, attached to 1988-03-11

Review by SlavePhan

SlavePhan Johnson State college, just about an hour from Burlington, was played only 3 times despite how close it was to the band's starting point. Of the three shows (2/13/87, this show, and 4/14/89), this one is likely the best. What seems to be just another date in the middle of the spring of 1988, is a very strong early Phish show.

Opening up with the Chicken, a James Brown song played to absolute perfection by jazz folk since (check out the Scofield/Jaco combo on youtube), the band was ready to hit this show in full force. While Mike's equipment hadn't gotten to the point where he could shake rooms, at this period in the band's history, he used a jazzier bass (as he hadn't switched over to a Languedoc yet). This sound goes well with some of the band's earlier jazz tunes as Fish holds the bottom. They do a good job covering the song, nice solo with Mike in there too.

The then-standard 'first set with many covers' contained Bitch, but things were really interesting when 'Bobby Brown' came out to play harmonica on an energized Sneakin Sally. He would come to play harmonica with the band a few times in '88 and I think he adds a nice element to the band. Note that this is not a psuedonym for Tim "Timber Hole" Rogers, the band's first lighting director before CK. Rather, Bobby Brown played with the band and was just a friend - kind of a Nancy Taube figure, but without writing skills.

I don't like the flubs in YEM's composed section, but I do like the lack of a vocal jam and a great segue into Wilson. While the -> is pushing it, this is a decent segue, especially for the early days. The band heats up during this Slave. Being a bit of a connoisseur, I tend to find early Slaves too short, without the proper build, and really suffering from a lack of pedal work. This version is beautiful. A wonderful build, nice things from Page, an abrupt start to the solo from Trey, but he phases into everything quite well and then just explodes for a good 20 seconds.

Flat Fee and Corinna serve to slow things down next, and this gives the audience a nice breather. Lizards picks things back up again. This is the first known recorded version that fits the same song structure that the band plays today. After the first “woah woah woah” part, Page is featured in more of a solo with Trey just playing ascending chords, culminating in a series of arpeggios. Although this is the version that everyone knows, and that most people prefer, I like the funky earlier version at times. This version soars to a close and brings down the house.

Here begins the first version of Bowie with a zillion teases in the introduction. Trey teases a whole bunch of originals and then the band plays chords from a handful of covers too. In order, they are Timber Ho, Alumni Blues, Smoke on the Water, Sunshine of Your Love (which has a tease by the whole band), Money, Whipping Post, a finally, a precursory glimpse at the chords to Weekapaug (!!!). Although the band rips through this version, the source from the spreadsheet cuts out here.

Set 2 opens up with a very strong Fluffhead with an absolutely mesmerizing Arrival section. It’s often hard to believe that Trey was so talented at such a young age, and this version of Fluffhead shows off his early skills. He is off in many directions here and is very refreshing. A surging Dinner follows, and this version features the first time the band is able to pull off the difficult composed section after the first verse (the one with the descending Page riff). Dedicated to the band’s friend Susannah (likely Susannah Goodman, the lyricist for Bathtub Gin), this version is strong and showcases the song as a driving energy-build rather than a novelty like it is today.

Trey plays well in this show, so this version of Hood is nice. While not as notable or solid as the conclusion of Fluff or Slave, it is pleasing. After another harmonica-laden cover (Curtis Lowe), the band debuts the first FULL version of Harpua, featuring a test to the audience from Trey. He asks everyone if they know what Harpua is. Of course, no one knows, and so he thanks the audience for ‘paying attention’. This is an extremely basic narration here, but it is essentially the same as other early versions.

A spirited Bag and Alumni follow into, likely, the highlight of the show - the set-closing Antelope. This version is all over the place for an early take, evolving into what seems like a Bowie-like jam, then into pure machine-gun Trey for a solid few minutes. This is probably the loudest and screamingly loud Antelope the band had played by this point. Of course, feeling funny, Trey adds some extra names to Marco and also, interestingly, the ‘sing a random note’ signal is thrown in the intro here, 4 years before the band would develop the language.

I like this show for an early 88 choice. Trey plays very well, as does Page, who shines in Slave. The Chicken is a unique opener, there’s a guest who actually rounds out a few covers, and the Fluffhead and Antelope are extremely powerful. The first version of Harpua and a complete Dinner make this one worth a once-over. You might keep the Antelope and Fluffhead around for a few repeat listens.


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