Grousing The Aisles: Amfibian @ Higher Ground 2001 w/ Trey Anastasio and The Debut/Only Public Performance of Utalk

Amfibian / Utalk 03/31/2001 @ Higher Ground FOB/House Rig [FLAC, MP3]

From 1999 to 2001 and then from 2004 to 2007, Phish lyricist Tom Marshall wrote songs for and performed with a unit he fronted called Amfibian. The band developed from the ashes of an “aborted” Trey [Anastasio]/Tom project called Utalk. Anastasio and Marshall paired with two friends from their Princeton Day School years, drummer Pete Cottone and bassist Matt Kohut, to form Utalk in the late ’90s. When difficulties such as Trey living in Vermont while the rest of the band lived in the Princeton area stopped the group from getting off the ground, Tom recruited Pete, Matt and a few additional musicians, including guitarist Scott Metzger, to form Amfibian.

Towards the end of the 2000-2001 era of Amfibian, that version of the band made their final appearance at Higher Ground in Winooski, Vermont on March 31, 2001. Trey Anastasio emerged with an acoustic guitar in hand during the closing stanza for a handful of songs with Marshall, the first and to date only performance by Utalk and a three-song encore with all of Amfibian. Yesterday, an impressive front-of-board audience recording made by Dave Flashner surfaced on thanks to the transferring efforts of Terry Watts.

Even besides the stuff with Trey, this recording is well worth the download. The first set and the beginning of the second set finds Marshall, Cottone, Kohut, Metzger, Andrew Southern, JP Wasicko and Chris Harford (Band Of Changes) tearing through Tom’s tunes for the project as well as an array of power-pop songs Marshall wrote with Harford. There’s also a killer cover of Pavement’s Elevate Me Later, a staple of Amfibian’s live repertoire. Harford even fronts the group for Kiss Me Like You Kissed Me In The Van from Band of Changes’ 1999 debut.

Tom has fun with the audience, who was no doubt expecting the Trey sit-in, by repeatedly mentioning “April Fools!” before finally saying, “I’d like to bring out a friend of mine” at which point the crowd goes nuts when the guitarist emerges. Anastasio and Marshall start off by debuting a song they wrote together at one of their songwriting sessions which fans dubbed “Thesba.” Years later it would be the final song the members of Phish would record before breaking up in 2004 as “The Birdwatcher.” While Birdwatcher didn’t wind up making it onto Undermind, it did finally appear on Party Time in 2009 and has since been played multiple times by both Phish and the Trey Anastasio Band.

Trey and Tom also played Phish classics Strange Design, McGrupp, Grind and Driver as well as the country-tinged Name, aka You’ll Know My Name, which Anastasio performed six times during his first solo tour in 1999. For the finale of the second set, Marshall assembled the members of Utalk for a stripped-down Wading In The Velvet Sea. When Amfibian returned for the encore, Trey was with them for Harford’s Leaf of Fall, a shred-heavy Farmhouse and the upbeat, pre-Shafty version of Oblivious Fool known as Olivia’s Pool. All in all, a fun listen and an important piece of Phish history.

Setlist… [via PT and bt.etree Listing

Set One: I’m Coming Home, Flare, Hippie Dream, Nature’s Way, Appreciate, Kiss Me Like You Kissed Me In The Van, Ribbon Of Sun, Ouch!, No Promises

Set Two: Jam -> Now I’m Freaking Out, Back to Mesopotamia, Unless You Wanted Me To, Elevate Me Later, To Be Real, Into The Universe, In Love with This World, The Birdwatch*@, Strange Design*, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters*, Grind*, Name*, Driver*, Wading in the Velvet Sea#

Encore: Leaf of Fall^, Farmhouse^

Encore2: Olivia’s Pool^

* – Trey Anastasio and Tom Marshall
@ – Trey and Tom with Stephen “Tebo” Thomas on vocals
# – Debut and only known performance of Utalk (Trey, Tom, Matt Kohut & Pete Cottone)
^ – Amfibian with Trey Anastasio on electric guitar

Tom Marshall, Scott Metzger, Chris Harford, Andrew Southern, Matt Kohut, Pete Cottone, JP Wasicko,
Trey Anastasio (Guest), Stephen “Tebo” Thomas (Guest)

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3 Responses

  1. Boston at Middle East was 3/31 > higher Ground was 4/01 (drove from E. Lansing MI to both shows… worth it too team !! 🙂

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