Trey Anastasio, Bill Graham Civic Center, San Francisco, CA- 5/24
Trey Anastasio is a human conduit orbiting through the infinite sphere of
sound. A gateway for darkness to change into light; he's building a bridge
of solid groove.
Construction for this project began in 1998 when Trey played with a local
Vermont band, "The Eight Foot Fluorescent Tubes," and subsequently toured as
a semi-electric, part acoustic trio. It wasn't until early 2001 that Trey
added horns: Dave Grippo (sax), Jen Hartswick (trumpet) and Andy Moroz
(trombone). The ensuing summer Ray Paczkowski (keys) and Russ Remington
(sax, flute) hopped on board. Cyro Baptiste (brilliant percussionist)
recorded on Trey's solo effort CD and is also on the current tour. Together
with fundamental members, Russell Lawton (drums) and Tony Markellis on a
"'home assembled' bass with a bad ass bridge" Trey's blueprint is philled.
All aboard the magic neophyte bus, Trey Anastasio's troupe rolled into San
Francisco, CA on May 24, 2002.
Acoustically, the Opera House may have been a better selection than Bill
Graham's Civic Center to accentuate the orchestra's harmonic variances.
Nonetheless, it was immediately clear Trey was the eager maestro excited to
present his work to a musically literate and welcoming audience. "Money
Love and Change" opened with as many awkward moments as a first date.
"Burlap Sack & Pumps" and "Cayman Review" were played with technical
competency but appeared timid to push through imaginary safety ropes and
climb higher. For the duration of the first set, Trey, using his whole body
to conduct, glued horns with keys and ripped guitar licks with bass and
drums. Baptiste needed minimal encouragement and offered an alternative
listening option as he played washboard to Trey's guitar. It could be
argued Trey's frolicking guitar solos and upbeat body beats are what saved
the set; but, "Last Tube" closed and the troupe began to sound like a band
getting set for a fun adventure.
Michael Franti from Spearhead (the opener) joined Trey on stage and began
the second set with "Small Axe" which seemed to get the band and audience
into a relaxing optimistic groove. Most of the second set jammed with
varying degrees of Phish/Sun Ra highlighted overtures with just enough jazzy
funk salsa nuances to strengthen a foundation from which to grow. The group
of players seemed to grab hold of each others internal anchoring ropes and
they appeared to hoist themselves to the next tier. "Discern" was marked by
contrasting moments of quiet reflection and a deep undulating hard rhythm.
Similarly, "At The Barbeque" relied heavily on Trey's ability as a conductor
to peak; then slice to silence as Trey chimed a single note on a triangle.
Unfortunately, the resonant effect Trey may have been going for was lost to
the rafters of the Civic Center. However, delicate moments of eloquence
shined through the beautiful light show that circled hoops over everyone's
heads – very soft, very pretty.
Trey Anastasio has the necessary vision and material to build a groove
bridge (for lack of a better term). There's no doubting his abilities
outside the Phish bowl or breathing life into discarded wood from Terrapin
Station and morphing into a new musical life form. Based on his talent to
use his body instead of a stick to conduct his ten piece orchestra it seems
as if he's striving for the elusive fourth dimension to American jam-rock
music. Though the horn arrangement, right now, is still finding itself in
Trey's voice; there's a continuous flow of spirited enthusiasm which is
actually in step with his very happy march.