Show #28: 8/29/87

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Show #24: 5/20/87

Wednesday, 05/20/1987
The Ranch, South Burlington, VT

Set 1: Wilson > Run Like an Antelope, Golgi Apparatus > Back Porch Boogie Blues >Lushington[1] -> Possum, Harry Hood, You Enjoy Myself, Alumni Blues[2]

Set 2: Fire

[1] No lyrics.
[2] Guests from The Joneses and Mental Floss on rhythm guitar and saxophone.

Our first video! We finally get to see what this band looks like at this time. Sure the quality’s not the best but it’s a 25 year old tape! If only the ability to digitize it had come sooner. But alas, I still suffer through my bootleg of Pink Floyd “The Wall” live at Nassau 1980, just to see what the spectacle was like. We finally see that while Trey has started to gain his signature sound, he is not yet playing his custom signature Languedoc. He IS however playing his red Timecaster, which was built by Paul at Time Guitars in Vermont. Trey also already has his custom built cabinets. Mike is playing a Time bass but not the Languedoc bass. Page and Fish are a little too darker to fully make out their look. Fish is buried behind Mike in this setup. This show is a split bill with the Joneses and believe to be tied to Graduation at UVM and/or Goddard. This might even be Mike’s classes party as Mike graduated from UVM in May 1987.

The band returns to fine form after the sloppy performance of 5/11. Wilson kicks the set off and is more like modern version. The E chord intro however is played under a drone form Page and also is a high E instead of the low E we know today. Definitely nailing down the power of “Wilson”. “Run Like An Antelope” is quite good with great leads form Trey on the middle jam. Looks like there’s at 20 people grooving at the show, including a couple on the roof! Wild to see a crazy 80s house party. It looks nothing like all those terrible movies. Except for Trey’s holes in the knees of his jeans. Those are quite real. He and Mike could have been stand-ins in Wayne’s World. We even see someone being an early “That Guy” wearing a Phish logo t-shirt to the show. I wonder if he still has that and what it’d be worth. After a lengthy pause with no good banter (but a Marley appearance!!), the band busts into “Golgi Apparatus”. Trey almost nails the middle solo. It’s hilarious when he flubs it and then looks to Mike and Page and shakes his head. He wants to be perfect so much at this stage. There’s an interesting run of notes up before the ending crescendo. Also, the vocals are much improved as Trey becomes more confident in his voice. Mike’s bass also sounds fantastic on “Golgi” as well.

Trey hits the opening lick to “Bach Porch Boogie Blues” and it’s time to get down. The band has perfected the tune. It’s an early glimpse at how amazingly the band would play bluegrass tankards later on. Page’s keys mirror Trey’s riffs quite well and he even has a great solo on the Rhodes early on. About midway through “Back Porch”, the speed demons inhibit the band and they get faster and faster. All the way, they maintain the vibe and it’s impressive to watch. Trey nailing hot licks and Page right by him; Mike keeping up with Fishman and the four-headed monster is just looking gnarly. The song dissolves into noise. This version absolutely smokes and it’s wonder that the tune has been shelved. I think it might be time for a comeback! Someone make a sign for SPAC! “The Chase” comes next and they are just nailing the odd time signature and structure. It quick rolls into a short instrumental version of “Lushington” before hitting the groove to “Possum”, which is played well and hits a fun groove if nothing else.

The band tunes and Marley (maybe other dogs) bark. It almost sounds like the band’s going to play “Slave to the Traffic Light” but we get the opening chords to “Harry Hood” The “Hood” is quite good here as Trey and Page play well with each other on the “landing” jam. The band also sounds really tight. Unfortunately, the end gets cut off so there’s no release. “You Enjoy Myself” follows. We finally get a nice long shot of Page! With a full head of hair! The band’s still working this one out with all the intricate changes and patterns but damn if they aren’t trying. The set ends with Trey inviting members of the Joneses and Mental Floss to the stage to do a Burlington All-Star version of “Alumni Blues”. It’s especially interesting to here Peter Danforth on soprano saxophone adding to the tune. The jam doesn’t really go anywhere that much but it’s always to hear a stage full of musicians rip through a Phish tune. The ending sax solo almost makes it seem like a Night Court jam before the ending chorus of “I’m Alright” kicks in. Another interesting day in Phishtory. As a bonus, I’ve included a clip of the Joneses playing the Grateful Dead classic “The Music Never Stopped” from the same day. Enjoy this piece of Burlington music history. At 3 minutes in, you can see Page stroll by the volleyball court.

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!