Show #89: 3/14/89 Nectar’s Burlington, VT

Tuesday, 03/14/1989
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: The Curtain >  Ya Mar,  Mike’s Song >  I Am Hydrogen >  Weekapaug Groove, Fluffhead,  Contact,  AC/DC Bag >  Wilson,  You Enjoy Myself,  Harpua,  Foam

Set 2: Wilson,  Fluffhead

Set 3: Fire,  Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley,  Alumni Blues,  The Lizards,  La Grange,  You Enjoy Myself,  Good Times Bad Times

Encore: Halley’s Comet

(Setlist may be incorrect)

The final nights at Nectar's on the club's booking calendar. (Photo credit: Nectar's/Burlington Free Press)
The final nights at Nectar’s on the club’s booking calendar. (Photo credit: Nectar’s/Burlington Free Press)

Aside from the Paradise show, no indicator of how fast things were moving for Phish in 1989 is greater than the end of the Nectar’s era. This was the incubator. No one can honestly say that Phish would have done much without the safe space of their weekly gig there. Any place that’ll let you debut a rock opera after a Frank Zappa show deserves some applause. Nectar’s is fortunately celebrating its 40th anniversary. The ownership may be new and they may have renovated the place but that vibe of music above everything else remains. I wish I could say that we had the whole affair and it was glorious and moving but alas, time has not been kind. We have a conflicting setlist and a 1st set that seems patched together. It even has “Harpua” as the last song but conflicting reports says it is not so. I like to think that Nectar’s went out with one more story from Trey myself, so in my mind, it did. The circulating recording says Set 1 but with “Harpua” being introduced as “the last song”, I think it’s safe to say that’s incorrect. Others think the recording may have come from another show but I don’t think a show with this much weight would have been mislabeled. We’ll never know the real answer.

Phish on the Nectar's stage. (Photo credit: Max Brown/Phish/Burlington Free Press)
Phish on the Nectar’s stage. (Photo credit: Max Brown/Phish/Burlington Free Press)

What we do have is a nice set of club Phish. “Paul? You ready to go?”, asks Trey to kick things off. The band kicks into a vivid “Curtain”. “Ya Mar” happily follows it up and it’s clear from the tracks we have that this will be a grooving night. Also, this is the 1st “Ya Mar” on record since 1988, about 74 total shows, the second longest gap for the song. The “Mike’s Groove” here is really taste. Played very tightly and doesn’t wander too much. The “Weekapaug” is really slow though but makes a nice dance tune here. “Fluffhead” is strong as usual. “Contact” gets cut in the middle adding to my though that this tape is pieced together. We get a Gamehendge two-fer of “AC/DC” and “Wilson” that’s good. “You Enjoy Myself” never goes out there but again is super tight. The level of interplay is getting closer to what made the band legendary. The highlight here is “Harpua”. Trey tries to get the whole crowd into the intro, teaching them the oom-pa-pa and hand gestures. The song is a classic Harpua, with the perfect storytelling from Trey about Harpua’s search for raw flesh and finding Jimmy’s cat named, the cat whose name is, the cat who was known as…POSTER NUTBAG! The fight ensues and as always, Poster is dead. Real passion in this version that makes it fun. There’s a “Foam” tacked on the end but I think that that is filler from another show and not an encore.

Phish would continue to have a stage in Burlington until 1992, taking residence at the larger Front, eventually playing more gigs there than Nectar’s but Nectar’s importance in the first 5 years of the band will never be understated. Unlike the Front, which was Phish polished, Nectar’s allowed the band to find their sound and style in a way that is not usually how the industry works. The band said it best in the liner notes of their 1992 album A Picture of Nectar:

“Eight and a half years ago, we played our first bar gig at Nectar’s in Burlginton. Nectar Rorris, the proprietor, was happy to give us a gig despite out lack of experience, organization, or a song list long enough to last two sets. The night went well enough and soon we were playing a series of monthly three night stands – three sets a night on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Like countless other bands in Burlington’s diverse music scene, those nights at Nectar’s taught us how to play. We dedicate this album to Nectar Rorris for 16 years of bringing Burlington live music every night of the week with no cover and the best fries this side of…France.”

Thanks to Nectar and new owner Chris, and former owner Damon for being the cornerstone of Burlington’s music scene. Here’s to 40 years of Nectar’s and hopefully 40 more!

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 #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.

Show #61: 7/24/88

Sunday, 07/24/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Walk Away,  Golgi Apparatus,  Funky Bitch,  Colonel Forbin’s Ascent >  Fly Famous Mockingbird,  Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley,  Mike’s Song >  I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove,  Bold As Love

Set 2: Light Up Or Leave Me Alone,  Fluffhead,  La Grange,  The Lizards,  Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page >  Alumni Blues,  On Your Way Down,  Cities,  David Bowie

Set 3: The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday >  Avenu Malkenu >  Peaches en Regalia, Jesus Just Left Chicago,  McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters[1] ->  Run Like an Antelope

[1] Fish on trombone.

· Moby Dick tease

After an explosive show in Underhill and the excitement of Colorado on the horizon, it’s easy to see why the band’s regular stand at Nectar’s may not be the stuff of legends. This is definitely evident on the first night. That’s not to say this is a terrible evening of Phish. No, in fact, it is quite the opposite. We get a competent evening of Phish with some excitement. Set 1 opens with a nice fiery “Walk Away”, continuing to explore the new cover. Other highlights include a tight “Forbin’s>Mockingbird”, a groovy “Sneakin’ Sally”, and the 2nd-ever “Mike’s Groove” played quite well. The “Mike’s Song” is not worth for the intro they wrote for it detailing that “it’s his song”. “Weekapaug” also has Mike yelling “LET’S TAKE IT TO RHODE ISLAND NOW!” before the jam, which is fun. The band closes with an empowering “Bold as Love”.

Set 2 takes it up a notch with a high quality “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”. “Fluffhead” and “The Lizards” are nice, tight versions. “Alumni>Letter>Alumni” is notable for how the band stops on a dime and then goes right back into the song during “Letter to Jimmy Page”. Fans of 7/11/00 will recognize the unmistakable riff of “Moby Dick” played by Trey and Mike between “Alumni” and “On Your Way Down”. The set 2 closer of “David Bowie” could also be considered a highlight.

Set 3 has the excitement of “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday>Avenu Malkenu” appearing for the first time since February. It’s always a nice treat. The “Peaches” that follows it is also tasty. The set highlight hear is a DIRTY “Jesus Just Left Chicago” with Trey wailing by the peak of the jam. Highly recommended. “McGrupp” with Fish on vacuum is always a treat. The set-closing “Antelope” also tears but unfortunately the recording cuts out just after the song peaks, missing the outro. Overall, a technically good show but nothing too exciting here. Again, I think the energy of the long gig the night before coupled with the excitement of Colorado has the guys a little burnt out for the hometown crowd but one more show before the truck pulls out. We’ll see what’s left in the tank tomorrow.

Shows #53,54, and 55: 6/19-21/88

Sunday, 06/19/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: The Curtain With,  Funky Bitch,  Possum,  Golgi Apparatus,  La Grange,  Suzy Greenberg,  Big Leg Emma,  You Enjoy Myself[1]

Set 2: Good Times Bad Times,  Cities,  Alumni Blues >  Letter to Jimmy Page >  Alumni Blues,  Big Black Furry Creature from Mars,  Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,  Contact,  Run Like an Antelope

Set 3: I Know a Little >  Mike’s Song,  Corinna,  Rocky Top,  McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters

Encore: Jesus Just Left Chicago

[1] Vocal jam based on the word “down.”

· When the Levee Breaks tease in You Enjoy Myself
· Theme from The Flintstones and London Bridge Is Falling Down teases in Big Black Furry Creature from Mars
· Iron Man tease

Hello and welcome back,

I have been on a bit of hiatus. My wife and I moved coast to almost coast from Boston, MA to Ellensburg, WA, which has pretty much turned my life upside down. Combine that with some very boring shows and it makes this a little difficult. But here I am ready to lay it down. The summer of 1988 appears to be an odd time for Phish. You can feel how important is to the band but they just haven’t had the right move yet. They haven’t had the burst of new material that will come in the next two years and also they haven’t moved past being Burlington’s best bar band. Out of 66 known shows with setlists, 62 of them came in the state of Vermont with 3 in New York and 1 in Massachusetts. The average amount of times each song has been played at this point is 7.68. Meaning that, I’ve heard each song about 8 times by now if not more since some are more in rotation than others.(Stats from wonder I have a bit of fatigue from hearing 1980s Phish. We must plow on however. 6/19 is forgettable. There are no necessary highlights here. It’s just an average night.

Monday, 06/20/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Slave to the Traffic Light,  Peaches en Regalia,  You Enjoy Myself,  Fluffhead[1], AC/DC Bag >  The Lizards

Set 2: Halley’s Comet ->  Wilson,  Ya Mar ->  Jam[2],  I Didn’t Know[3]

Set 3: Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley,  Tela,  Fee,  Golgi Apparatus,  Satin Doll[4] >  Take the ‘A’ Train >  Possum,  The Ballad of Curtis Loew,  David Bowie

[1] Lyrics changed to “sure got some Betty Davis eyes.”
[2] Jah Roy on vocals.
[3] Fish on trombone.
[4] First known Phish performance.

· One Love, Three Little Birds, and Stir It Up quotes in Jam
· Theme from The Flintstones tease in Take the ‘A’ Train

6/20 is a little bit better. The first set is stacked with heavy hitters, Slave, YEM, and Fluffhead all in one set would make anyone crazy but even though the beginning is cut, the AC/DC Bag into The Lizards is excellent. Set 2 is for the reggae fans as we get another Jah Roy guest spot. It might have been a fun party at the time but musically and on tape it’s stale. Set 3 is very good though, especially the “Jazz” sequence. The band’s jazz standards are the most overlooked influence the band has. Everyone knows Pink Floyd, The Dead, Frank Zappa but their willingness to bring jazz to the table and play it well gies them a skill set many other bands lack. These early shows are fantastic for putting those chops on display and you can really hear how it makes the band much better. Try the “Take the A Train” here which is almost 8 minutes long and has a killer bass solo from Mike. The extended “Tela” also makes an appearance and the fugue in the middle which would be dropped is sublime. Really you should just check out all of Set 3.

Tuesday, 06/21/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Fluffhead,  Rocky Top,  Mustang Sally,  Suzy Greenberg >  The Curtain >  The Lizards, Fly Famous Mockingbird[1],  Fire

Set 2: AC/DC Bag,  Flat Fee,  Alumni Blues >  Letter to Jimmy Page >  Alumni Blues,  Jesus Just Left Chicago,  Good Times Bad Times,  Contact,  Peaches en Regalia,  Golgi Apparatus

Set 3: Harpua,  I Didn’t Know[2] >  Whipping Post

[1] Aborted and had to be restarted.
[2] False start, “Daubs” and “Seth” lyrics, Fish on trombone.

· Dave’s Energy Guide tease in Fire

A few highlights here but for the most part, a standard show. My favorite segment was “The Curtain” going into “Lizards”. Exactly where the “With” segment would begin, it just hits all the right notes as it flows. “Mustang Sally” rips again in its unique Phish arrangement. Some people ripped Trey for flubbing “Fly Famous Mockingbird” at NYE last year but you can see it’s been going on for 25 years as he botches it well enough to have to start over. “Fire” also is played intensely and has an interesting “Dave’s Energy Guide” breakdown to close Set 1. “Flat Fee” makes a nice appearance here. A fan yells loudly for “Peaches” and Fish gives it to him, ripping to the drum intro and the band joins right in. A rare request granted. That’s about all of my highlights. Some might like the “Jesus Just Left Chicago” but I think it’s not a top version. Fans might also like the 25-minute “Whipping Post” but it really goes nowhere. It’s all tension and no release. It just fuels why anyone would want the band to cover Eat A Peach for Halloween. The band did it’s Allmans/Dead era here in the 1980s and clearly it’s time to move on.

Shows #50 and 51: 5/23-24/88

Monday, 05/23/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Take the ‘A’ Train, Golgi Apparatus, You Enjoy Myself, Rocky Top, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone, I Didn’t Know[1], Peaches en Regalia > Possum, Good Times Bad Times

[1] Fish on trombone.

On today’s post, we get the rest of the 3 night run started at the last show. The last show’s date waffled between the 21st and the 22nd. Evidence from this recording of 5/23 points towards 5/22 being the correct date. reflects this but does not. During 5/23 at the start of “You Enjoy Myself”, Del Martin makes a request and the band reminds him they played a request for him last night. “Last request, we’re even gonna give you! After you graduate from graduate school, man. Del, if you get a Masters degree, we’ll play another request for you, ” says Trey. Which makes me wonder if Del Martin ever did go to graduate school? Did he get another request? After he allegedly fled with some of the 1980s master tapes, does the band even talk to him anymore? Trey and Del seemed to be such great friends during these recordings. I wonder what his story is. That’d be a great article to work on and blow wide open. Other than that nugget, not a lot of highlights here. A flubbed but roaming “You Enjoy Myself”, a tight “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”, and a solid “Possum” are the things to listen to here but you can really just focus on the next night.

Tuesday, 05/24/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: The Curtain With, Rocky Top, Funky Bitch, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page> Alumni Blues, Peaches en Regalia, Golgi Apparatus, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley,Suzy Greenberg, Fire

Set 2: Jesus Just Left Chicago, Fluffhead > Whipping Post

Set 3: Ya Mar[1] -> Jam[1] > Halley’s Comet[2] > The Sloth, I Didn’t Know[3], La Grange,Fee, I Know a Little, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Corinna, Harpua, Run Like an Antelope

[1] Jah Roy on vocals.
[2] Richard Wright on vocals.
[3] Richard Wright on drums, Fish on trombone.

· Theme from The Flintstones tease in Big Black Furry Creature from Mars
· One Love quote in Jam

Phish today is known as a jamband but on these early tapes, while they are great improvisers, I really don’t get the meandering feeling of a jam band. Most people wouldn’t recognize this band with how short the playing is. When people today complain that Phish “doesn’t jam enough”, I kind of laugh to myself because Phish is just being Phish. They’ve always just been a very tight rock band that happens to take things for a walk now and then. However if you want to hear early leanings of the band’s ability to jam then 5/24/88 is a show for you. A strong “The Curtain With” kicks off the show in grand style. The outro jam is a must listen. “Rocky Top” also has a strong early version here. This Nectar’s run really solidifies the song as a staple of the Phish catalog and the earliest of the band’s bluegrass leanings. “Here’s one for this guy right over here!,” says Trey. “Oh yeah, hey you!,” says Mike. “Way for you to show up man!” We’ll never know who that is but he’s getting a “Peaches en Regalia” and maybe some shots it sounds like. Nothing like a call out from the band. “Sneakin’ Sally” also gets loose and is well played.

Second set is the real highlight here. The band kicks off “Jesus Just Left Chicago” and Mike asks the band to “take it down” and to “take it down again” even though the band is playing the song about as slow as it can without falling apart. It also is real quiet below Page’s vocals. It as if they want to make it as dirty as possible. Page plays a great solo going from piano to organ. He sings another verse and then it’s time for Trey to ale over and he lifts the band back up to heights, playing a wailing solo. There are great moments of sustain in “Slave to the Traffic Light” and “Divided Sky” but Trey here is just urging so much out of his guitar, it’s a must hear. It’s every bit as good as the vaunted “Jesus” from Slip, Stitch, and Pass. Mike follows it up with “We’re gonna slow it down a bit. I’d like to thank Kevin, the owner oft his space for letting me use it tonight,” which is weird considering the gig is at Nectar’s, owned by a man named Nectar at the time. Maybe it’s a reference to another show. A really solid “Fluffhead” follows it up. Then, the band gets lost with “Whipping Post”. It starts off innocent enough with a basic reading of the tune but it starts to go off the rails slowly. It never goes type II, leaving the structure of the song. If this was 1997, it might have but for a huge Type I jam, this is stellar. It even almost breaks down at about the 8 minute mark with Trey playing some really dissonant playing in and out of time. Fishman goes nuts for the whole 26 minutes with John Bonham-like enthusiasm. He even has breaks to let Trey show off. The band even brings it down for another verse and then slowly builds to another screaming jam. A milepost on the journey of Phish. Trey announces a break and that’s it. A 3-song second set. Unprecedented. Even the set containing the longest Phish jam ever, 11/29/97 Runaway Jam, was a 5 song set. Whoa.

But they weren’t done yet. They fire up “Ya Mar” for a danceable third set opener. They then bring Jah Roy of Lamsbread on stage and he leads the band into a reggae medley, the centerpiece of which is a cover of Bob Marley’s “One Love”. This is not listed as a song played on but upon hearing this, I feel like it should be. The whole band even gets into the call and response part of the song and feels as much a cover as “Cannonball” from the 5/7/94 Tweezerfest. Another guest comes up int he form of Nancy to play his two songs. He helps with vocals on “Halley’s Comet” but the song really is notable for the killer segue into “The Sloth”. Trey yells it out for the band an they nail the transition as if they had practiced it (which they might have.) Just another great flash of how all 4 members think together. Nancy moves over to drums so Fish can play Trombone on “I Didn’t Know”. While the band nailed “The Sloth”, they still have some learning to do as Fish misses the best on “Fee” where he’s supposed to match Trey’s lyric. He plays it twice to make up for it but you can hear Trey’s chuckle in his verse as he knows how badly Fish missed it. Also in this show, you can see how the band is starting to piece together set lists. The best example of this is the placement of “Corrina” to “cool down” the audience after the hard edge of “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars”. It’ll be interesting to see this develop over time. We also get the first “Harpua” THE RIGHT WAY as finally Poster Nutbag is “hot lunch” for Harpua instead of the other way around. It’s a standard “Harpua’ but important for this note. The set closes with a very strong “Run Like An Antelope”. Next show, we move on to the larger and more professional The Front, down Main Street and across Pine from Hunt’s! See you then.

Show #45: 3/22/88

Tuesday, 03/22/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Harpua, Wilson > Peaches en Regalia, Funky Bitch, Golgi Apparatus, Suzy Greenberg, You Enjoy Myself, The Lizards, Good Times Bad Times, Happy Birthday to You[1], Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Icculus > Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird > AC/DC Bag

[1] “Dub” style.

The third in a 3-night stand at Nectar’s (Night 1 doesn’t exist on tape) finds again no jams here. That does’t mean this recording is a waste, in fact quite the contrary! We only have one set so there might have been more going on, but there’s some very nice selections here. The lead-off of “Harpua” is classic Phish. Trey gives an amazing band introduction. I wish there was video to see what he did during this. Mike also chimes in with his bike/clown horn, giving a glimpse at his know well-known goofy side. We get the basic narrative with no deviation and the classic story of the nice cat Poster Nutbag facing off against the mean dog Harpua here. The rock opera ending. It’s all here and played amazingly. “You Enjoy Myself” also slays all day. Again, not mind-blowing just tight perfectly performed compositions. “YEM” unfortunately gets cut off just before lift off but we follow it up with a tight “Lizards” featuring outstanding work from Page. It’s all going so well and then Trey begins the “If I Were A Dog” outro. And then….clapping? Seriously? One of the most beautiful pieces of music in the Phish catalog and the crowd starts clapping along. You think the Woos are bad? This is just disgraceful. Luckily, it didn’t stick or else I might just wait for Soundboard recordings. Yuck. The outro remains very nicely played though. The most interesting section closes the set. Trey announces it’s time to go back to Gamehendge and that they’ll skip the beginning and move to the middle. Hey begins to describe “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent” before asking if everyone knows who Icculus is? People respond no so Trey calls an audible and the band goes into “Icculus”. Now, most fans know Icculus as a silly song where it builds and builds as Trey eludes to who Icculus is. This version is the most straight version I’ve ever heard. Trey actually describes who Icculus is and why he’s important to Gamehendge. If you’re new to the song, this would be a great place to start. “Colonel Forbin” begins with the lounge singer/piano style intro. It’s interesting and might work in a small club but no surprise it eventually got dropped. It goes seamlessly into “Mockingbird” with no narration but again just change after change is getting nailed. The recording closes with “AC/DC Bag”. It has finally lost it’s intro, which is a shame because I dug the little funky intro it had. Alas, it is a bit more effective dropping to the main groove. The band starts to finally loosen up but then the cut. Who knows what delights the rest of the veining had but it’s a fun little glimpse into the waning days of Nectar’s.

Show #44: 3/21/88

Monday, 03/21/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Suzy Greenberg, Golgi Apparatus, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters,Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Divided Sky, Boogie On Reggae Woman > Timber (Jerry), The Lizards

Set 2: Fire, AC/DC Bag > The Chase > Possum, Dinner and a Movie, I Didn’t Know[1],Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird

[1] Fishman on trombone.

A complaint amongst a portion of today’s fans is that Phish doesn’t “jam” enough. In defense of today’s Phish, I’d like to present a glimpse of what a jam-less show is really like. This show at Nectar’s has only two long tracks and they’re not that great. We have a meandering 8-minute “McGrupp” and an 11 minute “Lizards”. Every other track is quite short and does not deviate much from the song structure. The whole first set is effectively a throwaway. Not a lot going on here and you can tell that the energy of the crowd is not that into the set. Not even the resurrection of “Boogie On Reggae Woman” is a highlight here. 2nd set is where all the action is but there’s not even any jam vehicles. The “AC/DC>Chase>Possum” is quite good with the Possum being the top pick there. The crowd also starts to get into the vibe a little more. “Dinner and a Movie” is slayed here, if short. The recording closes out with “Forbin>Mockingbird” without narration, which is interesting considering, two shows ago, Gamehendge was debuted. The “Forbin” is coll because it has an odd jazz piano intro, where Page plays the melody of the verse and then accompanies Trey’s vocal but as a solo player before the band come sin. That’s very cool and worth a listen; my personal highlight. The recording cuts out during “Mockingbird”. Maybe all the jams were in the 3rd set that night. We’ll never know.

Show #43: 3/12/88

Saturday, 03/12/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Jump Monk[1], McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > The Lizards > Tela[2] >Wilson > AC/DC Bag > Colonel Forbin’s Ascent[2] > Fly Famous Mockingbird > The Sloth >Possum, Run Like an Antelope

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] First known performance.

One of the problems in reviewing a band’s career in retrospect is you know what happens next. In addition to the problems reviewing 3/11/88 that were explained in that post, there’s also the anticipation for a bigger show that’s just around the corner. Such is the case for 3/12/88. The importance of 3/12/88 is that it marks the first live The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, or Gamehendge. The story of this gig is so much more though. The entire band, by all accounts, had previously gone to see Frank Zappa play Memorial Auditorium, just a few blocks up Main street from Nectar’s. At some point during the show, someone had thrown a Phish t-shirt on stage. Frank held it up and the crowd went nuts. Maybe with the knowledge that freaks were out and about that night for the FZ show and that letting their freak flag fly would be par for the course, or that Trey knew he would have a large audience to unleash it on spurred the decision. Regardless, the band decided to go for it.

This would also prove to be an extremely important decision for the band’s future as well. That night, local band Ninja Custodian had a friend in town named John Paluska. Ninja Custodian insisted that they head to Nectar’s to see Phish. He walked in and caught the Gamehendge set and thought they’d be great for his Zoo house parties at Amherst. This ended up with him booking them for April and they quickly built a following in western Massachusetts, the next enclave outside Burlington to take to the band. Paluska’s success lead to him begin asked to manage the band later in 1988. Paluska’s Dionysian Productions would manage the band from that day until the band’s “breakup” in 2004. You can read more about Paluska’s experience on with the “This Month in Phish History: March 1988” entry.

As for the recording itself, we only have one set. Luckily, it’s the Gamehendge set and if you’ve ever heard the studio recording, it’s very similar. However, the narration is a bit clearer here. Trey sounds less scripted and more off the cuff. The set opens with Charles Mingus’ “Jump Monk”, a jazz cover that would only be played once more; which is a shame because it’s very well done in the same manner of later cover “Donna Lee”. Quickly though, we get to the main event. The band launches into “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters”. This is important because “McGrupp” was actually the poem that launched Trey into writing the “TMWSIY” story. It’s odd that other versions don’t use it again as this is the only rendition that opens with “McGrupp”. “McGrupp” closes, which I don’t think is as effective. “McGrupp” sets up the tale much better. Over Page’s outro solo, Trey begins to tell the tale of Gamehendge, which I will narrate here as well. “Once upon a time, there was a man…” That man turns out to be Colonel Forbin, a retired military man who stumbles upon a door in the middle of a field. He opens the door and begins making his way down the corridor found within. In the corridor, he finds Rutherford the Brave. Rutherford begins to tell him about the strange land he is now in during the song “The Lizards”. This “Lizards” is pretty note perfect. It doesn’t even have much of a pause between the verses and the “If I Were A Dog” outro. With Rutherford having drowned at the end of “Lizards”, Forbin doesn’t have much time before being spotted by Tela and her two-toned multibeast. Forbin is instantly smitten with here and contemplates this in the song “Tela”. The version here is much longer than other versions and it does drag for a bit because of it. Still sounds great though. Tela and Forbin ride to the rebel camp and Trey describes Errand Wolfe, actually in more depth than in his senior thesis. We learn more about Errand in his singing of the song “Wilson”. We then get a song from Wilson in “AC/DC Bag”, which the crowd loudly cheers. Forbin realizes that the only way to help everyone is to get help from the wise and knowledgeable Icculus, who lives on the mountain over the land. Forbin climbs the mountain in “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent” and Icculus’ response is to fly the Famous Mockingbird to get the Helping Friendly Book from Wilson in “Fly Famous Mockingbird”. Much has been made about the narration between “Forbin” and “Mockingbird”. Recently some said they wished the one from the JEMP truck set on 12/31/13 was too short but here, in the first ever rendition, the narration is also very short. The playing is also amazing here. The band just nailing it like a well rehearsed Broadway pit band. The Famous Mockingbird successfully gets the Helping Friendly Book and Forbin returns to give it to Errand. Errand, now consumed with power, kills Wilson with the help of “The Sloth” but also puts Forbin in jail. The “Forbin in jail” story isn’t repeated here. It really does’ thane an ending except for Icculus’ musings captured in Possum. This version of Gamehendge is also the only live one that ends with “Possum” and really isn’t as neatly tied up as others. How do you follow that up? With a scorching “Run Like An Antelope”. Not as powerful as the previous night but still a lot of fun until the recording cuts off. A historic evening at Nectar’s indeed.

Shows #36, 37, and 38: 2/3, 2/7-8/1988


Alright, we’ve got a trio of shows here. I’ve grouped them together because we have a snippet of 2/3 and then 2/7 and 8 are a run together. I haven’t decided whether or not to group runs together or not. Might depend on the run. These really runs though are fairly similar so it makes sense to group them together when writing these pieces.

Wednesday, 02/03/1988
Gallagher’s, Waitsfield, VT

Set 1: David Bowie

Set 2: Sympathy for the Devil[1], Fee, Run Like an Antelope, AC/DC Bag -> Possum

[1] First known Phish performance.

Back in Waitsfield, we have this nugget that somehow has slipped out into the public. No idea where the rest of the show is. The clear highlight is the “David Bowie”. It’s really the band first “extended” jam reaching just over 18 minutes. It also however clearly shows the young bands limits as Fishman keep trying to end it most notable around the 13-minute mark but the band just keeps going, despite running out of ideas were to take it. Fortunately, the band would resolve this through practice and the concept of type II but for now, it’s not quite ready for prime time. The 2nd set is well-played but nothing notable.

Sunday, 02/07/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Fire, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Shaggy Dog, Golgi Apparatus >Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Peaches en Regalia, Phase Dance[1],Dear Mrs. Reagan, I Didn’t Know[2], David Bowie

Set 2: Happy Birthday to You, AC/DC Bag > Timber (Jerry), Flat Fee, Fee, Possum, The Lizards, Fly Famous Mockingbird[3], Whipping Post

Set 3: Suzy Greenberg[4] > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Clod > Bundle of Joy, The Curtain With, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Good Times Bad Times

[1] First known performance.
[2] Fishman on trombone.
[3] Debut.
[4] Stopped in the intro as Trey jokingly said “Good night” to the crowd and restarted.

After taking a few months off, Phish finally return to home base at Nectar’s. We’ll be hanging in Nectar’s a lot over the next few months as 1988 really marked the place as the band’s home. This show actually sounds really great for not being an SBD and might actually be better mixed than the following night’s SBD. It’s also exciting because you can hear the energy of the crowd at this early show. They are really into the band here. A raging “Fire” kicks the show into high gear. “McGrupp” follows and at about the 6-minute mark there’s a great Page solo in the middle. Some lively banter as someone yells for “ROCK ‘N ROLL!” and a lady follows it up with “No more reggae. Play some rock n roll!”, though I would not consider “McGrupp” reggae by any means. What does Phish do in their typical ways, plays an old folk tune in the form of “Shaggy Dog”. Way to win ’em over, boys. The next song, “Golgi Apparatus” however does get them as it goes into full-blown sing-along mode on the chorus. The rock vibes continue with “Alumni>Letter>Alumni” and “Peaches en Regalia”. The band then takes it down a notch with the first known performance of Pat Metheny’s “Phase Dance”. It’s a valiant effort but lacks a little bit of the emotion of the original as well as some of the technical prowess required but it does establish all the members as fine jazz players, building on that reputation. has the debut of Charlie Parker’s “Moose the Mooche” but that was not found on any recordings that circulate. Instead, we get an actual coherent version of “Dear Mrs. Reagan”. I’m still not a fan of the song but at least the lyrics are decipherable now; still antiquated however. Following the song, Trey proves the perfect host of the evening introducing “Alex”, the new Nectar’s waitress and advises to tip her well on her 2nd night. I wonder where Alex is now. Trey then introduces Paul and asks if anyone wants to buy his old guitar, most likely his red Timecaster. I wonder where both Alex and Trey’s red Timecaster are now. The next song is not a debut but it has an important new addition. It is the first time Fish joins the band on trombone, playing on “I Didn’t Know”. A much more coherent Bowie finishes the 1st set.

Set 2 opens up with “Happy Birthday to You”, dedicated to Kristy, Roz, and Meg. Kristy being Trey’s sister, who also the song “Joy” was written for. Kristy interestingly enough was running lights for this show. Trey brought all of them up on stage but Meg wasn’t here so he had roadie Del Martin sub in. “AC/DC Bag” still has the original intro and segues into a nasty “Timber (Jerry)”. They get really out there, even inverting some of the rhythms. This might even be the jam of the show. Then we get the “Flat Fee/Fee” combo. The crowd also knows “Fee” and sings along! A key demonstration that the band is beginning to gain its legendary fan base. “Possum” begins to gain its “intro” as the band hammers on the intro chords dissonantly. The fans seem to enjoy it though screaming along, hitting the chorus. It’s probably the best “Possum” so far. Next, we get the first full-length “Lizards”. This early version is cool in that is has some Talking Heads/Latin style jamming before dropping into the “If I Were A Dog” outro around the 5:30 mark. We get another important debut following in “Fly Famous Mockingbird”. It’s a little jarring without the usual “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent” proceeding it but it’s played extremely well for a debut. It’s interesting to note that this the debut so that when Trey said “Flying around up there. 30 years later” during the MSG NYE truck set, really should have only been 25. Set 2 closes with a wild “Whipping Post”. Set 3’s only really stand out track is another fantastic “The Curtain With”. It also has a shortened “Clod” with a loud audience sing-along and a long “Good Times Bad Times”. Overall, a great show just to hear the crowd as it sounded in 1988 with some fun highlights.

Monday, 02/08/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Slave to the Traffic Light, Funky Bitch, Take the ‘A’ Train, Golgi Apparatus, Phase Dance, Fire, You Enjoy Myself

Set 2: Fluffhead, Wilson > Peaches en Regalia > Divided Sky, The Lizards, Run Like an Antelope[1]

Set 3: The Sloth, Flat Fee, Dinner and a Movie, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page >Alumni Blues, Harry Hood, Bike[2], Fee, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars

[1] “Moses Heaps” and “Moses Brown” references.
[2] Trombone solo from Fishman

Hey, do you like Mike bass bombs? Then 2/8/88 is FOR YOU! This SBD is a little poorly mix so Mike comes through loud and clear all night. It’s a little overpowering on this delicate 1980s recording and rattles my system. Night 2 of 2 (or 3?) at Nectar’s opens with “Slave to the Traffic Light”. Right from the bat, you can hear the problem with the recording. “Funky Bitch”, “A Train”, and “Golgi” are all good versions. We get a second take on “Phase Dance” and this version is little more lively and feels more like Phish. A shredded “Fire” is destroyed by too much bass. “You Enjoy Myself” is well-played.

Set 2 kicks off with the complete “Fluffhead” suite, including the previous night’s outcasts “Clod” and “Bundle of Joy”. It’s odd that the band keeps going back and forth between having hem be separate songs or part of “Fluffhead”. It won’t be too long though before that’s resolved. “Wilson” has cool little jam intro before going into the main part of the song. “Peaches” and the short “Divided Sky” are tight. “Lizards” still has the funky middle jam in it. The set 2 closer “Run Like An Antelope” is a rager though and the highlight of the set. The band hits all cylinders as they build to a raging pace. Trey even throwback to 10/31/87 by intro ducting the band as Moses Heap and Moses Brown as he did back during the jam with the Joneses that night.

Set 3 opens with a great early “Sloth”. The band hits a great groove on this tune here, that’s just a little more loose than later versions. Next is a fast moving “Flat Fee” that seems to have a quicker tempo than other versions so far. It does a great job of showing off the jazz chops again. They seem to have at least one showpiece per night. “Dinner and a Movie” has been shortened. It also does not have it’s syncopated intro, just dropping into the verse. Still very tightly played though. Nothing too crazy about “Alumni>Letter>Alumni”, except only guy really digs it by letting out a blood curdling scream. “Harry Hood” is the other big showpiece here. This version really cooks with tight interplay between all band members. A funny moment happens the band goes into the final jam after “Thank you Mr. Hood”, where today fans would throw the glowsticks, an audience member loudly says “Finally!”, as if he has been waiting for this part of the song. Trey and Page have some great interplay at the beginning of this section, working off each other’s licks. The band perfectly builds up to the big tension and release of the jam. You can hear the patience in the moment. They know how to move forward without pushing it. It’s as masterful as some of its later counterparts. A must listen for any fans of “Harry Hood”. Fish comes out to sing “Bike” but messes it up. He combines “Bike” with “Love You” and ends just playing an extended trombone solo, which is still fun. “Fee” comes next but the intro sounds like the band is going to play “Timber (Jerry)”, which is a little odd, like someone forced the change. Page does another fine job with “Jesus Just Left Chicago” and they bring it all home with “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars”. I think I prefer 2/7 to 2/8 but that might be due to audio quality. You could put together highlights from both and have a pretty great ’88 compilation. The big takeaway here is even if it’s marked SBD, it might still not be great quality. Thanks for reading. Hope to pick up the pace on 1988 here!