Essential Phish: 1990.11.04 Fort Ram
There are those shows we seek out for their lengthy exploratory jams. And there are others that fill our listening with something different—perhaps something that brought us to Phish in the first place. Whether its just songs that we loved early on, the playful humor, or just a taste of the band’s early days, these shows remain an essential piece of Phish listening.
It has been touched on before, but especially these days it’s important to bring attention to certain shows that act like building blocks for the band’s career. With the age of downloading upon us, many of the once-essential analog tapes have gone the way of the wind. Surely, those who were active in the tape-trading years will know this one. But for those who don’t, add the show from November 4, 1990 at Fort Ram, Fort Collins, CO the your list of essential, must-hear shows.
This performance took place on the final night of Phish’s trip out west in the fall of 1990. Early on, Colorado served as a second home for the band outside of New England, where they performed the majority of their shows. This was the second visit of the year to the Rockies, and one that saw them eagerly delivering a wealth of new material behind the release of Lawn Boy. A friend who was present for many shows on this tour (although not this one) shares some thoughts on the scene at the time:
“I remember being very conscious of the fact that these guys were going to be huge. Fans were already rabid by 1990. You can really hear/feel it on the 11/17 AUD. A girl in my group would scream for “Tweezer” all night. She KNEW. I clearly remember The Strand show 4/28 “BBFCFM” encore was like a mini mosh pit. Also, I would guess 95% of people were tripping every show. So perhaps pseudo acid tests, except the band was on point most of the time. Phish shaped my college experience.“
Now, some may already be deterred from listening as I’ve mentioned that this show does not have a “best-ever” version of “YEM” or something of the sort. But without hearing shows like these, it’s hard to understand how the band developed to allow for those great moments. Consider this a glimpse of the magic as it was just beginning to unfold.
In many ways, Phish’s sound at this stage was dominated by Trey’s guitar playing. This show is a great example of why, but also (thanks to the SBD) demonstrates the close communication that had already begun to take form. Trey and Page can clearly be heard riffing off each other in the “Bowie” jam, and it’s quite obvious that it’s much more than a one-man show. The early rehearsal techniques are present and the tightness borders on telepathy. That’s what makes each and every song in this show enjoyable to listen to—no matter how “standard.”
Both sets are packed with songs that would all eventually become Phish staples, many of which had only recently been debuted. The first set “Hood” is a highlight, along with the set ending “Bowie. In the second set, “Weekapaug” stands out to me as a version that sounds way ahead of it’s time. “YEM” is also worth your time, and features a lengthy vocal jam. Dizzy Gillespie’s “Manteca” was also debuted in this show, set to the music of “Caravan.” Just like our friend said above, it was obvious this band was going to be huge, and the fans knew it.
The tape itself is also significant. According to Phish.net, these shows were recorded on a separate recording console and mixed apart from the main board. As a result, this is one of the highest quality Phish tapes in existence. Stream some highlights and also download the show via the link below.
Set 1: Carolina, AC/DC Bag > The Curtain > Bouncing Around the Room, Tube, Harry Hood, Funky Bitch, The Asse Festival, My Sweet One, David Bowie
Set 2: Golgi Apparatus, Rocky Top, Llama, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Manteca -> Caravan, Runaway Jim, The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg, Jesus Just Left Chicago, You Enjoy Myself
Encore: Contact, Highway to Hell
[Setlist via Phish.net]