On Friday, October 23rd, Trey Anastasio headed back to The Beacon Theatre for Night 3 of The Beacon Jams. Following Night 1 on October 9th and Night 2 on October 16th, fans have started to learn the game for these mysterious shows. We’ll probably get a horn-less Trey Anastasio Band. We’ll probably see Jeff Tanski for a fresh take on an old favorite, maybe a string quartet. Probably no repeats (it’s still early, but they’re on their way). Hell, we’re now three shows in with no covers, either.

This point in the run is when patterns begin to materialize. Of course, there’s always the chance Trey blows it all up and changes course—eight weeks is a long time—so a pre-show tweet telling fans to tune in early for a “special message from the Barn” had imaginations flaring once again.

That message, it turned out, would come from Trey’s Phish bandmate, keyboardist Page McConnell. Calling in via video chat from “beautiful Vermont,” Page welcomed viewers returning to “Trey’s series from the Beacon. Such a great band and such a great cause. I’m so proud of him for starting this recovery clinic and so proud of all of you for contributing. I wish that I could have been down there to play with the band, but that’s just not going to be able to happen now, so…”

The brief message seems to stick a fork in the fans’ hopes that Phish might take over a night of The Beacon Jams. Sure, he didn’t explicitly say it, but the answer is there between the lines among his multiple references to “this band” and reinforcement of the virtual residency as a “Trey thing.”

The Chairman isn’t one to leave us hanging, thought, so he offered up a little consolation prize. With a sigh, Page continued, “Trey and I got together a couple months ago and played a few songs up at his Barn, and we thought, perhaps, this is something we could debut this evening and that you would enjoy that. So, wish I was there, thank you for participating, and I love you guys, and everybody take care of yourselves and keep being safe. Hope you enjoy the show.”

The Page and Trey video from the Barn played from there, and was certainly a worthwhile consolation prize. Set up on the balcony overlooking the mountainous Vermont landscape—the same balcony featured in the Sigma Oasis album art—the pair started the clip by carrying in Page’s keys and pausing to recreate the image from the Colorado ’88 album cover (much like they did with a keyboard-shaped cake on New Year’s Eve 2013).

Page & Trey – “Evening Song”

[Video: Trey Anastasio]

After the screenshot-op, they finished setting up—from a social distance, of course—briefly caught up, and jumped into the beautiful Sigma Oasis ballad, “Evening Song”. From its soothing melodies to its lyrical themes to the palpable gratitude of these two old friends in seeing and playing together again, the performance was perfect. There wasn’t a dry eye in my house by the time it was done. We’re still not through the woods, but we’re still standing—and we still have this “home” to return to, one day. Plus, Page definitely said “a few songs” in his message, so we most likely have more Barn sessions coming at us in the near future.

From there, a brief “stand by” transported viewers from the Green Mountain State to the Big Apple, where Trey Anastasio was set up onstage at the Beacon with the no-horns TAB lineup we’ve seen the last two weeks (percussionist Cyro Baptista, drummer Russ Lawton, bassist Tony Markellis, and keyboardist Ray Paczkowski).

Following some opening ambiance courtesy of Baptista, the band launched into Phish rocker “Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan”. As Trey began reading some chat comments, the band kicked into another lively groove. Relaxed in the empty environs of the historic theater, they strutted into “Party Time”. As “Party Time” finished, Russ jumped straight into the shuffling beat for “The Way I Feel”. “Who’s out there, man?” Trey asked over the beat, relaxed and ready to interact within the music.

Trey Anastasio – “The Way I Feel” [Pro-Shot] – 10/24/20

[Video: Trey Anastasio]

This wound up being a theme of the evening. Unlike the last two weeks, when most of the chat section interaction would take place between songs, the fan shoutouts and silly callbacks found their way into the jams themselves throughout Friday night’s performance. It’s a testament to the “settling in” factor we saw at work at the Baker’s Dozen; the same loose, creative, silly flow you see from Trey when it’s “storytime” at a Phish show. When Trey’s having fun, it’s always a good sign for us—and that man has looked happier than a turtle in the clouds these past few Fridays.

The TAB portion of the show continued with “Sweet Dreams Melinda” and the live debut of wistful Lonely Trip tune “Shaking Someone’s Outstretched Hand“. After rattling off jokes about Ray looking like Mandy Patinkin‘s Saul in Homeland, riffing on “spatchcock” references, and giving a nod to that pesky Zamfir and his “pandemic flute,” Cyro served as the highlight of rarely-played TAB orchestral instrumental, “Andre The Giant”, which made its first live appearance since 2002.

“Spin” came next and served as one of the best improv sessions of the night, quickly taking a turn into a gritty and brooding jam that wouldn’t have sounded out of place tacked onto the end of a “Dark and Down” or an “About To Run”. Next, Trey sat down with his acoustic guitar to answer a few more commenters, give props to Merriweather Post Pavilion as one of two venues he’s ever played with an in-ground pool backstage (along with Big Cypress), and perform a solo acoustic “Turtle In The Clouds”.

From there, the Rescue Squad Strings (Katie Kresek and Maxim Moston on violin, Rachel Golub on viola, and Anja Wood on cello) and Jeff Tanski appeared once again to assist on one of the night’s brightest moments, a stunning orchestral arrangement of Phish instrumental “What’s The Use?”. This song is always about its emotiveness, and with this gorgeous arrangement by Don Hart, that emotional push-and-pull was amplified exponentially. This is a version that will remain on playlists for the rest of time. One commenter was quick to point that out when the piece was finished, telling Trey that she had been looking for the perfect version of “What’s The Use?” to walk down the aisle to at her upcoming wedding. It looks like she found it, prompting more gratitude from Trey: “We are now a wedding band,” he joked.

Trey Anastasio w/ Rescue Squad Strings, Jeff Tanski – “What’s The Use” [Pro-Shot] – 10/24/20

[Video: Trey Anastasio]

The Rescue Squad stuck around for a few more, adding beautiful new layers to “Brian and Robert”, “If I Could”, and “Leaves” (which Trey dedicated to Page McConnell, who normally sings it with Trey as a duet). The core theme of the night and The Beacon Jams as a whole, however, came to light following “Brian and Robert”, when Trey responded to “the question of the hour” about what it’s like playing in an empty theater and not having the crowd’s feedback:

People in interviews and stuff over the years have asked me my favorite part about being in a band, and the first thing out of my mouth is often “band practice.” Doing shows, communicating with people, but the one part that I kind of wish we could share with everyone in our community is, like, how much fun band practice is. And part of me felt like this is a little bit like that. You know, people are just joking around, you get into a jam, you just kinda lose it, your sense of place, and then everybody’s kind of joking around afterwards. So, I’m kinda looking at it like that. Like, welcome to a private space, but now we get to have everybody in here. … When life gives you pandemic, make pandemic-ade. This is what we got, and God’s honest truth is, this will end, and we’ll be back on the road, and we’ll see all of you. So this is, like, a special thing.

At The Beacon Jams, we’re in that “private space.” We’re part of that hang, the best part of being in a band. The inside jokes that come in between the songs, the ones that have so often made their way onstage at shows in the past? We’re in on those, too, by way of the Twitch chat thread. Then, those jokes make their way into the music, and we’re in on that, as well. As Trey so thoughtfully surmised, this may not be ideal, but it’s undoubtedly special.

For the final Rescue Squad song of the evening, the rest of the TAB lineup joined in for a gorgeous take on “The Lizards”—another wholly unique and achingly beautiful rendering of a decades-old favorite. Trey noted his early experience learning guitar by playing Bach gavottes and contributed his affinity for songs with “squirrely harmonic motion”—like “The Lizards”—to that musical background. Tony, for his part, offered that “Bach gavottes” sound like something you’d buy in a New York deli.

With that, the strings ceded the stage and TAB returned to rock gear for a fast, funky, improv-extended “Mr. Completely”. The jam prompted one commenter to stop folding laundry and jump up and dance, a prospect that clearly delighted Trey. “In the old days, when you went to a concert, when you got home, the laundry wasn’t folded. But now, you can go to a concert and the laundry’s folded!”

An always welcome “Windora Bug” followed, Tony Markellis showing off his pipes as the song’s ever-unsure narrator, even peppering in some amusing ad-libs that turned the “Windora Bug” into “A Corona Bug”.

A wily “Possum” was up next, followed by a big and powerful “A Case of Ice and Snow”, which moved seamlessly into the afrobeat flavor of an excellent “Last Tube”. As Trey began playing the progression for a set-closing “Twist”, he continued to riff on chat questions, dubbing it “a little song called ‘Foldin’ the Laundry'” before leading the band through the final number of the night.

Another fantastic night of The Beacon Jams in the books. From the rocking to the beautiful to the dark to the sentimental, this show had a bit of everything, and every part hit home. We can’t wait to see what’s in store next week. Catch you in the chat.

Setlist: Trey Anastasio | The Beacon Jams Night 3 | Beacon Theatre | New York, NY | 10/23/20

Set: Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Party Time, The Way I Feel, Sweet Dreams Melinda > Shaking Someone’s Outstretched Hand [1], Andre the Giant, Spin, Turtle in the Clouds [2], What’s the Use? [3], Brian and Robert [4], If I Could [4], Rescue Squad [5], Leaves [6], The Lizards [7], Mr. Completely > Windora Bug [8], Possum, A Case of Ice and Snow > Last Tube, Twist

[1] Debut.
[2] Trey solo acoustic.
[3] Just Trey with The Rescue Squad Strings and Jeff Tanski on piano.
[4] Just Trey on acoustic guitar and The Rescue Squad Strings.
[5] Trey solo acoustic; first acoustic performance by Trey.
[6] TAB debut; Trey on acoustic guitar and The Rescue Squad Strings.
[7] Full TAB debut; with The Rescue Squad Strings.
[8] With Corona references.

The performance is now available to stream via LivePhish.