Down with disease: Comparing and contrasting Trey Anastasio pre- and post-rehab
It’s safe to say that Trey Anastasio’s life was in shambles when he was arrested in upstate New York for DWI in December 2006. More than two years had passed since the breakup of Phish, and Anastasio was floundering in an abyss of chemical dependency and largely ignored solo records. But aside from an embarrassing and (on A.V. Club Milwaukee at least) omnipresent mug shot, Anastasio has come back from his drug problems more or less unscathed thanks to the magical restorative powers of drug rehabilitation. To measure just how far Anastasio has come in the last several years before his show Feb. 18 at Pabst Theater, The A.V. Club examined his life and music pre- and post-rehab.
Pre-rehab: Before Phish’s triumphant 2009 reunion tour, Anastasio’s last appearance with the band was at Coventry, a disastrous two-day festival held in northern Vermont considered by many to be the worst show in the group’s history. Because the concert site was choked by mud created by days of torrential rains, many fans had to abandon their vehicles and hike as far as 30 miles. Unfortunately, those who braved the storm weren’t treated to the epic gig they were expecting; instead they witnessed the unraveling of Anastasio, whose sloppy playing was outdone only by his disheveled appearance. He looked like death incarnate, and it was painfully clear that the guy was on junk.
Post-rehab: After a three-night run of reunion shows at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Va., Phish went on to play an unexpected total of 52 shows in 2009. Anastasio’s playing improved greatly as the tour went on, and the shows overall did a lot to remove the stain Coventry left on Phish’s legacy. Highlights included Anastasio jamming with boyhood hero Bruce Springsteen at Bonnaroo and a four-night end-of-the-year stand in Miami.
Pre-rehab: Anastasio’s 2005 solo album Shine was his first release after Phish’s breakup, and was built on a foundation of stripped-down rock devoid of the jazz and funk influences he often drew on previously. It also wasn’t particularly jammy; the longest song barely cracked five and a half minutes. Anastasio was moving on, but so did most Phish fans, who generally detested the record.
Post-rehab: The most notable music that Trey Anastasio recorded since his arrest is “Time Turns Elastic” a 29-minute prog-rock opus originally written and recorded by Anastasio and Don Hart in 2008 and intended be performed with a symphony orchestra. It’s everything you could want from Anastasio: long, over-indulgent, and endearingly goofy.
Trey Anastasio Band
Pre-rehab: It’s not a stretch to argue that the Trey Anastasio Band is just as much to blame for the demise of Phish as Anastasio’s drug problems. In order to distance himself from the quirky jokiness of his main band and hone his reputation as a serious musician, Anastasio began writing and touring with bassist Tony Markellis and drummer Russ Lawton in 1999. From that point forward, Anastasio would tour solo almost every year with different incarnations of the band. This wasn’t always a good thing, since some of the saddest moments of Anastasio’s career were played out with TAB, mostly because nobody was there to tell him no.
Post-rehab: Scaled down to a septet with a three-piece horn section, Classic TAB is performing new material on this tour as well as standards like “Burlap Sack And Pumps” and “Cayman Review.” Keeping things fresh, Anastasio and Hart have revised the horn compositions, providing a richer sound with fewer instruments.