021114 Trey Anastasio Band, Orlando, FL

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On February 11th, 2014 I had the great pleasure of seeing the Trey Anastasio Band (“TAB” to all the neo-hippies out there) at the House of Blues in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Though this wasn’t my first time seeing TAB (nor my first visit to one of Dan Aykroyd’s House of Blues franchises) it was definitely my first time at this specific venue.  If Lake Buena Vista sounds a bit unfamiliar to you, well, it sounds wholly unfamiliar to me as well.  As far as I was concerned this concert was at something called Downtown Disney, Walt Inc.’s offsite opportunity for people to spend gads of money without having to pay an admission fee.  Don’t look for it, it’s not there anymore. 

When it was there, Downtown Disney was a pedestrian complex rife with large franchise-esque restaurants and shops designed to suck you in and eat as much of your expendable cash as possible.  Obviously they weren’t overly efficient in this regard, otherwise the place would still be open.  For our part I believe m’lady and I stopped into a restaurant designed to mimic a large paddle steamer for a slice of key lime pie (her Scooby-snack equivalent) and a beer (mine) and spent the rest of our time shunning Disney’s constant warm and fuzzy sales pitches.

Getting to the show, this was probably the first time (and only time, as I have yet to see them since) that I really, really enjoyed the band on their own terms.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve appreciated every other TAB show I’ve seen and then some, but for the most part I would be waiting for the ubiquitous snippets of Phish that Trey would include in his concerts.  But even then – despite the massive amount of talent Trey would always have with him on stage – these musical nuggets would usually pale in comparison to the mightier Phish versions (in my mind, at least).

So it’s fair to say that I generally enjoy TAB as a Phish-light sort of experience, and given the option I would rather be at an actual Phish concert every time.

And while I won’t say that isn’t true in this case, I will say that it didn’t take very long for me to become completely mesmerized by the band on this night.  Gosh, he had such a great band with him, most notably the horn players.  Sure, Trey actually played a considerable chunk of Phish tunes, but the songs I remember the most vividly and the ones that really knocked me out were ones I hadn’t heard before, and tunes that featured his side-players quite heavily.

The smash-hit jaw-dropper of the night was when Trey’s trombone player (Natalie “Chainsaw” Cressman) sang a cover song I had never heard before called 1977.  She sang it in Spanish (as the original goes, apparently) and it was just chest-explodingly great.  

It was quite interesting for me to notice how differently Trey conducts himself guitar-wise when he plays with TAB versus his regular gig with Phish, something that hadn’t consciously clicked in my brain before.  I wouldn’t say that he was more restrained, though that would probably be accurate, but he seemed to completely defer to others when it was their time to shine.  Like, when Page takes a solo with Phish Trey still tends to keeps his guitar pretty busy, while with TAB it seemed like when he threw the attention over to someone else he really threw it over.  

Maybe that’s why I wasn’t as crazy about TAB before, but this time I really dug it.  Maybe I had finally seen enough Phish shows to fully appreciate non-Phish Trey?  If so: what a costly trajectory.

An added fun bonus to this show was randomly discovering our Miami-based friend Steve at the concert, flapping his magically dancing hands around from his favourite spot at any show, just a little left of centre and about a quarter of the way back on the floor.  It’s a good feeling when shows become reunions without even trying.  

This is something that started happening to me more and more with every jamband-related tour and I tell you, it’s fun.  And another reason to just keep on truckin’.  

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