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Published: 2010/11/01

Phish Covers Little Feat’s Waiting for Columbus

Photo by Chris Paul

As previously reported, Phish covered Little Feat’s 1978 live album Waiting for Columbus in its entirety last night at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. The seminal release—which is also Little Feat’s most successful album—marks the first time Phish has covered a live album on Halloween. Like Phish’s Halloween shows in 1996, 1998 and 2009, the evening’s musical costume was revealed to fans via an official Phishbill program as they entered the venue. In a Phishbill essay written by David Fricke, the members of Phish admit that they hoped to recreate the experience of a classic Little Feat concert rather than simply cover the live album note-for-note.

Fricke’s essay emphasizes the importance Little Feat had on the members of Phish individually before the band’s formation, as well as the group as a whole during its early years. “We may have learned more from Little Feat than any other band,” Trey Anastasio says. Mike Gordon adds of the band’s early days, “I liked that Trey’s originals were getting strange, but I said I wanted to balance it with some gutsy bluesy music. And the example I gave was, ‘I’d like to play a Little Feat song from time to time.” Phish regularly covered Little Feat’s “Skin it Back,” “Time Loves a Hero” and the group’s arrangement of Allen Toussaint’s “On Your Way Down” during its early years. The members of Phish revived both “Time Loves a Hero” and “On Your Way Down” in the late ‘90s.

Like Phish’s other official Halloween Costumes, Waiting for Columbus feels inline with the band’s current sound. Little Feat shares a similar DNA with early Phish—a mixture of jazz, rock and roll, country, New Orleans funk and blues. The group also has a direct connection to one of Phish’s earliest influences, Frank Zappa, via the band’s roots in the Mothers of Invention. As Phish actively digs into its own back catalog and relearns of many of its earliest songs, it makes sense that the Vermont Quartet opted to play one of its original inspirations. Phish’s current more refined, shortened improvisational style also recalls Little Feat’s refined, song-driven, boogie-style of rock jamming.

In addition to faithful rendition of classic Waiting for Columbus numbers like “Oh Atlanta,” “Spanish Moon” and the aforementioned “Time Loves A Hero,” Phish made its own imprint on several of the double album’s songs. The band switched instruments on “Willin’,” with Page McConnell picking up the bass, Mike Gordon moving to piano, Trey Anastasio playing drums and Jon Fishman singing lead vocals. The four musicians then moved to the front of the stage for an a cappella arrangement of “Don’t Bogart That Joint.” In addition, the band took the stage to a recorded version of “Join the Band” while Higher Ground club owner Kevin Statesir introduced Phish as Little Feat. Recalling the secret language of Phish’s early ‘90s period, audience remembers were instructed to shout the letters “P,” “H,” “I,” “S” and “H” as Statesir shouted the letters “F,” “E,” “A” and “T.” The set ended with the members of the band parading off the stage and into the audience.

Throughout most of the set, the members of Phish were backed by percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo. The noted Latin jazz musicians has performed with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Paul Simon, Sammy Hagar and Mickey Hart, among many others. A five-person horn section featuring members of the interconnected collectives Antibalas (Aaron Johnson, Stuart Bogie, Eric Biondo) and the Dap-Kings (Michael Leonhart, Ian Hendrickson) also augmented the band at various points throughout the night. Phish also utilized members of the Dap-Kings on Halloween last October.

Phish’s additional two sets also contained numerous highlights. The band opened with a Halloween-themed sequence featuring “Frankenstein,” “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars,” “Ghost” and the first cover of Atlanta Rhythm Section’s “Spooky” since 1993 (Phish also opened its classic 1994 Halloween show with “Frankenstein). In addition, The band’s third set featured an extended “Gotta Jibboo,” “Camel Walk” and a lengthy “You Enjoy Myself.” Hidalgo and the five-person horn section returned for the lone encore of “Julius.”

Here’s a look at the setlist via

Sun, 10/31/2010 Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, NJ

Set 1: Frankenstein1, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Ghost -> Spooky, The Divided Sky, Roses Are Free > Funky Bitch, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Stash, Character Zero

Set 2: Fat Man in the Bathtub2, All That You Dream2, Oh Atlanta2, Old Folks Boogie3, Time Loves a Hero4 -> Day or Night3, Mercenary Territory3, Spanish Moon3, Dixie Chicken3 -> Tripe Face Boogie2, Rocket in My Pocket3, Willin’[5], Don’t Bogart That Joint6, A Apolitical Blues2, Sailin’ Shoes2, Feats Don’t Fail Me Now3

Set 3: Down with Disease > Back on the Train > Gotta Jibboo, Camel Walk, Suzy Greenberg, Wilson > Harry Hood > The Horse > Silent in the Morning, You Enjoy Myself

Encore: Julius4

[1] Page on keytar
[2] Phish debut; Giovanni Hidalgo on percussion
[3] Phish debut; Giovanni Hidalgo on percussion and Aaron Johnson, Stuart Bogie, Ian Hendrickson, Michael Leonhart and Eric Biondo on horns.
[4] Giovanni Hidalgo on percussion and Aaron Johnson, Stuart Bogie, Ian Hendrickson, Michael Leonhart and Eric Biondo on horns.
[5] Phish debut; Page on bass, Mike on piano, Trey on drums and Fish on vocals.
[6] Phish debut; A cappella

Notes: Page performed Frankenstein on keytar. Spooky was performed for the first time since 4/14/93 (751 shows). The second set “musical costume” was Little Feat’s 1978 Waiting for Columbus. Join the Band (the first track of Waiting for Columbus) was played over the PA before the start of the second set. Subsequently, Phish was introduced as “Little Feat” before Fat Man in the Bathtub. All of the songs in the second set other than Time Loves a Hero were Phish debuts. All of the songs in the second set, other than Don’t Bogart That Joint and Willin’, featured Giovanni Hidalgo on percussion. A five piece horn section consisting of Aaron Johnson, Stuart Bogie, Ian Hendrickson, Michael Leonhart and Eric Biondo joined the band for Old Folks Boogie, Time Loves a Hero, Day or Night, Mercenary Territory, Spanish Moon, Dixie Chicken, Rocket in My Pocket and Feats Don’t Fail Me Now. Willin’ featured Page on bass, Mike on piano, Trey on drums and Fish on vocals. Prior to the piano solo at the beginning of Willin’, Fish remarked, “That should be Paul Barrère.” Don’t Bogart That Joint was performed a cappella. Trey introduced the guest musicians before Feats Don’t Fail Me Now. At the conclusion of the second set, the entire band marched the perimeter of the floor. Disease was initially botched and had to be restarted, prompting Fish to declare, “This one’s off our album.” Julius featured Giovanni Hidalgo and the Waiting for Columbus horn section.

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