Luckily, a debut takes the “Slipknot!” segue from “Franklin’s Tower” and we get the first-ever “AC/DC Bag”. Trey’s trips to Gamehendge are now infiltrating their sets and man are they coming together well. The first “Bag” has a funky intro that gives the song a sinister overtone. Other than that, it’s pretty standard but again amazing to hear so complete so early. The band decides to stay in Gamehendge going into “McGrupp”. The tempo is a little faster than it has been in previous versions and it’s a welcome addition. Trey continues the spoken word version but this time giving the lines a Bob Dylan-esquire cadence and voice, fitting in the “Bob Dylan Band” theme.

The band then drops into “Alumni>Jimmy Page>Alumni” and it is a must listen not because of the jam or that it’s pristine. This a must listen because everyone except for Jeff misses the segue back into “Alumni”. The thing grinds to a halt except for Jeff’s rhythm guitar. The band tries to pick up the pieces but it’s too late and Trey just cues a big rock ending to just finish the song. I laughed so hard hearing this. To be fair, the “Letter to Jimmy Page” was pretty fiery and probably difficult to land. The band ends set two with the political tune “Dear Mrs. Reagan”. Phish has never been a fiercely political and so to hear such anti-Reagan lines is a little off-putting but it’s an interesting listen and quite the 80s time capsule. After “Reagan”, Jeff decides to tell people about International Lemming Day, while Trey gets the Joneses on stage to join them for the encore. Someone who sounds like Fishman points out they have 18 guitars and 3 drum sets on stage and then someone else yells “Guitar Army!”. Trey asks “What song is it you want to hear?” and of course some idiot yells “Freebird!”. Page then teases the chords to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird”. Begin that the Joneses and Phish both cover the Dead quite a bit, they end on Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”, a popular Grateful Dead cover. Unfortunately, the recording fades out (IRONY) before the jam gets going. A successful Festival of Fools? Not quite sure but it at least sounded fun. Two interesting notes on this recording. The first is Jeff is buried in the mix for a lot of it, giving it more of the usual Phish feel. It’s an interesting twist. The second is Trey’s tone. He’s starting to move to his signature tone. I’m not sure what was happening with his rig but it begins moving in the right direction. Another great artifact in the Phish canon.

Show #10: 2/3/86

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1986-02-03/

Monday, 02/03/1986
Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Slave to the Traffic Light, Mike’s Song > Dave’s Energy Guide, You Enjoy Myself[1], Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page[2] > Alumni Blues, Prep School Hippie,Run Like an Antelope[3]

Set 2: Tonight[4], The Pendulum[4], Babylon is Burning[4], Dec 1661[4]
[1] First known version.
[2] “It’s alright” quotes from Trey.
[3] Jeff Holdsworth on slide guitar.
[4] First known Phish performance. With Zenzilé Madikinea.

In this long road ahead of myself, there will be shows that aren’t going to warrant a lot of words. Shows were you put it on and go “Why am I doing this again?” I’m sure the band felt that way about a few nights and certainly I’ll have shows where I won’t feel like writing about it. But you can’t say you’re going to review every show and skip one you’re jus tnot feeling. This is the case of 2/3/86. The tape quality is terrible. It might even be playing at the wrong pitch. It bends up and down. I was so lackadaisical that even when they kicked into the first recorded “You Enjoy Myself”, I wasn’t even paying attention on first listen. It’s at least interesting to hear the beginnings of the song. it’s missing several sections that would become staples over time but in its infancy, you can tell it’s going to be important. Eve more notable is hearing it in the 5-piece setting. Jeff can’t really keep up with Trey’s parts as far as rhythm go. It’s kind of the first time he’s struggling with the material, which will be important. Trey introduces South African dub poet Zenzile, which was the headliner on this bill. The show was a benefit for the African National Congress and apparently cost $4 for admission. Trey then asks for requests and gets someone to shout out “Alumni Blues”. After some tuning, the beginning of the “Mike Says No” saga happens as Trey says, “Mike says real bands don’t play requests. So we’re going to play a request” and they go into “Alumni>Jimmy Page>Alumni”. Outside of the banter and YEM, not a lot here to write about. If you’re looking for great early Phish, this is not it.

I wanna take a moment and thank everyone for the huge outpouring of support! Big thanks to Surrender to the Flow for posting about this. I mostly wanted to do it as a writing exercise and hoped some people would enjoy it. Apparently people do! So I hope I don’t let you down and thanks for reading.!