, attached to 1987-08-21

Review by SlavePhan

SlavePhan I'm moderately floored that there hasn't been a substantial review of 8/21/87 yet. This show was one of my very first tapes, and I've listened to it so many times that I can write this review just from memory. I bet I've listened to the first set hundreds of times. I'll try not to be biased when writing this review, but if it shines through, I hope it doesn't detract.

Commonly listed as 'Ian's Farm', this show took place at the Condon Farm in Hebron, NY, about 2 hours from Burlington, and was played at Ian McLean's pig roast (a friend of the band). Phish played at Ian's party again in 1989, the famous show featuring the Poop vocal jam and Merry Christmas wishes due to all the smoke from the pig roast.

What is important about this show is the fact that the atmosphere at these outdoor gatherings allowed the band to loosen up and explore. Ian's shows were the precursors to shows like Amy's Farm, which in turn led to some of the larger Phish festivals. While the band also acknowledges the atmosphere at the open Goddard gigs of this time period in the ideas for festivals, there is no doubt that Ian's Pig Roast shows helped as well.

Wonderfully crisp AUDs of this show are on the spreadsheet and have been floating around for decades. This show is one of the most commonly traded early tapes in existence, so it should be an easy find. What is not mentioned is the wonderful looseness with which the band plays. This show really features some clear lengthy jams into unknown territory with no real roadmap out. As such, some of these jams end up falling on their face, and some end up in some of the band's most interesting jams of the time period.

A perfect Dog Log begins this show. It is worth noting that these tapes contain dogs barking literally throughout the entire show. Often Trey has to yell at Marley and the audience will growl at the dogs, but it never out-shadows the band, so it adds an interesting element to the recording. My all-time favorite version of Peaches is next, after which, Trey remarks in a cracking voice "Remember this one Garrett, wink wink, nudge nudge...the one with the delay on the vocals?" in reference to Divided Sky. He then asks to have that cut out of the tape, and is told, "too late!" Clearly at this point, Divided Sky in its short form is in its infancy, although one wouldn't know from hearing it. This version is wonderful, with Mike exploring throughout. It's also clear that there are probably only 3 or 4 people listening to the band at this point.

An absolutely raging Funky Bitch is next. Having heard more Phish than I care to reveal, I can say that this is probably one of the top 3 no-guest Funky Bitches the band has ever played. Trey is absolutely everywhere and enjoys the freedom to play around. I can't overstate just how locked in the band is here. The song ends in a sheer of feedback.

A super-slow and lunky start to Hood takes an extremely long time to make it to the composed section, providing a great release. Dogs are barking throughout this Hood, but the band totally steams through the composed section. The jam is really soaring, but the end features this wonderful part when Trey dies down and hammers away at the main chords, allowing Mike to open up and Page to layer over top. A great version, highly recommended to the point that Fish even remarks "that's why I'm in the band" afterwards.

Clod, in its heyday, is next, which is unusually long and extended. The band locks into a totally raging groove at the end of the song which lasts a full three minutes longer than most Clods. For those of you who enjoy Fluffhead in its long-standing current form, I suggest listening to this Clod and wondering what it would be like if Clod were liberated. "Would you rather hear something normal, or something else weird" asks Trey afterwards.

The band then moves into the Curtain, which outshines the early August version and is very exploratory compared to future 80's versions. Light Up follows and features a chaotic and frenzied jam which most people will find totally dissonant, but I find raging. Great work from Fishman. The jam upsets Marley, though, who by this time is going absolutely nuts and Trey has to get her to calm down. Funny banter here. Accordingly, the band breezes through Shaggy Dog and starts Wilson. This Wilson, again, is one of my favorite versions, maybe ever. It certainly is one of the longest non-heavy-metal versions the band has played and features the absolute best Wilson 'breaks', when a series of Marley barks coincides with a break in the song.

The Camel Walk closer doesn't go over particularly well with the audience, as someone whistles briefly, but I think this is one of the more crisp exploratory versions there is. Mike is very very funky in an old-school way here and Fish is fantastic. What a set...worth listening the whole way through.

The second set opens with a early Mike's, featuring an extremely slow beat. If you like totally dissonant jams, this Mike is for you. Think Union Federal here. After meandering, the band locks on a two-chord groove which dissolves into quiet carnival-like eerie sixteenth notes from Trey which moves back into chaos. Out of the din, the whole band fully jams on Hold Your Head Up before fading away.

Harpua is 'by request', but the audience is laughing so hard that the band has to restart. It's clear that everyone is enjoying themselves, including the band. Despite the goofy sloppy start, this Harpua is slow to begin but Mega-fast and funky once it gets going. I love the changing dynamics in this version. Within it, the band plays Bundle of Joy, which makes its debut, but instead of the familiar Fluffhead outro, Fish's cowbell brings us into a funky Harpua jam which absolutely rages. Without breaking stride, the jam somehow lands into Golgi, which is particularly strong.

The last chord of Golgi leads to some spacey chords while Fish takes a leak. The audience is clamoring for Fish to sing, which is funny, but the band instead launches into a totally ripping Sparks. Afterwards, Trey chatters a while and explains that the band has 'two songs called Fee', which Mike says 'we learned in the service. The short Flat Fee moves into a tailored Fee.

"We'd like to do an original by Little Feat", quips Mike, so the band plays Skin it Back. Skin it Back is absolutely and totally chaotic and atonal, with Trey playing literally ALL over the place for a solid 5 minutes. Somehow, Fish moves the band to a slinky groove which ends up into Low Rider, although Trey sings La Bamba and the band continues the slink for another few minute. The pace quickens and ends up into Back Porch Boogie, which, again, totally rages. At around 7 minutes, Fish is in a latin groove, Trey is playing muted scales, and Page is all over the place and the band somehow goes right into the Sloth, which closes. Aside from the two Fee's, this show looks on paper like a set from late '97, with continuous playing and 10+ minute jams.

Set 3 is short, but also full of total gems. BBFCFM is introduced as Melanie's "Brand New Key". The slower BBFCFM, to me, works way better as a song than current versions at break-neck speed. After singing falsetto, Trey says that BBFCFM was actually by Jermaine Osmond. Then, for perhaps the first time ever, the band teases Fish by playing HYHU. Fish doesn't play along and it's clear that he 'doesn't think its funny'. It is obvious that he totally hates the song, which is hilarious. The audience goads Fish to sing, but he won't. It's a good thing because Trey leads the band into "the Gala Event", aka, McGrupp, which is a wonderful version. I love the way Fish approaches it here.

The band stretches out McGrupp into unknown territory and soon into driving chaos which exemplifies the jams of this period. However, Mike guides them back to normalcy by playing 'Stir it Up' which the band plays for about 5 or so minutes. Continuing the reggae theme, the band moves into Makisupa which has Trey freestyle rapping, akin to the Happy Birthday rap from 3/6/87. This rap has everything from Rasta Jah screaming to talking about picking up Marley doo. While this is the Makisupa chords, the band never really sings Makisupa and instead stretches everything out over volume swells by Trey.

Finally, Trey gathers his sanity and the band starts up David Bowie. After some stuttering, the band locks on. Bowie is herky-jerky, very quiet, although does contain a heavy Tom Sawyer tease. Bowie never ends, but moves into marching chords which somehow turn into Sanity. This Sanity is also chaotic and totally goofy. Swing Low is beautiful and serves as a lullabye for the by-now quieted audience. It's also 'an original song...by a slave'.

Highlights of this show are too many to name. The Dog Log, Peaches, and Bitch are easily some of the best early versions. Hood smokes, and Light Up is probably also one of the best ever. I really can't say enough about set I. The whole thing is worth a spin. I've recommended this show to countless people over the years.

Set 2 features absolutely chaotic jams and difficult-to-believe transitions into totally random covers. I particularly like the Harpua>Bundle of Joy>Harpua>Golgi>Sparks here. Set 3 is also a joy to listen to. While the McGrupp ----> Makisupa -> Bowie is the highlight, Sanity and BBFCFM are hilarious.

This is absolutely one of the strongest Phish shows of the 80s, and likely one of the best shows the band has ever played, as it continues to show up time after time in polls and in forums. Definitely check this one out. Don't be scared away by the fact that it's from '87!


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