It's hard to believe that Trey Anastasio’s side project is over three years old now. Where has the time gone? His solo mission started with the first show ever at the Higher Ground in Winooski, VT in mid-April, 1998 with the birth of the 8’ Fluorescent Tubes. This band featured Tom Lawson from the Pants on guitar and keyboards, Russ Lawton from the Gordon Stone Trio and Rhythemo Loco on drums, Tony Markellis from the Unknown Blues Band on bass and Heloise Williams from Viperhouse on vocals. One of the special guests that night, Dave "The Truth" Grippo, would reemerge in 2001 for Trey’s second and third solo tours. This night saw the birth of material that would eventually make its way into Trey Band rotation, Phish rotation and again back to Trey Band rotation, including "First Tube" and "Sand."
Trey hit the road again in the spring of ’99 with Russ and Tony and earlier this year, he broadened the band with a horn section. The band on this current tour is even larger and more impressive. In addition to Tony and Russ, Jennifer Hartswick on trumpet, tuba and vocals, and Andy Moroz on trombone have returned from the spring tour in addition to Dave Grippo on sax. Other notable additions include Russell Remington of Giant Country Horns fame on sax, and Ray Packowski from Viperhouse on organ, clavinet and Fender Rhodes. It’s a pleasure to hear Russ and Tony on "First Tube," "Windora Bug" and "Sand," material that was more geared toward the groove oriented sound of Trey Band than it ever was for Phish.
The material is a source of joy, for some, and for others, it’s a disappointment. Trey has chosen to play a lot of the same material night after night, and one need look no further than the setlists to get a feel of what this tour is all about. Some favorites among the new material includes "Actin Like the Devil," "Cayman Review," "Alive Again," "Flock of Words," "Simple Twist Up Dave," and "Money Love and Change." In addition, Trey has finally busted out some really great songs from his solo album from 1998, including "Mister Completely," "The Way I Feel," "Quantegy," "Happy Coffee Song," and "At the Barbeque."
The 4 shows at the Greek and Red Rocks were the only general admission shows, and four of the smallest of the entire 20 show tour, which made for a great vibe inside and out. The scene seemed a little older and a lot cleaner because the fact of the matter is that not very many people are touring. Its almost as if Trey is encouraging people not to tour... The distances between shows has been long and the setlists similar. However, after talking to fans that had also seen the southern California shows [Read Review], it seems that the band was getting tighter each night.
The Greek Theatre | Berkeley, CA | 07.13 & 07.14
It seems as though a lot of folks thought Friday night's show would be a tough ticket and horded up a lot of extras before tour started. As it ended up, there were lots of extras floating around, and the supply and demand became so lopsided that there were extras taped up to trees and posts right next to the entrance!
The last and only time that Trey graced the stage at The Greek was the last show of the ’93 summer tour, right before Phish went into the studio to record Hoist. The Friday afternoon weather was amazing as fans lingered outside the venue before the show. If you have never been to the Greek Theater before, it’s really a wonderful place to see music. Right up the street from Berkeley, it's shaped like an ancient roman amphitheater.
Saturday night was a lot foggier and colder, typical of a summer night in the Bay Area. I knew that there were repeats coming after hearing about the first few shows, so the fact that they repeated seven songs from the night before came as no surprise. However, the crowd was treated to a brand new song that the band had written backstage earlier that day called "Plasma," which has surfaced again at other shows.
Red Rocks | Morrison, CO | 07.17 & 07.18
Red Rocks is one of the most magical venues in the country. Nestled between two huge rocks, the amphitheater is like no other in the world! After talking to some friends after the show, I learned that back in the day it was a primordial beach where dinosaurs roamed! A lot of people were surprised and concerned about the return to Morrison, Colorado after the mess in 1996. However, this time around the scene was a lot cleaner. In fact, the Green Crew organized a group of people to go into town Wednesday afternoon to pick up trash in an effort to leave a better impression on the community than when Phish was there in '96. Business owners were actually coming out of their shops to express their gratitude! It really seemed to help that the venue allowed non-ticket holding patrons to grace the lot before the show instead of keeping them out and having them kick it the tiny hill town of Morrison.
For many the highlight of the first night was the cover of Neil Young’s "Come on Baby Lets Go Downtown," a rarity for a tour without almost all original material. Day two at Red Rocks started out with a couple of rainbows to add to an already gorgeous day! The sunshine eventually gave way to heavy clouds drifting across the mountains and into the plains. As the sun began to descend behind the horizon, the clouds continued to collect and finally led to a little bit of rain and eventually some lightning and thunder.
Trey’s show seems to get better every night as the band gets more and more used to each other. Although this group had a lot more time to practice than any other of Trey’s side projects in the past, he wanted to keep it fresh by never having the entire band in the same room before the tour started. Although the shows are definitely similar, it seems that Trey is trying somewhat to change up things here and there each night, at least to keep it interesting for the musicians. The "Mozambique" started the show with Trey, Jennifer, Andy, Dave and Russell busting out dance moves and marching band maneuvers at the front of the stage.
The second set included an amazing "Sand" and "Jibboo" in addition to an absolutely rocking "Mister Completely." Towards the end of the second set, Trey gave one of his sentimental speeches. You could tell that he was touched that things went smoothly. After the band left the stage, Trey walked over to one of his acoustic guitars sitting on stage left and announced to the crowd that he was going to debut a new Oysterhead song that will be on the new album due out this fall. "Raydon Balloon" is actually a re-worked version of "Happiness in My Pants," a song played as part of Trey’s spring tour in 2001. After picking up another guitar only to find that he really wanted to play the third, he treated the audience to an acoustic version of the Phish classic, "Bathtub Gin." When he started singing part of the instrumental part, the crowd began to sing along. Trey then stopped singing and eventually stopped playing guitar and all that was left was about 10,000 fans singing together in unison. The encore treated the crowd to the 6th "Moesha" in 6 nights, but at least had some alternate lyrics this time around: "Moesha me Rocks, Moesha me Red, Moesha me live (?), Moesha me dead (?), Moesha me straight, Moesha me gay, Moesha me JERRY, Moesha me TREY"
Trey’s band has since traversed its way through the mid-west, blowing up Riverport, Deer Creek and Alpine with none other than John Medeski. The tour will continue through the southeast before heading back up to Phish’s old stomping ground in the northeast. In October, look out for The Grand Pecking Order, the creation of the three Monsters of Rock known as Oysterhead. Les Claypool, Stewart Copeland and Trey Anastasio are already each superstars in their own right, its hard to imagine what will happen after their resurgence on the scene. The album will feature some songs from their Jazz Fest show in 2000 such as "Mr. Oysterhead" and "He Used to be the Owner of the World," in addition to a host of new material. Its been almost a year and a half since they performed together live, save the single set played at Trey and Les’ birthday party in late September in Las Vegas.
Going into a Trey Band show expecting to see Phish is setting yourself up for a disappointment. However, if you can get past that, this band is a lot of fun, and they are having a blast playing together. Trey is lucky to have the opportunity to branch out in new directions and the fans are lucky to experience something completely different from tours past. Take advantage of this great opportunity to capture a snapshot in time!
JamBase - Mill Valley
Go See Live Music!