This was my first show and for that reason gets a 5 stars rating from me and will always be “The Best Show EVA!” It was experience I will hold dear in my heart as long as I live. To see them in this small and intimate of a setting was phenomenal no matter how they happened to playing that night. I mean 350 people! They rent the space out for fricken wedding receptions for Christ sakes!
Listening to it through a filter of over 20 years I still shake my head when I think about the scene. I had been into the Grateful Dead for a few years and was lucky enough to catch some great shows in the late ‘80’s and early 90’s including the infamous Alpine ’89 run. My younger brother first turned me onto Phish and I remember him having a cassette from Amy’s Farm that he played until it snapped in half. I had heard Junta and owned Lawn Boy. A Picture of Nectar was just making its way into local music stores.
I was super excited when my brother told me about the show at MSU and couldn’t wait to see them live. The scene was . . . well there really wasn’t much of a scene. There were a few kids wandering the hallways of the Student Union, a merchandise table and the Greenpeace table set up. That was about it. I remember hearing rumors that the show was going to be cancelled when we first got there because of some electrical issues. I was sooo relieved when they started letting us in though and am forever grateful to the guys who sprang for the power generators at the last minute.
From Page’s first twinkling notes of The Landlady and Trey’s screaming guitar I was hooked! I looked over at my brother and saw the biggest shit eating grin and knew I must have looked exactly the same. We carried the groove right into a rocking Possum. I hadn’t heard any of the songs from Rift at that point and they ended up playing 6 songs from that “upcoming album”. I was so happy they played Fee and then Split Open and Melt happened. I had my first spastic AC/DC Bag feeling when you’re dancing so hard that it feels like your feet don’t touch ground. Chaos, everything falling apart then coming back togeterher, WOW! I Didn’t Know was fun to hear some live vacuum and Runaway Jim smoked to fill out the first set.
Set break was weird. More people wandering around the halls. I seem to recall Mike and maybe other members of the band milling around too but not completely sure. It just seemed really loose. I think there were a few students who actually left during set break because the crowd seemed a bit smaller to kick off the second set.
The Tweezer that kicked off the 2nd set I remember as being heavy and funky and listening to it again the guys are really having fun with the vocals. I’m pretty sure I freaked during that jam as well. Horse and Silent were pretty and enchanting to me. Fluffhead! ‘Nuff said. I didn’t know what was going on during Guelah but when they all stopped and started pointing at the tall dude in front I have to admit that it made me feel a little uncomfortable. Trey and Mike choreography, the “Aww Fuck!” it was all so surreal to me. Then Mike’s Song >I Am Hydrogen>Weekapaug. Cold As Ice then Fishman comes out for a sweet rendition of Cracklin Rosie. I didn’t see any of this coming. Who are these guys?
Dinner and a Movie was creepy and then a little Bouncin’ for some leavity. Next The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg to close things out. But wait! Everyone shut up so we can hear some A cappella barbershop quartet tunes sans microphones! Memories; how appropriate for looking back on my first show. Sweet Adeline had people cracking up. So sweet. And then the Tweeprise to rock us home.
A “very average show, if not below average”, unless it happened to be your first show or you were lucky enough actually have been there in this very intimate setting. It will be a night I will always cherish. I remember the feeling like I was seeing the Grateful Dead for my generation. The connection between the band and the audience was something I had only seen at Dead shows. Their music moved me in a similar way but so sharper, quirkier and edgier, something that I had been longing for. I’m amazed at how far they have come and all the obstacles they have overcome. I have nothing but love and admiration for these guys