The jam band community has always felt like one big family. Going back to the days of the Grateful Dead sharing the bill—and oftentimes the stage—with The Allman Brothers Band, there has been a familial nature that exists between bands that specialize in live improvisation. A clear line can be drawn from those early Dead/Allman collaborations to today’s joint tours between bands or the co-headlining nature of gatherings like Summer Camp Music Festival featuring moe. and Umphrey’s McGee splitting the bill.
An important point on that line came in the early 1990s with bands like Phish and Widespread Panic. Though they would one day share the bill on future H.O.R.D.E. tours, 1990 saw both jam band camps beginning to break through on a national stage. To kick off 1990, Phish and Widespread Panic teamed up for a winter tour of the United States that saw Phish opening for WSP during a run of Southern shows while Panic returned the favor in the Northeast. On the evening of February 17th, 1990, the two bands rolled into the Student Union Ballroom at the University of Massachusetts.
With Widespread Panic opening the show, many in the Northeast got what was likely their first exposure to the band that was quickly becoming a household name down south. Moving through road-tested classics like “Stop-Go”, and “L.A.”, Panic’s opening set came to a head with a climactic grouping of “Love Tractor”, “Space Wrangler”, and “Chilly Water”.
Next, it was time for Phish to take the stage as the college crowd clamored for the ever-rising quartet from Vermont. Opening up with “Possum”, fans were treated to what would today be considered a show filled with classics, with first set highlights of “Bathtub Gin”, “Divided Sky” > “The Sloth”, and a “You Enjoy Myself” that teased Led Zeppelin‘s “The Ocean” in the vocal jam. The second set brought further excitement with a jam-heavy offering of six songs including “Reba”, “The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony” > “AC/DC Bag”, and the penultimate “Harry Hood”. The show was far from over, however, as Phish returned to the stage to deliver a complete “Mike’s Groove” for an encore.
Fortunately, a full-show video of Phish’s 2/17/90 set exists on YouTube as well as soundboard audio on Relisten. Unfortunately for Panic fans, no audio or video of the band’s opening set is widely available online. Click here to read a full account of the show from a lucky attendee.
Phish – Student Union Ballroom, University of Massachusetts – Amherst, MA – 2/17/90
Maybe one day fans will be lucky enough to experience seeing these two jam juggernauts team up again.
Setlist: Phish | Student Union Ballroom, University of Massachusetts | Amherst, MA | 2/17/90
Set One: Possum, Bathtub Gin, Divided Sky > The Sloth, Bouncing Around the Room, You Enjoy Myself, Golgi Apparatus
Set Two: Reba, The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > AC/DC Bag, The Squirming Coil, Harry Hood, Carolina
Encore: Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove
The opening acts were Widespread Panic and Gene Matthews. The Ocean (Led Zeppelin) was teased in the YEM vocal jam. Mike’s Song started as David Bowie.
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Student Union Ballroom, University of Massachusetts | Amherst, MA | 2/17/90
Set: Holden Oversoul, Stop-Go, C. Brown, L.a., Proving Ground, Machine, Barstools and Dreamers, Love Tractor, Space Wrangler, Chilly Water