Show #94: 4/20/1989 The Zoo (Humphries House) Amherst, MA

Thursday, 04/20/1989
Humphries House (The Zoo), Amherst College, Amherst, MA

Set 1: AC/DC Bag >  Fluffhead[1],  You Shook Me All Night Long Jam >  Fluffhead,  Fire, Esther,  Suzy Greenberg,  The Sloth,  Possum,  McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters -> Foam,  David Bowie

Set 2: Divided Sky,  Walk Away,  You Enjoy Myself >  Split Open and Melt[2],  The Lizards, Mike’s Song >  I Am Hydrogen >  Weekapaug Groove,  Love You[3],  Harpua

[1] Fire alarm interruption.
[2] Fish drum solo.
[3] Fish on trombone.

The Zoo (Humphries House) at Amherst College.
The Zoo (Humphries House) at Amherst College.

This would be the last time Phish would play a Full Moon party at the Zoo as manager John Paluska would graduate from Amherst that spring. Oddly enough, this is the first time the band played on April 20th. At the time, however, it did not have the implications of marijuana use now associated with the day. That would not come into fashion until about year later, maybe two. So no amazing extended Makisupa. What we do have is a very solid top-to-bottom show here. The beginning and end get cut off so we jump right into “AC/DC Bag” in progress. The “Fluffhead” gets cut right at the beginning of the “Clod” segment as the fire alarm goes off. The band returns and jams on the chord progression of AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” segueing easily into “Clod” to finish the “Fluffhead” it’s perfect and classic Phish. At the end of Fluffhead, Trey reminds the crowd has to be cool because if the fire alarm goes off again, the show is over. Be cool about “whatever” you’re smoking. Page takes the crowd’s suggestion go smoking outside. Sage advice that could be imparted today. Trey than dedicates Hendrix’s “Fire” to the hard working people who turned off the fire alarm. Trey tells Paul, he doesn’t know about Paul but Trey came during that one. Then Mike’s asks for Paul’s duct tape. Trey introduces “Esther” as a Gamehendge song, but on the outskirts of Gamehendge. The song here is the best yet, hitting the right tone and tempo for the song with flawless playing on the outro by Trey. This version soars. “The Sloth” has that weird outro still. “McGrupp”, while not outstanding is very solid here as is the “Foam”. A “Bowie” highlighted by strong dissonance from Page closes Set 1. Page is playing very opposite Trey but leading the jam at the same time. You can hear Trey following Page at times. It’s a very interesting early jam.

Set 2 kicks off with a solid, if note heavy, “Divided Sky”. After “Walk Away”, despite a very vocal request for “A-Train”, the band knows better and busts out “You Enjoy Myself”. The “YEM” never really hits the spot though. The vocal jam drops into “Split Open and Melt”. The “Melt” here is much more solid than the last one but still contains Fish’s odd drum solo. It really hurts the flow of the song. It also is closer to the standard tempo but still a little slower but not as bad as 4/15/1989. The “Lizards” and “Mike’s->Groove” are standard but solid. The “Weekapaug” does pack a little extra punch with falling lines from Page and Trey that are gorgeous. Fish busts out Syd Barrett’s “Love You” for the first time since 10/31/87. It feels like a step backwards from “Undun” and “If I Only Had a Brain” but it is at least much clearer now.

The clear highlight of this night though is Harpua. “Sounds to me like the song you want to hear begins with an ‘Oom Pa Pa’, says Trey, words that still make any Phish fan fill with delight. I still would love to know what those were. Anyway, they riff on combining the song with the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post” before going right into “Harpua”. Trey launches into the story, talking about Harpua, leading to Trey telling that someone had shot Marley in the ass recently. He then proceeds to describe Harpua and Jimmy’s cat with each having a non-shot-ass, repeating the phrase over and over, until Mike yells out “LET’S HEAR IT FOR NON-SHOT ASS!” The band then jams on “Non-Shot-Ass” for a short bit and it’s hilarious. We get the first time Trey leads up to introducing the name of Jimmy’s cat in a huge build-up, similar to Icculus. During the buildup, the band riffs on Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin'”. Trey also yells out “MY GOD!” several times, to which Mike responds “HIS GOD!”, a great back and forth adding to the theatrics. They do this a few times during the song. There’s also a tease of Ninja Custodian’s “The Price of Love” right before the fight between Harpua and Poster Nutbag. As always, Poster is killed in the fight and the song ends with it’s great rock opera finish. Man, I will always go for a “Harpua” and this one stands out as one of the best, if only for Mike and Trey riffing off each other. Just a good overall show made better by an outstanding track.

Show #79: 12/10/88 The Red Barn at Hampshire College – Amherst, MA

The Red Barn at Hampshire College.
The Red Barn at Hampshire College.

Saturday, 12/10/1988
The Red Barn, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA

Set 1: I Didn’t Know[1],  Golgi Apparatus,  David Bowie,  The Lizards,  Foam,  Fee,  Mike’s Song >  I Am Hydrogen >  Weekapaug Groove,  Wilson,  Colonel Forbin’s Ascent >  Fly Famous Mockingbird

Set 2: Alumni Blues[2] >  Letter to Jimmy Page >  Alumni Blues,  You Enjoy Myself,  Contact, The Sloth,  AC/DC Bag ->  Possum,  Good Times Bad Times

Encore: Run Like an Antelope

[1] Fish on trombone.
[2] Additional lyrics.

This show may be overlooked by many even within just the year 1988 but this show is just as important as Pete’s Fabulous Phish Phest and the Colorado trip. Part of that might just be the fact it’s a “late addition” to Phish history. This show didn’t appear in any version of The Pharmer’s Almanac but did appear in the 1st edition of The Phish Companion. So, it finally hit circulation in 2000, the near end of tape trading. This show is a benefit for the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws or NORML. This would mark a rare Phish benefit show and the first. The interesting perspective of that is Paluska had convinced the organization that Phish was big enough draw in the Pioneer Valley for the fundraiser. Of course the location helps to. Hampshire being a kindred spirit to the band’s home base of Goddard College; two progressive schools that foster free thought and independent learning. So it’s no wonder that in this sphere, Phish throws down a tight performance. The star here though isn’t individual tracks, though we will run down some highlights as always, or a band member’s growth. The highlight here is the setlist. If you give it a rundown, you’ll find there’s only one cover! This is a major breakthrough. Even at the Molly’s show, they still were averaging about two covers a set. To pull up to a big gig like this one and finally have the confidence in the material is a huge step forward for the group and almost puts a big exclamation point on the transitional year that was 1988. I wish this was the last gig of the year for that reason but history sometimes isn’t neat and proper. We have one more from ’88 to go.

The interior of the Red Barn during a wedding.
The interior of the Red Barn during a wedding.

The music within the setlist is also worth the listen. Everything here is played pretty note perfect. I’m sure working on Junta around the time of these gigs was a huge help as the band was doing take after take of the material, in addition to usual band practice. YEM is hot with inspired playing by Page. You can hear how comfortable with the material he is and is starting to take risks within the structure. “AC/DC Bag” is played a little slower, more at the tempo we know it today, and the band pulls an amazing segue into “Possum”, pushing the tempo to its rollicking beat. A wild “Good Times Bad Times” closes set 2 and it’s worth listening afterwards to hear the crowd chant “Phish” like they just burned down Madison Square Garden. It’s almost like the closing scene of a biopic, where they flash forward and the same chants going on but in a much larger room. The crowd is rewarded with the first Phish encore on record and they bring the house down with a smoking “Run Like An Antelope”. This show is a great early show and right up there with the best of ’88. I recommend you listen to it RIGHT NOW.

Show #74: 9/24/88

Saturday, 09/24/1988
Humphries House (The Zoo), Amherst College, Amherst, MA

Set 1: Golgi Apparatus,  On Your Way Down,  Alumni Blues >  Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues,  You Enjoy Myself ->  Wilson >  Peaches en Regalia >  La Grange,  Take the ‘A’ Train,  Divided Sky[1],  Bold As Love

Set 2: David Bowie,  The Lizards,  Walk Away >  Possum,  Fee ->  Sparks >  Whipping Post

Set 3: Good Times Bad Times >  Fluffhead,  The Curtain >  AC/DC Bag,  Dinner and a Movie, Contact,  Big Black Furry Creature from Mars

[1] First known complete version.

This gig looks fairly tame. It’s a former frat house turned co-op living down in Amherst, MA, the Pioneer Valley of course being a dense region of colleges being a perfect landing point for Phish. The actual name of the building is Humphries House, if you’d like to go looking for it. I’ve mentioned before in the post about 3/12/88 that future band manager John Paluska was in the house and it was based on the strength of Gamehendge that he booked Phish for the Zoo’s Full Moon parties, a tradition that apparently remains today. Well, the first Zoo gig was April 2nd and while not much is known about it, clearly it went well enough for a second gig. This is that second gig but as notable as it was that Paluska believed in the band enough to keep booking them at his place, John also had a long-time friend in Boston named Ben “Junta” Hunter. Yes, this is who Phish named their first album after. More detail will come on that later. However, by seeing the band’s “legendary” Zoo parties, he felt that there could be room in Boston’s busy club scene for a band like Phish. This would escalate mere months later but more will detail about that in an upcoming post. No history will be written until it’s time.

There’s something about this show that feels so different from the club gigs though. I think the easy feeling that a friend was running the show but the band at ease. The result is a much more balanced setlist, putting ample emphasis on originals and covers. No doubt the strength of the originals here and how well they meshed with the covers selection furthered Hunter’s thoughts on the band’s marketability. Set 1 kicks off with “Golgi” minus the extended intro from 8/27/88 and it’s well played. “On Your Way Down” is pretty standard as is the following “Alumni>Letter>Alumni”. The “YEM”, dedicated to host John Paluska, is where the show picks up. It’s a tight version with an awesome segue right into “Wilson” with Trey using the song’s chords as the marker and it also ties in “Peaches” again with Trey using the “Boom Blat” section to sound out the drum intro as on 9/13/88. A ripping “La Grange” follows with a loud crowd into the selection. Trey plays rock star and wails on the ending. Taking it down a notch properly, Page gets a nice showcase on “A Train” as per usual. Again, setlist building is coming along there. But it’s all fodder compared to the main event. For the first time, Phish plays “Divided Sky” in its entirety. Combining the original opening snippet heard in earlier shows with the closing segment to “No Dogs Allowed”, everyone knows it’s a masterwork. There’s still some kinks to be worked out. Trey plays a weird ascending riff during the opening segment when Page has his piano fills. Trey hits a few flubs on the crossover point between the two songs. But the jam is beautiful with some “Popeye the Sailorman” teases thrown in. Not even the old stop/start style outro here as it goes full blast and picks up speed to the ending. The crowd erupts. How do you reward that enthusiasm? You bring the house down and end the set with a screaming cover of Hendrix’s “Bold as Love”. Trey hits the tone just right and it’s truly triumphant. Best version yet.

“The window is now ajar.” – Trey
“Once a window, now a jar.” – Mike

Set 2 kicks off with another Phish original “The Lizards”. With the energy of the new “Divided Sky” in the books, this ends up being a ripping version of “Lizards” played at a faster temp than usual. It has a beautiful “If I Were A Dog” segment that not even the crowd clapping can destroy. Hot cover du jour “Walk Away” follows and it’s a very nice concise version that’s much cleaner than previous attempts. The “Possum” that follows is also quite good. This is one of those gigs where the band knows it has home-field advantage and it’s going to run with it. It’s clear on this Possum that Trey’s solos feel more melodic and less chaotic. He’s hitting the right notes instead of playing notes just to play notes and that restraint is coming across beautifully here. “Fee” is performed without the megaphone and is played note for note. Almost catching the fact that most of the set has been original material at this point, the band decides to close with two covers. The Who’s “Sparks” from Tommy serves a bridge from “Fee” to “Whipping Post, making it’s first appearance in a year. The “Whipping Post” is noteworthy because previous versions had been rather unwieldy, building into a cacophony of noise that almost loses the rhythm. This one maintains subdued and Fish opts to keep the high-hat running rather than join in the solo and it makes the song more melodic but also keep it tied together as Page and Trey get spacey during the jam. It works much better in this aspect than “crazier” versions. Again, this show of restraint will be very important for the next few years in establishing a fan base.

We don’t get all of Set 3 but what we do get is pretty amazing. A ripping “Good Times, Bad Times” to kick it off is always a great idea. Knowing they have the audience now, they go right into “Fluffhead”. It contains another “Popeye” tease and Mike actually gets the crowd to sing along to the “Bundle of Joy” section humorously. Keeping it going, the band launches into “The Curtain”, the intro being picked out amazingly. My only beef is Page is a little low in the mix but the band hits those out of the park. The recording closes out with a very well-received call of “AC/DC Bag” and you can hear the enthusiasm from the crowd. The band gets really loose and funky on this version. It’s probably the loosest version yet. They’re slinking along just behind the beat in all the right ways. It’ll make you want to groove right wherever you are. The jam is also a lot of fun and has some fun teases by Trey including “Popeye”, “The Flintstones Theme”, and “London Bridge”. Again, the song ends and you can hear how loud the crowd is. Clearly, the band is staring to find faith in their original material and its strength. The covers will help keep the crowd interested and gain new fans but the fans are coming around. They are just starting to hit the high gear down in Amherst and you can feel the shift forward on this night.