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 #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”.

Show #2: 11/3/84

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1984-11-03/

Saturday, 11/03/1984
Slade Hall, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Set 1: In the Midnight Hour, Wild Child[1], Jam -> Bertha[1], St. Stephen Jam, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking[1], Camel Walk[2], Eyes of the World[1] -> Whipping Post[3] ->Drums[4]

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] First known performance.
[3] First known Phish performance; Jeff on vocals.
[4] Marc Daubert on percussion.

Teases:
· St. Stephen tease in Can’t You Hear Me Knocking

After a long hiatus, due to Trey’s suspension during the Spring 1984 semester, the band returned to gigs that fall. Missing from being recorded is a show on October 23rd at a house party at 69 Grant Street, which was the first show billed as Phish and had the debut of the Anastasio/Marshall original “Makisupa Policeman”. The time off would provide fruitful as Mike and Jon would work on their rhythm section chemistry in a band called Dangerous Grapes. Dangerous Grapes, with a large repertoire of Dead and Allman Brothers covers, quickly gained a following. When Trey came back, both Mike and Fish had to make a decision to soldier on with the Grapes or go in the new direction of Phish. Luckily for us, they both decided to rejoin with Trey. Mike Gordon: “I had a choice whether to play with Phish, or with the people from the Dangerous Grapes. I felt like I was clicking better with the Dangerous Grapes people, but it seemed like, in terms of being experimental and thinking of the future, that the Phish people were like that.”

Trey had also found new collaborators during the break. Going back to his home state of New Jersey, he took classes at Mercer County Community College and rekindled an old friend with Tom Marshall. This friendship would soon be the bedrock of Phish’s music as many of the band’s biggest compositions are Anastasio/Marshall songs. Trey also was jamming with Marc Daubert, another childhood friend and percussionist. Daubert would also make the trek to Burlington that fall and being playing gigs with the band. Daubert’s lasting impression would be a songwriting credit on “I Am Hydrogen” and “The Curtain”.

Getting into 11/3/84 from Slade Hall at UVM, the quality is not that great. It gets better as the show progresses but still it’s pretty rough. The whole time I’m listening to it, I’m thinking about Dick’s Picks Volume 22. Every Dick’s Picks had a warning from Dick Latvala warning the listener about imperfections. But with Volume 22, Dick really wanted you to know about it, writing “Warning: This is not an audiophile recording! Many of you may have read the numerous Dick’s Picks Caveat Emptors over the years and thought “Oh yeah… sure… whatever.” Well, this old analog recording source exhibits many audio flaws including high distortion, low vocals, tape hiss, and missing pieces. No fair calling Customer Support and complaining! However, let it be known that this CD also includes some pretty damn exciting and historical music, and for that reason is brought to you with pride.” And because of the rough quality, it’s something that stuck with my mind. This is one of those Phish shows you listen to for its historical quality not the clarity.

The version on Phish.in does not include the interesting “Ignition Sequence” as a rocket launch announces the band ripping into Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour”. It’s an interesting choice and speaks to the band’s humor from an early point in their career. It also reminded me of the introduction to “Hey Sandy” by Polaris from the TV show The Adventures of Pete & Pete. “Midnight Hour” is a fairly standard version of the song with Jeff on lead vocals. The song does go into a pretty good “double time” jam but doesn’t break out. But this early in the band’s career, who would expect that? You can hear Trey call out “Wild Child”, while clock chimes ring out for some reason. A cover from Lou Reed’s first solo album, the song is interesting because it shows how Lou’s influence on Phish was from way before 10/31/98 and the song fits the band’s then-incarnation well.  The song is well-played and tight.

From this, we get the band’s first “Jam”. A nice minor key jam that sounds based on Dire Straits, the band finally gets to stretch out. Trey gets some good leads over Jeff’s rhythm and Mike gets loose on the low end for a very nice boogie. The segue into the Dead’s “Bertha” is heavenly and again showcases what might have been if Phish had not been a success. It also shows why Trey wanted to play it so badly with Furthur at Lock’n last year I believe. The setlist says St. Stephen but both recordings have no trace of St. Stephen in any part of the Bertha Jam. After an odd “knocking” interlude, Trey launches into an odd intro riff to the Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”. As if he knows the song but doesn’t want to play just the original intro. It’s more off a vamp on the chords. The song may have only been partly practiced. I’d love to know the reason for the modified intro. Probably something we’ll never know. During the “Knocking” jam before the breakdown, there is a short “St. Stephen tease” at that point. The “Knocking” breakdown does get quit funky though. Probably would have been a great dance party. An unfortunate tape splice drops us into the ending first known “Camel Walk”, the first performance of a Phish original! A big deal for a local band to have some of their own tunes.

During the break banter, someone asks for “Makisupa Policeman” as it was not to be. The Dead covers continue as the band launches into “Eyes of the World”. We finally hear the band stretch their legs as the version is about 18 minutes along. Beautiful leads over Fish’s driving drums and Mike’s punching bass liens with Jeff’s tight rhythm punches accentuates this version. The beat drops and the recording goes into the last track, a cover of the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post.” The pace quickens and the guitar leads is fast and fierce. Fishman pounds an almost tribal beat of the rising madness of the track. Mike stays right along with the guitars as they hammer out the tune. Jeff and Trey hit with a furious twin guitar attack through the entire tune. If this was left unlabeled, one might even think it was an unearthed bootleg from 1974. Unfortunately the recording quality buries a lot of Fish’s drums and Jeff’s vocals but this fiery Whipping Post gives a glimpse into the rise in the Burlington scene the band will soon experience.

Show #1: 12/2/83

12/2/83 (© Phish Inc.)

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1983-12-02

Friday, 12/02/1983
Harris-Millis Cafeteria – University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Soundcheck: Jam (with audience present)

Set 1: Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress[1], Proud Mary[1], In the Midnight Hour[1],Squeeze Box[1], Roadhouse Blues[1], Happy Birthday to You[1]

Set 2: Scarlet Begonias[1] > Fire on the Mountain[1]

It’s rare when any material surfaces from a band’s first ever show. I recently saw my co-workers play their debut gig as God Dammit Maverick at Club Bohemia and I’m fairly sure they did not capture any of it on tape. Heck even the meticulous Grateful Dead wen’t even lucky to capture their first gig on tape, as far as we know. David Lemieux, if it’s in there, we’d love to hear it. Anyway, thanks to the ever popular From The Archives series by band archivist Kevin Shapiro, finally fans got to hear a sample from the first show. The classic lineup is not in place here and the band wasn’t even called Phish yet. They were billed as Blackwood Convention and consisted of Trey Anastasio on lead guitar and vocals, Jeff Holdsworth on rhythm guitar and vocals, Mike Gordon on bass, and Jon Fishman on drums. This gig was originally though to have been performed on 10/30/1983 at a ROTC dance and that date was alluded to on 10/30/1998 when the band played “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” by the Hollies in honor of their 15th anniversary, which is featured on the known setlist from this show. The date was firmed up when this tape was recovered.

The only publicly released recording from this show is the two-song sequence “Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain,” a pair of Grateful Dead covers. Of course, “Scarlet>Fire” is lauded in Grateful Dead circles as the band’s best song pairing and debuted on March 18, 1977 at the Winterland Ballroom. This version shows just how musically minded this quartet was from the start. Showing off their chops, they play a tight, if not too adventurous, “Scarlet>Fire” with some great noodling from Trey. Some might say all of Phish’s music is noodling but if you want the real deal, his soloing here is all over the place and almost feels like he’s just filling time, which most likely he was. The segue definitely needs work as the transition works but hits a little clunky. As a new band with no original material, simply booked to play a dorm dance, they do an ample job.

Also notable is the available banter, a girl asks Jon Fishman what they’re going to play next, to which he replies “Scarlet Begonias.” The girl goes “Huh” and again Jon says “Scarlet Begonias.” Clearly, she was not a Deadhead. Someone yells AC/DC!, causing Trey to bust out the riff to Back in Black. She then asks if they “know any slow dances at all? Even one?” Not getting a response, she then yells “At least play something we can dance to!” Trey, already showing the brash attitude and wit he would display in the band’s 1.0 phase, deadpans “This is by request,” and the band goes into the track. The song at least proves that if nothing else, the band could have had a career as Vermont’s pre-eminent Grateful Dead cover band. But that was not to be.