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Original Boardwalk Style – Trey Anastasio

Ernest “Trey” Joseph Anastasio, formerly of the band Space Antelope, has released his 986th album, Original Boardwalk Style. It washes away last year’s hanging curveball, The Horseshoe Curve, and drips 2003’s Plasma down the drain. Culled from two shows at the House of Blues in Atlantic City during the wane of 2006 — post-arrest, pre-trial — the new disc showcases Anastasio’s undectet: unequivocally his best band since Phish’s mushy and methylenedioxicated (un)final concert. Though not exactly a dog-and-fries album, whatever that means, Boardwalk brings the Fresca like only the post-TAB can. There is really no other way to say it: Trey Anastasio tears shit up on the guitar. Said tearing is much facilitated here by the man who puts the “un” in the “undectet,” Jeff Sipe. Sipe’s drumming is explosive, and his connectivity with bassist Tony Hall can almost cause a man to ogle away from vocalist Christina Durfee. Anastasio’s decision to keep Ray Paczkowski on keyboardsno matter who else is on stagestrikes me as doubly wise as Paczkowski is able to anticipate as well as prod Anastasio to heights previously thought to be mementos of the late 90s.

Earlier that tour, during a Charlottesville, VA performance of “Goodbye Head,” I had a revelation, in which Anastasio channeled his inner-Jerry Garcia like only he can. Later, the same happened on New Year’s Eve as the undectet drifted into “Drifting.” One might retort, but how many times can you hear “Drifting”? Funny to hear Phisheads making such comments when we have all dealt with “How many times can you see one band?” for the last two decades. It has taken some time, some practice, and quite a few personnel changes, but Anastasio has finally tapped into some of that feeling without the help of Messrs. Fishman, Gordon, and McConnell.

Anastasio’s gift, an insatiable desire to communicate combined with an insatiable desire to be insatiable, can also be his albatross. With the Phish universe buzzing with the news that Anastasio has been collaborating with Tom Marshall again, and is willing to give his left pancreas for a chance to sing “wash uffize drive me to firenze” five times a night, Boardwalk will probably not make it to the thousands of iPods that have his other 985 albums. That really is a smirking shame because Boardwalk is exactly what it is: an exciting and entertaining display of musicality.

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