, attached to 1985-05-03

Review by dscott

dscott The circulating SBD of this show contains only Set 3 + Mike's -> Dave's from Set 1, but it is a worthy glimpse of the band when they were just minnows on the night sky.

Mike's is slow and methodical, but tastefully explored. This laid-back approach pervades the entire performance, and I suspect this to be a mix of still-evolving chops and a deliberately deliberate approach. Trey has already mastered an array of guitar wizardry, but (for better or worse) the lightning precision and signature tones / riffs have not yet emerged. There is an extra bonus section at the end of Mike's - "Today is just a dream. Life is not what it seems" - sung in a way that evokes Torn & Frayed, over an airy instrumental piece that noodles into a typically chromatic DEG. Amusing banter from Trey ensues, during which he announces that they will be joined by a special guest from Goddard College: "Page on keyboards."

Set 3 kicks off with a solid enough take on Scarlet Begonias, with a dreamy closing jam that meanders into a languid Eyes Of the World. Fans of '94-'95 Dead will feel right at (lazy summer) home in this lilting, uber-chill groove. A plodding, sloppy attempt at a composed closing segment rumbles effectively into a menacing Whipping Post intro. The execution is sluggish and slack, but redeemed by some trippy organ swirls around the 9-minute mark. A noodly, open transition to McGrupp ensues. (Cue fade out & in, around a tape flip.)

McGrupp is a mellowed-out, lilting take on the familiar melody, punctuated by spoken-word vocals. Deft, natural transition into an upbeat reggae groove for Makisupa. Trey playfully introduces solo features by selected band members, dropping ample references to the pottabis, and Page plinks away in authentic minimalist reggae stylee. Around the 5-minute mark, there is a regrettably infectious diversion into a second section, with cliche lyrics about freeing weed, the rastaman, the world, and South Africa. Somehow this morphs into a surprisingly spry instrumental take on Run Like An Antelope. You've got the intro, and then the build, and then...a dramatic gearshift that morphs expertly into The Other One! This is extremely well-played. Not as rhythmically authoritative as the Dead's best versions, but the dynamics are spot-on and the closing jam peacefully tapers into some noodly tuning and an encore announcement. Anarchy clocks in at about 12 seconds, nearly as long as the most jammed-out versions that circulate. "See you next year," fellow college kiddos!

This is not the tight, unique Phish monster that we have come to know and love. Still, it's a fun excursion backwards down the number line to a time when these guys were just playing good-time mellow grooves for their buds (double-entendre intended), getting to know each other and their craft.


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