This was the first show of The Clifford Ball festival. Bathtub Gin contained a brief DEG tease from Trey. Waste through Strange Design were performed on the acoustic mini-stage. Disease was unfinished. The second set was preceded by a Mary Had a Little Lamb tease. The jam at the end of Harry Hood accompanied a fireworks display. The band took to the back of a flatbed truck at around 3:30 in the morning and drove through the crowd. The performance was one long open-ended jam.
From The Phish Companion: A guide to the band and their music (2000 & 2004)
By Jeremy D. Goodwin
The Ball had been a coming of age thing for me, my first real multi-day adventure in which my only implements were a borrowed car filled with camping gear, a good friend, and a future to invent. While I was busy experiencing palpable wonder for several days straight, the thing was simultaneously a coming of age for Phish and all its orbiting planets. It was quite a fortuitous intersection of personal growth and the growth of a community.
The Clifford Ball felt to me like a mass projection of all our playful fantasies about what Phish could be; parts of the mainstream press adopted the term "Phish theme park," and that seems pretty accurate. A theme park or a fantasy camp. A few years later, I would affix a term that I had picked up in a different region of the cultural web that considers itself important enough to coin and assign phrases: Temporary Autonomous Zone.
As if all the fans' and the band's "what if?" daydreams had somehow been projected into reality, the Ball was a capstone Phish experience, the creation of an entire functioning civilization where the landscape (both mental and physical) seemed as improvisational and creative as the most liberating of onstage jams.
A plane circling around trailing a banner reading "A dime from here would penetrate"? Sure. Snowboarders doing flips on trampolines during Tweezer? Why not. An orchestra playing Claire de Lune while a stuntplane does loop-de-loops? Of course.
The overwhelming factor, that there were sixty thousand people at a Phish show, hovered constantly in the ether to ensure ‘round-the-clock surreality. And all night, the fires burned, the drums beat, and the people danced. The Clifford Ball was something deeply special to me personally due purely to the logistical and social circumstances. At that time I wasn't used to befriending an endless circle of strangers, chasing adventures for days on end, or seeking transcendence through blaring 4am funk under a tent.
Counterintuitive as it sounds, it really wasn't that hard to have your life change in Plattsburgh that weekend. What choice did my young psyche have in the face of a swarming mass of unregulated people who stubbornly insisted on *being nice to each other*? The effects of a countless procession of benevolent personal encounters and experiences accumulated during the second day's "Antelope," when I felt a sudden jolt of wisdom shake my consciousness and unveil my second-ever epiphany. Due to the nature of epiphanies, my moment of clarity is ineffable, but suffice to say it provided me an entirely new outlook towards general human interaction. After the second night of shows, some of us turned one of the Ball Square houses into a giant drum, and celebrated our bond through dance. It was profoundly moving, and I'm not sure I've experienced anything quite like it since.
Serendipitously, this was also one of those points along the line of Phish's history where both the band and the audience simultaneously *got* something, and realized that things were changing at that very moment. Sometimes this happens through the music, on a night like 5/7/94. Sometimes it happens through the event, as at the early New Year's shows, or the first show at MSG. The Great Went "Gin" was a time when both of these paths to transcendence collided. On these occasions we all grow up a little, as a community, and for a clear moment achieve a shared consciousness. There are moments sometimes on tour when the room *knows*…knows that we're all moving forward, in a way, entering ground that neither band nor audience had ever been to before. At least not together.
The Clifford Ball was the most obvious of these occasions. It felt like the summation of everything that had happened in the Phish world until then…an enormously exuberant birthday party for the Phish phenomenon as a historical whole. It exploded all concepts of limitation, and brought both band and fans to the profound and crucial conclusion that we just didn't know what this thing might become. There was a constant feeling of “Is this really happening?” that began somewhere around the time you picked up the Clifford Ball radio station on the drive up, and lasted until sometime after your return home.
Future summer festivals were inherently less spontaneous, more like an appointed pilgrimage to a spiritual artifact. Yet we trekked back again, in search of something that had already happened…a holy journey to a shooting star.
One of the Greatests and I do mean greatest shows I ever seen. Ok so the first set of day 1 wasn't up to everyone's snuff. Musically they were text book. A jammin Chalkdust!! And a Divided Sky that Trey had his guitar holding the sun up for that last few moments. Then he plucked that chord and down the sun went. It was a beautiful start to the most memorable weekend of my life. If you were at this show it changed your life. The looks on their faces too when they came out and saw a sea of Phans was priceless. They were blown away. So many jams got my attention that weekend. The Free jam where Trey was looping and reverting his guitar with the drum kit was SICK!!! Such an awesome beat. I could go on and on about this show. It would be easier to write what I didn't like since there was barely nothing I didn't enjoy from this show. Got a ride on Mikes golf cart. Seen him the following day riding a bike. And who can forget about the flatbed jam. That show changed me in a huge way. And the first person that commented you were almost right. It was Clifford Ball Radio KA2XZE!! Close. All the good live tapes from that show came from that broadcast. It's on every tape lol. The scene was unlike any I ever went to before. It was our own city for a weekend. The partying, drum circles, rasta pastas, and of course Ganja goo balls. (Just like referred in Makisupa) DANK!! Thank you to everyone who went to that show. It was one of the greatest vibes I ever felt at a show.
when you talk about professionals showing up at the showdown, u might think of nhl playoff game seven, world series, super howl pressure. Setting up a festival where you must entertain 90k heady , obsessed , longing( Jerry and the dead show supprt group was very missed at this point still) fans and friends who've travelled from all over, begged their family ( as I did ) to use their credit cards to get tix to this mass exodus, let alone the amount of crew it took to put this 2 day extravaganza on.. There was alot of pressure the boys to deliver...
Top 10 Chalkdust opener
The Bathtub that follows is probably the most danceable I've ever heard. Fish and Mike groove so hard Trey Just rocks a sweet riff and Page is the ryhthm guitar hero, but Treys lick that the band locks onto is one of the greats of the year. Fish shows how in the pocket he can get. So awesome!! I remember not being able to take in what what was going on at the time lol I was never happier as I was at Clifford Ball. Must listen for sure..
Solid, Perfect Ya MAr!! perfect summer song and boy were people happy!!
AC/DC is solid and fun. Trey and the boys take us on a ride that shows how tight and aware they were at the moment. Superb playing.
A beautiful Esther follows.
Now you really have to have been there for this Divided Sky becaues the sun was going down right behind the stage. it was friggin beautiful. A perfect song at a perfect time on a perfect day!!
I was not at the clifford ball, so i can't really comment on the "good times factor," but it high this one was up there. now, i can speak on the musical intensity of these shows. while i feel the 2nd night of deer creek was the best show of the tour, i feel the ball was the best "stand," granted all the shows were one and done except creek, ball, and red rocks. anyway, this is my favorite of the 2 night clifford ball, phish's first "intentional" festival. after sugarbush was flooded last summer, phish was inspired to do this...
a nice ripping chalk dust opens this one up in fine form. pretty standard opener but it gets the crowd grooving in the right direction. bathtub gin brings the first jam of the festival. they don't go too far out for gin, but it is a good solid first set jam. trey and page work off each other quite well as they navigate back through to the gin theme. yamar is a nice cool easy summer breather before they crank out a pretty sharp ac/dc bag. esther is played well; it's not my favorite phish tune, but hey... the divided sky provides another nice improvisatory song. you can start tell phish is really feeling it here. trey comes out of the silent portion flying high. a quick but always fun halley's moves nicely into a strong bowie set closer.
the second set kicks off with a pretty straight forward but still rocking split open and melt. nothing too far out, but they are playing nice and sharp on this one. a quick run through sparkle brings us to a very rocking free. this set seems to really be picking up steam here, but they bring it down a peg with a rare mid set squirming coil. this leads us into the acoustic mini stage that was previously brought out at red rocks and deer creek. this would also be the last time we would see this full set up. anyway, all of that is well played, but fairly straight forward. then, like red rocks, they follow the acoustic mini set with a killer mike's song. i like this one more than the red rocks version, less than the deer creek version. trey really delves into this one, page works off of trey nicely, and the gordon/fishman rhythm section is rock solid. this mikes finds its way into a nicely explored simple. the set closers with a nice funky/fun contact>weekapaugh combo. weekapaugh is especially blazing. trey and gordon trade some real hot licks through out this 'paugh..check it out.
the final set of the "official show" kicks off with a nice laid back maksiuaup, which leads to a killer pre 1997 2001. page and fishman are particularly tight on this one. 2001 really blew up in 97-98, but in 1996, phish displayed some very interesting formative versions. if you like this one, check out the versions from halloween, msg, and red rocks. speaking of songs that really started to blow up around this time, down with disease followed 2001. trey leads the charge on this one, and the boys,especially for 1996, really took this one deep. they blaze through a strong, focused, tight jam before they dive into a little funk. this funky jam leads nicely into nicu. after this very serious stretch of music, the boys deliver beautifully on life on mars. this really fit in this set, and the guys sounded great. keeping with the excellent flow of the set, fishman leads the charge into my favorite harry hood of the summer. alpine's was good, but they really cut loose here. this leads into a nice fireworks jam, that probably was much cooler in person than it is on my super crisp sbd cassette. amazing grace would be a weak encore if it weren't for the whole flat bed truck jam.
all in all, this is an excellent first night at phish's first festival. a must have for any fan.
I listen to this 3rd set a lot. Makisupa through NICU is very cool. Mr. Sausage !!!! Hahahahahaha. The DWD is stellar. The jam is so clean. Phish were playing it like they had nowhere else to go for a few days I wore this cassette out . I put it on one day and everything sounded like it was in a different key and then.....SNAP.
I'm sitting at my desk with my headphones in my ears, listening to the
Clifford Ball's surprise seventh set. It is so enchanting, serene,
haunting, and, for lack of a better word, "neat" that I had to write.
First off, I did not go to Plattsburg, so I can't say I exactly know what
the experience was like, but I remembered reading something where one of
the band members had said it was an awesome experience with everyone
walking silently along next to them. The music may not be all that
interesting, but closing your eyes and picturing that scene is really
In the 20 or so minutes that are included on this tape, there are a few
cuts and volume weirdnesses, but hey, the taper had to run alongside the
truck, so what can you really expect? What is neat to hear is the snippets
of the crowd. You catch tiny bytes of various conversations as the
microphones pass by the onlookers. One pair of guys asks, "why do you
think they're doing this?" And the other's answer is "They wanted to
give us something special."
It definitely sounds like something I feel very bad to have missed. I
can't really describe it, but this tape makes me feel like I am amidst
the Phish community more than anything else I own.
There are the occasional obnoxious yells of "I love you Mike!", but for
the most part you catch people talking in hushed voices for seconds at a
time. The Mountees at one point are incredibly rude, blowing their
whistles at everyone and yelling for them all to "back it up..." Then the
tape cuts out rather abruptly.
I'm a bit nervous to post this, because I don't know how many grovels I
can accommodate, but I just wanted to share my thoughts on what I consider
to be one of the most intimate Phish experiences.
*NOTE: this was originally written back in 1996 pretty much right after the shows.
My thoughts on the Clifford Ball
Please allow me to begin by saying that the Clifford Ball was the greatest concert experience I have ever been a part of. It was not the best phish show I have seen if you consider the music and jamming by themselves though. (That might be Halloween 95 or Murat 93)
I had no idea what to expect before I arrived except six sets of phish and camping. And I guess a whole lot of people. And maybe some surprises too. That's about it.
So here's the Clifford Ball from my perspective:
I was in Vermont at a friend's house about three hours from Plattsburgh. We (three of us) decided to leave on Thursday about 11 o'clock. We thought we'd beat the traffic by arriving at two and that there should be some people there since the gates opened at noon. Well the surprises began immediately upon entry. There were so many people already there, the lots were filling and the camping areas were already fully inhabited. The place was booming when we got there so we quickly closed up the car and began moving about the masses. We took a walk to get our bearings and see what we could see. All I could think for a while was, Damn. All this for one band? Anyway we explored, danced some by the DJ bus, and explored more. Saw Mike wandering the parking lot in a golf cart; almost expected to see him hearing about his bike rides before. Stayed up till six partying, wandering, and wondering.
The Clifford Ball Radio was the first of many special treats of the weekend. I thought this was a great idea and a good way to get most of the crowd information. We flipped it on as soon as we came in the gate and heard Bitches Brew, that was a good place to begin. Later the music got a little weirder. There was some reggae-type-stuff early on Friday morning and one of the CDs was skipping for about 45 minutes. The radio told us about the wristbands so as soon as we woke up we went and got them with no lines to wait in.
So we're the idiots who came supremely ill-prepared. Yes we were most definitely outclasses by pretty much everyone there. We came in a small car, a Civic, with no tent, and one sleeping bag between the three of us. We chose not to ignore the No Alcohol rule which was pretty dumb and evident to us as soon as we were on the lot. We figured that peanut butter and jelly and a loaf of bread, which was slightly crushed in the trunk, some fig newtons, and chips would take care of our Epicurean needs for the weekend. We were sorely mistaken. I look next to us and there are these guys who have two pickup trucks parked next to each other with a tarp up between them. The brought a damn full size gas grill! With the big propane tanks and all. I'm looking at a pb&j in my hand and then at their feast across the way. Oh well. We slept on the tarmac on blankets until it started raining when we moved to the car and slept (may not be the best word) to the delightful sounds of KE2XZK (or something like that) 88.9.
Yay, gates open at one o'clock for a six-thirty set. The walls of the compound (as one of the security guys liked to call it) were painted like the sky. Night sky turned to day sky and back again. It was a long wall and it must have taken a long time to paint. I added this to the list of things that made the Clifford Ball more and more amazing. When the gates opened there was a small marching band that started playing along side of people on stilts. Everyone was in high spirits at the time of the gate opening and this just made it better. Shit, we lost Alan and it's quarter till one. Oh well, We're all going to the same place. An hour or so later we found where that same place was. We knew because Alan was there and he knew because we were there. Are you getting all of this? From the same place we went and found a place to sit and wait for musics to begin. We played cards. The planes with messages were an interesting monotony breaker. Stunt planes later excited the crowd.
I knew to expect surprises but I thought they were all going to be related to the sets that Phish was going to play. I had no reason to expect a small village inside the concert area. I couldn't believe it. For those of you who weren't there I'll describe it, if you want to skip it go to the next bloody paragraph. There was a town square replete with Barber Shop, Ball Court, Ball Diner, Some kind of chapel, General Store, and a statue of Clifford Ball himself in the center. On the outskirts was an artist area where people were making, building, painting, and creating. There was another building that contained giant asphalt balls. One was about five feet in diameter and some of the others were a bit smaller but they were all painted like a street. Outside of that building there was a guy standing in front of a huge log about three feet in diameter. He was chopping at it with a hatchet, a tiny hatchet, he was making very slow progress. There was a theme here and if you can guess what it was you win. It was Clifford Ball. Ball was the theme. Artists were sculpting and decorating balls of all types. Inside on of the buildings in the square there were plaques up on the walls with words: orb, sphere, dance, globe, testis, bullet. I got orb, globe, sphere, and dance but I wasn't sure what testis was. I know testes though. At our time of great mental anguish a helping friendly man arrived. It was the Barber of Clifford Ball. He also knew what testes meant but was not sure what testis meant. He consulted the nice woman in the Diner but she didn't know either. He sat us down in the Diner to wait while he located someone with the answer. I was into this whole role playing thing, it was fun. I always liked to go to places like Sturbridge Village, Plymouth Plantation (are you from Massachusetts?), or Colonial Williamsburg. The Barber was playing a good part, he was funny too. Anyway, he came back with the answer: testis is the singular form of testes. Many of you probably know that already so sue me. Bullet, how is that a ball? Our only guess was the fact that bullets used to be balls oh so long ago. I was looking for something more clever than that so there are two verdicts: it's not the real reason or that reason is NGE. Enough about all that. Jim Pollock was in a tent signing art that he had done. There was a special deal, if you were wearing a shirt he designed you got a dollar off a purchase. I bought a three dollar sticker for two bucks. [Image] There was a music tent too, there was a saxophone quartet, that's all I remember. There also was a place to "confess to Phish." It was attached to the chapel. It was a small room with a mic and a podium that you would sit behind and "confess" in front of a camera. Hmmm. The barber that I mentioned before gives haircuts too. He only cuts one hair though. I found him giving a haircut to a camera crew guy's fuzzy microphone. I chose the hair that he should cut and then presented the cut hair to the guy holding the mic. So basically Clifford Ball square was cool.
Sitting by the sound board waiting for many hours to roll by I noticed there were many cameras all around. I figured they would use them for the three giant screens they had behind the sound board structure. There were too many for just that though, and all the roving camera crews, and the confess to Phish thing. My original thought was that they were going to cut together stuff and play it at intermissions but they didn't do that. Maybe they'll make a video of the whole thing and sell it. That might be cool.
By the way, free water idea: good. Plenty of porta-potties: good. Mist tents: good. Huge slice of watermelon for a mere dollar at one of the food tents: good. no shade to speak of while waiting for music: bad. Sunburn: bad. Sunburn: ouch. Huge plate of Indian food: good. Bringing a deck of cards: good. Phish soon: GOOD.
Now, for the music review I'll not go song by song, other people have already done that anyway. I will talk about what I remember and leave out what I forgot. So some things may be out of order too. I'll try to get the Friday/Saturday distinction correct.
My favorite game, what will they open with? I thought they might do Sanity or something crazy like that. Nope, maybe Runaway Jim or My Friend, My Friend. Nope. What was it anyway? They opened with Chalkdust. That was pretty good. Nice pumped up opener. Next was Bathtub Gin. This was great, looking back it was one of my favorites of the shows. The jam was very cool, Trey was playing with the melody always in mind, a Monk like approach. I liked to hear how he tweaked it and played with it. This just ended too, no restatement of the lyrics, no nothing, Trey just looked sided to side and when he was sure he had everyone's attention it just stopped. I liked it. Ya Mar, and AC/DC Bag followed, this is when I begin to think to myself, "Have I seen and listened to too much Phish?" I just was bored by this stuff. And I know that it's the same stuff that I liked when I first heard it. More on this later. Divided sky peaked my interest slightly except I knew that there was going to be those long, pointless pauses where people cheer for no reason. The fist slow part though was interesting, Trey used some infinite repeater effect and basically recorded a few notes and had that repeat in that background what he played on top of it. Through all this testing, fooling, and playing, Trey has really discovered/invented some cool things one can do with effects. During Trey's pause he watched a helicopter fly by. Fish also took a long pause before the "ding ding" reentry to the tune. The jam was standard Divided Sky. This was right about sunset by the way. Any significance, probably not. Everytime I hear Esther I love it. That song is so well written, everything about it. From the way the time change works to the way each part's mood reflects what is happening in the story. Yeehaw for Esther! Halley's Comet was a good treat. Bowie I remember being above average but I don't remember why.
Set break, more card games. This time we played Crazy Eights.
Set two contained SOAMelt. This one was nothing very special. I liked the Sparkle -> Free. This was the same transition they did at Halloween, I like it. I liked the Rift -> Free better though. Free rocks, this tune always pumps me up big time. The Trey on the mini-drums and playing with effects is not too bad. An acoustic portion was nice. There were the three new songs that I hadn't heard before. The Waste seemed kinda cheesy but it was a nice song. All three had interesting twists to them, they are not standard songs. I like them, I would like to hear them if they are on the new album. Strange Design is still lame no matter how you slice it. Sorry if anyone likes it. After the acoustic came the Mike's songs portion of the show. Mike's Song: good. Simple: good. Contact: ok. Weekapaug: good.
Set break, too dark to play cards. pick nose instead. oops I forgot that this set break, we didn't stay close to the stage, we moved back.
Set three. We found ourselves on the hillside near Ball Square. Makisupa Policeman. The screens are way ahead of the sound when you travel farther away. That was annoying. Trey says, "Dank" and the crowd loves it. Seems weird to me. 2001 was great! Page, by the way, is showing more and more good stuff everytime I see them. Page rocks this tune which was taken much longer than I have ever seen it taken before. Something like 10/15/94 but longer. I really enjoyed that one. I expected Down With Disease to be funky and cool because I heard that about one earlier this summer but it was standard. I always tie this to Divided Sky, the sound similar in the feeling of the jam. NICU is lame now compared to tapes from 92. I think it may be for the little reason that Trey omits the high note in the chord sequence of the tune. I liked that little part. Harry was good. I find myself liking the jam parts right when they begin when Trey is playing melodically and it seems more well thought out. This goes for Antelope, Harry, Possum, Bowie, SOAM, Chalkdust, AC/DC Bag, and some others. Towards the end of these jams they revert to build, build, build, Trey's guitar screams, drop off to some dissonant thing, then it builds again. Ok, this doesn't really go for Harry but Harry always does end in a similar fashion. The fireworks were great. Amazing Grace encore was fitting. You can't really top a Harry -> fireworks. Plus there's always tomorrow.
Sleep on tarmac, to tired to party. Starts to rain again, go in car. Listen to radio, hear weirdo versions of Halley's Comet and I Didn't Know. Mouth feels like a sewer.
I remember being on A LOT of LSD for night one, and it was PERFECT! Laughing waiting for them to start, People growing like plants once they came on and broke into Chalkdust, Bouncing through the crowd during Makisupa. Great show, Great weekend!
My first Phish show!I had previously only seen one big concert (Van Halen and Vince Neil at the Groton Sub Base in CT.) and a handful of smaller shows (Max Creek,Smashing Pumpkins,Flaming Lips).I had been to a couple of Grateful Dead shows but was never lucky enough to get a ticket,so i had it in my head that I knew what to expect as did my other travel mates,most of whom were also seeing Phish for the first time.Our caravan departed R.I. early Friday (or was it Thursday?...) and had a cozy little mattress set up in the back of my brother's truck.Being only 17 at the time it took some serious begging to get my folks talked into letting me go,but by then I had been listening to Phish for years and they knew how much this band meant to me.Upon arriving I can truly say that i'd never seen so many people in my life!!!And the overwhelming amount of kindness that we encountered (Not EVERYONE mind you....the "Sid & Nancy" looking couple that were walking through the crowd on the hill slapping food and beer out of people's hands springs to mind..)really floored me!The weather was perfect and after setting up camp we took to exploring the grounds and Clifford Ball Square.Now this to me is what has always set this band's festivals apart from other large shows.Everywhere you turned you could see the band's humor and touch on everything!It was truly a small city unlike anything i'd ever seen.It's been a long time and i can't remember all of the setlists (I also was not too terribly familiar with the songs at the time either,so many tunes were BRAND new to me) but the acoustic mini set always stayed with me and the beauty of "Strange Design" in the sunlight was unforgettable!!!!It was surely one of the best weekends of my life!And I distinctly remember having the conversation with my brother about how Harpua was abruptly cut short and I said "Watch,they'll finish it at the next show!",which they didn't (as we were at Hartford,which I think that was the next show....),and to my brother's dismay they did finish it a year later at the equally wonderful Great Went (which due to him moving to St.Augustine he could not attend)!That is what this band has always been to me!Mythical,paradise like retreats,slightly odd,off humor,meticulous musical pranks and tricks,and a community like all of us who could teach the rest of the world a little bit about looking out for each other and finding the simple things in life to get us through some of the darker times.I learned alot that weekend and 17 years and 52 shows later I still strive to apply it everyday,and now my 13 year old nephew caught his 1st Phish show at Saratoga this summer!What an amazing time it's been.
The Mockingbird Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Phish fans in 1996 to generate charitable proceeds from the Phish community.
And since we're entirely volunteer – with no office, salaries, or paid staff – administrative costs are less than 2% of revenues! So far, we've distributed over $1,000,000 to support music education for children – hundreds of grants in all 50 states, with more on the way.