Trey Anastasio Band 03/04/11
Music Box @ Fonda – Hollywood, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
The only thing more shocking then a rare appearance from Trey Anastasio on the West Coast is where Anastasio decided to play on the West Coast. With the ability to sell out Air Force Bases with his day job known as Phish, Anastasio booked the intimate Music Box for the Southern California stop on his Acoustic/Electric 2011 Winter Tour. Usually reserved for up and coming hipster acts, the 1300 seat Music Box was the hottest ticket in town on the first Friday in March. Thankfully I was able to secure a balcony seat during the Goldenvoice pre-sale and witness my fourth Trey Anastasio Band show. So with my 40 hours in a cubical in the rear view, I blasted over Barham Blvd into Hollywood excited for a night with the Phish mastermind.
With a front row spot right behind a “luxury box” reserved for Anastasio (no one claimed it, so I ended up moving into it myself during the second set) the energy level was high in the quaint venue before Anastasio took the stage alone at 8:25 pm. For the next 45 minutes, the ginger Jedi strummed selections from the vast catalogue of music Phish has created over the past 25 years. The night opened with the hard rocking “Chalkdust Torture” that got the main floor moving as if he had been joined by fellow Phish band mates Mike Gordon, Jon Fishman and Page McConnell. From there Anastasio moved the capacity crowd with “Bathtub Gin>Prince Caspian” proving that he could segue from song to song with or without his friends from Vermont.
One could argue that the highlight of the first set was not the music, but the hilarious banter that came before a wonderful re-imagined “Theme From The Bottom.” Anastasio informed the crowd how the bus had driven past the apartment that Phish had once shared just down the street from The Viper Room. Declaring the year was 1989 and that the band was in town to record the record Hoist, many audience members informed Anastasio that Hoist had been released in 1994. Clearly embarrassed, Anastasio questioned the crowd as if it truly was 1994 (My vote was 93 based off the mention of the Malibu Fires) and told us to Google it. At the conclusion of “Theme” it was decided that 93 was indeed the year the band called West Hollywood home for three months, because Rift had come out out in 1996. Oh Trey, I don’t care if you have no idea what records came out when, I just wish you would come visit your temporary home more often.
I felt that the musical highlight of Anastasio’s time alone on stage was a jazzy take on the Phish classic “Cavern.” It was clear that Anastasio has put a lot of time into re-working phan favorites for the acoustic setting and the results are phenomenal. While it has been clear for years that Anastasio is a totally bitching rock star from Mars; in the event anyone had forgotten they were no doubt reminded with a raucous solo rendition of the Gamehendge classic “Wilson.”
Anastasio welcomed his six piece backing band to the stage towards of the end of the set. “Gotta Jiboo” was grooving so hard that fellow jam rocker Ben Harper had no choice but to stand up and boogie down. With the smooth “Liquid Time” in the bag, the set eventually wrapped with a smoking version of “Push On Til’ The Day.” As he did a few times this past summer in Berkeley, lighting mastermind Chris Kuroda managed to kill my video camera with his seizure-riffic visual skills during the sets final number. With a few hundred videos now taken with this piece of equipment, Kuroda is the only person who has been able to make it freeze, and I am really starting to hate him for it.
After a brief intermission, the Trey Anastasio Band returned for a set of Adult-Contemporary jam juggernauts along with a few choice covers. As well dressed ushers had a field day busting peaceful wooks for consuming cannabis and dancing in the aisles, TAB got things underway with an impressive one-two punch of “Cayman Review” and “Burlap Sack and Pumps.” The band had the energy level well beyond the boundaries of the room by the time they wrapped up the sets third song “Ocelot.” Perhaps I will understand this better when I hit my 40’s, but it seems that over the past few years, once that energy is raging, Anastasio loves to kill it. That’s exactly what happened when the soft and rather un-exciting “Valentine” followed “Ocelot.” The same folks who had just shaking the venue by dancing as hard as they could were now motionless as they used “Valentine” to chit-chat or catch up on the latest tweets from @charliesheen.
Thankfully the energy was brought right back up with a somewhat sloppy yet fun cover of the Charlie Daniel’s Band classic “Devil Went Down To Georgia.” While Anastasio may not know when he called the Thirty Mile Zone home, he sure is hip to the week Charlie Sheen is having. I couldn’t 100% make out what he said, but WINNING was indeed mentioned by Anastasio after the band wrapped “Devil.”
One could argue that the covers TAB decided to play were better received then some of the originals. While I doubt Trey and company could hear him, I was excited when they busted out the Levon Helm number “It Makes No Difference” for the simple fact that the old man behind me got his wish and would stop screaming for it. Yet, when it came to covers, the clear high water mark was a take on “Clint Eastwood” by the animated outfit Gorillaz. I’ll be honest, I despise this song, but watching Anastasio and friends tackle it was a true treat. Trumpet player/vocalist Jennifer Hartwick nailed the versus originally laid down by Del The Funky Homosapien while Anastasio did a fine job playing the role of Damon Albarn.
After solid takes on “Nights Speak To A Woman” and “Shine” (which I don’t mind, but many used this as a chance to hit the bathroom) the band blessed the west coast with some “Sand.” While many of the songs on this particular evening had some improvised jams, this was the only moment where the band truly let loose and went deep into the unknown. It finally felt as though the band was warmed up, yet sadly it was the conclusion to the second set.
The group of course returned for an encore. Fulfilling the request of an individual who had begged Anastasio for it all night, the first song was “Dragonfly.” Granted it was my first time hearing the song, I am not sure why someone would have requested the number. It wasn’t terrible, but it certainly wasn’t anything to write home about. The energetic Anastasio (I have never seen the man move so much in my life) closed the night with another perfect take on “First Tube.” I swear to God every time I hear this song live, I am convinced it will collapse the venue. The high soaring instrumental can be summed up with one word: WINNING! As my camera once again fought death via Kuroda, Anastasio chanted Charlie Sheen’s million dollar catchphrase at the tail end of the jam. A perfect Hollywood ending if I do say so myself, it was truly great to see a healthy and happy Anastasio rock the Music Box.