Boston Sports Blog columnist Eric Wilbur has long been known for throwing Phish references into his writing for Boston.com. Over the past few years we’ve had many Phish-related conversations with the insightful Wilbur and asked him if he’d be interested in contributing to Hidden Track. Today, on the 20th anniversary of his first Phish show, we are incredibly excited to share his remembrance of that magical evening – November 19th, 1992 at Ross Arena in Colchester, Vermont.
I don’t remember all the pre-game particulars from that evening, but I do recall that the festivities in Joyce Hall included listening to Black Sheep’s A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, and enjoying (I say that lightly) my first-ever bottle of Miller Genuine Draft. We had no idea how that evening would impact our lives going forward.
[Gordon Stone w/ Phish - 11/19/92 © Phish - Used With Permission]
We were freshmen, so we were, of course, still sniffing our ways around people, not even three months into relationships that were beginning to burgeon. In this case, I was in my hall-mate’s dorm room with a couple of others, listening to selections from his early-90’s rap collection. Let’s just say I heard radio stations play that omnipresent Call Me Maybe fewer times this past summer than I endured Ice Cube blaring from this particular room over the course of our first few months at St. Michael’s College.
“Then again, nor would I have ever imagined that 20 years ago how vital this band would remain. They drive my wife nuts, but she also understands and encourages the fandom with her support. The fact remains, to this day, Phish remains our very own reunion of choice for friends who have moved cross-country and overseas.”
It was our first concert in Winooski Park (Blues Traveler and George Clinton would also play the Ross Sports Center during our tenure there), off to see the band everybody told us over the summer that we needed to start to listen to, since we were headed to Vermont, you know. Vermont band. Rising stars. That cliché aside, it was a summer filled with Pearl Jam, The Black Crowes and Check Your Head, and Phish, to many of us, remained a novel interest, uncertain what to expect outside the Picture of Nectar CD that we were apparently required to purchase by law before crossing the state’s border.
Jimmy and Poster, Marco Esquandolas and Rutherford all remained strangers to me, about as relevant then as whatever pop culture scandal my wife continually can’t understand how I don’t know about today. And it wasn’t like that night provided some sort of existential moment of understanding.
But to say that Nov. 19, 1992 was my first Phish show is a badge of honor.
Twenty years is a relative amount of time, depending upon how much of a fraction of your life it may be, so we’re not going to get overly hysterical over the fact that today is the 20th anniversary of that landmark. But Holy $#@&….20 years!
You know the particulars from the evening, so there’s no need to re-hash them here, other than to encourage a spin of the old girl from Ross on her birthday. The Big Ball Jam. The Axilla debut. Gordon Stone on what remains my favorite version of Fast Enough for You. The raging Mike’s Groove. The manic Antelope. The Bold as Love bustout and Trey utilizing the megaphone during Fee, both matters which meant nothing to me at the time. The shrill sound of the St. Mike’s special event co-chairs warning the crowd that there was no smoking in the building as Fishman worked the drums in the background, eager to launch into Maze.
[Ross Sports Arena]
I may not have gone through a Phish baptism that night, but from the opening licks of that standout opener, I was indeed hooked.
And just like with any fan, my relationship with the band has been mixed. I took my own hiatus during 1997-98 (good timing, right?!?!) as I became tired of the scene growing into something completely different from what it had been. I, like thousands, swore “never again” after the disaster that was Coventry. And if I had to hear Light one more time, I was seriously, truly, really, not paying to see them anymore.
But just as the band has since returning in ’09, Light has matured into something to look forward to, a highlight that is welcome any night they play. The way the band meshed in the last show I saw them play – Night Three at Bill Graham – is leaps and bounds from the mixed bag we got at Fenway Park. I would have never thought that they would sound like they do now just three years ago.
Then again, nor would I have ever imagined that 20 years ago how vital this band would remain. They drive my wife nuts, but she also understands and encourages the fandom with her support. The fact remains, to this day, Phish remains our very own reunion of choice for friends who have moved cross-country and overseas. We’ve met in Illinois, Colorado, California, and various other outlets throughout the Northeast not as a nostalgia show, but to catch up at an age where spouses, kids, and jobs take precedence. This is our link, our excuse to catch up, no matter where it may be. If there’s anyone who can’t understand why Phish plays such a pivotal role in my life, that’s it right there.
Twenty years. Yikes.
The hall-mate and I, along with an assorted cast of characters from that November evening will be at Madison Square Garden next month, the first steps into our third decade of Phish. Likewise, Phish will enter their fourth along the way in 2013. We all remember – I assume – our first show, and my first remains among my favorites I’ve ever seen. Nov. 19, 1992. My Phish birthday.
As Trey teased throughout the night, “Those Were The Days.”
Soundcheck: Weigh, Caravan, Shaggy Dog, Funky Bitch
Set 2: Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Bouncing Around the Room > It’s Ice > I Walk the Line, Tweezer -> Big Black Furry Creature from Mars Jam -> Tweezer > Big Ball Jam, Poor Heart, Fast Enough for You,Llama, Hold Your Head Up > Lengthwise > Hold Your Head Up, Cavern
Encore: Bold As Love
 Buried Alive tease.
 Trey sang verses through megaphone.
 Those Were the Days tease.
 Those Were the Days teases; Lizards tease from Trey. All Fall Down signal.
 Under Pressure jam.
 Unfinished; Vocal jam ending; Those Were the Days and Price of Love teases.
 Phish debut.
 I Walk The Line tease.
 No BBFCFM lyrics. I Walk The Line lyrics and Ring of Fire lyrics and a brief tease.
 Debut; Trey explained the concept of the jam.
 Gordon Stone on pedal steel guitar.
 Debut; Gordon Stone on pedal steel guitar.
 Debut; performed reggae style and featured a vacuum solo from Fishman.
 Axilla teases from Trey in intro.
Notes: This show and its soundcheck were released by LivePhish.com in January 2010 to benefit the Haiti earthquake relief effort. Divided Sky, Antelope and Weekapaug featured teases of Those Were the Days, and Antelope also contained a Lizards tease from Trey and an All Fall Down signal. Trey sang the verses of Fee through a megaphone for the first time since 10/1/90 (268 shows). Phish originals Axilla, FEFY, and Lengthwise debuted at this show, which also featured the Phish debut of I Walk The Line. The start of the second set included an Owner of a Lonely Heart tease. Mike’s Song included an Under Pressure jam. Weekapaug was unfinished, included a vocal jam ending, and Price of Love teases. Tweezer contained an I Walk The Line tease. The BBFCFM jam did not contain the song’s usual lyrics – it instead featured lyrics from both I Walk The Line and Ring of Fire, as well as a brief Ring of Fire tease (from Page). Big Ball Jam also debuted, with Trey explaining the concept of the song, adding that it was written for Pete Schall. Poor Heart, FEFY and Llama featured Gordon Stone on pedal steel guitar. Trey introduced Fish as “Eyeball Man” before Lengthwise, which was performed in more of a reggae style than other versions and even featured a vacuum solo from Fishman. After Lengthwise, Page said Fish wrote the song, with Trey adding that they liked it so much that it appeared twice on the album and both Page and Trey saying “it’s that good.” The intro to Cavern contained Axilla teases from Trey. Bold As Love was played for the first time since April 18, 1990 (317 shows).