Show #70: 8/27/88

Saturday, 08/27/1988
Food Court, Mont Alto Campus, Penn State University, Mont Alto, PA

Set 1: Satin Doll,  You Enjoy Myself >  Funky Bitch,  Walk Away,  Fluffhead,  Mike’s Song, Take the ‘A’ Train,  Golgi Apparatus[1],  Tela,  Poor Heart,  Good Times Bad Times

[1] Extended intro.

Some shows you listen to for the jams. Some shows you listen to for the bustouts and one-timers. Others you listen to strictly for the banter. This is one of those shows. Phish fans definitely are in love with Trey Anastasio’s banter. There’s even a Twitter account @trey_talks that keeps track of the band’s banter for each tour. Trey has had some great stage banter over the years with lots of jokes and stories. Here for the amusement of the very small audience, the band takes it to 11.

This show was played at the Penn State Mont Alto campus. For those thinking a giant football stadium and amazing ice cream, you’re not correct at all. Mont Alto is a small town between Chambersburg and Gettysburg. How they booked Phish or had any idea to do so is beyond me because this school is so in the middle of nowhere and cut off from the band’s home base of Vermont that it amazes me. According to, there were 3 people in attendance at the show, again making me wonder how the band was hired by this school. But they showed up and played at the Millstream Cafe. This gig has long been billed as the food court and the Millstream Cafe is a main eatery but before you imagine Phish playing amongst a SBarro and Taco Bell, the description makes it seem it’s more of a central dining hall than your typical food court. They also played on the performance space, which is outside. This location will play into the show’s banter later on.

The show starts off innocent enough with a rendition of the jazz standard “Satin Doll” with Page’s “Lawn Boy” persona shining through on smooth vocals. Trey starts “You Enjoy Myself” with his usual joke, “This next song is called You Enjoy Myself. We hope you enjoy ourselves.” The “YEM” is fairly standard 1980s YEM, not quite as fiery as the tune would become but still a very complex, competent rendition with excellent organ work by Page in the middle section. It remains unfinished and does not have any of the songs’ lyrics instead transition the jam into “Funky Bitch”. It’s a solid “Bitch” if nothing explosive. Playing off the empty crowd, Mike yells after the song, “Thank you! Thanks a lot! We’re Phish! We’re still Phish!” as if there’s a crowd of 60,000 people out there. This empty crowd theme makes the rest of the show hilarious.

Trey yells, again as if the crowd is huge,
“OK! Hey you guys up in the dorms there! Cool! How y’all feeling back there?” Groovy? We’re feeling groovy down here too! Looks like the whole basement is feeling groovy! The whole valley. Well we think this is a good time to play a song! How about you? We feel like ROCKIN’ and ROLLIN’! Fluffhead? We’ll play that one next! First, we’re gonna do some rockin’ and rollin’! Let me hear you say *choking sound*,”
going into the intro chords for the James Gang’s “Walk Away”.

The song doesn’t have the same energy as later versions and feels incomplete even though they play the whole tune. Rockstar Mike yells “THANK YOU. THANKS A LOT!”  Rockstar Trey comes back full force, “WAS THAT SMOKIN’ OR WHAT? Ladies and gentleman the long wait is over! We can start playing now because Becky has arrived! Let’s hear it for her! (long pause) We’re gonna play Fluffhead now! This is dedicated to the people at the top of the mountain. We’re giving it to you from the bottom of the valley! I think you should stay there! Or come on down, the party is just beginning! Here it comes now! Fluffhead. Becky is here and she wants to hear Fluff-head.”

This version of “Fluffhead” is pretty unremarkable from earlier versions except for one tiny request from Trey. At the 6:06 mark of the song, Trey says “Let me hear you say Woo!” Again, trying to play up that fact that they’re rockstars for only 3 people but it’s odd that he asked for the woos. As fans know today, they would finally get the message after all these years with the stop/start jam of the now legendary Tahoe Tweezer. Every since then, Trey and Fish have been asking for the Woo in many jams, even for those who dismay it. Time really is a flat circle. Maybe we’re all just the band’s crazy dreams in a storage shed…but I digress.

This version of “Mike’s” is probably the highlight of the set as the band really throws down an excellent early version here. It sounds really focused with a nice jam section. The rest of the show musically is solid as well with a very light “A Train”, a “Golgi” with an extended intro, and a solid “Tela” with a very odd vocal jam section in the middle, which Trey prematurely introduced before Golgi by saying “This song is called Tela and you’re very lucky because we hardly ever play it.” A sentiment that unfortunately remains today and bolstered by the fact that this was the last known “Tela” of 1988. The recording leaves off “Poor Heart” and “Good Times Bad Times” unfortunately. Especially “GTBT” because I’m sure Trey was in full rockstar mode for that one and the closing banter would have been prices.

During the pause between “A Train” and “Golgi”, there’s more great banter, including a fun fact. You can also very clearly hear Paul banging on something to fix it before Trey introduces him as “Dan Tana” The last nugget from this show is it actually is the true end of Phish 1.0. Trey has the play-by-play as he says “It’s an interesting thing we’ve got going on stage right now. Page just presented an ultimatum to the band. Fish left, quit. Mike is quitting because he’s pissed at Fish for quitting. We’re all back and this is the Phish reunion right now!” So, in actuality, Phish broke up twice in the past and we’re in Phish 4.0. School some jaded vets with that one.

Exciting Gear Update


Let’s take a short moment to talk gear. Part of what has made Trey such a unique guitarist is the custom guitars built by the band’s former soundman Paul Languedoc. In 1987, he built what is known as “Old Reliable” or “Blondie” or “Who’s the Mar-Mar?” after the picture of Trey’s dog Marley as a puppy on the headstock. Trey stopped playing this guitar after he received his recent koa Languedoc in 1996. There was also another “blondie” built in 1992 that apparently did not last and was quickly relegated to backup duty due to warping. That guitar has made a comeback after repairs and was played extensively during the Miami run and many fans noted it brought back some of Trey’s legendary sound from the hallowed early years. So imagine the excitement yesterday when songwriter Tom Marshall posted this picture to his Twitter account:


This is “Old Reliable” back with the middle single coil pickup in the center position. This Languedoc had the pickup removed around 1992 as Paul was preparing Trey a new guitar. He’s played it a few times since but always with the pickup missing. Could Trey be returning to this guitar soon? Would it just be with The Dead or to Phish shows? He still played well with his later guitars but a return to his 1988-1996 sound would make many people very happy. This is also exciting to this blog because he are in the heart of “Old Reliable” shows. Stay tuned. Research and information courtesy of ledzepmaster. Read his page for the whole history here.

Show #69: 8/13/88

Saturday, 8/13/1988
The Front, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Peaches en Regalia, AC/DC Bag, Take the ‘A’ Train, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent>Fly Famous Mockingbird, Light Up or Leave Me Alone, Suzy Greenberg>Alumni Blues>Letter to Jimmy Page>Alumni Blues, Fire

Set 2: Wilson, Divided Sky, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Possum, Harry Hood, Corinna>Whipping Post

The band found their way back to Vermont, riding the beautiful high of a successful trip West. But the band also not only was expanding nationally, the band was also expanding locally and by now had outgrown Nectar’s to move permanently to The Front. This recording comes from night 3 of the band’s first 3-night run at the venue. The Front would be very important to the band, in some ways even more important than Nectar’s. While Nectar’s had been an incubator for the band and their ideas early on, The Front would give them the professional polish that would propel them to stardom. These residencies would also ground the band with a home base while their national touring presence ascended over the next three years.

As for this recording itself, you would think that the energy of Colorado would carry over the band and here it does but not in the way you would think. Especially during “Fly Famous Mockingbird”, I really thought, “Man, the band is flying through this tune but the band’s vocals are a little high.” It was more obvious when Page’s voice seemed a little strained during “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”. The big reveal is during “Suzy Greenberg” when you can hear the tape slow down at the 4:18-4:20 mark (cue getting high and the world slowing down joke here). With this imperfection, I can only suggest listening to it if you’re a completist but there’s not much you’re missing here.

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 #62: 7/25/88

Monday, 07/25/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 3: Skin It Back,  Harpua,  Big Black Furry Creature from Mars,  Sanity

Encore: Icculus,  Camel Walk

“We’d like to do a little Jimmy Buffett now.” A short show today as Set 3 is all that exists of this one. However, it’s still an important show in fact for some fans this show contains the first live tracks they might have ever heard. The set opens with a nice “Skin It Back”. The band’s really grooving here. Page lays down a real nice bed of Hammond organ and then Trey and Mike push and pull on top of it in a deep groove. We then get “Harpua” dedicated to Paul Languedoc. Trey changes Jimmy to Paul in a playful way. Mike also gets Page to riff on alternatives to goldfish such as crawfish and halibut. This “Harpua” is also played at a much slower than usual pace adding odd tension to the song. “Big Black Furry Creature for Mars” comes next and it has Mike really having fun with the audience. “TAKE IT RIGHT AROUND!”, Mike yells and Trey drops into a punk rock “Theme from the Flintstones” as he yells “KEEP TAKING IT AROUND! PICK IT UP! PICK IT UP!” Never heard Mike so animated during this song as he’s a but more demure on current versions. After another verse, he turns his energy on the crowd yelling “HERE’S YOUR TURN TO SING ALONG! I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” Mike’s shenanigans continue introducing “Sanity” as a Jimmy Buffett tune as quoted above. This is the version of “Sanity” that appears as bonus tracks on the Elektra CD re-release of Junta that most people know so well. This might have even been your introduction to live Phish. It’s a fairly straight forward version of Sanity but with a seat rumbling trombone solo from Fishman that’s quite impressive. “Thank you good night! How’s everybody doing tonight? We’re Jimmy Buffett, good night!”, Mike yells as the audience claps for more. Make me wonder what got into Mike that night. They come back on stage and Mike informs everyone that “We’re gonna lighten it up a bit” and we get the second track that appeared on the Elektra version of Junta, “Icculus”. “This is a special song, this is an important song,” starts off Trey. “This is a dance song,” interjects Mike, over clearly a beat to slow to dance to. “THIS IS RED ROCKS! THIS IS THE EDGE!,” continues Trey, riffing on U2. Mike throws in one last “Diarrhea” over the top. Icculus continues its build to the name of the author of the Helping Friendly Book, the book which could save your life like it did for the band, the great, and powerful, the one, the only, the man who wrote the FUCKING HELPING FRIENDLY BOOK, THE ONE WHO WROTE THE BOOK! ICCULUS! But I digress, it’s probably the definitive “Icculus” for most people as the song is extremely rare. The set closes with Mike’s “dance song” finally in “Camel Walk”. It’s a little sloppy but fun. Mike plays a lot of notes. Page thanks the crowd. Mike reminds people to tip their waiters and waitresses. Trey reminds people that Ninja Custodian will be playing there tomorrow night. The band then loaded the van and headed west on a great adventure. All in all, a very silly set from Phish before hitting the road. Probably, trying to get some of it out of their system before a long drive. We’ve got some big shows coming up. Due to the release of Colorado ’88, I will do my best to piece together the most accurate shows but it may prove difficult. It also may delay the next few posts. Thanks for reading.

Show #61: 7/24/88

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

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

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

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

[1] Fish on trombone.

· Moby Dick tease

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

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

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

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!

Shows #58/59: 7/11-12/88

Monday, 07/11/1988
Sam’s Tavern, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Satin Doll,  Suzy Greenberg,  The Curtain With,  Funky Bitch,  Fire,  Bold As Love, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent >  Fly Famous Mockingbird,  Golgi Apparatus,  Alumni Blues >  Letter to Jimmy Page[1] >  Alumni Blues

Encore: McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters[2] >  La Grange

[1] Fish drum solo.
[2] Fish on trombone.

· Dave’s Energy Guide tease in Suzy Greenberg

Finally, the band gets back on track with some purpose here at these two gigs. Now you’d think Sam’s Tavern means a new venue and some more Burlington music history. However, it turns out Sam’s Tavern was just Finbar’s renamed and remains Manhattan Pizza today at the corner of Church and Main. So nothing exciting there but let’s get to the music. “We’d like to speed things up a bit”, kicks in the recording on 7/11 as he begins to play the chords to “Satin Doll”. It’s interesting to hear him sing a real jazz standard here. I liked it. “The Curtain With” is noteworthy in that Trey seems to think the jam was awful and calls the tune “The Living Nightmare” and that it was written by their drummer. Oh Trey; busting Fishman’s balls since 1983. We get a smoking double shot of Hendrix with “Fire” and “Bold as Love” To date, this remains the only time this has occurred in Phish history. This is also the first recorded “Bold as Love”. It apparently debuted at the Front on July 7th, a show that has not seen the light of day. Trey nails the outro solo with great tone for such an early performance. A very solid “Forbin>Mockingbird” follows but does not contain narration. Of note, Trey graduated from Goddard the day of this show and according to the show notes, pulled out his diploma, set it on Page’s piano, and then proceeded to tear into the very spirited “Alumni>Letter>Alumni”. He makes note of that fact at the end of the song. We only get part of set 2. The highlight hear is a very nice “McGrupp”.

Tuesday, 07/12/1988
Sam’s Tavern, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Cities,  The Lizards,  Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley,  Good Times Bad Times, Happy Birthday to You[1] >  Peaches en Regalia,  You Enjoy Myself,  I Didn’t Know[2]

Set 2: Blue Bossa,  Take the ‘A’ Train >  Timber (Jerry),  Fluffhead >  Jesus Just Left Chicago, Makisupa Policeman,  Slave to the Traffic Light,  AC/DC Bag >  Roll Like a Cantaloupe

[1] Sung for “Jen.”
[2] Fish on trombone.

· Happy Birthday to You quote in Peaches en Regalia
· Flash Light tease in You Enjoy Myself

7/12/88 however is the better of this pair. It starts with a solid “Cities>The Lizards” combo. However, “Sneakin’ Sally” is where it picks up. They go into a very “YEM”-like vocal jam. Totally going outside the usual framework of “Sally” and getting weird with it. They finish up but then do a weird acapella “Happy Birthday to You” for Jen. Whatever got into the band continued and they sing along with the melody to “Peaches En Regalia” AND THEN they turn the “Peaches” melody into “Happy Birthday to You by Frank Zappa”, which is hilarious. But then they do play “YEM” and it in turn has its first real funky vocal jam. The vocal jam was already present but I think this the first real time it became the YEM VOCAL JAM, fi you understand. Not just wild screaming into the microphones. They close the set with a fun “I Didn’t Know” in a new key of A-flat!

Set 2 opens with a double shot of Jazz. The actual debut of “Blue Bossa”, we think. It’s played very well. If you listen carefully enough, you’ll swear it sounds like another song and after a little research, the studio version of “The Landlandy” on A Picture of Nectar definitely had a couple of bits ripped from “Blue Bossa” especially by Page and Mike. Another long, if not exciting, version of “A Train” follows. A solid “Timber (Jerry)”, a tight “Fluffhead”, and casual “Jesus Just Left Chicago” bridge nicely up to the set’s top highlight. Earlier in these posts, I wondered how the band found what to do with “Slave to the Traffic Light”; that it hadn’t yet reached its potential. This is the show where that magically happened. This “Slave” is an early masterpiece. The composed section plays easy enough with the right tone and feeling but at 3:23 when it drops down, Page and Trey get very quiet but with amazing interplay between the two. The jam then has an amazing slow build to the peak. Around the 4:30 mark, Page hits just the right notes on his electric piano to fill Trey’s empty spaces and it’s glorious. The way the while thing pauses and almost breaks down at about 5:00 is amazing. Mike playing the counterpoint bass is tasty. Fish eases off just enough to be effective. This is the blueprint for a perfect “Slave”. It’s incredible. Then when it bursts wide open at 6:43, it’s had just the right among of tension from the band that it hits HARD. You’re ready for the glorious peak because you’ve had the perfect journey there. And the peak is nailed, not too many notes from Trey, perfect coloring from Page and Mike. The arpeggios at 7:50 just magical. In my mind, it should have closed the set. However, you got to give the bar crowd one last chance to dance and they do so with a boogying “AC/DC Bag” and then rips right into “Roll Like A Cantaloupe”, which the crowd rightly goes nuts for. One of only 4 times it’s ever been played, I wonder what sparked Trey to bust it out that night as they just played “Run Like An Antelope” during the previous Nectar’s run and would go back to it the next show. The band reaches wild peaks during this version, pushing the tempo harder and harder. It’s almost the antithesis of “Slave”. Where “Slave” needs patience and delicateness to counter the peak, “Antelope/Cantaloupe” needs chaos and energy to reach the peak. That release before the refrain is just a blast off point. Such a crazy range of energy and emotion in only 3 songs. It’d be wilder if they had played them back to back. The band nails the release here though and Trey goes into the story about going to the grocery store. Page thanks the crowd and end tape. 7/12/88 is a must-listen. Such a powerful night.

Show #57: 6/24/88


A statue of Big Joe Burrell, a Vermont music icon, stands guard outside Halvorson’s on Church Street in downtown Burlington, VT.

Friday, 06/24/1988
Halverson’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: The Lizards,  Possum,  Blue Bossa[1],  Alumni Blues >  Letter to Jimmy Page >  Alumni Blues,  On Your Way Down[2],  Golgi Apparatus,  Fee,  Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley,  You Enjoy Myself,  The Ballad of Curtis Loew,  Fluffhead

At the end of 6/21/88, Page comments that the band will be playing at Halvorson’s that Friday. It’s interesting to me that Phish only played Halvorson’s one time. Halvorson’s has always been a pillar of the Burlington music community since the 1970s. Every week, Big Joe Burrell and the Unknown Blues Band would play in the courtyard to the delight of Vermonters. This is important to note because there are probably two local bands that were the biggest influence on Phish. The more obvious one is the Sneakers Jazz Band. Every Tuesday, Sneakers, a small restaurant in Winooski, around the corner from the band’s house, had their house band play. In 1998, Trey recalled to local music ‘zine Big Heavy World strolling over and spending the evening. listening to some of Vermont’s finest players. The horns of the Sneakers Jazz Band would go on to form the Giant Country Horns in 1991. But Big Joe and the Unknown Blues Band were just as important. Big Joe’s rhythm section consisted of two guys names Tony Markellis and Russ Lawton, who would in turn form Trey’s solo band’s rhythm section. The original incarnation of Trey’s solo band really was a veritable Vermont all-star band with the Unknown Blues Band’s rhythm section and the Sneakers Jazz Band horn section coming together and viperHouse’s Ray Paczkowski on keys. Adding another angle to this importance, the guitarist for both bands is Paul Asbell, who also gave guitar lessons to Trey. Clearly two very important influences, so much so they both ended up in the liner notes for A Live One. Halvorson’s also is of note for hosting a weekly gig for Grace Potter before she became a national recording artist.

So the fact that the band only played Halvorson’s once is a curious stat but nonetheless, the venue still left its mark on the band. Different than the usual bars, Halvorson’s was always known as a more upscale bar and restaurant in town with a more laid-back vibe. Maybe that’s why they weren’t booked there often. As for the show, we only have part of a recording. Also, according to the notes, most of it may not be from this show. I do believe at least the “Lizards” and “Possum” were recorded at Halvorson’s. “Blue Bossa” appears to be from a later gig but would make sense to be played at this venue. The short “Sneakin’ Sally” would also fit as it keep tighter than other versions around this time. Worth a quick listen to bridge the gap but not noteworthy musically.

Shows #53,54, and 55: 6/19-21/88

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

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

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

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

Encore: Jesus Just Left Chicago

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

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

Hello and welcome back,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

· Dave’s Energy Guide tease in Fire

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