Show #74: 9/24/88

Saturday, 09/24/1988
Humphries House (The Zoo), Amherst College, Amherst, MA

Set 1: Golgi Apparatus,  On Your Way Down,  Alumni Blues >  Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues,  You Enjoy Myself ->  Wilson >  Peaches en Regalia >  La Grange,  Take the ‘A’ Train,  Divided Sky[1],  Bold As Love

Set 2: David Bowie,  The Lizards,  Walk Away >  Possum,  Fee ->  Sparks >  Whipping Post

Set 3: Good Times Bad Times >  Fluffhead,  The Curtain >  AC/DC Bag,  Dinner and a Movie, Contact,  Big Black Furry Creature from Mars

[1] First known complete version.

This gig looks fairly tame. It’s a former frat house turned co-op living down in Amherst, MA, the Pioneer Valley of course being a dense region of colleges being a perfect landing point for Phish. The actual name of the building is Humphries House, if you’d like to go looking for it. I’ve mentioned before in the post about 3/12/88 that future band manager John Paluska was in the house and it was based on the strength of Gamehendge that he booked Phish for the Zoo’s Full Moon parties, a tradition that apparently remains today. Well, the first Zoo gig was April 2nd and while not much is known about it, clearly it went well enough for a second gig. This is that second gig but as notable as it was that Paluska believed in the band enough to keep booking them at his place, John also had a long-time friend in Boston named Ben “Junta” Hunter. Yes, this is who Phish named their first album after. More detail will come on that later. However, by seeing the band’s “legendary” Zoo parties, he felt that there could be room in Boston’s busy club scene for a band like Phish. This would escalate mere months later but more will detail about that in an upcoming post. No history will be written until it’s time.

There’s something about this show that feels so different from the club gigs though. I think the easy feeling that a friend was running the show but the band at ease. The result is a much more balanced setlist, putting ample emphasis on originals and covers. No doubt the strength of the originals here and how well they meshed with the covers selection furthered Hunter’s thoughts on the band’s marketability. Set 1 kicks off with “Golgi” minus the extended intro from 8/27/88 and it’s well played. “On Your Way Down” is pretty standard as is the following “Alumni>Letter>Alumni”. The “YEM”, dedicated to host John Paluska, is where the show picks up. It’s a tight version with an awesome segue right into “Wilson” with Trey using the song’s chords as the marker and it also ties in “Peaches” again with Trey using the “Boom Blat” section to sound out the drum intro as on 9/13/88. A ripping “La Grange” follows with a loud crowd into the selection. Trey plays rock star and wails on the ending. Taking it down a notch properly, Page gets a nice showcase on “A Train” as per usual. Again, setlist building is coming along there. But it’s all fodder compared to the main event. For the first time, Phish plays “Divided Sky” in its entirety. Combining the original opening snippet heard in earlier shows with the closing segment to “No Dogs Allowed”, everyone knows it’s a masterwork. There’s still some kinks to be worked out. Trey plays a weird ascending riff during the opening segment when Page has his piano fills. Trey hits a few flubs on the crossover point between the two songs. But the jam is beautiful with some “Popeye the Sailorman” teases thrown in. Not even the old stop/start style outro here as it goes full blast and picks up speed to the ending. The crowd erupts. How do you reward that enthusiasm? You bring the house down and end the set with a screaming cover of Hendrix’s “Bold as Love”. Trey hits the tone just right and it’s truly triumphant. Best version yet.

“The window is now ajar.” – Trey
“Once a window, now a jar.” – Mike

Set 2 kicks off with another Phish original “The Lizards”. With the energy of the new “Divided Sky” in the books, this ends up being a ripping version of “Lizards” played at a faster temp than usual. It has a beautiful “If I Were A Dog” segment that not even the crowd clapping can destroy. Hot cover du jour “Walk Away” follows and it’s a very nice concise version that’s much cleaner than previous attempts. The “Possum” that follows is also quite good. This is one of those gigs where the band knows it has home-field advantage and it’s going to run with it. It’s clear on this Possum that Trey’s solos feel more melodic and less chaotic. He’s hitting the right notes instead of playing notes just to play notes and that restraint is coming across beautifully here. “Fee” is performed without the megaphone and is played note for note. Almost catching the fact that most of the set has been original material at this point, the band decides to close with two covers. The Who’s “Sparks” from Tommy serves a bridge from “Fee” to “Whipping Post, making it’s first appearance in a year. The “Whipping Post” is noteworthy because previous versions had been rather unwieldy, building into a cacophony of noise that almost loses the rhythm. This one maintains subdued and Fish opts to keep the high-hat running rather than join in the solo and it makes the song more melodic but also keep it tied together as Page and Trey get spacey during the jam. It works much better in this aspect than “crazier” versions. Again, this show of restraint will be very important for the next few years in establishing a fan base.

We don’t get all of Set 3 but what we do get is pretty amazing. A ripping “Good Times, Bad Times” to kick it off is always a great idea. Knowing they have the audience now, they go right into “Fluffhead”. It contains another “Popeye” tease and Mike actually gets the crowd to sing along to the “Bundle of Joy” section humorously. Keeping it going, the band launches into “The Curtain”, the intro being picked out amazingly. My only beef is Page is a little low in the mix but the band hits those out of the park. The recording closes out with a very well-received call of “AC/DC Bag” and you can hear the enthusiasm from the crowd. The band gets really loose and funky on this version. It’s probably the loosest version yet. They’re slinking along just behind the beat in all the right ways. It’ll make you want to groove right wherever you are. The jam is also a lot of fun and has some fun teases by Trey including “Popeye”, “The Flintstones Theme”, and “London Bridge”. Again, the song ends and you can hear how loud the crowd is. Clearly, the band is staring to find faith in their original material and its strength. The covers will help keep the crowd interested and gain new fans but the fans are coming around. They are just starting to hit the high gear down in Amherst and you can feel the shift forward on this night.