Show #102: 5/9/1989 The Front Burlington, VT

Tuesday, 05/09/1989
The Front, Burlington, VT

The SkiRack (formerly The Front) looking up Main St. towards The Woodbury Armory (formerly Hunt's).
The SkiRack (formerly The Front) looking up Main St. towards The Woodbury Armory (formerly Hunt’s).

Set 1: Wilson,  Peaches en Regalia,  Ya Mar,  Mike’s Song >  I Am Hydrogen >  Weekapaug Groove,  The Sloth,  Possum,  Divided Sky

Set 2: You Enjoy Myself,  La Grange,  If I Don’t Be There By Morning[1],  Slave to the Traffic Light >  Esther >  Run Like an Antelope,  I Didn’t Know[2] >  Nowhere Fast[3] ->  I’ve Turned Bad[3] >  I Didn’t Know,  The Lizards,  Bold As Love,  Harpua,  Whipping Post

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] Fish on trombone.
[3] First known performance; Sofi Dillof and “Joe” on vocals.

If you’ve ever been in a rock band, the record release show is usually a big deal. You pester all your friends and acquaintances to show up so that it feels like a big deal and also in hopes that they buy a copy of your album. You also flyer the whole town, putting out the word that your band was focused enough to record the music you’ve been playing. This doesn’t feel like that. Sure Chris Kuroda and friend of the band Kiki Colgan spent the afternoon stuffing j-cards into cassette boxes to make sure they had enough copies on hand but, announcements aside, it doesn’t seem too different from any other night at The Front. Probably because Phish knows they have the fanbase who’ll pick up the new cassette handily.

The show kicks off with the “Wilson>Peaches” combo. Helpfully Trey shakes it soon because it’s starting to become stale. Trey takes the audience to the Bahamas, eliciting a single woo from the crowd, and Phish launches into “Ya Mar”. It’s a solid version. Trey then borrows a bit from 5/6/89 saying now “let’s take it away from the Bahamas and take it to Rhode Island!” launching into the “Mike’s>Groove”. The “Mike’s” is short but builds to a nice frenzy structured by Page’s organ layering. They like it so much that they play the ending chords twice with a real nice sustain by Trey in the middle. The “Weekapaug Groove” is excellent though with great bass work by Mike and very fluid playing from Trey ending with solid machine gunning. After the “Weekpaug”, Trey finally plugs the tape that you can now buy at the soundboard and Mike adds that “Junta has no meaning in Nicaraguan.” The “Sloth”/”Possum” combo is fun if not outstanding. The set closes with “The Divided Sky”, which is another solid whole band effort.

“Self!,” Trey calls out to start set two, calling for “You Enjoy Myself”. “This song’s from our first album! This next’s one’s from our first album, available at the soundboard,” says the band. “FOR FREE!,” replies an audience member jokingly. Trey also comments it’s Mike’s birthday, an audience member not Mike Gordon and then Page says later we’ll play something for Chris’ birthday. Trey counts it off and “YEM” begins. It’s solid but highlights are when Trey gets shred at 12:30 before the bass and drums section and a sucking a bone (?) vocal jam and ends with a Fishman bass drum solo brought on by fan and Trey’s encouragement. Mike also teases “Moby Dick” in a nod to Fishman’s drum solo, starting a trend that will last a career. A ripping “La Grange” follows. We get an odd cut and dump right into “Slave to the Traffic Light” in progress and with some quality issues, missing the Bob Dylan cover “If I Don’t Be There By Morning”. “Slave” isn’t very good and doesn’t peak. The non-reaction of the crowd is fitting. “Esther” comes next and has some interesting woodblock coloring from Fishman, keeping time with Page’s organ riff. This “Esther” also is played at a faster tempo than usual and hilarious ends with the rest of the band ending the song early on Trey who’s still soloing. A solid yet average “Antelope” comes next. Antics come to the front in “I Didn’t Know”. Out of Fishman’s trombone solo, he calls “Sing with me Sofi!” Brining Sofi Dillof, Page’s future first wife, and “Joe” who is believed to be a member of Ninja Custodian up to play two Ninja Custodian songs “Nowhere Fast” and “I’ve Turned Bad”. A little punk rock break in the middle? Why not. Phish brings the tempo back down with a nice slow closing reprise of “I Didn’t Know”  I didn’t know that I was that far gone takes on new meaning. Chris finally gets his birthday song in the form of “The Lizards” and it’s a solid version, again played at a faster tempo than usual, especially in the “If I Were a Dog” section. That section is also preceded by a tape cut and leads off with just Trey and Fish, which adds to the beauty. “Bold as Love” has Trey shredding but not over the top. It’s a very tasteful version with some hot licks. The well-loved story of “Harpua” follows. Trey begins the story and when introducing Harpua, Mike goes “Tell ’em about the ass.” recalling 4/20/89 when the band jammed on “non-shot ass”, and the band plays the defending riff that used for that version during Trey’s story. This time Harpua has the “twice shot ass”. The fight is underplayed by a jam on the Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimmie Some Lovin'” ironically. It’s a good version but nowhere near as amazing as 4/20/89. The show closes with a meandering “Whipping Post”. For a show with some history, there’s not much here that’s historical but a solid effort.

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Studio Album #1: Junta 5/8/89

1989 cassette version
Written by trey anastasio unless noted

Side one

  1. “Fee”
  2. “You Enjoy Myself”
  3. “Esther”
  4. “Golgi Apparatus” (Anastasio, Tom Marshall, Bob Szuter, Aaron Woolf)
  5. “Foam”
  6. “Dinner and a Movie” (Anastasio, Steve Pollak)

Side two

  1. “The Divided Sky”
  2. “David Bowie”
  3. “Fluffhead” (Anastasio, Pollak)
  4. “Fluff’s Travels” (Anastasio, Pollak)
  • Part 1: “Fluff’s Travels”
  • Part 2: “The Chase”
  • Part 3: “Who do? We do!”
  • Part 4: “Clod”
  • Part 5: “Bundle of Joy”
  • Part 6: “Arrival”
  1. “Contact” (Mike Gordon)
The original Junta cassette cover with Fishman's face as released in May 1989.
The original Junta cassette cover with Fishman’s face as released in May 1989.

There’s no doubt Phish will go down in history for their live shows. That’s where the magic happens and most of the noteworthy things the band has done. The picture is not complete, however, without including the studio albums. There are some great moments found there as well and are pretty clear snapshots of the musical progress of the band. Not counting “The White Tape” as that feels mostly like demos and song snippets, the studio journey begins at Junta.

Recorded throughout late 1988, it’s amazing that the studio takes are almost more complete and detailed than their live counterparts at the time. For a good comparison, listen to 12/10/88 and then play Junta and the difference is almost night and day but they were working on the album about the same time they played that show. The other thing that’s startling about Junta is that the band produced the album by themselves. Yes, they had a lot of help from studio engineer Gordon Hookailo to get the feeling right. It’s amazing that this polished a work is not only the band’s first studio album but self-produced. That takes a lot of hutzpah. No doubt a lot of the recording was live to tape but there are some overdubs and studio tricks. I wish there was more documentation about the recording of Junta but neither Phish: The Biography, The Phishing Manual, Phish.com or Phish.net cover it in much detail.

The album leads off with “Fee”. The thumping kick drum of Fishman was probably many people’s introduction to Phish after being advised to start with this album in the days before A Live One. A fun note about the recording process is the effect on Trey’s voice was accomplished by running Trey’s vocals through a pair of headphones into another microphone. Trey, of course, would attempt to recreate this effect on tour by singing his vocals into a megaphone. The layers on the studio version are insane. You have the triangle and the guiro on top of Fish’s regular drumbeat. You have the repeating “Fee” harmony line. You have all the added sound effects. The unique instrumentation should grab any listener but add-in that this is the first true studio track from the band and it’s mind-blowing.

Then, the band doesn’t pull any punches and takes it one step higher with “You Enjoy Myself”, considered by the band themselves as THE SONG. The studio version though leaves a little to be desired though. It’s well-layed and mixed but when compared to live versions, feels like they held a little bit back. But a huge difference from the same era’s live versions is everything feels so even, no rushing the tempo for pushing volume. It really hits the 4-man unit feeling throughout even as Trey solos over the top. The “Wash Uffizi” section hits a real groove that also hasn’t translated live yet. It’s just much smoother. I also like that it has a truncated section that keeps the vocal jam feeling instead of some fabricated finish that other bands might have done in the studio.

“Esther” is probably best heard here than an actual live version. With how rough early versions were in late ’88, it’s quite amazing that the studio version came together so nicely. The backing harmonies are just right. Trey and Page weave delicately around each other in the middle “adrift” section. Trey said that just about the time that Phish was starting up the Junta sessions, the band kind of abandoned Gamehendge but it would have been nice to see this bookended with “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters” on this album since the two are very similar. Trey hits an amazing tone on the gorgeous outro solo to close the recording. No live version has really touched this one since, which is amazing because it doesn’t sound like it has many overdubs.

“Golgi Apparatus”, of course, was probably the first “Phish” song ever written with its lyrics coming from Trey and Tom Marshall’s junior high biology class. The bridge solo would most likely come later though. Not much difference here between live versions and the studio version. Just as energetic and tight.

“Foam” is a beast of a song. The fact the band was able to polish it enough for recording and then able to harness all of it on tape is amazing. Mike’s bass hits hard and sharp, setting the tone and helps remain a driving force through the song. Page’s keys and Trey’s guitar trade off leads as it depends towards the verse. The fact that each of the 4 lines is so clearly heard,e even on lower fidelity recordings is astonishing and hats of to engineer Hookailo on that one. You can almost pick a line and listen to it for the entire 7-minute track, even more so on the 192 kHz digital release. Mike also backs off nicely when Page and Trey take their respective solos in the last 2 minutes. The ending descent and buildup is also masterfully recorded as the madness isn’t lost.

“Dinner and a Movie” is a curious inclusion as it’s very short but it’s odd rhythm structure does showcase the band’s ability to get quirky and play fast. The main thing I’d love to know is what the recording is that’s played under the band. It sounds like random sound effects, much a little Beatles recording but knowing Phish it might be themselves played backwards. Nothing has been noted of what was going on during this session either. Inquiring minds want to know. But it’s a fun song to end side one of the original cassette order.

The later more well-known cover of Junta as designed by Jim Pollock. This cover would be finished in December 1989, 7 months after the initial release.
The later more well-known cover of Junta as designed by Jim Pollock. This cover would be finished in December 1989, 7 months after the initial release.

Side two kicks off with Junta’s indubitable centerpiece “Divided Sky”. Captured here in all of its perfectly written glory, this is a masterwork of both Trey Anastasio’s composition and Gordon Hookailo’s engineering. The song, of course, is perfect in its tension and interlocking parts. The 4 move effortlessly through the complicated piece. Adding to that is how perfectly all 4 parts are captured. One doesn’t overpower the other. Even when Trey clearly has the lead, the other 3 parts aren’t merely pushed to the side or turned down to be filler. Each part takes as much equally. Such as the “Christmas Star” middle section, Page’s organ fill rises and falls along with Trey’s lead guitar part and then when Page’s swirling organ drops out, Mike’s complimentary bass line takes its place and moves the piece along just as much, all the while Fishman’s drum part keeps things humming along. It almost feels like Hookailo rotated the other parts’ levels behind Trey to keep you interested on everything at once. Then, it switches to the “Gus” outro” and the 3 parts become almost one, driving everything while Trey plays his fugue lead. It never gets muddy though. While the 3 parts sound together, you can clearly hear them separately and discern who’s doing what. At the end, the 3 rise to Trey’s part and they almost become a whole unit again with each one countering the other, even though Trey’s part remains the lead. The fact that the recording captures this dynamic without making things muddy, again, is a real engineering feat. It’s enough to wish there were isolated tracks, so you could go in and out of each part by itself and it’d be very dramatic. Fish’s drum part alone would be a wonderful story to hear. Clearly a lot of effort went into this song and rightfully so.

For the complete opposite, one only needs to skip ahead one track to “David Bowie”. Even though it’s highly composed, it’s very cacophonous. The band almost doesn’t sound linked up and like the rest of the band’s just trying to remain with Trey as he swoops and dives through parts. It’s nowhere near as polished as “Divided Sky”. You can almost hear the collective sigh as it drops into the jam segment. Also, all the parts sound real muddy hear especially the rhythm section. The lone real jam on the album, Trey and Page almost take it easy with light riffs between each other. There’s also again, very weird sound effects throughout the jam as well, adding to the madness. It’s almost too much. The jam would have been enough without the weird sounds. Again, there’s no record as to why they exist or who thought of this. They also seem like an afterthought and aren’t set at the right levels. The sound effects are usually too loud for what’s going on. I know the band had played with sound effects on “The White Tape” but there’s really no benefit here and I’d love to hear the explanation for this one. The Bowie jam is also pretty typical of the jams at the time, maybe a little slower than the live ones.

“Fluffhead” and it’s counterpart “Fluff’s Travels” are another long suite played to perfection. I think one of the most interesting things about the studio version of “Fluffhead” is Trey is on acoustic guitar for most of the song and then right as it goes from “The Chase” to “Who Do? We Do!” there’s a switch to electric that you don’t even notice until the tone changes. The acoustic also matches Page’s piano really well during their paired parts. Not much room for variation here but it’s certainly tighter than comparable live versions from the same era. Also, there’s less of a release when they build in “Bundle of Joy” and release in “Arrival” on the Fluffhead refrain than live versions. Would have been nice to have some dynamics there to emphasize how big it is when the band arrives in unison to the Fluffhead refrain. It’s a nice switchback that the song ends with Trey on acoustic again, bringing it full circle.

“Contact” ends the album perfectly. I’ve always been a fan of this song since my first show, so I’m definitely biased to it but it really does send out a nice message. Mike’s bass intro is so warm and fuzzy, it’s really inviting. Each member kind of has their own intro into the song, which almost feels like a coda of introductions, reminding you once again of the 4 parts that make up Phish. I also like that Phish really gives the song that “lounge singer” treatment that it deserves on record. I also like that since it’s Mike’s song, the bass is at the forefront of the song and leads the way, not forced to take a backseat in the car. Also, during live shows, Phish would try to get everyone to sing along and the use of the children’s chorus for that effect is a nice touch. Video of them recording the kids can be seen at the 4:21 mark in the 20th anniversary montage video below.

The CD re-release in 1991 by Elektra Records would add two live tracks from 7/25/88, “Sanity” and “Icculus”, and a home recording of an Oh Kee Pa ceremony entitled “Union Federal”. Since those were not on the original album and the 2012 re-release, they are not included here.

Junta remains the gold standard of Phish studio records so far. Their subsequent efforts came close. It’s odd that Phish would never self-produce an album again nor work with Gordon Hookailo either. Maybe that’s a good thing as well since it’s hard to capture lightning in a bottle once let alone twice. Trey moved on from long, composed pieces, besides for a handful, as well but he did the right thing in getting them all down on tape early on, rather than waiting for the next go round or a major record deal. This is Phish at their most refined and raw. An odd paradox that makes for a classic album.

Note: This review used the HDTracks 24/192 FLAC as reference.

Show #76: 11/3/88 – Molly’s Cafe Boston, MA.

Tavern in the Square in Allston at 161 Brighton Ave. This occupy the spot where Molly’s Cafe was in the late 1980s/early 90s.

Thursday, 11/03/1988
Molly’s Cafe, Boston, MA

Soundcheck: Shaggy Dog, Foam

Set 1: Fire,  Golgi Apparatus,  Fluffhead >  Possum,  Fee,  Alumni Blues >  Letter to Jimmy Page >  Alumni Blues,  Good Times Bad Times

Set 2: Time Loves a Hero,  Walk Away,  The Lizards,  Shaggy Dog,  Whipping Post,  Contact, Bold As Love,  Take the ‘A’ Train,  Run Like an Antelope

Set 3: Suzy Greenberg,  Foam,  I Didn’t Know[1],  Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Harpua,  David Bowie

[1] Fish on trombone.

A theme I’ve been hammering on these last few posts is the fine line between being silly and being professional. As the members of Spinal Tap put it, “There’s such a fine line between stupid…and clever.” And the reason for this is we’re not only seeing this duality right now as Phish expands beyond their hometown crowd of Burlington but I want the readers to know this is a very common theme of Phish’s career. They have such silly lyrics but such serious musicianship that towing that line is very important and will impact the band’s direction for the entirety of their career. I once had a history professor that said the entire history of the United States can be charted on a graph that shows the struggle between Liberty and Security and every moment pulls one way or another. Phish’s career could be marked the same way with Silliness and Professionalism replacing Liberty and Security. I will to use that to put this show into context. At this point, no band from Vermont had really broken into the important regional music hub that is Boston, Massachusetts. So, when Ben “Junta’ Hunter was able to book Phish into Molly’s this November night, there was a lot riding on the show.

The Allston neighborhood of Boston is well known as a music hot spot, so much so that it’s earned the nickname “Allston Rock City”. The place used to be a bevy of clubs due to its proximity to Boston and Harvard Universities and easy spot on both the B branch of the MBTA Green Line and the 66 bus from Harvard Square. This means that its the epicenter of the collegiate world with its low-cost housing and many nightclubs. In the late 80s, there was a huge college rock scene happening in Boston. Many of the bands who were playing the same circuit were Pixies, Mission of Burma, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Dinosaur Jr. But you think of those names and it’s all punk rock/ska/grunge, almost the opposite of Phish. The band could find their own niche here in Beantown if promoted right and Ben Hunter thought he was just the man to do that. He and John Paluska teamed up to work with Phish, Paluska handling Western MA and the Northampton scene and Hunter taking on Eastern MA and the Boston scene for now.

Mosko’s at 161 Brighton Ave in the 1950s. (Photo credit: Dirty Old Boston blog)

Hunter, in an interview with Ellis Godard for The Phish Companiondescribes Molly’s Cafe as “It was the kind of place that had live music only one night a week. If memory serves, they had Dead cover bands and the like on Sundays, and the rest of the time it was a rather, if you’ll excuse the expression, “Euro-trashy” type of dance club.” But, he said “there was a band called Chuck & Helen who used to play a couple of times a week at several Allston (the part of Boston affectionately dubbed “the student slums”) bars (they probably still do). They played some Dead songs and all the other predictable covers – “Love the One You’re With,” “Moondance,” etc… Anyway, they always played to a packed house, which meant a hundred, maybe a couple of hundred people on Friday and Saturday nights. They were a merely adequate outfit and they did very well in terms of people coming out to see them, so I knew there was a market of hungry music fans just waiting for a quality band like Phish. But since they hadn’t played any gigs in the area they weren’t an attractive booking for any local clubs. I thought to myself, Why not just rent a room and tell all my friends and basically throw a huge party with great entertainment? As it turned out, at both those shows there were hundreds of people who showed up.” You can read more of this interview over on Phish.net.

So, the gigs ended up being a success and put Phish on the Boston music map. As for the music itself, Phish.net user Shae_Dougall writes, “This show is unremarkable in almost every way. It’s not bad under any circumstances, but this is nothing that the band hadn’t played before in terms of adventurism.” But I doubt Shae understands the importance of the gig. The move from Burlington to Boston is as important as the Beatles going from Liverpool to London. It’s not the giant jump across the pond to Ed Sullivan but if the Beatles don’t win over London, then rock music would be dead on arrival. So it also goes for Phish’s career. Sure, they might have moved on, maybe tried to make a splash in New York but if Phish can’t get into Boston and its college rock world, it might have been the end. So, if you’re playing your first gig on a huge music scene, do you bust out Gamehendge? No, the talking alone would have killed the room, even if a good chunk is Hunter’s friends. You play your best material as tightly as possible. Even when they do get silly late in the 3rd set with “Harpua”, it’s about the shortest cleanest “Harpua” yet. The play “The Lizards” and the only banter is a dedication to Mike’s girlfriend Cilla for feeding them dinner that night. You lead off with a smoking Hendrix cover and close the first set with a hot Led Zeppelin cover. I’m sure Trey worked hard on this setlist like he hadn’t before, making sure everything fell into place. “Whipping Post” is kept neat with the only jam really being “Dave’s Energy Guide”. “Foam” improves upon its debut. In Phish 3.0, this would be called a “festival set” and derided by many. I think this actually a really strong night of Phish in 1988 and I like it better than 10/29/88. Next it’s out of the bars and back to the college circuit.

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.

Show #62: 7/25/88

Monday, 07/25/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 3: Skin It Back,  Harpua,  Big Black Furry Creature from Mars,  Sanity

Encore: Icculus,  Camel Walk

“We’d like to do a little Jimmy Buffett now.” A short show today as Set 3 is all that exists of this one. However, it’s still an important show in fact for some fans this show contains the first live tracks they might have ever heard. The set opens with a nice “Skin It Back”. The band’s really grooving here. Page lays down a real nice bed of Hammond organ and then Trey and Mike push and pull on top of it in a deep groove. We then get “Harpua” dedicated to Paul Languedoc. Trey changes Jimmy to Paul in a playful way. Mike also gets Page to riff on alternatives to goldfish such as crawfish and halibut. This “Harpua” is also played at a much slower than usual pace adding odd tension to the song. “Big Black Furry Creature for Mars” comes next and it has Mike really having fun with the audience. “TAKE IT RIGHT AROUND!”, Mike yells and Trey drops into a punk rock “Theme from the Flintstones” as he yells “KEEP TAKING IT AROUND! PICK IT UP! PICK IT UP!” Never heard Mike so animated during this song as he’s a but more demure on current versions. After another verse, he turns his energy on the crowd yelling “HERE’S YOUR TURN TO SING ALONG! I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” Mike’s shenanigans continue introducing “Sanity” as a Jimmy Buffett tune as quoted above. This is the version of “Sanity” that appears as bonus tracks on the Elektra CD re-release of Junta that most people know so well. This might have even been your introduction to live Phish. It’s a fairly straight forward version of Sanity but with a seat rumbling trombone solo from Fishman that’s quite impressive. “Thank you good night! How’s everybody doing tonight? We’re Jimmy Buffett, good night!”, Mike yells as the audience claps for more. Make me wonder what got into Mike that night. They come back on stage and Mike informs everyone that “We’re gonna lighten it up a bit” and we get the second track that appeared on the Elektra version of Junta, “Icculus”. “This is a special song, this is an important song,” starts off Trey. “This is a dance song,” interjects Mike, over clearly a beat to slow to dance to. “THIS IS RED ROCKS! THIS IS THE EDGE!,” continues Trey, riffing on U2. Mike throws in one last “Diarrhea” over the top. Icculus continues its build to the name of the author of the Helping Friendly Book, the book which could save your life like it did for the band, the great, and powerful, the one, the only, the man who wrote the FUCKING HELPING FRIENDLY BOOK, THE ONE WHO WROTE THE BOOK! ICCULUS! But I digress, it’s probably the definitive “Icculus” for most people as the song is extremely rare. The set closes with Mike’s “dance song” finally in “Camel Walk”. It’s a little sloppy but fun. Mike plays a lot of notes. Page thanks the crowd. Mike reminds people to tip their waiters and waitresses. Trey reminds people that Ninja Custodian will be playing there tomorrow night. The band then loaded the van and headed west on a great adventure. All in all, a very silly set from Phish before hitting the road. Probably, trying to get some of it out of their system before a long drive. We’ve got some big shows coming up. Due to the release of Colorado ’88, I will do my best to piece together the most accurate shows but it may prove difficult. It also may delay the next few posts. Thanks for reading.