Stuart Bogie, member of the Antibalas horns and leader of his own band Superhuman Happiness, recently got the chance to play with Phish during their cover of Little Feat’s Waiting for Columbus. Stuart is a highly respected multi instrumentalist, who is best known for his work with afro-beat innovators Antibalas and his touring work with TV on the Radio. Relix magazine’s own Mike Greenhaus had the chance to chat with Stuart about playing with Phish and affect it had on him as a musician. Check out the full interview at Jambands.com:
“It was their chance to play another record they love—learn about the music, and they got so into it! They had the specific pedal settings Little Feat used. I don’t know that much about guitar pedals but Trey [Anastasio] had two of them and set them just the way Little Feat had set them. When we got to the gig they had another drum set tuned to Little Feat drum set sounds. Isn’t that wild?”
As I had expected, this confirms Trey’s use of some new pedals on the recent tour. I will try to get to the bottom of this and find out exactly what pedals the Bad Lieutenant was using…Stay tuned.
Little Feat has always been, and will always be, a musicians’ band. And so when Phish – the ultimate musicians’ band – decided to cover their 1978 live album, Waiting For Columbus, on Sunday, there was perhaps no album more fitting.
Like Phish, Little Feat is a band that plays best in a live concert setting. As Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne told Relix in 1978: “This band is a playing type of band. We just sound better live than we do on records.” So rather than attempt to learn a studio album, as they have done in the past, Phish took on the task of recreating one of these live experiences. The music lent itself so well to Phish’s playing that at times it didn’t seem as though they were covering another band at all – it seemed as though this music had been a part of the band since the beginning.
The Halloween set began with “Join The Band” being piped over the PA system, as Phish took the stage with percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo alongside. In an attempt to replace the Tower of Power horns, who are featured on the album, Phish brought out members of Antibalas Horns – one of the finest horn sections on the scene today – and the Dapkings on several of the songs. There was instant chemistry, and as the band began to play we were shepherded back to the summer of 1978.
From note one of “Fat Man in the Bathtub,” it was clear how much of an influence these songs had on the members of Phish. Unlike many of the past musical costumes, where the band had to change their sound to suit the album, Little Feat was, as Jon mentions in the playbill, “in the fabric.” At one point a friend of mine turned to me and said “This sounds like Phish.” Or perhaps more appropriately, ‘Phish sounds like Little Feat’. Unfortunately, Trey did not use a slide (as George did) but instead mimicked his playing by cranking the treble on his amp and placing an equal importance on every note he played (as George did).
While Phish has played “Skin it Back,” “On Your Way Down” (made famous by Little Feat) and “Time Loves a Hero” since the early eighties, it was some of the other songs that gave us a true glimpse at the connection between the two bands. Waiting for Columbus takes songs from all different parts of Little Feat’s early career, giving us a feel for the various directions the band explored. The album is much like a Phish studio album (or show) in that it explores so many different genres. There’s the shufflin’ boogie on “Dixie Chicken” or the jazz-fusion songs like “Time Loves a Hero” and “Day or Night” (the latter of which led to Lowell George’s departure from the band) that show the signs of a band that could truly do it all. As Trey mentions in the Playbill: “’Tripe Face Boogie’ is in 9 time, then switches to 5, and still maintains that dynamite boogie.” So it was no surprise that it was complex songs, such as these, that Phish shone brightest.
The first few songs let the band slip into their roles – Trey as a mix of Lowell George, the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor,” and Paul Barrere, Mike as Kenny Gradney, Page as Bill Payne and Jon as Richie Hayward. But by “Time Loves a Hero,” the two groups had converged as one, Little Pheat, and the delivery couldn’t have been better. The band performed perhaps the best ever version of the song, flanked by Antibalas multi-instrumentalist Stuart Bogie on sax. From that point almost every moment was a highlight, but a run of songs in the middle of the set especially stood out – the run of “Spanish Moon,” “Dixie Chicken” > “Tripe Face Boogie.” I imagine it will be one of the songs from this segment that will be revisited by the band in the future.
One of the highlights, for me, was a near-perfect rendition of one of my favorite Feat tunes “Day or Night.” Phish nailed the vocal harmonies, and did justice to the complex instrumental sections. Little Feat’s influence on Phish was readily apparent as they worked through the odd-measured sections that resembled so many of their own compositions. “Mercenary Territory,” was another highlight and showed Trey mimicking George’s slide solos using bends instead of a slide, which actually worked surprisingly well. Although, I would have liked to see Trey tune to ‘G’ and lay down some leads with George’s trademark ¾ steel socket slide.
But it was the fitting “Spanish Moon,” a song about hookers and hustlers, and a run of songs that followed that served as the main highlight of the night. Having played “Spanish Moon” with Dave and Friends in the past, Trey was familiar with the jam, and it came off as one that had been in the rotation for years. Again, “part of the fabric.” The jam seemed so natural, and showed the massive influence Hayward has been on Jon’s playing. As Jon mentions in his personal tribute to the legendary Little Feat drummer Richie Hayward included in the Phishbill, “there has probably been no greater direct influence on my drumming than Richie Hayward…”
Next, the band switched gears to the other side of Little Feat’s song catalog, the George-driven down-home “Dixie Chicken,” and Phish once again flourished. Few bands could go from an R&B boogie to southern barroom blues as Little Feat did, but Phish mastered the challenge without a single slip. Page shone on this one, paying a worthy tribute to his hero Bill Payne. After “Dixie Chicken” the band segued perfectly back into the jazz-fusion side of Little Feat, annihilating the band’s complex jam vehicle “Tripe Face Boogie.”
The night also served as a tribute to Little Feat drummer Richie Hayward, who passed away this past August, and Lowell George who died in 1979, shortly after Little Feat’s disbandment. Jon donned a pair of Henrietta-patterned overalls, as a tribute to George who often wore overalls onstage. George truly was a musical genius, shown by his songwriting ability, his singing, his slide playing and his signature compressed tone. His greatness is perhaps best described in a Little Feat song called “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor,” “He’s got two degrees in bebop, a PHD in swing, he’s the master of rhythm, he’s the rock ‘n’ roll king.”
While the band’s comments prior to Halloween may have led our minds astray, Little Feat should have been an obvious choice all along. While in 2003, when Trey made comments about wanting to do King Crimson or Brian Eno, the musical direction at the time was entirely different. I mean, he had just played and released an album with Oysterhead and was in the midst of what is perhaps Phish’s most psychedelic and exploratory period. Fast forward to now, and it seems Trey, along with the rest of the band, has moved forward in a new direction – one that focuses on songs, songwriting, and rediscovering old songs. So it seems fitting that they chose an album by a band that had all of that and more, and one that has influenced them since the very beginning.
“When we started Phish, we wanted an experience – dancing, fun, togetherness…while sticking in the crazy influences and time changes, and the funk and African things. But those guys were doing it all along. Little Feat were the gold standard.” –Trey, 2010 Phishbill
[All pictures courtesy of Glowstickwars.com user Redredworm]
Last week, Rolling Stone asked readers to vote for the album they would like Phish to cover on Halloween. These are the results:
1. Radiohead – OK Computer 2. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
3. David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
4. Radiohead – In Rainbows
5. Guns n’ Roses – Use Your Illusion I
6. Guns n’ Roses – Use Your Illusion II
7. Aerosmith – Toys in the Attic
8. The Allman Brothers Band – At Fillmore East
9. Boston – Boston
10. Frank Zappa – Joe’s Garage: Acts I,II & III
11. Tool – Aenima
12. Michael Jackson – Thriller
13. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced?
14. The Who – Who’s Next
15. Yes – Fragil
The consensus seems to be Radiohead’s “OK Computer”. Not my first pick, but nonetheless, Phish would do an excellent job covering it. As Rolling Stone points out, Fetival 8 with coincide with the 25th anniversary of the release of Prince’s “Purple Rain”, from which Phish has covered the title track in the past. Great prediction. But, the fact that Rolling Stone is predicting it should be reason enough for Phish not to do it. Regardless, speculation is heavily underway and I can honestly say I haven’t been this excited for Halloween since I was…five. Click HERE, to read the Rolling Stone article. Below is a video from Phish’s ’96 Halloween show (musical costume, Talking Heads “Remain in Light”) at the Omni in Atlanta, GA.
When Phish made the announcement earlier this month that there would be a 3 day festival, over Halloween weekend, there was no question amongst true fans as to whether or not they were going. As the flash pages on the band’s website slowly revealed the chosen state to be California, confirming all the rumors that had been brewing since day one, fans immediately began booking flights, hotels, RV’s and everything else required for a 3 day Phish festival. No one stopped to check their schedule (or at least no one I know), the decision had been made, we were going. In all honesty, had Phish put up a map of Africa, it wouldn’t have made a difference.Phish has not performed on Halloween since 1998, when they covered the Velvet Underground’s Loaded as their “musical costume”. Previous years saw Phish cover The Beatles’ White Album, The Who’s Quadrophenia and Talking Heads’ Remain In Light on Halloween. In each of these shows, Phish lent their own unique touch, creating a magical experience that became a coveted tradition for the Quartet and their fans.
Every musical costume has allowed Phish to step outside of their conventional roles, and have fun playing someone else’s music. The Halloween shows have traditionally showcased the entire bands musical abilities. Whether it be Jon learning to sing and drum for Remain in Light, or Trey tearing apart Lou Reed’s lines on Loaded every show has had some unique aspect. Often times, these costumes would leave the band changed, as was clear after Remain in Light. Walking away from the Omni on Halloween 1996, every member of the band, and their music, would be changed. The band entered into a more funk-based direction in their jams, which has had an affect on their music to this day. So, needless to say, every phish fan is wondering what this year’s Halloween will bring, and what, if any, influence it will have on the future direction of the band.
As rumors swirl, and speculation gets heavily underway, we are all wondering the same question…”What is the musical costume going to be this year?” Phish has already confirmed on their Festival 8 website that they will be doing a musical costume this year. So, here are a few ideas in no particular order:Possible Musical Costumes
- Michael Jackson’s Thriller – For very obvious reasons. He was the King of Pop, and covering this album would be a huge tribute. Trey has teased licks from “Black or White”* and “Beat It”**, as can be heard in the show from 10-21-95, Pershing Auditorium, Lincoln, NE (*teased in GTBT **teased in both Harry and Suzy). So needless to say, I think this one is on everyone’s radar as a possibility.
- Bob Dylan and The Band’s The Basement Tapes – Trey mentioned in a 2003 article with Relix magazine that this was a possible Halloween cover. The odd thing about this one is Phish doesn’t cover Dylan songs or The Band songs very often. In November of 1985, Trey performed “The Hurricane” which many people have heard, but that song is not on this album. And that was once…24 years ago. However, Trey said it and its one of my personal favorites, so I’m all for it.
- Brian Eno’s Another Green World – For those of you who don’t know, Brian Eno is the genius behind a great deal of Talking Heads music, and is widely known as one of the founders of ambient music. In the same 2003 Relix interview as mentioned above, Trey named this as another possible musical costume. While Phish doesn’t cover Eno’s music directly, they do cover a number of songs that he has co-written. For example, Eno co-wrote every song on Remain in Light. Trey is a huge Eno fan, and the Quartet would do a very nice job spicing up some of the ambient sections. In a 2006 interview with the Bonnaroo Beacon (the Bonnaroo magazine), Trey was quoted saying: “The first two things that pop into my mind…are My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and the four mid-’70s [Brian] Eno pop records: Taking Tiger Mountain, Here Come the Warm Jets, Before and After Science and Another Green World” when asked what albums he thought the whole world should hear. This gives good reason to believe that this is another highly possible album.
- My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless – This album, as is mentioned in the quote above, is one of Trey’s favorites. He has also been quoted as saying “‘Loveless’ is the best album recorded in the ’90s. History will tell, and 20 years from now that album will be considered a complete classic, while a lot of the albums that are real popular today will have been forgotten.” Apparently, Trey has pushed hard for this album in the past. Again, a major possibility.
These are just some ideas. If you have any others, please comment. Otherwise, enjoy these videos. There is also a link to the Torrent for the ’94 Halloween show from Glen Falls Civic Center posted below.
1994-10-31 Glen Falls Civic Centre, Glen Falls, NY
The first video, is a classic from the 1994, White Album, Halloween show. Here’s “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road”.
This video is of “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” from the ’98 Halloween cover of Loaded.
And this final video is from the 1996 Halloween show, musical costume: Remain in Light.
RIP Brent Mydland
On this day in 1990, the fourth Keyboardist for the Grateful Dead, passed away. Mydland contributed a unique sound to the band, often adding more organs and synthesizers to enrichen the sound (especially Space). Mydland died of a speed-ball overdose at his home on July 26, 1990 shortly after completing the summer tour. His music will forever live on.