Trey Anastasio Band rocks Stage AE with lengthy, new jams

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Trey Anastasio Band rocks Stage AE with lengthy, new jams

By Sam Bojarski / Staff Writer

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Outside Stage AE on the North Shore, Brent Milstrom, a 50-year-old seasoned tour veteran and his friend peer into two narrow windows on a double door. It’s 5:30 p.m. — a full 2.5 hours before Trey Anastasio and his band are supposed to take the stage — and the band is about 1.5 hours into its sound check. Milstrom has seen more than 50 Phish shows since 1992, but tonight will mark his first Trey Anastasio Band (TAB) show. 

Chris Fulton, Milstrom’s younger, bearded friend recalls his last time seeing Anastasio at the old IC Light Amphitheatre in Station Square. It was 2002, right in the middle of the infamous Phish hiatus, Fulton said. Both men scratch their heads for a second, in an attempt to pinpoint the exact date Phish went on hiatus. Was it 2004? No, that was the breakup — the hiatus must have been 2000. 

Then Fulton laughs, recalling the concert at IC Light: “The whole Phish scene hopped on a Trey tour that summer. It was incredible.” 

Saturday night at Stage AE, there may not have been any falafel vendors or T-shirt peddlers in the North Shore parking lots — two common Phish show staples — but Anastasio, the lead guitarist of the legendary jam band Phish, played to a large, ecstatic audience with a full band. Take all the funky grooves of Phish, introduce a three-piece brass section and synthesizer and you have Trey Anastasio Band (TAB).  Building on the success of the immensely popular 2012-2013 Traveler Tour, TAB is hitting the road again this winter in support of an impending album release. 

The new album, Paper Wheels, isn’t due out until early 2015, but the band debuted several songs that will be featured on the new release. In typical jam band fashion, TAB played two sets, followed by an encore. Anastasio dropped “Bounce,” a feature song on the upcoming album, in the middle of the first set. Even though the band just recently released the song for download, fans in the building recognized it within the first 10 seconds. Staying true to the song title, his fans took to bouncing when the song changed tempo halfway through, going from a ballad to a fast rock beat. 

TAB has always been centered on Anastasio’s elaborate guitar work, but songs like “Bounce” give bandmates Jennifer Hartswick (trumpet, vocals), Natalie Cressman (trombone, vocals) and James Casey (saxophones, vocals) more prominent roles as backing vocalists. With the 2012-2013  tour under its belt, TAB’s individual members are coming into their own. The three brass players traded solos on the crowd favorite “Sand,” while Anastasio laid the groundwork with his muddy, effects-driven rhythm guitar. Cressman also had a fine solo on the ten-minute long “Burlap Sack and Pumps” in the second set. Known almost exclusively for his lead playing, Anastasio has really learned to accentuate a solo by playing chords and working his effects pedals. 

In typical Phish fashion, TAB’s setlists change from show to show, so fans never know what songs they will hear on any given night. However, Saturday night certainly satisfied both the TAB and Phish fan in everyone. Anastasio pulled his solo classics “Cayman Review” and “Night Speaks to a Woman” out of his deep repertoire early, while featuring Phish staples “Gotta Jibboo” and “First Tube” in the second set. 

In the crowd, older fans exchanged stories from Phish shows with younger fans, each proclaiming the number of shows they’ve seen as if they were credentials. Another city, another show for Anastasio, his band and the most loyal fans in rock music.

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