Just a mere two days after treating Tuttle Middle Schoolers to a set of jazz standards with the Vermont Jazz Allstars, Trey Anastasio joined longtime friend and collaborator Tom Marshall's band Amfibian on stage at Higher Ground in Winooski, Vermont on Saturday, November 18.
About twenty minutes past midnight, midway through the Amfibian second set, Trey ambled onstage and picked up a white on white Fender Stratocaster while Marshall announced that a "special guest", an "old friend who is from Jersey, who now lives in Vermont", would be assisting them to play a familiar song in a different style. That song ended up being the Marshall/Anastasio gem The Wedge, delivered in a more rockish, southern harmony fashion. The song retained the same lyrics, with Trey standing in the back and abstaining from singing of any kind. The song took a little while to catch the smooth energy desired; but that happened once Trey launched into his first of several fiery, bluesy solos.
You could see Trey was not totally comfortable up there; firstly, there are three guitarists already in the group as well a bass player, two drummers and Marshall, and the Higher Ground stage was pretty crowded. However, once he started heating up, Amfibian rose to the occasion behind him. The packed house, whose socializing, conversational buzz could be heard above the mellow art-rock grooves of Amfibian for most of the evening, turned their undivided attention, fist pumping and hollering towards the band; particularly after Trey positively tore the house down with these raging rock power licks. The Strat gave him this sort of thickly, sickly Hendrix/Stevie Ray tone that just juiced every body in the joint, his timid approach silenced behind the havoc he wreaked on the Fender.
The energy level in the Higher Ground exploded from the moment he graced the
stage. That certainly was not lost on the band, who suddenly found
themselves “rock stars”, and subsequently “got their ya-ya’s out” in the form of seductive gesturing, devil horns hand signals, and Glam rock–esque fanfare. They then delved into a Cheap Trick-ish call and response with the crowd, using the refrain from Wedge “take the highway, to the Great Divide” to really rouse up the faithful.
At this point people began to discuss how off the top this really was, and the band maneuvered their way into If I Can’t Turn To You, a Chris Harford original. This song was pretty damn heavy and four to the floor, and again the energy and attention of the people in attendance (it was sold out) rose sky high. Trey positively assaulted the barn storming rocker, and through this sonic hailstorm I better understand Tom and Trey’s indie rock affair. After bringing it to a climactic, rock and roll ending, Trey humbly walked off, hugging band members and Tom on his way off the cluttered stage. I then took off to find Fishman and inform him of the unfortunate passing of Joe. C. (RIP)
Amfibian also played the Phish songs Dirt and Brian and Robert, pretty much faithful to the Anastasio arrangements. All in all, it was a cool room to be in, as far as excitement and energy goes. The guest slot was similar to the birthday Oysterhead House of Blues thing, but it was at Higher Ground, devoid of both the grandeur and the audio sodomy. The most incredible thing about it for me, on a personal note, was hearing and watching Trey annihilate using the Strat. His tone was ridiculous, nasty, borderline out of this world! Quite a week for Mr. Trey, who looked real good for the record, dressed in Garcia fashion, black on black.
Brian Getz is also from Jersey, but lives in Vermont.