Show #30: 9/21/87

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 8.26.21 PM
Photo Credit: @sarahzeee on Instagram

Monday, 09/21/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Clod > Slave to the Traffic Light, Funky Bitch, Wilson, Dear Mrs. Reagan, Golgi Apparatus > AC/DC Bag -> Possum

Set 2: You Enjoy Myself, The Curtain With, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Suzy Greenberg > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues

Set 3: Happy Birthday to You[1], Good Times Bad Times, Rocky Top[2], Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Fee > Divided Sky, Dog Log, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Run Like an Antelope, Makisupa Policeman, Flat Fee, Fire, Terrapin[2], La Grange, Fluffhead

[1] “The Birthday Dub”
[2] First known Phish performance.

A month after Ian’s Farm, we find the band back at Nectar’s. They play a typical show. Not a lot stands out here. A well played “TMWSIY>Malkenu>TMWSIY” kicks off the show. An odd lead-off choice and probably doomed the night as far as the crowd goes. “Clod” was also solid but again an odd choice. You can feel that the band wants more focus on originals and playing THEIR music, probably being over the confidence from a good summer. “Slave to the Traffic Light” is a real breakthrough moment as the band builds to a beautiful peak together with no soloing in the way. It’s not quite finished but a pivotal step to getting the right tone for the song. “Funky Bitch” is just kind of sloppy and uninspired. “Wilson” makes strides towards being bombastic. “Dear Mrs. Reagan” continues to grind my gears. “Golgi” saves things with an on point version that hits all the right notes. The set closing jam of “AC/DC Bag->Possum” has an odd cut before the segue due to patching sources. The 2nd source almost ruins the vibe with how muddy it sounds but the “Bag” jam is decent and the segue is well executed.

2nd set attempts to take the evening up a notch with an opening “YEM”. It has a cool breakdown around the 8-minute mark and continues to retain the “bass and drums” jam but other than that isn’t too appealing. “The Curtain With” is a real highlight of this show because the band found a way to play it in a completely different style. It could almost be called the “Cowboy With” as it has a real country hoedown feel with Trey’s riffs and Mike and Fish’s rhythm at the opening. While I’m glad they didn’t experiment further with changing the song (I believe), it’s a funny moment of experimentation. The “With” retains its glorious peaks and is a must-listen. “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars” follows and has shifted froth e angular punk feeling to a flatter sound. While moving towards the modern-day version, I feel that the song lost some feeling in the move and gives less of a satirical feel and edge. “Suzy Greenberg” falls flat with no punch. Set Two closes with a fairly standard “Alumni>Letter>Alumni”.

The 3rd set opens with “The Birthday Dub” dedicated to Spup! I wonder if anyone remembers who Spup is but ti’s fun way to kick off the last set. The energy continues with “Good Times Bad Times” and you can feel the crowd is finally into the show at this point. “GTBT” is well played and rollicking. A cover debut follows in the form of the Osborne Brothers’ “Rocky Top” and also marks an early foray into bluegrass for the band. It’s not the cleanest version but would be an important cover for the band over the years. The song also earned Phish a spot as a clue in the Bonnaroo category on Jeopardy! last month as featured at the top of this post. “Sneakin’ Sally” keeps the crowd moving. “Fee>Divided Sky” is an odd placement. “Fee” still is without megaphone and “Divided Sky” is still incomplete but both are a blast to listen to. “Dog Log” is fun but misses the barking of the last two recordings. “Curtis Loew” gives a nice break in the action. “Antelope” has a nice extended jam on the reggae part just before “Rye Rye Rocco” starting at about 7:30. “Makisupa” goes a little long. Going out on a high, the band hits a triplet of covers, the high energy of Hendrix’s “Fire” leads off, the debut of Syd Barrett’s “Terrapin” is an interesting middle piece that someone captured the audiences’ attention, and ZZ Top’s “La Grange” takes it out. “Terrapin” is very important because it marks the first recording of a Fishman feature! A quirky song for a quirky drummer? Makes all the sense in the world. It’s a shame that it’s too muddy to hear properly and also does not include the trombone solo but still is amazing that it survived. After the triple threat, “Fluffhead” appears to close the set but the recording fades. A pretty standard night but with some highlights nonetheless.

Show #26: 8/10/87

Monday, 08/10/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Peaches en Regalia, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Golgi Apparatus, Wilson, Quinn the Eskimo, Divided Sky > Good Times Bad Times

Set 2: Fire, AC/DC Bag -> Possum, Fluffhead, Fee, The Curtain With, I Know a Little, Mustang Sally, You Enjoy Myself, La Grange

Set 3: Icculus, David Bowie, Jesus Just Left Chicago[1], Whipping Post, Anarchy, Tush, Dear Mrs. Reagan

[1] First known Phish performance.

First off, I want to apologize for the long delay between posts. I’ve been dealing with some personal stuff and it made it a little hard to focus. But I’m here now and the show must go on! Of course, being that it’s very early in the band’s career, we don’t have as large a catalog to play from. So, we might get some very similar shows. Such is the case during the is two-night stand at Nectar’s. The repeats here are plentiful. “Peaches En Regalia”, “Golgi Appartus”, “Good Times Bad Times”, “Fluffhead”, “Fee”, “You Enjoy Myself”, and “David Bowie” all appear here again. Now, while some these we van’t heard yet or didn’t even hear the previous night’s version, the set lists are getting a little similar. So, I’m going to try and just hit the highlights for this show. “Peaches” features a great example of Trey’s early tone working for him. “Alumni Blues” has amazing organ work from Page with huge sweeping chords. Also has very early Mike bass bombs. “Letter to Jimmy Page” stands out as being less aggressive and has more of a full band feel to the song. “Quinn the Eskimo” ended up being the last performance of the song until 1998 and it features a huge swirling crescendo jam in the last two minutes that dumps into the last verse and chorus well. We get the first recorded “Divided Sky” though in this early state it does not include the middle section and only repeats the beginning for the ending. The introduction is impeccably played but it loses steam in the harder “jumping” section. Work needs to be done and it will but a decent second attempt. It’s interesting that “Divided Sky” rolls into “Good Times Bad Times”. It’s jarring but the dose of hard rock to end the first set and continue that momentum, tagging in Hendrix’s “Fire” for Led Zeppelin to open the 2nd set is an inspired choice. “Fluffhead” is still not yet complete. We get the first recorded “Fee”. No megaphone yet in this rendition. It also moves at a little too fast tempo; like the band is rushing to finish. “The Curtain With” continues to amaze as the band hits all the changes with aplomb. “Mustang Sally” swings and has that Phish groove that makes the cover unique. Fish’s drumming really gives the song its unique feel. The band also takes “You Enjoy Myself” for a serious walk with all 4 members taking things to the max on the jam. It’s a thundering powerful take on the song. “Icculus” gets dedicated to Paul’s mom but is fairly standard. “David Bowie” is a must-listen. The band finally breaks out of the song and goes, what most fans know as, “Type II”. Type II jamming is when the band goes outside the normal chord structure of the song and creates something new. More recent examples of this include the “Tahoe Tweezer” and the “AC Twist”. This is the first time we get outside the normal “Bowie” and just get free. It’s a glorious moment, occurring about 8 minutes into the song. The jam is strong too. All 4 members are in sync and on board. Fish leading the way with a steady but improvised beat. Page filling Trey’s rifts with strong keys and Mike’s bass filling the space between. It’s fleeting but a glimpse at what’s to come. 3 ZZ Top songs appear in this show, “La Grange”, “Tush”, and the night’s lone debut “Jesus Just Left Chicago”. A tune that a lot of fans would come to know on the 1997 live album “Slip, Stitch, and Pass”, this version lays the groundwork for all other versions that followed and it’s a great place to start with passionate playing from Trey and solid rhythm work from Mike and Fish. The other note is you can tell the band is starting to gain respect and some fans. There’s strong applause after each number and more and varied requests. You can feel the building energy. Next, I tackle the long vaunted “Ian’s Farm” show!

Show #25: 8/9/87

Sunday, 08/09/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light, La Grange[1], Lushington[2] ->Possum, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Timber (Jerry), Good Times Bad Times, AC/DC Bag, Shaggy Dog, Funky Bitch

Set 2: The Curtain With[3], Halley’s Comet > The Sloth[3], Light Up Or Leave Me Alone ->Skin It Back, Peaches en Regalia, Fluffhead, Fee[3], Harry Hood, Harpua[3], Suzy Greenberg

Set 3: David Bowie, You Enjoy Myself, Ya Mar, Divided Sky[3], Flat Fee[3], McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Corinna

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] No lyrics.
[3] First known performance.

I can’t believe this is my 25th review already. So crazy and yet so much more to go. To give you the actually feel of where we are, it’s late summer 1987. Phish has actually played 69 known shows at this point, of which only 25 tapes survive or have been made public. So where does that leave us? Back at Nectar’s on a Sunday night. Unfortunately, we don’t have all of this show, leaving out many important debuts. However, we do have some solid tracks. Let’s go to the audio tape!

The show opens with the growing crowd favorite “Golgi Apparatus”. I’m not sure if that was true or not but they played so much, some folks most of liked it, right? It’s a well played version. “Slave to the Traffic Light” follows and it’s gorgeous but they still haven’t nailed the peak yet right. I’m stating to wonder how long that takes. Trey gets to be a rock star next as Phish slams through ZZ Top’s “La Grange”. Full on rock and roll mode here. A really tight “The Chase” comes next. The band is getting really good at this small instrumental and it rolls effortlessly into “Possum”. The “Possum” doesn’t hit great heights but is a rollicking version. “Sneakin’ Sally” follows and is pretty standard with a good vocal jam. “Timber (Jerry)” has a great fast tempo in this version, outstanding playing by Mike, and a great groove. “Good Times Bad Times” has more rock star Trey but more impressive is the rest of the group maintaining the rhythm underneath the deluge of notes. “Shaggy Dog” provides a much needed breather. The harmonies just keep getting better. “Funky Bitch” closes the set with a raging dance number. Perfect placement.

Set 2 unfortunately is cut short but we get some interesting debuts. First up is “The Curtain With”. Interesting enough is the song is presented in the exact same style as it is played today. No changes at all were made except for Page’s keyboard parts which are a little smoother going forward. The band pulls it off and it’s amazing. What a set opener! The mood lightens as “Nancy” comes to sing “Halley’s Comet”. “Halley’s” is fun but it does a really nice transition into the show’s other debut that we have on record. “The Sloth” is the penultimate song in The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday but here it’s a interesting short tune with intricate guitar and keys. Not the most epic version but a good start. Jam of the night goes to “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”. The last 5 minutes of the tune are a fun speed blues jam with the band ratcheting up the tempo and letting loose. An awkward transition reveals “Skin It Back”. The only problem is as soon as the song gets rolling. It fades out. We also miss several key debuts including “Divided Sky”, “Fee”, “Flat Fee”, and “Harpua”. The notes from Phish.com say the information comes from Amy Skelton’s tapes. Maybe it’s in the vault and Kevin Shapiro will surprise us with these treats. Another night Nectar’s tomorrow with the first two shows in a row!

Show # 23: 5/11/87

Phish circa 1987. Photo Credit: Mr. Miner

Monday, 05/11/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: You Enjoy Myself, Lushington[1] -> Possum, Slave to the Traffic Light, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Clod, Peaches en Regalia > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday[2] > Avenu Malkenu[3] > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Makisupa Policeman[4], Ya Mar

Encore: Golgi Apparatus, Corinna, Letter to Jimmy Page

[1] No lyrics.
[2] First known performance.
[3] First known Phish performance.
[4] Keyword referenced dioxin and Gaddafi.

Low points in a tour or series of shows are always bound to happen with a band like Phish. For 10/20/13 in Hampton, there’s 10/22 in Rochester. For every peak, there must be a valley. This is a very early example of that. I mean it was a Monday night in Burlington and Dollar Drafts at What Ales You was not a thing yet I would think. Also, theo recording quality is NOT GOOD. Only listen to for historical purposes. Right from the get-go, we get a less than cohesive “You Enjoy Myself”. The band doesn’t sound as with it as they did on 4/29. There’s no sense of moving as unit. The vocal jam is screechy and harsh. My mom quipped “They sound like a bunch of cats!”. After that we get a brief glimpse of “The Chase” segment that would become part of the “Fluff’s Travels” suite before rolling into the chords of “Lushington”. No lyrics on this one however. The fumbling continues until we finally land into “Possum”, which they plod through nobly. “Slave to the Traffic Light” gets the show in the right direction, sounding a little better. “Sneakin’ Sally” comes next, an attempt to revive the vibe. It may have worked form a crowd perspective but on tape it does not work. “Clod” turns out to be the highlight of the set with some tight playing from the band at long last. After a long pause, “Peaches en Regalia” finally comes out and it’s a fine version. Following that is the debut of “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday>Avenu Malkenu>TMWSIY”. This is important because it further signals that Gamehendge is coming. It’s still odd that this effectively background music is played as an instrumental during a set. It’s also interesting hearing a bar band bust out a funky Hebrew prayer mid-set. “Avenu Malkenu” translates into “Our Father, Our King”. Little is known about why Phish chose to do a version of the prayer but it’s a welcome moment. Trey lets the crowd know “That was called The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday and I’m going to get my head sharpened.” A standard “Makisupa” comes next. Introduced as going “from Jamaica directly to the Bahamas” and quick tease of ZZ Top’s “Tush”, the band lights into “Ya Mar”.  It almost feels like an attempt to save face for a poor set by ending with a danceable favorite. Nothing too exciting here except to hear Page say “Be sure to top your bartenders and waitresses.” Hopefully, moving to the Ranch next will liven things up.

Show #22: 4/29/87

A flier from Phish’s first two-night stand at Nectar’s. Nearly 3 month before this show. Photo credit: @Phish on Twitter.

Wednesday, 04/29/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Golgi Apparatus, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Fire, Skin It Back ->Cities, Lushington

Set 2: Dog Log, Melt the Guns -> Dave’s Energy Guide, Take the ‘A’ Train[1], Halley’s Comet > Quinn the Eskimo > AC/DC Bag

Set 3: Peaches en Regalia > Fluffhead, Good Times Bad Times, Anarchy, Makisupa Policeman -> Run Like an Antelope, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Timber (Jerry)[2], Slave to the Traffic Light > Sparks > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > The Ballad of Curtis Loew[2], Come On (Part One)[2], I Am Hydrogen -> Who Do? We Do!

Encore: Fuck Your Face[3]

[1] First known Phish performance; Jeff Friedberg on saxophone.
[2] First known Phish performance.
[3] Debut.

Now, I’m glad if you’ve been following since day one that hopefully you’ve listened to every show or at least the highlights as well. I’ve got some bad news though and it’s not that your cat died. Poster Nutbag hasn’t even been born yet! It’s that I could have saved you all a lot of time. ut you would have missed the sublimeness that was “Prep School Hippie”! One of the tent poles of the short range of 1987 shows, this night has a lot of highlights. B Heck! We even get three full sets! There’s a lot of music to get through so let’s dive right in.

The night begins with a nice standard “She Caught The Katy”. Good song to warm-up to and get the crowd interested. We then go into “Alumni Blues>Jimmy Page>Alumni”. Earlier, it would have been played as a standard blues but we’re starting to get that trademark groove. Someone out there may be able to better describe it but it has a certain feeling that makes it more danceable than standard blues. There’s a certain looseness, I think it’s Fish’s drumming that gives it an odd shuffle. It’s very white boy Meters feel. Also, instead if Trey wailing through it all, we get a very nice Page Rhodes solo about 4 minutes in. The end of the song also feels more like 4 musicians working together. The next song is introduced as “Duke Ellington’s favorite song” as told in his memoirs and relayed by Trey. It turns out it’s “Golgi Appartus” despite it debuting 12 years after his death. This “Golgi” is much improved with more movement from the band during the middle section and some much needed patience infused into the delicate melody. The buildup to the release also is well played. “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” comes next providing a cool vibe. Page also gets to take a solo which is much appreciated. Trey gets to noodle away next as “Fire” comes up and the band powers through it, infusing the set with wild energy. The dance vibe comes back though as the band grooves into “Skin It Back”. The song’s a little weak compared to other tracks but the end jam gets in there are Mike’s bass weaves around Trey’s guitar while Page holds down the groove on the Rhodes. The song segues weakly into “Cities”, showing that they still have work to do. I wonder if they listened back and analyzed how much stronger that could be. Obviously this was way before all their self-imposed rules so it’s possible. “Cities” also fizzles out a bit and goes nowhere fast. Set One closes with “Lushington”. ’87 will be the year of “Lushington” so you’ll hear a lot of it if you follow along. This version cooks at a nice clip and has fine keys work from Page. It’s a solid version.

Set 2 opens with “Dog Log”. This version has the jazz influences seeping more and more, making it feel more syncopated and loose. The band takes “it around one more time” and all 4 have at the rhythm, sounding together and disjointed at the same time gloriously. Fishman hits the cymbals and it sounds like “David Bowie” might be coming, even the rest of the band plays a funky jam over the top of it but Trey and Page hit the melody for “Melt The Guns”. It starts out pretty standard but at 3:30, we get into the jam and it’s a beauty. Trey plays a gorgeous soaring lead over a darker, dissonant piano part from Page. Mike even gets into it with a throbbing bass line. The last minute really ups the intensity and shows off the musicianship of all 4 members. The song also features a very strong segue into “Dave’s Energy Guide”. Less rough than pervious versions, they don’t actually hit the main theme until about a minute in, enjoying the groove until Trey finally starts the diamond pattern. Rather than disconnecting lines, the band hits the rhythm hard and hooks up quite well. At times, it even sounds like “On The Run” by Pink Floyd. It’s less noise and more actual music. The whole segment is definitely worth a listen. Once again, it’s Duke Ellingston’s birthday. So the band decides to play an actual Ellington tune, “Take the A Train” with guest Jeff Friedberg on saxophone. It’s a fun listen to hear Phish with horns well before the Giant Country Horn days. “Halley’s Comet” comes next and it’s fun but nothing outstanding. It does have a smooth segue into “Quinn the Eskimo”, which sounds good but is not too exciting. The tape then has a crossfade and we miss the cool intro but we go into “AC/DC Bag” to close the set.

The third set is the most exciting in my mind. It opens with a great intro from Trey reminding people to tip their waitresses and waiters and then Fish hits the drum intro to “Peaches en Regalia”, which is standard but rips nonetheless. “Fluffhead” comes next and it’s played at a fast and furious pace. The train is gathering steam and it’s headed down the right track. Can’t wait to see where it goes from here, especially with the Fluff’s Travels development. Keeping the crowd in it, the band rips into “Good Times Bad Times” and it ably shows Trey’s quick finger fretwork. The short punk basher “Anarchy” follows and they slam through it and one fan even yells “One more time!” and on cue they do it again. Taking it down a notch, the band fires up “Makisupa”. About 2 minutes in, Trey solos over Page’s chords and it’s interesting to hear him take the song for a walk. It rolls into “Run Like An Antelope” nicely with the band starting slow and increasing to normal tempo. The ability to maintain a groove while executing tension and release is on full display here and it makes Antelope quote amazing for how early it is in the band’s career. Getting the crowd back to dancing, “Boogie On Reggae Woman” comes next. The band tired hard to jam it out but it really doesn’t develop. The night’s 2nd new cover, “Timber (Jerry)”. Now, the interesting thing is only Phish would think about taking an old folk song from the 1930s and making it fresh with a new wave guitar part over the rhythm. Listening to it played by the son of one of its authors, Josh White, Jr., it really is a dramatic overhaul and makes it a lively tune to dance to. This first version is a must listen. It’s high energy with great soloing from Trey and an amazing beat pounded out by Fishman. “Slave to the Traffic Light” is a good choice for a breather. It’s played impeccably well. It still doesn’t the peak but instead of Trey’s noodling incessantly, He just pounds out the chords to build to release and Mike hits a great melodic bass line to close it. The set probably could have ended there but it’s not last call yet. Trey hits the guitar chords to “Sparks” and the band goes into it. Fishman hits the drum fills quote well here. “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters” comes next and retains its spoken lyrics. Luckily with less Bob Dylan style vocals and more just atonal shouting. Besides that it’s pretty standard. We then get the third new cover, “The Ballad of Curtis Lowe” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. This first version is interesting because Trey sings some of the verses where as modern day versions have Page singing all the verses himself. Trey continues his mastery of the southern rock style of guitar playing. Next, we get the last cover in “Come On (Part One)”. The song is base on the Earl King R&B hit but the version here is clearly based on Jimi Hendrix’s rendition from Electric Ladyland. This is the only known performance of the song by Phish. Trey would later play it with the 8 Foot Fluorescent Tubes and his solo band in 1999 a few times. The song mostly features Trey’s uncanny ability to mirror Hendrix in his own style. However, the rest of the band also moves at the quick pace with strong support from Page, a hot bass line from Mike, and flashy drums from Fishman. It’s a shame they didn’t take this one for a walk more. The evening winds down with “I Am Hydrogen>Who Do? We Do!” “Hydrogren” us fun because it’s played at a faster tempo than usual but is no less beautiful. “Who Do? We Do” is broken up on my copy of this show, which is interesting. It ends abruptly, ending the recording. Apparently “Fuck Your Face” made its debut as the encore but did not make the recording. A fine 3-set affair from Nectar’s in the books!

Show #20: 3/23/87

Nectar’s at Night. Photo credit: Ken Burris. (Ken, let me know and I’ll take it down but it was too pretty to not use!)

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1987-03-23

Monday, 03/23/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Funky Bitch, Mike’s Song > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues,You Enjoy Myself > Sparks[1]

Set 2: Fluffhead, Peaches en Regalia, Ride Captain Ride[1] -> Dave’s Energy Guide,Corinna, Why Don’t You Love Me? > Camel Walk, Golgi Apparatus, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

[1] First known Phish performance.

Finally back on back on Main Street in downtown Burlington, at least as far as the recorded tape goes. The band had, of course, been paying bar gigs the whole time but less of these from the early years survived. We do know that the band had been moved the lounge upstairs to the restaurant downstairs at this point in the band’s history. Most likely, to allow for the growing crowds that began to attend the shows. The show opens with a tight “Funky Bitch”, a good call to get the blood flowing. Trey dedicates the next song to The Residents, an experimental music group from San Francisco, whose trademark “Eyeball with Top Hat” logo t-shirt would be a wardrobe staple for Trey. The song dedicated turns out to be “Mike’s Song”. It’s a solid version which rolls into this show’s first highlight. “Alumni>Jimmy Page>Alumni” had been getting a little stale show after show but the version here is where the band finds a solid groove. There’s a nice blues jam between verses in the first half, “Jimmy Page” is tight”, and the ending jam is sublime. Quality early Phish. The energy continues as Phish rips into “You Enjoy Myself”. You can tell Trey really has been practicing this part intensely hitting the arpeggios with a fierce accuracy as Page dances around on keys. The “Boy Man God Shit” part also has very nice groove to i. The band just feels more rehearsed than before and it shows in the quality of this “YEM”. We even finally get the bass and drums jam! It’s short but closer to reaching the classic “YEM”. We don’t get a true vocal jam but we get Trey singing the children’s tune “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” over the bass line, which sounds like if James Brown had hosted a children’s program in the 80s. Has to be heard to be believed. “YEM” dissolves and we get the night’s first new cover to close set one. The band rolls into “Sparks” from The Who’s Tommy. It’s short but shows the band’s ability to pick up many styles. We’ll see “Sparks” come out a few more times over the years including during a could of very important shows. The Who’s influence on the band will not be understated as influence their more rock-oriented tunes of course being important to the year 1995. More on that in a future post.

Set two opens with Trey introducing Paul, the sound man, who also hand building the guitars, the rack, the speaker cabinet, and “most of everything else that you see.” He also thanks Sid, who runs the lights (obviously before CK5 hit the scene), and Willis, their new roadie, who plays a mean guitar. The band then starts up “Fluffhead”. Unlike the previous “YEM”, “Fluffhead” does not show the same amount of tight playing. The recording also has a tape cut at 8 minutes in so I don’t believe we have the full song from that night. Next we get another “Peaches en Regalia” that Trey flubs a little bit. If this was 3.0, people would be all over him. The next song, Trey dedicate’s to Paul, another new cover, Blues Image’s “Ride Captain Ride”. A rare cover, it does however remain in the band’s rotation to this day, having last been played on 10/26/13 in Worcester, MA. It’s also fun to hear another early Page vocal. Page doesn’t have the strong voice we now known but he does a great job with this fun 70s cover. “Ride” devolves into a fast jazz jam which segues into “Dave’s Energy Guide”. The end of “DEG” gets super loopy as notes are bent and Page plays around while Trey keeps the pattern strong. “Corinna” pops up again to slow things down for a spell. This brings us to the 2nd set centerpiece, a funky version of “Why Don’t You Love Me?”, originally done by Hank Williams but done much more in the /Jim Hendrix/Red Hot Chili Peppers funk style. This surely would have gotten people up and dancing in the restaurant that night. It definitely fits perfectly in the 1980s and Trey’s voice has a bit of David Byrne style to it for the song. Luckily the band left the song in the 80s and never played it again but it’s a must-hear due to it being a very early example of Phish doing funk. It also has a decent segue into “Camel Walk”. Unfortunately, for some reason the band decides to slow the tempo for “Camel Walk” instead of just maintaining the speed and ti’s gets choppy but the intro is interesting. Mike keeps up the slap bass for “Camel Walk” and Trey gets loopy with the lyrics but it’s a solid “Camel Walk”. A decent “Golgi Apparatus” and the “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” jazz interlude close the set. Some believe a 3rd set may have been performed but the recording does not exist. Next show, we celebrate Earth Day at UVM! Thanks for reading.

Show #3: 12/1/84

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1984-12-01

Saturday, 12/01/1984
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Soundcheck: Fluffhead

Set 1: Jam, Wild Child > Bertha, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, Camel Walk, Jam, In the Midnight Hour, Scarlet Begonias > Fire[1] > Fire on the Mountain > Makisupa Policeman, Slave to the Traffic Light[2], Spanish Flea[1], Don’t Want You No More[3] ->Cities[1] -> Drums[4] -> Skippy the Wondermouse[5], Fluffhead[6]

Encore: Eyes of the World

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] First known performance.
[3] First known Phish performance; missing final lyrics.
[4] Marc Daubert.
[5] First known Phish performance; Dude of Life on vocals.
[6] First known performance; Dude of Life on vocals.

So far we’ve reviewed the first show, the “phirst” show, and no we come to probably what is actually the first REAL Phish show. The band introduces some originals, displays the trademark silliness the band would continue until the late 1990s. This is also the first bar gig on record at the legendary Nectar’s on Main Street in Burlington. The bar scene would prove very important to Phish. Trey Anastasio explained it this way to PBS News Hour:

“There were more bars per capita in Burlington than anywhere in America and that was the year the drinking age changed. It was grandfathered, Vermont was the last state to change the drinking age. So I was 18. That’s why there were so many bars. There aren’t more bars in Burlington today. That was the last 3 years that there were. There were 53 bars in a small town. Every bar wanted a band. So when you got a gig in Burlington in 1983, it was for 3 nights, 3 sets, I mean, we played like 6 hours a night. And the owner of the bar of the bar we would play in would come up to us and say, “Play a slow one, play a fast one, play a cover, play a Beatles cover” because there was no cover, we were just the band in the corner. We got really good at playing live and I think if we weren’t in the right place at the right time, I don’t think any of this would have happened.”

In this recording, we only have one set. Now Nectar’s in the 1980s was VERY different from the Nectar’s you would visit today. Nectar’s was not split up into two separate venues with an upstairs (now named Club Metronome) and downstairs. The entire space was one venue with bands performing upstairs and the traditional restaurant downstairs. It was in the upstairs space that this gig would be played and most of the gigs would be played. The band would play many different bars all over Burlington in the coming years but Nectar’s was always marked as the place where it all began, partly due to this tape. It also was the oldest available Phish recording until 11/3/84 surfaced and the first clear soundboard recording of the band.

The show leads off with the interesting pairing of “Scarlet>Fire (Hendrix)>Fire”. This differs from the 12/2/83 version in that the band sounds much more relaxed playing the two Dead covers and instead of just mimicking the Dead, puts more of their own sound towards the songs. The band’s transition betweens songs is also on point with using the end of Scarlet Begonias for both, taking it down to Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”‘s key to transition into that and picking up the riff again at the end to transition into Fire on the Mountain. It’s a key omen as the band has learned how to work a “set” of songs properly for good flow. The recording debut of “Makisupa Policeman” follows and has no special keywords but is a great introduction to the band’s reggae original and playful riffing on reggae and “smoking herb”. A break in the action has playful banter with Trey explaining they wrote that in down in Kingston to which someone replies Kingston, VT! (There is no town as such but Granville was named Kingston at one point.) They also do a bit about the emergency broadcast system in which they say that no one will have time to know what to do in an emergency. Marc Daubert yells out the next song is about the Burlington parking situation and the band launches into another original, “Slave to the Traffic Light”. The song doesn’t have the patience that will be exhibited in future versions but it’s interesting to hear the song with keys and with a twin guitar attack. Also, Trey doesn’t have his signature sound yet and some of the harmonics we all know and love fall flat.

“Here’s the magic band you’ve all been waiting for, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass,” states Trey as they go into the next track, “Spanish Flea”. This is worth it alone for the early band introductions by Marc Daubert. I would love to petition fans to give the Milkman nickname back to Mike Gordon. Trey sets up the next tune by saying here’s a band that was not as popular, the Allman Brothers Band. Audience members shout out many other bands while the band tunes up and then launch into “Don’t Want You No More” from the Allmans’ debut album. Not much is noteworthy the beginning of the rack but around 4:30, the band slips out of the more bluesy followthrough of the track and gets into a funk jam that would not be too uncommon in today’s Phish shows. It’s tasty really glimpse at where the band would go. Mike drops the bass line to “Cities” and the band is off. It’s a fairly straightforward performance of the song except using Phish’s own slow tempo version in stead of the faster “dance” tempo found on Talking Heads’ Fear of Music. Amazing is that this now band staple disappeared for a long time and was discovered by most on Slip, Stitch, and Pass years later. A long drum solo with Daubert and Fish ensues. Trey might have even jumped in but it was unclear.

To close out the set, the band also debuts two Phish originals but with the assistance of another very special guest. With a slow-building intro, Trey brings out for the very first time, the Dude of Life! The Dude guests on the debut of “Skippy the Wondermouse”. “Skippy” does not live on but its music does in the form of “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters”. The lyrics of “Skippy” get lost in the beauty of the song and are very throwaway. Luckily the tune did not. The debut of “Fluffhead” is, in fact, very different from the Fluffhead we all know and love. None of the delicateness or slow build that accompanies the tune today is there. It also does not include the “Fluff’s Travels” section of the song. The bouncy tempo and jangly guitars make the tune actually sound more like what I’d picture Dave Matthews Band covering “Fluffhead” would sound like. Overall though, not a bad first try. The show ends with crowd pleaser “Eyes of the World” which doesn’t sound too different from the version presented on 11/3/84. Not a bad little show and definitely sets the Phish “vibe”. Tomorrow: we begin 1985!