Shows #63-68: Colorado ’88

Trey and Page carry Page’s Yamaha CP-3 across Main St. in Telluride, CO, probably moving from the Fly Me To The Moon Saloon to the Roma.

(Click on the photo to purchase Colorado ’88 at

I’m back at last! I went to Vegas and it made me think hard about this blog. I almost pulled the plug on it. Halloween was such a historic moment for the band that you really can believe there is still a lot of history to write about Phish. It was a career game-changer. That’s how important I thought it was. Let’s back up a few steps though. Prior to this, I decided to try a new feature called PhishNow, where I’d review the current tour. I got one entry in and it felt wrong. It felt like a “cash in” move. If you follow the blog, feel free to write in if you think I should move forward with the PhishNow feature. But the reason was that I was dedicating the time I would listen to the next show to listening to the show from last night instead! That was one reason why I almost called it quits.

The second reason is Halloween. When you’re writing a history blog about a living subject, it’s daunting how much more there will be to write about. Even more daunting is when the subject creates a new historical moment that lives up to everything they’ve done in the past. In my mind, Halloween was one of those moments. At the same time, they both honored tradition and threw it out the window. It made me think, how many more shows like this can the band have in them? They’ve already peaked so much that I thought it’d be a nice burnout to the last gig. Phish is playing for all-time now. To take one of the most exciting nights of the year and play an album that’s really just a thinly veiled set of new instrumental music is unprecented. What Phish did on Halloween is something music hasn’t seen since the days of the Beatles and Pink Floyd. To take sound effects and create music on top of them is not only risky, but very avant-garde and old school. It completely adds to Phish’s mythos and make what I’m doing seem impossible. If they intend to play for another 30 years, the potential is limitless. No band, 30 years into their career, plays a mind-blowing set of NEW music like that. It was astounding. I didn’t think about the blog since then really. It sat in cobwebs, waiting for my next move. I started to get notices of a few fans and then I checked the stats that people are finding this in searches and actually enjoying the content. So, I’m back; trying to be one of Phish’s unofficial historians.

Today we’re hitting a subject that has been well covered, the band’s 1988 trip to Colorado. The problem with writing this after 2006 is that many of the tapes that circulate have been released officially as Colorado ’88. The album itself is a wonderful look at a very important turn in the band’s career. The problem arises in now those tapes are an official release and the shows as they stand were forced to be taken out of circulation, leaving me with a lot of odds and ends. I’m going to focus this part on the official release as it does some to contain the best of the best. Phish played a total of 6 shows in Telluride, Colorado: 5 at The Roma on July 28, 29, 30, August 4, and 5, and 1 across the street at the Fly Me to The Moon Saloon on August 3. There’s also a listed August 6th show at the Aspen Mining Company but no further info. Tapes of that show seem to just be a mislabeled August 5th show.

Mike Gordon describes it best with his retelling of the circumstances in The Phish Book. He says that his fiancé Cilla Foster made the shows happen. She was a waitress in a bar owned by local magnate Warren Stickley in Telluride. After some back and forth, Stickney promised a cross-country tour to take a month between Vermont and Colorado. Six months passed and with a week before the start of the tour, Stickley told the band it all had fallen through but that could still play shows at his place for $1000 dollars. They took a vote after a show at Nectar’s and loaded into a windowless box truck for the journey west.  “We didn’t even stop at a rest area for forty hours, so the truck got pretty disgusting,” said Mike.


Apparently Stickney had a reputation around Telluride as not paying workers or taxes. Posters were up around town with Stickney’s picture saying “Baby Huey go home”. Phish, in turn, would try to use this to their advantage with their own flyers stating “New England’s Most Naive Rock & Roll Band. We drove 2,000 miles because Warren Stickney promised us a thousand bucks!”. Mike maintains that the band got their $1000 anyway. Stickney’s reputation would however affect this gigs. Attendance at the Roma shows were poor. One night, according to Jon Fishman, a patron approached the band and asked why don’t you play a gig at Fly Me to the Moon saloon? Everyone wants to see you and we’re not boycotting it.” So on the band’s lone day off, they lugged the equipment across Main street and played to packed house. The night was so successful the bar ran out of alcohol. Sticky would land the band a gig in Aspen on August 6th. That night, the band had their money stolen but other than that, Phish had secured themselves a Colorado fan base.

Image source: Relix Magazine.
Image source: Relix Magazine.

As for the music, if you’ve been following along, it’s similar to what has come before but definitely has a fresh edge. You can hear Trey’s excitement for “fresh meat”. Nowhere has this been emphasized then how this compilation starts with Trey asking the audience like a proud Philadelphian, “Do you want with or without?”. Trey is not however ordering cheesesteaks but introducing the all important “The Curtain” and in this case, the crowd wisely chooses “The Curtain With”. Also of note is this was the last “Curtain With” for 12 years. It’s the perfect into because you can hear the tightness that all the practicing is paying off. It’s maddening that it was dropped as it was just hitting the right gear. It’s clear also that having just graduated from Goddard, Gamehendge is still fresh to the band. We get 4 tracks in a row from the project. The highlight of these being an extremely delicate “Fly Famous Mockingbird” that shows how much Page and Trey were being to almost move as one.

One of the stories adding to the Colorado shows lore was that on July 30th, the 3rd night, Fishman decided to take acid and go hiking. They got a little lost on the way down and got stuck high above a 1,000 foot cliff. As a result of having to backtrack and descend, Fish would miss the first two sets. In order to continue to play, Trey would use his childhood drumming skills to back Page and Mike on “Jazz Odyssey”, playing jazz standards as a trio. The lone taste of this is a take on Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage” and gives a glimpse of an alternate Phish universe. I love it and wish that more of these jazz standards would have made the set if the master cassette still exists. Fishman does return, still on a headful of acid and still lays down a fine beat. This is most apparent on “Run Like An Antelope”, which also has a fun interlude where Trey pokes fun at his drummer’s predicament. Page turns in another solid version of Traffic’s “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”. The band also turns in one of the top early “Lizards”. “Camel Walk” goes for a tight walk that does the other way of the Phish pendulum, showing Mike and Trey almost moving as one unit.

My favorite song on the album is “No Dogs Allowed” and it might be my favorite Phish song of all-time. Granted, it’s mostly because the majority of it would end up in “The Divided Sky” but I like the “No Dogs” intro better. It also has it’s own composed solo section before the now famous “Sky” outro. Trey clearly had played the tune in private a lot by this time as he nails all the sections perfectly, even better than 7/23/88. We get a nice early Mike’s Groove. Nothing earth-shattering but forming nicely. We then get a very nice combo from 8/5 with “YEM>Cities->Dave’s Energy Guide->Cities”. This is of note because “Cities->DEG->Cities” would be a staple for the rest of the year. The set ends with a lovely thank you to two crew members who tagged along, sound engineer Paul Languedoc and lighting director Tim Rogers.

The CD set ends their but has offered up a few bonus tracks. The bonus tracks are not as polished but still shine brightly. A very subdued “Sanity” despite the excited intro. A fun romp through “Dog Log”, which Trey amusingly calls an “old Phish song”. Interestingly enough, this would be the band’s only performance of the song in 1988. A very good “Slave to the Traffic Light” and “Harry Hood”, which amazes me that they left both those epics off the final cut. The bonus tracks end with a wild take on “Tela” that’s unlike any version I’ve heard yet.

The impact of the Colorado shows would be sudden as we’ll see in the rest of 1988. While they didn’t establish the band nationally from an industry standpoint, it did ultimately confirm to the band that what they were doing was culturally significant and could be successful. Interestingly enough, while these tapes would circulate heavily in Colorado, to the point where the band would return to larger crowds in ensuing years, they didn’t make their way out of years. The Colorado trip would make the band’s history in most write-ups but a look at Volumes 2-4 of The Pharmers’ Almanac (years 1996-1998) shows that the only shows with known setlists are August 3rd and August 5th. The July 30th show began being listed in The Pharmers’ Almanac Volume 5 and even then it had a snowflake rating indicating that it was very rare to obtain. So, while we know how important the shows were to the band, Colorado ’88 was a huge milestone for letting fans finally hear a large portion of the master tapes from that tour. An interesting note from Ernie Greene in The Pharmers’ Almanac reads “I sometimes hear that a few Telluride fans have this entire week’s worth of shows on tape. If the few sets in circulation-plus the “Jazz Odyssey” comments made during set two on 3/17/91-are any indication, this is a treasure worth uncovering! (I’ve also heard that soundboard masters were stolen from a house in Telluride sometime around 1990, so we may never hear these lost shows. Damn.)” Well Ernie, luckily they were not lost and you were right. They are a treasure work uncovering.

Show #60: 7/23/88

Saturday, 07/23/1988
Pete’s Phabulous Phish Phest, Underhill, VT

Set 1: Jam,  Colonel Forbin’s Ascent[1] >  Fly Famous Mockingbird[1],  Mike’s Song[1] >  I Am Hydrogen[1] >  Weekapaug Groove[2],  The Lizards[1],  On Your Way Down[1],  AC/DC Bag[1] >  Possum[1],  Walk Away[3],  Bold As Love[1],  No Dogs Allowed[4],  The Sloth,  Fire[5]

Set 2: The Curtain With[1] ->  Dave’s Energy Guide[1] ->  The Curtain With[1], Wilson[1],  Terrapin[6],  Run Like an Antelope[1],  Satin Doll[7],  Blue Bossa[8],  La Grange, Alumni Blues[1] >  Letter to Jimmy Page[1] >  Alumni Blues[1],  Peaches en Regalia

Set 3: You Enjoy Myself[1],  Contact[1],  Harry Hood,  Dinner and a Movie,  Slave to the Traffic Light[9],  The Ballad of Curtis Loew,  Good Times Bad Times

[1] Unknown additional percussionist.
[2] First known performance; Unknown additional percussionist.
[3] First known Phish performance; Unknown additional percussionist.
[4] First known performance.
[5] Peter Danforth and Dave Grippo on horns.; lyric changed to “Move over, Rover, and let Cameron take over.”
[6] Fish trombone solo.
[7] Peter Danforth and Dave Grippo on horns.
[8] Peter Danforth and Dave Grippo on horns, “Vincent” on trumpet.
[9] Peter Danforth on saxophone.

· Fly Famous Mockingbird tease in The Lizards
· Peaches en Regalia tease

What a great show we have for #60. Pete’s Phabulous Phish Phest. So many firsts and great playing. Coming off the killer 7/12/88 show, you could tell that the laidback vibe of a friend’s house would just add fuel to the fire and everyone was in for treat. This show as played in the small town of Underhill, which is located midway between the backside of Mt. Mansfield and Essex Junction. So close to Burlington but far enough away. The show kicks off with a soundcheck jam, most likely due to soundcheck being played in front of attendees. The soundcheck jam is great 1988 Phish and sounds like it could have come out of a Possum or AC/DC Bag. They then go into a narration-less “Forbin’s>Mockingbird” that’s very tight for the lead-off spot. A little slow on the “Forbin’s” but still amazing. Then we get to a real first highlight: the birth of the “Mike’s>Hydrogen>Weekpaug” sandwich. We had heard Hydrogen a few times in 1987 after once in ’85 and ’86. It seemed like it just need to find its place after getting paired with “Fluff’s Travels” excess. Clearly, this is it. It’s almost as if the band had worked on this pairing for a LONG time before this magnificent debut. Hearing the first version, it’s like drinking your favorite beer the first time. You had no idea it was there but once you get a taste, you’ll never be without it again. It all just works. The “Mike’s” here is hard driving with gorgeous bass lines from Mike and when it hits the ending notes and segues into “Hydrogren,” it’s effortless and provides the perfect breather before the moment that is the first “Weekapaug”. Now at some point prior to this gig (Trey pinpoints it as some time in 1987), the band had to have been cruising through Rhode Island. We don’t have any shows there on record but in many interviews, the band recalls writing the lyrics on a road trip in Rhode Island with “December 1963 (Oh What A Night)” by The Four Seasons on the radio and riffing on that. The music apparently came later at a 11-hour jam session at Trey’s cabin in Plainfield by Goddard. It’s a bit slower than you’re used to here and Mike’s signature bass riff hasn’t quite formed yet but still it’s a super funky 6-and-a-half minutes and totally worth a listen if only to see where the funk began. So you have the first ever “Mike’s Groove” and we’ll get used to it as they are about to play it A LOT. Heck, they even play it the next two shows in a row but we’re not there yet. After a nice “Lizards” that unfortunately gets cut off, we have the first recorded “On Your Way Down”. An Allen Toussaint song by way of Little Feat, it’s nice showpiece for Page to get down and dirty with his voice, much more so than “Jesus Just Left Chicago”. It’s pretty much the same as the band does it now. It’s still a rarity but made its last appearance at the Gorge in 2011. “AC/DC Bag” gets it’s funky intro back, which I think the band should restore. It segues into its partner du jour “Possum” and it’s a fun danceable 1-2 punch still. Missing some banter according to (in fact a lot of this recording is missing important banter, we get a new cover in the James Gang’s “Walk Away”, another Page song. Really it’s amazing how many of the covers are sung by Page. Clearly he was meant to be in the band. This is emphasized by the fact that “Bold as Love” follows with Trey nailing the tone of Hendrix once again. Someone shouts a request and Trey says that it’s one of his favorites and dedicates the song to Marley. it turns out to be “No Dogs Allowed” from the musical Gus The Christmas Dog, written by Trey and his mom. While this is the first known performance, I would think with how polished it sounds and that it’s a fan request, the song thad probably been performed by Phish before. Either way it’s a delight with excellent group vocals and very fun lyrics, much in the vain of “Contact”. I really would love a bustout sometime of this tune. It also has fun jazz bridge of course. The meat of “No Dogs Allowed” though is the outro, which would later be merged with “The Divided Sky” to form the piece we known today by that name. This version has a few more notes, less of the long sustains that would become a signature. The band sounds really dialed in here though and it’s a fantastic version, a must-listen. We get a nice tight “Sloth” to follow and the set closes with the first appearance of horns on Hendrix’s “Fire”, which also features Cameron McKinney on vocals.

Set 2 opens with “The Curtain With”. Unfortunately, we’re missing the banter that the ban announces their upcoming Colorado tour. I have a feeling this energy is what fueled the upswing from the Nectar’s run to Sam’s Tavern and this show. Knowing you have gigs in another part of the country will excite any band. This version wouldn’t be too noteworthy except it’s very tight until the jam which takes the “With” portion for a very nice walk. Then at about the 12:30 mark, Mike’s leads the band towards “Dave’s Energy Guide” and they all bite getting on the same groove to take it full and build up into it for about 8 minutes until they wind down back into the “With”. It’s a very early look at the band moving as whole, which is glorious for only 5 years into the band’s career. “Wilson” still has the original arrangement and doesn’t move closer to the tune we known now. Fish gets the spotlight on “Terrapin” and shows he’s making strides to being a performer with clearer pronunciation and confidence. It also is the first time “the dress” is mentioned as Trey asks Fish to show it off. Pictures make it unclear if this was the premiere of the dress but maybe. We also don’t know if it’s the donut dress or another dress but still having it’s very much another huge “first” for this show. “Antelope” makes a glorious return after the brief “Cantaloupe” appearance last show. Nothing outstanding but well-played. We get a nice jazz break with horns on the pairing of “Satin Doll” and “Blue Bossa”. Of note, most believe this is the first appearance of Dave “The Truth” Grippo, who would later be an important member of the Giant County Horns and played in the Sneakers Jazz Band, noted in the last blog post. IT’s always interesting to hear Phish with horns and this early version is a real treat. Phish gets back to rock with a fun “La Grange” and “Alumni>Letter>Alumni”. Set 2 here closes with “Peaches en Regalia” but says this is not from this show and sounds like it may have been tacked on as filler.

Set 3 opens with “You Enjoy Myself”. It doesn’t seem like much but it really feels like the birth of the modern “YEM”. After the stepping stone of the “YEM” vocal jam becoming a jam and not just a screaming match, at Sam’s Tavern, this, running at about 20 minutes, hits the movements like any good “YEM” should. It’s well played and shows a glimpse at the band’s future of being such a finely tuned machine. A nice funky “Contact” follows giving way to “Harry Hood”. This “Hood” is great with a very nice buildup and fine interworking play from all 4 musicians. “Dinner and a Movie” returns and continues to get tighter. The final highlight of the night is “Slave to the Traffic Light”. Building off the success of the last version, Phish again takes it all the way down and builds. The band brings it all the way down almost ending the song and Trey and Mike also play off each other in the breakdown. It’s not as immaculate but they have Peter Danforth join on saxophone and it gives the tune a feel like Branford Marsalis on the Grateful Dead’s “Eyes of the World” from Without a Net. It’s a very unique treat and again the song continues to make strides as a heavy hitter in the Phish arsenal. The band ties things up much like a regular show. They cool it down with “The Ballad of Curtis Lowe” but then send them home on fire with “Good Times Bad Times”. Mike then thanks Peter for having his party. We thank Pete for the party as well so we could have this awesome night as Phish brought the house down and unveiled a lot of surprises. This was also the longest Phish show at 4 hours and 7 minutes until Big Cypress I believe. Really a historic night for Phish, I’d love for Kevin Shapiro to release the master tapes so we could get all the banter and an ideal copy of this show. lists them as existing at least. This really is must-listen Phish up there with the Colorado ’88, which looms on the horizon…

No posts this weekend because it’s my birthday! Big week coming up though. I’ll see you back here on Monday. Thanks for reading!