Shows #53,54, and 55: 6/19-21/88

Sunday, 06/19/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: The Curtain With,  Funky Bitch,  Possum,  Golgi Apparatus,  La Grange,  Suzy Greenberg,  Big Leg Emma,  You Enjoy Myself[1]

Set 2: Good Times Bad Times,  Cities,  Alumni Blues >  Letter to Jimmy Page >  Alumni Blues,  Big Black Furry Creature from Mars,  Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,  Contact,  Run Like an Antelope

Set 3: I Know a Little >  Mike’s Song,  Corinna,  Rocky Top,  McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters

Encore: Jesus Just Left Chicago

[1] Vocal jam based on the word “down.”

Teases:
· When the Levee Breaks tease in You Enjoy Myself
· Theme from The Flintstones and London Bridge Is Falling Down teases in Big Black Furry Creature from Mars
· Iron Man tease

Hello and welcome back,

I have been on a bit of hiatus. My wife and I moved coast to almost coast from Boston, MA to Ellensburg, WA, which has pretty much turned my life upside down. Combine that with some very boring shows and it makes this a little difficult. But here I am ready to lay it down. The summer of 1988 appears to be an odd time for Phish. You can feel how important is to the band but they just haven’t had the right move yet. They haven’t had the burst of new material that will come in the next two years and also they haven’t moved past being Burlington’s best bar band. Out of 66 known shows with setlists, 62 of them came in the state of Vermont with 3 in New York and 1 in Massachusetts. The average amount of times each song has been played at this point is 7.68. Meaning that, I’ve heard each song about 8 times by now if not more since some are more in rotation than others.(Stats from ihoz.com)No wonder I have a bit of fatigue from hearing 1980s Phish. We must plow on however. 6/19 is forgettable. There are no necessary highlights here. It’s just an average night.

Monday, 06/20/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Slave to the Traffic Light,  Peaches en Regalia,  You Enjoy Myself,  Fluffhead[1], AC/DC Bag >  The Lizards

Set 2: Halley’s Comet ->  Wilson,  Ya Mar ->  Jam[2],  I Didn’t Know[3]

Set 3: Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley,  Tela,  Fee,  Golgi Apparatus,  Satin Doll[4] >  Take the ‘A’ Train >  Possum,  The Ballad of Curtis Loew,  David Bowie

[1] Lyrics changed to “sure got some Betty Davis eyes.”
[2] Jah Roy on vocals.
[3] Fish on trombone.
[4] First known Phish performance.

Teases:
· One Love, Three Little Birds, and Stir It Up quotes in Jam
· Theme from The Flintstones tease in Take the ‘A’ Train

6/20 is a little bit better. The first set is stacked with heavy hitters, Slave, YEM, and Fluffhead all in one set would make anyone crazy but even though the beginning is cut, the AC/DC Bag into The Lizards is excellent. Set 2 is for the reggae fans as we get another Jah Roy guest spot. It might have been a fun party at the time but musically and on tape it’s stale. Set 3 is very good though, especially the “Jazz” sequence. The band’s jazz standards are the most overlooked influence the band has. Everyone knows Pink Floyd, The Dead, Frank Zappa but their willingness to bring jazz to the table and play it well gies them a skill set many other bands lack. These early shows are fantastic for putting those chops on display and you can really hear how it makes the band much better. Try the “Take the A Train” here which is almost 8 minutes long and has a killer bass solo from Mike. The extended “Tela” also makes an appearance and the fugue in the middle which would be dropped is sublime. Really you should just check out all of Set 3.

Tuesday, 06/21/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Fluffhead,  Rocky Top,  Mustang Sally,  Suzy Greenberg >  The Curtain >  The Lizards, Fly Famous Mockingbird[1],  Fire

Set 2: AC/DC Bag,  Flat Fee,  Alumni Blues >  Letter to Jimmy Page >  Alumni Blues,  Jesus Just Left Chicago,  Good Times Bad Times,  Contact,  Peaches en Regalia,  Golgi Apparatus

Set 3: Harpua,  I Didn’t Know[2] >  Whipping Post

[1] Aborted and had to be restarted.
[2] False start, “Daubs” and “Seth” lyrics, Fish on trombone.

Teases:
· Dave’s Energy Guide tease in Fire

A few highlights here but for the most part, a standard show. My favorite segment was “The Curtain” going into “Lizards”. Exactly where the “With” segment would begin, it just hits all the right notes as it flows. “Mustang Sally” rips again in its unique Phish arrangement. Some people ripped Trey for flubbing “Fly Famous Mockingbird” at NYE last year but you can see it’s been going on for 25 years as he botches it well enough to have to start over. “Fire” also is played intensely and has an interesting “Dave’s Energy Guide” breakdown to close Set 1. “Flat Fee” makes a nice appearance here. A fan yells loudly for “Peaches” and Fish gives it to him, ripping to the drum intro and the band joins right in. A rare request granted. That’s about all of my highlights. Some might like the “Jesus Just Left Chicago” but I think it’s not a top version. Fans might also like the 25-minute “Whipping Post” but it really goes nowhere. It’s all tension and no release. It just fuels why anyone would want the band to cover Eat A Peach for Halloween. The band did it’s Allmans/Dead era here in the 1980s and clearly it’s time to move on.

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Show #7: 10/30/1985

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1985-10-30

Wednesday, 10/30/1985
Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Harry Hood[1], Dog Log[2] > Possum, Slave to the Traffic Light, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, I Wish, Revival, Alumni Blues[3] > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Prep School Hippie, Skippy the Wondermouse
[1] First known version.
[2] First known public version.
[3] Lyric referenced pumpkin pie.

“This is Phish. They are bad.”  So begins the 7th show in our series as Phish returns to Hunt’s for the first time on tape since March 4th. This show has a lot of good banter. The band is still in its odd 5-piece configuration at this point with two guitars and keys. This show holds a soft place in this author’s heart it marks the debut of my favorite Phish song, “Harry Hood”. Trey introduces the song being about “a story of the man who lives directly across the street from us right now. This is the story about his trip across the globe to the sunny beach of Greece and it all starts as our friend Brian places a carton of Hood milk in the refrigerator door.” This is significant because the origins of the song actually do come from Greece. On the aforementioned trip to Europe in the summer of ’85, Trey, Fish, and Brian Long decided to take LSD and swim in Greece. A fast moving storm came in and they almost did not escape unharmed. Somehow after this incident, Trey wrote the music to “Harry Hood” on that beach. The remarkable thing about this version of Harry Hood is how it hasn’t changed much in 29 years. The song structure is intact. While many Hoods would have better peaks and more blissful jams, the fact that the bare bones for he song were in place from this first performance on is pretty incredible. One minor difference is the “Thank You Mr. Minor” line is a little more light and “singsongy” than the angry intonation it would have on later performances. Someone who sounds like Fish chimes in, “We’re gonna get sponsored if it kills us. One day they’ll pay us to play that. I know it. Not Yet!”

The band decides to keep the debuts coming and slides into “Dog Log”. “Dog Log” is fun tune that’s seriously about stepping in dog shit. The tune has a fun intro that finally shows off what Page is adding to the band with some fine organ coloring over the opening rhythm. Other than that a simple reading of the song but more noteworthy “Dog Logs” are coming for sure. The band segues from “Dog Log” into the first recorded, second ever “Possum”. Now, this “Possum” is a little different than what you’re used to using for a piss break at today’s shows. It’s got a slower rhythm, some different guitar parts, and some weird harmonies over the lyrics but the core elements are there. It’s also of note as Jeff sings lead goals and Page has a solo.

Before going into “Slave to the Traffic Light”, Trey thanks those who came to seem them at Goddard College over the weekend, referencing a Halloween gig they played and that “it’s good to be back in the real world.” “Slave” is dedicated to their friend Brickle; it’d be interesting to know who that is. Besides that, this is pretty standard early “Slave”. The band kicks into dance mode with the first recorded version of Robert Palmer’s “Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley.” An early staple in the band’s career due to it’s very danceable groove, the song has recently seen a big comeback in the band’s repertoire. Starting about 5 minutes in, the band shows off their combined vocal chops is very nice vocal jam that is on par with many future “Sally” vocal jams. Not bad for very really on in their career. “A dance song” is announced and someone retorts, “Hey, hippies have a right to dance too.” The band then launches into the only recorded version of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish”. Jeff holds down the lead vocal and it’s just out of his range. There’s some good guitar parts but you can easily see why it was dropped from the lineup after just two performances.

The covers keep coming with the band’s version of the Allman Brothers’ “Revival”. Trey and Jeff easily handle the dual guitar parts in the intro and Trey plays very tasty leads over Jeff’s rhythm. It’s a gorgeous cover and makes me wonder why we don’t have more version of it. I’m fairly sure the band probably played it more than was able to be recorded. I’d consider it a must listen if only to hear Jeff’s technical prowess at the time. Jeff thanks the crowd for coming out but Trey then hopes everyone is listening to Peter Becker’s radio show on WRUV on Wednesday nights. Wonder what prompted that. The band then kicks into the slow shuffle of “Alumni Blues” with a great drum build-up by Fish to lead into it. After that it’s a fairly standard “Alumni>Letter>Alumni”.

Following it however is a big Phish rarity, “Prep School Hippie”. One of my favorite “old” tunes, having, like Trey, attended a New England prep school, I can relate to the lyrics. I hear it and think of me and my friends, who would listen to and go see Phish. “Big tent kegger at the frat or watching Jerry shake his fat” might be one of the best lyrics Trey has ever written. The song also has a nice jam between the last verse and the outro refrain of “I can’t wait ’till I’m 21 to dip into my trust fund!” It’s a song I’d love the band to bust out sometime, if only to hear “trust fund” in 4-part harmony one last time. The recording closes with “Skippy the Wondermouse”, making me wonder why the band back and forth between “Skippy” and “McGrupp”. To me, “McGrupp” is the much better of the two songs and to “fall back” on “Skippy” seems like a step backward but as a much later song would state, “you’ve got to take it with you if you’re going forward” and at this point the band was very much going forward.

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.