[Phish.net and the Mockingbird Foundation would like to thank Matt Laurence (@mattynabib) for this blog post and his tireless work to resurrect the video he recorded at Amy's Farm in 1991, brought to you free of charge and in its highest quality. - @ucpete]
I know we are entering a period of Phish limbo until Riviera Maya and the Mike and Trey tours, so to kick 2019 off right, here (at long last) are all three sets of Amy's Farm in video form. Enjoy - limitations and all - and may 2019 be a significantly better year for all of us!
As with so many of you, I was hooked on Phish well before they threw the free party of the decade up in Auburn, ME, over half my life ago. For me it all started well before 1991, before I even properly woke to the joys of Phish.
I was SUPPOSED to see Phish several times in the 1980s. In the spring of 1987 I was to take a road trip to Vermont with some friends with a UVM connection to see the boys at Nectar's; it was called off due to something that - at the time - seemed more important. I was supposed to see them again at “The Big Gig,” their first big Boston show at The Paradise in January of 1989, but my friend’s car was frozen into the ice in his driveway. I planned to see them yet again in early 1990 at some Boston area show, but that time we went outside to find that my car had been STOLEN, a pile of glass and skid marks sitting where it had been. It wasn’t looking good for Phish.
My ship finally came in on September 20, 1990, when I successfully attended my first show at the Somerville Theater. From that point on it was full-steam ahead (as much as possible for someone working full time). I was back the next night with my lousy little taping rig, then continued to catch them as often as I could for the next several years, taping where possible, and eventually gaining access to a couple of camcorders.
Lugging those cameras and tripods around was a little more effort than I thought was worth it for most enclosed shows, however, so I only did it once or twice during the legendary Horn Tour of 1991. One of those times was the Arrowhead Ranch weekend.
[Note: I know there is footage out there from one of those shows, and I have just discovered a fair bit more that I took with a roving camera on the second day. With a little luck and some help from a video pro friend of mine I hope to capture that at a quality level worth sharing.]
The only other show to which I dragged the equipment was Amy’s Farm, not even a month later. After almost a year of being a rabid fan, I figured I was well justified in making the road trip up there, even if I had to go all by myself. I didn’t, as it turned out; not only did several of us head up together to see what would transpire, there were enough familiar faces present that it functioned as a sort of family reunion with a house band.
In fact, in a coming-full-circle family moment, at the start of set 2 during "The Curtain" you can see my dear friend John Greene sitting right next to the stage. I didn't travel there with him, but of course there he was. Talk about family: not only did John help produce the very first "Esther" music video the year before, we also went on to play many Phish songs together alongside originals in our band yeP!, to play together with Fishman and his side project Spastic, and you can now hear John playing almost exclusively Phish in his current band Chum, the best Phish tribute in the west, IMHO.
For those of us who have since been to festivals like Lemonwheel, with miles-long traffic jams just to get in, it’s almost hard to imagine the scene that summer: It was a couple of big fields in Maine. That’s it. Cars and camping in one area, music in another. Hoses to spray down hot people and potential grass fires. There were perhaps a couple thousand people there, but it never felt crowded or out of control - there was just so much space, so much freedom. No police, no tickets, no walls, no traffic jams… well, the cars did come pretty steadily for a while, but the only barrier to entry was the requested $5 per car donation for field reseeding.
There was plenty of room to park, plenty of room to dance. The band was just wandering around and hanging out with people before and after the show. Front of stage got pretty crowded, but you could always get up there if you wanted to - especially if you were shouldering a camera. Or you could wander around behind the stage, come hang out for the soundcheck, stand right in front of the board, or - if you’re Amy - get up there and jump on the minitramps with them.
Truth be told, there’s not much that I can add to the wonderful accounts that have already been written by some of my old tour mates David “ZZYZX” Steinberg and Parker “TMWSIY” Harrington. All I can really add is some visuals from the scene which have, incredibly, survived many years sitting in a box in a basement, and appear to be the only comprehensive video recordings of this event.
While this video has been cut and synced to the higher-quality audio recording that is more commonly available, there are large stretches where there is no roving camera footage, just a single shot of the band, head on. There’s no video behind the encores at all due to bad planning; I’ve done what I could there. The roving camera footage is raw and sometimes distracted enough by dancing to cause seasickness (though I’ve tried to minimize those moments).
But for all the roughness of the footage, the sense of the overall event, a band paying tribute and thanks to their fan base, is undeniable. Keep your eyes on the crowd… in many cases I’ve tried to leave in moments of audience involvement and interaction; there’s more of that between-sets “bonus footage” at the end of the Set 3 video, but you'll find snippets of the scene throughout.
This show was something on an inflection point for Phish. As Parker (@tmwsiy) puts it:
While Amy’s Farm (and even Townshend Family Park & Ian’s Farm) may have marked the humble beginnings of their future festival plans and the beginning of an era of meteoric rise in popularity, similarly to Woodstock, it also marked the end of an era as well. Spreading through word of mouth and a quick announcement from Trey, a couple thousand fans descended into Auburn and it was abundantly clear that the cat was out of the bag. Phish was on their way to hitting the big time & likely shows would begin to be drastically different in a very short time.
So true. Now, 27 years and more later, things have gone places we’d never have expected. Phish got mainstream acceptance; they got huge; they broke up; they came back better than ever, and have now reached a pinnacle of their abilities, providing unrivaled live concert experiences. They are better than they’ve ever been, and it’s been a long, amazing road they’ve taken to get here.
So for the fans who were there in those halcyon, early-to-mid days of almost three decades ago, as well as those who have never known anything but big venues, huge festivals, and ticket lotteries, I submit this modest contribution to the Phish ecosystem. Kick back, enjoy, and if you are so moved, visit Phish.net and post your thoughts.
And because I believe deeply in the power of music - as I believe we all do - I encourage you to consider making a donation to the Mockingbird Foundation, to help spread and fund music education for children. The way things are going, everything we can do to help raise the level of positivity is a huge contribution to our world right now, so please visit Mockingbird today.
Finally, if you have any archival audio, video, or photos from old Phish shows, don’t hesitate to reach out to @mattynabib, @ucpete, or @Icculus. Even if you don’t have the technical expertise or time to clean up and distribute the end product back to the community yourself, we will link you up with one of our amazing volunteers and work with you to ensure your archival material is handled with care, credited to you, and distributed free of charge to the global community of Phish fans.
Stream: Set I | Set II | Set III + E
Soundcheck: Poor Heart | Crimes of the Mind | Bitchin' Again
Download: Google Drive (now including soundcheck videos)
Note: If you're getting a "download quota exceeded" error on Google Drive, right click on the files, select "Add to My Drive," and once viewing in your drive, right-click the files and select "Make a copy." You should then be able to download it from your own Google Drive. Alternatively, you may download the videos directly from the Vimeo links above.
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