Does the name Bivouac Jaun mean anything to you? It didn’t to me until Wednesday night, when a friend informed me that the bizarrely wholesome Phish call-and-response segments from Tuesday’s show in Santa Barbara were not off-the-cuff quips but rather direct quotes of a long-lost project from the band’s earliest days.
Following the Santa Barbara performance, OG Phish nerds and internet sleuths have noted that these passages were pulled from a proto-Phish project, Bivouac Jaun. While the 1983 demo—recorded by Anastasio, keyboardist/lyricist Tom Marshall, percussionist Marc Daubert, and others—was never widely circulated, several of its tracks went on to be featured on The White Tape.
Most fans, if asked, would point to The White Tape as the first Phish “album.” The demo-turned-official release shines brightly in Phish lore—so brightly, in fact, that it’s easy to forget that most of the tracks on the album weren’t actually recorded by Phish. Instead, much of the original White Tape demo, which features eventual fan-favorites like “Slave to the Traffic Light”, “Divided Sky”, “Run Like An Antelope”, and more, was stitched together from four-track recordings made by various members of the band (see a full list of personnel here). Many of those players intersect with the personnel featured on Bivouac Jaun including Anastasio, Marshall, Daubert, Roger Holloway, Dave Abrahams, and Pete Cottone (per Wikipedia, one of the few sources of information available on the project).
The experimental Bivouac Jaun proved to be a fruitful source of material for this hodgepodge debut Phish demo. The collection of songs includes early versions of enduring White Tape tunes like “Slave”, “Divided Sky” and “Antelope” as well as instrumentals like “Ingest”/”Injest”, “Letter To Jimmy Page”, and “I Am Hydrogen”.
Phish – The White Tape – Full Album
Bivouac Jaun‘s final track is “Little Squirrel”, less a typical “song” than a tripped-out studio experiment/audio greeting card. While it’s not much to listen to, its “lyrics” can be heard as clear as day: “Hello. How are you? We hope you have a good time.”
On Tuesday night, the “Hello / How are you? / We hope you have a good time” segments felt like your run-of-the-mill Phish randomness, but in the context of Bivouac Jaun—and this tour’s theme of unearthed deep cuts and unorthodox setlists—they feel strikingly on-theme. After a West Coast trek full of rare live readings of obscure, old tunes, this nod to “Little Squirrel” and Bivouac Jaun may be the oldest, most obscure bust-out of the bunch.
[UPDATE 10/30/21]: The band continued to dabble in “Little Squirrel” call-and-response antics on Friday night in Las Vegas. The script appeared throughout the band’s first set as well as during the second set’s “Reba”.
You can listen to “Little Squirrel” from Bivouac Jaun below and download a copy of the original demo here (transferred, tracked, encoded, and seeded by Walt Tusinsk).
Bivouac Jaun – “Little Squirrel”
[Uploaded by Jimy Valenti]
While we’re on the subject, the resurfacing of this obscure relic of 1983 Phish has only served to stoke one of the more prevalent rumors about this year’s Halloween antics in Las Vegas. Copies of the flier pictured below spotted around Phish lots throughout the 2021 fall tour seem to forecast a Halloween set rooted in the year 1983.
These sorts of Halloween “clues”—and the rumors they ignite—often end up being over-excited pipe dreams, and the band has never been known to telegraph All Hallows plans ahead of time in such a literal fashion. Hell, maybe one of them even saw one of the fliers and leaned into the concept to throw fans off the scent of the real costume. That said, the PHS Class of 1983 fliers and Santa Barbara’s nod to Bivouac Jaun are enough to make us wonder… We’ll have to wait until Sunday to find out.
Phish’s four-night 2021 Halloween run at the MGM Grand Garden Arena kicks off today, Thursday, October 28th. For more information, head here.
[via Reddit user timwontwin]