After a few months off, Phish played its first gig of 1988 in a new place - Gallagher's, in Waitsfield, about 45 minutes from Burlington. 1988 was a big year for the band. They played 95 shows (of which 53 are recorded and available) including their first stops in Pennsylvania, New York City, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and, of course, Colorado. As some members of the band began their final year of college, their attention began to focus on shows and they began to take the band much more seriously - traveling throughout the Northeast in vans, playing parties, weddings, bars, clubs, fraternity houses.
The music is more rehearsed and there is less freedom in their playing compared to the open-ended late 87 shows. The focus during this time period was clearly on hooking people on to their songs and their live act. You'll hear this trend throughout this year (and the early 90s). As a result, many shows in 88-91 are relatively uneventful as a recorded piece of music (compared to the creative burst that was typical of the mid to late 90s) with exceptions scattered about.
The first set here has a handful of covers and more straightforward material, seemingly played to attract the locals at the bar. Mustang Sally, by request, is a highlight of the first set. The AC/DC > Possum is quite nice, featuring a very Chicago-like jam which slowly speeds up into Possum. Speaking of Chicago, JJLC is next, followed by very common versions of Sally, Almuni, and A-Train. The GTBT here is spicy, as the band gets into it, although it is very much the Trey/Fish show.
The second set opens with an audience-requested Wilson, forcing Trey to ask "what song is it that you want to hear?". Wilson has slowed down at this point, so it sounds particularly clunky. While the Slave is a bit longer than normal for the time period, Trey uses an effects pedal during the long build, which makes the jam seem a touch new-agey. He does let loose with a screechy solo, though, so the version isn't actually that bad. Corinna and Fire are dedicated to Jimi. I hope Jimi didn't hear the version of Fire though, as Fish gets lost a handful of times in the song and doesn't hold down the bottom, so the jam falls apart often.
Fluffhead here is interesting. After playing a full Fluffhead (with clod, bundle of joy, etc.) in November, this version features only Fluff's Travels. The band hadn't quite committed to the full version yet. While the Divided Sky features some intricate Mike work, the highlight of the set is an extremely intense Whipping Post, preceeded by an alternative take on 'The Sloth'. It's the same bridge-less Sloth the band played on 8/21/87, but with some changes in the time signature. Very weird. Whipping Post here is solid though - worth a listen. The YEM in this set features organ work by Page that mimics a lot of his part in the Junta closing jam - take a listen for some similarities.
The third set seems to be when the band's fans actually start showing up. The open with Fee, which is by request. The debut of the Lizards here is novel, but my version cuts things short. The audience certainly likes the song though. It's introduced as "Where have all the Lizards Gone?". After a particularly reggae-inspired Suzy (perhaps even a Boogie On tease in there) and a loud Golgi - the band lets Fish sing Bike. If you like Bike, this is a great version. Fish is screaming and everyone is getting rowdy; stirring up the pot even more, the band launches into BBFCFM, with the whole audience singing along. A subtle Camel Walk is next before a show-closing Hood. This Hood is quite nice - a long drawn out jam with some Blues Brothers teases from Mike. It’s very well played - the highlight of the show.
Overall, this show is a first set of covers, with restrained playing through the rest of the show. Whipping Post is one of the more intense early versions while the Bag>Possum is a very nice transition. Hood is probably the exclamation point of this show and is a wonderful way to end the gig. All in all, the Whipping Post and Hood may be worth a listen.
Overall nothing amazing here to point out after listening. It's a very standard 1988 show, and for the most part contains far more covers than a good Phish show would. The covers here are well played here though, especially Mustang Sally. I'm not a big fan of '88 ACDC Bag or Possum (both being very slow overall). However, this ACDC bag has some good Trey soloing that helps bring it up a bit.
To sum things up short and sweet, it's a standard show with lots of covers. Some good playing throughout but nowhere near a "must hear" performance.
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