Set 1: AC/DC Bag, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, You Enjoy Myself, Golgi Apparatus, La Grange, Fluffhead, Possum > Foam, Walk Away, Take the ‘A’ Train, Split Open and Melt > David Bowie
Set 2: Suzy Greenberg > Bold As Love, The Lizards, Harry Hood, If I Only Had a Brain, Contact, Fire
Encore: Whipping Post
I have something to reveal to you all. The members of Phish are not native Vermonters. This is shocking and upsetting I know, since they definitely reflect many of the state’s values but it’s true. So when you’re in a band, eventually you might play a gig your hometown if your band didn’t start there. Jon Fishman had the honor of being the 2nd band member to experience that moment as Mike Gordon had grown up in the greater Boston area. Jon Fishman was proudly raised by his adoptive parents Leonard and Mimi in the the Syracuse suburb of Dewitt and graduated from Jamesville-Dewitt High School in 1983. With Syracuse being a big college town, a return trip with the band was inevitable.
The area just north of Syracuse University’s campus is known as Marshall Street, even as is spread down University and South Crouse Ave. Surprisingly for an alumni of Syracuse University, I can’t tell you a whole lot about the bars. Unsuprisingly, I was more of a hang out with friends off-campus and do bong rips/house parties at the Ultimate Frisbee house kind of guy. I do know where the Orange Grove was. It was located on the first floor at the corner of S Crouse Ave. and E. Adams St. above the basement space. More recent alumni would know the space as Darwin’s. As of right now, I believe the space is vacant. The area in its heyday had at least 10 bars in the area and now only has about 4; a testament to the raising of the drinking age to 21 and the crackdown by law enforcement. I went in there once, I don’t remember it being a very large space, let alone where bands would play but several SU alums confirmed this was the place. (Current students would probably think you’re referring to the awful alumni donor space on campus next to the quad nowadays.) One Phish.net member does say this show happened at Hungry Charlie’s, which would make more sense in terms of space. This is also how it is listed in the Phish Companion. Hungry Charlie’s was located downstairs at 727 S. Crouse Ave. under the new bar known as Chuck’s in a space occupied by Funk ‘N Waffles, curiously owned and operaed by Phish fan and Sophistafunk keyboardist Adam Gold. Funk ‘N Waffles continues to serve live music to the SU community in the space.
The show itself was probably exciting for those who had not seen the band but not much here historically besides the above. Trey opened by dedicating “Alumni Blues” to all the recent graduates of Syracuse University as they were playing on Commencement Weekend. A really nice early “Melt” is offered here as well. The “David Bowie” is a must listen as we have kind of the first recorded “hi-hat hjinx” here with Trey weaving “Melt”, “A Train”, and “Fluffhead” into the intro. The “Hood” is pretty fantastic here. Fishman gets a huge yell from the crowd as he comes to the front of the stage. Commenting on how he now gets to embarrass himself in front of his entire high school, one audience member yells “TOO LATE!” which is pretty funny. He busts out “If I Only Had A Brain” to their delight with a vacuum solo. Fishman had arrived. The standout jam through is the “Whipping Post”. Starting around the 8-minute mark, it starts to get off the typical wailing “Post” riff and stays just shy of Type II but they do push it and get ambient around the 10-minute mark, almost foreshadowing future jamming in an interesting way. A rare glimpse of where Phish is going.
Set 1: Golgi Apparatus, You Enjoy Myself, Ya Mar, Fluffhead > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Donna Lee, Fee > Run Like an Antelope
Set 2: I Didn’t Know, Take the ‘A’ Train, Good Times Bad Times, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters
Man, I can’t believe with is show review #100. That really means 1500 to go still but it’s a nice milestone to reach. I also wish we had a better show for #100 but this is a real stinker. There are cuts all over the place right in the middle of songs. We only get half of set 2. And the playing isn’t inspired at all. We also don’t know where this show took place. Some say it was back at Sigma Phi, where another poster says it was at McEwan Coffee House due to rain. Phish.com says Sigma Phi might not even be the right venue. We know about the rain due to Trey’s awesome intro to “Ya Mar”, the first time I’d heard him make the Phish underwater pun due to everyone being in the “swimming pool down in front of the stage.” The other highlight is hearing Phish ad-lib as his vacuum is once again not plugged in. He finally gets it going for a nice solo. I’d say you can definitely skip this tape.
It’s hard for a band, especially an East Coast band, to truly get somewhere without making a splash in New York City. However, New York in the late 1980s was not really a hippie-friendly environment. Most of the clubs were places to be seen and not see music. Those that did host music were catering to Punk and New Wave bands lingering from the city’s own musical renaissance in the late 1970s. Not the most welcoming place for a noodling progressive jam quartet from Vermont. Enter Larry Bloch. Bloch was the visionary behind The Wetlands Preserve. Located at 161 Hudson St in the TriBeCa neighborhood, the club was both a nightclub and an activism center for environmental issues. The building was a former Chinese food warehouse. The club opened at just the right time on February 16, 1989 with a sold-out show from the Grateful Dead-influenced band New Potato Caboose instead of rising jamband Blues Traveler. Less than a month later, Phish played their first gig and really found their NYC crowd at the Wetlands. The club would be a lasting impact as totally different from anywhere else in the city. Several things set the club apart: a more laid-back attitude than another club, a unique downstairs “chill” space with couches and pillows but still a live feed from the main room, and an information center built into an old VW bus, where concertgoers could learn about environmental issues. Phish would go on to play 7 more shows at the Wetlands, 5 of which will be reviewed here. The Wetlands doesn’t get the nostalgia that CBGB gets in New York’s music history but in reality, it’s every bit as important. Nearly every band that made the early to mid 1990s rock scene, with the exception of Nirvana graced its stage. Heavy hitters included “house band” Blues Traveler, The Spin Doctors, Pearl Jam, Hootie and the Blowfish, Sublime, Ween, almost many others. I won’t give the entire Wetlands story away since we’ve got so far to go. The main point being where else could Phish play on a Saturday night in New York in 1989. It’s also key because if you follow the band’s career in a certain city, it will add another dimension to their tale. In the coming days, we’ll add City as a category so you can view every review per city to show that transition.
As for the actual show, we only have half of it. This is a great sounding early audience recording. Clearly there’s a crowd but doesn’t sound like a packed house. “A Train” features an extensive “Flinstones” theme tease. The “Mike’s Song” has a great jam with an ending lead by Trey instead of Page, which is odd. “Weekapaug Groove” has some unusual drumming from Fishman that’s worth checking out. First real standout track about Fishman so far. “Antelope” has a very neat and tidy jam for the song. Lastly, Trey says that Bruce Springsteen will be coming out to join them. Funny now that 20 years later at Bonnaroo, that would actually happen. It’s sad that we don’t have the 3rd set. Given the venue, it probably got a little weird and fun. Next, we head back to Burlington for the end of an era.
Addendum: I know that if you look at Phishtracks or Phish.in, you’ll see there was a show on 3/3/89. The setlists and information vary so differently between Phish.com and Phish.net that it cannot be historically accurate at all for this blog. Therefore I have opted out of reviewing to.
Set 1: Slave to the Traffic Light, Time Loves a Hero, Fire, You Enjoy Myself > Possum, Take the ‘A’ Train, Golgi Apparatus, Walk Away, Fluffhead > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, David Bowie
Set 2: Wilson > Peaches en Regalia, Bold As Love, The Lizards, AC/DC Bag -> Fee, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, I Didn’t Know, Good Times Bad Times
Set 3: Icculus, Suzy Greenberg, Sparks > Divided Sky
 Fish on trombone.
Yesterday, we talked about Phish, walking the fine line between being silly and being professional. Well, the duality of Phish has another dimension for today’s show. They also have two different circuits they’re currently playing on. The circuits are very similar and overlap but there’s something completely different about them. I’m talking about the club circuit vs. the college circuit. Yesterday, on the bar circuit, we had the first gig in a major music market and so everything felt tight and calculated. Your ability to bring patrons in the door and buy drinks, factors into your ability to come back and hopefully grow into larger venues. Today, we’re back on the college circuit. The gig’s most likely already been paid for. The people who are going to be there are already there and allows a band to relax and just play the show. There’s no pressure. On Phish.com, it’s noted in Mike’s journal that even he could feel how relaxed this gig was. You can feel this during this show immensely. It’s not the most interesting show but there’s a different vibe to the songs.
This gig takes place in the Sigma Phi fraternity house. You can actually visit the building as it has since been taken over by the University and is now Siuda House, home of the admissions office since 2003. Of course, it’s been totally renovated so it won’t look anything like when Phish played there but still something cool to say. Musically, the show doesn’t have too many differences from previous shows. There’s a really cool move from the “YEM” vocal jam to “Possum”. There’s the last performance of Little Feat’s “Time Loves a Hero” until Star Lake ’98. It’s a shame because it’s probably their best performance of it and would have only improved if it had stuck in rotation. I think the relaxed vibe also might have helped with the relaxed vibe the song needs. A real solid early “Bowie” with a fun reminder that they’re Phish from Page. Page really used to talk a lot. That gives 3.0 a more old school vibe. The “Wilson->Peaches” combo remains but Trey does also get in the “Blat Boom” before the transition. Gamehendge gets mentioned a lot unlike at Molly’s where it wasn’t mentioned at all. A nice tight early “Mike’s Groove”. The silliness gets unleashed with an always fun “Icculus”. All-in-all, a good listen but nothing required but also good to show the contrast between the two worlds Phish is involved in during this period of their career.
Set 1: Funky Bitch, Golgi Apparatus, Peaches en Regalia, Take the ‘A’ Train > Possum,Phase Dance, Good Times Bad Times, Skin It Back, David Bowie
Set 2: Wilson, I Didn’t Know, Fluffhead, Fire, Fee, You Enjoy Myself > Divided Sky, AC/DC Bag > Whipping Post, Slave to the Traffic Light
Encore: Big Black Furry Creature from Mars
One of the major perks of being a college band is that if you get popular enough at your own school, people visiting will want you to play their school as well. So, Phish’s traveling college gigs began here, playing a frat party at St. Lawrence University, deep in the Adirondacks in Canton, New York. Only 120 miles away but with no direct route, the journey takes just over 3 hours. But a gig is a gig, and you never know if it will lead to more. So off they went to play this pledge party. A little different than Otis Day and the Knights, eh? With Phish being in new territory, we don’t get too much new stuff. “A Train” has a very nice transition into “Possum”. The “Possum” is super tight here. “Skin It Back” is the set 1 highlight with an excellent building jam. “Skin It Back” ends oddly enough with “We’re gonna take a short break.” but is followed by “David Bowie” and listed as Set 1. I believe this is an error. “Bowie” has an awesome dissonant jam at about the 5:40 mark. The ending is also very clean.
Set 2 opener “Wilson” has some interesting effects at the 4-minute mark. I think they’re from Mike but it is unclear. “I Didn’t Know” is sans trombone. “Fluffhead” is extremely well-played with some fun banter from Trey, including him asking people to clap along. “YEM” is shown going into “Divided Sky” but it’s just more of an awkward transition on tape. The rest of the set is fun but nothing exciting. “Slave” cuts off before the peak. A third set was played but does not circulate, except a locked down video of “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars” that no one has seen. A solid show on new ground but no must-listens here. Much like the recent Jazz Fest set, a solid show if nothing else. It just goes that a standard Phish show is still better than most bands’ best nights.
Set 1: Dog Log, Peaches en Regalia, Divided Sky, Funky Bitch, Harry Hood, Clod, The Curtain With, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone, Shaggy Dog, Wilson, Camel Walk
Set 2: Mike’s Song -> Hold Your Head Up, Harpua > Bundle of Joy > Harpua -> Golgi Apparatus > Sparks, Flat Fee, Fee, Skin It Back -> Low Rider Jam -> Back Porch Boogie Blues -> The Sloth
Set 3: Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters -> Stir It Up Jam, Makisupa Policeman Jam -> David Bowie > Sanity, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
 First known Phish performance.
 Restarted after the opening lyric.
 First known performance.
 Extended intro.
 Freestyle reggae rapping from Trey.
We’ve reached what many believe to be the peak of Early Phish, the period from 1983-1987, Ian’s Farm. Or the shown know as Ian’s Farm. The actual full title of the gig is Ian McLean’s party (or pig roast depending on who you ask) at “Connie” Condon’s farm. Nobody seems to know who “Connie” Condon is though I bet Ian McLean does. He’s still friends with the band and was acknowledged as in attendance at SPAC last summer. Hebron is located in the Glens Falls/Saratoga Springs area so it’s interesting that 25 years later he still lives there. It’s important to note this is the first recording that was not in Vermont. While most likely the audience is friends, there might be people in the crowd that helped spread the word of the band. When listening to this show, take a few moments and imagine seeing the band on a farm in the warm summer. Surrounded by friends and family, it’s an intimate gathering. According to legend, there were many dogs as people. Throughout the recording you can hear their barking, as if they too wanted in on the fun. The friendly attitude seeps in the songs as it feels less rushed than the previous two nights at Nectar’s. You can feel it in the song selection as well. There’s less emphasis on the covers and besides the lone request of “Harpua”, more of the band just playing in the groove.
The show doesn’t start off too excitingly but is a fun listen. “Dog Log” is well-played. Probably the best call for an opener over with how many dogs were at the show. “Peaches en Regalia” rips. The shortened “Divided Sky” is played very well and sounds fully sketch, despite being unfinished. “Funky Bitch” rips. But the real fun starts with “Harry Hood. The band feels relaxed on the tune by now. It’s been worked in enough to fit like an favorite pair of pants or an old baseball mitt. The barking of dogs fits the recording, giving the song a Pink Floyd Animals feel. “Hood” also has the now standard spoken “Thank You Mr. Minor” instead of the old singsongy edition. But the end jam, Page hits the keys just right and there’s a tenderness in the playing that hadn’t been heard yet. Trey also has finally found the phrasing; with his playing interlocking well with Page and Mike. Trey’s arpeggios at the 11:30 mark are spellbinding. The ending is not to be missed as it’s all tied together into the “You Can Feel Good” refrain. It’s so good, Fishman comments “That’s why I’m in the band”. “Clod” gets the extended treatment with a very funky breakdown beginning at the 3-minute mark. Fishman gets in some very good cowbell into the jam. “The Curtain With” comes next and just plain cooks. Hitting all the changes. Trey milking the notes just right in the “With” jam and getting the best out of his tone. Page creating the right feeling with the perfect painting of chords. I’m getting hot and bothered just listening to it. “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” gets taken for a walk and the band gets OUT THERE. After the 2nd verse, the band gets into some deep type 1 and just enjoys to the end. They don’t even go back into the song. Trey teases his guitar to keep the dogs barking. In thinking about the dogs, we get another fun version of “Shaggy Dog” (with backup dogs!) . “Wilson” is still not the powerhouse we know today, this version does come closer to the version found on Trey’s thesis. Also has a weird, dark breakdown at the 4-minute mark. Trey also doesn’t do the signature “Blat Boom” offering a more low-key quick one-off instead. A very oddly intro puts the band into “Camel Walk”. The band plays with keys and tempos and arrangements in a weird way. At least, interesting to hear the band play with the song here as they close set 1.
Set 2 opens with “Mike’s Song” and here it lives up to its name as the jam is led by Mike’s bass. He even leads Trey into a “Ring around the Rosie” tease at the 4-minute mark. It’s the first real time we’ve had such a strong performance from Mike but he really is in the zone here and Trey just sits back and lets him own the jam, which is brilliant to hear. At the 9:45 mark though, we hear Trey finally take the song back, leading Mike into a speeding chase the feels like they’re both going down the wormhole, twisting around, not knowing where they’ll land. The landing point turns out to be a sinister version of Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up”. Today the tune is known as Fishman’s entrance song but somehow it ended up being the odd ending to this killer “Mike’s” jam. In the pause, trey plays with some effects that sound like the solo towards the end of “Esther” on Junta. It only makes sense that in a show full of dog’s barking we get a “Harpua” by request. This version’s a little different because we don’t get a story about Harpua and Poster Nutbag (to be explained later) and also we don’t get the end of the song. We get the first part but as it’s only the second performance, it’s a little rough. So much so, that they stet the song twice, work on the acapella intro a few times over the chord progression, and Trey slows the song down so that he’s actually speaking the lyrics at one point. Not the best version but an interesting listen to the beginnings of a Phish classic. In the middle, we get the debut of the last part of “Fluff’s Travels” in “Bundle of Joy”. The tune actually doesn’t seem too out of place joining the “Harpua” jam but is clearly more comfortable in it’s current role of building the tension to the “Fluffhead/Arrival” moment. The ending of “Harpua” gets quite funky and danceable, which is not something I usually say about that tune. I like it but I’d rather have the current “rock opera” ending. “Golgi” follows and is pretty good. “Sparks” gets an extended intro while Fishman apparently “squeezes urine from his bladder” as Trey puts it. A fan calls for “Fee” but they need to wait for Fish. At one point, it almost sounds like Trey wants to play Tom Petty’s “Here Comes My Girl” but it moves into “Sparks”, which features a lot of flourishes from Trey to give it that Pete Townshend feel. Trey gives the audience the option of “Fee” or “Flat Fee” first. Trey decides on “Flat Fee”, a jazz number he wrote in an exercise with his mentor Ernie Stires. I love “Flat Fee”. I’d love to see it brought back. Apparently, Trey teased it before Jones Beach 2009. Maybe this summer finally. Phish really needs to bring back the jazz influence that had in the 80s and early 90s in my opinion. “Fee” finally gets played by request, still sans megaphone and a standard version. The set ends with a huge jam segment. It kicks off innocently enough with “Skin It Back”. Trey rips off some hot licks at about the 2-minute mark. The jam is going along great but at the 7-minute mark Fish pushes the tempo and Trey answers the call with fast flying fretwork. The jam breaks down and lands into jamming on War’s “Low Rider”, led by Mike entering the bass line. Trey gets into the fun as well, yelling for his dog Marley, and singing the chorus of Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” over it. It’s a cool moment after the madness of the “Skin It Back” jam, almost like a hidden outro on an LP. It’s short lived however and the band picks up the tempo again and Trey plays the opening licks of “Back Porch Boogie Blues”. The pace quickens as the song develops almost reaching boiling point before cooling down. It’s cool to see the band push tempos and stay together. Mike starts with the bass line to “The Sloth” and it ends the jam.
Set 3 opens with a debut. Trey says it will be a song from Melanie entitled “I’ve Got a Brand New Pair of Roller Skates; You’ve Got A Brand New Key”. Thankfully, it is not the song and we get the first “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars”. I like this version because it feels more punk rock and less noisy than other versions. It sounds like it could be a real punk tune here. Trey’s opening riff is on point. Solid debut. Next is “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters” introduced by Trey as the “Gala Event” with another “Hold Your Head Up” intro. Still waiting to start up, Trey teases the Dead’s “Slipknot!” much to the dismay of some attendees. “McGrupp” is interesting because it’s heard in it’s final form with the lyrics sung to the tune instead of spoken word. It’s a great version with a pretty Page solo at the 5:30 mark. It segues nicely into the “Stir It Up” jam, cued by Mike with the bass line. What follows is a really nice jam on the chord progression with none of the vocals. A short pause and then the band fires up the “Makisupa” chord progression to keep the reggae vibe going. Trey proceeds to rap over the band, book ending “Dog Log” with lines about stepping in doogie doo and the mouse house. Besides that fun, the jam doesn’t really go anywhere but with Trey playing with effects over the top. It does however transition very nicely into David Bowie with Trey playing the riff. It’s a very low key intro with a slow playing of the chords before speeding up to normal tempo as Mike drops bass bombs. There’s also nice “Tom Sawyer” tease to enjoy. The jam also has some fun flourishes and ends with Mike hitting the bass line for “Sanity”. They asks the crowd to “sing it out!”. The set ends with “an original song…by a slave” and the jazz arrangement of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” sends the audience to bed. A silly ending to a phenomenal show. If you haven’t heard this one, hit up the PhishTracks link above and enjoy. Next we head back to the Ranch in Shelburne!