Show #60: 7/23/88

Saturday, 07/23/1988
Pete’s Phabulous Phish Phest, Underhill, VT

Set 1: Jam,  Colonel Forbin’s Ascent[1] >  Fly Famous Mockingbird[1],  Mike’s Song[1] >  I Am Hydrogen[1] >  Weekapaug Groove[2],  The Lizards[1],  On Your Way Down[1],  AC/DC Bag[1] >  Possum[1],  Walk Away[3],  Bold As Love[1],  No Dogs Allowed[4],  The Sloth,  Fire[5]

Set 2: The Curtain With[1] ->  Dave’s Energy Guide[1] ->  The Curtain With[1], Wilson[1],  Terrapin[6],  Run Like an Antelope[1],  Satin Doll[7],  Blue Bossa[8],  La Grange, Alumni Blues[1] >  Letter to Jimmy Page[1] >  Alumni Blues[1],  Peaches en Regalia

Set 3: You Enjoy Myself[1],  Contact[1],  Harry Hood,  Dinner and a Movie,  Slave to the Traffic Light[9],  The Ballad of Curtis Loew,  Good Times Bad Times

[1] Unknown additional percussionist.
[2] First known performance; Unknown additional percussionist.
[3] First known Phish performance; Unknown additional percussionist.
[4] First known performance.
[5] Peter Danforth and Dave Grippo on horns.; lyric changed to “Move over, Rover, and let Cameron take over.”
[6] Fish trombone solo.
[7] Peter Danforth and Dave Grippo on horns.
[8] Peter Danforth and Dave Grippo on horns, “Vincent” on trumpet.
[9] Peter Danforth on saxophone.

Teases:
· Fly Famous Mockingbird tease in The Lizards
· Peaches en Regalia tease

What a great show we have for #60. Pete’s Phabulous Phish Phest. So many firsts and great playing. Coming off the killer 7/12/88 show, you could tell that the laidback vibe of a friend’s house would just add fuel to the fire and everyone was in for treat. This show as played in the small town of Underhill, which is located midway between the backside of Mt. Mansfield and Essex Junction. So close to Burlington but far enough away. The show kicks off with a soundcheck jam, most likely due to soundcheck being played in front of attendees. The soundcheck jam is great 1988 Phish and sounds like it could have come out of a Possum or AC/DC Bag. They then go into a narration-less “Forbin’s>Mockingbird” that’s very tight for the lead-off spot. A little slow on the “Forbin’s” but still amazing. Then we get to a real first highlight: the birth of the “Mike’s>Hydrogen>Weekpaug” sandwich. We had heard Hydrogen a few times in 1987 after once in ’85 and ’86. It seemed like it just need to find its place after getting paired with “Fluff’s Travels” excess. Clearly, this is it. It’s almost as if the band had worked on this pairing for a LONG time before this magnificent debut. Hearing the first version, it’s like drinking your favorite beer the first time. You had no idea it was there but once you get a taste, you’ll never be without it again. It all just works. The “Mike’s” here is hard driving with gorgeous bass lines from Mike and when it hits the ending notes and segues into “Hydrogren,” it’s effortless and provides the perfect breather before the moment that is the first “Weekapaug”. Now at some point prior to this gig (Trey pinpoints it as some time in 1987), the band had to have been cruising through Rhode Island. We don’t have any shows there on record but in many interviews, the band recalls writing the lyrics on a road trip in Rhode Island with “December 1963 (Oh What A Night)” by The Four Seasons on the radio and riffing on that. The music apparently came later at a 11-hour jam session at Trey’s cabin in Plainfield by Goddard. It’s a bit slower than you’re used to here and Mike’s signature bass riff hasn’t quite formed yet but still it’s a super funky 6-and-a-half minutes and totally worth a listen if only to see where the funk began. So you have the first ever “Mike’s Groove” and we’ll get used to it as they are about to play it A LOT. Heck, they even play it the next two shows in a row but we’re not there yet. After a nice “Lizards” that unfortunately gets cut off, we have the first recorded “On Your Way Down”. An Allen Toussaint song by way of Little Feat, it’s nice showpiece for Page to get down and dirty with his voice, much more so than “Jesus Just Left Chicago”. It’s pretty much the same as the band does it now. It’s still a rarity but made its last appearance at the Gorge in 2011. “AC/DC Bag” gets it’s funky intro back, which I think the band should restore. It segues into its partner du jour “Possum” and it’s a fun danceable 1-2 punch still. Missing some banter according to Phish.com (in fact a lot of this recording is missing important banter, we get a new cover in the James Gang’s “Walk Away”, another Page song. Really it’s amazing how many of the covers are sung by Page. Clearly he was meant to be in the band. This is emphasized by the fact that “Bold as Love” follows with Trey nailing the tone of Hendrix once again. Someone shouts a request and Trey says that it’s one of his favorites and dedicates the song to Marley. it turns out to be “No Dogs Allowed” from the musical Gus The Christmas Dog, written by Trey and his mom. While this is the first known performance, I would think with how polished it sounds and that it’s a fan request, the song thad probably been performed by Phish before. Either way it’s a delight with excellent group vocals and very fun lyrics, much in the vain of “Contact”. I really would love a bustout sometime of this tune. It also has fun jazz bridge of course. The meat of “No Dogs Allowed” though is the outro, which would later be merged with “The Divided Sky” to form the piece we known today by that name. This version has a few more notes, less of the long sustains that would become a signature. The band sounds really dialed in here though and it’s a fantastic version, a must-listen. We get a nice tight “Sloth” to follow and the set closes with the first appearance of horns on Hendrix’s “Fire”, which also features Cameron McKinney on vocals.

Set 2 opens with “The Curtain With”. Unfortunately, we’re missing the banter that the ban announces their upcoming Colorado tour. I have a feeling this energy is what fueled the upswing from the Nectar’s run to Sam’s Tavern and this show. Knowing you have gigs in another part of the country will excite any band. This version wouldn’t be too noteworthy except it’s very tight until the jam which takes the “With” portion for a very nice walk. Then at about the 12:30 mark, Mike’s leads the band towards “Dave’s Energy Guide” and they all bite getting on the same groove to take it full and build up into it for about 8 minutes until they wind down back into the “With”. It’s a very early look at the band moving as whole, which is glorious for only 5 years into the band’s career. “Wilson” still has the original arrangement and doesn’t move closer to the tune we known now. Fish gets the spotlight on “Terrapin” and shows he’s making strides to being a performer with clearer pronunciation and confidence. It also is the first time “the dress” is mentioned as Trey asks Fish to show it off. Pictures make it unclear if this was the premiere of the dress but maybe. We also don’t know if it’s the donut dress or another dress but still having it’s very much another huge “first” for this show. “Antelope” makes a glorious return after the brief “Cantaloupe” appearance last show. Nothing outstanding but well-played. We get a nice jazz break with horns on the pairing of “Satin Doll” and “Blue Bossa”. Of note, most believe this is the first appearance of Dave “The Truth” Grippo, who would later be an important member of the Giant County Horns and played in the Sneakers Jazz Band, noted in the last blog post. IT’s always interesting to hear Phish with horns and this early version is a real treat. Phish gets back to rock with a fun “La Grange” and “Alumni>Letter>Alumni”. Set 2 here closes with “Peaches en Regalia” but Phish.com says this is not from this show and sounds like it may have been tacked on as filler.

Set 3 opens with “You Enjoy Myself”. It doesn’t seem like much but it really feels like the birth of the modern “YEM”. After the stepping stone of the “YEM” vocal jam becoming a jam and not just a screaming match, at Sam’s Tavern, this, running at about 20 minutes, hits the movements like any good “YEM” should. It’s well played and shows a glimpse at the band’s future of being such a finely tuned machine. A nice funky “Contact” follows giving way to “Harry Hood”. This “Hood” is great with a very nice buildup and fine interworking play from all 4 musicians. “Dinner and a Movie” returns and continues to get tighter. The final highlight of the night is “Slave to the Traffic Light”. Building off the success of the last version, Phish again takes it all the way down and builds. The band brings it all the way down almost ending the song and Trey and Mike also play off each other in the breakdown. It’s not as immaculate but they have Peter Danforth join on saxophone and it gives the tune a feel like Branford Marsalis on the Grateful Dead’s “Eyes of the World” from Without a Net. It’s a very unique treat and again the song continues to make strides as a heavy hitter in the Phish arsenal. The band ties things up much like a regular show. They cool it down with “The Ballad of Curtis Lowe” but then send them home on fire with “Good Times Bad Times”. Mike then thanks Peter for having his party. We thank Pete for the party as well so we could have this awesome night as Phish brought the house down and unveiled a lot of surprises. This was also the longest Phish show at 4 hours and 7 minutes until Big Cypress I believe. Really a historic night for Phish, I’d love for Kevin Shapiro to release the master tapes so we could get all the banter and an ideal copy of this show. Phish.com lists them as existing at least. This really is must-listen Phish up there with the Colorado ’88, which looms on the horizon…

No posts this weekend because it’s my birthday! Big week coming up though. I’ll see you back here on Monday. Thanks for reading!

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

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

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

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

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

Teases:
· Dave’s Energy Guide tease in Suzy Greenberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show #30: 9/21/87

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 8.26.21 PM
Photo Credit: @sarahzeee on Instagram

Monday, 09/21/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Clod > Slave to the Traffic Light, Funky Bitch, Wilson, Dear Mrs. Reagan, Golgi Apparatus > AC/DC Bag -> Possum

Set 2: You Enjoy Myself, The Curtain With, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Suzy Greenberg > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues

Set 3: Happy Birthday to You[1], Good Times Bad Times, Rocky Top[2], Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Fee > Divided Sky, Dog Log, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Run Like an Antelope, Makisupa Policeman, Flat Fee, Fire, Terrapin[2], La Grange, Fluffhead

[1] “The Birthday Dub”
[2] First known Phish performance.

A month after Ian’s Farm, we find the band back at Nectar’s. They play a typical show. Not a lot stands out here. A well played “TMWSIY>Malkenu>TMWSIY” kicks off the show. An odd lead-off choice and probably doomed the night as far as the crowd goes. “Clod” was also solid but again an odd choice. You can feel that the band wants more focus on originals and playing THEIR music, probably being over the confidence from a good summer. “Slave to the Traffic Light” is a real breakthrough moment as the band builds to a beautiful peak together with no soloing in the way. It’s not quite finished but a pivotal step to getting the right tone for the song. “Funky Bitch” is just kind of sloppy and uninspired. “Wilson” makes strides towards being bombastic. “Dear Mrs. Reagan” continues to grind my gears. “Golgi” saves things with an on point version that hits all the right notes. The set closing jam of “AC/DC Bag->Possum” has an odd cut before the segue due to patching sources. The 2nd source almost ruins the vibe with how muddy it sounds but the “Bag” jam is decent and the segue is well executed.

2nd set attempts to take the evening up a notch with an opening “YEM”. It has a cool breakdown around the 8-minute mark and continues to retain the “bass and drums” jam but other than that isn’t too appealing. “The Curtain With” is a real highlight of this show because the band found a way to play it in a completely different style. It could almost be called the “Cowboy With” as it has a real country hoedown feel with Trey’s riffs and Mike and Fish’s rhythm at the opening. While I’m glad they didn’t experiment further with changing the song (I believe), it’s a funny moment of experimentation. The “With” retains its glorious peaks and is a must-listen. “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars” follows and has shifted froth e angular punk feeling to a flatter sound. While moving towards the modern-day version, I feel that the song lost some feeling in the move and gives less of a satirical feel and edge. “Suzy Greenberg” falls flat with no punch. Set Two closes with a fairly standard “Alumni>Letter>Alumni”.

The 3rd set opens with “The Birthday Dub” dedicated to Spup! I wonder if anyone remembers who Spup is but ti’s fun way to kick off the last set. The energy continues with “Good Times Bad Times” and you can feel the crowd is finally into the show at this point. “GTBT” is well played and rollicking. A cover debut follows in the form of the Osborne Brothers’ “Rocky Top” and also marks an early foray into bluegrass for the band. It’s not the cleanest version but would be an important cover for the band over the years. The song also earned Phish a spot as a clue in the Bonnaroo category on Jeopardy! last month as featured at the top of this post. “Sneakin’ Sally” keeps the crowd moving. “Fee>Divided Sky” is an odd placement. “Fee” still is without megaphone and “Divided Sky” is still incomplete but both are a blast to listen to. “Dog Log” is fun but misses the barking of the last two recordings. “Curtis Loew” gives a nice break in the action. “Antelope” has a nice extended jam on the reggae part just before “Rye Rye Rocco” starting at about 7:30. “Makisupa” goes a little long. Going out on a high, the band hits a triplet of covers, the high energy of Hendrix’s “Fire” leads off, the debut of Syd Barrett’s “Terrapin” is an interesting middle piece that someone captured the audiences’ attention, and ZZ Top’s “La Grange” takes it out. “Terrapin” is very important because it marks the first recording of a Fishman feature! A quirky song for a quirky drummer? Makes all the sense in the world. It’s a shame that it’s too muddy to hear properly and also does not include the trombone solo but still is amazing that it survived. After the triple threat, “Fluffhead” appears to close the set but the recording fades. A pretty standard night but with some highlights nonetheless.

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 #3: 12/1/84

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1984-12-01

Saturday, 12/01/1984
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Soundcheck: Fluffhead

Set 1: Jam, Wild Child > Bertha, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, Camel Walk, Jam, In the Midnight Hour, Scarlet Begonias > Fire[1] > Fire on the Mountain > Makisupa Policeman, Slave to the Traffic Light[2], Spanish Flea[1], Don’t Want You No More[3] ->Cities[1] -> Drums[4] -> Skippy the Wondermouse[5], Fluffhead[6]

Encore: Eyes of the World

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] First known performance.
[3] First known Phish performance; missing final lyrics.
[4] Marc Daubert.
[5] First known Phish performance; Dude of Life on vocals.
[6] First known performance; Dude of Life on vocals.

So far we’ve reviewed the first show, the “phirst” show, and no we come to probably what is actually the first REAL Phish show. The band introduces some originals, displays the trademark silliness the band would continue until the late 1990s. This is also the first bar gig on record at the legendary Nectar’s on Main Street in Burlington. The bar scene would prove very important to Phish. Trey Anastasio explained it this way to PBS News Hour:

“There were more bars per capita in Burlington than anywhere in America and that was the year the drinking age changed. It was grandfathered, Vermont was the last state to change the drinking age. So I was 18. That’s why there were so many bars. There aren’t more bars in Burlington today. That was the last 3 years that there were. There were 53 bars in a small town. Every bar wanted a band. So when you got a gig in Burlington in 1983, it was for 3 nights, 3 sets, I mean, we played like 6 hours a night. And the owner of the bar of the bar we would play in would come up to us and say, “Play a slow one, play a fast one, play a cover, play a Beatles cover” because there was no cover, we were just the band in the corner. We got really good at playing live and I think if we weren’t in the right place at the right time, I don’t think any of this would have happened.”

In this recording, we only have one set. Now Nectar’s in the 1980s was VERY different from the Nectar’s you would visit today. Nectar’s was not split up into two separate venues with an upstairs (now named Club Metronome) and downstairs. The entire space was one venue with bands performing upstairs and the traditional restaurant downstairs. It was in the upstairs space that this gig would be played and most of the gigs would be played. The band would play many different bars all over Burlington in the coming years but Nectar’s was always marked as the place where it all began, partly due to this tape. It also was the oldest available Phish recording until 11/3/84 surfaced and the first clear soundboard recording of the band.

The show leads off with the interesting pairing of “Scarlet>Fire (Hendrix)>Fire”. This differs from the 12/2/83 version in that the band sounds much more relaxed playing the two Dead covers and instead of just mimicking the Dead, puts more of their own sound towards the songs. The band’s transition betweens songs is also on point with using the end of Scarlet Begonias for both, taking it down to Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”‘s key to transition into that and picking up the riff again at the end to transition into Fire on the Mountain. It’s a key omen as the band has learned how to work a “set” of songs properly for good flow. The recording debut of “Makisupa Policeman” follows and has no special keywords but is a great introduction to the band’s reggae original and playful riffing on reggae and “smoking herb”. A break in the action has playful banter with Trey explaining they wrote that in down in Kingston to which someone replies Kingston, VT! (There is no town as such but Granville was named Kingston at one point.) They also do a bit about the emergency broadcast system in which they say that no one will have time to know what to do in an emergency. Marc Daubert yells out the next song is about the Burlington parking situation and the band launches into another original, “Slave to the Traffic Light”. The song doesn’t have the patience that will be exhibited in future versions but it’s interesting to hear the song with keys and with a twin guitar attack. Also, Trey doesn’t have his signature sound yet and some of the harmonics we all know and love fall flat.

“Here’s the magic band you’ve all been waiting for, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass,” states Trey as they go into the next track, “Spanish Flea”. This is worth it alone for the early band introductions by Marc Daubert. I would love to petition fans to give the Milkman nickname back to Mike Gordon. Trey sets up the next tune by saying here’s a band that was not as popular, the Allman Brothers Band. Audience members shout out many other bands while the band tunes up and then launch into “Don’t Want You No More” from the Allmans’ debut album. Not much is noteworthy the beginning of the rack but around 4:30, the band slips out of the more bluesy followthrough of the track and gets into a funk jam that would not be too uncommon in today’s Phish shows. It’s tasty really glimpse at where the band would go. Mike drops the bass line to “Cities” and the band is off. It’s a fairly straightforward performance of the song except using Phish’s own slow tempo version in stead of the faster “dance” tempo found on Talking Heads’ Fear of Music. Amazing is that this now band staple disappeared for a long time and was discovered by most on Slip, Stitch, and Pass years later. A long drum solo with Daubert and Fish ensues. Trey might have even jumped in but it was unclear.

To close out the set, the band also debuts two Phish originals but with the assistance of another very special guest. With a slow-building intro, Trey brings out for the very first time, the Dude of Life! The Dude guests on the debut of “Skippy the Wondermouse”. “Skippy” does not live on but its music does in the form of “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters”. The lyrics of “Skippy” get lost in the beauty of the song and are very throwaway. Luckily the tune did not. The debut of “Fluffhead” is, in fact, very different from the Fluffhead we all know and love. None of the delicateness or slow build that accompanies the tune today is there. It also does not include the “Fluff’s Travels” section of the song. The bouncy tempo and jangly guitars make the tune actually sound more like what I’d picture Dave Matthews Band covering “Fluffhead” would sound like. Overall though, not a bad first try. The show ends with crowd pleaser “Eyes of the World” which doesn’t sound too different from the version presented on 11/3/84. Not a bad little show and definitely sets the Phish “vibe”. Tomorrow: we begin 1985!