Show #22: 4/29/87

A flier from Phish’s first two-night stand at Nectar’s. Nearly 3 month before this show. Photo credit: @Phish on Twitter.

Wednesday, 04/29/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Golgi Apparatus, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Fire, Skin It Back ->Cities, Lushington

Set 2: Dog Log, Melt the Guns -> Dave’s Energy Guide, Take the ‘A’ Train[1], Halley’s Comet > Quinn the Eskimo > AC/DC Bag

Set 3: Peaches en Regalia > Fluffhead, Good Times Bad Times, Anarchy, Makisupa Policeman -> Run Like an Antelope, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Timber (Jerry)[2], Slave to the Traffic Light > Sparks > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > The Ballad of Curtis Loew[2], Come On (Part One)[2], I Am Hydrogen -> Who Do? We Do!

Encore: Fuck Your Face[3]

[1] First known Phish performance; Jeff Friedberg on saxophone.
[2] First known Phish performance.
[3] Debut.

Now, I’m glad if you’ve been following since day one that hopefully you’ve listened to every show or at least the highlights as well. I’ve got some bad news though and it’s not that your cat died. Poster Nutbag hasn’t even been born yet! It’s that I could have saved you all a lot of time. ut you would have missed the sublimeness that was “Prep School Hippie”! One of the tent poles of the short range of 1987 shows, this night has a lot of highlights. B Heck! We even get three full sets! There’s a lot of music to get through so let’s dive right in.

The night begins with a nice standard “She Caught The Katy”. Good song to warm-up to and get the crowd interested. We then go into “Alumni Blues>Jimmy Page>Alumni”. Earlier, it would have been played as a standard blues but we’re starting to get that trademark groove. Someone out there may be able to better describe it but it has a certain feeling that makes it more danceable than standard blues. There’s a certain looseness, I think it’s Fish’s drumming that gives it an odd shuffle. It’s very white boy Meters feel. Also, instead if Trey wailing through it all, we get a very nice Page Rhodes solo about 4 minutes in. The end of the song also feels more like 4 musicians working together. The next song is introduced as “Duke Ellington’s favorite song” as told in his memoirs and relayed by Trey. It turns out it’s “Golgi Appartus” despite it debuting 12 years after his death. This “Golgi” is much improved with more movement from the band during the middle section and some much needed patience infused into the delicate melody. The buildup to the release also is well played. “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” comes next providing a cool vibe. Page also gets to take a solo which is much appreciated. Trey gets to noodle away next as “Fire” comes up and the band powers through it, infusing the set with wild energy. The dance vibe comes back though as the band grooves into “Skin It Back”. The song’s a little weak compared to other tracks but the end jam gets in there are Mike’s bass weaves around Trey’s guitar while Page holds down the groove on the Rhodes. The song segues weakly into “Cities”, showing that they still have work to do. I wonder if they listened back and analyzed how much stronger that could be. Obviously this was way before all their self-imposed rules so it’s possible. “Cities” also fizzles out a bit and goes nowhere fast. Set One closes with “Lushington”. ’87 will be the year of “Lushington” so you’ll hear a lot of it if you follow along. This version cooks at a nice clip and has fine keys work from Page. It’s a solid version.

Set 2 opens with “Dog Log”. This version has the jazz influences seeping more and more, making it feel more syncopated and loose. The band takes “it around one more time” and all 4 have at the rhythm, sounding together and disjointed at the same time gloriously. Fishman hits the cymbals and it sounds like “David Bowie” might be coming, even the rest of the band plays a funky jam over the top of it but Trey and Page hit the melody for “Melt The Guns”. It starts out pretty standard but at 3:30, we get into the jam and it’s a beauty. Trey plays a gorgeous soaring lead over a darker, dissonant piano part from Page. Mike even gets into it with a throbbing bass line. The last minute really ups the intensity and shows off the musicianship of all 4 members. The song also features a very strong segue into “Dave’s Energy Guide”. Less rough than pervious versions, they don’t actually hit the main theme until about a minute in, enjoying the groove until Trey finally starts the diamond pattern. Rather than disconnecting lines, the band hits the rhythm hard and hooks up quite well. At times, it even sounds like “On The Run” by Pink Floyd. It’s less noise and more actual music. The whole segment is definitely worth a listen. Once again, it’s Duke Ellingston’s birthday. So the band decides to play an actual Ellington tune, “Take the A Train” with guest Jeff Friedberg on saxophone. It’s a fun listen to hear Phish with horns well before the Giant Country Horn days. “Halley’s Comet” comes next and it’s fun but nothing outstanding. It does have a smooth segue into “Quinn the Eskimo”, which sounds good but is not too exciting. The tape then has a crossfade and we miss the cool intro but we go into “AC/DC Bag” to close the set.

The third set is the most exciting in my mind. It opens with a great intro from Trey reminding people to tip their waitresses and waiters and then Fish hits the drum intro to “Peaches en Regalia”, which is standard but rips nonetheless. “Fluffhead” comes next and it’s played at a fast and furious pace. The train is gathering steam and it’s headed down the right track. Can’t wait to see where it goes from here, especially with the Fluff’s Travels development. Keeping the crowd in it, the band rips into “Good Times Bad Times” and it ably shows Trey’s quick finger fretwork. The short punk basher “Anarchy” follows and they slam through it and one fan even yells “One more time!” and on cue they do it again. Taking it down a notch, the band fires up “Makisupa”. About 2 minutes in, Trey solos over Page’s chords and it’s interesting to hear him take the song for a walk. It rolls into “Run Like An Antelope” nicely with the band starting slow and increasing to normal tempo. The ability to maintain a groove while executing tension and release is on full display here and it makes Antelope quote amazing for how early it is in the band’s career. Getting the crowd back to dancing, “Boogie On Reggae Woman” comes next. The band tired hard to jam it out but it really doesn’t develop. The night’s 2nd new cover, “Timber (Jerry)”. Now, the interesting thing is only Phish would think about taking an old folk song from the 1930s and making it fresh with a new wave guitar part over the rhythm. Listening to it played by the son of one of its authors, Josh White, Jr., it really is a dramatic overhaul and makes it a lively tune to dance to. This first version is a must listen. It’s high energy with great soloing from Trey and an amazing beat pounded out by Fishman. “Slave to the Traffic Light” is a good choice for a breather. It’s played impeccably well. It still doesn’t the peak but instead of Trey’s noodling incessantly, He just pounds out the chords to build to release and Mike hits a great melodic bass line to close it. The set probably could have ended there but it’s not last call yet. Trey hits the guitar chords to “Sparks” and the band goes into it. Fishman hits the drum fills quote well here. “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters” comes next and retains its spoken lyrics. Luckily with less Bob Dylan style vocals and more just atonal shouting. Besides that it’s pretty standard. We then get the third new cover, “The Ballad of Curtis Lowe” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. This first version is interesting because Trey sings some of the verses where as modern day versions have Page singing all the verses himself. Trey continues his mastery of the southern rock style of guitar playing. Next, we get the last cover in “Come On (Part One)”. The song is base on the Earl King R&B hit but the version here is clearly based on Jimi Hendrix’s rendition from Electric Ladyland. This is the only known performance of the song by Phish. Trey would later play it with the 8 Foot Fluorescent Tubes and his solo band in 1999 a few times. The song mostly features Trey’s uncanny ability to mirror Hendrix in his own style. However, the rest of the band also moves at the quick pace with strong support from Page, a hot bass line from Mike, and flashy drums from Fishman. It’s a shame they didn’t take this one for a walk more. The evening winds down with “I Am Hydrogen>Who Do? We Do!” “Hydrogren” us fun because it’s played at a faster tempo than usual but is no less beautiful. “Who Do? We Do” is broken up on my copy of this show, which is interesting. It ends abruptly, ending the recording. Apparently “Fuck Your Face” made its debut as the encore but did not make the recording. A fine 3-set affair from Nectar’s in the books!

Show #20: 3/23/87

Nectar’s at Night. Photo credit: Ken Burris. (Ken, let me know and I’ll take it down but it was too pretty to not use!)

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1987-03-23

Monday, 03/23/1987
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Funky Bitch, Mike’s Song > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues,You Enjoy Myself > Sparks[1]

Set 2: Fluffhead, Peaches en Regalia, Ride Captain Ride[1] -> Dave’s Energy Guide,Corinna, Why Don’t You Love Me? > Camel Walk, Golgi Apparatus, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

[1] First known Phish performance.

Finally back on back on Main Street in downtown Burlington, at least as far as the recorded tape goes. The band had, of course, been paying bar gigs the whole time but less of these from the early years survived. We do know that the band had been moved the lounge upstairs to the restaurant downstairs at this point in the band’s history. Most likely, to allow for the growing crowds that began to attend the shows. The show opens with a tight “Funky Bitch”, a good call to get the blood flowing. Trey dedicates the next song to The Residents, an experimental music group from San Francisco, whose trademark “Eyeball with Top Hat” logo t-shirt would be a wardrobe staple for Trey. The song dedicated turns out to be “Mike’s Song”. It’s a solid version which rolls into this show’s first highlight. “Alumni>Jimmy Page>Alumni” had been getting a little stale show after show but the version here is where the band finds a solid groove. There’s a nice blues jam between verses in the first half, “Jimmy Page” is tight”, and the ending jam is sublime. Quality early Phish. The energy continues as Phish rips into “You Enjoy Myself”. You can tell Trey really has been practicing this part intensely hitting the arpeggios with a fierce accuracy as Page dances around on keys. The “Boy Man God Shit” part also has very nice groove to i. The band just feels more rehearsed than before and it shows in the quality of this “YEM”. We even finally get the bass and drums jam! It’s short but closer to reaching the classic “YEM”. We don’t get a true vocal jam but we get Trey singing the children’s tune “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” over the bass line, which sounds like if James Brown had hosted a children’s program in the 80s. Has to be heard to be believed. “YEM” dissolves and we get the night’s first new cover to close set one. The band rolls into “Sparks” from The Who’s Tommy. It’s short but shows the band’s ability to pick up many styles. We’ll see “Sparks” come out a few more times over the years including during a could of very important shows. The Who’s influence on the band will not be understated as influence their more rock-oriented tunes of course being important to the year 1995. More on that in a future post.

Set two opens with Trey introducing Paul, the sound man, who also hand building the guitars, the rack, the speaker cabinet, and “most of everything else that you see.” He also thanks Sid, who runs the lights (obviously before CK5 hit the scene), and Willis, their new roadie, who plays a mean guitar. The band then starts up “Fluffhead”. Unlike the previous “YEM”, “Fluffhead” does not show the same amount of tight playing. The recording also has a tape cut at 8 minutes in so I don’t believe we have the full song from that night. Next we get another “Peaches en Regalia” that Trey flubs a little bit. If this was 3.0, people would be all over him. The next song, Trey dedicate’s to Paul, another new cover, Blues Image’s “Ride Captain Ride”. A rare cover, it does however remain in the band’s rotation to this day, having last been played on 10/26/13 in Worcester, MA. It’s also fun to hear another early Page vocal. Page doesn’t have the strong voice we now known but he does a great job with this fun 70s cover. “Ride” devolves into a fast jazz jam which segues into “Dave’s Energy Guide”. The end of “DEG” gets super loopy as notes are bent and Page plays around while Trey keeps the pattern strong. “Corinna” pops up again to slow things down for a spell. This brings us to the 2nd set centerpiece, a funky version of “Why Don’t You Love Me?”, originally done by Hank Williams but done much more in the /Jim Hendrix/Red Hot Chili Peppers funk style. This surely would have gotten people up and dancing in the restaurant that night. It definitely fits perfectly in the 1980s and Trey’s voice has a bit of David Byrne style to it for the song. Luckily the band left the song in the 80s and never played it again but it’s a must-hear due to it being a very early example of Phish doing funk. It also has a decent segue into “Camel Walk”. Unfortunately, for some reason the band decides to slow the tempo for “Camel Walk” instead of just maintaining the speed and ti’s gets choppy but the intro is interesting. Mike keeps up the slap bass for “Camel Walk” and Trey gets loopy with the lyrics but it’s a solid “Camel Walk”. A decent “Golgi Apparatus” and the “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” jazz interlude close the set. Some believe a 3rd set may have been performed but the recording does not exist. Next show, we celebrate Earth Day at UVM! Thanks for reading.

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!

Show #11: 4/1/86

Early Phish. Photo credit: Phish.com.

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1986-04-01/

Tuesday, 04/01/1986
Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Quinn the Eskimo > Have Mercy[1] > Harry Hood, The Pendulum[2] -> Dave’s Energy Guide, Icculus[3], You Enjoy Myself

Set 2: Help on the Way[1] > Slipknot![1] > AC/DC Bag[3], McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters[4] > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues > Dear Mrs. Reagan

Encore: Not Fade Away[5]

[1] First known Phish performance.
[2] With Zenzilé Madikinea. Madikinea recited revolutionary poetry.
[3] First known performance.
[4] Spoken in Dylan-esque fashion.
[5] First known Phish performance; with The Joneses.

Another tape. Another night at Hunt’s. The booker must have seen something in this gang. Would love to know who that is and pick their brain. This show was Hunt’s Festival of Fools. It was a split bill between Phish and The Joneses. The band’s would switch of 45 minute sets for 4 total. They then encored together. The show here’s a typical bar show but at much better quality with some surefire highlights and debuts. But we also have two full sets! So exciting for more history on tape.

The show opens with Bob Dylan’s “Quinn the Eskimo”. For a long time, this was marked as the songs debut until it was discovered that they had played it at least once earlier on 4/6/85. The song does not differ much from the version the band plays now, except for the extra rhythm guitar of Jeff, having last performed it on 10/31/13 in Atlantic City. It’s a great-off lead-off tune, getting the crowd energy up. One drawback, however, is that the crowd jokes the Phish is now the “Bob Dylan Band” for the rest of the evening. This leads into another cover, the Mighty Diamonds’ “Have Mercy”. “Have Mercy” is an interesting tune because it’s only been performed 13 times in the band’s history, 3 of those coming since the band’s return in 2009. Trey dedicates the tune to Pam as it starts up. So, thank you Pam for all the glorious shows with “Have Mercy” in them. Have Mercy’s interesting because it’s the first time we hear the band working on harmony fully. The three-part harmony of “Have Mercy” is not very easy and they don’t perfectly execute it but for a band that’s become known for barbershop, it’s an interesting first step. The tune out of side of that is not very noteworthy and will appear in a few more upcoming sets. Interestingly enough the seque from an authentic reggae tune to their own reggae jam, the opening of “Harry Hood”. Also of note, “Hood”‘s starting to become the monster we all know and love. The tension and release and peaks of the end are starting to take shape. It’s beautiful to again hear how powerful the band is even in the early years.

The band brings back South African poet Zenzilé for another performance. The song is uneven as the band plays a dirty blues groove underneath his poem. You can tell how loud the crowd is that they early were not on board. I, personally, am not really on-board at all. The instrumental track sounds like a fun jam but the crazy yelling over the top just distracts from the song. The band kicks into “Dave’s Energy Guide” as he finishes adding to the craziness. Zenzilé yells “Which side are you on?” as the dissonance of the song plays up. “Dave’s” continues the energy and it really is a ripping version that moves hard and fast with Jon’s driving drums.

The band takes a breather as a short Jazz jam with Page, Mike, and Trey. Fish says “We thought we’d play some seining for you as Trey [takes] care of his guitar.” Trey retorts, “Bob Dylan performing for you here. The Bob Dylan Band, ladies and gentlemen!” The jazz jam is quite good and shows how tight they are as a trio. Trey again, “The Bob Dylan Band just blowing my mind here on a Tuesday night!” The jazz jam ends and then gives away to an important moment in Phishtory. “This next song is written by one of our favorite bands, Sneeze Blood Eyeball,” says Trey but by the opening chords it’s time for the people to read “Icculus”! The version actually sounds very similar to the one just performed at Madison Square Garden, especially since Phish used their old instruments for that set. It’s however much shorter with less buildup then future versions but still funny nonetheless with the jam fake out.

Trey then mentions the 45 minute set length and invites the Joneses to kick them off stage whenever they want to. Trey then dedicates the next song to Peter, who’s here “all the way from Washington”. At 3:35, Mike plays a bass riff that sounds like part of the future “Mango Song”. After a long pause, the band finally launches into “You Enjoy Myself” to close the first set. This version is much better than the 2/3/86 debut, tighter and with a better groove. We’ll be taking about “YEM” a lot over the next year or so as it was played a lot even night to night in the 80s. Written during the trip to Europe, the lyric “Wash Uffizi Drive Me to Firenze” was allegedly inspired by a wild cab ride in Florence. Also, a German named Jurgen, also commented tot hem that “When I’m with you, you enjoy myself!” Whatever sparked the tune, thankfully it happened. This version still omits the “Boy Man God Shit” lyrics BUT does have the birth of the “YEM” vocal jam. It’s short but marvelous that it’s there.

Set 2 kicks off with the Grateful Dead’s “Help on the Way>Slipknot!”. It’s the only known version by Phish and while it does reach glorious heights, it almost feels like a backward step for the band. I’m sure it helps keeps patrons in the bar but the band’s original material feels much more fun and fresh. Grateful Dead covers, at least to me, feel tired already and it’s only 1986. Luckily, a debut takes the “Slipknot!” segue from “Franklin’s Tower” and we get the first-ever “AC/DC Bag”. Trey’s trips to Gamehendge are now infiltrating their sets and man are they coming together well. The first “Bag” has a funky intro that gives the song a sinister overtone. Other than that, it’s pretty standard but again amazing to hear so complete so early. The band decides to stay in Gamehendge going into “McGrupp”. The tempo is a little faster than it has been in previous versions and it’s a welcome addition. Trey continues the spoken word version but this time giving the lines a Bob Dylan-esquire cadence and voice, fitting in the “Bob Dylan Band” theme.

The band then drops into “Alumni>Jimmy Page>Alumni” and it is a must listen not because of the jam or that it’s pristine. This a must listen because everyone except for Jeff misses the segue back into “Alumni”. The thing grinds to a halt except for Jeff’s rhythm guitar. The band tries to pick up the pieces but it’s too late and Trey just cues a big rock ending to just finish the song. I laughed so hard hearing this. To be fair, the “Letter to Jimmy Page” was pretty fiery and probably difficult to land. The band ends set two with the political tune “Dear Mrs. Reagan”. Phish has never been a fiercely political and so to hear such anti-Reagan lines is a little off-putting but it’s an interesting listen and quite the 80s time capsule. After “Reagan”, Jeff decides to tell people about International Lemming Day, while Trey gets the Joneses on stage to join them for the encore. Someone who sounds like Fishman points out they have 18 guitars and 3 drum sets on stage and then someone else yells “Guitar Army!”. Trey asks “What song is it you want to hear?” and of course some idiot yells “Freebird!”. Page then teases the chords to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird”. Begin that the Joneses and Phish both cover the Dead quite a bit, they end on Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”, a popular Grateful Dead cover. Unfortunately, the recording fades out (IRONY) before the jam gets going. A successful Festival of Fools? Not quite sure but it at least sounded fun. Two interesting notes on this recording. The first is Jeff is buried in the mix for a lot of it, giving it more of the usual Phish feel. It’s an interesting twist. The second is Trey’s tone. He’s starting to move to his signature tone. I’m not sure what was happening with his rig but it begins moving in the right direction. Another great artifact in the Phish canon.

Show #10: 2/3/86

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1986-02-03/

Monday, 02/03/1986
Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Slave to the Traffic Light, Mike’s Song > Dave’s Energy Guide, You Enjoy Myself[1], Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page[2] > Alumni Blues, Prep School Hippie,Run Like an Antelope[3]

Set 2: Tonight[4], The Pendulum[4], Babylon is Burning[4], Dec 1661[4]
[1] First known version.
[2] “It’s alright” quotes from Trey.
[3] Jeff Holdsworth on slide guitar.
[4] First known Phish performance. With Zenzilé Madikinea.

In this long road ahead of myself, there will be shows that aren’t going to warrant a lot of words. Shows were you put it on and go “Why am I doing this again?” I’m sure the band felt that way about a few nights and certainly I’ll have shows where I won’t feel like writing about it. But you can’t say you’re going to review every show and skip one you’re jus tnot feeling. This is the case of 2/3/86. The tape quality is terrible. It might even be playing at the wrong pitch. It bends up and down. I was so lackadaisical that even when they kicked into the first recorded “You Enjoy Myself”, I wasn’t even paying attention on first listen. It’s at least interesting to hear the beginnings of the song. it’s missing several sections that would become staples over time but in its infancy, you can tell it’s going to be important. Eve more notable is hearing it in the 5-piece setting. Jeff can’t really keep up with Trey’s parts as far as rhythm go. It’s kind of the first time he’s struggling with the material, which will be important. Trey introduces South African dub poet Zenzile, which was the headliner on this bill. The show was a benefit for the African National Congress and apparently cost $4 for admission. Trey then asks for requests and gets someone to shout out “Alumni Blues”. After some tuning, the beginning of the “Mike Says No” saga happens as Trey says, “Mike says real bands don’t play requests. So we’re going to play a request” and they go into “Alumni>Jimmy Page>Alumni”. Outside of the banter and YEM, not a lot here to write about. If you’re looking for great early Phish, this is not it.

I wanna take a moment and thank everyone for the huge outpouring of support! Big thanks to Surrender to the Flow for posting about this. I mostly wanted to do it as a writing exercise and hoped some people would enjoy it. Apparently people do! So I hope I don’t let you down and thanks for reading.!

Show #8: 11/14/85 or 11/19/85

The space at 242 Main, the club now occupying the Burlington Memorial Auditorium basement.

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1985-11-14

Thursday, 11/14/1985 or Tuesday, 11/19/1985
Memorial Auditorium Basement, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Slave to the Traffic Light[1], Hurricane[2], Makisupa Policeman[2] > Piggies[2] ->Makisupa Policeman[2] -> Drums[3] > Alumni Blues[2] > Dear Mrs. Reagan[2]

This show’s date is disputed because Mike’s notes say it was on the 19th while Del Martin’s tape is label the 14th. Regardless, this show found the band stopping down for a short unplugged set alongside fellow local artists The Joneses and The Visions for some type of benefit show. The recording comes in with the only known performance of Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane”. Trey makes notion of the importance of the song in that the song’s subject, Ruben “Hurricane” Carter, had finally been released from jail without bail that month. The song isn’t particularly noteworthy excepted to hear Trey drop a rare n-word. I will say that in this show, you can really hear the evolution of Mike as a bass player. His bass lines are very melodic and really add depth to the performance. The band goes into “Makisupa” and again the keyword tradition has not begun at this point. However, it again is used for band introductions. It’s also interesting to hear Trey sing that Mike is NOT smoking a spliff unlike other band members. Splitting up the “Makisupa” is a cover of “Piggies” by the Beatles. It’s a little odd because they maintain the reggae feel through the cover, so it’s not as true a cover as we’d hear 9 years later in Glens Falls. It’s also interesting that it’s dedicated to “Howard Mitiguy”, referencing Harry Mitiguy, the then-president of Howard Bank. I like this reference because I grew up with Howard Bank in Vermont and miss all the small, local banks we had as kids. Now they’re all owned by larger companies, Howard Bank notably becoming in the larger TD Bank chain. Fishman’s intro from “Makisupa” leads to an extended percussion solo which fades out the recording. It is interesting to note that Fish is only playing percussion and not his full drum kit to fit the acoustic theme. Phish, going unplugged before it was cool.

Show #6: 10/17/85

Finbar’s at the corner of Church and Main, currently Manhattan Pizza.

http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1985-10-17

Thursday, 10/17/1985
Finbar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: T.V. Theme[, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues > Mike’s Song,Dave’s Energy Guide, Revolution, Anarchy, Camel Walk, Run Like an Antelope, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters

Finally a full set of originals. Sure Phish covers are fun and we have a lot more of them to go through but it’s nice seeing the band become the gang we all know and love. Considering they had more than enough covers to fill 4 nights at Madison Square Garden, it’s nice to know this was the first solid recording to support that. This show was played at Finbar’s, which you can see it’s current iteration above. It’s interesting that most of these location still exist as bars in Burlington, as the number of bars have dwindled and they were all concentrated on Main Street. I’d except to see some Church and Pearl but no, the band really did play Route 2 for most of their career as Trey said at Bangor ’94. Anyway, more on that in a later post.

This show is also important because it’s the first since Trey, Tom, Marc, and Fish all went to Europe for the summer and essentially backpacked and wrote music. Some very important songs in the Phish catalog and as they’re introduced,  I’ll note which ones came from this trip. It’s also important because it’s the first recording that Page is a permanent member of the group. This was announced on 9/26/85 on UVM’s radio station WRUV. Sometime between saying Phish is a two-guitar band and then, most likely talking it over with Fish in Europe, they both agreed Page made the band stronger. And that’s something I think we all can agree on now, Page Side Rage Side for life. Unfortunately on this recording, Page gets buried in the mix making it hard to feel his contributions.

This version cuts off the TV Theme. Don’t really understand why but not an issue, not a big miss. It drops in with “Alumni Blues>Letter to Jimmy Page>Alumni Blues”. The song was a pretty common track in the days and this is a ripping blues version played perfectly. A great early danceable number in the set. Mike’s boppin’ bass line is especially funky. Next we get “Mike’s Song” introduced here as “Microdot”, filling in for “Mike Wrote That”. The name would stick for a few gigs before simply reverting to “Mike’s Song”.  A fairly standard version but also retains the odd outré before again segueing into “Dave’s Energy Guide”.

After the standard “DEG”, Trey introduces “one of our few punk songs.” A fan yells out Leunig’s Sucks, which indicates the band has accumulated a few fans at this point since Leunig’s Sucks used to be the title of the tune, which is now called “Revolution.” Leunig’s being the name of a fancy French restaurant on the corner of Church and College that apparently Trey had a beef with at some point. They wail through it yelling Revolution over the short song. Then Trey says, “We actually do have one other punk song. Since you reacted so well to that one, we’ll do this one. This one’s called ‘Anarchy’. The joke being that “Anarchy” and “Revolution” are the exact same song just with the words changed.

The band kicks in to dance mode again with a very funky “Camel Walk” that has a nice extended intro. It jams out for about 3 minutes before dropping into the familiar shuffle of the tune. The tape cuts and dropped into a raging “Run Like an Antelope”. Obviously, the bar has gotten more people as the crowd gets louder. Still it’s a tasty jam, filling out more of the traditional song structure and getting more of that familiar “Antelope” feel as compared to 5/3/85. We also get the lyrics too! Clearly a song that had been worked on since May. The available music closes with “McGrupp”. Again, the lyrics are in the spoken-word form, not quite yet set to the music. The song also closes with a nice jam that begins at about the 6-minute mark and takes it out until the tape ends.

And that’s 10/17/85. If you have suggestions, feel free to drop me a line and follow me on Twitter @harryphood. See you tomorrow!

Show #4: 3/4/85

Hunt’s aka The Woodbury Armory.

Monday, 03/04/1985
Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Anarchy[1], Camel Walk, Fire Up the Ganja[2], Skippy the Wondermouse[3], In the Midnight Hour
[1] First known version.
[2] First known Phish version; Bobby Hackney and Jah Roy on vocals.
[3] With McGrupp lyrics.

This isn’t a complete show, so sure, you could call it cheating but it does exist so it needs a post. The show, according to Phish.net, was a African Relief benefit for OXFam at Hunt’s. Hunts was a club located in the old Woodbury Armory building at 101 Main Street. As outlined in this article from Seven Days, Hunt’s was a major player in the Burlington music scene. Roy Orbison, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and B.B. King all played there linking Montreal and Boston dates on their national tours. The place was even owned by Fred “Chico” Lager, who would later become the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream during their rise to national prominence. So, to get anytime there meant a move in the right direction for a local band.

It is unclear whether Phish was alone on this night or maybe part of a larger bill due to it being a benefit show. The recorded part kicks off the first known version of “Anarchy”. Little more than a play on punk and new wave. It’s 30 seconds of fast chords and drumming with the word Anarchy screamed over it. A good joke on the popular music of the time. The band then introduces ” a funk song” and finally a complete version of “Camel Walk” is heard. Not much is noteworthy about this version except that Jeff says that no one has actually danced the Camel Walk to “Camel Walk”. It is also interesting that it does not include the strut your stuff vocals. It is interesting that now 29 years later, the band plays it almost the exact same way. There’s a fade out and then the tape fades into “Fire Up The Ganga.” Essentially just “Fire On The Mountain” with new lyrics about smoking weed obviously. However it is important because it’s a meeting of two Vermont music powerhouses. Granted Phish at this point was still rising the ranks but Lambsbread has been the cornerstone of Vermont’s reggae scene for 30 years. I remember seeing them at the Vermont Reggae fest nearly every year. Also, of note, is that Bobby Hackney, who appears on this track, and his brother Dannis, were actually members of the proto-punk band Death, from Detroit. This band has been in the news due to their recordings being re-released and being revolutionary for their time. Pretty interesting throwback, eh?

Now here’s a head scratcher for you though? “Fire Up The Ganja” fades out and then the next track to fade in is marked as “Skippy the Wondermouse”. And sure enough it sounds like “Skippy,” but when the lyrics kick in, they are clearly the familiar lyrics of “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters.” Now why is this curious? This show’s date is March of 1985. In Trey’s senior thesis of The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday aka Gamehendge, which was submitted in July 1988, He says that the poem was not received by him until 1986. Phish.net even states he didn’t get it until fall of 1985. So, why is it here? Well, it might be explained in an upcoming post! Stay tuned. The recording then closes with the last known performance of “In The Midnight Hour”, a danceable version if not outstanding. It does at least emphasize how much Phish just wanted people to dance. Something, most would say mission accomplished.

This has been a long time coming…

I’ve been a Phish fan for 20 years. I’m sure I’ve been listening to them for longer than that having grown up in Vermont in the 80s and 90s but I can only truly say I’ve been ACTIVELY listening to them for that long. I’ll never forget June 11, 1994 for a long time. I was 10 years old and had just been crew on my parents’ boat Firewater in the Burlington Mayor’s Regatta (not to be confused with the longer running Plattsburgh Mayor’s Cup). We had sailed a great race and ended up winning the inaugural regatta; my dad getting to take home the trophy. The big winner that day would end up being my ears. One of the race’s sponsors was 106.7 WIZN, the local rock radio station. I would always ask the people doing remotes for free CDs. This was to be no different except that the DJ gave a copy of the recently released Hoist by Burlington’s own Phish. I excitedly perused the booklet as we drove home to the Mad River Valley. Upon getting home, I grabbed my Discman and hit play. The simple guitar riff of Julius hit my ears and I was in. From the wailing guitar of Down with Disease to the easy funk of Wolfman’s Brother, I was enjoying every moment. For a kid who didn’t flow easily into the angst of Seattle, this was a breath of fresh air. Music that has soul. Music that had careful instrumentation.

Since then, I’ve been to 51 shows and listened to dozens more. It got me thinking that has anyone listened to every Phish show that is available. According to the streaming website Phish.in, they have 1,693 shows recorded. That doesn’t include every show performed as many did not get committed to tape by the band or the audience but that’s a vast history to cover. That’s the goal of this blog. Starting with show #1 at UVM and ending whenever the band’s new “3.0” period and my task meet, I am going to review a show a day until there are no more shows to review.  Unencumbered by the hassle of having to B&P and trade my way to owning every show on a glorious Maxell XLII, I’ll use the power of the Internet to enjoy every recorded. I’ll be posting a link to Phish.in so you can listen along with me. I hope you’ll join me for this ride and enjoy.