Historian: Mark Toscano, Tim Wade
Trey wrote this piece as part of his work with Ernie Stires, the influential Burlington-area jazz and classical composer who served as a mentor for the musically starved Trey during his Goddard years. Ernie helped Trey realize his desire to write music that was compositionally challenging, yet fun, entertaining, and danceable. “Flat Fee” represents an early accomplishment for Trey in this vein, but also reflects his first successful attempt at composing horn charts for one of his own songs. The most notable story about this song deals with precisely this event, and Ernie’s reaction when Trey showed him the arrangement. Trey had spent weeks on the song, and it elicited a historical comment from Ernie about “Flat Fee” representing a breakthrough for Trey’s music writing. Ernie likened the event to Trey finally poking his head out of the ground in order to find himself at the base of this huge mountain that still lies before him. These words resonated big-time for Trey, who has always been driven by a desire to experiment in composition and performance.
“Flat Fee” made a handful of live appearances in 1987 and 1988, although Trey, proud of the horn arrangement he had written for the piece, was not satisfied with its sans-horn incarnation. Check out 8/9/87, 8/21/87, 8/29/87, 5/15/88, or 6/21/88 for these hornless versions. After a two-year hiatus, the tune made its comeback during the July 1991 tour with the Giant Country Horns, making appearances at eight of these shows, from 7/11/91 through 7/26/91. Principally due to the lack of another horn tour, “Flat Fee” has faded from the Phish repertoire. However the song isn't completely forgotten, as Trey briefly teased the tune prior to opening the second set of 6/5/09 at Jones Beach.