Last night, Trey Anastasio opened up a brief solo acoustic run at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, NJ, which served as somewhat of a hometown show for the Phish frontman, who is originally from Princeton, NJ. The evening, which featured a minimalist stage-lighting setup, had a loose, Storytellers-esque feeling, with Anastasio adding laughter and quick anecdotes to his setlist, and the crowd was filled, in part, by Anastasio’s own family and a couple of his songwriting partners, Tom Marshall and Steve “The Dude of Life” Pollak.
After opening the set with “Blaze On” and “Backwards Down the Number Line,” Anastasio spoke about the recent passing of Dr. Jack McConnell, father of Phish keyboardist Page McConnell. Anastasio remembered how the McConnell family lived a few towns over from Morristown, and he would visit them in his younger years.
Last night’s show also took place on the birthday of Anastasio’s late sister who passed away in 2009, which added a level of reflection to the night, coupled with the recent passing of both Dr. McConnell and also Anastasio’s good friend Chris Cottrell, who came into Anastasio’s life in high school and also worked on the live TAB album Plasma. Early in the set, Anastasio offered a rendition of “Miss You,” which was penned about his sister.
Later in the set, after a “Wolfman’s Brother” that displayed some effects-pedal work, Anastasio gave his solo acoustic debut of “Everything’s Right” before playing the rare Phish number “The In-Law Josie Wales,” which the band hasn’t played since 2000 but has been in Anastasio’s own sets since. Right after, at the crowd’s urging, Anastasio played “Sleeping Monkey,” with the audience helping out on vocals. The crowd also lent a hand to following tune “Limb By Limb,” taking the parts usually covered by Phish drummer Jon Fishman.
A new instrumental song, which Anastasio noted doesn’t have a name yet, preceded the set’s finale run. Anastasio revealed that the tune’s riff was composed while sitting on the couch with Cottrell, and the guitarist reflected on his late friend’s upbeat spirit, noting that the song is meant to be sad but looking toward a positive future. (Anastasio use the Portuguese word ““saudade” to describe the mixed emotion.)
The final three songs of the set were presented with true jamband-inspired segues, continuing the effects-pedal layering in “Bathtub Gin” into “Chalk Dust Torture” and “Back On the Train.” The encore kicked off with Phish staple “Bouncing Around the Room” before his solo-acoustic debut of “Push On ‘Til the Day,” which Anastasio stopped to tell a story about the time a couple of Phish crew members were tossing a football during the band’s soundcheck at an outdoor show, when one of the longer throws caused the catcher to run into a pole, inspiring the lyric, “Pete threw a bomb and he rang the pole.” He also pointed out that the opening “C. Cot is a friend of mine” line of the song is written about Cottrell. (Anastasio and Cottrell met in high school and attended several seminal early concerts together; they remained close for years and Cottrel worked with Trey Anastasio Band in an official capacity on their live album Plasma.)
Adding to the night’s banter, Anastasio also recounted the story of a Phish show when a teenager named Peyton was lost, prompting his mother to call the backstage room where Anastasio picked up and eventually joined his bandmates in locating Peyton and returning him to his family and friends.
See the full setlist below as it appears in out Box Scores section, along with a couple videos from the night. Anastasio continues his solo acoustic run tonight at the State Theatre in Ithaca, NY.
Mayo Performing Arts Center Morristown, NJ
Blaze On, Backwards Down the Number Line, Brian and Robert, Heavy Things, Miss You, Strange Design, Twenty Years Later, Wolfman’s Brother, Everything’s Right*, The Inlaw Josie Wales, Sleeping Monkey, Limb By Limb, Waste, Unknown instrumental, Bathtub Gin > Chalk Dust Torture > Back on the Train
Enc: Bouncing Around the Room, Push On ‘Til the Day, More
Notes: *Solo acoustic debut