Trey Anastasio Reopens SPAC with Rescue Squad Strings and Jeff Tanski

Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) was alive once again on June 18, as Trey Anastasio kicked off three nights of acoustic shows with some friends along for the ride.

On Friday night, Trey welcomed Beacon Jams stars the Rescue Squad Strings and Jeff Tanski for eleven songs during the show, while performing another eleven solo on acoustic guitar. The songs included Phish numbers, as well as one of Trey’s new quarantine home recordings, “Lost in the Pack.”

Trey told stories during the performance, asking the audience what they’d been up to since Mexico, the last Phish shows held in February 2020. Trey gave nod to HBO’s Succession Season 2 for best viewing this past year, as well as Marc Rebillet’s vaccine song.

The crowd, held to 30% capacity (due to live performance restrictions at the time of announcement) skewed slightly younger, with crowd pleasers “Everything’s Right,” “Turtle in the Clouds” and “Sigma Oasis” elating the audience, the latter especially with the line, “Take off your mask.”

Fans were treated to two lengthy compositions with the Rescue Squad Strings and Tanski with the early composition “Fluffhead” and the more recent “Mercury,” both wowing the crowd, the latter making its acoustic debut along with the Anastasio/Tansky duet of “Split Open and Melt.”

A show closing “First Tube” gave a nod to the late Tony Markellis, as Anastasio said, “With deepest love,” for the former TAB bassist and longtime resident of Saratoga Springs.

Trey AnastasioSaratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC)- June 18, 2021

Setlist via Phish.net

Set 1: Wilson [1], Alive Again[1], Stash [2], Water in the Sky[2], Lost in the Pack[1], Back on the Train[1], Sample in a Jar[1], Sigma Oasis[1], Theme From the Bottom[1], Shade [3], Fluffhead[2], Mercury [4], The Inlaw Josie Wales[2], Turtle in the Clouds[1], Maze[1], Snowflakes in the Sand[1], Everything’s Right [5], Split Open and Melt [6], Joy[2], Harry Hood[2]

Encore: More[1], First Tube[4]
[1] Trey on acoustic guitar.
[2] Trey on acoustic guitar; with the Rescue Squad Strings and Jeff Tanski on piano.
[3] Trey on acoustic guitar; with Jeff Tanski on piano.
[4] Trey on acoustic guitar; with the Rescue Squad Strings and Jeff Tanski on piano. First acoustic performance.
[5] Trey on acoustic guitar. Started and stopped before being played in full.
[6] Trey on acoustic guitar; with Jeff Tanski on piano. First acoustic performance.

Saturday night found Trey and a full house at SPAC for round two. Phish bandmate Page McConnell stopped by late in the evening, surprising fans for a few songs.

Just before the encore, Trey thanked the audience, crew and friends and spoke about the late Tony Markellis.

Tony will always be a part of all of our lives. He of course, Saratoga resident and native. Page reminded me backstage of a fact that was quite true that I had forgotten. His absolute favorite song in the repertoire of all of this groups of friends who play together is this next song. He just loved this one. One of Page’s favorites too.

Trey Anastasio

And with that, “Sleeping Monkey” was played by Trey and Page, with the crowd letting out a laugh, and later singing the “home on the train” part in unison. For the final songs of the encore, Trey brought Jeff Tanski and the Rescue Squad Strings as Page stepped off, closing the night with “If I Could” and “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.”

Trey AnastasioSaratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC)- June 19, 2021

Setlist via LiveMusicBlog

Set 1: Set Your Soul Free, Blaze On, I Never Needed You Like This Before, Esther#, Brian And Robert*, Wolfman’s Brother*, Divided Sky*, Driver, When the Words Go Away, Twist, Foam#, What’s the Use*, Chalk Dust Torture, Sand#, Pebbles and Marbles*, Lifeboy*, Backwards Down the Number Line, Limb By Limb, Mountains in the Mist^, Sleep^, Waste^, Sleeping Monkey^

Encore: If I Could$, Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.

* – with Rescue Squad Strings + Jeff Tanski
# – with Jeff Tanski
^ – with Page McConnell
$ – with Rescue Squad Strings + Page McConnell

For the third and final night of acoustic performance at SPAC, Anastasio spent the longest day of the year focusing intently on playing and less time sharing stories. On the 17 year anniversary of one of Phish’s most notable SPAC performances, Anastasio gave the date fresh significance as acoustic debuts of “Reba,” “Drift While You’re Sleeping,” “You Enjoy Myself” and “Tweezer Reprise” were the specials of the day.

With the mantra of ‘Never Miss a Sunday’ show holding true through a pandemic, Trey kicked off the show with an unexpected Father’s Day opener in “Carini,” noting afterwards this was a Father’s Day song with the lyrics “he went across the street and called his dad,” the ends seemingly justifying the means.

A spirited acoustic version of “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan” had a nice jam at end that worked its way into “Free” which had cheers throughout for “I feel the feeling I forgot.”

For the first acoustic debut of the night, “Reba” featured a duet with Jeff Tanski on piano, who added in a little ragtime style in the first third of the composition. The incredibly intricate song, one that Anastasio recently mentioned on Alive Again (Osiris Network) took the pair on a complex journey through one of Phish’s oldest fan-favorites. Anastasio noted afterwards that it was Tanski who helped him through the pandemic by playing together for 4-5 hours daily in a small practice space in New York City.

Welcoming back The Rescue Squad Strings – Katie Kresek and Maxim Moston on violin, Rachel Golub on viola, Anja Wood on cello – Anastasio dove into “Strange Design” and the debut of “Drift While You’re Sleeping,” the crowd moved by lyrics “It’s love, it’s love, it always was. And it is and it always will be love.”

Trey went solo for “Ghost” and “Farmhouse” before welcoming back Tanski for “Ghosts of the Forest” with aquarium-hued lighting and Anastasio hanging on the lyric “I’m drowning in my own mind” to the song’s morendo. The Strings returned for “Light” which used the blank canvas behind the stage to simulate a sunrise growing brighter as the song built towards climax.

“Bathtub Gin” and “NICU” had the audience singing along once again, followed by Tansky returning for two somber numbers in “Dirt” and “Miss You.” The Strings then came back again for the at-home composition from April 2020, “Till We Meet Again.” If there was any point of the evening where there was an interlude in the music, it was these previous few tunes, as the crowd would soon find out.

A solo version of “Tube” brought out big cheers for science, and with Tansky and the string section, fans were wowed with “The Lizards.” Debuting during the Beacon Jams in Fall 2020, the addition of strings to the fan-favorite had the song hitting a little different this evening. Paired with the “Slave to the Traffic Light” that followed, fans were blessed with two classic Phish songs plus strings in as intimate a setting as 30% capacity at SPAC could allow.

After a solo version of “Possum,” Trey read a sign saying “Play what makes you happy.” He obliged, playing “a little ditty that makes me happy,” that being “You Enjoy Myself.” The vocal jam afterwards was reminiscent of past performances with orchestras, such as at Carnegie Hall in 2009, with Anastasio standing in front of the canvas backdrop, his silhouette visible against orange and then blue light.

For the encore, Trey thanked everyone for three great nights, introduced the string section and Tansky, and moved into the Ghosts of the Forest ballad “Life Beyond a Dream.” The addition of strings to emotionally powerful songs from across his decades of performance stood out tonight, but the show closer, “Tweezer Reprise,” would be the icing on the evening as the first ever version with a string section, with Anastasio smiling ear to ear as the typical finale of Phish shows reigned supreme once again in the halls of SPAC.

Anastasio will perform two nights at The Beacon Theatre, June 22 and 23, the first shows with an audience at the famed venue since March 2020.

Trey AnastasioSaratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC)- June 20, 2021

Setlist via Phish.net

Set 1: Carini [1], Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan[1], Free[1], Reba [2], Strange Design [3], Drift While You’re Sleeping [4], Ghost[1], Farmhouse[1], Ghosts of the Forest [5], Light[3], Bathtub Gin[1], NICU[1], Dirt[5], Miss You[5], Till We Meet Again[3], Tube[1], The Lizards[3], Slave to the Traffic Light[3], Possum[1], You Enjoy Myself[4]

Encore: A Life Beyond The Dream[3], Tweezer Reprise[4]
[1] Trey on acoustic guitar.
[2] Trey on acoustic guitar; with Jeff Tanski on piano. First acoustic performance. No whistling.
[3] Trey on acoustic guitar; with the Rescue Squad Strings and Jeff Tanski on piano.
[4] Trey on acoustic guitar; with the Rescue Squad Strings and Jeff Tanski on piano. First acoustic performance.
[5] Trey on acoustic guitar; with Jeff Tanski on piano.

Jeff Tanskirescue squad stringsSaratoga Performing Arts CenterTrey Anastasio