The thing that sucks about the Phoenix airport is that the rental car facility is like 400 miles from the airport so unless you leave an extra 3 hours to return your car you will miss your flight. If you leave your wallet in the rental car and have to take the shuttle twice, like I did, you might need 5 hours. The good news about missing my flight is I finally have time to do a blog post. The Front is one of the most storied venues in Phish’s history. After graduating from Hunt’s and Nectar’s, The Front became the band’s home away from home in Burlington. According to phish.net, the band played The Front a total of 53 times with Nectar’s and MSG coming in second and third with 43 and 31 times respectively. I was only able to see the last two shows ever played at The Front, May 11 and 12, 1991, but very grateful that I at least saw those.
The venue itself was fairly non descript. It was right up the street from the Flynn (if I remember correctly). Walking in, there was a small area where they would check IDs and take money (no advance tickets), and then you would go to the left and enter the actual performance space. The room where the band played was a dark rectangular room, maybe 100′ long by 50′ wide? When you entered from the front area, you entered the back of the room on the side, the stage was to your right. Stage was only about 2 or 3 feet high (knee height) and the ceiling was fairly low too. Definitely one of the smaller rooms I have ever seen Phish in, but not quite as small as Nietzches or The Haunt. If you went toward the stage there was an exit to a connected (and related?) place called (I think) the Outback, and it was a small bar that also had an outdoor patio.
The first show of the weekend, 5/11, was a 21 and over show so a lot of people couldn’t get in, including The Duck. There were a bunch of people hanging out on the curb outside that couldn’t get in. As a result, it’s the only Phish show I ever actually taped as Duck asked me to bring his equipment in since he was only 20 (even back then I was old). It’s a good thing as I was the only taper in there that night, and in talking with Shaps a few years later, it appears there wasn’t a board tape in the archives either.
I got in there early to set up the gear in the back behind the soundboard and the place was empty. It stayed empty for most of the first set. I would guess there were maybe 50 people tops which surprised me as I figured the hometown folks would fill up the venue. My first Burlington show a couple of weeks earlier (UVM 4/22/91) was jam packed. I finally got the tape rig going and this is how it went:
A pretty standard Spring ’91 show, and nothing too much sticks out for me. YEM features Tom Baggot on harmonica and the first set Tweezer is pretty good too. The highlight for me was the encore, which I have featured below. The show ended up getting more crowded by the end, but I would still be surprised if 125 people were there. I’m pretty sure this is the least attended Phish show I ever attended, even smaller than Sessions at West 54th, which isn’t even really a show so I’ll just shut up.
The encore was my favorite part of this show. Check out the BBFCFM with “Eddie Van Anastasio”:
After the show it seems like all 125 people ended up back at Fishman’s house that I think he was sharing with Kuroda. It was a fun party and I got to sit down on the couch with Trey and make a fool of myself while we listened to the Ninja Custodian demo tape. Later on when I was in the kitchen, somebody came up to Page and handed him a cheap ass Casio keyboard which he proceeded to goof around on and subsequently brought on stage the following night. I also smoked hash in Fish’s bedroom which smelled really bad (the room, not the hash). Good times.
The people I was traveling with were more psyched for the next night, because they could actually get in (this night was All Ages). This proved to be a way more crowded show even though it was a Sunday.
Encore: Run Like an Antelope
I really like this show. For one, it features Dave Grippo throughout and it’s well played with some funny moments. Landlady>Destiny is one of my favorite combos and every time the played Landlady in ’91 I was pulling for the Destiny. Add a horn to Destiny and I’m a happy boy. Llama also featured the Truth and it too is a barn burner. I’ve featured both of those below. Second set also had some great stuff. The Dude of Life came out during Mike’s Song to sing some alternate lyrics which just served to confuse me, but I was super psyched to see Page bust out the Casio from the previous night’s party. Good stuff for sure. This would be one of the last shows I would see before the just announced Horn Tour so I made sure to live it up during the final 5 tracks (saw The Marquee and Salisbury the next weekend). Probably why I don’t remember too much from this show. I do remember we had to drive back to NYC right after the show to get the Duck to work on Monday morning. That part kind of sucked but I am pretty sure Duck did all the driving.
Destiny Unbound is one of my favorite tracks. Add Dave Grippo and you’ve got one of my all-time favorite versions.
Llama with the brass is great too:
Lastly, here is the Mike’s Groove with DOL on vocals and Page on the aformentioned Casio during H2. Grippo kills it on the Mike’s too: