Are you a huge Trey Anastasio Band fan or live in the Louisville, Kentucky area? If not, chances are you had no idea TAB played for an hour last night at the Bourbon & Beyond Festival. It’s possible it’s the most random date on Trey’s playing calendar this year. It was his first time performing in public in the three weeks since Dick’s, and his solo tour doesn’t begin for another three weeks either.
Bourbon & Beyond is in its third year as a festival. This may hit a little too close to home for some Phish fans, but 2018’s iteration was cut short due to torrential rains and flooding (though the word turbidity wasn’t used as far as I can tell). This year’s fest had a new location, an added third day, and oppressive heat as opposed to any rain. Foo Fighters, Robert Plant, and Zac Brown Band are the headliners this year.
The acts before Trey came on were distinctly bluegrass. The Travelin’ McCourys put their spin on some favorite Grateful Dead tunes, “Loose Lucy” was especially cool. In what has to be a complaint that could only be found at a bourbon music festival in Kentucky, the sound of the music at the Bluegrass Situation Stage was slightly drowned out by people making barrels. Yes, actual bourbon barrels were being made at Bourbon & Beyond.
Alison Krauss played on the Oak Stage (really hammering home the bourbon theme) preceding the TAB set. Her voice is still as sweet as honey and her backing band was incredibly tight. In the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but wonder if she might sit in with Trey.
Trey’s band wasn’t supposed to start on the Barrel Stage until 7pm, but Trey was so excited they ended up starting a few minutes beforehand. The now familiar chords of “Set Your Soul Free” started and the set began as the sun was setting. One thing was clear: Trey was giddy to be playing in front of a crowd again. Seeing Between Me and My Mind this summer was a great reminder of how much he just loves playing music.
“Cayman Review” came next and featured solos by Trey, Jennifer Hartswick on trumpet, and Natalie Cressman on trombone. A rousing brass duet got significant applause from the crowd. Next up was the instrumental “Mozambique.” It was a fun run-through of the song, one that Phish should absolutely bust out sometime soon.
The first song of the night performed by Phish before TAB had performed it, “Blaze On” was Trey’s next choice. While there was no “Play it Leo!” that section of the song was handled expertly by Jennifer and Natalie, as well as James Casey on saxophone. This was the first song of the night that contained a bit of a jam. Trey had a huge grin on his face as the song wound back to its closing refrain. Never one to let a joke die, Trey had to get one last plague reference in. “The vermin’s gone, just blaze on!” was sung as the song ended, and the Phish fans in the crowd enjoyed a laugh. Trey then said, “That must be the ‘Beyond’ part.”
Another Phish song which has become a TAB favorite, “Camel Walk” was played next. James took a solo in it, followed by some great play by the percussionists. And then Trey just started pointing at different band members to take solos. “Dark and Down” followed, and was the only slow-song of the set. Trey’s guitar wailed during this one.
TAB’s most famous bassline came next in “Sand.” The song goes back as far as the band does, and that kind of comfort is shown when they play it. A groove was latched onto quickly, and even the folks waiting for Hall & Oates to begin their set were dancing along. Another TAB staple, “Push On Til the Day” followed. Trey’s solo took the song to another level.
The perfect closer for this kind of set is “First Tube” and that’s exactly what was played. Just like he’d done closing the second set at Dick’s three weeks prior, Trey went full guitar god. He jumped around. He danced in circles. He took his guitar off and pretended he was Luke Skywalker. And in the end, for good measure, he lifted his Languedoc high above his head while the band brought the song to a close. He thanked the crowd, again, as he’d done seemingly after every song. He was just so happy to be playing in public again.
In the end, there were no guest sit-ins. With the band only having a condensed, one-hour set, that was perhaps to be expected. We’ll just have to keep waiting for that elusive Alison Krauss sit-in on “If I Could.” Maybe in another twenty-five years?
I’m not here to tell you this is must-hear or the greatest TAB set by any stretch. It was a fun night of music, watching my favorite musician do what he clearly loves doing. Even with Hall & Oates beginning to play only ninety seconds after he walked offstage, Trey did what Trey does since he got clean. He showed up and played his ass off in the time he was allotted.
All in all, it was a fun evening and TAB made me feel like I got my money’s worth. But when Hall & Oates started up “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” it was officially time to check out of Bourbon & Beyond.
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March 27, 1993
25 years ago
Set 2: Buried Alive > Halley's Comet > It's Ice > Bouncing Around the Room, Chalk Dust Torture, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Mike's Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Hold Your Head Up > Cracklin' Rosie > Hold Your Head Up, Poor Heart > Golgi Apparatus
 Beginning featured Trey on acoustic guitar.
 Fish on trombone.
 All Fall Down signal in intro.
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