Rock Legend Trey Anastasio Plays to Empty Audience at Beacon Theatre, Raising More than $1 Million


Trey Anastasio. Photo by Angela Crawford/MSG Entertainment.

By Bobby Panza

Upper West Side local Trey Anastasio of the rock band Phish just capped off an 8-week concert series at the Beacon Theatre with a unique twist: there was nobody in attendance.

The performances, fittingly titled, The Beacon Jams, were transmitted live every Friday night beginning October 9th for free thru streaming site Twitch, with fans tuning in from around the world. Their finale was last Friday, November 27th.

The $1 million+ raised will benefit Phish’s long-running non-profit organization, the Waterwheel Foundation, and its new Divided Sky Fund, whose initial objective is to build a drug treatment center in Vermont. Anastasio announced mid-show November 6th, that they’d partnered with treatment program, Jacob’s Ladder, featured in the documentary Recovery Boys on Netflix.

Anastasio is candid about his recovery from drug addiction. Arrested for possession in upstate New York by the Vermont state line in 2006, he’s attributed his time in drug courts as life-saving. In the final Beacon jam, he stopped mid-song during ‘Liquid Time’ to explain its origin. He wrote it while in recovery. Anastasio felt that period of time moved excruciatingly slow, and he felt profound pain. Looking deeper, he recognized that it’s truly just a short time in the show of life, and with hard work and dedication you can make it forward. After explanation, Anastasio played ‘Liquid Time’ from the top again, all the way through.

The Beacon Jams provided some Covid relief and rare live entertainment, the likes of which even his most loyal fans had never experienced before. With zero repeats, 151 different songs were played over the 8 nights, with many classic Phish tunes rearranged with a string section spontaneously named, “The Rescue Squad Strings.” Some stand outs include what’s arguably Phish’s quintessential selection, You Enjoy Myself, as well as Pebbles and Marbles and my personal favorite from the run, What’s The Use. A video playlist of select Beacon Jams is included here. The Carini is a scorcher.

Each performance featured an ever-changing musical ensemble anchored by percussionist Cyro Baptista, bassist Tony Markellis, drummer Russ Lawton and keyboardist Ray Paczkowski. November 6ths performance revealed Ghosts of the Forest, a Trey side project that includes Phish drummer, Jon Fishman.

Pre-recorded jams from ‘The Barn’ in Vermont served as the intro music beginning October 23rd, a collaboration between Anastasio and Phish keyboardist Page McConnell.

Other heavy-lifters from the Beacon Jams include vocalists/horns players, Jennifer Hartswick, Natalie Cressman, and James Casey.

Fans tuning in communicated with Anastasio and the band in real-time using the Twitch chat component. That’s how the ‘Rescue Squad Strings’ were named; A joke going back to Trey getting stuck on a platform high above the stage during Phish’s 2019 New Year’s Eve show at Madison Square Garden. One commenter, a nurse from Maine named Heather McDougal, inspired the impromptu, “Heather McDougal Song” and later the, “Heather McDougal Song Reprise.” A warm theme throughout the Beacon Jams was Anasassio thanking front line workers.

The final night wrapped with Anastasio walking off stage through a group of choreographed dancers while handing out facemasks as he took to the street — a thank you note to Heather McDougal and the other front line heroes of the pandemic was broadcast behind him on the Beacon marquis.

ART, NEWS | 6 comments | permalink
    1. lm says:

      would he consider helping the men from the Lucerne to get the care they need?

    2. John Whitehurst says:

      Trey was Amazing as Always!!!

    3. Sam says:

      I don’t know even one Phish song but I ran into this guy at P.C. Richards (B’way and 86th) once and he was very nice.

    4. RWC says:

      I guess he lives on the upper West side because he is anonymous to most of us, and the rest of us could care less about him as he goes about his life .
      That’s very kindhearted and nice what he has done for his fans and donating money for a rehab.

    5. Pepperoni Tony says:

      changing the stage so the audience area/the beacon was behind the band, very cool.

    6. Wolfgangs Brother says:

      Thank you Trey and everyone involved! Was a real treat to look forward to at the end of each week during these times.