Back in the early 90’s, the place to see jam music in New York City was The Wetlands Preserve. The venue’s intimate vibe helped foster the scene, so much so that Peter Shapiro—who owned and operated the venue from 1997 through 2005—commented on its importance in a 2016 interview with Live For Live Music. Naturally, when Phish came to town, they found themselves right at home at the Wetlands. The band delivered quite the memorable performance on this day in 1990, opening with a classic “Mike’s Groove” before welcoming Blues Traveler‘s John Popper to the stage on harmonica for “My Sweet One”. Popper would later return for “Funky Bitch” in set two.
This show in 1990 wasn’t the first time Phish and Popper crossed paths. The 1990 Wetlands collaboration came on the heels of Phish’s December 1989 show at Ukraine National Home, when Popper sat in on a take of ZZ Top’s “Jesus Just Left Chicago”, marking his first known sit-in with the band. During the rest of 1990, Blues Traveler and Phish exchanged sit-ins on a semi-regular basis, with Popper joining the Vermont quartet four more times and Trey Anastasio returning the favor three times and Page McConnell twice.
Similarly, these cameos wouldn’t be the last of their kind. Popper would go on to sit in with the band six more times between 1991 and 1996 (the image above is from a 1996 show), and members of Phish would collaborate with the Blues Traveler frontman during a super jam at The Jammy Awards in 2002 and with Chris Barron & The Time Bandits in 2009. Perhaps most importantly, the relationship fostered between the Phish members and Popper certainly paved the way for the iconic H.O.R.D.E (Horizons Of Rock Developing Everywhere) tours of the early and mid ’90s.
Take a listen to full Phish show from The Wetlands Preserve on March 3rd, 1990, below.
[Audio: Tim Giancarlo/Upload: fromtheaquarium]
Setlist: Phish | The Wetlands Preserve | New York, NY | 3/3/90
Set 1: Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, My Sweet One , The Squirming Coil -> The Lizards, The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > AC/DC Bag, Reba, Rocky Top, You Enjoy Myself -> Possum
Set 2: Dinner and a Movie, Caravan, Fluffhead > Esther > Funky Bitch , Carolina, Divided Sky
Encore: Suzy Greenberg
 John Popper on harmonica.
Notes: My Sweet One and Funky Bitch featured John Popper on harmonica. The YEM vocal jam contained a Surfin’ Bird quote.
[Originally Published 3/3/18]