[Welcome To Weekly Catch With Osiris! A weekly series brought to you from the team at Osiris. Each Wednesday we're going to bring you a historic Phish show from that week with some commentary. Our goal is to go beyond official releases and well-known shows to bring you some of the overlooked gems throughout Phish history. If you like what you find, we'd encourage you to check out the assortment of podcasts at the Osiris! This week's catch comes from Brian Brinkman of Beyond The Pond.]
Between March 1985 and November 1987, Phish played nearly 20 shows at Hunt's in Burlington. We all know of Nectar's and the famed residencies the band played there, as well as the gravy fries. For whatever reason, Hunt's tends to fall below the radar for most fans when discussing Phish's formative years. And yet, it was in this venue - which has seen performances by BB King, Roy Orbison, Gregg Allman, Pat Methany and Taj Mahal - where the band debuted classics such as "Harry Hood," "You Enjoy Myself," "Icculus," "AC/DC Bag," and "I Didn't Know."
Today's Weekly Catch finds us in early 1986 where the band is playing a two set show alongside The Jonses, another Burlington band, in a show dubbed Hunt's Festival of Fools. The two bands switched off for 45-minute sets before taking the stage together for an encore performance of "Not Fade Away." Keen followers of this series will recall we began March with a single set show from Hunt's. That too featured guests, Dead covers, and the kind of loose, care-free barroom collegiate vibe that consumes this show. Here, however, one year later, we hear more fluidity, more focus, and something closer to the Phish sound we'd soon be familiar with.
Set I opens with the second ever take on "Quinn The Eskimo," a song that has seen gaps of 1155 and 209 in its history. This version is far more in line with the late-night bar-stomp of The Basement Tapes than the more polished set closer of present day Phish. Another rarity follows in the debut performance of "Have Mercy," a song that's seen gaps of 674, 111, 385, 189, and 221 in its history. What's most impressive here is how the song already comes fully-formed for Phish with its simple beauty and delicate melodies bouncing around the bar. The highlight of the set is "Harry Hood" in only its second performance ever. Trey showcases the raw power of the song in a building solo that previews the future versions which will move so many fans and color the comedowns of so many of their best shows.
"The Pendulum" follows and if you ever wanted to know what Phish would sound like if they were a Fugazi college rock band of sorts, look no further than this song in its second of two performances historically. A cacaphonous swirl of noise backing local student, Zenzile' Madikinea reciting revolutionary poetry, this ranks along side the March 1985 performance of "Fire Up The Ganja" as one of those utterly stereotypical why-does-this-exist moments in Phish's young career. That is segues into a legit "Dave's Energy Guide" redems the performance in full. We hear the first known "Icculus" next - for consistencies sake, this song has seen gaps of 236, 118, 119, 128, 262 and 193 throughout its career - though not as fully formed, nor as funny as it would be in future performances. A tight "You Enjoy Myself closes things out.
The second set opens with the only known performances of "Help On The Way" and "Slipknot!" Here, rather than concluding with "Franklin's Tower," Phish sneaks "AC/DC Bag" into the three hole. The crazy thing, this actually sounds great! Trey nails the vocals on "Help," the band grooves with the songs late-night urban jazzy vibe, and they even insert themselves into the jam segment in "Slipknot!" which sounds a lot like what Phish would sound like jamming in about a decade. The segue to "Bag" is fluid and showcases a four-piece that is seemingly getting tighter by the show.
"McGrupp" is sung in a Blonde On Blonde-era Dylan vocal styling and peaks in a fashion that would sound out of place today before a slick segue (->) into "Alumni>Jimmy Page>Alumni." The set ends with yet another dip into politics with the second of thirteen performances of "Dear Mrs. Reagan." By far the most overtly political show I've ever heard the band play, there's something equally endearing and slightly annoying about the band being so overt about their political leanings. But then again, they're right!
The Joneses join Phish for the harmless one-time cover of "Not Fade Away." We lose the tape shortly after they kick in the vocals, but from what we can hear it's akin to the "Help->Slip" from earlier in the show: a well-excecuted emulation of the Dead that also proves why the band abandoned the Dead so soon after. To become the band they were during the best parts of this show, they had to grow into their own completely without the oversight of their elders.
Thanks for reading and hopefully you're enjoying this series. Another Weekly Catch with Osiris will be up next week!
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March 27, 1993
25 years ago
Set 2: Buried Alive > Halley's Comet > It's Ice > Bouncing Around the Room, Chalk Dust Torture, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Mike's Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Hold Your Head Up > Cracklin' Rosie > Hold Your Head Up, Poor Heart > Golgi Apparatus
 Beginning featured Trey on acoustic guitar.
 Fish on trombone.
 All Fall Down signal in intro.
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