Set 1: AC/DC Bag, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, You Enjoy Myself, Golgi Apparatus, La Grange, Fluffhead, Possum > Foam, Walk Away, Take the ‘A’ Train, Split Open and Melt > David Bowie
Set 2: Suzy Greenberg > Bold As Love, The Lizards, Harry Hood, If I Only Had a Brain, Contact, Fire
Encore: Whipping Post
I have something to reveal to you all. The members of Phish are not native Vermonters. This is shocking and upsetting I know, since they definitely reflect many of the state’s values but it’s true. So when you’re in a band, eventually you might play a gig your hometown if your band didn’t start there. Jon Fishman had the honor of being the 2nd band member to experience that moment as Mike Gordon had grown up in the greater Boston area. Jon Fishman was proudly raised by his adoptive parents Leonard and Mimi in the the Syracuse suburb of Dewitt and graduated from Jamesville-Dewitt High School in 1983. With Syracuse being a big college town, a return trip with the band was inevitable.
The area just north of Syracuse University’s campus is known as Marshall Street, even as is spread down University and South Crouse Ave. Surprisingly for an alumni of Syracuse University, I can’t tell you a whole lot about the bars. Unsuprisingly, I was more of a hang out with friends off-campus and do bong rips/house parties at the Ultimate Frisbee house kind of guy. I do know where the Orange Grove was. It was located on the first floor at the corner of S Crouse Ave. and E. Adams St. above the basement space. More recent alumni would know the space as Darwin’s. As of right now, I believe the space is vacant. The area in its heyday had at least 10 bars in the area and now only has about 4; a testament to the raising of the drinking age to 21 and the crackdown by law enforcement. I went in there once, I don’t remember it being a very large space, let alone where bands would play but several SU alums confirmed this was the place. (Current students would probably think you’re referring to the awful alumni donor space on campus next to the quad nowadays.) One Phish.net member does say this show happened at Hungry Charlie’s, which would make more sense in terms of space. This is also how it is listed in the Phish Companion. Hungry Charlie’s was located downstairs at 727 S. Crouse Ave. under the new bar known as Chuck’s in a space occupied by Funk ‘N Waffles, curiously owned and operaed by Phish fan and Sophistafunk keyboardist Adam Gold. Funk ‘N Waffles continues to serve live music to the SU community in the space.
The show itself was probably exciting for those who had not seen the band but not much here historically besides the above. Trey opened by dedicating “Alumni Blues” to all the recent graduates of Syracuse University as they were playing on Commencement Weekend. A really nice early “Melt” is offered here as well. The “David Bowie” is a must listen as we have kind of the first recorded “hi-hat hjinx” here with Trey weaving “Melt”, “A Train”, and “Fluffhead” into the intro. The “Hood” is pretty fantastic here. Fishman gets a huge yell from the crowd as he comes to the front of the stage. Commenting on how he now gets to embarrass himself in front of his entire high school, one audience member yells “TOO LATE!” which is pretty funny. He busts out “If I Only Had A Brain” to their delight with a vacuum solo. Fishman had arrived. The standout jam through is the “Whipping Post”. Starting around the 8-minute mark, it starts to get off the typical wailing “Post” riff and stays just shy of Type II but they do push it and get ambient around the 10-minute mark, almost foreshadowing future jamming in an interesting way. A rare glimpse of where Phish is going.
Set 1: The Sloth, Divided Sky, The Curtain > I Didn’t Know, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird > The Lizards, Walk Away > Possum, Good Times Bad Times
Set 2: Golgi Apparatus, Wilson > Peaches en Regalia, You Enjoy Myself > La Grange, Slave to the Traffic Light, Contact, David Bowie
Set 3: Whipping Post, Corinna, AC/DC Bag
 “Fish’s Birthday” lyrics.
I’ll probably say this a lot more but in over 1600 shows, you’re bound to get a few where that’s just not a lot going on. This is one of those shows. The tape quality is not very good and the playing just isn’t as hot as you’d expect. This is the second of 2 nights at the Stone Church. It’s more notable for what we don’t get here. The first night Phish debuted a new song called “Split Open and Melt”, a song that would quickly become a fan favorite. But we’ll never know what that first version was like. Even Phish.com says 2/17/89 is not in their archives at all. Aside form that, it is exciting to hear a larger crowd in the Stone Church. Clearly, Phish was brining a good audience in on a Saturday night. The lone highlight here is the band doing a birthday version of “David Bowie” for Jon Fishman. The following day was Fish’s 24th birthday and the band replaced UB40 with Fish’s Birthday as the lyric and then yelled for him to do 100 pushups. Fish apparently did do some push-ups after “Bowie” but with the tape cut, we’ll never know. Still an interesting snippet since we just celebrated Fish’s 50th.
Set 1: Suzy Greenberg, The Curtain > Wilson > Peaches en Regalia, Fee > La Grange, You Enjoy Myself
Set 2: All Blues > Sanity, Take the ‘A’ Train, Golgi Apparatus > Divided Sky, On Your Way Down, I Didn’t Know
Set 3: Good Times Bad Times, Walk Away > Harry Hood, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird > Whipping Post, Corinna
Encore: David Bowie
 Fast version.
While the band was beginning to grow in statue outside the Green Mountain State, Phish remained deep in the fabric of the Vermont music scene for years to come. So after taking Boston by storm, the band played Dartmouth College, their usual Wednesday night gig at Gallagher’s in Waitsfield, and their first New York City show at Forty Worth, an art gallery/performance space in Tribeca. Unfortunately none of these shows exist in circulation. The leaves us with night 2 and night 3 of the band’s first Burlington shows since the Paradise gig. The band is continuing to establish the Front as their home base but they haven’t quite left Nectar’s yet. The only problem with 3 nights and no albums yet, the material stays about the same as recent shows. That’s not to say there are no highlights here on Night 2. The “Wilson>Peaches” combo is back. A really tasty take on “La Grange” happens though that I like. We get a taste of Phish’s version of Miles Davis’ “All Blues” into the fast version of “Sanity” again. “Divided Sky” continues to be amazing. The ending jam to “Harry Hood” has some interesting interplay between all 4 members. But the standout is “David Bowie”. The band has fun with the opening segment as that tradition seems to be improving. Trey does the Batman TV theme to open, when the composed section is about to break into the jam, the whole band gets in on the riff. Then Trey starts the jam on the Batman riff and they use that as a launchpad into the jam. It’s an interesting look at the band listening to each other early on and moving as a unit, rather than just Trey wild over the top. At 8:46, you can hear Page signal to the band and he initiates a call and response with Trey that’s just magnificent for them to build off. Also, Mike plays almost the base line to Wipe Out at such a fast pace that holds it down. Tight playing indeed. Night 3 next!
Set 1: Divided Sky, You Enjoy Myself > Slave to the Traffic Light, Foam > Possum, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird > David Bowie
The last show of the year almost feels like an extended encore. We only have one set to work with but it’s a strong set, full of Phish favorites. The sound on this is just fantastic, almost like it’s taken straight from Junta but we do have introductions from Trey to make sure we know it’s a live recording. “Divided Sky” hits a blistering peak with soaring leads from Trey. Trey banters about the new album and the album AFTER the new album. “Our FIFTHcoming album,” Page says. Not to be confused with their forthcoming album being the joke. “You Enjoy Myself” has a really nice jam beginning at the 10-minute mark. Serious early funk. “Slave” had a decent peak but still work to be done. The interplay in “Foam” continues to improve and is slowly becoming the whole band showcase it will be. The “Bowie” here is top notch and really finds some true jamming. The intro continues to get extended, hitting that more modern feel. Around the 5:30 mark, Trey hits the “Secret Language” trill, which he still uses today to say he has an idea. He then plays an tight solo over the top that leads into a nice little stop/start jam. They also have nice full band riff towards the end around the 11-minute mark that is on fire. Really showing strides as moving as unit on this version. Overall a lovely set for 1988.
Top 5 of 1988:
Now for my top five shows of 1988. This will included whenever we reach the end of a year. I will merely rank and link to my reviews. No need to retread what has already been written.
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, Whipping Post, Anarchy, Tush, Dear Mrs. Reagan
 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!
Set 1: Funky Bitch, Possum, Peaches en Regalia, Makisupa Policeman -> Fluffhead
Set 2: I Know a Little, Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light, Shaggy Dog > Light Up Or Leave Me Alone -> Camel Walk, Jam > Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Back Porch Boogie Blues, Icculus, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Good Times Bad Times -> Skin It Back -> Cities
Set 3: Mike’s Song -> The Little Drummer Boy > Whipping Post, She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride > AC/DC Bag, David Bowie -> Clod > David Bowie, You Enjoy Myself, Dog Log, Tush > Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Prep School Hippie/
 First known Phish performance.
 Steve Drebber on vocals.
Ah, we’ve come so far in just 3 years. The final lineup is formed. Gamehendge is creeping its way into sets. Covers are become more unique and crafted for the band. The band has a dedicated sound man on their crew. To quote Penny Lane and the Band-Aids, “it’s all happening”. This final recording of 1986 brings us to the Ranch. The Ranch, also referred to as Mead Ranch or Mood Ranch, was a house inhabited by Eric Larsen, Kent Moore, and Wayne Stout. It was located (and still may be) on East Dorset Street out in the wilds of Shelburne. Most people hear Dorset Street in Burlington and think of the South Burlington shopping district but if you keep going, it becomes quite rural. This would set the tone as a house party is a different animal then a bar or university gig. The band could get weird and the folks in attendance would most likely go along. Also a great place to test some new tunes and in this show we get a lot of new covers, some of which the band would craft for many years.
Phish opens with a new cover, Son Seals’ “Funky Bitch”. While today this probably one of the most loved covers of the band, it’s an interesting choice because it’s the first straight ahead blues song that we’ve heard so far. On Seals also marks the eclectic musical leanings of Phish. Another band would go Muddy Waters or BB King but Phish picks out the obscure 70s blues man. I saw Son Seals play the Discover Jazz festival in Burlington on June 6, 2002. Full disclosure was I went in hopes of a Phish sit-in, but was pleasantly surprised to see authentic Chicago blues. Son Seals had serious chops. This version is not terribly notable other than it is first. The band fires up “Possum” but they’re not clicking too well early on which continues into a slow, static “Peaches en Regalia”. Mike again teases Rufus’ “Tell Me Something Good” going into “Makisupa”. “Makisupa” has a very half-baked reggae jam that goes nowhere fast. The mellowness continues as the band plays one of the slowest “Fluffheads” I’ve ever heard. I almost would think the tape was dubbed but they sound in the right key. It almost painful how slow it is. It’s a must listen if only to hear how weird it is.
Set 2 opens with another new cover, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “I Know A Little”. The tape quality certain picks up with clearer vocals. It’s a pretty smoking cover and one I’d like to hear then bring back. I also like how the song again reflects the jazz influences that are creeping in. It doesn’t differ much from Skynyrd’s version but it’s a delight to hear. Following up is “Golgi” and the band returns to a slower than normal tempo. This time however, they nail a standard version. “Slave” comes next and it’s well done. The peak is still not finished yet but it’s inching closer. It definitely has more of that feel as Trey lays back at the end instead of playing wildly.
We get another fun rendition of “Shaggy Dog” which segues into yet another new cover, Traffic’s “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”. “Light Up” is significant because we finally hear Page on vocals. He’s not quite the powerhouse he will come to be in Phish’s arsenal but it’s still interesting to hear such a Phish staple in it’s early form. It’s also the first good jam of the show. They take the song out for a walk and all members are on fire. Mike’s bass intertwines with Trey’s guitar and Page’s keys set the tone while Fish keeps it steady. It’s a great early jam. The jam however doesn’t stick the landing and we get a rough transition into “Camel Walk”. However, once in “Camel Walk”, it has a very nice little jam at the 3-minute mark that’s worth the time. After a brief pause, the recording goes into a jam in progress. The poor sound quality returns making it a little difficult to hear. The jam is quite nice. Trey mostly shows off but Page finds a really nice groove on the keys that Mike locks into for a very nice layer. For a band only 3 years in the making, it’s pretty impressive. Definitely worth the listen even if the quality’s not fantastic. The jam kicks into “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” but it’s not the usual version we’ve been hearing, the band actually plays a Allman Brothers “Ramblin’ Man” jam before hitting the main tune. It’s fun to hear. The southern rock vibes continues as “Back Porch Boogie Blues” gets another go round, the end of which is pretty smoking. “Icculus” gets cut off before the ending and is rather worthless here. Another new cover follows it up as we get to hear Phish do Led Zeppelin with “Good Times Bad Times”. It’s a great early version, if only to hear Trey go off, but it also has a very clean segue into “Skin It Back”, which in turn segues into the set-closing “Cities”.
“Mike’s Song” opens set 3 and it’s interesting because Mike plays with the phrasing of the verses, giving it a jerky, David Byrne but stranger feeling. The band also starts the song of really slow and picks up tempo as it goes along. It also as a nice jam which goes into “The Little Drummer Boy”. Well, I’ll give them it’s the holidays and they have a little drummer boy in the band technically. Not like other times as we’ll see in the future. The Allmans’ “Whipping Post” comes next and while very good, it’s not the most barn-burning edition. Another cover and another blues standard, busting out Taj Mahal’s “She Caught The Katy”. Prominently known for it’s opening the Blues Brothers movie, this is more of the blues standard I was talking about earlier as an alternative to “Funky Bitch”. It’s a respectable copy. “AC/DC Bag” follows and is fodder leading to a real highlight. “David Bowie>Clod>Bowie” is pure dynamite. It leads off with some cowbell and fun riffs from Trey before hitting the main groove. At about 1:05, Trey hits a cool speed jazz riff that’s unlike any other “Bowie” I’ve heard going into the UB40 verse. The seque into “Clod” feels little bit like Pink Floyd or Yes’ “Heart of the Sunrise” which is cool. It’s also interesting to hear music associated with “Fluffhead” sitting in the middle of “Bowie”. Apparently the end of this “Bowie” must be heard. The problem is that on PhishTracks.com and Phish.in only repeat the first part of “Bowie”. Luckily there’s a great new sounding transfer of this third set on Etree. So, I downloaded it and it’s pretty amazing. It does have the described Allmans vibe but to also, just sounds like really great Phish.
Trey noodles a bit with a song about a camera but how do you follow a smoking “Bowie”? With a tight “You Enjoy Myself” obviously. It’s a pretty legit follow up. “Dog Log” is next with its alternate title “Doggone Dog”. It’s a hot version and probably the best so far in the band’s career. I recommend a listen. Someone asks for Barry Manilow and Trey introduces the night’s final new cover as such. The joke being the song is actually ZZ Top’s “Tush”. It’s pretty faithful but cooking nonetheless. A funky “Sneakin’ Sally” follows and then “Prep School Hippie” closes the set. “Hippie” has a nice soaring jam in the middle and increases in tempo as it builds to the finish. Thus ends 1986 on record. Onto the bigger and better (and more work) of 1987!
Soundcheck: Bertha (performed by The Joneses), Blues Jam (with members of The Joneses)
Set 1: Mustang Sally, Camel Walk, Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light, Melt the Guns -> Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Halley’s Comet > Back Porch Boogie Blues >Shaggy Dog, Fluffhead
Set 2: Jam > AC/DC Bag, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Peaches en Regalia > David Bowie, Have Mercy > Harry Hood, Sanity, Skin It Back > Icculus, Alumni Blues
 Richard Wright on vocals.
 First known version.
 Jah Roy on vocals.
This post will most likely be a little shorter as this show is very similar to 10/15/86. But at least we have the first Halloween gig. While not the spectacle that later Halloween shows would become, when your band is tapped to play a holiday, you know you’re doing something right. This show is a split bill with The Joneses. A more low key affair then 10/12/86, it took place in a smaller room, probably more in line with the party atmosphere. The show kicks off with standard readings of “Mustang Sally” and “Camel Walk”, a good way to get people moving. Trey then makes it clear that the name of the next song is not “I Saw You With A Pistol In Your Hand” but “Golgi Apparatus”. “Golgi” is another great early version. “Slave” also shows it’s headed in the right direction with also another great early version. Again though, Trey doesn’t quite have the formula down to end the song. The band unveils a “new on record” cover next with XTC’s “Melt The Guns”. It’s also interesting that they have a “Fuck Your Face” and “Minkin” tease while Jon pounds out the cymbal beat. It’s a fun song with a quirky beat and lyrics that surely drew the band to it. It’s also interesting here that the Phish version is SHORTER than the original. A very smooth segue moves form “Melt the Guns” into “Sneakin’ Sally”. “Sally” is fine but nothing notable. “Halley’s Comet” is up next and features Nancy on vocals yet again. This is a mess. I can’t recommend it to anyone. The band effortlessly goes into “Back Porch Boogie Blues”. It’s well played but nothing notable. More notable is that Mike allegedly told the band it was an original to get it played but the truth is it’s a Max Creek cover. This would prove to also be interesting as Mike would later write songs with Scott Murawski of Max Creek! How weird the world turns. “Shaggy Dog” comes next and then the set ends with another early “Fluffhead”.
Set 2 opens with a jam. Always welcome when the band just takes off. It opens with Jon playing a driving hi-hat line with some textural drums underneath. Trey plays a sick funk riff over the top. The jam is a fast and furious little ditty that just shows how tight the connection is between Trey and Fish, with Mike jumping in with good measure. They take the energy and go into a high-flying “AC/DC Bag”. The “Bag” carries over the jam energy and is played at a quicker tempo. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” exercises the jazz chops once more. Another tight “Peaches en Regalia” follows and then we get to the main highlight of this show, the first-ever “David Bowie”. It gets a little rough in the beginning between David Bowie and UB40 but it’s interesting to hear them start out REALLY SLOW during the start of the jam and then bring up the tempo. Fun to hear the beginnings of that monster. “Have Mercy” gets an extended take with new lyrics from Jah Roy of Lambsbread. It’s fairly standard except for the length. It again gets paired with “Harry Hood”. “Hood” is solid as always. “Sanity” still hadn’t come the band’s way at this point and unleashed that fact on the crowd. Two fans begin clamoring for “Skin It Back” and “Icculus” so what’s a band to do? You play both of them back-to-back in the order requested. “Skin It Back ” comes first. The ending jam is quite tasty. “Icculus” is short but mentions he was born on Halloween 1948 in ancient Greece apparently. How do you send them home? With the shuffle of “Alumni Blues” of course! Let ’em dance one more time. That’s the first Halloween, kiddos.