Show #75: 10/29/88

The interior of the Sculpture Room at Goddard College. (Credit: Fleming Museum at UVM)
The interior of the Sculpture Room at Goddard College. (Credit: Fleming Museum at UVM)

Saturday, 10/29/1988
Sculpture Room, Goddard College, Plainfield, VT

Set 1: Suzy Greenberg >  The Lizards,  Time Loves a Hero[1],  Golgi Apparatus,  Bold As Love,  La Grange,  Contact,  Costume Contest ->  Harry Hood

Set 2: Halley’s Comet[2] ->  Whipping Post,  Fee >  Alumni Blues >  Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues,  Walk Away >  Divided Sky,  The Ballad of Curtis Loew[3],  Mike’s Song,  Take the ‘A’ Train >  Fire

Set 3: Fluffhead >  AC/DC Bag,  Foam[4],  Terrapin[5],  Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Timber (Jerry)[6],  Slave to the Traffic Light[6],  Donna Lee[7],  Run Like an Antelope[6],  I Didn’t Know[8],  Wilson[9],  Peaches en Regalia[6],  Funky Bitch[6]

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] Richard Wright on vocals.
[3] Bobby Brown on harmonica.
[4] First known performance.
[5] Fish on trombone.
[6] Russ Remington on saxophone.
[7] Russ Remington on saxophone. First known Phish performance.
[8] Russ Remington on saxophone, Fish on trombone.
[9] Russ Remington on saxophone. Unfinished.

Even if you’re making leaps and bounds in your professional career, you’ll probably always have a soft spot for home. So, with this newly gained experience, Phish still came home to Goddard College for their Halloween bash entitled “Resurrection of the Sculpture Room”. The band, clearly excited to play a relaxed gig, perhaps got a little too relaxed for this show. The band’s sounds just a little bit slower and just a hair out of sync. I don’t find it to be that amazing a show (at least compared to 9/24/88) but there are some fun highlights to be found within. We get the first version of Little Feat’s “Time Loves a Hero”. Again it’s little slower than I’m used to and I would find a bigger connection with the song much later in the band’s career but always a treat to hear it. “Bold as Love” continues to be well played but Trey layers on this very odd sliding effect towards the end that just grates on me by the end. “Contact” is played very slowly in order to get as much audience participation as possible it seems. This leads to a very fun moment with a loud crowd singing the song’s chorus. Following “Contact” is the costume contest where “Colonel Forbin” and “Tela” both win dates with Fishman and “Harry Hood” is the contest winner, prompting the band to play the song. No such luck for “Makisupa Policeman” or “The Tire”. “The Serial Friends of Jesus” are disqualified before the contest even begins. “Hood” is another strong version.

Set 2 brings out the first guest of the evening, Richard Wright sings the vocals to his original tune “Halley’s Comet”. “Divided Sky” gets its second run-through but first for the “home” crowd”. It’s not as tight as the first but still is received warmly. “Curtis Lowe” has Bobby Brown on harmonica again and is a nice moment. But Set 2 closes horrible. “Mike’s Song” is WAY OFF and out of sync. The band had no right playing hat tune right then and then they fallout up with a mellow “A Train” that isn’t exciting at all. They then close with a version of “Fire” that sounds straight out of 1986 and not in a good way. It’s just Trey wanking at its worst, no thought to his notes and just a lot of them over the rest of the band. It’s almost like they took two steps back on that song.

Set 3 is know for a few things. It has the debut of “Foam”, formerly known as “Marijuana Hot Chocolate” from 4/22/88. The complex tune was once considered the band’s biggest work as the interlocking lines are difficult to maintain. They pull it off here albeit a little slower than the tune would come to be known for. Impressive for a band only celebrating their 5 year anniversary. Fish comes onto ask what Syd Barrett song he’d like the crowd to hear. They go nuts for “Terrapin” over “Love You and “Bike”. After the enthusiasm for “Terrapin”, Page jokingly plays the riff from the Grateful Dead’s “Terrapin Station” instead and Fish sings the guitar part along before dismissing the notion. It’s a funny moment when you consider Phish would actually play “Terrapin Station” nearly 10 years later. During “Terrapin”, Fish sticks with the trombone as he also does on “I Didn’t Know”. Why no vacuum tonight is a curious thing. The end of the set features saxophone player Russell Remington. This is interesting because it’s the second appearance with horns the band had this year so far. I don’t know how Russell hooked up with the band, none of that is documented anywhere but Remington would be an important figure as a solid member of the Giant Country Horns, which we’ll learn more about in 1991 and a member of Trey Anastasio’s solo band starting in 2001. The addition of horns here is a little hard to discern as Remington did not seem to be mic’d up and so we only get the pickups from the other microphones. We do get the premiere of the Charlie Parker classic “Donna Lee”, a tune that would become a seminal part of Phish’s repertoire. The rest is well-played but not noteworthy. Of note though, the GCH tour would feature horn charts, while these parts all purely improvisation, giving a different feel. Wow, 75 shows down, far too many to go. Onward to Boston…

Show #32: 10/31/1987

Saturday, 10/31/1987
Sculpture Room, Goddard College, Plainfield, VT

Set 1: Jam -> Whipping Post[1], Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley -> Back Porch Boogie Blues > Halley’s Comet > Light Up Or Leave Me Alone, Love You[2], AC/DC Bag, Possum,You Enjoy Myself > Big Black Furry Creature from Mars

Set 2: The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Peaches en Regalia, Take the ‘A’ Train > Timber (Jerry), The Chase > I Am Hydrogen > Who Do? We Do!, Fee > Divided Sky > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Who Do? We Do! > Clod, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues > Fluffhead, David Bowie

[1] “Slice my nipple” lyric.
[2] First known Phish performance.

Another year, another Halloween at Goddard. Once again, this show is a split bill with the Joneses. It was billed as the fanciful title “Your Local Underground Movement presents Sir Phillip S. Dark’s Supernatural Circus, featuring: the Joneses and Phish” and it would get a little supernatural for Phish in the second set. I’d like to think that somewhere in the multi-verse, there’s an alternate reality where the Joneses became the biggest band out of Burlington and Phish went nowhere. That’d be an interesting thought. Alas, it was not meant to be though they really seemed to enjoy playing with each other. This is evidently shown in the opening jam which features Most of Phish and half of the Joneses. Apparently Fishman and John Carlin of the Joneses were missing during this part of the show. The jam plays a lot off the “Low Rider” by War chord changes but is fun to hear such a huge force just having fun. The jam goes into “Whipping Post”. If you want to hear Trey play some scalding, soaring lead, this is your jam. He’s furious, almost angry while playing it. It sounds gorgeous. Introducing “the band” as “half of Phish and half of the Joneses”, Trey says Mr. Mike Gordon is on keys, Moses DeWitt on bass, Moses Heaps on drums, and Moses Brown on sound, a fun nod to the evening.

It is unclear if the next three songs also have the mixed lineup but I would think so given what happens later. “Sneakin’ Sally” is a great version with a fun vocal jam, which Mike cuts short by firing up the bass line to “Back Porch Boogie Blues”. “Back Porch” is standard and Mike again controls the show by launching into his vocal part of “Halley’s Comet”. “Halley’s” again features Nancy on vocals but also has Trey singing the falsetto part instead of Fish, who is till missing at this point. It’s interesting to hear for something else but not earth shattering. A nice tear through “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” leads to the main event which is heralded by cheering. Fishman finally appears, apparently shaved head to toe and covered in paint. On his head is a bra turned inside out to make “elephant ears” and his penis painted gray to match. He sings Syd Barrett’s “Love You” after his entrance. Fish must have been getting into Syd a lot in these few months as it’s the second debut of the fall. Fishman’s beginning to relish being the funny one at this point.

Laughs aside it’s back to business as usual as we get a cool “AC/DC Bag>Possum”. It almost feels like it’s going to segue but does not. The end of “Bag” though has a cool Page-led jam that feels like if it were 10 years later, would segue into an “Odd Couple Jam”. More on that in a few years. “Possum” has a quickened pace but other than that is standard. “You Enjoy Myself” is tight. Mike kicks off Page’s jam with a Parliament “Flashlight” bass line tease which is cool. No drum and bass but a wild reverb fueled vocal jam that goes into “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars”, which again is moving away from the original punk rock sound and more metal ending set 1.

“TMWSIY>Malkenu>TMWSIY” opens set 2. “Malkenu” has an interesting bass solo in the middle that’s cool to hear. Trey’s humor comes out again when he says “This one’s by request. We wrote this one back in the 20s.” The band rips into “Take The A Train”. It’s a great take with another great bass solo from Mike. Mike really was hitting a groove this evening. Keeping with the old school vibe, the band goes into “Timber (Jerry)”. This “Timber” goes out there. At about the 2 minute mark, the groove breaks down and the band gets very exploratory lead by Trey’s wandering lead. It’s not just Trey though, all 4 members are working on their own but together to create a psychedelic vibe. It almost has an Anthem of the Sun-era Grateful Dead vibe. Simply incredible. The real meat of set 2 follows though as the different parts of “Fluff’s Travels”, still not united, intertwine the middle of the set almost in the order they eventually will lock into place. “The Chase” kicks things off, fast and furious before ripchording into “I am Hydrogen”. This “Hydrogen” has a jazzy cymbal part by Fish that doesn’t quite fit but I can sense his wanting to keep the tempo from “The Chase” going as the transition was hard. “Hydrogen” also dumps into “Who Do? We Do!”, the section that eventually would follow “The Chase”. You can hear the same cymbal line meaning that potentially the band had practiced this but not yet but it in action yet. Now, granted this “Who Do? We Do!” is a little jazzier than the finished product but the basic idea is there, with the familiar chord progression. “Fee” follows the jazz feeling of this 2nd set, still no megaphone in sight but solid. “Divided Sky>McGrupp>Clod” is a nice one-two-three combo late in the set. The segue from McGrupp into Clod is solid and caps off the “Fluff’s Travels through Gamehendge” section.  A nice standard “Alumni>Letter>Alumni” follows and then we get actual “Fluffhead”, which is played well. A standard “Bowie” closes. Two shows left in 1987 and they will be combined into one review. A typical midweek at Hunt’s coming next.

Show #19: 3/6/87

Friday, 03/06/1987
Goddard College, Plainfield, VT

Set 1: Funky Bitch, Good Times Bad Times, Corinna, Golgi Apparatus, Quinn the Eskimo > Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley

Set 2: Free Bird[1], Happy Birthday to You[2] > Harry Hood, Tell Me Something Good[3] > Possum,Freeworld[4], Wilson

Encore: Slave to the Traffic Light

[1] First known Phish performance; Ninja Mike on vocals.
[2] To “Sue and Debra.” Long, reggae-influenced version.
[3] First known Phish performance; unidentified female lead vocalist.
[4] First known Phish performance; Jim Pollock on vocals.

So close to reviewing this in the 27th anniversary! Oh well, good thing it’s not a very notable show. The sound quality on the recording leaves much to be desired. Almost felt like a recording of Phish at the BBC in 1963. Not much to write about this one all the fun’s in the 2nd set. It features Phish’s first attempt at Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” with Ninja Mike of Ninja Custodian on vocals. It’s actually pretty fun as at the 2:20 mark, Trey drops the long slow buildup and the band just tears into the jam, shredding it to pieces. We then get a reggae version of “Happy Birthday to You”, which segues nicely into the opening of “Harry Hood”. Also, after months of teasing by Mike, we finally get a full band version of “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus. It also had an unidentified female vocalist. It’s quite good and also has a fun segue into “Possum”. “Freeworld” is a bit of fun nonsense as Jim Pollock (yes, THAT Jim Pollock, poster artist) spouts lyrics over a raging 12-bar blues. You can’t really make out what he’s saying but it sounds fun. This is the only known performance of that tune. The recording closes with another early “Wilson”. Hopefully more in the next show. Thanks for reading.

Show #15: 10/31/86

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1986-10-31

Friday, 10/31/1986
Sculpture Room, Goddard College, Plainfield, VT

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[1] > Back Porch Boogie Blues >Shaggy Dog, Fluffhead

Set 2: Jam > AC/DC Bag, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Peaches en Regalia > David Bowie[2], Have Mercy[3] > Harry Hood, Sanity, Skin It Back > Icculus, Alumni Blues

[1] Richard Wright on vocals.
[2] First known version.
[3] 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.

Show #13: 10/12/86

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1986-10-12

Sunday, 10/12/1986
Haybarn Theater, Goddard College, Plainfield, VT

Set 1: Golgi Apparatus[1] > Slave to the Traffic Light, Wilson[1], Halley’s Comet ->Possum, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Makisupa Policeman

[1] First known performance.

And so it begins, the first show in the classic Phish lineup; Trey, Mike, Page, and Fish. The band has also graduated from the cafeteria to the stage of the Haybarn theater at Goddard College. Trey and Jon have enrolled there to focus on music full time. Mike has stayed at UVM and is in his senior year. It’s an interesting time of change but it also has given the band freedom to focus.

The show kicks off with a debut of “Golgi Apparatus”. A now classic Phish tune, this version finds the band playing it at a slightly slower speed but the tune seems fully fleshed out with even the angelic composed section in the bridge. The final notes segue into “Slave to the Traffic Light” and it’s on this tune you can really hear the space that Jeff’s departure has given to Page. Page’s synth gives the song great tone and doubles well with Trey’s guitar. Here we get the signature interplay between Page and Trey. The peak still isn’t built yet but the potential is captured in the ending.

The band chooses to debut another new song and rolls into “Wilson”. It doesn’t yet have it’s two-chord intro and of course the chant wasn’t even a fan invention yet. The song also has Trey doing weird Bob Dylan style vocals again. Can you imagine of Trey had recorded all of Gamehendge as Bob Dylan? It would not have the gravitas for sure. The crowd however clearly enjoyed the song and claps along to the beat before Page’s solo. Page’s solo has some “When the Music’s Over” teases and a very Doors vibe which Mike picks up on. The song even includes the Blat Boom section albeit closer to the end. The band also pulls out another new one, albeit having been played a few times at this point, “Halley’s Comet”. They also bring out the song’s writer Richard “Nancy” Wright to sing it. This version has no frills but can be noted for the smooth segue into the newly arranged “Possum”.

“Possum” has been retooled after the departure of it’s creator Jeff. It’s less bluegrass stomp and more back roads boogie. It also gets a more sleek vocal arrangement opening up the chorus for more fun. Trey rips off a nice solo here. Mike takes over the lead and lays the groundwork for every “Possum” most people know. The night’s only cover follows next in “Sneakin’ Sally”. It’s fun but fairly standard. The vocal jam is the highlight. The recording closes with “Makisupa Policeman”. This version also takes its now current form, with a Qaddafi reference in the keyword section. The jam goes out there with some serious reverb and effects. Same as it ever was with Trey tweaking and learning his rig.

Show #9: 11/23/85

The campus of Goddard College.

Ah, we finally made it to Goddard. Already the school of Page McConnell, almost a year later, it would become where Trey and Jon would finish their studies as well. Goddard College is a very interesting place that unfortunately is under threat of disappearing forever. In fact, it has already changed, for better or for worse, when it ended its traditional residential undergrad program in 2002. Located in Plainfield, Vermont, just east of Montpelier, the capital, Goddard College grew from a preparatory school for Tufts College in Medford, MA to its own college in 1938. The college was founded under the progressive principles of John Dewey. The school is unique in that instead of traditional curriculum, the student gets to choose their own curriculum and experiences and have narrative transcripts from the advisors and teachers to guide them as opposed to letter grades. It’s in this free form learning that allowed Phish to spread their wings. Other notable alumni of Goddard include playwright David Mamet, Jonathan Katz of Dr. Katz fame, William H. Macy, and lyricist Howard Ashman.

This show as played in the cafeteria of the Haybarn, one of the oldest and most classic buildings on Goddard’s campus. The campus is of note in that they took an old farm and made the existing buildings the school. It’s worth a trip if you’re in central Vermont. The Haybarn is pictured in the center of the above photo. You might think “Another short set? Please.” BUT DO NOT MOVE ON! THIS IS MUST-LISTEN PHISH. The “Mike’s Song” is a bit of a throwaway. The heart of this recording is the “Whipping Post Jam”. It is as good a jam as you’ll find in the band’s career. I feel it has been so overlooked at how locked in this band has been from very early on in their career. This is 27 minutes of where the band is going! There’s “Norwegian Wood” teases from Mike. There’s “The Other One” teases. In my first post, I said Phish could have been Vermont’s best Grateful Dead cover band. This is the closest the band comes to BEING the Grateful Dead. It’s as if they channeled ’67-’68 Dead in this jam. It has that wild, unified cacophony feel that capsulated those early Dead jams so well. I don’t hear Whipping Post at all in the jam so I’m unsure where that link came from but it doesn’t matter. We get some great ambient guitar parts while Page plays a nice piano solo over Mike’s bass and Jon’s steady cymbals. You tell it’s building. Even Jeff plays a great rhythm part with Jon’s drumming. The so far unweildy five-piece is actually sounding great for once. The tension and build is steady for a good solid 3-4 minutes and then there’s a shift, the drums change and there’s a slide guitar cue and then it gets into some early Pink Floyd vibes as well, as if anything can happen with the mood and atmosphere created. At 9 minutes in, the building tension finally releases and we’ve gone over the edge. The band begins charging along. The tempo increases and all members begin putting things in motion. The “Other One” teases hit but it’s about more than that as Trey keeps soloing over them. It almost all disintegrates but the twin guitars of Trey and Jeff just drive harder, taking the jam in a new direction. This gallop goes for another 9 minutes, slowing and speeding, bending the flow to create new ideas. it’s frenetic and well-paced but nothing compared to what begins at the 19 minute mark. There’s a few “Dark Star” teases and also some “Slave to the Traffic Light” quoted but the band hits its first ever peak. The uplifting chord profession seeps out of everyone as Trey flies over the top. PURE GLORY. I’d put it against anything I’ve heard so far in the catalog and the fact they were playing like this LESS THAN TWO YEARS after their first show is nothing less than astounding. The jam then ends with a reggae jam that sounds like the start of “Harry Hood”. If you have to come back down, at least let ’em dance right?

The tape then fades out and when it comes back in we’re deep in “Run Like An Antelope”. It has some good playing and the song is starting to get its signature feel but there’s not too much noteworthy about this version. The recording then closes with a “Dave’s Energy Guide” that is similar to other versions except it goes off the rails and is a bit more wild. But the jam. Holy cow! It’s such a harbinger of what’s too come from Phish. Luckily the band was successful or else this would be a mark of what could have been. The show is also important because it’s well-marked as the show where Mike had a “peak experience” or his epiphany. It was at this show, most likely during that jam, that he decided he wanted to play music for the rest of his life. He explains in Phish: The Biography by Parke Puterbaugh,

“It was the night I decided I wanted to make music a full-time career. I wrote two full journals just about that one night of playing. I had this incredible self-actualization, and I dedicated all future journals to figuring out what happened that night and what makes a peak experience like that occur.”
[Puterbaugh] asked whether that particular show was taped and whether the band might ever release it.
“I taped it, but I’ve never even listened to it,” he said. “I vowed never to listen to it. There’s no possible way that listening to it would ever be the same. It would be like being an entirely different person listening. So I just wanted to save the memory.”

With an experience like what I heard, I don’t blame him either. Moving on to a big year in 1986! Next on “One Show at a Time”.