Show #3: 12/1/84

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1984-12-01

Saturday, 12/01/1984
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Soundcheck: Fluffhead

Set 1: Jam, Wild Child > Bertha, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, Camel Walk, Jam, In the Midnight Hour, Scarlet Begonias > Fire[1] > Fire on the Mountain > Makisupa Policeman, Slave to the Traffic Light[2], Spanish Flea[1], Don’t Want You No More[3] ->Cities[1] -> Drums[4] -> Skippy the Wondermouse[5], Fluffhead[6]

Encore: Eyes of the World

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] First known performance.
[3] First known Phish performance; missing final lyrics.
[4] Marc Daubert.
[5] First known Phish performance; Dude of Life on vocals.
[6] First known performance; Dude of Life on vocals.

So far we’ve reviewed the first show, the “phirst” show, and no we come to probably what is actually the first REAL Phish show. The band introduces some originals, displays the trademark silliness the band would continue until the late 1990s. This is also the first bar gig on record at the legendary Nectar’s on Main Street in Burlington. The bar scene would prove very important to Phish. Trey Anastasio explained it this way to PBS News Hour:

“There were more bars per capita in Burlington than anywhere in America and that was the year the drinking age changed. It was grandfathered, Vermont was the last state to change the drinking age. So I was 18. That’s why there were so many bars. There aren’t more bars in Burlington today. That was the last 3 years that there were. There were 53 bars in a small town. Every bar wanted a band. So when you got a gig in Burlington in 1983, it was for 3 nights, 3 sets, I mean, we played like 6 hours a night. And the owner of the bar of the bar we would play in would come up to us and say, “Play a slow one, play a fast one, play a cover, play a Beatles cover” because there was no cover, we were just the band in the corner. We got really good at playing live and I think if we weren’t in the right place at the right time, I don’t think any of this would have happened.”

In this recording, we only have one set. Now Nectar’s in the 1980s was VERY different from the Nectar’s you would visit today. Nectar’s was not split up into two separate venues with an upstairs (now named Club Metronome) and downstairs. The entire space was one venue with bands performing upstairs and the traditional restaurant downstairs. It was in the upstairs space that this gig would be played and most of the gigs would be played. The band would play many different bars all over Burlington in the coming years but Nectar’s was always marked as the place where it all began, partly due to this tape. It also was the oldest available Phish recording until 11/3/84 surfaced and the first clear soundboard recording of the band.

The show leads off with the interesting pairing of “Scarlet>Fire (Hendrix)>Fire”. This differs from the 12/2/83 version in that the band sounds much more relaxed playing the two Dead covers and instead of just mimicking the Dead, puts more of their own sound towards the songs. The band’s transition betweens songs is also on point with using the end of Scarlet Begonias for both, taking it down to Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”‘s key to transition into that and picking up the riff again at the end to transition into Fire on the Mountain. It’s a key omen as the band has learned how to work a “set” of songs properly for good flow. The recording debut of “Makisupa Policeman” follows and has no special keywords but is a great introduction to the band’s reggae original and playful riffing on reggae and “smoking herb”. A break in the action has playful banter with Trey explaining they wrote that in down in Kingston to which someone replies Kingston, VT! (There is no town as such but Granville was named Kingston at one point.) They also do a bit about the emergency broadcast system in which they say that no one will have time to know what to do in an emergency. Marc Daubert yells out the next song is about the Burlington parking situation and the band launches into another original, “Slave to the Traffic Light”. The song doesn’t have the patience that will be exhibited in future versions but it’s interesting to hear the song with keys and with a twin guitar attack. Also, Trey doesn’t have his signature sound yet and some of the harmonics we all know and love fall flat.

“Here’s the magic band you’ve all been waiting for, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass,” states Trey as they go into the next track, “Spanish Flea”. This is worth it alone for the early band introductions by Marc Daubert. I would love to petition fans to give the Milkman nickname back to Mike Gordon. Trey sets up the next tune by saying here’s a band that was not as popular, the Allman Brothers Band. Audience members shout out many other bands while the band tunes up and then launch into “Don’t Want You No More” from the Allmans’ debut album. Not much is noteworthy the beginning of the rack but around 4:30, the band slips out of the more bluesy followthrough of the track and gets into a funk jam that would not be too uncommon in today’s Phish shows. It’s tasty really glimpse at where the band would go. Mike drops the bass line to “Cities” and the band is off. It’s a fairly straightforward performance of the song except using Phish’s own slow tempo version in stead of the faster “dance” tempo found on Talking Heads’ Fear of Music. Amazing is that this now band staple disappeared for a long time and was discovered by most on Slip, Stitch, and Pass years later. A long drum solo with Daubert and Fish ensues. Trey might have even jumped in but it was unclear.

To close out the set, the band also debuts two Phish originals but with the assistance of another very special guest. With a slow-building intro, Trey brings out for the very first time, the Dude of Life! The Dude guests on the debut of “Skippy the Wondermouse”. “Skippy” does not live on but its music does in the form of “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters”. The lyrics of “Skippy” get lost in the beauty of the song and are very throwaway. Luckily the tune did not. The debut of “Fluffhead” is, in fact, very different from the Fluffhead we all know and love. None of the delicateness or slow build that accompanies the tune today is there. It also does not include the “Fluff’s Travels” section of the song. The bouncy tempo and jangly guitars make the tune actually sound more like what I’d picture Dave Matthews Band covering “Fluffhead” would sound like. Overall though, not a bad first try. The show ends with crowd pleaser “Eyes of the World” which doesn’t sound too different from the version presented on 11/3/84. Not a bad little show and definitely sets the Phish “vibe”. Tomorrow: we begin 1985!

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Show #2: 11/3/84

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1984-11-03/

Saturday, 11/03/1984
Slade Hall, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Set 1: In the Midnight Hour, Wild Child[1], Jam -> Bertha[1], St. Stephen Jam, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking[1], Camel Walk[2], Eyes of the World[1] -> Whipping Post[3] ->Drums[4]

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] First known performance.
[3] First known Phish performance; Jeff on vocals.
[4] Marc Daubert on percussion.

Teases:
· St. Stephen tease in Can’t You Hear Me Knocking

After a long hiatus, due to Trey’s suspension during the Spring 1984 semester, the band returned to gigs that fall. Missing from being recorded is a show on October 23rd at a house party at 69 Grant Street, which was the first show billed as Phish and had the debut of the Anastasio/Marshall original “Makisupa Policeman”. The time off would provide fruitful as Mike and Jon would work on their rhythm section chemistry in a band called Dangerous Grapes. Dangerous Grapes, with a large repertoire of Dead and Allman Brothers covers, quickly gained a following. When Trey came back, both Mike and Fish had to make a decision to soldier on with the Grapes or go in the new direction of Phish. Luckily for us, they both decided to rejoin with Trey. Mike Gordon: “I had a choice whether to play with Phish, or with the people from the Dangerous Grapes. I felt like I was clicking better with the Dangerous Grapes people, but it seemed like, in terms of being experimental and thinking of the future, that the Phish people were like that.”

Trey had also found new collaborators during the break. Going back to his home state of New Jersey, he took classes at Mercer County Community College and rekindled an old friend with Tom Marshall. This friendship would soon be the bedrock of Phish’s music as many of the band’s biggest compositions are Anastasio/Marshall songs. Trey also was jamming with Marc Daubert, another childhood friend and percussionist. Daubert would also make the trek to Burlington that fall and being playing gigs with the band. Daubert’s lasting impression would be a songwriting credit on “I Am Hydrogen” and “The Curtain”.

Getting into 11/3/84 from Slade Hall at UVM, the quality is not that great. It gets better as the show progresses but still it’s pretty rough. The whole time I’m listening to it, I’m thinking about Dick’s Picks Volume 22. Every Dick’s Picks had a warning from Dick Latvala warning the listener about imperfections. But with Volume 22, Dick really wanted you to know about it, writing “Warning: This is not an audiophile recording! Many of you may have read the numerous Dick’s Picks Caveat Emptors over the years and thought “Oh yeah… sure… whatever.” Well, this old analog recording source exhibits many audio flaws including high distortion, low vocals, tape hiss, and missing pieces. No fair calling Customer Support and complaining! However, let it be known that this CD also includes some pretty damn exciting and historical music, and for that reason is brought to you with pride.” And because of the rough quality, it’s something that stuck with my mind. This is one of those Phish shows you listen to for its historical quality not the clarity.

The version on Phish.in does not include the interesting “Ignition Sequence” as a rocket launch announces the band ripping into Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour”. It’s an interesting choice and speaks to the band’s humor from an early point in their career. It also reminded me of the introduction to “Hey Sandy” by Polaris from the TV show The Adventures of Pete & Pete. “Midnight Hour” is a fairly standard version of the song with Jeff on lead vocals. The song does go into a pretty good “double time” jam but doesn’t break out. But this early in the band’s career, who would expect that? You can hear Trey call out “Wild Child”, while clock chimes ring out for some reason. A cover from Lou Reed’s first solo album, the song is interesting because it shows how Lou’s influence on Phish was from way before 10/31/98 and the song fits the band’s then-incarnation well.  The song is well-played and tight.

From this, we get the band’s first “Jam”. A nice minor key jam that sounds based on Dire Straits, the band finally gets to stretch out. Trey gets some good leads over Jeff’s rhythm and Mike gets loose on the low end for a very nice boogie. The segue into the Dead’s “Bertha” is heavenly and again showcases what might have been if Phish had not been a success. It also shows why Trey wanted to play it so badly with Furthur at Lock’n last year I believe. The setlist says St. Stephen but both recordings have no trace of St. Stephen in any part of the Bertha Jam. After an odd “knocking” interlude, Trey launches into an odd intro riff to the Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”. As if he knows the song but doesn’t want to play just the original intro. It’s more off a vamp on the chords. The song may have only been partly practiced. I’d love to know the reason for the modified intro. Probably something we’ll never know. During the “Knocking” jam before the breakdown, there is a short “St. Stephen tease” at that point. The “Knocking” breakdown does get quit funky though. Probably would have been a great dance party. An unfortunate tape splice drops us into the ending first known “Camel Walk”, the first performance of a Phish original! A big deal for a local band to have some of their own tunes.

During the break banter, someone asks for “Makisupa Policeman” as it was not to be. The Dead covers continue as the band launches into “Eyes of the World”. We finally hear the band stretch their legs as the version is about 18 minutes along. Beautiful leads over Fish’s driving drums and Mike’s punching bass liens with Jeff’s tight rhythm punches accentuates this version. The beat drops and the recording goes into the last track, a cover of the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post.” The pace quickens and the guitar leads is fast and fierce. Fishman pounds an almost tribal beat of the rising madness of the track. Mike stays right along with the guitars as they hammer out the tune. Jeff and Trey hit with a furious twin guitar attack through the entire tune. If this was left unlabeled, one might even think it was an unearthed bootleg from 1974. Unfortunately the recording quality buries a lot of Fish’s drums and Jeff’s vocals but this fiery Whipping Post gives a glimpse into the rise in the Burlington scene the band will soon experience.