“Man Drives To Vermont From New York” isn’t usually much of a headline, but when the “man” is Trey Anastasio and that drive to Vermont take the Phish guitarist out of his apartment and drops him at The Barn for the first time in months, that story becomes considerably more exciting.
In a video posted on Monday to Trey’s daughter Eliza Anastasio‘s Instagram Stories, we see Trey showing off his “revolutionary” new hand sanitizer dispenser prototype, which uses a hi-hat stand. Eliza even threw a snippet of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” as the soundtrack for kicks. The clip ends with a shot of a masked, smiling Trey. While some fans were quick to circulate screenshots of the video in order to comment on Trey having “let his mane flow” during lockdown, the real story was in the background of the video—the recognizable, wood-paneled walls of his longtime Vermont recording studio.
Hmm … (via Eliza Anastasio’s Instagram stories) pic.twitter.com/953sydOyoD
— JamBase (@JamBase) July 13, 2020
UPDATE: In another photo posted to Twitter by @PhishatMSG, we see a wider shot from inside the barn in which Phish bassist Mike Gordon and drummer Jon Fishman are also visible, indicating that the members of Phish have, indeed gathered at The Barn.
what are they dooooinnnnnng in there pic.twitter.com/S4TwiEHhdg
— Phishatmsg (@PhishatMSG) July 13, 2020
The Barn has been the creative hub for all of Trey’s recording projects since the mid-90s and has become a sort of home-away-from-home for the members of Phish through the years. As Trey explained in an April interview with Rolling Stone,
In ’96, I moved in and then made the barn a bit habitable. I put insulation and all that stuff in it, because I knew that we would never, ever play like that in a recording studio ever, and I was right. The barn became our home, our hangout. We had hard times and good times, and it got incredibly dark in 2003 in the barn, and then we healed in the barn.
Nobody feels like they’re in a studio in there. It’s deeper than the living room. We grew up in that space. We did Farmhouse, Round Room, Undermind. I did the first solo albums. Oysterhead was recorded there. Everything. It doesn’t even feel like the tape’s rolling at all. We wrote Kasvot Växt in there, we wrote Fuego. It’s just a lifetime in that place.
When the pandemic began, he briefly considered decamping to The Barn to ride out the quarantine, but his family convinced him to stay home and safe in New York. As Trey explained to Rolling Stone, “I kind of ran it by all of them, and their reaction was, ‘Are you nuts? There’s barely any cell reception. And there’s no beds — you’d be sleeping on a futon!’ So we just stayed.”
Despite staying in New York, Trey admitted to missing being at The Barn. As he explained to Rolling Stone of watching the Sigma Oasis listening party, which featured a slideshow of images captured at The Barn during the recording of the album in 2019,
We looked so happy and laughing together [in George Loucas‘ visuals], and then when it got to ‘A Life Beyond the Dream,’ he purposely put these pictures of us touching each other, my arms around friends, my oldest friends of 37 years, laughing and in groups. That’s like daggers in the heart, you know what I mean? What happened? That was so not that long ago. We were all in the barn spitting on each other freely, without any fear! … It was really emotional. Then I thought [about how] Phish is a community of friends. It’s the four of us, but it’s the gang, meaning all the fans. That’s the defining characteristic of Phish: These are thousands and thousands of longtime friends. Phish is about gathering. Phish as a band is truly, really, about friends gathering. They’ve grown up together, and their kids are there, all this stuff.
While the gradual reopening of the Northeast and Trey’s apparent relocation to the Barn may stoke rumblings amongst fans about the possibility of a full-band stream from Vermont, a recent interview with Relix casts some doubt on that prospect. In response to a question about Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires‘ recent live performance from an empty Brooklyn Bowl Nashville, Trey explained,
I’ve been asked numerous times to do similar things to what Jason did. I love Jason and I’m friends with him. It was a great thing. But for me, so far, I’ve said no.
So much of what I do is informed by the close proximity of the people in the front row—in the front 10 rows—and even by the person in the back row. We don’t have a song list because that connection is a big part of who we are as a band and who I am. … I don’t know if I want to play without our community with me. It’s a bridge I haven’t been able to cross.
I have been asked by many people: “Let’s do this Zoom concert” or “Let’s do it Brady Bunch style.” Maybe it’s my spiritual belief system, but I feel like this is where we are today and this is where I am— “I’m home. The concert isn’t happening right now.”
I almost don’t want to go halfway. If it’s possible, I want to celebrate that resurgence of live music with our family, which is our audience. And it doesn’t even feel like an audience—it feels to me, like a community.
I’d like to connect with that community, but I’ve found a way to do it because I’ve put out those 14 songs from my bedroom. I like being in contact but I might just wait [for a show]. I’m trying to follow my heart through this.
I’ll tell you another thing: We had to stop Phish once before. We went many years and then we paused and the pause was from 2004 through 2008, while I was getting my health together. Then, we did end up making an album and maybe that’s something we’ll do. I don’t know. But we didn’t do any shows and we didn’t do any kind of half-shows. We waited.
Then, we came back to Hampton Coliseum in 2009 and our community was there. Not everyone was there but it was a large group of people. I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live, which was the opening song in Hampton when everybody was back. When I think of that moment, it can make me cry.
So that was five years. I really hope we don’t have to wait another five years. But I would prefer to gather with everyone. I want to gather with Page and Mike and Fish and everyone, if it’s possible.
As Trey mentioned, while he is staying away from livestreams, he has released a steady stream of new videos from his Manhattan apartment since the lockdowns began including “I Wish I Could See The World“, “Evolve”, “Till We Meet Again“, “The Silver Light“, “My World Is My Home“, “Are You There Colleen?”, “If Again”, “Lonely Trip”, “Shaking Someone’s Outstretched Hand”, “I Never Left Home”, “Lotus”, “When The Words Go Away”, “Timeless”, “I Never Needed You Like This Before”, “The Greater Good”, and “Lost In The Pack”. All of this came in addition to the release of a new Phish album, Sigma Oasis, released on April 2nd.
While we can speculate endlessly about what might come next, one notion is not up for debate: That man being in that building is good news for Phish fans.