Show #11: 4/1/86

Early Phish. Photo credit: Phish.com.

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1986-04-01/

Tuesday, 04/01/1986
Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Quinn the Eskimo > Have Mercy[1] > Harry Hood, The Pendulum[2] -> Dave’s Energy Guide, Icculus[3], You Enjoy Myself

Set 2: Help on the Way[1] > Slipknot![1] > AC/DC Bag[3], McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters[4] > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues > Dear Mrs. Reagan

Encore: Not Fade Away[5]

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] With Zenzilé Madikinea. Madikinea recited revolutionary poetry.
[3] First known performance.
[4] Spoken in Dylan-esque fashion.
[5] First known Phish performance; with The Joneses.

Another tape. Another night at Hunt’s. The booker must have seen something in this gang. Would love to know who that is and pick their brain. This show was Hunt’s Festival of Fools. It was a split bill between Phish and The Joneses. The band’s would switch of 45 minute sets for 4 total. They then encored together. The show here’s a typical bar show but at much better quality with some surefire highlights and debuts. But we also have two full sets! So exciting for more history on tape.

The show opens with Bob Dylan’s “Quinn the Eskimo”. For a long time, this was marked as the songs debut until it was discovered that they had played it at least once earlier on 4/6/85. The song does not differ much from the version the band plays now, except for the extra rhythm guitar of Jeff, having last performed it on 10/31/13 in Atlantic City. It’s a great-off lead-off tune, getting the crowd energy up. One drawback, however, is that the crowd jokes the Phish is now the “Bob Dylan Band” for the rest of the evening. This leads into another cover, the Mighty Diamonds’ “Have Mercy”. “Have Mercy” is an interesting tune because it’s only been performed 13 times in the band’s history, 3 of those coming since the band’s return in 2009. Trey dedicates the tune to Pam as it starts up. So, thank you Pam for all the glorious shows with “Have Mercy” in them. Have Mercy’s interesting because it’s the first time we hear the band working on harmony fully. The three-part harmony of “Have Mercy” is not very easy and they don’t perfectly execute it but for a band that’s become known for barbershop, it’s an interesting first step. The tune out of side of that is not very noteworthy and will appear in a few more upcoming sets. Interestingly enough the seque from an authentic reggae tune to their own reggae jam, the opening of “Harry Hood”. Also of note, “Hood”‘s starting to become the monster we all know and love. The tension and release and peaks of the end are starting to take shape. It’s beautiful to again hear how powerful the band is even in the early years.

The band brings back South African poet Zenzilé for another performance. The song is uneven as the band plays a dirty blues groove underneath his poem. You can tell how loud the crowd is that they early were not on board. I, personally, am not really on-board at all. The instrumental track sounds like a fun jam but the crazy yelling over the top just distracts from the song. The band kicks into “Dave’s Energy Guide” as he finishes adding to the craziness. Zenzilé yells “Which side are you on?” as the dissonance of the song plays up. “Dave’s” continues the energy and it really is a ripping version that moves hard and fast with Jon’s driving drums.

The band takes a breather as a short Jazz jam with Page, Mike, and Trey. Fish says “We thought we’d play some seining for you as Trey [takes] care of his guitar.” Trey retorts, “Bob Dylan performing for you here. The Bob Dylan Band, ladies and gentlemen!” The jazz jam is quite good and shows how tight they are as a trio. Trey again, “The Bob Dylan Band just blowing my mind here on a Tuesday night!” The jazz jam ends and then gives away to an important moment in Phishtory. “This next song is written by one of our favorite bands, Sneeze Blood Eyeball,” says Trey but by the opening chords it’s time for the people to read “Icculus”! The version actually sounds very similar to the one just performed at Madison Square Garden, especially since Phish used their old instruments for that set. It’s however much shorter with less buildup then future versions but still funny nonetheless with the jam fake out.

Trey then mentions the 45 minute set length and invites the Joneses to kick them off stage whenever they want to. Trey then dedicates the next song to Peter, who’s here “all the way from Washington”. At 3:35, Mike plays a bass riff that sounds like part of the future “Mango Song”. After a long pause, the band finally launches into “You Enjoy Myself” to close the first set. This version is much better than the 2/3/86 debut, tighter and with a better groove. We’ll be taking about “YEM” a lot over the next year or so as it was played a lot even night to night in the 80s. Written during the trip to Europe, the lyric “Wash Uffizi Drive Me to Firenze” was allegedly inspired by a wild cab ride in Florence. Also, a German named Jurgen, also commented tot hem that “When I’m with you, you enjoy myself!” Whatever sparked the tune, thankfully it happened. This version still omits the “Boy Man God Shit” lyrics BUT does have the birth of the “YEM” vocal jam. It’s short but marvelous that it’s there.

Set 2 kicks off with the Grateful Dead’s “Help on the Way>Slipknot!”. It’s the only known version by Phish and while it does reach glorious heights, it almost feels like a backward step for the band. I’m sure it helps keeps patrons in the bar but the band’s original material feels much more fun and fresh. Grateful Dead covers, at least to me, feel tired already and it’s only 1986. Luckily, a debut takes the “Slipknot!” segue from “Franklin’s Tower” and we get the first-ever “AC/DC Bag”. Trey’s trips to Gamehendge are now infiltrating their sets and man are they coming together well. The first “Bag” has a funky intro that gives the song a sinister overtone. Other than that, it’s pretty standard but again amazing to hear so complete so early. The band decides to stay in Gamehendge going into “McGrupp”. The tempo is a little faster than it has been in previous versions and it’s a welcome addition. Trey continues the spoken word version but this time giving the lines a Bob Dylan-esquire cadence and voice, fitting in the “Bob Dylan Band” theme.

The band then drops into “Alumni>Jimmy Page>Alumni” and it is a must listen not because of the jam or that it’s pristine. This a must listen because everyone except for Jeff misses the segue back into “Alumni”. The thing grinds to a halt except for Jeff’s rhythm guitar. The band tries to pick up the pieces but it’s too late and Trey just cues a big rock ending to just finish the song. I laughed so hard hearing this. To be fair, the “Letter to Jimmy Page” was pretty fiery and probably difficult to land. The band ends set two with the political tune “Dear Mrs. Reagan”. Phish has never been a fiercely political and so to hear such anti-Reagan lines is a little off-putting but it’s an interesting listen and quite the 80s time capsule. After “Reagan”, Jeff decides to tell people about International Lemming Day, while Trey gets the Joneses on stage to join them for the encore. Someone who sounds like Fishman points out they have 18 guitars and 3 drum sets on stage and then someone else yells “Guitar Army!”. Trey asks “What song is it you want to hear?” and of course some idiot yells “Freebird!”. Page then teases the chords to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird”. Begin that the Joneses and Phish both cover the Dead quite a bit, they end on Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”, a popular Grateful Dead cover. Unfortunately, the recording fades out (IRONY) before the jam gets going. A successful Festival of Fools? Not quite sure but it at least sounded fun. Two interesting notes on this recording. The first is Jeff is buried in the mix for a lot of it, giving it more of the usual Phish feel. It’s an interesting twist. The second is Trey’s tone. He’s starting to move to his signature tone. I’m not sure what was happening with his rig but it begins moving in the right direction. Another great artifact in the Phish canon.