Music/Lyrics: Anastasio, Marshall
Original Artist: Trey Anastasio
Historian: Chris Bertolet (bertoletdown)
Last Update: 2014-08-01
"Alaska" made its world debut as what you might call half a Phish song. It made it's public debut by Mike and Trey at the Rothbury Music Festival in Michigan on 7/6/08, just as rumors of a Phish reunion were beginning to build steam. The country-rocker saw regular duty in Trey's "Classic TAB" tour later that year, sparking speculation that it would surface as a Phish tune. The speculation was laid to rest when Phish debuted "Alaska" in Asheville, NC, on the first leg of its 2009 summer tour.
Phish, "Alaska" – 6/17/10, Hartford, CT
"Alaska" is narrated from the point of view of a man whose love has left him, and whose home holds diminishing appeal. Afflicted with a serious traveling jones, he unburdens himself of his worldly possessions and lights out for the Land of the Midnight Sun, hoping to make the best of his solitude and perhaps see a moose or two. His free spirit is rewarded when he finds a new love. [En route, there are puns.]
Though unmistakably Phishy to the core, "Alaska" invites comparisons to the Grateful Dead, The Band, and other mainstays of Americana who proved themselves capable of lending gravitas and single-barrel whiskey dimension to otherwise simple ditties. The spiffy studio take on "Alaska" on Party Time ices its status as yet another bona fide Phish tune borne from Trey's extracurricular pursuits.
Trey Anastasio & Conan O’Brien Band, "Alaska" – 6/7/10, Upper Darby, PA
After the TAB performance of “Alaska” at New York’s Roseland Ballroom on 10/16/08 – just a few months after the world got to know Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Trey quipped, "The song came first." Then on 12/28/10 during Phish’s gig in Worcester, MA Trey supplemented the performance of “Alaska” with a small talking doll that offered Sarah Palin quotes.
Thus far, "Alaska" hasn't ventured too far into the wild, jam-wise – the improvisational sections have stayed relatively grounded in bluesy guitar solos – but it's ripe with potential. See the Gorge version from 8/8/09 for a glimpse into this promising song's frontier.
On 6/7/10 in Upper Darby, PA, Trey joined Conan O'Brien's band to deliver what perhaps the most unique reading of "Alaska" to date, with horn parts that lend the tune a second line flavor that works a whole lot better than you might guess.
By far the most infamous version of “Alaska” is the “Third Set Alaska” which formed the core of an awkward, less-than-thrilling final frame at the 12/31/11 New Year’s Eve gig at MSG. “Alaska” has however dotted the setlist of many shows on the more positive end of the spectrum, including: 8/1/09 Red Rocks; 8/17/11 UIC Pavilion; 8/31/12 Dick’s (“Fuck Your Face”); and 7/9/14 at The Mann in Philly.
Phish, "Alaska" –12/31/11, New York, NY