Another day, another new Trey Anastasio Band lineup: Phish drummer Jon Fishman took over behind the kit at the amphitheater at Stage AE in Pittsburgh, PA on Wednesday for a loose, improv-oriented show featuring a four-song first set.
The last-minute addition of Fishman on drums was the latest in a string of necessary pivots by the Trey Anastasio Band. Beginning with the sudden passing of founding bassist Tony Markellis in late April, the TAB lineup has shifted frequently throughout 2021, from the introduction of new bassist Dezron Douglas to saxophonist James Casey‘s cancer diagnosis to substitute saxophonist Cochemea Gasteulm‘s prior engagement in Boston to Jennifer Hartswick’s positive test ahead of a two-night North Carolina run, the subsequent nixing of the horn section, and a last-minute solo acoustic show following drummer Russ Lawton‘s positive COVID-19 test in Columbus, OH.
The latest new-look Trey Anastasio Band quintet—comprised of Anastasio, Fishman, Douglas, keyboardist Ray Paczkowski, and percussionist Cyro Baptista—fed off of that novel energy throughout Thursday’s uninhibited performance in Pittsburgh.
Of course, such a loose, “see what happens” approach was necessary in this unusual situation. Russ was placed on the CL (COVID List) just before the band’s scheduled show in Columbus on Tuesday. That night, Trey performed a solo acoustic set rather than the scheduled full-band show. By the following afternoon, an off-tour Fishman had been called in as Lawton’s substitute. By 8:00 pm. on Wednesday, he had made the not-insignificant trip from Lincolnville, ME to Pittsburgh, PA to join Trey and company onstage for the show.
That is to say, there was no time to rehearse, no time to prepare, no time to practice songs. These players have overlapped in various configurations before, but not in this one. As we’ve seen throughout this tour, Trey Anastasio Band worked with what was available. The evening’s setlist was, in that vein, made up exclusively of tunes played regularly by both TAB and Phish.
But on this night, the songs themselves were merely a framework, the starting point for a getting-to-know-you jam session that happened to take place in front of an audience. Start with 20 minutes of vibing on “46 Days”? Sure. Thirty-minute stroll out of “Blaze On”? Might as well. Eighteen-minute “Party Time”? Fishman is here, and Thursday is Trey’s birthday, after all. Let’s just groove.
With Ray’s tasteful contributions mostly coming in the form of texture, rather than melody, the band functioned as a four-piece rhythm section for Anastasio throughout much of the night. While Dezron, Fish, Ray, and Cyro got to work establishing a deep pocket, Trey worked through his ever-growing bag of tricks and tones on guitar, not in any particular rush to arrive anywhere but rather content to see how he felt along the way.
Judging by the hair-raising energy of the show and the audibly excited laughter that dots the recording, we’re guessing he felt pretty good.
Jon Fishman’s Almost TAB will continue its limited run this weekend with a Friday performance at The Anthem in Washington, D.C. (10/1) and a two-night run at New York’s Radio City Music Hall (10/2, 10/3).
Stream full audio of the improv-focused Pittsburgh show via LivePhish here and watch a selection of videos from the performance below.
Following the end of the TAB run, Anastasio and Fishman are set to link back up with Phish for the band’s fall tour beginning October 15th in San Francisco. For a list of upcoming Phish fall tour dates, head here.
Trey Anastasio Band – “First Tube” – 9/29/21
Trey Anastasio Band – “Gotta Jibboo”/”Plasma” – 9/29/21
[Video: Kevin Samuel Haber]
Setlist: Trey Anastasio Band | Stage AE | Pittsburgh, PA | 9/29/21
Set One: 46 Days, Blaze On, Undermind, Ghost
Set Two: Party Time, Ocelot, Gotta Jibboo, Plasma, Lonely Trip, I Never Needed You Like This Before
Encore: Twist, First Tube
This show took place in the amphitheater and featured Fish on drums in place of Russ Lawton who had recently tested positive for COVID-19.