Show #20: 3/23/87

Nectar’s at Night. Photo credit: Ken Burris. (Ken, let me know and I’ll take it down but it was too pretty to not use!)

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1987-03-23

Monday, 03/23/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Funky Bitch, Mike’s Song > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues,You Enjoy Myself > Sparks[1]

Set 2: Fluffhead, Peaches en Regalia, Ride Captain Ride[1] -> Dave’s Energy Guide,Corinna, Why Don’t You Love Me? > Camel Walk, Golgi Apparatus, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

[1] First known Phish performance.

Finally back on back on Main Street in downtown Burlington, at least as far as the recorded tape goes. The band had, of course, been paying bar gigs the whole time but less of these from the early years survived. We do know that the band had been moved the lounge upstairs to the restaurant downstairs at this point in the band’s history. Most likely, to allow for the growing crowds that began to attend the shows. The show opens with a tight “Funky Bitch”, a good call to get the blood flowing. Trey dedicates the next song to The Residents, an experimental music group from San Francisco, whose trademark “Eyeball with Top Hat” logo t-shirt would be a wardrobe staple for Trey. The song dedicated turns out to be “Mike’s Song”. It’s a solid version which rolls into this show’s first highlight. “Alumni>Jimmy Page>Alumni” had been getting a little stale show after show but the version here is where the band finds a solid groove. There’s a nice blues jam between verses in the first half, “Jimmy Page” is tight”, and the ending jam is sublime. Quality early Phish. The energy continues as Phish rips into “You Enjoy Myself”. You can tell Trey really has been practicing this part intensely hitting the arpeggios with a fierce accuracy as Page dances around on keys. The “Boy Man God Shit” part also has very nice groove to i. The band just feels more rehearsed than before and it shows in the quality of this “YEM”. We even finally get the bass and drums jam! It’s short but closer to reaching the classic “YEM”. We don’t get a true vocal jam but we get Trey singing the children’s tune “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” over the bass line, which sounds like if James Brown had hosted a children’s program in the 80s. Has to be heard to be believed. “YEM” dissolves and we get the night’s first new cover to close set one. The band rolls into “Sparks” from The Who’s Tommy. It’s short but shows the band’s ability to pick up many styles. We’ll see “Sparks” come out a few more times over the years including during a could of very important shows. The Who’s influence on the band will not be understated as influence their more rock-oriented tunes of course being important to the year 1995. More on that in a future post.

Set two opens with Trey introducing Paul, the sound man, who also hand building the guitars, the rack, the speaker cabinet, and “most of everything else that you see.” He also thanks Sid, who runs the lights (obviously before CK5 hit the scene), and Willis, their new roadie, who plays a mean guitar. The band then starts up “Fluffhead”. Unlike the previous “YEM”, “Fluffhead” does not show the same amount of tight playing. The recording also has a tape cut at 8 minutes in so I don’t believe we have the full song from that night. Next we get another “Peaches en Regalia” that Trey flubs a little bit. If this was 3.0, people would be all over him. The next song, Trey dedicate’s to Paul, another new cover, Blues Image’s “Ride Captain Ride”. A rare cover, it does however remain in the band’s rotation to this day, having last been played on 10/26/13 in Worcester, MA. It’s also fun to hear another early Page vocal. Page doesn’t have the strong voice we now known but he does a great job with this fun 70s cover. “Ride” devolves into a fast jazz jam which segues into “Dave’s Energy Guide”. The end of “DEG” gets super loopy as notes are bent and Page plays around while Trey keeps the pattern strong. “Corinna” pops up again to slow things down for a spell. This brings us to the 2nd set centerpiece, a funky version of “Why Don’t You Love Me?”, originally done by Hank Williams but done much more in the /Jim Hendrix/Red Hot Chili Peppers funk style. This surely would have gotten people up and dancing in the restaurant that night. It definitely fits perfectly in the 1980s and Trey’s voice has a bit of David Byrne style to it for the song. Luckily the band left the song in the 80s and never played it again but it’s a must-hear due to it being a very early example of Phish doing funk. It also has a decent segue into “Camel Walk”. Unfortunately, for some reason the band decides to slow the tempo for “Camel Walk” instead of just maintaining the speed and ti’s gets choppy but the intro is interesting. Mike keeps up the slap bass for “Camel Walk” and Trey gets loopy with the lyrics but it’s a solid “Camel Walk”. A decent “Golgi Apparatus” and the “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” jazz interlude close the set. Some believe a 3rd set may have been performed but the recording does not exist. Next show, we celebrate Earth Day at UVM! Thanks for reading.

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.!

Show #8: 11/14/85 or 11/19/85

The space at 242 Main, the club now occupying the Burlington Memorial Auditorium basement.

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1985-11-14

Thursday, 11/14/1985 or Tuesday, 11/19/1985
Memorial Auditorium Basement, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Slave to the Traffic Light[1], Hurricane[2], Makisupa Policeman[2] > Piggies[2] ->Makisupa Policeman[2] -> Drums[3] > Alumni Blues[2] > Dear Mrs. Reagan[2]

This show’s date is disputed because Mike’s notes say it was on the 19th while Del Martin’s tape is label the 14th. Regardless, this show found the band stopping down for a short unplugged set alongside fellow local artists The Joneses and The Visions for some type of benefit show. The recording comes in with the only known performance of Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane”. Trey makes notion of the importance of the song in that the song’s subject, Ruben “Hurricane” Carter, had finally been released from jail without bail that month. The song isn’t particularly noteworthy excepted to hear Trey drop a rare n-word. I will say that in this show, you can really hear the evolution of Mike as a bass player. His bass lines are very melodic and really add depth to the performance. The band goes into “Makisupa” and again the keyword tradition has not begun at this point. However, it again is used for band introductions. It’s also interesting to hear Trey sing that Mike is NOT smoking a spliff unlike other band members. Splitting up the “Makisupa” is a cover of “Piggies” by the Beatles. It’s a little odd because they maintain the reggae feel through the cover, so it’s not as true a cover as we’d hear 9 years later in Glens Falls. It’s also interesting that it’s dedicated to “Howard Mitiguy”, referencing Harry Mitiguy, the then-president of Howard Bank. I like this reference because I grew up with Howard Bank in Vermont and miss all the small, local banks we had as kids. Now they’re all owned by larger companies, Howard Bank notably becoming in the larger TD Bank chain. Fishman’s intro from “Makisupa” leads to an extended percussion solo which fades out the recording. It is interesting to note that Fish is only playing percussion and not his full drum kit to fit the acoustic theme. Phish, going unplugged before it was cool.

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!

Show #4: 3/4/85

Hunt’s aka The Woodbury Armory.

Monday, 03/04/1985
Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Anarchy[1], Camel Walk, Fire Up the Ganja[2], Skippy the Wondermouse[3], In the Midnight Hour
[1] First known version.
[2] First known Phish version; Bobby Hackney and Jah Roy on vocals.
[3] With McGrupp lyrics.

This isn’t a complete show, so sure, you could call it cheating but it does exist so it needs a post. The show, according to Phish.net, was a African Relief benefit for OXFam at Hunt’s. Hunts was a club located in the old Woodbury Armory building at 101 Main Street. As outlined in this article from Seven Days, Hunt’s was a major player in the Burlington music scene. Roy Orbison, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and B.B. King all played there linking Montreal and Boston dates on their national tours. The place was even owned by Fred “Chico” Lager, who would later become the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream during their rise to national prominence. So, to get anytime there meant a move in the right direction for a local band.

It is unclear whether Phish was alone on this night or maybe part of a larger bill due to it being a benefit show. The recorded part kicks off the first known version of “Anarchy”. Little more than a play on punk and new wave. It’s 30 seconds of fast chords and drumming with the word Anarchy screamed over it. A good joke on the popular music of the time. The band then introduces ” a funk song” and finally a complete version of “Camel Walk” is heard. Not much is noteworthy about this version except that Jeff says that no one has actually danced the Camel Walk to “Camel Walk”. It is also interesting that it does not include the strut your stuff vocals. It is interesting that now 29 years later, the band plays it almost the exact same way. There’s a fade out and then the tape fades into “Fire Up The Ganga.” Essentially just “Fire On The Mountain” with new lyrics about smoking weed obviously. However it is important because it’s a meeting of two Vermont music powerhouses. Granted Phish at this point was still rising the ranks but Lambsbread has been the cornerstone of Vermont’s reggae scene for 30 years. I remember seeing them at the Vermont Reggae fest nearly every year. Also, of note, is that Bobby Hackney, who appears on this track, and his brother Dannis, were actually members of the proto-punk band Death, from Detroit. This band has been in the news due to their recordings being re-released and being revolutionary for their time. Pretty interesting throwback, eh?

Now here’s a head scratcher for you though? “Fire Up The Ganja” fades out and then the next track to fade in is marked as “Skippy the Wondermouse”. And sure enough it sounds like “Skippy,” but when the lyrics kick in, they are clearly the familiar lyrics of “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters.” Now why is this curious? This show’s date is March of 1985. In Trey’s senior thesis of The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday aka Gamehendge, which was submitted in July 1988, He says that the poem was not received by him until 1986. Phish.net even states he didn’t get it until fall of 1985. So, why is it here? Well, it might be explained in an upcoming post! Stay tuned. The recording then closes with the last known performance of “In The Midnight Hour”, a danceable version if not outstanding. It does at least emphasize how much Phish just wanted people to dance. Something, most would say mission accomplished.

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!

This has been a long time coming…

I’ve been a Phish fan for 20 years. I’m sure I’ve been listening to them for longer than that having grown up in Vermont in the 80s and 90s but I can only truly say I’ve been ACTIVELY listening to them for that long. I’ll never forget June 11, 1994 for a long time. I was 10 years old and had just been crew on my parents’ boat Firewater in the Burlington Mayor’s Regatta (not to be confused with the longer running Plattsburgh Mayor’s Cup). We had sailed a great race and ended up winning the inaugural regatta; my dad getting to take home the trophy. The big winner that day would end up being my ears. One of the race’s sponsors was 106.7 WIZN, the local rock radio station. I would always ask the people doing remotes for free CDs. This was to be no different except that the DJ gave a copy of the recently released Hoist by Burlington’s own Phish. I excitedly perused the booklet as we drove home to the Mad River Valley. Upon getting home, I grabbed my Discman and hit play. The simple guitar riff of Julius hit my ears and I was in. From the wailing guitar of Down with Disease to the easy funk of Wolfman’s Brother, I was enjoying every moment. For a kid who didn’t flow easily into the angst of Seattle, this was a breath of fresh air. Music that has soul. Music that had careful instrumentation.

Since then, I’ve been to 51 shows and listened to dozens more. It got me thinking that has anyone listened to every Phish show that is available. According to the streaming website Phish.in, they have 1,693 shows recorded. That doesn’t include every show performed as many did not get committed to tape by the band or the audience but that’s a vast history to cover. That’s the goal of this blog. Starting with show #1 at UVM and ending whenever the band’s new “3.0” period and my task meet, I am going to review a show a day until there are no more shows to review.  Unencumbered by the hassle of having to B&P and trade my way to owning every show on a glorious Maxell XLII, I’ll use the power of the Internet to enjoy every recorded. I’ll be posting a link to Phish.in so you can listen along with me. I hope you’ll join me for this ride and enjoy.