On July 6, 2018 the Trey Anastasio Trio (with Ray Paczkowski) made their 2018 New York debut at the Central Park Summerstage to a small gathering of fans that felt more like a friendly summer barbecue than a major concert in the middle of Manhattan. If Madison Square Garden is Phish’s house, then that makes Central Park Trey’s backyard, and the pre-show vibe in the park was reflective of that as the intimate vibe of the venue gave the feeling that people were visiting their old friend, Trey, for his annual Fourth of July bash. Originally billed as Trey Anastasio Trio show, the lineup was changed at the last minute to feature to the Classic TAB roster with the return of keyboardist Ray Paczkowski following the removal of a brain tumor earlier this year.
The show got started with an airy ‘Blaze On’ opener which featured a loose jam and more open space then Phish’s version of the song. The band took their time developing the groove, and established a light, summer vibe early on which they would carry with them throughout the first set. TAB’s ‘Cayman Review’ followed and kept the breezy vibe going as the crowd began to fill in and people began to loosen up. Paczkowski’s first solo of the night was received with a warm cheer from the crowd, who was clearly overjoyed with his presence that evening, as was the rest of the band based on the smiles exchanged on stage. The ‘Everything’s Right’ that followed featured Trey’s first taste of darkness of the evening as the band developed a spinning groove around his sludgy, building jam. The mysteriousness nature of the jam gave the feeling of early cave paintings; dark, yet stripped down art that draws the mind in and keeps it wondering.
‘Heavy Things’ brought back the summer vibe as the band delivered a standard, bouncing version of the song before the band started their second big extended jam of the first set, ‘Gotta Jibboo.’ The Jibboo featured a patient, yet playful jam which featured bassist Tony Markellis finding his way deep into the pocket as Trey and Ray went back and fourth on fills. They eventually built the solo to a relatively aggressive Jibboo peak before flawlessly synchronizing the ending of the jam to the final verse. The ‘Party Time’ that followed was high energy and appropriate, as the entire set felt like a big summer party. Following the song, Trey joked with the crowd stating that ‘Party Time’ was written by his favorite songwriter of all time, a man who also wrote the great ‘Ass Handed’, the one and only Jon Fishman.
‘Miss You’ came next and gave the band a chance to catch their breath as Trey delivered an incredibly passionate rendition of the song. The band did a great job of capturing the vibe of the song while Trey delivered a heartfelt solo, which had the crowd hanging on his every note. They brought the energy back up for the set closer, ‘Sand,’ as Trey had a mission to close the set out with a bang. The jam resembled fractals as Trey expanded outward on multiple ideas and drummer Russ Lawton laid down tribal beats. The rising energy of the song built the jam to the strongest peak of the first set just before smoothly slipping into the final refrain as if nothing happened when the band exited for set break.
While the first set was all about breezy summer vibes, the second set showed the band exploding through space. They returned to the stage with a strong rendition of ‘No Men In No Man’s Land’ to start the second set, which seemed like a much more stripped down version of the song as compared to Phish’s. The loose structure lead to a spacy jam featuring Trey messing around with his pedals to create a wormhole effect over the crowd. Paczkowski’s slippery solo alongside Trey’s spacy tone gave the song a buttery vibe, with just enough darkness mixed in to make you forget what they were playing. Once the band reached an appropriate peak, they kept the ambient vibe going with delay-heavy ‘Ghost.’ The ‘Ghost’ creeped along with all four members adding their own flavor, taking their time it as if they were providing ominous music for a midnight riverboat ride through the jungle. They eventually built the energy up to a high point, and ended the song on a strong, guitar-oriented peak.
The ‘Camel Walk’ that followed may have been the biggest surprise of the evening, as Trey reworked the song to make it more upbeat and funky than Phish’s version. Trey was clearly having fun throughout the entire song as he delivered playful fills, an increased tempo, and a swinging jam. Played with the energy of a 1992 ‘Poor Heart,’ Trey showed us that his fingers are still just as nimble than ever. They brought the set back into the shadows with a rendition of ‘Dark and Down’ that can only be described as euphoric. As the band peaked on a delicate, soaring jam, the sun dropped perfectly between two buildings to the west of the park. It felt like Trey was waiting to play the song until he was ready to bid the day goodbye, and the cotton candy sky above the trees in the park was exactly what he was waiting for.
Continuing with the spacy theme of the set, they dropped into the fun-loving ‘Soul Planet’ once the night settled in. The crowd truly was “spinning through space” as Trey played around with his pedals to create a funky, spaced out energy that breathed positivity. The song reached a lively peak with Trey shooting laser beams around the park, before dropping back into the darkness with a very strong ‘Steam.’ Like other songs this evening, TAB left much more open space in the song structure of ‘Steam’ which gave the song a very different feel than that of a Phish show. While Trey did show off a bit with his fills, the verses were more interesting not for the notes that were played, but for those that weren’t. They eventually built the jam into an almost disturbing, alien spaceship peak with the crowd hanging on for their lives as they cannonballed through an asteroid field of light and sound before coming together for a clean ending of the song, which acted as the band’s final visit to deep space.
The ‘Undermind’ that followed brought funky energy back up, and the fun-loving, breezy jam was reminiscent of the first set. The final, and arguably strongest, peak of the second set came in it’s closer, ‘Push On ‘Til The Day.’ The dark funk kept the crowd enticed, as Trey played like a madman ripping through the final solo. There were multiple times where the band could have finished, and everyone would have been happy, but the band was obviously having the times of their lives and had no plans to stop as they built an almost uncomfortable amount of tension out of the jam. The euphoric release of the jam had the crowd yelling for more as they band took their bows and exited the stage.
Trey came out by himself for the first part of the encore, as he worked through beautiful renditions of ‘Waste,’ ‘Strange Design,’ and ‘More.’ The crowd was absolutely silent and respectful for Trey’s playing, to the point that you could hear lightning bugs zip by your ears in between notes. The ‘Waste’ was particularly magical as you could hear Trey’s voice get raspy while he teared up singing it. The crowd sang along quietly enough to hear Trey, but loud enough for the park to hum its melody. After ‘Waste’ he told a story of how he could see the building where he took his first guitar lessons and thanked his parents for the opportunity to make his dreams come true. It was truly an intimate moment between Trey and the crowd, one that anyone in attendance will not soon forget.
Following the trio of acoustic songs, the rest of the band came back out to properly close out the night in the park. They shuffled through a sludgy ‘Alaska’ with Trey creating muddy effect with his pedals before closing out the night with the TAB classic ‘First Tube.’ The blissful instrumental featured a high energy solo and gorgeous peak which left the crowd wanting more. Overall you couldn’t ask for a more perfect evening in the park, and with how rehearsed and confident Trey seemed, there is much to look forward to for the rest of the summer.
Trey Anastasio Trio 7/6/2018 Setlist via Phish.net:
Set 1: Blaze On, Cayman Review, Everything’s Right, Heavy Things, Gotta Jibboo, Party Time, Miss You, Sand
Set 2: No Men In No Man’s Land, Ghost, Camel Walk, Dark and Down, Soul Planet, Steam, Undermind, Push On ‘Til the Day
Encore: Waste , Strange Design, More, Alaska, First Tube