Phish Friday | Old School Gems from August ’87

For this week’s Phish Friday, I thought I’d drop a quick post with a look back at the old-school, a show the band played back on 8/21/87 at Ian McLean’s Farm.

This was one of the first truly old-school Phish tapes I got back in the day. I can still envision the hand-writing on those old XLIIs and remember some endless car treks with this show as the accompanying soundtrack. It captures the band at a unique point in their early career, with the silliness in the stage banter, a truly young sound in their voices, and some yet-to-be-perfected improv chops. Everything fun and interesting about old-school Phish exists on these recordings.

Here are a few gems that always get me:

One of the more fun aspects of these early recordings is being able to here how their songs changed and morphed from older song parts and sequences. As many people know, “The Curtain” used to be a longer tune called “The Curtain With,” that included a longer outro which eventually became the key theme to “Rift.”

Here we also get treated to various segments that eventually were pulled into the full version of “Fluffhead.” “Clod” is that funky section of “Fluffhead” where they sing “tipsy fuddled boozy groggy” before leading up to the song’s finale.

Also, even though it gets pretty annoying, one of the funnier parts of this show is hearing the ever-present sound of dogs barking. The main dog, of course, is no other than Marley, Anastasio’s long-time retriever companion. The incessant barks really get going during a ripping cover of “Light Up or Leave Me Alone.” The band then reacts to the barks with a version of “Shaggy Dog” featuring some of the earliest examples of their barber-shop quartet vocal stylings. The dogs come to full crescendo with the crowd getting all riled up and it’s a complete mess. Even back then, the band was having a blast with the craziness going on in the crowd around them.

In one sense, you really have to love Phish to get into these old recordings. The sound isn’t the best, and there’s a lot of noise and hecticness that goes along with the creative improv and fun stage banter. But it’s recordings like these that allow us to get amazing glimpses of the band during a seriously fertile growth period. It was only 1987 and they were already playing gems like “The Curtain With,” writing huge tunes like “Harry Hood” and making the crowd laugh with silly antics and buffoonery. This was the stuff that got fans hooked and it’s all there in this random show at a farm in upstate NY in 1987.

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