a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History


Music/Lyrics: Anastasio, Marshall

Vocals: Trey

Original Artist: Trey Anastasio

Albums: Party Time, TAB at the TAB, Alpine Valley

Debut: 2009-06-09

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 DeadThe 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

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geojam84 Reply
There should be mention of 12.28.10's version that included a Sarah Palin quote toy used at the begining of the song.
Score: 2
TommyAlaska Reply
My wife and I are from Alaska, and for our honeymoon in 2009 we saw a few shows in the Lower 48 -- including the Asheville show (Alaska's Phish debut). Before the show inside the venue, a kid who was clearly enjoying himself asked if he could borrow a pen of mine, to which I said -- "Yes, but this is a very special Alaskan pen, and I would like it back when you're done with it." It wasn't a special pen...until they launched into "Alaska". Everyone in our section went nuts, and we enjoyed ourselves. And I've got to think that the coincidence was particularly memorable for that person. Hope he enjoyed it as much as we did!
Score: 0
highhat Reply
highhat The Party Time "Alaska" was from soundcheck...

This list is incomplete and unconfirmed.
Score: 0
itayc Reply
@itayc said:

So, the Party Time version was not recorded in the studio, it is simply the live debut.

Sorry, I was wrong here. While there was an Alaska played live on the same day that the album version was recorded, now that I've listened to the live one, it is obviously not the same performance.
Score: 0
misticgoat Reply
Does anyone else think there might be a correlation with this song and Bob Dylan's 'Isis'?
Score: 0
itayc Reply
From the "Party Time" album notes:

"Alaska" - Recorded by Garry Brown 6/9/09 at the Asheville Civic Center. Mixed by CJ Eirikcson July 2009 At Pedernales Studio, Austin, TX, assisted by Jared Dodd

So, the Party Time version was not recorded in the studio, it is simply the live debut.
Score: 0
NorthStarZ Reply
NorthStarZ Anywhwere in an early part of a set. I've seen it played after 5 or 6 high energy songs into the show & they boys brought us back down with this newer gem from Party Time. Absolutley love this song & I think it works great for what it is. A beautiful song to chill us out for a few minutes! Hope they keep rocking it out! I'm partial to this song from living in Alaska for a few years, but hey!...Its a rockin' song! Peace-NorthStarZ
Score: 0
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