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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 Phish.net

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.

Comments

There are 17 comments associated with this post

John d'Eugene August 12, 2012, 04:53:02

just as an aside – Neon Park, illustrator/artist, who did the album covers for many artists, including most of Little Feat’s LPs (WFC), Zappa’s “Weasels Ripped…” and others was feeling ill and went to the doctors to find out what was wrong. After many tests the doctor informed him that he had “Lou Gerhig’s disease. Neon responded, “That’s Crazy, I never even played baseball.” JSJR 8122012

jason smith February 7, 2013, 12:11:51

Wow! That was pretty funny my friends. Phans being cheated by covering WFC? That thought is so insane (and Little Feat’s WTC being covered by Phish so perfect) the I felt some urge to respond to this three years later. Or maybe I’m insane for doing so. Either way, uh gotta go, If you have not experienced Little Feat , I highly recommend it. No other band, probably other than Phish can repeatedly blow my mind with such a soul funk than Little Feat. Both are really out of this world special. The world of music was far from cheated on that day!

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Bob November 2, 2010, 18:11:58

Thank you Phish for an amazing weekend of TOP NOTCH music. Everyone at the shows were blown away by the consistency, variety, and creativity displayed by the world’s best improvising rock band. Who cares if it wasn’t pitch perfect, live music doesn’t work that way. The energy was through the roof and the boys are playing their best music in over a decade. Please come to the west coast!

Will November 2, 2010, 21:17:24

OK, sure, no other LF album would’ve been as impactful and they wanted to recreate the live LF experience and Phish does what they want and they did a great job – I get all that… Maybe I’m just picking nits here, but would it have killed them to say – in advance – something along the lines of ‘We’re doing something a little different this year’ or ‘We’ve changed our selection criteria to now include live compilations’. One of the things that I’ve always found so alluring about Phish’s musical costumes was them paying tribute to ‘an album as a whole’ and their performance standing as an homage to songs that were written and recorded together at one particular time. This show came off more as a celebration of A BAND instead of a celebration of AN ALBUM, which is a distinct departure from what the event was billed as.

Mike Fornear November 3, 2010, 15:00:30

With Veterans Day just around the corner and the band taking a break from the road, Little Feat guitarists Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett embark tonight on a short tour acoustic through the heartland to benefit local non-profits that help homeless military vets reclaim their lives. www.littlefeat.net and www.myspace.com/burghstock for info and please pass word of this along to your friends.

scott caton November 4, 2010, 21:29:15

How do i get this! HOW!!!!!!!! help me!!!

coco root November 7, 2010, 18:51:52

“Waiting for Columbus” Mmmm so good. So many heads dancing around in the spirt world couldn’t be happier! And for us mortals bound by flesh, cells and opinions … May this show nourish our souls for the rest of our days here as a reminder to us to Get Up and Get Down! Just like the individuals did who introduced you and I to these great jams!
“ as a coward I admire their courageous ways” Thanx Dennis Kearny RIP
oh and I read somewhere Trey said this ons for him Thanks Trey

ther19 November 8, 2010, 09:23:14

Please… No whining… Lumpy’s got it right. This isn’t a Lowell era Feat’s album, it is THE Lowell era Feats’ album. Ya sorta hadda be there, (and I was). Little Feat were a band experience like the Dead. The shows were what it was all about. Since the whole reason for the tour that spawned WFC was make WFC it’s sort of a distinction without a difference anyway. Little Feat didn’t travel with a horn section. They only used the guys from Tower of Power for the shows they recorded for WFC. All these song were OK on their original albums (there were only 4 at that point anyway which sold about as well as the first few Phish albums…), but they roared live. I’m sure that you may have heard the “on any given night these guys were the best” attributed to alot of bands, but, I been around for alotta bands, and I say, and Phish seems to agree that on any given night, Little Feat were the best band that could possibly walk onto any stage anywhere… as good as anybody, period. You guys that got to see this were lucky and you should be glad that they were so respectful of the music and mostly, the groove that so few of you got to witness live. Little Feat was a fu*king force of nature and WFC was their album.

Wild Bill November 11, 2010, 14:38:44

Will, you’re so young. When WFC came out, it was THE album, recorded pristinely at Lisner Auditorium, back when live album sound sucked. The idea that live recorded music could sound THAT good was first launched with this album. Young Will, you live in the era of torrent downloads, so you will never get know what a beautiful sounding live album meant to a young music fan back in the ’70s. All my respect to the Phish boys — apparently this album meant as much to them as it did to me.

Will November 1, 2010, 21:29:15

Am I alone in feeling like its kind of ‘cheating’ the system for the musical costume to be a compilation album? It becomes more like a ‘listen to us perform this one band’s music’ endeavor and less like a tribute to a classic album (however classic and great Waiting for Columbus might be). What next year, Bob Marley’s ‘Legend’ or Zappa’s ‘Strictly Commercial’?

Dibo November 1, 2010, 22:48:11

Phish is the ‘system’...they’ll do whatever the phuck they want but it’s nice to pretend they care!

Kevin November 2, 2010, 01:18:36

You’re not wrong, you’re just a douche! That’s like suing a girl is too hot, food is too good, or the whiskey is too strong. But I’m sure theyre very concerned about your opinion. Go back to Cheese!

Pint November 2, 2010, 01:27:49

I can see the point, I wouldn’t have thought they’d select a live album to cover either. But I can understand doing ‘Waiting for Columbus’, in that it is the LP that defined Little Feat, and was most influential to their fans… it just happens to be that it was a live LP that did it. When you think of great Little Feat LP’s, you just think ‘WFC’ first. Sorta like Peter Frampton, only good! ;)

Lumpy November 2, 2010, 08:34:59

The point is – Phish wanted to covered Little Feat. Anyone who knows Little Feat knows that there’s absolutely no way they could cover any other album than Waiting for Columbus. In other words, if Phish wanted to cover Zep, they would have done physical graffiti, not a live album, no matter how good a live album it may be. They did a live album because it was little feat; they just had to. They wanted to recreate the experience of being at a little feat concert, not listening to a little feat record.

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