Shows #58/59: 7/11-12/88

Monday, 07/11/1988
Sam’s Tavern, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Satin Doll,  Suzy Greenberg,  The Curtain With,  Funky Bitch,  Fire,  Bold As Love, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent >  Fly Famous Mockingbird,  Golgi Apparatus,  Alumni Blues >  Letter to Jimmy Page[1] >  Alumni Blues

Encore: McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters[2] >  La Grange

[1] Fish drum solo.
[2] Fish on trombone.

Teases:
· Dave’s Energy Guide tease in Suzy Greenberg

Finally, the band gets back on track with some purpose here at these two gigs. Now you’d think Sam’s Tavern means a new venue and some more Burlington music history. However, it turns out Sam’s Tavern was just Finbar’s renamed and remains Manhattan Pizza today at the corner of Church and Main. So nothing exciting there but let’s get to the music. “We’d like to speed things up a bit”, kicks in the recording on 7/11 as he begins to play the chords to “Satin Doll”. It’s interesting to hear him sing a real jazz standard here. I liked it. “The Curtain With” is noteworthy in that Trey seems to think the jam was awful and calls the tune “The Living Nightmare” and that it was written by their drummer. Oh Trey; busting Fishman’s balls since 1983. We get a smoking double shot of Hendrix with “Fire” and “Bold as Love” To date, this remains the only time this has occurred in Phish history. This is also the first recorded “Bold as Love”. It apparently debuted at the Front on July 7th, a show that has not seen the light of day. Trey nails the outro solo with great tone for such an early performance. A very solid “Forbin>Mockingbird” follows but does not contain narration. Of note, Trey graduated from Goddard the day of this show and according to the show notes, pulled out his diploma, set it on Page’s piano, and then proceeded to tear into the very spirited “Alumni>Letter>Alumni”. He makes note of that fact at the end of the song. We only get part of set 2. The highlight hear is a very nice “McGrupp”.

Tuesday, 07/12/1988
Sam’s Tavern, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Cities,  The Lizards,  Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley,  Good Times Bad Times, Happy Birthday to You[1] >  Peaches en Regalia,  You Enjoy Myself,  I Didn’t Know[2]

Set 2: Blue Bossa,  Take the ‘A’ Train >  Timber (Jerry),  Fluffhead >  Jesus Just Left Chicago, Makisupa Policeman,  Slave to the Traffic Light,  AC/DC Bag >  Roll Like a Cantaloupe

[1] Sung for “Jen.”
[2] Fish on trombone.

Teases:
· Happy Birthday to You quote in Peaches en Regalia
· Flash Light tease in You Enjoy Myself

7/12/88 however is the better of this pair. It starts with a solid “Cities>The Lizards” combo. However, “Sneakin’ Sally” is where it picks up. They go into a very “YEM”-like vocal jam. Totally going outside the usual framework of “Sally” and getting weird with it. They finish up but then do a weird acapella “Happy Birthday to You” for Jen. Whatever got into the band continued and they sing along with the melody to “Peaches En Regalia” AND THEN they turn the “Peaches” melody into “Happy Birthday to You by Frank Zappa”, which is hilarious. But then they do play “YEM” and it in turn has its first real funky vocal jam. The vocal jam was already present but I think this the first real time it became the YEM VOCAL JAM, fi you understand. Not just wild screaming into the microphones. They close the set with a fun “I Didn’t Know” in a new key of A-flat!

Set 2 opens with a double shot of Jazz. The actual debut of “Blue Bossa”, we think. It’s played very well. If you listen carefully enough, you’ll swear it sounds like another song and after a little research, the studio version of “The Landlandy” on A Picture of Nectar definitely had a couple of bits ripped from “Blue Bossa” especially by Page and Mike. Another long, if not exciting, version of “A Train” follows. A solid “Timber (Jerry)”, a tight “Fluffhead”, and casual “Jesus Just Left Chicago” bridge nicely up to the set’s top highlight. Earlier in these posts, I wondered how the band found what to do with “Slave to the Traffic Light”; that it hadn’t yet reached its potential. This is the show where that magically happened. This “Slave” is an early masterpiece. The composed section plays easy enough with the right tone and feeling but at 3:23 when it drops down, Page and Trey get very quiet but with amazing interplay between the two. The jam then has an amazing slow build to the peak. Around the 4:30 mark, Page hits just the right notes on his electric piano to fill Trey’s empty spaces and it’s glorious. The way the while thing pauses and almost breaks down at about 5:00 is amazing. Mike playing the counterpoint bass is tasty. Fish eases off just enough to be effective. This is the blueprint for a perfect “Slave”. It’s incredible. Then when it bursts wide open at 6:43, it’s had just the right among of tension from the band that it hits HARD. You’re ready for the glorious peak because you’ve had the perfect journey there. And the peak is nailed, not too many notes from Trey, perfect coloring from Page and Mike. The arpeggios at 7:50 just magical. In my mind, it should have closed the set. However, you got to give the bar crowd one last chance to dance and they do so with a boogying “AC/DC Bag” and then rips right into “Roll Like A Cantaloupe”, which the crowd rightly goes nuts for. One of only 4 times it’s ever been played, I wonder what sparked Trey to bust it out that night as they just played “Run Like An Antelope” during the previous Nectar’s run and would go back to it the next show. The band reaches wild peaks during this version, pushing the tempo harder and harder. It’s almost the antithesis of “Slave”. Where “Slave” needs patience and delicateness to counter the peak, “Antelope/Cantaloupe” needs chaos and energy to reach the peak. That release before the refrain is just a blast off point. Such a crazy range of energy and emotion in only 3 songs. It’d be wilder if they had played them back to back. The band nails the release here though and Trey goes into the story about going to the grocery store. Page thanks the crowd and end tape. 7/12/88 is a must-listen. Such a powerful night.

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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 #6: 10/17/85

Finbar’s at the corner of Church and Main, currently Manhattan Pizza.

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1985-10-17

Thursday, 10/17/1985
Finbar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: T.V. Theme[, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues > Mike’s Song,Dave’s Energy Guide, Revolution, Anarchy, Camel Walk, Run Like an Antelope, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters

Finally a full set of originals. Sure Phish covers are fun and we have a lot more of them to go through but it’s nice seeing the band become the gang we all know and love. Considering they had more than enough covers to fill 4 nights at Madison Square Garden, it’s nice to know this was the first solid recording to support that. This show was played at Finbar’s, which you can see it’s current iteration above. It’s interesting that most of these location still exist as bars in Burlington, as the number of bars have dwindled and they were all concentrated on Main Street. I’d except to see some Church and Pearl but no, the band really did play Route 2 for most of their career as Trey said at Bangor ’94. Anyway, more on that in a later post.

This show is also important because it’s the first since Trey, Tom, Marc, and Fish all went to Europe for the summer and essentially backpacked and wrote music. Some very important songs in the Phish catalog and as they’re introduced,  I’ll note which ones came from this trip. It’s also important because it’s the first recording that Page is a permanent member of the group. This was announced on 9/26/85 on UVM’s radio station WRUV. Sometime between saying Phish is a two-guitar band and then, most likely talking it over with Fish in Europe, they both agreed Page made the band stronger. And that’s something I think we all can agree on now, Page Side Rage Side for life. Unfortunately on this recording, Page gets buried in the mix making it hard to feel his contributions.

This version cuts off the TV Theme. Don’t really understand why but not an issue, not a big miss. It drops in with “Alumni Blues>Letter to Jimmy Page>Alumni Blues”. The song was a pretty common track in the days and this is a ripping blues version played perfectly. A great early danceable number in the set. Mike’s boppin’ bass line is especially funky. Next we get “Mike’s Song” introduced here as “Microdot”, filling in for “Mike Wrote That”. The name would stick for a few gigs before simply reverting to “Mike’s Song”.  A fairly standard version but also retains the odd outré before again segueing into “Dave’s Energy Guide”.

After the standard “DEG”, Trey introduces “one of our few punk songs.” A fan yells out Leunig’s Sucks, which indicates the band has accumulated a few fans at this point since Leunig’s Sucks used to be the title of the tune, which is now called “Revolution.” Leunig’s being the name of a fancy French restaurant on the corner of Church and College that apparently Trey had a beef with at some point. They wail through it yelling Revolution over the short song. Then Trey says, “We actually do have one other punk song. Since you reacted so well to that one, we’ll do this one. This one’s called ‘Anarchy’. The joke being that “Anarchy” and “Revolution” are the exact same song just with the words changed.

The band kicks in to dance mode again with a very funky “Camel Walk” that has a nice extended intro. It jams out for about 3 minutes before dropping into the familiar shuffle of the tune. The tape cuts and dropped into a raging “Run Like an Antelope”. Obviously, the bar has gotten more people as the crowd gets louder. Still it’s a tasty jam, filling out more of the traditional song structure and getting more of that familiar “Antelope” feel as compared to 5/3/85. We also get the lyrics too! Clearly a song that had been worked on since May. The available music closes with “McGrupp”. Again, the lyrics are in the spoken-word form, not quite yet set to the music. The song also closes with a nice jam that begins at about the 6-minute mark and takes it out until the tape ends.

And that’s 10/17/85. If you have suggestions, feel free to drop me a line and follow me on Twitter @harryphood. See you tomorrow!