Twenty years ago today, in the cozy confines of Larrabee Farm in Auburn, Maine, Phish wrapped up their touring for the Summer of 1991. The entire run, barring Amyâ€™s Farm, consisted of the well received Horn Tour. Commencing with the home-town show at Battery Park in Burlington, VT on July 11th and winding down the East Coast and culminating at the potent one set blowout at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, GA, the Horn Tour was 15 shows that became etched into the collective memory of the fan-base. However, as fun as the Horn Tour was, and as good as the shows were, the definitive show that paints the picture of where Phish was at that time, and portended signs of things to come, was Saturday, August 3rd at Amyâ€™s Farm.
Phish was slowly graduating from smoky clubs, college bars, and fraternity houses to slightly larger venues in 1991. While clubs like the Front in Burlington, the Campus Club in Providence, and Catâ€™s Cradle in Chapel Hill were still on the docket, so too were venues like the State Theatre in Ithaca (not the Haunt!), the Boulder Theater in Colorado (not JJ McCabes!) and the Capitol Theater in Port Chester (not Club Bene!) The excitement was palpable and though most shows were not sold-out, it was abundantly clear something special was happening. The momentum was building and there was a buzz about the band that was literally deafening. It was tough to talk about music on the nascent Internet, at other shows, around campuses and all along the East Coast without someone bringing up Phish. An exciting time it was to still be able to arrive at a club 30 minutes before show time, pay $10 and get your hand stamped, and know that you were seeing history in the making. At the final show of the Horn Tour, Trey made official what had been rumored since the Spring and all summer long: there would be an end of summer party at Amyâ€™s Farm, and we were all invited.
While Amyâ€™s Farm (and even Townshend Family Park & Ianâ€™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. Although the show wasnâ€™t until Saturday, the first inkling that thereâ€™d be a decent turnout was Thursday night as early birds started arriving at the farm. While there was no sense of panic, it was evident that there was still lots of work to be done to get the grounds ready. Late into the night and into the early Friday AM hours, a flurry of activity happened with some of the fans pitching in elbow grease and volunteering for whatever needed to be done. Throughout the day on Friday, as work continued on the concert field, cars continued to slowly trickle in. As it turned to afternoon and early evening, the trickle became a steady flow & ultimately into an unbroken chain of vehicles entering for as far as the eye could see.
The exuberance of entering a free show, with no security, no police, no vehicle checks, & a few thousand like minded fans was pure bliss. Actually, there was a small fee as some remember. Upon entering the farm, a coffee tin was collecting a nominal $5 fee per car to help offset the cost of purchasing grass seed to replant the fields weâ€™d all be parking on. And as ZZYZX recalls, you even received the omnipresent, green on black, Phish logo sticker with your donation.
While youâ€™d see many familiar faces at shows, Phish was still mostly regional at this point. Clusters of fans from areas you'd see only in that locale. Yet here was this small farm in Maine, where fans were descending from every state and corner of the country. The arrivals kept pouring in as did the warm embraces and hugs. Friends from Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York etc. all communally bound together for one day of music, by one band...that most of the country had never heard of. Yet.
Humorously, Fish kicked off the festivities trying to generate interest for a non-profit organization that was there. Trey jumped in and rescued Fish from talking in circles for the remainder of the weekend. Amy followed up with a warm welcome to the crowd saying that there were "good happy feelings, good habby vibes out there in the fields". Some more reminders from Mike, Amy & Trey about the flamable nature of the fields and even the stage, made up partially of hay bales....and the first few notes of "Wilson" drowned out the final, "Thanks for coming!" from Amy...the band eager to get playing and a day of music, fun and camraderie lay ahead.
Three full sets and two interesting encores wrapped up a full day of fun on Saturday. Trey ended Set III after "Possum" by saying, â€œThank you very much for coming, see you guys next night, have a good night, we are going to be out there partying with you so have a good time.â€ And after the legendarily memorable encores with Sofi and the Dude of Life, Trey telling Sam, â€œYour dog has been foundâ€, and the "Harry Hood" finale, the end of summer party was over as was an era.