I once got a Magic Hat cap that said something like, “A night out with Trey would make my day.” In the final February weekend of a frigid Pittsburgh winter, the 2,000-plus crammed into Stage AE were actually looking for an evening with Trey that would make their entire winter worth it. Trey Anastasio Band probably wouldn’t have to stray far from the most basic of set lists to appease this crowd either, considering the Pittsburgh Phish market has been starved for attention, with Phish appearing here once since they reunited and, if memory serves me correctly, one appearance shortly after from Mike Gordon.
For the first time since 1999, Trey played the first set acoustic and the second set electric. He opened the set with “Backwards Down the Number Line.” While I expected the first set to be a giant sing-along, I was glad this number didn’t go as terribly wrong as I anticipated when I heard the first few cords. I absolutely love this song—when I’m in my office listening to it—but after hearing Phish stretch it out into an almost un-danceable 16-minute jam over a dozen times, I was pretty much over it. But we were in and out and on to the next (“Gumbo”) in a matter of minutes.
The majority of the first set held a slower pace, with songs like “Farmhouse,” “Silent in the Morning,” “Talk,” and “Show of Life” popping up. While a lot of this slower stuff really wasn’t doing it for me, I was more than thrilled when Trey broke out “Let Me Lie” with the band towards the end of the first set. I have never heard Phish play this song live, and according to phantasytour.com (the Bible of Phish set list information), it was only performed once in all of 2010.
The band came in for “Heavy Things,” a few songs before the end of set one. At only 5’3”, it is a very rare occasion that I can see what’s happening on stage. Unfortunately, this is the case for me at Stage AE, so unless I was on my tip toes or using peoples’ shoulders to propel myself upward, I had to depend on my ears for band introduction. It’s undisputable that there was a talented group of people with Trey, but no one needs eyes to know when the horn force of Jennifer Hartswick (trumpet, vocals); Natalie Cressman (trombone, vocals); and Russell Remington (saxophone, flute) takes the stage. The night before, part of the band surprised the crowd at Rex Theater by dropping in unannounced and performing with Dumpstaphunk.
If there’s one thing this fan base is good at, it’s starting a ridiculous show rumor. This Friday, rumor was that Snoop Dogg would be popping in for a little jam with Trey, since he would be performing the following night at Stage AE. Excitement waned once a few smart people remembered (or Googled) that he was currently performing in West Virginia with Wiz Khalifa. Trey could have at least given us a little “Gin & Juice” cover of his own. Even a little “Black and Yellow” would have sufficed, considering the Pittsburgh show was robbed of the “Hey Ya” Outkast cover TAB had performed at practically every other single tour stop. We did get the Gorrilaz’s “Clint Eastwood” during second set, but that wasn’t a surprise since most cities have heard that too. Topping my jealousy list though is every city that got a horn-heavy, super funky rendition of “Ocelot.”
At the end of the evening, I’m not sure if a night out with Trey really did make my day. As I consider him one of the guitar greats, I feel privileged to see him in different settings that showcase the wide variety of skills he has. But overall, it made me more anxious to see him with Phish again