On Friday, October 30th, Trey Anastasio brought The Beacon Jams to its midway point with his fourth of eight weekly livestreams from New York’s storied Beacon Theatre. Heading into Friday’s performance, the specter of Halloween hung over fans’ predictions for the All Hallows Eve (Eve) show. If we were keeping with the last few years’ “one on, one off” schedule, we were due for a Phish Halloween show in 2020. Would Trey use the 10/30 show for a musical costume? That’s the fun thing about this unprecedented format—in the past, it was easier to surmise what would and wouldn’t make sense based on previous years’ patterns. With The Beacon Jams and 2020, it’s anyone’s guess.
Back before the virtual residency began, when we were all still clueless as to what we could expect, we wagered a long-shot guess that Trey could cover The Residents after a promo clip about a formative experience he had enjoyed while seeing the avant-garde collective at the Beacon many years ago gave new life to an old fan theory. By the time Friday night came around, Phish had already claimed Saturday night for a Dinner and a Movie triple-feature of past Halloween sets. That seemed to dash the predictions of a full musical costume, but surely Trey was still lamenting the missed celebration of the band’s cherished “costume” tradition as much as we were. Would he honor the holiday in some way? It didn’t take long to find out.
Much like on Night 3, the broadcast started with a new selection from Trey and Phish bandmate Page McConnell‘s pre-recorded porch session at the Barn. This time, after a quick exchange of pleasantries and some jokes about how the 6:20 p.m. showtime was past their bedtime, Trey and Page delivered a duet performance of “Waste”. It wasn’t perfect, but damn if it didn’t scratch that pesky emotional itch we’ve been feeling after a Phish-less summer and fall. We miss you, Page. Keep these videos coming.
Trey Anastasio & Page McConnell – “Waste”
After a brief “stand by,” the regular introductory bumper animation began. The last three weeks, this has led us straight into the five-piece Trey Anastasio Band lineup kicking off the performance. This week, however, the first sounds we heard were the Rescue Squad Strings, the string quartet introduced on Night 2 that’s quickly becoming a Beacon Jams fixture. Wait, what’s that they’re playing… it’s “Rescue Squad”! How perfect to hear the quartet breathe life into the pseudo-song Trey had improvised as he was being retrieved from a faulty platform above Madison Square Garden some 10 months/84 years ago—the same song that gave them their new name.
Rather than panning down to the Beacon stage however, streamers were presented with shots of the now-empty confines of The Garden. But wait, it’s not empty… The camera panned to Trey’s green New Year’s Eve platform—in an alternate timeline in which he had never been rescued in the very first hours of 2020. What came next just may have been the most entertaining segment of The Beacon Jams so far.
In the pre-recorded intro clip, we see the now-scraggly Trey, still wearing his green “clone” suit, finally figure out how to get down from the MSG rafters—barefoot, with his meme-ified bag of oranges, which had been covering the platform’s “down” switch these last 10 months—as the ominous intro music from British post-apocalyptic horror drama 28 Days Later begins to play.
In an homage to the film’s opening scene, in which the main character awakens from a coma 28 days after a highly contagious virus has ravaged civilization and must scramble to comprehend his terrifying new reality, we see Trey wandering the desolate, decrepit arena, picking up old newspapers on the ground to slowly find out how this dumpster fire of a year has unfolded since he first stepped on that platform in the final moments of 2019: ‘Global Lockdown,’ ‘Murder Hornets Arrive In The U.S.,’ ‘Trump Impeached,’ ‘Phish Tour Cancelled’…
[Screengrab via The Beacon Jams]
Playing on an array of inside jokes, Trey snags some groundscores, learns about his own Beacon Jams from a discarded copy of Billboard, visits section 119 for a meme-style photo op by the spicy chicken sandwich stand, and ambles past Phish’s Baker’s Dozen banner before finally finding his way outside via the 8th Avenue exit (the pros know that’s always your best escape route when leaving MSG). The barefoot, bewildered Trey finally begins his trek uptown toward, you guessed it, the Beacon.
NYE Trey finds his way onto the Loge and takes his seat as the 28 Days Later theme (“In The House – In A Heartbeat” by John Murphy) picks up steam. Finally, with a bit of movie magic, the camera pans out from Trey sitting in his seat to reveal… Trey and company—from our actual reality—playing the haunting anthem onstage to get Night 4 underway. For a few brief moments, you could actually see both “clone” Trey and real-time Trey in the same shot. If we’re talking straight stats, this was the first (and so far only) cover of the residency so far, as well as a debut. Trey picked his spot and hit the mark with precision. I can’t be the only person who stood up from the couch and cheered at the reveal.
Amazing work by resident director Trey Kerr, Anastasio body double/Phish tour manager Richard Glasgow, and the whole team behind this mini cinematic venture. You continue to outdo yourselves. Watch the full segment below:
“43 Weeks Later” at Madison Square Garden
[Video: Trey Anastasio]
Trey, Cyro Baptista (percussion), Russ Lawton (drums), Tony Markellis (bass), and Ray Paczkowski (keys) stuck with the sinister 28 Days Later song for a few more minutes of heavy jamming. With the fading final notes of “In The House – In A Heartbeat” still ringing, Trey started into one of the centerpiece songs of Phish’s last Halloween celebration, “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.”, from the grand scam that was Kasvot Växt’s í rokk in 2018. Trey held nothing back on this searing rendition of the song, which has become fully indoctrinated as a Phish staple in the two years since. Ray’s organ wails and the formidable three-piece rhythm section of Baptista, Lawton, and Markellis helped push the guitarist deeper and deeper on this one.
With that, Trey broke the trance for the first time on the evening, looking to the Twitch chat with a mischievous smile. “Hey guys… welcome… Yes,” he laughed at one commenter. “It’s the Rescue Squad playing ‘Rescue Squad!'”
“It’s the Hall of Mirrors,” added Tony. The bassist then led the band into the slow groove and sleek, metallic synths and inscrutable imagery of Trey Anastasio Band deep cut “Quantegy” for its first appearance since 2005. A longer chat interaction followed, allowing for more riffing on inside jokes from past weeks. Here, he finally addressed the broadcast’s 28 Days Later intro segment for the first time. “Earlier in the night, you understand what happened, right? With the time and space continuum separating like that? That was Quantegy.”
The rest of the show had a much more “normal” feel, in Beacon Jams terms. We got some solo acoustic tunes (“Snowflakes in the Sand”, “Mountains in the Mist”), some TAB takes on Phish songs (“Heavy Things”, a “Breath and Burning” that subbed the “rage with Page” line for “rage on the Beacon stage”, and “Gumbo”), a new Trey quarantine track (“Lonely Trip“), more “spatchcock” jokes (who else is up for a trip to Spatchcaucus, NJ?), shoutouts to Treys Phish brothers tuning in. Trey got emotional for a moment as he introduced the instrumental he penned for dearly-departed friend Chris Cottrell, “Till We Meet Again”, and his emotion was matched when the Rescue Squad Strings faded in for the first time on the evening to accompany the moving piece.
Jeff Tanski joined in from there as Trey and the quartet moved into another “Halloween” song, “My Friend, My Friend”, which managed to retain its sinister sonic themes even without the usual full-band, full-distortion dissonance it typically features with Phish. One of Trey’s earliest Phish/orchestra crossovers, “Guyute”, came next, and featured another All Hallows surprise as Trey recited the outro narration from Michael Jackson‘s “Thriller”—perhaps a nod to another perennial Phish Halloween fan theory.
The band had some laughs as Tony explained that Trey “changes keys more often than most people change their socks” before Ray’s NOLA-style piano riff spilled into a rocking “Alaska”. “All these songs about escaping really speak to me right now,” Trey laughed. “How about you guys?”
A lively “Bounce” opened a powerful closing segment, as the Paper Wheels track moved into a towering “Bug” and a show-closing “Architect”. As “Architect” faded out, the camera angle widened to show the alternate-timeline Trey from the intro right where we left him—up in the Loge, enjoying the show. Roll credits.
So, did Trey Anastasio do a Phish-style “musical costume?” No, not exactly. But did he do justice to the Halloween-ish performance with something unexpected, creative, and—most importantly—chilling and thrilling for fans? You bet your ass. The fact that the intro was just as much a clever and poignant depiction of the story of 2020 as it was an amusing Halloween treat was the icing on the cake. The fact that they “separated the time and space continuum” to do it is… I don’t know, the sprinkles? The point is, even though this year’s Halloween can’t be exactly what it usually is, Trey Anastasio and company still managed to make it new and special.
Tonight, we get to continue the Halloween celebrations with webcasts of three of Phish’s musical costumes from years past. Even amid a pandemic and a year devoid of shows, Trey and all his various bands have repeatedly refused to let us down. Something old, something new. The Phish Halloween tradition lives on. To read up on Phish’s past Halloween musical costumes, find out about all the special Halloween programming on Phish Radio this weekend, and tune in the the Dinner and a Movie triple feature tonight, Saturday, October 31st at 8:30 p.m., head here.
Setlist: Trey Anastasio | The Beacon Jams Night 4 | The Beacon Theatre | New York, NY | 10/30/20
Set: In the House – In a Heartbeat  -> Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S., Quantegy, Snowflakes in the Sand , Mountains in the Mist, Heavy Things > Breath and Burning , Gumbo  > Lonely Trip , Pigtail, My Problem Right There, Till We Meet Again , My Friend, My Friend , Guyute , More, Frost , Alaska, Bounce > Bug > Architect
 TAB debut.
 Trey solo acoustic.
 Full TAB debut. Lyrics changed to “rage on the Beacon stage.”
 Full TAB debut.
 Just Trey on acoustic guitar and the Rescue Squad Strings.
 Just Trey on acoustic guitar and the Rescue Squad Strings and Jeff Tanski on piano. No “MYFE” ending.
 Just Trey on acoustic guitar and the Rescue Squad Strings and Jeff Tanski on piano. Trey quoted some of Vincent Price’s lines from Thriller.
 With The Rescue Squad Strings.
This performance was part of The Beacon Jams series and began with a video of Trey finally escaping from his riser from Phish’s December 31, 2019 concert at Madison Square Garden and making it to the Beacon Theater to watch the himself and his band playing the TAB debut of In the House – In a Heartbeat before they segued into Say It To Me SA.N.T.O.S. This show marked the full TAB debuts of Breath and Burning and Gumbo and the debut of Lonely Trip. Ray teased Happy Birthday after wishing his mother a happy birthday. Quantegy was performed for the first time since May 3, 2005. Trey performed Snowflakes in the Sand and Mountains in the Mist solo acoustic. The lyrics of Breath and Burning were changed to “rage on the Beacon stage.” Trey quoted If I Had A Hammer (The Hammer Song) after Pigtail. Til We Meet Again through Frost were performed with The Rescue Squad Strings (Katie Kresek and Maxim Moston on violin, Rachel Golub on viola, and Anja Wood on cello) and with Til We Meet Again and More featuring just Trey on acoustic guitar and My Friend My Friend and Guyute just Trey on acoustic guitar and Jeff Tanski on piano. My Friend My Friend did not contain the “MYFE” ending. Guyute included Trey quoting some of Vincent Price’s lines from Thriller.