It’s been 27 years since Phish threw its first large-scale, weekend-long festival—The Clifford Ball—for over 70,000 people on the site of a former Air Force base in Plattsburgh, NY. The band has thrown a total of ten festivals in its nearly 40-year career, starting with the Ball on this day 27 years ago. A two-day event, Phish brought together aerial displays, carnivalesque performers, and, of course, great music.
The band played three full sets on the first night, including an acoustic mini-set and monster versions of tracks like “Split Open And Melt”, “Down With Disease”, and an extended “Harry Hood” jam. They also encored with “Amazing Grace”, a song that fans haven’t seen since 1998. It’s impossible to recap three full sets of music in one paragraph, but fortunately, there is video footage of most of it! You can watch the band play Clifford Ball in the playlist below.
Phish – The Clifford Ball – Plattsburgh, NY – 8/16/1996
Phish wasn’t quite finished after their sets, and in the early hours of the morning, the Vermont-based band introduced its first “surprise” set. Propped up in the back of a flatbed truck, with lights strung across and mini-rigs tacked on, the band was carried through the campgrounds and jammed all throughout the land. Trey Anastasio described this moment as “probably the best of [the band’s] career” in the documentary clip below.
You can listen to the full “Flatbed Jam” streaming below.
Setlist: Phish | The Clifford Ball | Plattsburgh, NY | 8/16/96
Set 1: Chalk Dust Torture, Bathtub Gin, Ya Mar, AC/DC Bag > Esther > Divided Sky, Halley’s Comet > David Bowie
Set 2: Split Open and Melt, Sparkle > Free, The Squirming Coil, Waste, Talk, Train Song, Strange Design, Hello My Baby, Mike’s Song -> Simple -> Contact > Weekapaug Groove
Set 3: Makisupa Policeman > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Down with Disease -> NICU, Life on Mars? > Harry Hood -> Jam
Encore: Amazing Grace
Set 4: Flatbed Truck Jam
Notes: 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.