Show #26: 8/10/87

Monday, 08/10/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Peaches en Regalia, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Golgi Apparatus, Wilson, Quinn the Eskimo, Divided Sky > Good Times Bad Times

Set 2: Fire, AC/DC Bag -> Possum, Fluffhead, Fee, The Curtain With, I Know a Little, Mustang Sally, You Enjoy Myself, La Grange

Set 3: Icculus, David Bowie, Jesus Just Left Chicago[1], Whipping Post, Anarchy, Tush, Dear Mrs. Reagan

[1] First known Phish performance.

First off, I want to apologize for the long delay between posts. I’ve been dealing with some personal stuff and it made it a little hard to focus. But I’m here now and the show must go on! Of course, being that it’s very early in the band’s career, we don’t have as large a catalog to play from. So, we might get some very similar shows. Such is the case during the is two-night stand at Nectar’s. The repeats here are plentiful. “Peaches En Regalia”, “Golgi Appartus”, “Good Times Bad Times”, “Fluffhead”, “Fee”, “You Enjoy Myself”, and “David Bowie” all appear here again. Now, while some these we van’t heard yet or didn’t even hear the previous night’s version, the set lists are getting a little similar. So, I’m going to try and just hit the highlights for this show. “Peaches” features a great example of Trey’s early tone working for him. “Alumni Blues” has amazing organ work from Page with huge sweeping chords. Also has very early Mike bass bombs. “Letter to Jimmy Page” stands out as being less aggressive and has more of a full band feel to the song. “Quinn the Eskimo” ended up being the last performance of the song until 1998 and it features a huge swirling crescendo jam in the last two minutes that dumps into the last verse and chorus well. We get the first recorded “Divided Sky” though in this early state it does not include the middle section and only repeats the beginning for the ending. The introduction is impeccably played but it loses steam in the harder “jumping” section. Work needs to be done and it will but a decent second attempt. It’s interesting that “Divided Sky” rolls into “Good Times Bad Times”. It’s jarring but the dose of hard rock to end the first set and continue that momentum, tagging in Hendrix’s “Fire” for Led Zeppelin to open the 2nd set is an inspired choice. “Fluffhead” is still not yet complete. We get the first recorded “Fee”. No megaphone yet in this rendition. It also moves at a little too fast tempo; like the band is rushing to finish. “The Curtain With” continues to amaze as the band hits all the changes with aplomb. “Mustang Sally” swings and has that Phish groove that makes the cover unique. Fish’s drumming really gives the song its unique feel. The band also takes “You Enjoy Myself” for a serious walk with all 4 members taking things to the max on the jam. It’s a thundering powerful take on the song. “Icculus” gets dedicated to Paul’s mom but is fairly standard. “David Bowie” is a must-listen. The band finally breaks out of the song and goes, what most fans know as, “Type II”. Type II jamming is when the band goes outside the normal chord structure of the song and creates something new. More recent examples of this include the “Tahoe Tweezer” and the “AC Twist”. This is the first time we get outside the normal “Bowie” and just get free. It’s a glorious moment, occurring about 8 minutes into the song. The jam is strong too. All 4 members are in sync and on board. Fish leading the way with a steady but improvised beat. Page filling Trey’s rifts with strong keys and Mike’s bass filling the space between. It’s fleeting but a glimpse at what’s to come. 3 ZZ Top songs appear in this show, “La Grange”, “Tush”, and the night’s lone debut “Jesus Just Left Chicago”. A tune that a lot of fans would come to know on the 1997 live album “Slip, Stitch, and Pass”, this version lays the groundwork for all other versions that followed and it’s a great place to start with passionate playing from Trey and solid rhythm work from Mike and Fish. The other note is you can tell the band is starting to gain respect and some fans. There’s strong applause after each number and more and varied requests. You can feel the building energy. Next, I tackle the long vaunted “Ian’s Farm” show!

Show #22: 4/29/87

A flier from Phish’s first two-night stand at Nectar’s. Nearly 3 month before this show. Photo credit: @Phish on Twitter.

Wednesday, 04/29/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Golgi Apparatus, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Fire, Skin It Back ->Cities, Lushington

Set 2: Dog Log, Melt the Guns -> Dave’s Energy Guide, Take the ‘A’ Train[1], Halley’s Comet > Quinn the Eskimo > AC/DC Bag

Set 3: Peaches en Regalia > Fluffhead, Good Times Bad Times, Anarchy, Makisupa Policeman -> Run Like an Antelope, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Timber (Jerry)[2], Slave to the Traffic Light > Sparks > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > The Ballad of Curtis Loew[2], Come On (Part One)[2], I Am Hydrogen -> Who Do? We Do!

Encore: Fuck Your Face[3]

[1] First known Phish performance; Jeff Friedberg on saxophone.
[2] First known Phish performance.
[3] Debut.

Now, I’m glad if you’ve been following since day one that hopefully you’ve listened to every show or at least the highlights as well. I’ve got some bad news though and it’s not that your cat died. Poster Nutbag hasn’t even been born yet! It’s that I could have saved you all a lot of time. ut you would have missed the sublimeness that was “Prep School Hippie”! One of the tent poles of the short range of 1987 shows, this night has a lot of highlights. B Heck! We even get three full sets! There’s a lot of music to get through so let’s dive right in.

The night begins with a nice standard “She Caught The Katy”. Good song to warm-up to and get the crowd interested. We then go into “Alumni Blues>Jimmy Page>Alumni”. Earlier, it would have been played as a standard blues but we’re starting to get that trademark groove. Someone out there may be able to better describe it but it has a certain feeling that makes it more danceable than standard blues. There’s a certain looseness, I think it’s Fish’s drumming that gives it an odd shuffle. It’s very white boy Meters feel. Also, instead if Trey wailing through it all, we get a very nice Page Rhodes solo about 4 minutes in. The end of the song also feels more like 4 musicians working together. The next song is introduced as “Duke Ellington’s favorite song” as told in his memoirs and relayed by Trey. It turns out it’s “Golgi Appartus” despite it debuting 12 years after his death. This “Golgi” is much improved with more movement from the band during the middle section and some much needed patience infused into the delicate melody. The buildup to the release also is well played. “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” comes next providing a cool vibe. Page also gets to take a solo which is much appreciated. Trey gets to noodle away next as “Fire” comes up and the band powers through it, infusing the set with wild energy. The dance vibe comes back though as the band grooves into “Skin It Back”. The song’s a little weak compared to other tracks but the end jam gets in there are Mike’s bass weaves around Trey’s guitar while Page holds down the groove on the Rhodes. The song segues weakly into “Cities”, showing that they still have work to do. I wonder if they listened back and analyzed how much stronger that could be. Obviously this was way before all their self-imposed rules so it’s possible. “Cities” also fizzles out a bit and goes nowhere fast. Set One closes with “Lushington”. ’87 will be the year of “Lushington” so you’ll hear a lot of it if you follow along. This version cooks at a nice clip and has fine keys work from Page. It’s a solid version.

Set 2 opens with “Dog Log”. This version has the jazz influences seeping more and more, making it feel more syncopated and loose. The band takes “it around one more time” and all 4 have at the rhythm, sounding together and disjointed at the same time gloriously. Fishman hits the cymbals and it sounds like “David Bowie” might be coming, even the rest of the band plays a funky jam over the top of it but Trey and Page hit the melody for “Melt The Guns”. It starts out pretty standard but at 3:30, we get into the jam and it’s a beauty. Trey plays a gorgeous soaring lead over a darker, dissonant piano part from Page. Mike even gets into it with a throbbing bass line. The last minute really ups the intensity and shows off the musicianship of all 4 members. The song also features a very strong segue into “Dave’s Energy Guide”. Less rough than pervious versions, they don’t actually hit the main theme until about a minute in, enjoying the groove until Trey finally starts the diamond pattern. Rather than disconnecting lines, the band hits the rhythm hard and hooks up quite well. At times, it even sounds like “On The Run” by Pink Floyd. It’s less noise and more actual music. The whole segment is definitely worth a listen. Once again, it’s Duke Ellingston’s birthday. So the band decides to play an actual Ellington tune, “Take the A Train” with guest Jeff Friedberg on saxophone. It’s a fun listen to hear Phish with horns well before the Giant Country Horn days. “Halley’s Comet” comes next and it’s fun but nothing outstanding. It does have a smooth segue into “Quinn the Eskimo”, which sounds good but is not too exciting. The tape then has a crossfade and we miss the cool intro but we go into “AC/DC Bag” to close the set.

The third set is the most exciting in my mind. It opens with a great intro from Trey reminding people to tip their waitresses and waiters and then Fish hits the drum intro to “Peaches en Regalia”, which is standard but rips nonetheless. “Fluffhead” comes next and it’s played at a fast and furious pace. The train is gathering steam and it’s headed down the right track. Can’t wait to see where it goes from here, especially with the Fluff’s Travels development. Keeping the crowd in it, the band rips into “Good Times Bad Times” and it ably shows Trey’s quick finger fretwork. The short punk basher “Anarchy” follows and they slam through it and one fan even yells “One more time!” and on cue they do it again. Taking it down a notch, the band fires up “Makisupa”. About 2 minutes in, Trey solos over Page’s chords and it’s interesting to hear him take the song for a walk. It rolls into “Run Like An Antelope” nicely with the band starting slow and increasing to normal tempo. The ability to maintain a groove while executing tension and release is on full display here and it makes Antelope quote amazing for how early it is in the band’s career. Getting the crowd back to dancing, “Boogie On Reggae Woman” comes next. The band tired hard to jam it out but it really doesn’t develop. The night’s 2nd new cover, “Timber (Jerry)”. Now, the interesting thing is only Phish would think about taking an old folk song from the 1930s and making it fresh with a new wave guitar part over the rhythm. Listening to it played by the son of one of its authors, Josh White, Jr., it really is a dramatic overhaul and makes it a lively tune to dance to. This first version is a must listen. It’s high energy with great soloing from Trey and an amazing beat pounded out by Fishman. “Slave to the Traffic Light” is a good choice for a breather. It’s played impeccably well. It still doesn’t the peak but instead of Trey’s noodling incessantly, He just pounds out the chords to build to release and Mike hits a great melodic bass line to close it. The set probably could have ended there but it’s not last call yet. Trey hits the guitar chords to “Sparks” and the band goes into it. Fishman hits the drum fills quote well here. “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters” comes next and retains its spoken lyrics. Luckily with less Bob Dylan style vocals and more just atonal shouting. Besides that it’s pretty standard. We then get the third new cover, “The Ballad of Curtis Lowe” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. This first version is interesting because Trey sings some of the verses where as modern day versions have Page singing all the verses himself. Trey continues his mastery of the southern rock style of guitar playing. Next, we get the last cover in “Come On (Part One)”. The song is base on the Earl King R&B hit but the version here is clearly based on Jimi Hendrix’s rendition from Electric Ladyland. This is the only known performance of the song by Phish. Trey would later play it with the 8 Foot Fluorescent Tubes and his solo band in 1999 a few times. The song mostly features Trey’s uncanny ability to mirror Hendrix in his own style. However, the rest of the band also moves at the quick pace with strong support from Page, a hot bass line from Mike, and flashy drums from Fishman. It’s a shame they didn’t take this one for a walk more. The evening winds down with “I Am Hydrogen>Who Do? We Do!” “Hydrogren” us fun because it’s played at a faster tempo than usual but is no less beautiful. “Who Do? We Do” is broken up on my copy of this show, which is interesting. It ends abruptly, ending the recording. Apparently “Fuck Your Face” made its debut as the encore but did not make the recording. A fine 3-set affair from Nectar’s in the books!

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!