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Which classic album will Phish perform for Halloween 2010? Trey Anastasio offers a clue

Trey Anastasio 2003 Ken Hively 
The impending arrival of Halloween often contains an added bit of excitement for Phish fans. The Vermont-based jam band has periodically used the holiday to serve up a treat of its own in the form of a full album that’s a favorite of one or more of the group's members.

This year will be no exception. Phish will be in Atlantic City, N.J., wrapping up a three-night stand at Boardwalk Hall, where lead guitarist-frontman Trey Anastasio and his mates will play…

Ahh, there’s the trick.

“I don’t want to give it away,” Anastasio told me recently. “We’re already learning it, and I’m having the same experience I have every year: You hear that first song, you think you know how the song line goes and how the vocal line goes, but then you learn it exactly and you find out it’s different.”

The idea started in 1994, when the band took on “The Beatles,” the 1968 double album usually referred to as “The White Album.”

“It seemed like a novel idea -- almost a joke gone awry,” Anastasio said. “We were all sitting on the bus, and someone said, ‘We should learn a new cover,’ and somebody else said, ‘Why don’t we learn the whole ‘White Album’?”

Since that grand undertaking, Phish has taken on  Talking Heads’ “Remain in Light,” the Who’s “Quadrophenia,” Velvet Underground’s “Loaded” and, last year in Indio, the Rolling Stones’ 1972 magnum opus, “Exile on Main St.”

“It’s become kind of a tradition,” Anastasio said. “We’ve done at least six now… It’s fun to be playing in a band that has gone through the experience of really delving into the music of some of our heroes. You start to hear the influences pop up when you’re playing.”

For instance?

“ 'Remain in Light,' at the time we did it, it hadn’t gained the notoriety it’s developed since," he said. "It was fun to come out onstage and know that people were going to discover it. It’s really a jigsaw puzzle to figure that record out. But once we did it, we found ourselves layering in background vocals a little more in that style. It starts to seep into your DNA as a musician. You pick up something from each album.”

As for “Quadrophenia,” the Who’s 1973 rock opera suggested by keyboardist Page McConnell, “I had never really listened to it that much,” Anastasio said. “That was in ’96, and we had just started playing arenas. When we played it in the big room, I got it. All their songs just resonate in these big arenas. They kind of invented that: that huge rolling wall of sound, played through huge arena sound systems. And once you’ve played something like that live, it starts to affect how you write songs.”

Although Anastasio held fast against revealing which album gets the nod for Halloween 2010, he did offer a clue that might get fans chattering.

“This year,” he said, “this one’s for me. The one we picked, I’m going to get more out of this as a musician than I ever have before. Three songs into it, I called everybody and told them, ‘None of the other ones -- I wouldn’t think, hopefully -- will have nearly the effect on my playing this one’s going to.' ”

For some reason, the first thing that popped into my mind when he said that was “Layla,” Eric Clapton’s 1970 tour de force under the nom de rock Derek & the Dominos. But, then, it could be the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s 1967 debut “Are You Experienced” or maybe even “Led Zeppelin IV.” Or perhaps something from an entirely different direction.

Readers? Start your guesses.

-- Randy Lewis

Photo of Trey Anastasio during Phish's 2003 performance at the Inglewood Forum. Credit: Ken Hively

Comments () | Archives (59)

Bet it's Zappa, maybe We're Only In It for the Money or Apostrophe

Please no Genesis, please no Bruce, god that would be terrible.

At any rate, anyone think there is chane they have a guest playing with them this time?? I see Roger Waters is off that day and is going to be in the area... hmm

Just got off the phone with Trey. He's covering NWA's Straight Outta Compton! Word to your mother!

I hate to break it to you guys but it will be King Crimson- Larks' Tongues In Aspic, even though i would prefer THE YES ALBUM or Fragile.

How about Boston's self-title first album complete with More than a feeling, Peace of mind, Foreplay/Long time, etc.? That's my random call. I believe Trey referenced Boston in one of his interviews in Bittersweet.

I think you nailed it Josh. I was reflecting on Trey's speech for Genesis at their induction into the RARHOF last spring, and how Trey heard their influence in My Bloody Valentine. As I was lamenting missing Phish's show tonight and gearing up to fly to Atlantic City tomorrow, I downloaded Loveless and think this very well could be the one. Then again, I was convinced they would cover The Minutemen's "Double Nickels On the Dime" last year due to the 55 MPH on I-10 reference, so what do I know...

I took it as though the third song specifically is one that inspired him, so that made me think of albums with kick ass 3rd tracks, by artists that have inspired Trey.

I would LOVE for this to mean HOT RATS, or APOSTROPHE, or possibly JOES GARAGE...

They wanted to do Joe's Garage in the past, but decided against it presumably to honer FZ's request for no one to ever cover Water Melon in Easter Hay in the future.

No matter what, anything they do will be great, but this Zappa Phan would love to see the boys bust out some Frank in AC.

I also think it is Physical Graffiti. It has certain characteristics that make it work and consistent with prior Halloween shows. It is a double album (The Beatles, Quadrophenia and Exile are double albums). It is an album a significant portion of the audience will know. I think only Loaded and maybe Remain in Light were not well known front to back. It has great room for jams and extended instrumentals, probably more than any other Halloween album. It also has a lot of different musical styles, and is very strong on blues.

My second guess would be Hot Rats, but that is a relatively short set. And that has a limited amout of vocals, even for a Phish Halloween cover set.

If I had to wager a guess I'd say something by Zeppelin.

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