Show #17: 2/13/87

Stearns Hall – Johnson State College

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1987-02-13/

Friday, 02/13/1987
Johnson State College, Johnson, VT

Set 1: Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Possum, Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light -> Quinn the Eskimo, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues[1], Suzy Greenberg[2], Sanity[3], Good Times Bad Times

Set 2: Wilson, Melt the Guns -> Dave’s Energy Guide, Fluffhead[3], Harry Hood[3]

[1] No vocals.
[2] First known version; Dude of Life on vocals.
[3] Dude of Life on vocals.

Welcome to 1987, a year many consider the first real year of Phish since it is the first full year as a foursome and the band found their own sound in this year. We start it in the cold of February in the woods of Johnson, Vermont. Johnson is a small town about 30 minutes north of Stowe, a major resort town. Much like Goddard, being out in the woods tends to give a bit of freedom. This show was in the basement of the dining hall, known as Stearns Hall, in the performance space known as the Base Lodge. Don’t go looking for it as it has been renovated as of 2008. The remoteness of the woods again give way to a weird night of Phish and even drew in some of their friends along.

The show kicks off with a decent “Sneakin’ Sally” to get the blood moving and also a solid “Possum”. But you really get the feeling that it’s a pretty standard show, which is still better than 85% of most live shows out there. A light “Golgi Apparatus” rolls into “Slave to the Traffic Light”. The “Slave” is interesting because the band bails on it before it can even start up. Something happens with Trey’s guitar about a minute into it and the rest of the band continues as a trio, which is cool to hear Page riff on “Slave”. They bail about 2 minutes in and get into a nice funk jam, still as a trio. Mike steps up and starts dropping bass bombs like it’s 1997. Trey finally joins back in with some tasty chords and the song rolls into “Quinn the Eskimo” as Mike pounds out the bass line. A quick cut fires up “Alumni Blues>Letter to Jimmy Page>Alumni”. Now the PhishTracks version only has the ending of Alumni and plays it twice, a problem with the site. Downloading it from the Spreadsheet, I was able to get the whole version. I’m thinking I should just download from the spreadsheet and ETree when available. Regardless, this “Alumni” is quite groovy with great work from Mike holding down the bottom end. “Jimmy Page” cooks as always but the real note is that the closing “Alumni” is instrumental, just grooving.

Next, we get a very important Phish debut. It was this night that the crowd got to know “Suzy Greenberg”. A favorite of the band, the debut gets the Dude of Life on vocals. This is why I told you a trip to Johnson State brought their friends along too. This version lacks the trademark Fishman musings in between verses and the Dude sounds super pissed while singing it. He also sounds like Joe Cocker. It’s interesting for its historic quality but not really outstanding beyond that. The Dude’s angst level continues for “Sanity” as he yells his way through the song. The audio quality is also very poor on this track. With the energy already high, Phish pounds through “Good Times Bad Times”. A long pause gives way to an early “Wilson”, a song which is not yet ready for primetime yet. Luckily a music highlight follows in the form of “Melt the Guns>Dave’s Energy Guide”. It starts of simple enough with a fast version of “Melt the Guns” and then about 2:30 in we leave the structure oft he song and pretty jam envelopes. It almost goes Type II but not quite. At about 5:54, Trey begins to tease the riff and the band easily rolls back into “Melt the Guns”. A really great segue goes into “Dave’s Energy Guide”, which is even better with Page following Trey’s guitar part on keys. It rips and is definitely the best version by then and so far. It’s really high energy, no pun intended. The Dude of Life comes back out for “Fluffhead”. He spouts some really odd lyrics over the usual riffs. It’s interesting if only to hear this alternate version of the song. The recording closes with “Harry Hood”. The quality on “Hood” is brutal but Page’s keys sparkle above it. Overall, some highlights but brutal audio quality keep this from being a must listen even for the debuts. There are better shows not he horizon for 1987. Next, we go back to UVM.

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Show #15: 10/31/86

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1986-10-31

Friday, 10/31/1986
Sculpture Room, Goddard College, Plainfield, VT

Soundcheck: Bertha (performed by The Joneses), Blues Jam (with members of The Joneses)

Set 1: Mustang Sally, Camel Walk, Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light, Melt the Guns -> Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Halley’s Comet[1] > Back Porch Boogie Blues >Shaggy Dog, Fluffhead

Set 2: Jam > AC/DC Bag, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Peaches en Regalia > David Bowie[2], Have Mercy[3] > Harry Hood, Sanity, Skin It Back > Icculus, Alumni Blues

[1] Richard Wright on vocals.
[2] First known version.
[3] Jah Roy on vocals.

This post will most likely be a little shorter as this show is very similar to 10/15/86. But at least we have the first Halloween gig. While not the spectacle that later Halloween shows would become, when your band is tapped to play a holiday, you know you’re doing something right. This show is a split bill with The Joneses. A more low key affair then 10/12/86, it took place in a smaller room, probably more in line with the party atmosphere. The show kicks off with standard readings of “Mustang Sally” and “Camel Walk”, a good way to get people moving. Trey then makes it clear that the name of the next song is not “I Saw You With A Pistol In Your Hand” but “Golgi Apparatus”. “Golgi” is another great early version. “Slave” also shows it’s headed in the right direction with also another great early version. Again though, Trey doesn’t quite have the formula down to end the song. The band unveils a “new on record” cover next with XTC’s “Melt The Guns”. It’s also interesting that they have a “Fuck Your Face” and “Minkin” tease while Jon pounds out the cymbal beat. It’s a fun song with a quirky beat and lyrics that surely drew the band to it. It’s also interesting here that the Phish version is SHORTER than the original. A very smooth segue moves form “Melt the Guns” into “Sneakin’ Sally”. “Sally” is fine but nothing notable. “Halley’s Comet” is up next and features Nancy on vocals yet again. This is a mess. I can’t recommend it to anyone. The band effortlessly goes into “Back Porch Boogie Blues”. It’s well played but nothing notable. More notable is that Mike allegedly told the band it was an original to get it played but the truth is it’s a Max Creek cover. This would prove to also be interesting as Mike would later write songs with Scott Murawski of Max Creek! How weird the world turns. “Shaggy Dog” comes next and then the set ends with another early “Fluffhead”.

Set 2 opens with a jam. Always welcome when the band just takes off. It opens with Jon playing a driving hi-hat line with some textural drums underneath. Trey plays a sick funk riff over the top. The jam is a fast and furious little ditty that just shows how tight the connection is between Trey and Fish, with Mike jumping in with good measure. They take the energy and go into a high-flying “AC/DC Bag”. The “Bag” carries over the jam energy and is played at a quicker tempo. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” exercises the jazz chops once more. Another tight “Peaches en Regalia” follows and then we get to the main highlight of this show, the first-ever “David Bowie”. It gets a little rough in the beginning between David Bowie and UB40 but it’s interesting to hear them start out REALLY SLOW during the start of the jam and then bring up the tempo. Fun to hear the beginnings of that monster. “Have Mercy” gets an extended take with new lyrics from Jah Roy of Lambsbread. It’s fairly standard except for the length. It again gets paired with “Harry Hood”. “Hood” is solid as always. “Sanity” still hadn’t come the band’s way at this point and unleashed that fact on the crowd. Two fans begin clamoring for “Skin It Back” and “Icculus” so what’s a band to do? You play both of them back-to-back in the order requested. “Skin It Back ” comes first. The ending jam is quite tasty. “Icculus” is short but mentions he was born on Halloween 1948 in ancient Greece apparently. How do you send them home? With the shuffle of “Alumni Blues” of course! Let ’em dance one more time. That’s the first Halloween, kiddos.