Show #103: 5/13/1989 The Orange Grove/Hungry Charlie’s Syracuse, NY

Saturday, 05/13/1989
The Orange Grove, Syracuse, NY

Set 1: AC/DC Bag,  Alumni Blues >  Letter to Jimmy Page >  Alumni Blues,  You Enjoy Myself,  Golgi Apparatus,  La Grange,  Fluffhead,  Possum >  Foam,  Walk Away,  Take the ‘A’ Train,  Split Open and Melt >  David Bowie

Set 2: Suzy Greenberg >  Bold As Love,  The Lizards,  Harry Hood,  If I Only Had a Brain, Contact,  Fire

Encore: Whipping Post

Photo Credit: Phish.net
Photo Credit: Phish.net

I have something to reveal to you all. The members of Phish are not native Vermonters. This is shocking and upsetting I know, since they definitely reflect many of the state’s values but it’s true. So when you’re in a band, eventually you might play a gig  your hometown if your band didn’t start there. Jon Fishman had the honor of being the 2nd band member to experience that moment as Mike Gordon had grown up in the greater Boston area. Jon Fishman was proudly raised by his adoptive parents Leonard and Mimi in the the Syracuse suburb of Dewitt and graduated from Jamesville-Dewitt High School in 1983. With Syracuse being a big college town, a return trip with the band was inevitable.

The former site of the Orange Grove. (Photo credit: LoopNet)
The former site of the Orange Grove. (Photo credit: LoopNet)

The area just north of Syracuse University’s campus is known as Marshall Street, even as is spread down University and South Crouse Ave. Surprisingly for an alumni of Syracuse University, I can’t tell you a whole lot about the bars. Unsuprisingly, I was more of a hang out with friends off-campus and do bong rips/house parties at the Ultimate Frisbee house kind of guy. I do know where the Orange Grove was. It was located on the first floor at the corner of S Crouse Ave. and E. Adams St. above the basement space. More recent alumni would know the space as Darwin’s. As of right now, I believe the space is vacant. The area in its heyday had at least 10 bars in the area and now only has about 4; a testament to the raising of the drinking age to 21 and the crackdown by law enforcement. I went in there once, I don’t remember it being a very large space, let alone where bands would play but several SU alums confirmed this was the place. (Current students would probably think you’re referring to the awful alumni donor space on campus next to the quad nowadays.) One Phish.net member does say this show happened at Hungry Charlie’s, which would make more sense in terms of space. This is also how it is listed in the Phish Companion. Hungry Charlie’s was located downstairs at 727 S. Crouse Ave. under the new bar known as Chuck’s in a space occupied by Funk ‘N Waffles, curiously owned and operaed by Phish fan and Sophistafunk keyboardist Adam Gold. Funk ‘N Waffles continues to serve live music to the SU community in the space.

727 S. Crouse Ave. with the successor to Hungry Charlie's, Chuck's upstairs and the original Hungry Charlie's entrance downstairs, now Funk 'N Waffles.
727 S. Crouse Ave. with the successor to Hungry Charlie’s, Chuck’s upstairs and the original Hungry Charlie’s entrance downstairs, now Funk ‘N Waffles.

The show itself was probably exciting for those who had not seen the band but not much here historically besides the above. Trey opened by dedicating “Alumni Blues” to all the recent graduates of Syracuse University as they were playing on Commencement Weekend. A really nice early “Melt” is offered here as well. The “David Bowie” is a must listen as we have kind of the first recorded “hi-hat hjinx” here with Trey weaving “Melt”, “A Train”, and “Fluffhead” into the intro. The “Hood” is pretty fantastic here. Fishman gets a huge yell from the crowd as he comes to the front of the stage. Commenting on how he now gets to embarrass himself in front of his entire high school, one audience member yells “TOO LATE!” which is pretty funny. He busts out “If I Only Had A Brain” to their delight with a vacuum solo. Fishman had arrived. The standout jam through is the “Whipping Post”. Starting around the 8-minute mark, it starts to get off the typical wailing “Post” riff and stays just shy of Type II but they do push it and get ambient around the 10-minute mark, almost foreshadowing future jamming in an interesting way. A rare glimpse of where Phish is going.

Advertisements

Shows #50 and 51: 5/23-24/88

Monday, 05/23/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Take the ‘A’ Train, Golgi Apparatus, You Enjoy Myself, Rocky Top, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone, I Didn’t Know[1], Peaches en Regalia > Possum, Good Times Bad Times

[1] Fish on trombone.

On today’s post, we get the rest of the 3 night run started at the last show. The last show’s date waffled between the 21st and the 22nd. Evidence from this recording of 5/23 points towards 5/22 being the correct date. Phish.com reflects this but Phish.net does not. During 5/23 at the start of “You Enjoy Myself”, Del Martin makes a request and the band reminds him they played a request for him last night. “Last request, we’re even gonna give you! After you graduate from graduate school, man. Del, if you get a Masters degree, we’ll play another request for you, ” says Trey. Which makes me wonder if Del Martin ever did go to graduate school? Did he get another request? After he allegedly fled with some of the 1980s master tapes, does the band even talk to him anymore? Trey and Del seemed to be such great friends during these recordings. I wonder what his story is. That’d be a great article to work on and blow wide open. Other than that nugget, not a lot of highlights here. A flubbed but roaming “You Enjoy Myself”, a tight “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”, and a solid “Possum” are the things to listen to here but you can really just focus on the next night.

Tuesday, 05/24/1988
Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

Set 1: The Curtain With, Rocky Top, Funky Bitch, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page> Alumni Blues, Peaches en Regalia, Golgi Apparatus, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley,Suzy Greenberg, Fire

Set 2: Jesus Just Left Chicago, Fluffhead > Whipping Post

Set 3: Ya Mar[1] -> Jam[1] > Halley’s Comet[2] > The Sloth, I Didn’t Know[3], La Grange,Fee, I Know a Little, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Corinna, Harpua, Run Like an Antelope

[1] Jah Roy on vocals.
[2] Richard Wright on vocals.
[3] Richard Wright on drums, Fish on trombone.

Teases:
· Theme from The Flintstones tease in Big Black Furry Creature from Mars
· One Love quote in Jam

Phish today is known as a jamband but on these early tapes, while they are great improvisers, I really don’t get the meandering feeling of a jam band. Most people wouldn’t recognize this band with how short the playing is. When people today complain that Phish “doesn’t jam enough”, I kind of laugh to myself because Phish is just being Phish. They’ve always just been a very tight rock band that happens to take things for a walk now and then. However if you want to hear early leanings of the band’s ability to jam then 5/24/88 is a show for you. A strong “The Curtain With” kicks off the show in grand style. The outro jam is a must listen. “Rocky Top” also has a strong early version here. This Nectar’s run really solidifies the song as a staple of the Phish catalog and the earliest of the band’s bluegrass leanings. “Here’s one for this guy right over here!,” says Trey. “Oh yeah, hey you!,” says Mike. “Way for you to show up man!” We’ll never know who that is but he’s getting a “Peaches en Regalia” and maybe some shots it sounds like. Nothing like a call out from the band. “Sneakin’ Sally” also gets loose and is well played.

Second set is the real highlight here. The band kicks off “Jesus Just Left Chicago” and Mike asks the band to “take it down” and to “take it down again” even though the band is playing the song about as slow as it can without falling apart. It also is real quiet below Page’s vocals. It as if they want to make it as dirty as possible. Page plays a great solo going from piano to organ. He sings another verse and then it’s time for Trey to ale over and he lifts the band back up to heights, playing a wailing solo. There are great moments of sustain in “Slave to the Traffic Light” and “Divided Sky” but Trey here is just urging so much out of his guitar, it’s a must hear. It’s every bit as good as the vaunted “Jesus” from Slip, Stitch, and Pass. Mike follows it up with “We’re gonna slow it down a bit. I’d like to thank Kevin, the owner oft his space for letting me use it tonight,” which is weird considering the gig is at Nectar’s, owned by a man named Nectar at the time. Maybe it’s a reference to another show. A really solid “Fluffhead” follows it up. Then, the band gets lost with “Whipping Post”. It starts off innocent enough with a basic reading of the tune but it starts to go off the rails slowly. It never goes type II, leaving the structure of the song. If this was 1997, it might have but for a huge Type I jam, this is stellar. It even almost breaks down at about the 8 minute mark with Trey playing some really dissonant playing in and out of time. Fishman goes nuts for the whole 26 minutes with John Bonham-like enthusiasm. He even has breaks to let Trey show off. The band even brings it down for another verse and then slowly builds to another screaming jam. A milepost on the journey of Phish. Trey announces a break and that’s it. A 3-song second set. Unprecedented. Even the set containing the longest Phish jam ever, 11/29/97 Runaway Jam, was a 5 song set. Whoa.

But they weren’t done yet. They fire up “Ya Mar” for a danceable third set opener. They then bring Jah Roy of Lamsbread on stage and he leads the band into a reggae medley, the centerpiece of which is a cover of Bob Marley’s “One Love”. This is not listed as a song played on Phish.net but upon hearing this, I feel like it should be. The whole band even gets into the call and response part of the song and feels as much a cover as “Cannonball” from the 5/7/94 Tweezerfest. Another guest comes up int he form of Nancy to play his two songs. He helps with vocals on “Halley’s Comet” but the song really is notable for the killer segue into “The Sloth”. Trey yells it out for the band an they nail the transition as if they had practiced it (which they might have.) Just another great flash of how all 4 members think together. Nancy moves over to drums so Fish can play Trombone on “I Didn’t Know”. While the band nailed “The Sloth”, they still have some learning to do as Fish misses the best on “Fee” where he’s supposed to match Trey’s lyric. He plays it twice to make up for it but you can hear Trey’s chuckle in his verse as he knows how badly Fish missed it. Also in this show, you can see how the band is starting to piece together set lists. The best example of this is the placement of “Corrina” to “cool down” the audience after the hard edge of “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars”. It’ll be interesting to see this develop over time. We also get the first “Harpua” THE RIGHT WAY as finally Poster Nutbag is “hot lunch” for Harpua instead of the other way around. It’s a standard “Harpua’ but important for this note. The set closes with a very strong “Run Like An Antelope”. Next show, we move on to the larger and more professional The Front, down Main Street and across Pine from Hunt’s! See you then.

Show #9: 11/23/85

The campus of Goddard College.

Ah, we finally made it to Goddard. Already the school of Page McConnell, almost a year later, it would become where Trey and Jon would finish their studies as well. Goddard College is a very interesting place that unfortunately is under threat of disappearing forever. In fact, it has already changed, for better or for worse, when it ended its traditional residential undergrad program in 2002. Located in Plainfield, Vermont, just east of Montpelier, the capital, Goddard College grew from a preparatory school for Tufts College in Medford, MA to its own college in 1938. The college was founded under the progressive principles of John Dewey. The school is unique in that instead of traditional curriculum, the student gets to choose their own curriculum and experiences and have narrative transcripts from the advisors and teachers to guide them as opposed to letter grades. It’s in this free form learning that allowed Phish to spread their wings. Other notable alumni of Goddard include playwright David Mamet, Jonathan Katz of Dr. Katz fame, William H. Macy, and lyricist Howard Ashman.

This show as played in the cafeteria of the Haybarn, one of the oldest and most classic buildings on Goddard’s campus. The campus is of note in that they took an old farm and made the existing buildings the school. It’s worth a trip if you’re in central Vermont. The Haybarn is pictured in the center of the above photo. You might think “Another short set? Please.” BUT DO NOT MOVE ON! THIS IS MUST-LISTEN PHISH. The “Mike’s Song” is a bit of a throwaway. The heart of this recording is the “Whipping Post Jam”. It is as good a jam as you’ll find in the band’s career. I feel it has been so overlooked at how locked in this band has been from very early on in their career. This is 27 minutes of where the band is going! There’s “Norwegian Wood” teases from Mike. There’s “The Other One” teases. In my first post, I said Phish could have been Vermont’s best Grateful Dead cover band. This is the closest the band comes to BEING the Grateful Dead. It’s as if they channeled ’67-’68 Dead in this jam. It has that wild, unified cacophony feel that capsulated those early Dead jams so well. I don’t hear Whipping Post at all in the jam so I’m unsure where that link came from but it doesn’t matter. We get some great ambient guitar parts while Page plays a nice piano solo over Mike’s bass and Jon’s steady cymbals. You tell it’s building. Even Jeff plays a great rhythm part with Jon’s drumming. The so far unweildy five-piece is actually sounding great for once. The tension and build is steady for a good solid 3-4 minutes and then there’s a shift, the drums change and there’s a slide guitar cue and then it gets into some early Pink Floyd vibes as well, as if anything can happen with the mood and atmosphere created. At 9 minutes in, the building tension finally releases and we’ve gone over the edge. The band begins charging along. The tempo increases and all members begin putting things in motion. The “Other One” teases hit but it’s about more than that as Trey keeps soloing over them. It almost all disintegrates but the twin guitars of Trey and Jeff just drive harder, taking the jam in a new direction. This gallop goes for another 9 minutes, slowing and speeding, bending the flow to create new ideas. it’s frenetic and well-paced but nothing compared to what begins at the 19 minute mark. There’s a few “Dark Star” teases and also some “Slave to the Traffic Light” quoted but the band hits its first ever peak. The uplifting chord profession seeps out of everyone as Trey flies over the top. PURE GLORY. I’d put it against anything I’ve heard so far in the catalog and the fact they were playing like this LESS THAN TWO YEARS after their first show is nothing less than astounding. The jam then ends with a reggae jam that sounds like the start of “Harry Hood”. If you have to come back down, at least let ’em dance right?

The tape then fades out and when it comes back in we’re deep in “Run Like An Antelope”. It has some good playing and the song is starting to get its signature feel but there’s not too much noteworthy about this version. The recording then closes with a “Dave’s Energy Guide” that is similar to other versions except it goes off the rails and is a bit more wild. But the jam. Holy cow! It’s such a harbinger of what’s too come from Phish. Luckily the band was successful or else this would be a mark of what could have been. The show is also important because it’s well-marked as the show where Mike had a “peak experience” or his epiphany. It was at this show, most likely during that jam, that he decided he wanted to play music for the rest of his life. He explains in Phish: The Biography by Parke Puterbaugh,

“It was the night I decided I wanted to make music a full-time career. I wrote two full journals just about that one night of playing. I had this incredible self-actualization, and I dedicated all future journals to figuring out what happened that night and what makes a peak experience like that occur.”
[Puterbaugh] asked whether that particular show was taped and whether the band might ever release it.
“I taped it, but I’ve never even listened to it,” he said. “I vowed never to listen to it. There’s no possible way that listening to it would ever be the same. It would be like being an entirely different person listening. So I just wanted to save the memory.”

With an experience like what I heard, I don’t blame him either. Moving on to a big year in 1986! Next on “One Show at a Time”.