Wednesday 03/06/2019 by howard_roark


[Welcome To Weekly Catch With Osiris! A weekly series brought to you from the team at Osiris. Each Wednesday we're going to bring you a historic Phish show from that week with some commentary. Our goal is to go beyond official releases and well-known shows to bring you some of the overlooked gems throughout Phish history. If you like what you find, we'd encourage you to check out the assortment of podcasts at the Osiris! This week's catch comes from Brian Brinkman of Beyond The Pond.]

Listen: Hunt's, Burlington, VT, 03/04/1985

Most bands never make it. Most peak in a college bar & flutter out shortly thereafter. Most play covers, a few half-hearted originals, loosely connect musically, share a few inside jokes with their audience, and then fade into nothingness as though they never existed. Most bands mean nothing. Most are just an overly-ambitious idea that will never be fully developed. Most are just a hobby.

Phish in 1985 was a band still very much in this space historically. They could go either way. They could continue to develop and grow as an artistic unit, or fade with unremarkable ease into oblivion. This show, from March 4, 1985 at Hunt's in Burlington sees Phish, just a little over a year into their career, playing a meaningless college-bar-band-show with hints of brilliance mixed in.

We only have one set, five songs. But within, we hear much of what will soon make Phish so endearing when fully-formed. Their humor seeps out in the opening "Anarchy," - in its debut performance - in the "Camel Walk," wherein which Fishman nearly begs the crowd to come up with some kind of a dance associated with the song, and in the absurd "Fire Up The Ganja," a song which should be, but I can almost assure you isn't, the worst Dead-inspired quasi-cover ever played. "Fire Up The Ganja," is a 15min hackey-sack-on-the-quad, Marley-Redemption-Song-Poster-In-The-Dorm, Steal-Your-Face-Sticker-On-A-Jeep Dead-y inspired jam that, by law, must be played at least once a week in every college town bar in America. Featuring Bobby Hackney & Jah Roy on vocals, it ranks alongside of February 24, 2003's BB King sit-in for the most unneccssary collaboration of the band's career. And yet, the charm is undeniable. The joy you hear eminating from this high-quality 80s tape is true, and it serves as a prelude to the inside-joke nature of their shows for the next decade.

The true peak of the set comes in the 12-minute take on "Skippy The Wondermouse," an early incarnation of "McGrupp & The Watchful Horsemasters," with a jam that showcased just what the band could craft through improvisation. Some two months before Page would join the band, Trey, Fish and Mike lock in for a segment of music which reaches an ethereal bliss jam that, while it's a far step from the music they would be making a decade later, foreshadows the the band at their very best.

The last song we hear is a cover of "In The Midnight Hour," in its second-to-last performance ever. A song that debuted on the night of their very first show, this is in the spirit of so many future Phish shows that conclude with a cover which proves their place in the Classic Rock lexicon. It's an astute moment in a show not necessarily filled with them. We hear the band looking ahead to the 90s where they'd regularly honor the past while pushing their music beyond the traditional boundaries of the genre.

And that's how this show is best revisited, by looking at Phish as a band on the cusp of irrelevance, or the hope of a creative project with no bottom. The moments of cliche' showcase the earnestness with which Phish would approach their entire career. When they lock-in, however, we hear the music that will soon drain our disposable income and push so many of us across the country in the search of that jam, that bustout, and that show that transcends the standard concert experience.

Thanks for reading and hopefully you're enjoying this series. Another Weekly Catch with Osiris will be up next week!

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