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 #87: 3/4/89 The Wetlands Preserve New York, NY

Saturday, 03/04/1989
The Wetlands Preserve, New York, NY

Set 1: Take the ‘A’ Train,  I Didn’t Know[1],  Mike’s Song >  I Am Hydrogen >  Weekapaug Groove,  Fee,  Golgi Apparatus,  Good Times Bad Times

Set 2: Possum >  Fluffhead,  The Lizards,  Run Like an Antelope,  Contact

[1] Fish on trombone.

The Wetlands at the corner of Hudson and Laight, NYC.
The Wetlands at the corner of Hudson and Laight, NYC.

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.

Inside the Wetlands at the info bus.
Inside the Wetlands at the info bus.

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, you’ll see there was a show on 3/3/89. The setlists and information vary so differently between and that it cannot be historically accurate at all for this blog. Therefore I have opted out of reviewing to.

Show #85: 2/24/89 The Front Burlington, VT

Friday, 02/24/1989
The Front, Burlington, VT

Set 1: The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday >  Avenu Malkenu >  The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday,  The Curtain >  Foam,  Colonel Forbin’s Ascent >  Fly Famous Mockingbird > Run Like an Antelope >  Golgi Apparatus,  Possum

Set 2: On Your Way Down >  AC/DC Bag,  You Enjoy Myself ->  Camel Walk

· Jean Pierre tease in You Enjoy Myself

The SkiRack (formerly The Front) looking up Main St. towards The Woodbury Armory (formerly Hunt's).
The SkiRack (formerly The Front) looking up Main St. towards The Woodbury Armory (formerly Hunt’s).

Are you starting to see the pattern of the Front being a home base for the band during their early touring years? They still had that weekly gig, 3 nights a week to ground the band as their world got crazier and crazier. This is the second of three nights, the other two do not have recordings, and what we get is just good solid Phish. The problem here is the quality of the recording. This is most likely a later generation tape and that’s why the dubbing is incorrect. Because of the poor dubbing, we get everything a half step higher then it originally was played. Historically, it’s great we have anything at all but it’s a little hard to judge the playing because everything’s sped up. Did Phish really have crazy chops like that earlier on? Most likely yes and we can tell from other tapes but here’s other factors that we’ll see in following Phish’s history that are impacted by the quality of tapes we have access to. One of the benefits of early Phish is tapers had access to patch directly in to the soundboard. That means they could take their rig and plug it in for a direct recording of the soundboard. Starting in the early 90s, we’ll see a transition as many of the shows reviewed will become audience recordings as Phish cut off access to the soundboard. For more on the history of tape trading, check out this article by David Steinberg aka zzyzx.

It’s also important to note that some of the recordings on PhishTracks or are probably 3rd or 4th generation tapes. I’m still grateful for what we have though. There’s no way an undertaking like this could have been done until at least the mid-2000s and even then it would have been difficult due to space constraints. Everything, even the bad shows, would have had to been downloaded to a hard drive. Those hard drives still exist but streaming the show makes it easy to listen anywhere and that is a timesaver. As for the show itself, it’s a solid night. Excellent to see “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday” back on a recording. The highlight is the “YEM->Camel Walk”. The “YEM” is the first time you really hear Phish’s signature tension and release jamming as the jam builds and builds until it hits that right moment to come down and then they effortlessly transition into “Camel Walk”. It’s really a great early highlight despite being presented a half-step up.

P.S. Happy 6th Anniversary 3.0! I’m so glad I’m writing about living history instead of just history! Thanks Phish!

Show #81: 1/26/89 – The Paradise Rock Club Boston, MA

Thursday, 01/26/1989
The Paradise, Boston, MA

Soundcheck: The Sloth > Possum

Set 1: I Didn’t Know[1],  Golgi Apparatus,  Alumni Blues[2] >  Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues,  You Enjoy Myself,  The Lizards,  Take the ‘A’ Train,  Sanity[3],  Divided Sky,  Fee, Good Times Bad Times

Set 2: Suzy Greenberg,  Icculus,  Colonel Forbin’s Ascent >  Fly Famous Mockingbird,  The Sloth ->  Possum,  Contact,  Big Black Furry Creature from Mars,  Foam,  David Bowie

Encore: AC/DC Bag,  Fire

[1] Fish on trombone.
[2] Additional lyrics.
[3] Fast version.

The exterior of the Paradise Rock Club before renovation.
The exterior of the Paradise Rock Club before renovation.

For those not familiar with the Boston music scene, there’s a certain air to the Paradise. It’s not that glamorous a room. It’s long and narrow with the stage on the left side and balcony on the right. Back when Phish played the club, the stage face one of two support columns in the center. Since then the stage has been moved, further back centered between the columns. But the reason the club is such an industry icon is the people who have taken its stage. Opening in 1977, the club hit the national stage as U2 opened for  Barooga Bandit on December 13, 1980 became known as the starting point of the band’s American career. They say only 150 people showed up for their set that night and only 40 remained for the headliner. That following March, they pulled in to play 2 sold out shows at the venue and never looked back. Those 1981 shows would also be some of the band’s first live recordings released on early singles. Everybody in alternative music plays the Paradise on their way up. Some of the acts who had graced the stage before Phish included The Police, Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, AC/DC, Todd Rundgren, R.E.M., and Warren Zevon to name a few. Boston bands that would make their name on the stage include Pixies, Galaxie 500, and Mighty Mighty Bosstones,

Snoop Dogg plays the 'Dise after renovations.
Snoop Dogg plays the ‘Dise after renovations.

Phish had to take that stage to continue their rise. John Paluska and Ben Hunter knew it was the next step. Gigs at Molly’s had proven successful with sold-out shows but this had not transferred to the Paradise’s management. Their talent scout wouldn’t even listen to their demo tape. Planks and Hunter knew that Phish had the talent for the room. So, they decided to rent the Paradise and sell tickets at $5 a piece. Hunter and Paluska promoted the show heavily but it was the strength of Burlington, VT that led to this victory. Tow friends of the band ,Tom Baggott and “Brother Craig” rented buses and charged $20 a head for the trip. The filled two charter buses and helped push the gig to it’s 650-person capacity. Baggott recalls the situation in The Pharmer’s Almanac Vol. 6 as, “It was a hair-brained scheme to get Phish’s Burlington support down to the club. The bus was fucking insane. It was truly a magic bus. The only rule was no glass bottles.” The show was so successful about 200 more people found themselves shut out. Bouncers “who wondered if Phish was a real band” now were stunned at having to turn people away.

The original flyer for 1/26/89
The original flyer for 1/26/89

On the tapes, you can feel the energy in the air. The band sounds excited for the show. Page thanks the crowd after each oft he first few tunes. Mike even gives out a “Thank You, Boston!” before they tear into “Alumni Blues”. This is the first recorded version we have with extended lyrics, taking the song from a simple blues to having an actual narrative about how the protagonist gets jailed but is happy he now has a floor. Another interesting part is during the “Alumni Blues” jam after “Letter to Jimmy Page”, Trey plays the chords to Possum instead, creating a very interesting “mashup”. It’s unclear whether he forgot what song it was or was just so in the moment, it sounded similar. But no one is more excited to be on stage at the ‘Dise than Ernest Guiseppe Anastasio the 3rd. Trey takes a moment to let it sink in and then address the crowd, “Alright well this is pretty wild. (Nervous laughter)”. You can hear the energy in his voice. If you juxtaposition this against 8/27/88, this Trey actually being a rock star. He knows the crowd is hanging on his every word for the first time. The takes the opporunity to thank his mom for coming up, joking that she’s from Ireland. This might even be a subtle U2 reference. Then, it’s time and the band plays a flawless “You Enjoy Myself”. It’s to very jammy but every composed section is nailed. Page takes some great leads here as he also does with his organ part on “Divided Sky”. Trey then takes a moment to acknowledge a fan calling for “Minkin” and pointing out the new backdrop behind the band done by Mike’s mother, artist Marjorie Minkin and that she is in the crowd. Trey and Page also bust out a small tease of Minkin, the only time the song from The White Tape is acknowledged in the band’s career. Another first set highlight is “Sanity”, presented here in its “fast version”. There’s a manic late New Wave feel to the version, released as a single in 1986, it might have launched the band’s career but it was too late as alternative music has passed away from this style. It’s sill a delight to hear here and we’ll see if it evolves at all.

Set 2 was much harder to track down but luckily one torrent exists on Because of this, the quality if not very good. I will say if you proceed to listen to set 2 and the encore, you are at your own risk. We get a really short and succinct “Icculus”, not many jokes in this version either. “The Sloth->Possum” segue is worth the price of admission alone, it’s firmly work by Fishman to keep the beat at such an odd rhythm and Mike his dissonant bass riffs all leading up the driving beat of Possum. It’s really top notch work, especially Jon Fishman. “Contact’ you can hear the rowdy crowd sing along loudly, showing their enthusiasm. In the home of pre-grunge rock, “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars” is given a rowdy rendition. “Bowie” has a “Melt The Guns” tease during the longer intro. All in all, a very energetic night from Phish at their big club debut. Well worth a listen to feel the band taking in the crowd. Mike would say in The Phish Book years later,

“When we started touring in 1988, we played one landmark gig after another: the first time we played the Paradise in Boston, for example, or the first time we played for a thousand people at the University of Massachusetts. When we played the Paradise, we’d never seen 650 people in a room before. Looking out at them through this little window before the gig was one of the most exciting moments of my life. But the show itself wasn’t a peak musical experience at all; I remember it as raunchy noise. The following night (actually being two nights later at Dartmouth College), however, was a music thrill because we’d been relieved the pressure of playing a big rock club for the first time.”

The Paradise show would lead to more bookings up and down the East Coast as word spread throughout the industry. It would also cement the standard of two sets and an encore format that remains today. The band would play 6 more gigs at the Paradise itself over the next few years. It would also mark the beginning of the following Phish phenomena as people who had traveled to Boston realized they were missing out on the band’s growth. It can be clearly stated this is the pivotal moment when Phish went from Burlington bar band to PHISH, from Burlington, VT. This is the first modern Phish show.

Show #80: 12/17/88 The Stone Church – Newmarket, NH

Saturday, 12/17/1988
Old Stone Church, Newmarket, NH

Set 1: Divided Sky,  You Enjoy Myself >  Slave to the Traffic Light,  Foam >  Possum,  Colonel Forbin’s Ascent >  Fly Famous Mockingbird >  David Bowie

The Stone Church in Newmarket, NH
The Stone Church in Newmarket, NH

The last show of the year almost feels like an extended encore. We only have one set to work with but it’s a strong set, full of Phish favorites. The sound on this is just fantastic, almost like it’s taken straight from Junta but we do have introductions from Trey to make sure we know it’s a live recording. “Divided Sky” hits a blistering peak with soaring leads from Trey. Trey banters about the new album and the album AFTER the new album. “Our FIFTHcoming album,” Page says. Not to be confused with their forthcoming album being the joke. “You Enjoy Myself” has a really nice jam beginning at the 10-minute mark. Serious early funk. “Slave” had a decent peak but still work to be done. The interplay in “Foam” continues to improve and is slowly becoming the whole band showcase it will be. The “Bowie” here is top notch and really finds some true jamming. The intro continues to get extended, hitting that more modern feel. Around the 5:30 mark, Trey hits the “Secret Language” trill, which he still uses today to say he has an idea. He then plays an tight solo over the top that leads into a nice little stop/start jam. They also have nice full band riff towards the end around the 11-minute mark that is on fire. Really showing strides as moving as unit on this version. Overall a lovely set for 1988.

Top 5 of 1988:

Now for my top five shows of 1988. This will included whenever we reach the end of a year. I will merely rank and link to my reviews. No need to retread what has already been written.

5. 11/3/88
A polished Boston debut

4. 5/24/88
Early out-there jamming

3. Colorado ’88
An important step for Phish

2. 12/10/88
Only one cover is huge. Also it’s below the radar status means it needs some love.

1. 7/23/88
Pete’s Phabulous Phish Phest is a night for all-time.

Show #79: 12/10/88 The Red Barn at Hampshire College – Amherst, MA

The Red Barn at Hampshire College.
The Red Barn at Hampshire College.

Saturday, 12/10/1988
The Red Barn, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA

Set 1: I Didn’t Know[1],  Golgi Apparatus,  David Bowie,  The Lizards,  Foam,  Fee,  Mike’s Song >  I Am Hydrogen >  Weekapaug Groove,  Wilson,  Colonel Forbin’s Ascent >  Fly Famous Mockingbird

Set 2: Alumni Blues[2] >  Letter to Jimmy Page >  Alumni Blues,  You Enjoy Myself,  Contact, The Sloth,  AC/DC Bag ->  Possum,  Good Times Bad Times

Encore: Run Like an Antelope

[1] Fish on trombone.
[2] Additional lyrics.

This show may be overlooked by many even within just the year 1988 but this show is just as important as Pete’s Fabulous Phish Phest and the Colorado trip. Part of that might just be the fact it’s a “late addition” to Phish history. This show didn’t appear in any version of The Pharmer’s Almanac but did appear in the 1st edition of The Phish Companion. So, it finally hit circulation in 2000, the near end of tape trading. This show is a benefit for the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws or NORML. This would mark a rare Phish benefit show and the first. The interesting perspective of that is Paluska had convinced the organization that Phish was big enough draw in the Pioneer Valley for the fundraiser. Of course the location helps to. Hampshire being a kindred spirit to the band’s home base of Goddard College; two progressive schools that foster free thought and independent learning. So it’s no wonder that in this sphere, Phish throws down a tight performance. The star here though isn’t individual tracks, though we will run down some highlights as always, or a band member’s growth. The highlight here is the setlist. If you give it a rundown, you’ll find there’s only one cover! This is a major breakthrough. Even at the Molly’s show, they still were averaging about two covers a set. To pull up to a big gig like this one and finally have the confidence in the material is a huge step forward for the group and almost puts a big exclamation point on the transitional year that was 1988. I wish this was the last gig of the year for that reason but history sometimes isn’t neat and proper. We have one more from ’88 to go.

The interior of the Red Barn during a wedding.
The interior of the Red Barn during a wedding.

The music within the setlist is also worth the listen. Everything here is played pretty note perfect. I’m sure working on Junta around the time of these gigs was a huge help as the band was doing take after take of the material, in addition to usual band practice. YEM is hot with inspired playing by Page. You can hear how comfortable with the material he is and is starting to take risks within the structure. “AC/DC Bag” is played a little slower, more at the tempo we know it today, and the band pulls an amazing segue into “Possum”, pushing the tempo to its rollicking beat. A wild “Good Times Bad Times” closes set 2 and it’s worth listening afterwards to hear the crowd chant “Phish” like they just burned down Madison Square Garden. It’s almost like the closing scene of a biopic, where they flash forward and the same chants going on but in a much larger room. The crowd is rewarded with the first Phish encore on record and they bring the house down with a smoking “Run Like An Antelope”. This show is a great early show and right up there with the best of ’88. I recommend you listen to it RIGHT NOW.

Show #78: 11/11/88 The Stone Church – Newmarket, NH

Photo credit: The Stone Church
Photo credit: The Stone Church

Friday, 11/11/1988
Old Stone Church, Newmarket, NH

Set 1: I Didn’t Know[1],  Good Times Bad Times,  You Enjoy Myself,  Possum,  Fluffhead, Take the ‘A’ Train,  David Bowie

Set 2: Golgi Apparatus,  Colonel Forbin’s Ascent >  Fly Famous Mockingbird,  Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen >  Weekapaug Groove

Set 3: Mr. P.C.[2],  Fee,  Bold As Love,  The Lizards,  Whipping Post

[1] Carl Gerhard on trumpet.
[2] Carl Gerhard and Russ Remington on horns.

When you’re a touring band starting out, you’ll play in any room that will take you. When you’re an upcoming band in New England, fortunately that includes the Stone Church in Newmarket, NH. Since 1969, this former Universalist meeting house built in 1832 has been a haven for live music. Besides Phish, the many artists that have graced its tiny stage include Buddy Guy, Aerosmith, Bonnie Raitt, John Scofield, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and a whole host of others. It’s unique location, a small town placed between the University of New Hampshire and the bustling seaside city of Portsmouth, gives the venue the crowds they need to be successful. This will also give the gig a more relaxed feel because it’s not in the high-pressure world of the Boston music scene. The venue remains a stalwart of the jamband community to this day.

Photo Credit: The Stone Church
Photo Credit: The Stone Church

As for the show itself, we don’t get a lot of it. We get a very solid “David Bowie” from set 1. A forgettable “Mike’s Groove” from set 2. Though I will say the “Weekapaug” is striding towards its formidable modern form with a faster pace than before. After Weekapaug, Trey advertises a gig of Savoy Truffle and Ollie and the Patriots at the M.U.B. Trey doesn’t know what M.U.B. is right now but we’ll all find out soon in the band’s career. Most of the meat is in set 3. It kicks off with a lovely cover of John Coltrane’s “Mr. P.C.” featuring future Giant Country Horns members Russell Remington and Carl “Gears” Gerhard. Unlike the always present “A Train”, “Mr. P.C.” foreshadows the band’s desire to speed up tempos in future gigs as this one is played at full “hard bop” speed and it’s a delight. A real look at how the jazz chops were as important as the rock chops. This, I think, is a key factor in what made Phish stand out among other bands. Like the Grateful Dead before them did with bluegrass, they took these jazz influences and fused them to progressive rock in ways no one had yet and these old jazz standards show the importance of that. The rest of the set is pretty similar to previous gigs. I wouldn’t say these tracks are must listen but the importance of the Stone Church in the band’s history can’t be understated. Of course, having a giant “Terrapin Station” sign over the bar and stained glass windows of Jerry Garcia and Frank Zappa couldn’t of hurt either.

Show #77: 11/5/88 – Hamilton College Clinton, NY

The Sigma Phi house at Hamilton College as seen today.
The Sigma Phi house at Hamilton College as seen today.

Saturday, 11/05/1988
Hamilton College, Clinton, NY

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[1],  Good Times Bad Times

Set 3: Icculus,  Suzy Greenberg,  Sparks >  Divided Sky

[1] 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, 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.

It’s that time of year again…

Festival lineups are coming out. Summer tours are slowly being announced. Everyone’s jonesing for summer. No one more than Phish fans. While there’s a lot of misinformation out there, I do have some historical data that might clear some things up. If Phish does play a festival this summer in the Northeast United States, then the other rumor that Phish will not play many dates in New York and New England might ring true. Let’s break down festival years:

1996 – After coming home from Europe opening for Santana, Phish played an extremely short summer tour. They started in Park City, UT and only played, Red Rocks, Alpine Valley, Deer Creek, and Hershey, PA before heading up to Plattsburgh for the Clifford Ball.

1997 – After coming home from Europe on their own tour, Phish toured more extensively in the summer. They started in Virginia Beach, VA before heading in a clockwise rotation around the US, going through the South, up the West Coast and cutting through the Midwest, before ending at Darien Lake, NY. They then headed to Limestone, ME for the Great Went.

1998 – Again starting the summer in Europe, Phish started the US leg in Portland, OR. The band then worked their way counter-clockwise around the country, heading South down the West Coast, across through the Southern states, up into the Midwest, and then east to the mid-Atlantic, closing the tour at Vernon Downs, located in Central New York. They then returned to Limestone, ME for the Lemonwheel.

1999 – This year was an exception as Oswego was painted as a smaller-scale festival and also the band played two in one year. This year saw Phish play both Great Woods in Mansfield, MA and the Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ, just south of NYC before heading to Oswego, NY.

2003 – The first full year since returning from hiatus found the band starting their summer tour in Phoenix, AZ before heading up the West Coast. They then headed east through the middle of the country in Utah and Kansas before playing the Midwest and the South, ending the tour in Camden, NJ. They then returned to Limestone one last time for IT.

2004 – The playbook was thrown out and for good reason as soon as Trey announced “We’re Done” in May 2004. Before that, the band announced their summer tour, which oddly opened in the area with two shows at KeySpan Park in Brooklyn, NY and two shows at SPAC in Saratoga Springs, NY. It also included two dates at Great Woods in Mansfield, MA before a final date in Camden. The band would then head to Newport, VT for Coventry, the band’s “final” concert. I feel that this tour might have been booked as the last hurrah before Trey’s official announcement but no insight has been given into how that process transpired from a business standpoint.

2009 – Festival 8 was played in Indio, CA during Halloween. It was a standalone festival that had no bearing on other dates.

2011 – This was a definite exception to the rule. Phish’s summer tour started in Bethel, NY, a mere 145 miles from where the first leg would end at the Super Ball IX Festival in Watkins Glen, NY. In between, the band would also play Darien Lake, NY (113 miles away), Holmdel, NJ, Mansfield, MA, and Camden, NJ, nearly over saturating the market.

So, viewing this evidence, 2011 is the exception not the rule and most likely if there is a Northeast festival this summer, this would mean fewer dates in New England/New York, if no dates at all as it has been in the past. It is more likely than not likely again if a festival is on the books.

As always, no information on when dates are coming but you can keep a cool head by viewing this amazing document created by The Barn Presents: The Phish Tour Announcement Infographic. Trey has said in a Rolling Stone interview that the tour should be underway about a week after “Fare Thee Well” ends on July 5th. As always, I have no insider knowledge and am merely speculating based on existing rumors and the band’s history.

10/17/14 Eugene, OR


Pin by Branden Otto


Friday, 10/17/2014
Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR

Set 1: Waiting All Night,  Free >  Poor Heart >  Sample in a Jar,  Strange Design,  555, Bouncing Around the Room >  Reba,  Roggae,  Simple ->  Maze,  The Squirming Coil

Set 2: Carini ->  Plasma[1],  Farmhouse,  Halfway to the Moon >  Twist,  Crosseyed and Painless >  Harry Hood >  Rocky Top

Encore: Wingsuit,  Sleeping Monkey >  Quinn the Eskimo

[1] Phish debut.

One of the problems of compiling a living history is if the subject is still living, there will always be additional material to add. Add being a huge support of that subject’s work and you’re just as excited about the new stuff as finding old gems. When Phish goes on the road, I want to hear every show as soon as it’s available and since 2002, every single show has been available the next day on  So, take the 3 hours it takes to hear the next historical show and combine it with 3 hours of either the previous night’s recording or attending a show and that’s a lot of Phish in one day. In reaction, I would but the blog on break until tour was over but then you lose your audience. So starting today, this blog will have posts tagged “PhishNow”, which will mark reviews posted during a current tour. Hopefully, I’ll have a review of the most recent show the next day. And being I’m listening to every show, it still doesn’t deter from the blog’s core concept I believe. So without adieu, we kick off Fall 2014 in Eugene, OR.

Phish hadn’t played on a college campus since 2011 at the UIC Pavilion at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Some fans made note of this upon learning of the show at Matthew Knight Arena. They said it was interesting because from about 1990-1993, college campuses were where you were most likely to find the band. Would this lead to an old school show? Not so much but it was a fun night. I recently made the move from Boston, MA to Ellensburg, WA and found myself with the opportunity to enjoy the band’s first Pacific Northwest run (outside of the Gorge) in a very long time. In fact, the last time the band played Eugene was 1994 and the last time in Oregon since 1999. This led to high expectations. The venue itself is very cool. Named for the son of alumnus and Nike CEO Phil Knight, the arena is modern and retro at the same time. It has the metal and glass exterior but the interior reminded me a lot of the DCU Center in Worcester. Also notable was a lack of luxury boxes and the seamless transition from the lower bowl to the upper deck. It felt like a gym in all the right ways. This also helped with the show, making the space feel intimate, despite the 12,000 people inside.

The show kicked off with the interesting choice of “Waiting All Night” from Fuego. As if to say “we’re in a mellow mood” without the obvious Bob Marley choice they may have used in the past, the song is one of my favorites but this version sounded a little out of sync especially between Trey and Mike, like it was just out of phase. The vocals also seemed a little flat. Adding the confusion in the space, there was a loud echo off the back wall for the first part of the set. Keeping the vibe, the band went into “Free”. Not really hard rocking, it was a fine version but still the band didn’t feel linked up, especially marked by the last 30 seconds, which were in the wrong key. The disconnect continued as the whole band botched the intro to “Poor Heart” despite Trey’s loud count-off. The tune picked up steam though and was played faster than in recent memory. “Sample in a Jar” was a rocking version and a solid anchor in this odd first set. “555” featured some dirty guitar work from Trey, recalling the 1980s. The set picked up the fumble and headed for glory starting with “Bouncing Around The Room”. Nothing notable but an overall solid version that sounded as if the band had finally linked up. They must have picked up on the cue as without pause they ripped into “Reba”. This “Reba” was on fire from the get go with a very tight composed section and the jam built at just the right speed with superb lead from Trey. I just wish it had peaked. They built it but leveled off a little too early. Still a good one. “Roggae” took the energy down a notch but the jam has great interplay from all 4 members and is a real beauty. Just gorgeous Phish with perfect coloring by each member.  Looking to pick the set up, Trey launch into the riff for “Simple” and the song is well done with a very straight ahead type I jam. The breakdown at the 6:30 mark is fun and recalls the “Plinko” style as Fish pounds into the hi-hat part of “Maze” and Mike follows right along with his bass notes. the “Maze” jam really features amazing organ work by Page over huge rhythm riffs by Trey and then the opposite with Page on baby grand, building to a huge “duel” as the song peaks. It’s very nice. The set closed with the crowd pleaser “The Squirming Coil” and any sign of rust or hesitation was gone at this point as all 4 members pulled off the difficult tune flawlessly, even Trey’s sustained tones. The band then left the stage for the always glorious Page outro. Page crushed it even teasing some of “Loving Cup”. Page thanks the crowd and then the set ends. After a rocky start, from “Bouncing” on the set is really strong. Quality 2014 Phish here.

Set Two was destined to kick things up a notch and Phish didn’t disappoint, leading off with “Carini”. “Carini” has brought some big jams in 3.0 but tonight was not one of them. It does reach some blissful territory and is a solid jam but not a heavy hitter. It does have a very nice segue into “Plasma”. “Plasma” is a dong taken from Trey’s solo band and featured prominently on the live album of the same name. The piece’s minor tone and funky rhythm actually fit the band well and they made a very nice run-through with a dark jam. Hopefully, it remains in the band’s rotation and isn’t just a one-timer. After the soaring “Carini->Plasma” combo, the band opted to cool down, playing the pop-friendly “Farmhouse” and the Page tune “Halfway to the Moon”. Some might deride the band for this move but I enjoyed both tunes and it was a very nice break. “Farmhouse” had a very nice lead from Trey. “Halfway” continues to improve with each performance and even with a slight sour note at the end, Trey’s finding his footing the song and adding some nice licks. “Twist” brought the show back on track building to a blissful type 1 jam with some very nice rhythm work from Trey. Again, not an all-timer but fun. “Crosseyed and Painless” is the real centerpiece of this evening though. The band hit this one out of the gate playing at a pace more true to the Talking Heads original than Phish’s usual. At the 7-minute mark, we get some serious hot pinko from Page and Trey that’s a lot of fun and it builds until it’s a full-on plinky jam delivering the band into a type 2 jam, veering away from the structure of “Crosseyed” and it devolves into a huge, sweeping ambient jam with Gilmour-esque loops and screeches from Trey’s guitar and then at 14 minutes in, the band begins with the “Still Waiting” refrain, marking it as part of “Crosseyed”. The jam drifts off into the either and we’re brought back down by the opening refrain of “Harry Hood”. While not as big as the 6 Hoods of Summer, the “Hood” jam is nice. It almost retains the groove from “Plasma” over the “Hood” chords, like the band could go back into “Plasma” at any moment. Again, as with “Coil” my problem is the song never peaked. It had a very nice jam but never reached the summit before going into the “You Can Feel Good” refrain. Trey has some very nice licks before hand but it just didn’t take me the full way. All-in-all, still a nice version. I thought the set would end there but Trey decided to call an audible and the band threw down a wild “Rocky Top” to close the set. It was an odd call to play an SEC school’s fight song on campus out west but probably didn’t think much of that. The band was clearly feeling to good energy and so instead of the usual encore, decided to play three and lead off with “Wingsuit”. This “Wingsuit” had some great Trey noodling and the always explosive finish. I excepted that to end the show but the band fired up “Sleeping Monkey” and Trey brought out the banter, proclaiming that “Monkey” is Page’s favorite song and that the band is not playing it for the audience but for Mr. McConnell. Trey and Page also dusted on the song, with Trey taking his mic off the stand and singing “face to face”. So much fun. This version also had the audience sing a chorus for Page and the Eugene crowd did not disappoint, singing in top volume. Again, I thought it would have been enough to send the crowd home happy but the band wanted to make us dance one more time with the feel good  Bob Dylan classic “Quinn the Eskimo”. A fun cap to a good evening. Overall, the show had a rough start but finished strong and set a good tone for the Fall Tour. Up next, a Saturday night in Seattle.