The historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville Tennessee is known as one of the “smallest, big venues” in the United States. The old church holds only 2,362, making every performance very personal. On October 27th 2019, Trey Anastasio of the rock band Phish, made his solo acoustic debut at the legendary venue.
The night began with an obscure arrangement of “Theme From The Bottom” which set the tone for the entire night. Later in the set, Anastasio performed “Summer of ‘89”, an autobiographical song about Trey’s wife and daughter, which created an intimate and emotional feeling in the small room. Trey then continued to bring out Phish fan favorites like “Limb by Limb” and a rendition of “Blaze On” in which he used about 5 or 6 different loops on his acoustic guitar, creating the sound of a full jam band.
The Ryman was also blessed with a marijuana fueled story about Trey’s experience with Willie Nelson and Neil Young at Farm Aid in 1998. Already feeling a bit too “lifted” after a visit on Willie’s bus, Trey made his way over to Neil’s bus to learn “Powderfinger” to play with Neil during Phish’s set. When it was Neil’s turn to perform, Trey was caught off guard when Young decided to perform Powderfinger during his own set, leaving Trey to think that the entire collaboration was off. Then, while Phish was on stage, they were in an E minor groove, and out walked Neil Young by surprise and casually brought them into “Down by the River” without any rehearsal.
Trey then continued with some more Phish classics like “Sample in a Jar” and “AC/DC Bag.” He then brought the crowd to their feet with the favorite “Possum” which the auditorium so gracefully sang along to. He finally ended the show with “Bathtub Gin” in which the crowd sang the harmonics and was visually exhilarated by the vocal support of the room.
Seeing Trey perform in such an intimate environment was a religious experience to say the least. One of the most important moments was when he said “I’ve played a handful of gigs here, but I’m most excited for this one because it’s just me and my acoustic guitar. And this room was made for an acoustic guitar.”