Trey Anastasio Band closes out Winter Tour at The Palace in Albany, January 26th

photos by Andy Hill

Trey Anastasio loves Albany. For evidence, take a look at his opening words to the sold out house at The Palace Theater in Albany on a frigid January 26th. “Thank you guys, this is the … I just want to say how much it means to me whenever I come here … I have so many friends here tonight from this part of the country … Thank you so much. This is also the last show our tour, so lets celebrate … Thank you for sharing it with us.”

photo by Andy Hill

And with that, Trey led his band into the song that the original trio of Trey, drummer Russ Lawton and Saratoga Springs resident Tony Markellis wrote back in 1998, “First Tube”. A Grammy nominated rock instrumental that usually closes down these TAB shows, “First Tube” got the crowd moving early on. “Cayman Review” followed, now a classic first set staple for many years now that features Ray Paczkowski on clavinet to drive the funk into the song. With the crowd settling in, they were treated to “Alaska”, one of the handful of crossover songs that Phish and Trey Band both play. Rather than drop this tune in the middle of set two, per usual on Phish tour, Trey brought it out early and let the song shine in its proper venue – with TAB and with horns. The placement wasn’t just great – the version of the song was impressive as well, with some extra licks from Trey while Jennifer Hartswick, Natalie Cressman and James Casey (Lettuce) continued to pepper the tune with just the right dose of horn. “Tube Top Flop” (ne, Wobble), surprisingly showed up net, as this is one of the earliest songs from TAB, debuting in 2001 on his first big band tour. Although it fell out of rotation, its appearance tonight elicited great cheers from the older TAB fans who followed the bob and rhythm of the horn-driven piece.

Pigtail”, possibly the most poppy Trey song to date, and written by longtime writing partner and friend Tom Marshall, has become a staple of Trey shows in the past two years, its flirty lyrics and confusion-inducing refrain, “I’m conscious again, unconscious again, I’m conscious again, unconscious again”, is the kind of tune that sticks in your head, pleasantly, and accented by Trey’s guitar bursts at the end of each refrain. What was once a 20-minute song in 2001, “Last Tube” is now half that but compressed into an equally stellar song. This high energy, spastic tune with a dash of Caribbean Island music gets the band firing on all cylinders at once, blowing up the song before crashing it down with a big band finish that peters out. “Last Tube”, welcome back to TAB! The Bob Marley classic “Small Axe” followed, as did two new songs, “Dark and Down” and “Scabbard”, off the new album Traveler. “Dark and Down” was more somber than anything else up until this point of the show, while “Scabbard”, a Zappa-esque single, captures the best of Trey’s songwriting skills and multi-instrumentalism of this band. “Greyhound Rising” provided the other piece of somber bread for this relatively new music sandwich. “Shine”, Trey’s breakout single from 2005 has proven to grow as a crowd favorite and continues to take shape in the regular rotation. Set closer “Money, Love and Change” was another oldie and goodie that can still find the nasty notes to cap off a set.

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During setbreak, it was easy to observe that the crowd for a Trey Anastasio Band show is different that a Phish crowd. At SPAC in the summer, the crowd is typically 80/20 guys/gals, but at TAB it is closer 60/40, plus some older fans who come out in larger numbers to the Palace. The band attracts more couples to shows, either as a segue to seeing Phish, or replacement value for Phish shows not seen/enjoyed as a couple. The ornate building’s interior continually looks sparkling and new (The Palace is nearly twice as big as the past week’s show at the Landmark Theater in Syracuse) and the broad interior walls gave the light show room to make an incredible visual spectacle throughout the show as the lights danced all over.

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Set two began with the Afrobeaty “Curlews Call”, building the band’s sound up, particularly with the percussion supplied by returning TAB member Cyro Baptista, whose inventive percussion instruments (gong and flippers, anyone?) make him not just a band member to watch, but one to listen for on show recordings. “Gotta Jibboo” is never a disappointment and having horns once again adds an extra layer to the upbeat tune. A standard “Alive Again” came next, then a trio of songs from Traveler: “Land of Nod” is incredibly horn driven, especially Natalie Cressman’s trombone, while “Valentine” was played much like the album version, although that’s hardly a bad thing. The reworking of “Valentine” for Traveler includes more vocals from Cressman and Hartswick, and although when performed live, the song could have been stretched out a bit by Big Red, the true highlight in this song is the visual interpretation that one can gather from the lyrics:

“Jagged beams of light, explode and dance in the darkness around me. And I can reach out and touch the beams and the light turns sold and wraps around my wrist. One makes a loop, a thousand more follow, a thousand more follow till my arms are surrounded by a conical web of light. My arms in the eyes of a web of light, a tornado of light beams and I feel the pull and start to rise, and every beam is there to guide.” 

In a recent interview with NPR, Trey mentioned how this song reflected his time getting sober period while living in Saratoga Springs, a Valentine letter to God. Listen around the 7:40 mark of the interview to hear Trey talk about the genesis of the song.

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Speaking of great lyrics, “Architect”, while a bit mellower, still carried the themes from “Valentine” that are marks of Trey’s life from 2006-2008. Fan favorite, “Sand”, recently destroyed by Phish the past few years at 18 minute clips, is a staple from the original trio. But with horns, again, it’s just sublime. Although Phish fans are getting spoiled with these extended versions on Phish tour, the reserved Sand on TAB tour not only suffices, it gives a new spin to a classic. The strong anthem of “Tuesday” stepped in, where the vocals of Hartswick and Cressman continued to dominate, but not overpower the song. Then there’s “Clint Eastwood”, the Gorillaz original that debuted as a cover last year at The Palace. Jennifer Hartswick’s powerful vocals are not to be missed – you’ll still be amazed that she did the lyrics for the album version in just one take.

With the show winding down, “Traveler” appeared, and while it started out slow, grew into one of the more impressive tunes of the night, generating swaying motions from the crowd amid the lyrics “Maybe if you stand still, you are traveling too, making it easy for someone to choose you”. Trey took a moment to introduce the band as the song’s chorus was repeated, then delved into “Push on Til the Day”, one of the most popular and well known TAB tunes, where it is always fun to watch Trey spin around with his guitar leading up to the triumphant big band ending. An encore of The Five Steps’ “O-o-h Child” was very apropos for the evening for this reviewer and capped off a whirlwind tour for Trey Anastasio Band.

Even though he didn’t play some tunes that have been staples of his shows – “Drifting”, “Sultans of Swing”, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, “At the Gazebo”, “The Way I Feel”, or “Burlap Sack and Pumps”, – it became clearer during this short tour that Trey’s catalog for TAB has grown so much that you can start to expect the unexpected and never get the same show twice. Trey has grown as a band leader with TAB and expanded his catalog with both bands. It is impressive enough to see him with Phish, but with TAB, it’s a completely different experience, and one that is continually changing and improving.

Out into the cold night we went…

Setlist

Set 1: First Tube, Cayman Review, Alaska, Tube Top Flop, Pigtail, Last Tube, Small Axe, Dark And Down, Scabbard, Greyhound Rising, Shine, Money Love And Change
Set 2: Curlew’s Call, Gotta Jibboo, Alive Again, Land Of Nod, Valentine, Architect, Sand, Tuesday, Clint Eastwood, Traveler, Push On Til The Day
Encore: O-o-h Child

Download bvaz’s recording of the show

Download andyjah’s recording of the show

Watch a playlist of songs from the show

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Trey Anastasio Band, The Landmark Theatre in Syracuse, January 19th

The Landmark Theatre, the iconic newly renovated venue in downtown Syracuse, brought an icon of it’s own to town on January 19th. Phish frontman Trey Anastasio, the jam scene’s biggest star, brought his band to Syracuse on the second night of his Northeast Winter Tour to a packed house.

I was lucky enough to attend the show with my 9 year old son Brayden. He loves Phish, and is probably pound for pound their biggest fan. Like many of us, Trey is his favorite, and the chance to see our favorite performer together was priceless!

We arrived after doors about 15 minutes before showtime. The lobby was already jam packed as patrons lined up to get their favorite beverages. We quickly hit the stairs and made our way to the first tier in the balcony. It didn’t take long to meet some old friends from Phish tour gone by, and we settled in to our seats as the lights began to lower.

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photo by Cory Rase

The crowd swelled and Trey came out – front and center – and opened with “Valentine” off his new album Traveler, followed by our first treat from the Phish catalog, the rarely played instrumental “Magilla”. Things started to get rolling after that, as the combination of “Caymen Review” and “Gotta Jibboo” had the crowd dancing and cheering. After Jibboo, Trey brought it back down for the next 3 songs, all off Traveler – “Scabbard”, “Frost”, and “The Land of Nod”. “Money Love and Change” was next, and with Jen Hartswick vocals soaring over the others during the chorus, the pace briefly picked back up. This led to “Drifting”, one of my (and Brayden’s) personal favorites. To this point, the first set was good, but probably nothing to write home about. “First Tube” changed all that, Trey was on fire and the band was all in on this one!! Quite possibly the best version I have ever seen live, the light show on stage and projecting on the historic walls of the theatre was epic!! The crowd roared for more as the song ended, but Trey would make us wait a little longer as the set break began.

After showing Brayden the theatre and talking to a few old friends, we decided it was time to hit the floor and see how close we could get. We picked the right side, and walked all the way to the front row, right were the orchestra seats started. We waited patiently, and played some Phish trivia while we waited for the 2nd set. After mellow versions of “Pigtail” and “Mozambique”, the action picked back up with “Sand”. Always one of my favorite Trey band originals, (Sand has been a force on Phish tour in much of the 3.0 era), this version was solid. Up next was the opening track for Traveler called “Corona” which is rumored to be influenced by the Beach Boys Brian Wilson. At this point, as the band paused for a minute, the “Let’s Go Orange” chant started from the balcony (SU had beat #1 Louisville earlier in the afternoon). Soon the whole theatre was cheering “Let’s Go Orange”, and Trey immediately grabbed a drumstick and joined in on the fun!! A great version of Alaska was next (another of my favorites), followed by The Charlie Daniels Band’s infamous “Devil Went Down To Georgia”. “Night Speaks to a Women” was next, and once again Jen Hartswick’s soaring vocals dominated. Album tracks “Let Me Lie” and “Traveler” were sandwiched around “Windora Bug” which brough great banter between Trey, bassist Tony Markellis, Hartswick and the others. “Push on ’til the Day” ended the set in fine fashion, and the horn players finally had a chance to stretch it out a bit.

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photo by Cory Rase

After a brief retreat, the band was back, and Trey opted Gorillaz’ “Clint Eastwood”, once again featuring the vocal prowess of Ms. Hartswick! And with that, it was over. The first (but certainly not last) Trey show for my son was in the books. He was beaming as we left the theatre, high fiving fans on his way out. The future looks bright my friends!!

brayden-trey
photo by herby one

 

Trey Anastasio Band : January 19, 2013 – Landmark Theatre, Syracuse, NY
Set 1: Valentine, Magilla, Caymen Review, Gotta Jibboo, Scabbard, Frost, The Land of Nod, Money, Love and Change, Drifting, Greyhound Rising, Goodbye Head, First Tube

Set 2: Pigtail, Mozambique, Sand, Corona, Alaska, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Night Speaks to a Woman, Let Me Lie, Windora Bug, Traveler, Push on ’til the Day

Encore: Clint Eastwood

Will Phish return to Watkins Glen this summer?

Upstate Live Writer Johnny Goff – Hey Michael, It’s been two years since we chatted pre-Super Ball to discuss Phish rumors at Watkins Glen. Here we are, two years later and I’m curious what you think the legacy is of having the Phish SuperBall 9 festival at Watkins Glen International?

Watkins Glen International Track President Michael Printup – It was such a great show. I mean, it was obvious so much more than I initially would have given it credit to be, even though I had attended some Phish shows in the past. What a great festie it was. It really gained some attention from the music business, which, in all honesty, was one of the goals. It wasn’t something we were surprised at. But we are still looking, you know. I went out to California to talk to Coran Capshaw and his main group Red Light Management about coming back and unfortunately, we just couldn’t find common ground to put it back together and come back and even the band, according to Coran, wanted to come back but it just wasn’t going to work for 2013. We just both agreed to put it on the hook and see if we could put something together and do it again in 2014.

Watkins Glen Track President Michael Printup

Johnny – So at this point, you can definitively say Phish would not be returning to Watkins Glen this summer?

Michael – Nope, Sorry folks, Phish is not coming back this summer. We are not even in discussions. We told them we’d stay in touch and every now and again, Richard (Glasgow) and I email each other and stay in touch but we don’t have any Phish shows coming back this summer.

Johnny – May I ask what are the details behind the band not returning? Is it coming from WGI’s parent corporation in Daytona – (International Speedway Corp.) wanting to focus more on its core with Auto Racing or was it based on scheduling conflicts?

Michael – It was all scheduling and that’s what we told Coran and Richard. We’re booked almost a full year and half ahead for the following year so when we’re entering spring of 2013, we are already booked for 2014. So schedules materialize very fast and so by the time we went back out there in April to Coachella to speak with them, it was just a matter of conflict. They only had certain dates that worked for them and we only had certain dates that worked for us, it just wasn’t conducive to hold a concert in October or November, which was really the only timeframe we had open.

Johnny – Does Watkins Glen still have a commitment down the road to holding more musical events there and have you engaged in any talks with Live Nation?

Michael – Yes. Absolutely. In fact, I’ve been meeting with Live Nation and another group out of Los Angeles. There’s interest from numerous promoters to put something on here, so at this point, it really just comes down to scheduling, like it did with Phish. So it is imperative we maintain a very historical spot for music, dating back to 1973’s Summer Jam to some of the famous festivals that have happened in New York State. It’s almost like something we have a reputation to do and the ability to do and I think there’s some type of cache’ with Watkins Glen so we want to keep it going. Our primary business is racing, that’s what we’re here to do and we’re going to keep that up too, but music is a big goal of mine, it has been since I got here. We were very fortunate to have booked Phish and we’re hopeful we can do it again in the future.

Johnny – How does your plan for music play into ISC’s plans for auto racing at Watkins Glen and possibly segmenting your core audience?

Michael – It’s funny you asked this because I just had a conversation with John Saunders who is president of our entire company (ISC) and he shared with me that he’d like me to speak with some of the other (race)tracks about our model and how we did it because he said, ‘Let’s face it, you had a very successful concert so let’s take a look at that model and see if we can do that at other racetracks.’ The good thing is we do have a very successful model and the boss recognizes it and has been more than supportive in letting us our business. So I think that’s a good thing. John (Saunders) lets us run it and we’ve got a great group supporting us.

photo by Andy Hill
Phish @ SuperBall IX – photo by Andy Hill

Johnny – Hypothetically, if all of your plans jive perfectly and the schedules fall in line with would-be promoters, what is EARLIEST fans could expect to see music back at Watkins Glen?

Michael – I honestly think Johnny that if we get really lucky, I want to say this year. Not Phish though.(laughing). I’d like to make that clear again. But there are some other opportunities that may just slip into our schedule. We’re still waiting to hear back from a couple of promoters on whether some things will work. We could do evening concerts all day long because our track is pretty much booked until October already so if we could put something together, you know, where we book 2-3 night shows and it works for someone else, we’re trying to find, right now for 2013, we need to find that perfect recipe to bake the perfect cake. I think we’ve found 1 of possibly 2 promoters who would be flexible in that and if we do, but then it’s just up to the artists at that point to tie it all together.

Johnny – What genres do you forsee being good fit for a local and regional draw?

Michael – You know…I’m not going to rule out anything. I think whatever you can think of. Truly. I mean, we could be successful with everything from country to EDM so I really think we can do everything. That’s not an arrogant statement. I just think we have the population of all the cities that surround us, not even counting New York City, but Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany Erie, Binghamton, northern tier of Pennsylvania: you add all those up and that’s a pretty solid population base. Literally, we could do EDM, rock, country. I think we’ve get pretty lucky because one thing promoters have really liked and wanted to plan out after the success of that Phish show is our capacity for camping. That’s what really highlights and made it easier for the fans and in turn, makes it easier for the promoter.

Johnny – Thanks again for your time Michael.

Michael – Pleasure’s mine. Take Care.