November 1987 Promotional Photo. Credit: Phish.com
Set 1: Slave to the Traffic Light, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu >The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Flat Fee, Wilson > Peaches en Regalia, Take the ‘A’ Train, Golgi Apparatus > Divided Sky > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Good Times Bad Times
Set 1: McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters -> Sparks, Funky Bitch, You Enjoy Myself,Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Harry Hood, Fire
Set 2: Timber (Jerry), Fluffhead, I Didn’t Know, Fee, Corinna, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues
Set 3: Jam, Suzy Greenberg > Possum, Divided Sky > Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Dinner and a Movie, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Whipping Post, Harpua, Take the ‘A’ Train, Camel Walk, La Grange, Bike, Slave to the Traffic Light
 First known performance.
 First known Phish performance.
Ah, the end of the early years. Or at least as they’re grouped on the Spreadsheet and PhishTracks. These are also the last known gigs at Hunt’s. Hunt’s proved to be an important incubator for these early years, almost in tandem with Nectar’s. While Nectar’s gets all the credit because it is still around and the band played there for much longer, the availability of Hunt’s is just as crucial. Before I get into reviewing those two shows, I would like to let you in on an idea I have, one that sparked the whole genesis of this blog.
You might see the full title includes “The Phishsonian Presents”. The Phishsonian is a concept I have for a museum/retail space in Burlington celebrating the history of Phish. I’d love to work with the band to display old artifacts and photographs and just have an official presence in the city. People can learn old landmarks and about Burlington’s history. What does this have to do with Hunt’s. Hunt’s is housed in a building called the Woodbury Armory, located at 101 Main Street in Burlington. The Armory had a fire a few years ago and has sat dormant but a recent project is reviving the building, attaching it to a new hotel. The redesigned Armory will have retail space. I’d love for this retail space to be the Phishsonian, the official museum of Phish. This project could bring in fans from around the world, have special events, and teach Vermont youth about the music industry, something I wish I had growing up there. It would also contain all of the fans’ journey as well. The Mockingbird Foundation, The Phellowship, Surrender to the Flow magazine, would also be part of the story. The largest part would be capturing fan interviews. We’d love to create the largest Phish fan interview repository, so we have everyone’s favorite shows and wild stories, giving the biggest picture of our phenomenon. If you want to know more, this page will begin to have concepts and more information. You can also write me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to get this in front of Jason Colton, Kevin Shapiro and the band’s management but for now, it’s just a dream.
Anyway, on to the music. 11/18/87 you can mostly throw away. If you do want to check it out, Set 2 is where the highlights are with a well-played “You Enjoy Myself” and the first “I Didn’t Know” and “complete” Fluffhead. Other than that, the energy is just very flat. Also, all of those highlights (except for firsts) can be found the next night. 11/19 just has better energy, a better setlist, and just overall better “vibes”. It also is a nice soundboard recording that, except for some isolation moments, really sounds quite good for the age. The show kicks off with a very nice “McGrupp”, notable for the first with a Page solo. Page nails his part here. The song segues beautifully into “Sparks”, which the band continues to beautifully play. Fishman nails the drum parts more than we’ve heard so far. Funky Bitch is alright. The “YEM” is a great short early specimen. “Sally” is fun. The “Harry Hood” is the highlight of the set. The band absolutely demolishes the peak with Page and Trey locking in together to bring it home. Only wish it didn’t have some of the isolation moments during the peak. Trey shreds “Fire” to end the first set.
The 2nd set is once again where the money is because this is one of the best “Timber (Jerry)”‘s there is or ever will be. It starts off innocent enough with Trey hammering out the rhythm while Fishman plays actually a different, more tribal pattern. And then it just goes OUT THERE. Trey shreds the song to pieces. There’s nothing left to do by the end but throw out a chorus to wrap it up. Seriously, a MUST-LISTEN jam. The 2nd ever “complete” “Fluffhead” follows and it’s a beauty. Clearly, they’d been working hard on all the parts. From “Fluffhead” to “The Chase” to “Who Do? We Do!” to “Clod” to “Bundle of Joy” to “Arrival”, it’s all there and all nailed. The outro solo is also a gem. Not to say those parts wouldn’t creep out as their own songs again, they still make a few appearances but it was clear, “Fluffhead” was finally a complete work. They follow it up with the 2nd ever “I Didn’t Know”. The song is not yet the Fishman showpiece it is today, whether it’s vacuum or trombone solo. It’s a fun song with a neat vocal arrangement. A great breather here. The set continues to mellow out with a standard “Fee”, still sans megaphone, a light but pretty “Corinna”, and a standard “Alumni>Letter>Alumni”.
Set 3 opens with Trey introducing “the Mike Gordon band”, a funny thought now that Mike has his own band, which is unofficially known as “the Mike Gordon Band”. Anyway, this prompts a short jam, in which, Mike riffs on James Brown-like quotes over the band. This leads into a nice, slow “Suzy Greenberg”. A fast moving “Possum” kicks the set up a notch. “Divded Sky” comes next, still in it’s short form. It’s not a good version here with the band hitting some confusion in the escalating scales section. You want a real Trey flub, here it is. They manage to finish it though and then tear into “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars”. The anger oft he flub comes out in this “BBFCFM”. The band then debuts “Dinner and a Movie”. Interestingly enough, it does include the slow off-beat prelude but kicks off right into the hard driving groove. If you’ve heard the song, it really doesn’t do much else and the nearly 8 minutes hear, really push the boundaries of good taste. Page does a pretty version of “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” to bring the crowd back in it. “Whipping Post” kind of goes nowhere and is not as fiery as previous versions. Interestingly, we get the debut of the 2nd half of “Harpua” next, still without any context of Poster Nutbag. It’s a sign of things to come but not fully realized yet. “Take The A Train” again displays the and’s jazz chops ably, despite Trey introducing the song as “Fuck Your Face”. “Camel Walk” is a little weird as Trey plays the chord profession in an odd fashion. It’s as if he’s trying to make the Holdsworth-penned tune his own. It doesn’t quite work and the song doesn’t sound quite right. “La Grange” is a highlight with the band nailing the changes and Trey showing off on guitar. Fish comes out to debut his cover of Pink Floyd’s “Bike”. Unlike his recent string of debuts, he actually knows most of the words and the song seems to fit his singing style at this point in his career. The set ends recorded 1987 on a high note with a very well played “Slave to the Traffic Light”. I’ve been a but hard on the band so far saying “Slave” hasn’t hit the peaks right yet. It doesn’t quite build how I like it but you can’t argue with how beautiful Trey plays and has those long sustaining notes, which will become his trademark. It’s a great early “Slave” and the perfect way to say goodbye to 1987.
Hopefully tomorrow, we’ll bust into 1988 with a show from my hometown! I’d also like to thank Twenty Years Later for a shout-out the other day. He’s doing a cool thing, reviewing 1994, exactly 20 years after the show. I’ll be doing that a few years from now but still a very cool concept. Be sure tog et in touch if you want more info about the Phishsonian and how to get involved. Thanks for reading!