Show #103: 5/13/1989 The Orange Grove/Hungry Charlie’s Syracuse, NY

Saturday, 05/13/1989
The Orange Grove, Syracuse, NY

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

Photo Credit: Phish.net
Photo Credit: Phish.net

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 former site of the Orange Grove. (Photo credit: LoopNet)
The former site of the Orange Grove. (Photo credit: LoopNet)

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.

727 S. Crouse Ave. with the successor to Hungry Charlie's, Chuck's upstairs and the original Hungry Charlie's entrance downstairs, now Funk 'N Waffles.
727 S. Crouse Ave. with the successor to Hungry Charlie’s, Chuck’s upstairs and the original Hungry Charlie’s entrance downstairs, now Funk ‘N Waffles.

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.

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Show #90: 3/24/89 The Paradise Rock Club Boston, MA

Friday, 03/24/1989
The Paradise, Boston, MA

Set 1: Possum,  Mike’s Song >  I Am Hydrogen >  Weekapaug Groove,  Golgi Apparatus > Divided Sky,  AC/DC Bag,  If I Only Had a Brain,  Take the ‘A’ Train,  David Bowie

The exterior of the Paradise Rock Club before renovation.
The exterior of the Paradise Rock Club before renovation.

I’m just gonna cut right to it. There’s no need for anyone to listen to this recording. It’s all songs, which there are better versions from this year. The songs aren’t even presented in the right order. “I Am Hydrogen” is cut out of the “Mike’s Groove”. “If I Only Had a Brain” sounds like it opens the show despite being in the number 7 slot on the recording. It does have an early vacuum solo, which is cool to to hear and also to hear Page advised Fish “take it around!” for another 8 bars of solo.  A couple of fun “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” teases in “Possum” and “A-Train”. But for the most part, I’d stay away from this recording for a variety of reasons. Big show at the Front tomorrow.

Show #88: 3/12/89 Nectar’s Burlington, VT

Part of what’s weird about history is what survives the years. Sometimes it’s the obvious things like the Rosetta Stone or The Magna Carta. Sometimes it’s President Harding’s pajamas or an ancient chamberpot. It is in the evidence of these stunning finds that we are presented with what we have from this show at Nectar’s on March 12, 1989. It doesn’t have any standout jams or even real bustouts. It has one theatrical debut that some might say is the ‘real” beginning of the Fishman song tradition and then it has probably one of the oddest moments of Phish history on tape. We get a well-played but boring Mike’s Groove, though it was enough for Fish to allegedly break his snare drum. This evolves into a cover of “If I Only Had A Brain” as the delay and song choice is due to his error. Such a setup for a cover. These Fishman theatrics continue today, most recently with the “Dem Bones” cover setting up the “Suck to Blow” New Year’s gag. Rather than just have Fishman come out to do another Syd Barrett cover, this one has a script attached. A good precursor to the “Hold Your Head Up” tradition.

Then, we get “Alumni Blues” with the alternate lyrics. “Letter to Jimmy Page” goes off the rails when Phish has Eyeburn take the stage and perform one of their own “punk rock” songs that sounds like a terrible CBGB-era band. Just awful and complete time warp. This might have been popular in 1981 but 8 years later and you’re still doing that schtick, yikes. I don’t know who in Phish let this go down, let alone bug their show at the Front 5 days later, let alone that they could get a gig at the Front. Maybe they had a better songs in the catalog but that would not have gotten me to the Front that weekend. No other information about Eyeburn could be found online, the only links were to this show. It’d be interesting to know more about them and how they appeared this night. Also, how their performance survives 26 years later on a Phish tape. The rest of the set has no real highlights. This show can be important though because it would be the 1st show of the last 3-night stand at Nectar’s. The 2nd show remains uncirculated but we’ll have part of the last Nectar’s show next.

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.