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.

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Show #2: 11/3/84

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1984-11-03/

Saturday, 11/03/1984
Slade Hall, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Set 1: In the Midnight Hour, Wild Child[1], Jam -> Bertha[1], St. Stephen Jam, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking[1], Camel Walk[2], Eyes of the World[1] -> Whipping Post[3] ->Drums[4]

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] First known performance.
[3] First known Phish performance; Jeff on vocals.
[4] Marc Daubert on percussion.

Teases:
· St. Stephen tease in Can’t You Hear Me Knocking

After a long hiatus, due to Trey’s suspension during the Spring 1984 semester, the band returned to gigs that fall. Missing from being recorded is a show on October 23rd at a house party at 69 Grant Street, which was the first show billed as Phish and had the debut of the Anastasio/Marshall original “Makisupa Policeman”. The time off would provide fruitful as Mike and Jon would work on their rhythm section chemistry in a band called Dangerous Grapes. Dangerous Grapes, with a large repertoire of Dead and Allman Brothers covers, quickly gained a following. When Trey came back, both Mike and Fish had to make a decision to soldier on with the Grapes or go in the new direction of Phish. Luckily for us, they both decided to rejoin with Trey. Mike Gordon: “I had a choice whether to play with Phish, or with the people from the Dangerous Grapes. I felt like I was clicking better with the Dangerous Grapes people, but it seemed like, in terms of being experimental and thinking of the future, that the Phish people were like that.”

Trey had also found new collaborators during the break. Going back to his home state of New Jersey, he took classes at Mercer County Community College and rekindled an old friend with Tom Marshall. This friendship would soon be the bedrock of Phish’s music as many of the band’s biggest compositions are Anastasio/Marshall songs. Trey also was jamming with Marc Daubert, another childhood friend and percussionist. Daubert would also make the trek to Burlington that fall and being playing gigs with the band. Daubert’s lasting impression would be a songwriting credit on “I Am Hydrogen” and “The Curtain”.

Getting into 11/3/84 from Slade Hall at UVM, the quality is not that great. It gets better as the show progresses but still it’s pretty rough. The whole time I’m listening to it, I’m thinking about Dick’s Picks Volume 22. Every Dick’s Picks had a warning from Dick Latvala warning the listener about imperfections. But with Volume 22, Dick really wanted you to know about it, writing “Warning: This is not an audiophile recording! Many of you may have read the numerous Dick’s Picks Caveat Emptors over the years and thought “Oh yeah… sure… whatever.” Well, this old analog recording source exhibits many audio flaws including high distortion, low vocals, tape hiss, and missing pieces. No fair calling Customer Support and complaining! However, let it be known that this CD also includes some pretty damn exciting and historical music, and for that reason is brought to you with pride.” And because of the rough quality, it’s something that stuck with my mind. This is one of those Phish shows you listen to for its historical quality not the clarity.

The version on Phish.in does not include the interesting “Ignition Sequence” as a rocket launch announces the band ripping into Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour”. It’s an interesting choice and speaks to the band’s humor from an early point in their career. It also reminded me of the introduction to “Hey Sandy” by Polaris from the TV show The Adventures of Pete & Pete. “Midnight Hour” is a fairly standard version of the song with Jeff on lead vocals. The song does go into a pretty good “double time” jam but doesn’t break out. But this early in the band’s career, who would expect that? You can hear Trey call out “Wild Child”, while clock chimes ring out for some reason. A cover from Lou Reed’s first solo album, the song is interesting because it shows how Lou’s influence on Phish was from way before 10/31/98 and the song fits the band’s then-incarnation well.  The song is well-played and tight.

From this, we get the band’s first “Jam”. A nice minor key jam that sounds based on Dire Straits, the band finally gets to stretch out. Trey gets some good leads over Jeff’s rhythm and Mike gets loose on the low end for a very nice boogie. The segue into the Dead’s “Bertha” is heavenly and again showcases what might have been if Phish had not been a success. It also shows why Trey wanted to play it so badly with Furthur at Lock’n last year I believe. The setlist says St. Stephen but both recordings have no trace of St. Stephen in any part of the Bertha Jam. After an odd “knocking” interlude, Trey launches into an odd intro riff to the Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”. As if he knows the song but doesn’t want to play just the original intro. It’s more off a vamp on the chords. The song may have only been partly practiced. I’d love to know the reason for the modified intro. Probably something we’ll never know. During the “Knocking” jam before the breakdown, there is a short “St. Stephen tease” at that point. The “Knocking” breakdown does get quit funky though. Probably would have been a great dance party. An unfortunate tape splice drops us into the ending first known “Camel Walk”, the first performance of a Phish original! A big deal for a local band to have some of their own tunes.

During the break banter, someone asks for “Makisupa Policeman” as it was not to be. The Dead covers continue as the band launches into “Eyes of the World”. We finally hear the band stretch their legs as the version is about 18 minutes along. Beautiful leads over Fish’s driving drums and Mike’s punching bass liens with Jeff’s tight rhythm punches accentuates this version. The beat drops and the recording goes into the last track, a cover of the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post.” The pace quickens and the guitar leads is fast and fierce. Fishman pounds an almost tribal beat of the rising madness of the track. Mike stays right along with the guitars as they hammer out the tune. Jeff and Trey hit with a furious twin guitar attack through the entire tune. If this was left unlabeled, one might even think it was an unearthed bootleg from 1974. Unfortunately the recording quality buries a lot of Fish’s drums and Jeff’s vocals but this fiery Whipping Post gives a glimpse into the rise in the Burlington scene the band will soon experience.