Trey Anastasio Plays 1st In-Person Show Of 2021 At SPAC
The Rescue Squad Strings and pianist Jeff Tanski joined the guitarist in Saratoga Springs.
Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio began a three-night stand at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) in Saratoga Springs, New York on Friday by playing his first in-person concert since Phish’s destination event in Mexico in February 2020. The single-set performance featured a setlist constructed of both Phish and solo classics and the accompaniment of the Rescue Squad Strings and pianist Jeff Tanski.
Anastasio played acoustic guitar throughout the evening. Welcomed to the stage by a roaring crowd, Trey responded by offering thanks to the audience before stating “ah, fuck it” and launching into “Wilson.” The opener was followed by “Alive Again,” marking its first solo acoustic performance since May 22, 2002.
Tanski and the Rescue Squad Strings (Katie Kresek and Maxim Moston on violin, Rachel Golub on viola, and Anja Wood on cello) then came out for “Stash,” marking Trey’s first acoustic offering of the Phish favorite. After “Stash,” Anastasio jokingly asked the audience, “What have you guys been up to recently, anything interesting happen since Mexico?” and mentioned his fondness for season two of the television series Succession and Marc Rebillet’s “Vaccinated Attitude” song.
The guests stuck around for “Water in the Sky” but left before the Lonely Trip track “Lost In The Pack.” After mentioning that the song was written while quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic, Anastasio asked “is this really happening right now?” and explained he was a “plague veteran” having survived the black plague that passed through Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Colorado a few years ago. Trey thanked a group of organic farmers that dropped off food to his Manhattan apartment during lockdown and he told a story of hand-delivering a loaf of bread to his daughter who was on the other side of the city.
Anastasio remained solo as the set progressed with “Back on the Train,” “Sample in a Jar,” “Sigma Oasis,” and “Theme From the Bottom.” Before “Theme,” Trey sang a bit of the “Heather McDougal Song” and made a callback to Ruby Chocolate, which he mentioned on a recent episode of his Rubber Jungle Live series on SiriusXM.
Trey then riffed on the name “Ruby Chocolate,” making up a story of hanging out with a woman with that name in Las Vegas during the “bad old days” before driving through Saratoga where they “threw [him] in jail.” He jokingly added he was scared of coming to town and noted he served twice as much time as Johnny Cash.
Tanski, who appeared on the aforementioned Rubber Jungle Live episode, came back for “Shade.” The strings were then called back for “Fluffhead,” “Mercury” and “The Inlaw Josie Wales,” exiting with Tanski after the Farmhouse instrumental. The set continued with solo renditions of “Turtle in the Clouds,” “Maze” and “Snowflakes in the Sand.”
Trey mentioned spotting a large bug on stage, which he said might have been a cicada and then pondered the correct pronunciation of the name of the insect. He started “Everything’s Right” but cut it off and stood up as if he was running away from the bug, only to sit back down and complete the song. Tanski reemerged to accompany Trey on the guitarist’s first acoustic performance of “Split Open And Melt.” Anastasio recently shared the original sheet music he wrote for the Phish classic, which Tanski played from on the first episode of Osiris Media’s new limited series podcast Alive Again.
The Rescue Squad Strings then joined the pair to close out the set with “Joy” and “Harry Hood.” Trey was solo for the start of the encore that began with “More.” The show and finale ended with Trey’s first acoustic performance of “First Tube.” Tanski and the strings were on stage for “First Tube,” which was introduced by Trey “with deepest love” likely in reference to Trey Anastasio Band bassist Tony Markellis, who died in April at age 69 and co-wrote “First Tube,” along with several other songs with Anastasio. Tanski delivered Markellis’ signature bassline as the song and concert came to an emotionally charged conclusion.
Trey returns tonight to SPAC for the second of three shows. Watch audience-shot video footage from Friday’s concert below:
Setlist (via Phish.net)
Set: Wilson, Alive Again, Stash, Water in the Sky, Lost in the Pack, Back on the Train, Sample in a Jar, Sigma Oasis, Theme From the Bottom, Shade , Fluffhead, Mercury, The Inlaw Josie Wales, Turtle in the Clouds, Maze, Snowflakes in the Sand, Everything’s Right, Split Open and Melt, Joy, Harry Hood
Encore: More, First Tube
-  Trey on acoustic guitar.
-  Trey on acoustic guitar; with the Rescue Squad Strings and Jeff Tanski on piano. First acoustic performance.
-  Trey on acoustic guitar; with the Rescue Squad Strings and Jeff Tanski on piano.
-  Trey on acoustic guitar; with Jeff Tanski on piano.
-  Trey on acoustic guitar. Started and stopped before being played in full.
-  Trey on acoustic guitar; with Jeff Tanski on piano. First acoustic performance.
This show featured Trey on acoustic guitar and the debut acoustic performances of Stash, Split Open and Melt, and First Tube. Stash, Water in the Sky, Fluffhead, Mercury, The Inlaw Josie Wales, Joy, Harry Hood, and First Tube featured the Rescue Squad Strings (Katie Kresek and Maxim Moston on violin, Rachel Golub on viola, and Anja Wood on cello) and Jeff Tanski on piano. Jeff also appeared on Shade and Split Open and Melt. Alive Again was performed acoustic for the first time since May 22, 2002. Everything’s Right was started and stopped with Trey getting up and acting like he was going to walk off stage before sitting down and playing the song in full. Prior to Harry Hood, Trey sang a bit of Rescue Squad after introducing the Strings.