Phish Friday | Old School August ’87, Part II

Last week, I dug back into the archives to highlight an old-school show from 8/21/1987 that captured the band during a fertile period of their career, both in terms of their songwriting and their live show. My selections gave a nice overall feel for the different types of tunes and improvisation they were putting together back at that point. But after a few more listens, I decided that this show deserved a Part II, as there’s just too much fun stuff going on here to skip over.

This segment includes some great moments and wild segues (and it also has much less dog-barking than last week’s selections!). Check it out:

McGrupp >
The jam that runs out of this “McGrupp” is like an early version of “Chalkdust Torture,” albeit much less tight and focused. I really like how it gradually evolves out of the upbeat Chalkdust-style rock and slowly morphs into something completely different. Then once Mike starts dropping the bassline from “Stir it Up,” the rest of the band hops on the bandwagon.

Stir it Up >
This one requires some sloppy key changes and maneuvering, but the band eventually manages to lock into the familiar “Stir it Up” theme. Once they do, it’s all Trey on guitar. Trey’s solo is a bit of a major-key noodle session, but you can hear bits and pieces of genius that would later morph into fan favorites like the beautiful “Simple” outros or “Harry Hood” jam sections.

Makisupa Policeman Jam >
Although the band ended the “Stir it Up” jam, they decide to continue on the reggae theme., with Mike dropping the familiar bassline for “Makisupa Policeman.” But instead of playing the actual song, they bring on the utter silliness, with Trey doing some odd reggae-style rap (is this some UB40 reference?) and other band members yelling “Rasta” and “Jah.” it’s pure insanity; they sound like they’re having a blast.

Vocal antics behind them, the band leads the “Makisupa” improv into an out-there atmospheric reggae jam, with Trey setting up some washed-out loops and sequences. The sound is a glimpse into the slow-reggae improv of later Makisupas or Windora Bugs. As Trey’s loops fade, he starts teasing the opening chords of “David Bowie” over top the leftovers of the reggae jam. It’s wild stuff, but it exhibits the band’s early abilities to adeptly bring form and movement out of the chaos.

David Bowie >
This Bowie starts out with some seriously funky bass from Mike, which I’d say is a rare early recording where the bass had a prominent place in the mix. Once they delve into the jam, it’s a particularly mellow version of Bowie. Just as they increase the tempo, they then wind back down to nothing, seeming to find a place to start over with clean improvisational slate. They then work through another set of three or four different themes and movements, dissolving the remnants of Bowie into sheer chaos before ending on the slower chord cadence of “Sanity.”

In taking with the theme and silliness of the lyrics, “Sanity” is pure buffoonery. Like so many of the band’s stage antics in those first 5-7 years, it all sounds like one big inside joke. But beyond the songs and the jams, the silly moments like these were the ways the band made us all feel like we were on the inside, laughing along with them as they made utter fools of themselves on stage.

Once again, you can grab the whole show via mediafire in three parts:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Full setlist (via

08-21-87 Ian McLean’s Farm, Hebron, NY
1: Dog Log, Peaches en Regalia, The Divided Sky, Funky Bitch, Harry Hood, Clod, The Curtain, Light Up or Leave Me Alone, Shaggy Dog, Wilson, Camel Walk
2: Mike’s Song, Harpua*-> Bundle of Joy-> Harpua-> Golgi Apparatus-> Sparks, Flat Fee, Fee, Skin It Back-> Low Rider-> Back Porch-> The Sloth
3: Big Black Furry Creature From Mars, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters-> Stir It Up jam-> Makisupa Policeman-> David Bowie-> Sanity, Swing Low Sweet Chariot Jam

Have a great (long) weekend!