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

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

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

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

Teases:
· Jean Pierre tease in You Enjoy Myself

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

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

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

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

Show #84: 2/18/89 The Stone Church Newmarket, NH

Saturday, 02/18/1989
Old Stone Church, Newmarket, NH

Set 1: The Sloth,  Divided Sky,  The Curtain >  I Didn’t Know,  Colonel Forbin’s Ascent >  Fly Famous Mockingbird >  The Lizards,  Walk Away >  Possum,  Good Times Bad Times

Set 2: Golgi Apparatus,  Wilson >  Peaches en Regalia,  You Enjoy Myself >  La Grange,  Slave to the Traffic Light,  Contact,  David Bowie[1]

Set 3: Whipping Post,  Corinna,  AC/DC Bag

Encore: Fire

[1] “Fish’s Birthday” lyrics.

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

I’ll probably say this a lot more but in over 1600 shows, you’re bound to get a few where that’s just not a lot going on. This is one of those shows. The tape quality is not very good and the playing just isn’t as hot as you’d expect. This is the second of 2 nights at the Stone Church. It’s more notable for what we don’t get here. The first night Phish debuted a new song called “Split Open and Melt”, a song that would quickly become a fan favorite. But we’ll never know what that first version was like. Even Phish.com says 2/17/89 is not in their archives at all. Aside form that, it is exciting to hear a larger crowd in the Stone Church. Clearly, Phish was brining a good audience in on a Saturday night. The lone highlight here is the band doing a birthday version of “David Bowie” for Jon Fishman. The following day was Fish’s 24th birthday and the band replaced UB40 with Fish’s Birthday as the lyric and then yelled for him to do 100 pushups. Fish apparently did do some push-ups after “Bowie” but with the tape cut, we’ll never know. Still an interesting snippet since we just celebrated Fish’s 50th.

Show #83: 2/7/89 – The Front, Burlington, VT

Tuesday, 02/07/1989
The Front, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Esther >  McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters[1] >  Foam,  The Sloth -> Possum,  Mike’s Song >  I Am Hydrogen >  Weekapaug Groove,  Golgi Apparatus

Set 2: Makisupa Policeman,  Dinner and a Movie,  AC/DC Bag >  The Lizards,  Timber (Jerry), Contact,  Alumni Blues[2] >  Letter to Jimmy Page >  Alumni Blues,  Fee >  Run Like an Antelope

Set 3: Sanity[3],  Fluffhead,  Suzy Greenberg >  Slave to the Traffic Light,  Bike >  Whipping Post[4]

Encore: Fire

[1] Fish on trombone.
[2] Additional lyrics.
[3] Fast version.
[4] First known Fish vocals.

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

While we don’t know what happened the first night of this three night stand, I can easily say that this is the better show between the two that we do have. With a more varied setlist than the shows that became before it, it gives that band a chance to work on some lower tier tunes. The Phish catalog is very interesting in that it’s very clearly layered. You have the top tier of compositions. In this layer, you’d find “You Enjoy Myself”, “Fluffhead”, “Divided Sky”, “Mike’s”, “Weekapaug”, “Harry Hood”, among a few others. However, there’s another stellar layer but not considered essential by the amount of times played by the band. I would put in this level “McGrupp”, “Esther”, “The Lizards”, “Fee”. This is still an amazing bunch but if you were making the essential Phish, they might not make it. When they string a bunch of these together, it always makes for a more interesting show. This night at The Front, we get a whole bunch of this tier of Phish and it makes for a fun night and breaks up what had become a fairly monotonous run of important shows. The band was just getting into more varied setlist as their repertoire grew and it’s here on this night that you get that feeling of changing the sets every night that would become a Phish trademark. It also important to note that this is lighting director Chris Kuroda’s favorite show, as mentioned in an interview with JamBase. He said if he ever got to pick some live shows for release, this show would be number 1. It’s a curious pick but I think it’ll become very evident why it might be one of his favorites in upcoming shows…

We get a really interesting open in the form of “Esther”. The song is presented here with its updated and current lyrics, where the mob attacks Esther instead of the old man at the end of the song. I also like how it opens with the omnious circus music and I don’t get what the audience member yells but Trey’s reaction of “Damn Right”, kind of hits the determination of the band in a way that makes me laugh. This is also interesting because this will be the only “Esther” opener in the band’s history. I guess a story and menacing circus music isn’t a great show opener outside a Tuesday night in Vermont. Another thought while listening to “Esther” is you hear the organ coming out a lot more. I have to believe it was some time in ’88 that Page augmented that Yamaha CP-70 piano with his Hammond M-100 and that enabled him to play more organ parts, a signature that would only continue to develop. “McGrupp” follows continuing the theme of lesser-known compositions. “McGrupp” is very beautifully played and subdued. Almost a downer but why not start the night off easy? “Foam” continues the trend as it seems to be taking the spotlight in the ramp up to Junta. These three songs are also very Page heavy tunes. An odd trio to kick off the set but that makes it interesting. A lovely pairing of “The Sloth->Possum” seems to really signify the start of the evening, at least for Trey. “Possum” itself has a really nice lead and gets nice and quite before ramping back up for the ending. The “Mike’s Groove” in my opinion is the highlight of the set. It starts of timid. Mike’s vocals are a still little shaky with the existing melody just a hair out of his range. But around the 4-minute mark, the jam begins to build and led by Trey, the intensity picks up. It’s as if a tiny whirlwind is now a tornado. The 4-headed monster build and builds. Trey even continues to play licks, despite cues from his band members that the end is coming. A fan would get the feeling this would have a second jam if the year was 1994 or 1995. However, it drifts off to a very slick “Hydrogen” before dropping down into “Weekapaug” for a nice danceable jam.

More rarities second set. We get a fun “Makisupa” to set the scene and then “Dinner and A Movie” gets a welcome return to rotation. After that, the show loses its uniqueness and we get a lot of the same things we’ve been hearing throughout 1988. There’s a hilarious “Timber (Jerry)” where Trey doesn’t seem hooked up with the band at all and keeps missing the rhythm of the lyrics. Despite the train-wreck, it has a hot fiery jam. “Alumni” has the story lyrics as opposed to the regular lyrics. “Antelope” is very nice as always. The fast version of “Sanity” kicks off Set 3 and is still a lot of fun to hear. The set ends with a fun double dose of Fishman singing not only Syd Barrett’s “Bike” but also doing a tortured version of “Whipping Post”, which is a nice deviation from the previous night’s “straight” version. All-in-all a fun night at The Front. With its unique setlist and antics, it’s easy to see why Kuroda would enjoy this one so much.

Show #82: 2/6/89 – The Front Burlington, VT

Monday, 02/06/1989
The Front, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Suzy Greenberg,  The Curtain >  Wilson >  Peaches en Regalia,  Fee >  La Grange,  You Enjoy Myself

Set 2: All Blues >  Sanity[1],  Take the ‘A’ Train,  Golgi Apparatus >  Divided Sky,  On Your Way Down,  I Didn’t Know

Set 3: Good Times Bad Times,  Walk Away >  Harry Hood,  Big Black Furry Creature from Mars,  The Ballad of Curtis Loew,  Colonel Forbin’s Ascent >  Fly Famous Mockingbird > Whipping Post,  Corinna

Encore: David Bowie

[1] Fast version.

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

While the band was beginning to grow in statue outside the Green Mountain State, Phish remained deep in the fabric of the Vermont music scene for years to come. So after taking Boston by storm, the band played Dartmouth College, their usual Wednesday night gig at Gallagher’s in Waitsfield, and their first New York City show at Forty Worth, an art gallery/performance space in Tribeca. Unfortunately none of these shows exist in circulation. The leaves us with night 2 and night 3 of the band’s first Burlington shows since the Paradise gig. The band is continuing to establish the Front as their home base but they haven’t quite left Nectar’s yet. The only problem with 3 nights and no albums yet, the material stays about the same as recent shows. That’s not to say there are no highlights here on Night 2. The “Wilson>Peaches” combo is back. A really tasty take on “La Grange” happens though that I like. We get a taste of Phish’s version of Miles Davis’ “All Blues” into the fast version of “Sanity” again. “Divided Sky” continues to be amazing. The ending jam to “Harry Hood” has some interesting interplay between all 4 members. But the standout is “David Bowie”. The band has fun with the opening segment as that tradition seems to be improving. Trey does the Batman TV theme to open, when the composed section is about to break into the jam, the whole band gets in on the riff. Then Trey starts the jam on the Batman riff and they use that as a launchpad into the jam. It’s an interesting look at the band listening to each other early on and moving as a unit, rather than just Trey wild over the top. At 8:46, you can hear Page signal to the band and he initiates a call and response with Trey that’s just magnificent for them to build off. Also, Mike plays almost the base line to Wipe Out at such a fast pace that holds it down. Tight playing indeed. Night 3 next!

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

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

Soundcheck: The Sloth > Possum

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

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

Encore: AC/DC Bag,  Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 5 of 1988:

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

5. 11/3/88
A polished Boston debut

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

3. Colorado ’88
An important step for Phish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Encore: Run Like an Antelope

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

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

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

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