, attached to 1989-08-26

Review by conormac

conormac One of the early shows I wish I could have been at. Must have been amazing to see 1000s (by one account) of people jamming to this early Phish material in a beautiful park in VT. As it's been said, it's a great "snapshot" of early (80s) Phish, and I'm not surprised they released it as Live Phish 9.

Fluffhead starts things off, which is a adventurous "soundcheck" song, as they apparently were still dialing the sound/monitors for the band, and Trey is slightly out of tune, and continues to be throughout the set/show (to my ears). As they start the 2nd verse, and later in the song, you can actually hear someone's spring reverb rattling on stage. This all makes for a pleasant experience, as you can really start to picture being there with this young, small, relatively new band. The song itself is played in all it's 1989 gusto, technical prowess, and high energy. Especially enjoyable is Fishman hitting all his parts with precision and vigor. Fluff "Hen" brings us to the tough stuff, and Trey's early tone really shines here. Mike is low in the mix, but Page can be heard clearly, which adds to the magic that is the chase passage. After much inspiring and tight playing, the Arrival...well...arrives...and Trey puts an exclamation point on this one with some very tasty soloing and trilling! Thanks a lot!

Now that they're warmed up, a trip to Gamehendge is in order. Col Forbin's > Mockingbird does not disappoint, and Trey's short but sweet narration (they'd get wildly more involved later on) is a fun listen. The long sustained note in Trey's solo in Col F is especially exciting. Paul also has some fun with the vocal reverb when Trey talks in the perspective of Icculus, to differentiate it from the narrators voice. Mockingbird is played at lightning speed and pretty much nailed, which is impressive, and Trey's playing as he unleashes his solo is unreal. The volume swells that follow are equally artistic and brilliant.

Next up is Harry Hood (ya, set list looking nice so far). Very nice bouncy feel from the band to get started. They don't play around too long with the intro, so soon we are soaring through the changes, Treys rhythm guitar shining with a clean tone and Page just smoking the piano parts. After Mr Miner gets appreciation, we gently fall into the HH jam, and quickly the sound of floating on clouds fills the air. Trey cumulusly rides above, gently building the melody. Just before the 8 min mark, he shifts to his grittier tone, and grows bluesier with the band supporting him subtly throughout. The band never really rides a coaster, up and down, as they do typically in versions in later years, but slowly builds to the climax with greater intensity. The rhythm section plays this great ascending line in unison several times as we reach the final peak. It feels good.

Split Open and Melt comes out of Hood with a steady tempo. The delivery throughout the song proper is standard, if not straightforward, each band member riding Fishman's funky, off-kilter beat together like a rolling river. The harmonies during the bridge are well-delivered, and we find ourselves in the jam, which starts with very high energy, Trey holding out long sustained notes and urging the boys into dissidence. However they never quite break free of the SOAM melt form (with the Bum, Bum, Bum at end of each chord progression). When Trey hits on the down beat is the most enjoyable moments, as his guitar screams and pierces. The jam is short by today's standards, and ends in typical fashion.

Here comes the Divided Sky. Sure! Trey's tuning remains a small issue for me during intro, but doesn't take away from the brilliant execution. We move right along through the suite with each member really nailing their parts, though Page's organ build hits some funny notes and tones until it hits it's sweet spot, leading to Trey's first gritty solo. As the song settles down, Trey comes in with his clean tone, which, without the silence delay of later days, just rings straight throughout the next section. Page's shimmery organ tones shift behind him, making for a layered listen. Per usual, tones grow louder and grittier, but never venture too far from beautiful. We quickly reach the final section, and Trey's guitar roars with long sustain, high above the band. This is classical era Trey at it's phinest, a sound he would continue to develop throughout the early nineties to much success. The big peak at then end is beyond excellent!

Because they haven't played any of their best songs yet, Phish decides on You Enjoy Myself. Are you writing this down!? #dreamset. I love this rendition of YEM as it shows off the band's technical capabilities and dedication to performing their songs as written. This song just sums up early Phish for me, the ultimate classic, played to perfection. Yes, the jam does not get all star treatment, but it doesn't need it; it's a perfect tune, majestically played. Trey's solo (where he typically plays the long sustained note the 2nd go-round, but doesn't this time) is played with zest, choosing to play an interesting descending line that lands us in the big build before the vocals. The funk section cooks along with juvenile bounce, thanks mostly to Fishman's playing. Page's solo gets really quiet, which is quite nice (though I continue to hear that spring reverb, or is that an organ effect? idk) Mike also has a filter of some sort on which adds to the fun. When Trey returns, things build slowly until he is just wailing away over the two chord jam. The bass and drums comes out with Mike using a filter again. Then the vocal jam slaps the weird icing on the cake.

Straight out of the summah hoooouuuuuse comes the intro to Possum. (Are they serious?! This set list is all time!) No frills, or snare build, just straight into the groove, after some short Wes Montgomery style soloing from Trey. Mike takes the lead for the first time, and it's refreshing, the band riding down the road behind him happily. In classic style, Trey comes out quiet and bluesy and slowly build this thing to a roar. And what a ride it is! 5 minutes of tasty Trey licks and we are all dancing and smiling. At the 5:20 mark Trey hits that high note that we all know and love, then we're back to the top. And that's the end of the road for Set 1! Go for a swim, play miniature golf, Phish will be right back!

But wait, just look at this SET 1: Fluffhead, Colonel Forbin's Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, Harry Hood, Split Open and Melt, Divided Sky, You Enjoy Myself > Possum. OMG that is stacked with classics, and they are all played extremely well. What a start!

Set 2: The Andy Griffith Theme is a nice way to get the fingers snapping and lips a-whistlin', very Phishy, and phunny, but not very interesting on repeat listen. "I can't hear you!" Things get started for real when Jimi comes to play. Page shines in this version, singing boldly. After a fiery guitar solo at the end of Bold is Love, we get Yamar, which is a classic early version, with great interplay from the boys, and a very fresh solo from Trey to open the tune. Slave comes next and you can really tell the boys are feeling it. It's short, but sweet, with great soloing from Trey and immense build to a climax from the other band members. Pete Rose would be proud of this take.

With a short break, AC/DC Bag comes hot out of the gate. The guitar work from Trey to start is bouncy and fresh, making this version pop. They rollick along through the changes energetically, and as they enter the jam things get even better. Page switches to the organ and they break down the groove a bit, to tremendous effect. Trey rips an ascending line followed by a loud growl, and this jam starts building momentum quickly. When Fishman kicks it to the straight rock beat, the band is on fire. Trey's highest notes ringing above all else, and Gordo laying down the walking bass line at a zesty tempo. The band just keeps pushing the envelope on this one, bringing us higher and higher until we fade into silence.

The crowd is getting more interactive now, and after some slight debate of old vs new, Trey decides to settle things down with some Charlie Parker jazz. Donna Lee is a great rendition with the band really locked in unison for the head. Trey pulls off the jazz solo with grace and pizazz, and he even sneaks in a well placed Entrance of the Gladiators tease. Wish they'd bring this one back! Next up is Funky Bitch, which once again give Mike the chance to shine. But before Mike can sing, Trey is growling out of the gates, making this version especially energetic (man he plays the hell out of the lead line). Instead of opting for his standard bluesy solo, Trey gets extremely tense, making the band swirl under his long fiery lead tones. This energetic solo helps Mike come growling into the last verse and has him screaming at the tops of his lungs later as well, which adds spunk to this great version. In atypical fashion, Page takes the last solo, ending this one as lead man. More classic Phish follows immediately, with a fun dip in the Foam. Played at a nice tempo, this one floats along nicely through all the difficult sections. As we get the solo, things quiet down and turn introspective, which is pleasant. Ala, Trey and Co. build this to a climax, albeit quickly. All in all, this quick romp through the foam is fun, if nothing else.

Next up is Bowie, which may be the highlight of the whole show. The intro starts out sparingly, then Trey counts the band in, rather than giving Fishman the queue duty as in later years. Things start out normally, maybe with a bit more spark in the boys heels. Everything is well played and interactive, especially Fishman's drumming, which is absolutely on point, and a bit louder than other songs this set. Sounds like they are really going for it. Then we reach the DB jam, which is when things get especially interesting. The boys start things mellow, as usual, but get more and more improvisational as the jam progresses. Trey plays some jazzier chords, which I sends the boys into new territory. Trey hits several riffs, which the band mirrors nicely, leading them through several different movements. By the 8 min mark, the band is far away from the typical Bowie jam, punching away, and bouncing off each other. A fast snare roll from Fishman, starts to push the band back to familiar waters, but Trey again pushes the boundaries. At 9.5 minutes, the band starts repeating and swelling as if getting knocked around in rough surf. The band then starts revving up, and the the rhythm section hits the final section as Trey continues to build. The band catches and starts supporting him nicely, until at 12 minutes, Trey final says "OK, let's do this", hitting the tonic high note sending the band into the final movement and chord changes. The trilling that ensues is well-deserved after the journey it took to get there. This version ends with passion, and hoots and hollers from the amazed crowd. And that brings Set 2 to a close.

Set 3 starts out light with TMWSIY, Trey really making his guitar sing the melodies. That quickly rolls into Avenu Malkenu, which showcases Fishman syncopated drumming. This one is sung strongly as well, even though I don't understand any of the lyrics, due to my lack of Hebrew familiarity. Bass takes a nice solo here. Pete Rose and his bookie (aka God) would again be proud.

After some comedic pleasantries, we slides into Suzy Greenberg, which takes on a more chill vibe than other versions. Trey can't help but laugh when his band members interject throughout. They take this one to Suzy's house, giving this a menacing flavor during Trey's solo. This is a fine version. Next is a quick Dinner and a Movie, which benefits from great a great solid groove (Fishman throwing in some Llama-esque bass drum doubles). Trey's tone gets pretty warbley at end before the soft breakdown (ooooooooo, ahhhhhhh).

Next, Run like an Antelope prances into the set, making itself a personal highlight. The interplay between band members in intro is simple, yet fantastic. We jump into the guitar solo with menacing grace, maybe a little more laid back than other takes. But as we hit the Em jam, things start to pick up a head of steam. Fishman opens up his hi-hat and then washes over to the ride, providing the band the backsplash for which to engage. The band really pushes the energy during this version, and by the 8 minute mark, this jam has grown monstrous, and then quickly shuts down, as they do, to the funky ending section. Trey ensures everyone is listening, and offers a special treat, and introduces Marco Esquandolas! Someone joins on trumpet, not sure who, but it gives the ending a bit more of a unique flavor. Trey again ensures everyone has met properly, before he charges in to the final refrain. On the Live Phish version, the recording fades out here, as Trey continues to scream about his boy Marco.

Being as many phriends drove across the state of VT to see the boys, the extended encore begins with Contact. Phish starts this one gently, to nice effect. The crowd enjoys it, as they help sing along at the end, yes that's right. Next we get an early take on Lizards, which is played in all it's glory, Trey getting to sustain those notes with old school tone once again. Just perfect. And to wrap things up nicely, Phish provides the ZZ Top crowd-pleaser, La Grange, which is played with much vigor and precision, Trey laying down a smoking solo once more. "Pick up the garbage and we'll see you next time"!

From top to bottom, this show displays Phish's early skill in playing technical compositions, as well as whipping the crowd into a frenzy with eclectic jamming (well...guitar soloing...mostly). This one should stay in everyone's collection, and be revisited frequently, to again remind us where it all started, and how far we've come.

Note: the Live Phish 9 version adds a bonus track of McGrupp played on 9/12/89, a few short weeks after the Townsend show, at Pearl Street in Northampton, MA (Great venue!) The performance is a pleasant trip to the a large field to visit with the lone shepherd. The tune is, needless to say, played in all it's aged goodness. Page's solo is especially well-played, to the crowd's satisfaction and participation. Happy Phishing!


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