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.

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Show #1: 12/2/83

12/2/83 (© Phish Inc.)

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1983-12-02

Friday, 12/02/1983
Harris-Millis Cafeteria – University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Soundcheck: Jam (with audience present)

Set 1: Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress[1], Proud Mary[1], In the Midnight Hour[1],Squeeze Box[1], Roadhouse Blues[1], Happy Birthday to You[1]

Set 2: Scarlet Begonias[1] > Fire on the Mountain[1]

It’s rare when any material surfaces from a band’s first ever show. I recently saw my co-workers play their debut gig as God Dammit Maverick at Club Bohemia and I’m fairly sure they did not capture any of it on tape. Heck even the meticulous Grateful Dead wen’t even lucky to capture their first gig on tape, as far as we know. David Lemieux, if it’s in there, we’d love to hear it. Anyway, thanks to the ever popular From The Archives series by band archivist Kevin Shapiro, finally fans got to hear a sample from the first show. The classic lineup is not in place here and the band wasn’t even called Phish yet. They were billed as Blackwood Convention and consisted of Trey Anastasio on lead guitar and vocals, Jeff Holdsworth on rhythm guitar and vocals, Mike Gordon on bass, and Jon Fishman on drums. This gig was originally though to have been performed on 10/30/1983 at a ROTC dance and that date was alluded to on 10/30/1998 when the band played “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” by the Hollies in honor of their 15th anniversary, which is featured on the known setlist from this show. The date was firmed up when this tape was recovered.

The only publicly released recording from this show is the two-song sequence “Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain,” a pair of Grateful Dead covers. Of course, “Scarlet>Fire” is lauded in Grateful Dead circles as the band’s best song pairing and debuted on March 18, 1977 at the Winterland Ballroom. This version shows just how musically minded this quartet was from the start. Showing off their chops, they play a tight, if not too adventurous, “Scarlet>Fire” with some great noodling from Trey. Some might say all of Phish’s music is noodling but if you want the real deal, his soloing here is all over the place and almost feels like he’s just filling time, which most likely he was. The segue definitely needs work as the transition works but hits a little clunky. As a new band with no original material, simply booked to play a dorm dance, they do an ample job.

Also notable is the available banter, a girl asks Jon Fishman what they’re going to play next, to which he replies “Scarlet Begonias.” The girl goes “Huh” and again Jon says “Scarlet Begonias.” Clearly, she was not a Deadhead. Someone yells AC/DC!, causing Trey to bust out the riff to Back in Black. She then asks if they “know any slow dances at all? Even one?” Not getting a response, she then yells “At least play something we can dance to!” Trey, already showing the brash attitude and wit he would display in the band’s 1.0 phase, deadpans “This is by request,” and the band goes into the track. The song at least proves that if nothing else, the band could have had a career as Vermont’s pre-eminent Grateful Dead cover band. But that was not to be.