Shows #50 and 51: 5/23-24/88

Monday, 05/23/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Take the ‘A’ Train, Golgi Apparatus, You Enjoy Myself, Rocky Top, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone, I Didn’t Know[1], Peaches en Regalia > Possum, Good Times Bad Times

[1] Fish on trombone.

On today’s post, we get the rest of the 3 night run started at the last show. The last show’s date waffled between the 21st and the 22nd. Evidence from this recording of 5/23 points towards 5/22 being the correct date. Phish.com reflects this but Phish.net does not. During 5/23 at the start of “You Enjoy Myself”, Del Martin makes a request and the band reminds him they played a request for him last night. “Last request, we’re even gonna give you! After you graduate from graduate school, man. Del, if you get a Masters degree, we’ll play another request for you, ” says Trey. Which makes me wonder if Del Martin ever did go to graduate school? Did he get another request? After he allegedly fled with some of the 1980s master tapes, does the band even talk to him anymore? Trey and Del seemed to be such great friends during these recordings. I wonder what his story is. That’d be a great article to work on and blow wide open. Other than that nugget, not a lot of highlights here. A flubbed but roaming “You Enjoy Myself”, a tight “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”, and a solid “Possum” are the things to listen to here but you can really just focus on the next night.

Tuesday, 05/24/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: The Curtain With, Rocky Top, Funky Bitch, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page> Alumni Blues, Peaches en Regalia, Golgi Apparatus, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley,Suzy Greenberg, Fire

Set 2: Jesus Just Left Chicago, Fluffhead > Whipping Post

Set 3: Ya Mar[1] -> Jam[1] > Halley’s Comet[2] > The Sloth, I Didn’t Know[3], La Grange,Fee, I Know a Little, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Corinna, Harpua, Run Like an Antelope

[1] Jah Roy on vocals.
[2] Richard Wright on vocals.
[3] Richard Wright on drums, Fish on trombone.

Teases:
· Theme from The Flintstones tease in Big Black Furry Creature from Mars
· One Love quote in Jam

Phish today is known as a jamband but on these early tapes, while they are great improvisers, I really don’t get the meandering feeling of a jam band. Most people wouldn’t recognize this band with how short the playing is. When people today complain that Phish “doesn’t jam enough”, I kind of laugh to myself because Phish is just being Phish. They’ve always just been a very tight rock band that happens to take things for a walk now and then. However if you want to hear early leanings of the band’s ability to jam then 5/24/88 is a show for you. A strong “The Curtain With” kicks off the show in grand style. The outro jam is a must listen. “Rocky Top” also has a strong early version here. This Nectar’s run really solidifies the song as a staple of the Phish catalog and the earliest of the band’s bluegrass leanings. “Here’s one for this guy right over here!,” says Trey. “Oh yeah, hey you!,” says Mike. “Way for you to show up man!” We’ll never know who that is but he’s getting a “Peaches en Regalia” and maybe some shots it sounds like. Nothing like a call out from the band. “Sneakin’ Sally” also gets loose and is well played.

Second set is the real highlight here. The band kicks off “Jesus Just Left Chicago” and Mike asks the band to “take it down” and to “take it down again” even though the band is playing the song about as slow as it can without falling apart. It also is real quiet below Page’s vocals. It as if they want to make it as dirty as possible. Page plays a great solo going from piano to organ. He sings another verse and then it’s time for Trey to ale over and he lifts the band back up to heights, playing a wailing solo. There are great moments of sustain in “Slave to the Traffic Light” and “Divided Sky” but Trey here is just urging so much out of his guitar, it’s a must hear. It’s every bit as good as the vaunted “Jesus” from Slip, Stitch, and Pass. Mike follows it up with “We’re gonna slow it down a bit. I’d like to thank Kevin, the owner oft his space for letting me use it tonight,” which is weird considering the gig is at Nectar’s, owned by a man named Nectar at the time. Maybe it’s a reference to another show. A really solid “Fluffhead” follows it up. Then, the band gets lost with “Whipping Post”. It starts off innocent enough with a basic reading of the tune but it starts to go off the rails slowly. It never goes type II, leaving the structure of the song. If this was 1997, it might have but for a huge Type I jam, this is stellar. It even almost breaks down at about the 8 minute mark with Trey playing some really dissonant playing in and out of time. Fishman goes nuts for the whole 26 minutes with John Bonham-like enthusiasm. He even has breaks to let Trey show off. The band even brings it down for another verse and then slowly builds to another screaming jam. A milepost on the journey of Phish. Trey announces a break and that’s it. A 3-song second set. Unprecedented. Even the set containing the longest Phish jam ever, 11/29/97 Runaway Jam, was a 5 song set. Whoa.

But they weren’t done yet. They fire up “Ya Mar” for a danceable third set opener. They then bring Jah Roy of Lamsbread on stage and he leads the band into a reggae medley, the centerpiece of which is a cover of Bob Marley’s “One Love”. This is not listed as a song played on Phish.net but upon hearing this, I feel like it should be. The whole band even gets into the call and response part of the song and feels as much a cover as “Cannonball” from the 5/7/94 Tweezerfest. Another guest comes up int he form of Nancy to play his two songs. He helps with vocals on “Halley’s Comet” but the song really is notable for the killer segue into “The Sloth”. Trey yells it out for the band an they nail the transition as if they had practiced it (which they might have.) Just another great flash of how all 4 members think together. Nancy moves over to drums so Fish can play Trombone on “I Didn’t Know”. While the band nailed “The Sloth”, they still have some learning to do as Fish misses the best on “Fee” where he’s supposed to match Trey’s lyric. He plays it twice to make up for it but you can hear Trey’s chuckle in his verse as he knows how badly Fish missed it. Also in this show, you can see how the band is starting to piece together set lists. The best example of this is the placement of “Corrina” to “cool down” the audience after the hard edge of “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars”. It’ll be interesting to see this develop over time. We also get the first “Harpua” THE RIGHT WAY as finally Poster Nutbag is “hot lunch” for Harpua instead of the other way around. It’s a standard “Harpua’ but important for this note. The set closes with a very strong “Run Like An Antelope”. Next show, we move on to the larger and more professional The Front, down Main Street and across Pine from Hunt’s! See you then.

Show #35: 1/27/88

Gallagher’s at the corner of Route 17 and Route 100 in Waitsfield, Mad River Valley, Vermont

Wednesday, 01/27/1988
Gallagher’s, Waitsfield, VT

Set 1: Funky Bitch, Mustang Sally, AC/DC Bag -> Possum, Jesus Just Left Chicago,Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues,Take the ‘A’ Train, Good Times Bad Times

Set 2: Wilson, Slave to the Traffic Light, Corinna > Fire, Fluffhead, Divided Sky, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, You Enjoy Myself, The Sloth > Whipping Post

Set 3: Fee > The Lizards[1], Suzy Greenberg, Golgi Apparatus, Bike, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Camel Walk, Harry Hood

[1] First known performance.

So where in Vermont do you go after you’ve successfully slayed the Burlington bar scene? Why to the apres-ski scene, of course! And so, it was here in Waitsfield, VT during January 1988 that Phish made their triumphant debut in the world of apres-ski. Waitsfield, of course, is exciting to me because it’s my hometown! I might have even been privy to catch part of one of these early gigs. Gallagher’s was one of two apres-ski bars across the street from each other in Waitsfield at this intersection. The other was Mooselips, more of a local dive bar than Gallagher’s. My mother once did a show at Gallagher’s and were friends with the owners at the time. The club was upstairs in the larger spec while there was a restaurant downstairs named Mother Macree’s. I remember the place being packed often. It has a barn type feel with a post and beam structure. I remember a pinball machine by the stairway between the two businesses. I also remember the restaurant having a killer brownie sundae and interesting historic pictures of Waitsfield. Anyway, would have love to know why the owners booked Phish in the winter of 1988 but alas we may never know. Gallagher’s closed. The space then became the new John Egan’s Big World Pub and Grill, with a renovation to open it up, then it also closed and the building currently sits vacant. Of course, most Phish fans would be exposed to the charms of the Mad River Valley years later in 1994. But that’s another story…

The show however has some nice highlights. Set 1 is mostly cover, which makes sense breaking in a new town and a new room. The “AC/DC Bag>Possum” is a highlight though as is “Jesus Just Left Chicago”. Set 2 has a solid “Wilson”. Building on the success of the 11/19/87 “Slave”, the version has another excellent early peak. “Fluffhead” is interesting because it drops the complete suite and goes back to the simpler version despite the longer running time. “Curtis Loew” is quite beautiful as usual here. “YEM” is well-played. “Whipping Post” is noteworthy for the Page organ jam that begins about 8 minutes and 30 seconds into the song. Set 3’s biggest note is it has the debut of “The Lizards”, one of my favorite Phish songs and favorite Gamehendge song, maybe in part due it debuting in my hometown. I actually could be a douche and say “I come from the land of Lizards”. Unfortunately, the recording starts off with the intro and then cuts to the “If I Were A Dog” outro. It’s my favorite part so it’s enough for me but it would have been nice to hear the whole song. This snippet however demonstrates that even as a first time, the song was just as strong as later versions and complete at this time. Trey plays his solo beautifully and showing master of his tone. He introduces it as a new song called “Where have all the Lizards gone?”. “Bike” is a fun entry. Fishman finally speaks and sounds excited to perform. The performance is a step in the right direction but Fish mumbles a little too much on some of the verses. “Camel Walk” gets loopy especially on the “Strut Your Stuff” lyric. The show then ends with the evening’s main attraction “Harry Hood”. Less of a peak but some really fun interplay at about the 7 minute mark with almost an early Plinko style. Page really grooving and Trey filling the gaps. I usually like a more subtle and building “Hood” but the fast flurry of notes by all members (Including Fish) is quite amazing here. A nice little show in spaces I vaguely recall. Wonderful.

Shows #33 and 34: 11/18-19/87

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November 1987 Promotional Photo. Credit: Phish.com

Wednesday, 11/18/1987
Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Slave to the Traffic Light, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu >The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Flat Fee, Wilson > Peaches en Regalia, Take the ‘A’ Train, Golgi Apparatus > Divided Sky > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Good Times Bad Times

Set 2: I Didn’t Know[1], You Enjoy Myself, Fluffhead, AC/DC Bag

[1] First known performance.

Thursday, 11/19/1987
Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters -> Sparks, Funky Bitch, You Enjoy Myself,Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Harry Hood, Fire

Set 2: Timber (Jerry), Fluffhead, I Didn’t Know, Fee, Corinna, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues

Set 3: Jam, Suzy Greenberg > Possum, Divided Sky > Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Dinner and a Movie[1], The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Whipping Post, Harpua, Take the ‘A’ Train, Camel Walk, La Grange, Bike[2], Slave to the Traffic Light

[1] First known performance.
[2] First known Phish performance.

Ah, the end of the early years. Or at least as they’re grouped on the Spreadsheet and PhishTracks. These are also the last known gigs at Hunt’s. Hunt’s proved to be an important incubator for these early years, almost in tandem with Nectar’s. While Nectar’s gets all the credit because it is still around and the band played there for much longer, the availability of Hunt’s is just as crucial. Before I get into reviewing those two shows, I would like to let you in on an idea I have, one that sparked the whole genesis of this blog.

You might see the full title includes “The Phishsonian Presents”. The Phishsonian is a concept I have for a museum/retail space in Burlington celebrating the history of Phish. I’d love to work with the band to display old artifacts and photographs and just have an official presence in the city. People can learn old landmarks and about Burlington’s history. What does this have to do with Hunt’s. Hunt’s is housed in a building called the Woodbury Armory, located at 101 Main Street in Burlington. The Armory had a fire a few years ago and has sat dormant but a recent project is reviving the building, attaching it to a new hotel. The redesigned Armory will have retail space. I’d love for this retail space to be the Phishsonian, the official museum of Phish. This project could bring in fans from around the world, have special events, and teach Vermont youth about the music industry, something I wish I had growing up there. It would also contain all of the fans’ journey as well. The Mockingbird Foundation, The Phellowship, Surrender to the Flow magazine, would also be part of the story. The largest part would be capturing fan interviews. We’d love to create the largest Phish fan interview repository, so we have everyone’s favorite shows and wild stories, giving the biggest picture of our phenomenon. If you want to know more, this page will begin to have concepts and more information. You can also write me anytime at thephishsonian@gmail.com. I’d love to get this in front of Jason Colton, Kevin Shapiro and the band’s management but for now, it’s just a dream.

Anyway, on to the music. 11/18/87 you can mostly throw away. If you do want to check it out, Set 2 is where the highlights are with a well-played “You Enjoy Myself” and the first “I Didn’t Know” and “complete” Fluffhead. Other than that, the energy is just very flat. Also, all of those highlights (except for firsts) can be found the next night. 11/19 just has better energy, a better setlist, and just overall better “vibes”. It also is a nice soundboard recording that, except for some isolation moments, really sounds quite good for the age. The show kicks off with a very nice “McGrupp”, notable for the first with a Page solo. Page nails his part here. The song segues beautifully into “Sparks”, which the band continues to beautifully play. Fishman nails the drum parts more than we’ve heard so far. Funky Bitch is alright. The “YEM” is a great short early specimen. “Sally” is fun. The “Harry Hood” is the highlight of the set. The band absolutely demolishes the peak with Page and Trey locking in together to bring it home. Only wish it didn’t have some of the isolation moments during the peak. Trey shreds “Fire” to end the first set.

The 2nd set is once again where the money is because this is one of the best “Timber (Jerry)”‘s there is or ever will be. It starts off innocent enough with Trey hammering out the rhythm while Fishman plays actually a different, more tribal pattern. And then it just goes OUT THERE. Trey shreds the song to pieces. There’s nothing left to do by the end but throw out a chorus to wrap it up. Seriously, a MUST-LISTEN jam. The 2nd ever “complete” “Fluffhead” follows and it’s a beauty. Clearly, they’d been working hard on all the parts. From “Fluffhead” to “The Chase” to “Who Do? We Do!” to “Clod” to “Bundle of Joy” to “Arrival”, it’s all there and all nailed. The outro solo is also a gem. Not to say those parts wouldn’t creep out as their own songs again, they still make a few appearances but it was clear, “Fluffhead” was finally a complete work. They follow it up with the 2nd ever “I Didn’t Know”. The song is not yet the Fishman showpiece it is today, whether it’s vacuum or trombone solo. It’s a fun song with a neat vocal arrangement. A great breather here. The set continues to mellow out with a standard “Fee”, still sans megaphone, a light but pretty “Corinna”, and a standard “Alumni>Letter>Alumni”.

Set 3 opens with Trey introducing “the Mike Gordon band”, a funny thought now that Mike has his own band, which is unofficially known as “the Mike Gordon Band”. Anyway, this prompts a short jam, in which, Mike riffs on James Brown-like quotes over the band. This leads into a nice, slow “Suzy Greenberg”. A fast moving “Possum” kicks the set up a notch. “Divded Sky” comes next, still in it’s short form. It’s not a good version here with the band hitting some confusion in the escalating scales section. You want a real Trey flub, here it is. They manage to finish it though and then tear into “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars”. The anger oft he flub comes out in this “BBFCFM”. The band then debuts “Dinner and a Movie”. Interestingly enough, it does include the slow off-beat prelude but kicks off right into the hard driving groove. If you’ve heard the song, it really doesn’t do much else and the nearly 8 minutes hear, really push the boundaries of good taste. Page does a pretty version of “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” to bring the crowd back in it. “Whipping Post” kind of goes nowhere and is not as fiery as previous versions. Interestingly, we get the debut of the 2nd half of “Harpua” next, still without any context of Poster Nutbag. It’s a sign of things to come but not fully realized yet. “Take The A Train” again displays the and’s jazz chops ably, despite Trey introducing the song as “Fuck Your Face”. “Camel Walk” is a little weird as Trey plays the chord profession in an odd fashion. It’s as if he’s trying to make the Holdsworth-penned tune his own. It doesn’t quite work and the song doesn’t sound quite right. “La Grange” is a highlight with the band nailing the changes and Trey showing off on guitar. Fish comes out to debut his cover of Pink Floyd’s “Bike”. Unlike his recent string of debuts, he actually knows most of the words and the song seems to fit his singing style at this point in his career. The set ends recorded 1987 on a high note with a very well played “Slave to the Traffic Light”. I’ve been a but hard on the band so far saying “Slave” hasn’t hit the peaks right yet. It doesn’t quite build how I like it but you can’t argue with how beautiful Trey plays and has those long sustaining notes, which will become his trademark. It’s a great early “Slave” and the perfect way to say goodbye to 1987.

Hopefully tomorrow, we’ll bust into 1988 with a show from my hometown! I’d also like to thank Twenty Years Later for a shout-out the other day. He’s doing a cool thing, reviewing 1994, exactly 20 years after the show. I’ll be doing that a few years from now but still a very cool concept. Be sure tog et in touch if you want more info about the Phishsonian and how to get involved. Thanks for reading!

Show #32: 10/31/1987

Saturday, 10/31/1987
Sculpture Room, Goddard College, Plainfield, VT

Set 1: Jam -> Whipping Post[1], Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley -> Back Porch Boogie Blues > Halley’s Comet > Light Up Or Leave Me Alone, Love You[2], AC/DC Bag, Possum,You Enjoy Myself > Big Black Furry Creature from Mars

Set 2: The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Peaches en Regalia, Take the ‘A’ Train > Timber (Jerry), The Chase > I Am Hydrogen > Who Do? We Do!, Fee > Divided Sky > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Who Do? We Do! > Clod, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues > Fluffhead, David Bowie

[1] “Slice my nipple” lyric.
[2] First known Phish performance.

Another year, another Halloween at Goddard. Once again, this show is a split bill with the Joneses. It was billed as the fanciful title “Your Local Underground Movement presents Sir Phillip S. Dark’s Supernatural Circus, featuring: the Joneses and Phish” and it would get a little supernatural for Phish in the second set. I’d like to think that somewhere in the multi-verse, there’s an alternate reality where the Joneses became the biggest band out of Burlington and Phish went nowhere. That’d be an interesting thought. Alas, it was not meant to be though they really seemed to enjoy playing with each other. This is evidently shown in the opening jam which features Most of Phish and half of the Joneses. Apparently Fishman and John Carlin of the Joneses were missing during this part of the show. The jam plays a lot off the “Low Rider” by War chord changes but is fun to hear such a huge force just having fun. The jam goes into “Whipping Post”. If you want to hear Trey play some scalding, soaring lead, this is your jam. He’s furious, almost angry while playing it. It sounds gorgeous. Introducing “the band” as “half of Phish and half of the Joneses”, Trey says Mr. Mike Gordon is on keys, Moses DeWitt on bass, Moses Heaps on drums, and Moses Brown on sound, a fun nod to the evening.

It is unclear if the next three songs also have the mixed lineup but I would think so given what happens later. “Sneakin’ Sally” is a great version with a fun vocal jam, which Mike cuts short by firing up the bass line to “Back Porch Boogie Blues”. “Back Porch” is standard and Mike again controls the show by launching into his vocal part of “Halley’s Comet”. “Halley’s” again features Nancy on vocals but also has Trey singing the falsetto part instead of Fish, who is till missing at this point. It’s interesting to hear for something else but not earth shattering. A nice tear through “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” leads to the main event which is heralded by cheering. Fishman finally appears, apparently shaved head to toe and covered in paint. On his head is a bra turned inside out to make “elephant ears” and his penis painted gray to match. He sings Syd Barrett’s “Love You” after his entrance. Fish must have been getting into Syd a lot in these few months as it’s the second debut of the fall. Fishman’s beginning to relish being the funny one at this point.

Laughs aside it’s back to business as usual as we get a cool “AC/DC Bag>Possum”. It almost feels like it’s going to segue but does not. The end of “Bag” though has a cool Page-led jam that feels like if it were 10 years later, would segue into an “Odd Couple Jam”. More on that in a few years. “Possum” has a quickened pace but other than that is standard. “You Enjoy Myself” is tight. Mike kicks off Page’s jam with a Parliament “Flashlight” bass line tease which is cool. No drum and bass but a wild reverb fueled vocal jam that goes into “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars”, which again is moving away from the original punk rock sound and more metal ending set 1.

“TMWSIY>Malkenu>TMWSIY” opens set 2. “Malkenu” has an interesting bass solo in the middle that’s cool to hear. Trey’s humor comes out again when he says “This one’s by request. We wrote this one back in the 20s.” The band rips into “Take The A Train”. It’s a great take with another great bass solo from Mike. Mike really was hitting a groove this evening. Keeping with the old school vibe, the band goes into “Timber (Jerry)”. This “Timber” goes out there. At about the 2 minute mark, the groove breaks down and the band gets very exploratory lead by Trey’s wandering lead. It’s not just Trey though, all 4 members are working on their own but together to create a psychedelic vibe. It almost has an Anthem of the Sun-era Grateful Dead vibe. Simply incredible. The real meat of set 2 follows though as the different parts of “Fluff’s Travels”, still not united, intertwine the middle of the set almost in the order they eventually will lock into place. “The Chase” kicks things off, fast and furious before ripchording into “I am Hydrogen”. This “Hydrogen” has a jazzy cymbal part by Fish that doesn’t quite fit but I can sense his wanting to keep the tempo from “The Chase” going as the transition was hard. “Hydrogen” also dumps into “Who Do? We Do!”, the section that eventually would follow “The Chase”. You can hear the same cymbal line meaning that potentially the band had practiced this but not yet but it in action yet. Now, granted this “Who Do? We Do!” is a little jazzier than the finished product but the basic idea is there, with the familiar chord progression. “Fee” follows the jazz feeling of this 2nd set, still no megaphone in sight but solid. “Divided Sky>McGrupp>Clod” is a nice one-two-three combo late in the set. The segue from McGrupp into Clod is solid and caps off the “Fluff’s Travels through Gamehendge” section.  A nice standard “Alumni>Letter>Alumni” follows and then we get actual “Fluffhead”, which is played well. A standard “Bowie” closes. Two shows left in 1987 and they will be combined into one review. A typical midweek at Hunt’s coming next.

Show #31: 10/14/1987

Wednesday, 10/14/1987
Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Peaches en Regalia, Take the ‘A’ Train > You Enjoy Myself -> Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light > The Chase[1] > Fluffhead -> Dave’s Energy Guide > Possum

Set 2: David Bowie, AC/DC Bag > Divided Sky > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Clod > Makisupa Policeman

[1] First known performance outside of Lushington.

Always interesting that not much is known about what Phish did for almost an entire month. There’s only 3 known shows between the last review and this show and one of them was found to actually be from February 1988. This got me very flustered as I thought I had missed a show and listened to the wrong one in prep. Fortunately that was not the case.

This tape is incomplete. Phish.com has “TMWSIY>Malkenu>TMWSIY” opening again but I’m not sure that is accurate and the “Peaches” opener on Phish. net makes more sense. The keyword for this show is “flow”. The band doesn’t take many breaks between songs, which is interesting for an 80s tape from a bar. The show also has a lot of segues. It almost seems like they’re learning proper construction at this gig. The tape drops into the middle of “Peaches en Regalia” and while the quality is about a B-/C+, it still captures the feeling well. A great “Take the A-Train” follows with fine solos from Trey and Page; excellent bass work by Mike here. A tight early “YEM” follows. the band really sounds dialed in on this one and it hits all the right notes. No real bass and drums or vocal jam here as it segues into “Golgi”. Mike’s all over this “GolgI” with really bright notes filling out the tune and the band just nails it. The last chord of “Golgi” is used as the first chord of “Slave to the Traffic Light” keeping the set moving. The “Slave” is pretty standard but interestingly, it does not peak or end, opting to just go into “The Chase”. “The Chase” gets closer to being in “Fluffhead” by leading into at least as the rage of the set continues. “Fluffhead”s well played if nothing else but it does have a tape anomaly at the 7:30 mark that dampers the amazing segue into “Dave’s Energy Guide”. It’s right as Trey plays the line and you can hear the band’s hard transition but the power is lost in the degradation. “DEG” then slows down and rolls into the rollicking groove of “Possum” played at a faster pace, more fitting of modern versions. “Possum” is also marred early on by a hot mic, making it hard for Mike to sing the verse. “Possum” grooves hard and when finished, Trey announces a short break. But the wall-to-wall music of “A Train” through “Possum” is impressive and shows how hard the band was firing at this point. Amazing.

Set 2 opens with “David Bowie”. This is a classic “Bowie”, again showing the high caliber the band was playing at for this show. After a pause, we get the 2nd “song suite” of the night. Trey introduces “AC/DC Bag” as “Hold Your Head Up” jokingly and then we get the funky intro riff to “Bag”. This “Bag” is pretty groovy if standard with excellent work by Page. During the ending, it gets cut short as Trey rips into “Divided Sky”. Still the shortened version, the band plays it at top speed uncharacteristically AND also plays underneath the chant lyric, which is odd and obviously did not stick. Replacing the last chord seems to be a theme of the evening, as if Trey wanted to play a set like the “Abbey Road Medley” as once again, he forgoes the end of “Divided Sky” to play the opening riff of “McGrupp”. “McGrupp” is short with no jamming and also goes right into “Clod”. Nothing flashy in “Clod” but it sounds good before dissolving into “Makisupa Policeman”. “Makisupa” begins to get weird but the tape cuts out before blast off. All in all, a very tight show with great playing. I don’t know if fans today would enjoy it due to a lack of jamming but the band was on fire. Next, the second ever Halloween gig.

Show #29: 9/2/1987

Wednesday, 09/02/1987
Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: AC/DC Bag, Fluffhead, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Divided Sky, Wilson, David Bowie, Lushington[1] -> Possum, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Makisupa Policeman, Timber (Jerry), Shaggy Dog, You Enjoy Myself

[1] No lyrics.

This is a complete throw away show. No redeeming tracks or quality. The only highlight would be the isolated portion of Page’s piano during Fluffhead. The quality is poor due to multiple generations and there’s no standout tracks. This is one you can definitely skip without missing anything important. NEXT!

Show #28: 8/29/87

Saturday, 08/29/1987
The Ranch, South Burlington, VT

Set 1: Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Makisupa Policeman, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Flat Fee, Lushington, Suzy Greenberg > Hold Your Head Up > Suzy Greenberg, Mustang Sally, Ya Mar, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday

Set 2: Clod, Slave to the Traffic Light, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, The Curtain With, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters -> Possum, Harry Hood, Timber (Jerry), AC/DC Bag, Divided Sky, Harpua > Bundle of Joy > Harpua

Set 3: La Grange, Corinna, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen[1] > Who Do? We Do!, Shaggy Dog, David Bowie[2] -> Jesus Just Left Chicago

Encore: She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride

[1] First known “I walk awakening on the misty fields of forever” lyrics.
[2] Unfinished.

Teases:
· Wilson tease in Alumni Blues
· Hold Your Head Up and Sussudio teases in Suzy Greenberg
· Streets of Cairo tease in David Bowie
· Surfin’ Bird tease
· Call to the Post tease in Ya Mar

This show was a thank you show played in the Ranch’s living room for Eric Larson taking care of Marley during the summer. This small setting is immediately noticeable as the crowd is loud for a soundboard recording, almost as if the show is too large for the space. Also, the problem is again, when you’re listening to them all, after a really great show, it’s really hard to follow that up. The show does have some fun moments though that I’ll go over. There’s a very fine “Ballad of Curtis Loew”. “Sneakin’ Sally” has a nice vocal jam. “Suzy Greenberg” has a fun moment weaving in and out of “Hold Your Head Up”. Trey plays around with singing “Surfin’ Bird” after “Mustang Sally”. “Ya Mar” gets dedicated to Marley. “Corrina” has some really nice work from Page. “I Am Hydrogen” begins its brief association with “Who Do? We Do!” and gains a brief lyric that won’t last. Lastly, “David Bowie” has a serious thick blues jam at the end that segues nicely into “Jesus Just Left Chicago”. However, if you’re gonna choose between this and Ian’s Farm, Ian’s Farm takes the cake. But be sure to give it a listen at least once.

Show #27: 8/21/87

Fishman and Marley!

Friday, 08/21/1987
Ian McLean’s Farm, Hebron, NY

Set 1: Dog Log, Peaches en Regalia, Divided Sky, Funky Bitch, Harry Hood, Clod, The Curtain With, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone, Shaggy Dog, Wilson, Camel Walk

Set 2: Mike’s Song -> Hold Your Head Up[1], Harpua[2] > Bundle of Joy[3] > Harpua -> Golgi Apparatus > Sparks[4], Flat Fee, Fee, Skin It Back -> Low Rider Jam -> Back Porch Boogie Blues -> The Sloth

Set 3: Big Black Furry Creature from Mars[3], McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters -> Stir It Up Jam, Makisupa Policeman Jam[5] -> David Bowie[6] > Sanity, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] Restarted after the opening lyric.
[3] First known performance.
[4] Extended intro.
[5] Freestyle reggae rapping from Trey.
[6] Unfinished.

We’ve reached what many believe to be the peak of Early Phish, the period from 1983-1987, Ian’s Farm. Or the shown know as Ian’s Farm. The actual full title of the gig is Ian McLean’s party (or pig roast depending on who you ask) at “Connie” Condon’s farm. Nobody seems to know who “Connie” Condon is though I bet Ian McLean does. He’s still friends with the band and was acknowledged as in attendance at SPAC last summer. Hebron is located in the Glens Falls/Saratoga Springs area so it’s interesting that 25 years later he still lives there. It’s important to note this is the first recording that was not in Vermont. While most likely the audience is friends, there might be people in the crowd that helped spread the word of the band. When listening to this show, take a few moments and imagine seeing the band on a farm in the warm summer. Surrounded by friends and family, it’s an intimate gathering. According to legend, there were many dogs as people. Throughout the recording you can hear their barking, as if they too wanted in on the fun. The friendly attitude seeps in the songs as it feels less rushed than the previous two nights at Nectar’s. You can feel it in the song selection as well. There’s less emphasis on the covers and besides the lone request of “Harpua”, more of the band just playing in the groove.

The show doesn’t start off too excitingly but is a fun listen. “Dog Log” is well-played. Probably the best call for an opener over with how many dogs were at the show. “Peaches en Regalia” rips. The shortened “Divided Sky” is played very well and sounds fully sketch, despite being unfinished. “Funky Bitch” rips. But the real fun starts with “Harry Hood. The band feels relaxed on the tune by now. It’s been worked in enough to fit like an favorite pair of pants or an old baseball mitt. The barking of dogs fits the recording, giving the song a Pink Floyd Animals feel. “Hood” also has the now standard spoken “Thank You Mr. Minor” instead of the old singsongy edition. But the end jam, Page hits the keys just right and there’s a tenderness in the playing that hadn’t been heard yet. Trey also has finally found the phrasing; with his playing interlocking well with Page and Mike. Trey’s arpeggios at the 11:30 mark are spellbinding. The ending is not to be missed as it’s all tied together into the “You Can Feel Good” refrain. It’s so good, Fishman comments “That’s why I’m in the band”. “Clod” gets the extended treatment with a very funky breakdown beginning at the 3-minute mark. Fishman gets in some very good cowbell into the jam. “The Curtain With” comes next and just plain cooks. Hitting all the changes. Trey milking the notes just right in the “With” jam and getting the best out of his tone. Page creating the right feeling with the perfect painting of chords. I’m getting hot and bothered just listening to it. “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” gets taken for a walk and the band gets OUT THERE. After the 2nd verse, the band gets into some deep type 1 and just enjoys to the end. They don’t even go back into the song. Trey teases his guitar to keep the dogs barking. In thinking about the dogs, we get another fun version of “Shaggy Dog” (with backup dogs!) . “Wilson” is still not the powerhouse we know today, this version does come closer to the version found on Trey’s thesis. Also has a weird, dark breakdown at the 4-minute mark. Trey also doesn’t do the signature “Blat Boom” offering a more low-key quick one-off instead. A very oddly intro puts the band into “Camel Walk”. The band plays with keys and tempos and arrangements in a weird way. At least, interesting to hear the band play with the song here as they close set 1.

Set 2 opens with “Mike’s Song” and here it lives up to its name as the jam is led by Mike’s bass. He even leads Trey into a “Ring around the Rosie” tease at the 4-minute mark. It’s the first real time we’ve had such a strong performance from Mike but he really is in the zone here and Trey just sits back and lets him own the jam, which is brilliant to hear. At the 9:45 mark though, we hear Trey finally take the song back, leading Mike into a speeding chase the feels like they’re both going down the wormhole, twisting around, not knowing where they’ll land. The landing point turns out to be a sinister version of Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up”. Today the tune is known as Fishman’s entrance song but somehow it ended up being the odd ending to this killer “Mike’s” jam. In the pause, trey plays with some effects that sound like the solo towards the end of “Esther” on Junta. It only makes sense that in a show full of dog’s barking we get a “Harpua” by request. This version’s a little different because we don’t get a story about Harpua and Poster Nutbag (to be explained later) and also we don’t get the end of the song. We get the first part but as it’s only the second performance, it’s a little rough. So much so, that they stet the song twice, work on the acapella intro a few times over the chord progression, and Trey slows the song down so that he’s actually speaking the lyrics at one point. Not the best version but an interesting listen to the beginnings of a Phish classic. In the middle, we get the debut of the last part of “Fluff’s Travels” in “Bundle of Joy”. The tune actually doesn’t seem too out of place joining the “Harpua” jam but is clearly more comfortable in it’s current role of building the tension to the “Fluffhead/Arrival” moment. The ending of “Harpua” gets quite funky and danceable, which is not something I usually say about that tune. I like it but I’d rather have the current “rock opera” ending. “Golgi” follows and is pretty good. “Sparks” gets an extended intro while Fishman apparently “squeezes urine from his bladder” as Trey puts it. A fan calls for “Fee” but they need to wait for Fish.  At one point, it almost sounds like Trey wants to play Tom Petty’s “Here Comes My Girl” but it moves into “Sparks”, which features a lot of flourishes from Trey to give it that Pete Townshend feel. Trey gives the audience the option of “Fee” or “Flat Fee” first. Trey decides on “Flat Fee”, a jazz number he wrote in an exercise with his mentor Ernie Stires. I love “Flat Fee”. I’d love to see it brought back. Apparently, Trey teased it before Jones Beach 2009. Maybe this summer finally. Phish really needs to bring back the jazz influence that had in the 80s and early 90s in my opinion. “Fee” finally gets played by request, still sans megaphone and a standard version. The set ends with a huge jam segment. It kicks off innocently enough with “Skin It Back”. Trey rips off some hot licks at about the 2-minute mark. The jam is going along great but at the 7-minute mark Fish pushes the tempo and Trey answers the call with fast flying fretwork. The jam breaks down and lands into jamming on War’s “Low Rider”, led by Mike entering the bass line. Trey gets into the fun as well, yelling for his dog Marley, and singing the chorus of Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” over it. It’s a cool moment after the madness of the “Skin It Back” jam, almost like a hidden outro on an LP. It’s short lived however and the band picks up the tempo again and Trey plays the opening licks of “Back Porch Boogie Blues”. The pace quickens as the song develops almost reaching boiling point before cooling down. It’s cool to see the band push tempos and stay together. Mike starts with the bass line to “The Sloth” and it ends the jam.

Set 3 opens with a debut. Trey says it will be a song from Melanie entitled “I’ve Got a Brand New Pair of Roller Skates; You’ve Got A Brand New Key”. Thankfully, it is not the song and we get the first “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars”. I like this version because it feels more punk rock and less noisy than other versions. It sounds like it could be a real punk tune here. Trey’s opening riff is on point. Solid debut. Next is “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters” introduced by Trey as the “Gala Event” with another “Hold Your Head Up” intro. Still waiting to start up, Trey teases the Dead’s “Slipknot!” much to the dismay of some attendees. “McGrupp” is interesting because it’s heard in it’s final form with the lyrics sung to the tune instead of spoken word. It’s a great version with a pretty Page solo at the 5:30 mark. It segues nicely into the “Stir It Up” jam, cued by Mike with the bass line. What follows is a really nice jam on the chord progression with none of the vocals. A short pause and then the band fires up the “Makisupa” chord progression to keep the reggae vibe going. Trey proceeds to rap over the band, book ending “Dog Log” with lines about stepping in doogie doo and the mouse house. Besides that fun, the jam doesn’t really go anywhere but with Trey playing with effects over the top. It does however transition very nicely into David Bowie with Trey playing the riff. It’s a very low key intro with a slow playing of the chords before speeding up to normal tempo as Mike drops bass bombs. There’s also nice “Tom Sawyer” tease to enjoy. The jam also has some fun flourishes and ends with Mike hitting the bass line for “Sanity”. They asks the crowd to “sing it out!”. The set ends with “an original song…by a slave” and the jazz arrangement of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” sends the audience to bed. A silly ending to a phenomenal show. If you haven’t heard this one, hit up the PhishTracks link above and enjoy. Next we head back to the Ranch in Shelburne!

Show #26: 8/10/87

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

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

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

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

[1] First known Phish performance.

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

Show #25: 8/9/87

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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