Show # 23: 5/11/87

Phish circa 1987. Photo Credit: Mr. Miner

Monday, 05/11/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: You Enjoy Myself, Lushington[1] -> Possum, Slave to the Traffic Light, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Clod, Peaches en Regalia > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday[2] > Avenu Malkenu[3] > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Makisupa Policeman[4], Ya Mar

Encore: Golgi Apparatus, Corinna, Letter to Jimmy Page

[1] No lyrics.
[2] First known performance.
[3] First known Phish performance.
[4] Keyword referenced dioxin and Gaddafi.

Low points in a tour or series of shows are always bound to happen with a band like Phish. For 10/20/13 in Hampton, there’s 10/22 in Rochester. For every peak, there must be a valley. This is a very early example of that. I mean it was a Monday night in Burlington and Dollar Drafts at What Ales You was not a thing yet I would think. Also, theo recording quality is NOT GOOD. Only listen to for historical purposes. Right from the get-go, we get a less than cohesive “You Enjoy Myself”. The band doesn’t sound as with it as they did on 4/29. There’s no sense of moving as unit. The vocal jam is screechy and harsh. My mom quipped “They sound like a bunch of cats!”. After that we get a brief glimpse of “The Chase” segment that would become part of the “Fluff’s Travels” suite before rolling into the chords of “Lushington”. No lyrics on this one however. The fumbling continues until we finally land into “Possum”, which they plod through nobly. “Slave to the Traffic Light” gets the show in the right direction, sounding a little better. “Sneakin’ Sally” comes next, an attempt to revive the vibe. It may have worked form a crowd perspective but on tape it does not work. “Clod” turns out to be the highlight of the set with some tight playing from the band at long last. After a long pause, “Peaches en Regalia” finally comes out and it’s a fine version. Following that is the debut of “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday>Avenu Malkenu>TMWSIY”. This is important because it further signals that Gamehendge is coming. It’s still odd that this effectively background music is played as an instrumental during a set. It’s also interesting hearing a bar band bust out a funky Hebrew prayer mid-set. “Avenu Malkenu” translates into “Our Father, Our King”. Little is known about why Phish chose to do a version of the prayer but it’s a welcome moment. Trey lets the crowd know “That was called The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday and I’m going to get my head sharpened.” A standard “Makisupa” comes next. Introduced as going “from Jamaica directly to the Bahamas” and quick tease of ZZ Top’s “Tush”, the band lights into “Ya Mar”.  It almost feels like an attempt to save face for a poor set by ending with a danceable favorite. Nothing too exciting here except to hear Page say “Be sure to top your bartenders and waitresses.” Hopefully, moving to the Ranch next will liven things up.

Show #21: 4/24/87

Billings Library (formerly Student Center)

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1987-04-24

 Friday, 04/24/1987
Billings Lounge, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Golgi Apparatus, AC/DC Bag -> Possum, Fluffhead, You Enjoy Myself -> Dave’s Energy Guide, Punch Me in the Eye[1] > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, I Am Hydrogen -> Who Do? We Do![1], David Bowie, Dear Mrs. Reagan > Slave to the Traffic Light

[1] First known performance.

This show celebrated the end of Earth Week at UVM as pointed out in the introduction at the beginning of the recording. Phish playing Earth Week had started to become almost tradition at this point. The building above is Billings Library, one of the signature buildings on UVM’s campus. It was the school’s original library until the construction of Bailey-Howe Library. Upon that, it became the student center until 2007 when the new Davis Center was completed. It will now house special collections. The show took place in the lounge, which makes up the round part shown above. I guess this makes this the first “Round Room” show.

The show opens with “Golgi Apparatus”. While late this song has been pushed aside, this sis a strong version. The key to this show is you can hear Phish moving towards their own sound and sound less and less like their influences. Trey asks Paul how it sounds but there’s no further banter. “AC/DC Bag” launches with it’s unique intro still in tact. I really dig Mike’s bass line at about 3:40 in. It has a neat little jam at the end that teases something but I can’t put my finger on it but it rolls so nicely into “Possum”, which also boogies hard. I’d consider this pairing a must-listen. A fun, tight “Fluffhead” follows but nothing extraordinary. “You Enjoy Myself” is not as well-played as 3/23/87 but it does have an interesting segue into “Dave’s Energy Guide”, with the ending vocals being repeated over the “DEG” pattern.

We then get the only ever performance of “Punch Me in the Eye”. Not to be confused with the popular “Punch You in the Eye”, it does have some similar lyrics but the music structure is completely different. Trey asks everybody to sing along with the falsetto vocals. The band giggles through, indicating the silliness of it all to start. However, the jam in the middle is quite intense and worth a listen. It’s a very interesting lost composed piece. Apparently, parts of it ended up in “Divided Sky” but I don’t hear the similarity. “Alumni>Jimmy Page>Alumni” comes up next. The only highlight being some “Possum” teases right before it goes into “Jimmy Page”. “I Am Hydrogen” comes back which is nice to give the crowd a little break. It’s also interesting because it segues into “Who Do? We Do!” “Who Do? We Do!” eventually becomes part of “Fluffhead” but in this setting it’s a gorgeous companion piece with some start/stop jamming. When the start/stop begins is when you’ll hear the part thats most recognizable. It’s typically played when Mike and Trey jump during “Fluffhead”. Trey introduces “David Bowie” next. This “Bowie”‘s a decent early Bowie. It didn’t blow my hair back but I was engaged. Snoozer “Dear Mrs. Reagan” comes out next. If I was at a show in the 80s, probably would have been my piss break song for real. The fans dig it though. The set closes with “Slave to the Traffic Light”. It’s pretty but still lacks the right peak. They’ll nail it one of these days. Next, one of my favorite early shows and probably the oldest show I had for a while until I discovered 12/1/84. You don’t want to miss this.

Show #20: 3/23/87

Nectar’s at Night. Photo credit: Ken Burris. (Ken, let me know and I’ll take it down but it was too pretty to not use!)

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1987-03-23

Monday, 03/23/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Funky Bitch, Mike’s Song > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues,You Enjoy Myself > Sparks[1]

Set 2: Fluffhead, Peaches en Regalia, Ride Captain Ride[1] -> Dave’s Energy Guide,Corinna, Why Don’t You Love Me? > Camel Walk, Golgi Apparatus, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

[1] First known Phish performance.

Finally back on back on Main Street in downtown Burlington, at least as far as the recorded tape goes. The band had, of course, been paying bar gigs the whole time but less of these from the early years survived. We do know that the band had been moved the lounge upstairs to the restaurant downstairs at this point in the band’s history. Most likely, to allow for the growing crowds that began to attend the shows. The show opens with a tight “Funky Bitch”, a good call to get the blood flowing. Trey dedicates the next song to The Residents, an experimental music group from San Francisco, whose trademark “Eyeball with Top Hat” logo t-shirt would be a wardrobe staple for Trey. The song dedicated turns out to be “Mike’s Song”. It’s a solid version which rolls into this show’s first highlight. “Alumni>Jimmy Page>Alumni” had been getting a little stale show after show but the version here is where the band finds a solid groove. There’s a nice blues jam between verses in the first half, “Jimmy Page” is tight”, and the ending jam is sublime. Quality early Phish. The energy continues as Phish rips into “You Enjoy Myself”. You can tell Trey really has been practicing this part intensely hitting the arpeggios with a fierce accuracy as Page dances around on keys. The “Boy Man God Shit” part also has very nice groove to i. The band just feels more rehearsed than before and it shows in the quality of this “YEM”. We even finally get the bass and drums jam! It’s short but closer to reaching the classic “YEM”. We don’t get a true vocal jam but we get Trey singing the children’s tune “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” over the bass line, which sounds like if James Brown had hosted a children’s program in the 80s. Has to be heard to be believed. “YEM” dissolves and we get the night’s first new cover to close set one. The band rolls into “Sparks” from The Who’s Tommy. It’s short but shows the band’s ability to pick up many styles. We’ll see “Sparks” come out a few more times over the years including during a could of very important shows. The Who’s influence on the band will not be understated as influence their more rock-oriented tunes of course being important to the year 1995. More on that in a future post.

Set two opens with Trey introducing Paul, the sound man, who also hand building the guitars, the rack, the speaker cabinet, and “most of everything else that you see.” He also thanks Sid, who runs the lights (obviously before CK5 hit the scene), and Willis, their new roadie, who plays a mean guitar. The band then starts up “Fluffhead”. Unlike the previous “YEM”, “Fluffhead” does not show the same amount of tight playing. The recording also has a tape cut at 8 minutes in so I don’t believe we have the full song from that night. Next we get another “Peaches en Regalia” that Trey flubs a little bit. If this was 3.0, people would be all over him. The next song, Trey dedicate’s to Paul, another new cover, Blues Image’s “Ride Captain Ride”. A rare cover, it does however remain in the band’s rotation to this day, having last been played on 10/26/13 in Worcester, MA. It’s also fun to hear another early Page vocal. Page doesn’t have the strong voice we now known but he does a great job with this fun 70s cover. “Ride” devolves into a fast jazz jam which segues into “Dave’s Energy Guide”. The end of “DEG” gets super loopy as notes are bent and Page plays around while Trey keeps the pattern strong. “Corinna” pops up again to slow things down for a spell. This brings us to the 2nd set centerpiece, a funky version of “Why Don’t You Love Me?”, originally done by Hank Williams but done much more in the /Jim Hendrix/Red Hot Chili Peppers funk style. This surely would have gotten people up and dancing in the restaurant that night. It definitely fits perfectly in the 1980s and Trey’s voice has a bit of David Byrne style to it for the song. Luckily the band left the song in the 80s and never played it again but it’s a must-hear due to it being a very early example of Phish doing funk. It also has a decent segue into “Camel Walk”. Unfortunately, for some reason the band decides to slow the tempo for “Camel Walk” instead of just maintaining the speed and ti’s gets choppy but the intro is interesting. Mike keeps up the slap bass for “Camel Walk” and Trey gets loopy with the lyrics but it’s a solid “Camel Walk”. A decent “Golgi Apparatus” and the “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” jazz interlude close the set. Some believe a 3rd set may have been performed but the recording does not exist. Next show, we celebrate Earth Day at UVM! Thanks for reading.

Show #18: 2/21/87

Slade Hall, 2007. Photo Credit: UVM.edu

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1987-02-21/

Saturday, 02/21/1987
Slade Hall, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Why Don’t You Love Me?[1]

Set 2: Fluffhead, Fire, Suzy Greenberg, Dear Mrs. Reagan, Camel Walk, Back Porch Boogie Blues, Blue Monk[1], Clod, Lushington, Peaches en Regalia, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,Boogie On Reggae Woman[1], Ya Mar[1], Corinna[1], Dog Log, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues 

[1] First known Phish performance.

Trey once famously said “Put all your money on 17.” I wouldn’t necessarily throw it all at this show but it’s a fun night nonetheless. Set 1 has the note but was not recorded or lost So, the recording starts with a fair version of early “Fluffhead”. Next, we have “Fire”, which hasn’t been on record since 12/1/84. The cover has developed nicely with Fishman driving the band hard and fast through the tune, as if to say to Trey, “Keep up with this!” We then get “Suzy Greenberg” without the Dude and immediately the musicality of the song shines through. Trey even tries to make re lines more sing-songy and almost pushes a 60s vibe on it. At about 4 minutes in, there’s a very nice Page solo. The band follows that up with “Dear Mrs. Reagan”. It’s unclear why the band keeps playing it although it seems very popular with the crowd, who sings along loudly to the chorus.

“Camel Walk” follows but it’s a very interesting version. It starts off with some interesting percussion from Fishman and odd start/stop jamming from each member that slowly builds into the “Camel Walk” chords. Still not a regular “Camel” though. Trey whispers and half sings, half talks the lyrics and it moves at a super slow pace. Probably the slowest “Camel Walk” ever. “Back Porch Boogie Blues” goes the other way. The band starts at normal tempo, which is already pretty fast and just gets faster and faster until it ends in a crescendo of noise. It’s a must hear. We get a call back to 4/15/86 as Trey introduces “Three quarters of the Bob Dylan Band” and Page, Mike, and Jon jam on “Blue Monk”. It’s interesting that even this early on the inside jokes are happening. It’s still cool to hear them as a trio. A groovy, loose “Clod” follows. The rarity “Lushington” follows. The bouncy tune just keeps getting better. Don’t get too attached though because it’s end is perilously near. “Peaches en Regalia” comes up next and it starts with a good laugh. The band is ready to go. Fish nails the into and everything’s moving and then it grinds to a halt on Page’s opening chord. One of my favorite things is when Phish screws up, they usually do it all out and this is no exception. I’m picturing Page making the face Trey makes in the beginning of Bittersweet Motel when Page misses his cue during rehearsal and it’s cracking me up. The band gets it together and plays a rousing rendition.

“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” is a great breather for this show’s main event. Here we get three new cover debuts in Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman”, Cyril Ferguson’s “Ya Mar”, and Taj Mahal’s “Corinna”.  “Boogie On Reggae Woman” comes from Stevie Wonder’s 1974 Album of the Year Fulfillingness’ First Finale. While not as funktastic as later versions, this early version still has Mike playing the bouncing bass line with force and it’s enough to get anyone up and moving. Trey also does not try to imitate Stevie’s harmonic line with a solo in this version. The soloing is left to Page here. It’s good for a first time. Mike had come back from the Caribbean at some point in his childhood with a tape of the Mustangs doing Ferguson’s “Ya Mar” and much later decided it’d be a great cover for the band with it’s fun calypso feel. He was right and it remains a staple to this day. This first version is fairly straight forward and does not include that “Play It, Leo” line that Trey would life from the original recording to give Page his nickname and institute the Leo Trio of songs. “Corinna” comes from the same album “She Caught The Katy” was pulled from, The Natch’l Blues. Differing here is Trey sings the lead part instead of Mike. Of the three, Corinna would become the rarest. The song also features some early band harmonies, which is always interesting to hear as they hadn’t yet become the vocal powerhouse they would in time. Again, Page leads the solo, which seems odd as he’s the newest member but I think the band was still figuring out his place. It’s a beautiful moment, really showing the band’s ability to have an emotional pause in the craziness of their sets. During the pause, we get to hear Marley the dog bark, which is a cool addition. In honor of Marley, the band busts out “Dog Log” again and then closes the recording with the ever popular “Alumni Blues>Letter to Jimmy Page>Alumni”. Interesting to note, the crowd there to hear Phish seems louder on this recording and reflects their growing fan base at home. Still some chatter but more applause and audience interaction, which is super cool. From Mike’s school to home base at Goddard on tomorrow’s review.

Show #17: 2/13/87

Stearns Hall – Johnson State College

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1987-02-13/

Friday, 02/13/1987
Johnson State College, Johnson, VT

Set 1: Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Possum, Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light -> Quinn the Eskimo, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues[1], Suzy Greenberg[2], Sanity[3], Good Times Bad Times

Set 2: Wilson, Melt the Guns -> Dave’s Energy Guide, Fluffhead[3], Harry Hood[3]

[1] No vocals.
[2] First known version; Dude of Life on vocals.
[3] Dude of Life on vocals.

Welcome to 1987, a year many consider the first real year of Phish since it is the first full year as a foursome and the band found their own sound in this year. We start it in the cold of February in the woods of Johnson, Vermont. Johnson is a small town about 30 minutes north of Stowe, a major resort town. Much like Goddard, being out in the woods tends to give a bit of freedom. This show was in the basement of the dining hall, known as Stearns Hall, in the performance space known as the Base Lodge. Don’t go looking for it as it has been renovated as of 2008. The remoteness of the woods again give way to a weird night of Phish and even drew in some of their friends along.

The show kicks off with a decent “Sneakin’ Sally” to get the blood moving and also a solid “Possum”. But you really get the feeling that it’s a pretty standard show, which is still better than 85% of most live shows out there. A light “Golgi Apparatus” rolls into “Slave to the Traffic Light”. The “Slave” is interesting because the band bails on it before it can even start up. Something happens with Trey’s guitar about a minute into it and the rest of the band continues as a trio, which is cool to hear Page riff on “Slave”. They bail about 2 minutes in and get into a nice funk jam, still as a trio. Mike steps up and starts dropping bass bombs like it’s 1997. Trey finally joins back in with some tasty chords and the song rolls into “Quinn the Eskimo” as Mike pounds out the bass line. A quick cut fires up “Alumni Blues>Letter to Jimmy Page>Alumni”. Now the PhishTracks version only has the ending of Alumni and plays it twice, a problem with the site. Downloading it from the Spreadsheet, I was able to get the whole version. I’m thinking I should just download from the spreadsheet and ETree when available. Regardless, this “Alumni” is quite groovy with great work from Mike holding down the bottom end. “Jimmy Page” cooks as always but the real note is that the closing “Alumni” is instrumental, just grooving.

Next, we get a very important Phish debut. It was this night that the crowd got to know “Suzy Greenberg”. A favorite of the band, the debut gets the Dude of Life on vocals. This is why I told you a trip to Johnson State brought their friends along too. This version lacks the trademark Fishman musings in between verses and the Dude sounds super pissed while singing it. He also sounds like Joe Cocker. It’s interesting for its historic quality but not really outstanding beyond that. The Dude’s angst level continues for “Sanity” as he yells his way through the song. The audio quality is also very poor on this track. With the energy already high, Phish pounds through “Good Times Bad Times”. A long pause gives way to an early “Wilson”, a song which is not yet ready for primetime yet. Luckily a music highlight follows in the form of “Melt the Guns>Dave’s Energy Guide”. It starts of simple enough with a fast version of “Melt the Guns” and then about 2:30 in we leave the structure oft he song and pretty jam envelopes. It almost goes Type II but not quite. At about 5:54, Trey begins to tease the riff and the band easily rolls back into “Melt the Guns”. A really great segue goes into “Dave’s Energy Guide”, which is even better with Page following Trey’s guitar part on keys. It rips and is definitely the best version by then and so far. It’s really high energy, no pun intended. The Dude of Life comes back out for “Fluffhead”. He spouts some really odd lyrics over the usual riffs. It’s interesting if only to hear this alternate version of the song. The recording closes with “Harry Hood”. The quality on “Hood” is brutal but Page’s keys sparkle above it. Overall, some highlights but brutal audio quality keep this from being a must listen even for the debuts. There are better shows not he horizon for 1987. Next, we go back to UVM.

Show #16: 12/6/86

The Ranch. Photo credit: RockPeaks.com

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1986-12-06

Saturday, 12/06/1986
The Ranch, Shelburne, VT

Set 1: Funky Bitch[1], Possum, Peaches en Regalia, Makisupa Policeman -> Fluffhead

Set 2: I Know a Little[1], Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light, Shaggy Dog > Light Up Or Leave Me Alone[1] -> Camel Walk, Jam > Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Back Porch Boogie Blues, Icculus[2], McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Good Times Bad Times[1] -> Skin It Back -> Cities

Set 3: Mike’s Song -> The Little Drummer Boy[1] > Whipping Post, She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride[1] > AC/DC Bag, David Bowie -> Clod > David Bowie, You Enjoy Myself, Dog Log, Tush[1] > Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Prep School Hippie/

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] Steve Drebber on vocals.

Ah, we’ve come so far in just 3 years. The final lineup is formed. Gamehendge is creeping its way into sets. Covers are become more unique and crafted for the band. The band has a dedicated sound man on their crew. To quote Penny Lane and the Band-Aids, “it’s all happening”. This final recording of 1986 brings us to the Ranch. The Ranch, also referred to as Mead Ranch or Mood Ranch, was a house inhabited by Eric Larsen, Kent Moore, and Wayne Stout. It was located (and still may be) on East Dorset Street out in the wilds of Shelburne. Most people hear Dorset Street in Burlington and think of the South Burlington shopping district but if you keep going, it becomes quite rural. This would set the tone as a house party is a different animal then a bar or university gig. The band could get weird and the folks in attendance would most likely go along. Also a great place to test some new tunes and in this show we get a lot of new covers, some of which the band would craft for many years.

Phish opens with a new cover, Son Seals’ “Funky Bitch”. While today this probably one of the most loved covers of the band, it’s an interesting choice because it’s the first straight ahead blues song that we’ve heard so far. On Seals also marks the eclectic musical leanings of Phish. Another band would go Muddy Waters or BB King but Phish picks out the obscure 70s blues man. I saw Son Seals play the Discover Jazz festival in Burlington on June 6, 2002. Full disclosure was I went in hopes of a Phish sit-in, but was pleasantly surprised to see authentic Chicago blues. Son Seals had serious chops. This version is not terribly notable other than it is first. The band fires up “Possum” but they’re not clicking too well early on which continues into a slow, static “Peaches en Regalia”. Mike again teases Rufus’ “Tell Me Something Good” going into “Makisupa”. “Makisupa” has a very half-baked reggae jam that goes nowhere fast. The mellowness continues as the band plays one of the slowest “Fluffheads” I’ve ever heard. I almost would think the tape was dubbed but they sound in the right key. It almost painful how slow it is. It’s a must listen if only to hear how weird it is.

Set 2 opens with another new cover, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “I Know A Little”. The tape quality certain picks up with clearer vocals. It’s a pretty smoking cover and one I’d like to hear then bring back. I also like how the song again reflects the jazz influences that are creeping in. It doesn’t differ much from Skynyrd’s version but it’s a delight to hear. Following up is “Golgi” and the band returns to a slower than normal tempo. This time however, they nail a standard version. “Slave” comes next and it’s well done. The peak is still not finished yet but it’s inching closer. It definitely has more of that feel as Trey lays back at the end instead of playing wildly.

We get another fun rendition of “Shaggy Dog” which segues into yet another new cover, Traffic’s “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”. “Light Up” is significant because we finally hear Page on vocals. He’s not quite the powerhouse he will come to be in Phish’s arsenal but it’s still interesting to hear such a Phish staple in it’s early form. It’s also the first good jam of the show. They take the song out for a walk and all members are on fire. Mike’s bass intertwines with Trey’s guitar and Page’s keys set the tone while Fish keeps it steady. It’s a great early jam. The jam however doesn’t stick the landing and we get a rough transition into “Camel Walk”. However, once in “Camel Walk”, it has a very nice little jam at the 3-minute mark that’s worth the time. After a brief pause, the recording goes into a jam in progress. The poor sound quality returns making it a little difficult to hear. The jam is quite nice. Trey mostly shows off but Page finds a really nice groove on the keys that Mike locks into for a very nice layer. For a band only 3 years in the making, it’s pretty impressive. Definitely worth the listen even if the quality’s not fantastic. The jam kicks into “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” but it’s not the usual version we’ve been hearing, the band actually plays a Allman Brothers “Ramblin’ Man” jam before hitting the main tune. It’s fun to hear. The southern rock vibes continues as “Back Porch Boogie Blues” gets another go round, the end of which is pretty smoking. “Icculus” gets cut off before the ending and is rather worthless here. Another new cover follows it up as we get to hear Phish do Led Zeppelin with “Good Times Bad Times”. It’s a great early version, if only to hear Trey go off, but it also has a very clean segue into “Skin It Back”, which in turn segues into the set-closing “Cities”.

“Mike’s Song” opens set 3 and it’s interesting because Mike plays with the phrasing of the verses, giving it a jerky, David Byrne but stranger feeling. The band also starts the song of really slow and picks up tempo as it goes along. It also as a nice jam which goes into “The Little Drummer Boy”. Well, I’ll give them it’s the holidays and they have a little drummer boy in the band technically. Not like other times as we’ll see in the future. The Allmans’ “Whipping Post” comes next and while very good, it’s not the most barn-burning edition. Another cover and another blues standard, busting out Taj Mahal’s “She Caught The Katy”. Prominently known for it’s opening the Blues Brothers movie, this is more of the blues standard I was talking about earlier as an alternative to “Funky Bitch”. It’s a respectable copy. “AC/DC Bag” follows and is fodder leading to a real highlight. “David Bowie>Clod>Bowie” is pure dynamite. It leads off with some cowbell and fun riffs from Trey before hitting the main groove. At about 1:05, Trey hits a cool speed jazz riff that’s unlike any other “Bowie” I’ve heard going into the UB40 verse. The seque into “Clod” feels little bit like Pink Floyd or Yes’ “Heart of the Sunrise” which is cool. It’s also interesting to hear music associated with “Fluffhead” sitting in the middle of “Bowie”. Apparently the end of this “Bowie” must be heard. The problem is that on PhishTracks.com and Phish.in only repeat the first part of “Bowie”. Luckily there’s a great new sounding transfer of this third set on Etree. So, I downloaded it and it’s pretty amazing. It does have the described Allmans vibe but to also, just sounds like really great Phish.

Trey noodles a bit with a song about a camera but how do you follow a smoking “Bowie”? With a tight “You Enjoy Myself” obviously. It’s a pretty legit follow up. “Dog Log” is next with its alternate title “Doggone Dog”. It’s a hot version and probably the best so far in the band’s career. I recommend a listen. Someone asks for Barry Manilow and Trey introduces the night’s final new cover as such. The joke being the song is actually ZZ Top’s “Tush”. It’s pretty faithful but cooking nonetheless. A funky “Sneakin’ Sally” follows and then “Prep School Hippie” closes the set. “Hippie” has a nice soaring jam in the middle and increases in tempo as it builds to the finish. Thus ends 1986 on record. Onto the bigger and better (and more work) of 1987!

Show #15: 10/31/86

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1986-10-31

Friday, 10/31/1986
Sculpture Room, Goddard College, Plainfield, VT

Soundcheck: Bertha (performed by The Joneses), Blues Jam (with members of The Joneses)

Set 1: Mustang Sally, Camel Walk, Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light, Melt the Guns -> Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Halley’s Comet[1] > Back Porch Boogie Blues >Shaggy Dog, Fluffhead

Set 2: Jam > AC/DC Bag, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Peaches en Regalia > David Bowie[2], Have Mercy[3] > Harry Hood, Sanity, Skin It Back > Icculus, Alumni Blues

[1] Richard Wright on vocals.
[2] First known version.
[3] Jah Roy on vocals.

This post will most likely be a little shorter as this show is very similar to 10/15/86. But at least we have the first Halloween gig. While not the spectacle that later Halloween shows would become, when your band is tapped to play a holiday, you know you’re doing something right. This show is a split bill with The Joneses. A more low key affair then 10/12/86, it took place in a smaller room, probably more in line with the party atmosphere. The show kicks off with standard readings of “Mustang Sally” and “Camel Walk”, a good way to get people moving. Trey then makes it clear that the name of the next song is not “I Saw You With A Pistol In Your Hand” but “Golgi Apparatus”. “Golgi” is another great early version. “Slave” also shows it’s headed in the right direction with also another great early version. Again though, Trey doesn’t quite have the formula down to end the song. The band unveils a “new on record” cover next with XTC’s “Melt The Guns”. It’s also interesting that they have a “Fuck Your Face” and “Minkin” tease while Jon pounds out the cymbal beat. It’s a fun song with a quirky beat and lyrics that surely drew the band to it. It’s also interesting here that the Phish version is SHORTER than the original. A very smooth segue moves form “Melt the Guns” into “Sneakin’ Sally”. “Sally” is fine but nothing notable. “Halley’s Comet” is up next and features Nancy on vocals yet again. This is a mess. I can’t recommend it to anyone. The band effortlessly goes into “Back Porch Boogie Blues”. It’s well played but nothing notable. More notable is that Mike allegedly told the band it was an original to get it played but the truth is it’s a Max Creek cover. This would prove to also be interesting as Mike would later write songs with Scott Murawski of Max Creek! How weird the world turns. “Shaggy Dog” comes next and then the set ends with another early “Fluffhead”.

Set 2 opens with a jam. Always welcome when the band just takes off. It opens with Jon playing a driving hi-hat line with some textural drums underneath. Trey plays a sick funk riff over the top. The jam is a fast and furious little ditty that just shows how tight the connection is between Trey and Fish, with Mike jumping in with good measure. They take the energy and go into a high-flying “AC/DC Bag”. The “Bag” carries over the jam energy and is played at a quicker tempo. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” exercises the jazz chops once more. Another tight “Peaches en Regalia” follows and then we get to the main highlight of this show, the first-ever “David Bowie”. It gets a little rough in the beginning between David Bowie and UB40 but it’s interesting to hear them start out REALLY SLOW during the start of the jam and then bring up the tempo. Fun to hear the beginnings of that monster. “Have Mercy” gets an extended take with new lyrics from Jah Roy of Lambsbread. It’s fairly standard except for the length. It again gets paired with “Harry Hood”. “Hood” is solid as always. “Sanity” still hadn’t come the band’s way at this point and unleashed that fact on the crowd. Two fans begin clamoring for “Skin It Back” and “Icculus” so what’s a band to do? You play both of them back-to-back in the order requested. “Skin It Back ” comes first. The ending jam is quite tasty. “Icculus” is short but mentions he was born on Halloween 1948 in ancient Greece apparently. How do you send them home? With the shuffle of “Alumni Blues” of course! Let ’em dance one more time. That’s the first Halloween, kiddos.

Show #13: 10/12/86

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1986-10-12

Sunday, 10/12/1986
Haybarn Theater, Goddard College, Plainfield, VT

Set 1: Golgi Apparatus[1] > Slave to the Traffic Light, Wilson[1], Halley’s Comet ->Possum, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Makisupa Policeman

[1] First known performance.

And so it begins, the first show in the classic Phish lineup; Trey, Mike, Page, and Fish. The band has also graduated from the cafeteria to the stage of the Haybarn theater at Goddard College. Trey and Jon have enrolled there to focus on music full time. Mike has stayed at UVM and is in his senior year. It’s an interesting time of change but it also has given the band freedom to focus.

The show kicks off with a debut of “Golgi Apparatus”. A now classic Phish tune, this version finds the band playing it at a slightly slower speed but the tune seems fully fleshed out with even the angelic composed section in the bridge. The final notes segue into “Slave to the Traffic Light” and it’s on this tune you can really hear the space that Jeff’s departure has given to Page. Page’s synth gives the song great tone and doubles well with Trey’s guitar. Here we get the signature interplay between Page and Trey. The peak still isn’t built yet but the potential is captured in the ending.

The band chooses to debut another new song and rolls into “Wilson”. It doesn’t yet have it’s two-chord intro and of course the chant wasn’t even a fan invention yet. The song also has Trey doing weird Bob Dylan style vocals again. Can you imagine of Trey had recorded all of Gamehendge as Bob Dylan? It would not have the gravitas for sure. The crowd however clearly enjoyed the song and claps along to the beat before Page’s solo. Page’s solo has some “When the Music’s Over” teases and a very Doors vibe which Mike picks up on. The song even includes the Blat Boom section albeit closer to the end. The band also pulls out another new one, albeit having been played a few times at this point, “Halley’s Comet”. They also bring out the song’s writer Richard “Nancy” Wright to sing it. This version has no frills but can be noted for the smooth segue into the newly arranged “Possum”.

“Possum” has been retooled after the departure of it’s creator Jeff. It’s less bluegrass stomp and more back roads boogie. It also gets a more sleek vocal arrangement opening up the chorus for more fun. Trey rips off a nice solo here. Mike takes over the lead and lays the groundwork for every “Possum” most people know. The night’s only cover follows next in “Sneakin’ Sally”. It’s fun but fairly standard. The vocal jam is the highlight. The recording closes with “Makisupa Policeman”. This version also takes its now current form, with a Qaddafi reference in the keyword section. The jam goes out there with some serious reverb and effects. Same as it ever was with Trey tweaking and learning his rig.

Show #12: 4/15/86

The scene on April 15. Photo credit: Glide Magazine.

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1986-04-15

Tuesday, 04/15/1986
University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Set 1: AC/DC Bag > Dear Mrs. Reagan, Prep School Hippie, Quinn the Eskimo -> Slave to the Traffic Light, Makisupa Policeman, Have Mercy, All Blues[1] > Dog Log > Possum, You Enjoy Myself, Anarchy, Camel Walk -> Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues

[1] First known Phish performance; approximately one minute long.

Well, Phish as a five-piece was fun while it last but if not for graduation, he might have been left in a men’s room in Colorado sometime. I’m only idling but with graduation looking, this is the last recording I have access to which has Jeff Holdsworth as a regular member of Phish. Jeff would graduate from UVM in May and go off to seek his fortune in electrical engineering. Some say he found God and condemned his work with Phish. He did have this to say according to Relix magazine, “I have not made any effort to follow the ‘Phish phenomena,’ other than information that comes freely my way. I feel there is a certain psycho-spiritual void in this generation making the transition from adolescence to adulthood which Phish has ‘hooked’ into.” Regardless, he has kept very quiet.

The show was the UVM Earth Day concert and took place outside Bailey-Howe Library on the school’s campus. Itkicks off with “AC/DC Bag”. Again it has a different intro but the one used in this how is not as slick as the one on 4/1/86. I wonder what promoted the change. The band kicks into two newer tunes with the one-two punch of “Dear Mrs. Reagan” and “Prep School Hippie”. “Reagan” again feels out of place even on such a political day as Earth Day. “Hippie” on the other has great chemistry between both Jeff, Trey, and Page working together. The refrain “I can’t wait until I’m 21” being sung in the style of “Not Fade Away” is also a highlight and gives the tune another dimension as it does speak towards 80s Deadheads. Continuing the theme, the band launches into popular Bob Dylan cover of the Grateful Dead, “Quinn the Eskimo”. There’s a hilarious moment about 3 minutes in where the entire band except Mike stops playing and the whole song breaks down. The crowd laughs. Trey introduces Mike. Shortly there after, everyone picks it back up and continues the song. It’s a lighthearted moment clearly planned by the rest of the band.

Phish goes into “Slave to the Traffic Light”. The “Slave” sounds good put is pretty standard early version. “Makisupa Policeman” comes next with a heavy bass intro from Mike with “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus teases. The song finally stays seriously and has great jams from Page and Trey. Similar to the previous show, it goes from a Phish reggae original to their reggae cover du jour, “Have Mercy”. The song goes just a hair more out there than last time but feels less urgent and cohesive. Jeff then introduces the trio you’ve all been waiting for, “The Bob Dylan Band”, again references the previous show at Hunt’s. Very clear the band’s starting to have inside jokes with their fans, a trademark even to this day. Jeff points out someone has asked for “lively dance music” to which another person wells “Help on the Way”, calling for the Dead tune. Trey retorts, “That’s lively dancing music as far as I’m concerned!” The band then jams out on the chord progression to “All Blues” by Miles Davis for a minute while Trey gets his other guitar.

Once Trey’s set up, we’re back with a dedication to all the dogs out there, especially Marley the Wonder Dog! Marley would be a figure of the band through out the first part of their career, dying mere days before the band took their first hiatus. The dedication is “Dog Log”, which is fitting because Marley’s poop probably was a big inspiration. “All you people in bare feet can appreciate that one!,” someone remarks. After “Dog Log” comes Possum, still in it’s early incarnation, with more bluegrass stamp and oddly timed lyrics. It’s not the powerhouse it is now but fun to hear with Jeff on vocals, as it would be the last time on record. They then go onto “You Enjoy Myself”. “YEM” is still in the building stages and isn’t the epic well all expect now. This version does however have the “Boy, Man, God, Shit” lyrics at last and is inching closer to the tune we all know and love. It ends with a pretty funky jam and a short vocal jam.

Trey then introduces that the Joneses and The Sierra are playing Slade Hall that night and dedicates “Anarchy” to them. They play it actually 3 times in a row, changing the lyrics to “Jim Tasse” and “African Killer Bees”. Phish then gets back into dance mode, taking everyone down to the disco with “Camel Walk”. Jeff paints the picture with “colored floors and a disco ball” as he goes into the verse. This “Camel Walk” is at slightly faster pace than others and gets quite funky. The show closes with a very short “Alumni>Jimmy Page>Alumni” also at a faster pace.

The impact of Jeff Holdsworth on Phish is probably largely forgotten. Jeff was important. His solid rhythm allowed Trey to build confidence on lead and his control on difficult Dead and Allmans covers helped push Phish to fill Burlington bars. This marks the turning point where Phish set their sights on careers in music, something Jeff didn’t see happening. Trey and Jon would leave UVM and follow Page to Goddard College, where they could freely learn music. Page himself would earn $50 EACH for getting his friends to enroll. The added freedom allowed Phish to become the monster they are today but they’ll always remember those steady chords that help served as their training wheels as they got launched down the driveway toward rock immortality.