When Phish announced their fall tour at the end of August, the three night run falling on the weekend of Halloween quickly drew everyone in the community’s attention. But Phish was careful to add that the fall tour would include a “very special Halloween show,” without providing any further details. Since then, rumors have circulated surrounding a possible musical costume, or even a full-on Gamehenge performance.
That all changed on Wednesday when Trey spilled the beans to an LA times writer, confirming Phish’s plan follow their tradition of covering an entire album on Halloween. But what he said was particularly interesting, and has stirred the community in a new direction. As you read this, fans are probably trying to dissect Trey’s words to decipher any possible hidden messages.
“This year…this one’s for me. The one we picked, I’m going to get more out of this as a musician than I ever have before. Three songs into it, I called everybody and told them, ‘None of the other ones – I wouldn’t think, hopefully – will have nearly the effect on my playing this one’s going to.’ ”
This comment certainly narrows the list, but there are still many questions. I’ve put together my own list of albums, in no particular order, that I think would fit the criteria based on Trey’s comment and various other factors. Let us know your thoughts on this year’s musical costume in the comments section.
1. Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Many consider The Lamb to be the pinnacle of Genesis’ studio albums, and also one of the cornerstones of progressive rock. It’s a concept album, with lyrics mostly written by Peter Gabriel, telling the story of Rael – a Puerto Rican man living in New York – who is trying to rescue his brother from some from very bizarre circumstances. Phish has never covered their music in one of their own performances, but they did perform two of their songs at the Rock Hall of Fame induction ceremony earlier this year.
Trey has publicly professed his love for Genesis, and it would certainly fit the criteria of an album that would change him as a musician. For that matter, I actually think any of Genesis’ Gabriel-era albums would work, and are all possible. Trey has stated that his favorite is Selling England by the Pound, however, the (Gabriel-era) song they performed this year was off the 1972 album Foxtrot. The Lamb also was featured as one of the names of the campgrounds last year at Festival 8.
It should be noted, but not looked at too deeply, that Phish’s Halloween tickets have the same image as a 2007 Genesis poster from Philadelphia, featuring a picture of the Dog Faced Boy.
“Every musical rule and boundary was questioned and broken [by Genesis]. It’s impossible to overstate what impact this band and musical philosophy had on me as a young musician. I’m forever in their debt.” -Trey Anastasio, 2010 Rock HoF induction ceremony
2. Frank Zappa – Hot Rats
Hot Rats was Frank’s first solo album after departing The Mothers. It contains “Peaches en Regalia,” which has been in the Phish rotation since the beginning. Does it fit the criteria? Well, there’s no question that it would change Trey musically. But when he says, “this one’s for me,” I don’t think you could include Zappa. It is widely known that Jon is perhaps even a bigger Zappa fan than Trey (having released an album of hand picked Zappa favorites) so that doesn’t seem to work. But nonetheless, it’s a possibility, and one that was supported by longtime Phish fan, and writer of the Phish Companion, Charlie Dirksen.
Zappa was a huge influence on how I wrote music for Phish. Songs like “You Enjoy Myself” and “Split Open and Melt” were completely charted out — drums, bass lines, everything — because he had shown me it was possible…Zappa gave me the faith that anything in music was possible. He demystified the whole thing for musicians in my generation: “Look, these are just instruments. Find out what the range is, and start writing.” – Trey Anastasio, Rolling Stone 2005
3. Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti
With “The Rover” being played this summer, and Trey’s well-known affinity for the band, this one has to be considered in the running. While I don’t see it changing him as a musician as much as some of the other albums, it certainly would be “for Trey”. But once again, Jon is also a major Zep fan. I also don’t see it taking three songs for him to realize the effect it would have on him, he’s probably learned to play the entire album before. I think Zep fans will have to wait this year.
4. Yes – The Yes Album
This album certainly fits the criteria in most ways, and would be a top pick for many fans. Last year at Festival 8 the band could clearly be heard jamming on “The Wurm” section of “Starship Trooper” during the sound check, leading some to believe that this was one of the albums they had scrapped in the decision process. The one obvious issue (aside from the incredibly challenging music) would be Jon Andersons’ vocals – who would possibly be able to sing them? Needless to say, seeing Phish cover this album – and Trey cover “The Clap” – would be one of the ultimate musical experiences, especially for us Yes fans.
“Starship Trooper Jam” (10.29.09)
5. King Crimson – Larks Tounges in Aspic
This album is highly probable, and would certainly fit the criteria in every way. Trey mentioned to Relix in 2003 that he had wanted to learn both Larks Tounges and Brian Eno’s Another Green World for Halloween that year. This obviously never happened, so there is good reason to believe the idea is still on his mind, or at least half of it. While the band has never covered a King Crimson song before, they have jammed around certain themes from this very album in the past – most notably the “Split Open and Melt” from 8.10.97. Along with The Lamb, Larks Tounges was also a campground name last year at festival 8. (Watch Bruford’s drumming in the video).
6. Brian Eno – Another Green World
As mentioned above, Trey referenced this album as a possible Halloween cover album in 2003, and has stated his affection for Eno’s music on various other occasions. It would fit the criteria of being a “Trey album”, and would surely change him as a musician. Brian Eno is largely considered the founder of ambient music, and I think this would suit the band perfectly at this stage, as they have been delving into ambiance quite regularly in 3.0. For those of you who don’t know, Brian Eno is the genius behind a great deal of Talking Heads music – he co-wrote every song on Remain in Light. I recently talked to Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz about the influence Eno had on their playing during that time period.
7. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
Consider this the underdog pick. It would fit the criteria in every way, and should be considered a top choice. Trey has pushed hard for this album in the past, and has said how much he enjoys playing albums that people aren’t as familiar with. Kevin Sheilds’ unique guitar style on this album was revolutionary, and has inspired countless imitators in years since (he strummed the strings with the tremolo bar) so that would surely change Trey as a musician. Pitchfork writer, and longtime Phish fan Rob Mitchum made Loveless his call for the musical costume this year in a twitter message written to me yesterday.
“‘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.” – Trey Anastasio
Today marks the 16th anniversary of Phish’s third visit to Toronto’s Masonic Temple, also known as The Concert Hall. But among Toronto natives, and rock aficionados, this building holds legendary status, and is known by its proper name – The Rock Pile. Constructed in 1917, and perched upon the corner of Yonge St. and Davenport, the building acted as an official Masonic Temple before being converted into the Concert Hall. In 1968, the building was converted into a nightclub, The Rock Pile, and quickly began displaying some of the best acts on the music scene.
The venue was intimately small, with a capacity of 1,200 people, and was painted completely white inside, with a white cloth draped from the ceiling for lighting effects. In its first year of operation, the Rock Pile hosted classic acts such as Country Joe and the Fish, Procol Harum, Jeff Beck and Buddy Guy. In 1969, however, the venue would make its mark on the rock world bringing in legendary acts such as The Mothers of Invention, Spirit, the Grateful Dead, The Who, and Led Zeppelin.
The Zeppelin shows, one in February and two in August, were perhaps the defining moments for the venue. On February 2nd, Led Zeppelin appeared at the Rock Pile as a little-known blues act for their first Canadian performance. At the time, their only notable feature was their guitar player, Jimmy Page, who had made an impression in his brief stint with The Yardbirds. The posters for the event actually read, “Led Zeppelin featuring Jimmy Page”. Nonetheless, Toronto music fans appeared in large numbers, with many left ticketless outside due to the venue’s small size. The club’s promoters were clever enough to book the band for two more shows in August, when they would return to North America for their summer ’69 tour. By the time the band returned for the two shows in August, they were peaking on music charts, soaring through radio waves worldwide. Check out this early version of “How Many More Times” from the Rock Pile on 2.2.69.
“How Many More Times” (1969.2.2)
This venue holds a certain personal significance, as my father promoted and ran the soundboard for many of these famous shows. In my possession, is the soundboard recording of the February 2nd, 1969 Led Zeppelin show, never before transferred or circulated. My father ran the soundboard that night, and plugged a reel-to-reel recorder directly into the mixing board. I plan to have it “baked” and transferred at some point, and hopefully be able to share it with all of you sometime in the future. And so, to have my favorite band grace the stage of a venue that I had heard stories of throughout my childhood is, to say the least, special.
Phish’s history at The Rock Pile began on April 27th, 1993. Trey, being a Zeppelin die-hard, had no doubt heard the legend of The Rock Pile. Having worked in a record store selling Zeppelin bootlegs, its even more likely that he had come across the recordings of the Toronto shows, which are well-known in Zeppelin trading circles. The band returned to the venue again on August 9, 1993 where they were met by the Dude of Life for the first time in 234 shows. Both of these performances display incredible versions of “YEM” where Phish was, no doubt, feeling the presence of the great musicians who had graced the stage at The Rock Pile before them.
The show 16 years ago today, the band’s third and final visit to the venue, was by far the finest of the three. Only the third stop on the much-loved Spring ’94 tour, the band had debuted “DWD”, “Wolfman’s”, “Julius”, “SOAMule”, and “If I could” only two shows prior. Early versions of some of these songs can be heard in the show from Toronto. Building on the mounting energy of 1993, this period shows the band pushing personal boundaries, allowing the greatness of 1994 to take form.
The band pounds out the opening “Axilla” immediately charging the small room with a noticeable energy. After “Guelah” and “Poor Heart” the band splashes into a heavy-hitting version of “Stash”. The jam blazes along, with Trey firing out licks Page-style (no, not McConnel), before arriving at a point where the music truly begins to shine. The jam takes a sharp turn, leading into a quiet, sparse, chaotic section. Out of this chaos emerges several measures of beautifully melodic music, before returning to the song’s theme. “Fee” > “Antelope” anchors the first set and contains a nice little cadence leading into the transition. “Antelope” features a rockin’ solo from Trey where he is really in a great space. Not overplaying, not “shredding”, but simply dancing across the fretboard crafting melodies at a whim.
The second set immediately reels the crowd in with the “The Curtain” followed by only the second full-version of “DWD” (the jam having been played on NYE ’93). “DWD”, although early, shows its potential as a jam vehicle with another beautifully melodic solo from Trey. This show is special for exactly that reason, Trey’s guitar playing is incredibly melodic the entire way through. The fabulous AUD, and the size of the venue capture this in a special way. The early “Wolfman’s” continues to carry this vibe and shows some great interplay between Mike and Trey. An overlooked, and phenomenal version of the song.
The band has fun with “Sparkle” before launching into the highlight of the show in the magical combination of “Mike’s” > “Lifeboy”. The jam angles straight for one of the classic ’94 Phish techniques, moving as a unit and leading into a strangely-outside section of psychedelia. Finally winding its way back into the ending section of the song, the jam explodes into a ferocious solo from Trey. As the music fades out, “Lifeboy” emerges bringing a level of spiritual beauty to a show already shooting for the stars. “Coil” builds on this energy, featuring one of Page’s finest solos on the song. The set ends with “Cavern”, leaving The Rock Pile glowing with an energy not seen in many years. The encore wraps up the show with a combination of bluegrass and barbershop numbers performed without amplification, closing off a very memorable night of Phish in the legendary venue.
“Mike’s Song” > “Lifeboy” (1994.4.6)
Set 1: Llama, Guelah Papyrus, Poor Heart, Stash, The Lizards, Sample in a Jar, Scent of a Mule, Fee -> Run Like an Antelope
Set 2: The Curtain > Down with Disease, Wolfman’s Brother, Sparkle, Mike’s Song -> Lifeboy -> Weekapaug Groove, The Squirming Coil, Cavern
Set 3: Ginseng Sullivan, Nellie Kane, Sweet Adeline
 Without amplification.
Notes: The encore was performed without amplification. This show was originally scheduled for The Palladium and was relocated at the last minute due to damage to that venue from the previous evening’s New Kids on the Block concert.
“You Shook Me” Pt.1 (1969.8.18)
“You Shook Me” Pt.2