For a very long time, many people believed this to be Phish's first show, simply because tapes of the Slade Hall and Grant Street shows from earlier in the fall weren't common. It was also impossible for phans to learn about the Harris-Miller ROTC show without the advent of internet-available interviews with the band acknowledging that 1983 gig being their first true show. The band itself didn't even know the true first date of their first show until sometime after 1998. This show was heavily circulated throughout the taping community (earning a 4.0 scarcity rating from TPC) and was easy to find in taper's lists, and, essentially fit the bill.
Two versions of this tape used to exist - one that fit conveniently on one-half of a 90 minute casette, and a full version. My version was the 1/2 version, and it wasn't until the digital upload of nearly every Phish show was I able to listen to a few of the songs left out.
The show starts off with a take on the Grateful Dead's Scarlet>Fire, with a Phish-y twist by adding Jimi Hendrix's fire in the middle. Trey takes a pretty lengthy solo in Scarlet, but his style is not much like what you hear today - it is heavily influenced by Garcia and Metheny and he has yet to find his own voice. Nonetheless, it's a nice solo and the band jumps into a rehearsed Spanish-Flea inspired transition into Fire. Fire also features a Trey solo, which is a bit louder and more like the Trey of today than the Scarlet solo, but pretty short. Following another Spanish-Flea transition, the band lays into Fire on the Mountain, the band's only cover of the song (unless you count the infamous 12/31/95 tease). They take their time with this song, and Trey's solo is much more melodic, but definitely heavily influenced by Garcia. Jeff Holdsworth is notably trying to find his way into these songs, but can never really seem to find the right place to sneak in, but this is still a very nice attempt at a cover from a young band.
After Fire on the Mountain peters out, the band starts Makisupa with Mike proclaiming "Rastify". It's an interesting version of Makisupa to say the least, with Trey using the original lyrics over and over (the keyword hadn't been 'invented' then) and then referencing the different band members and how each of them likes to play their instrument and 'smoke a little herb'. There's some interesting Trey banter in here and the band definitely has fun. The crowd is totally silent during this part, as I imagine they were probably wondering what was going on, prompting Fishman to ask "Are you guys dancing, having a fun time?". There's a bit more banter there, with Trey saying that Makisupa was written in "Kingston, Vermont" (Interesting that it contradicts later attributions of the song's creation with Tom Marshall in New Jersey). The band then introduces another original, Slave, written by "us". Marc Daubert chimes in, saying that the song is about the 'parking problem in Burlington', which overshadows Trey's explanation that it is about "everybody that lives in cities".
Slave is a beautiful but short version, with some extra percussion from Marc Daubert, and Jeff's part comparable to Page's rhythm sections today. This version ultimately sounds much different than any post-Page version of the song. Mike has a little bit more room to manuever with Jeff doubling-up essentially on his parts. Also, the extra percussion allows the song to march onwards forcefully, even in the quieter and now silent pauses. Trey's solo isn't even close to what most of you expect out of a Slave solo, but the build is quite nice. I think it is one of the better builds in the song's history, honestly (but I'm also a sucker for older shows).
Next, a cover by the Allman Brothers "Don't Want You No More" that is not particularly memorable. Phish does a so-so job covering it, but what is more interesting is the drum jam that follows, pitting Fish with Marc Daubert and it even seems like Trey joins in there somehow (likely, as Trey has referenced enjoying Drum jams with Fishman before). This goes on for quite a while, and at the end, Trey starts up Skippy.
Skippy features the Dude of Life with a funny build-up introduction from Trey. It mimics the traditional Icculus builds most listeners are familiar with. Skippy essentially was eviscerated later by McGrupp, so imagine McGrupp with interesting lyrics about a mighty-mouse-esque figure and the Dude's skewed voice. The Dude definitely brings Skippy to a thrashing conclusion. The audience seems a little confused, but the band moves into Fluffhead, a shortened original-style version of the song, albeit a bit sped-up with a different tempo than today. It also has the Dude on vocals. This is definitely the fastest version I've ever heard and pretty interesting due to the fact that it has not only additional percussion, a double-time tempo, the Dude screaming, and Jeff adding to the chaos.
The 'set' closes with another GD cover, 'Eyes of the World', with a little Chicago tease before the beginning by Trey. Jeff solos in this version, and its clear why he is on backing guitar - he is clearly better suited to backing up Trey at this point. It's a nice version, but I think the Scarlet>Fire>Fire is the better cover medley in this show.
This show is worth checking out if only for the complete chaos that ensues. If this type of setlist and these guests appeared in a Phish set in 2010, everyone would go berserk. But at the time, Phish was a small band, having fun with their friends - this type of warmth shines through in the recording and is worth a once-over. Listeners will be quick to discover that some of the songs in this set are worth tagging and keeping around, notably the Scarlet>Fire>Fire combo, the Slave, and the hilarious Spanish Flea cover.