My 1990 Halloween with Phish

Thanks to my college cohort Jason, I now have a living breathing document of our early Phish experience. It was Halloween 1990. That night, Phish would play our college’s 740 seat theater, Armstrong Hall. Judging by my first Phish show in April of that year, I knew we were in for something special. Costumes were required for this performance. So I dug up a poncho, a cowboy hat and a water pistol and called myself Josey Wales. Jason got a little more creative, and dressed up like a droog from A Clockwork Orange.

That night, we filed into Armstrong Hall and had our minds blown by these four strange fellows from Vermont. Page seemed the most normal of the bunch, nestled behind his keyboard. Mike was a cartoonish figure with his moppy hair and deadpan expression as he laid down those great bass lines. Fishman was a fascinating sight on drums, dressed in his standard attire of goggles and a dress. I had never heard / seen such drumming live before. The rhythms he banged out had me wondering how one person could muster up all of those sounds.

And then there was Trey: red hair, red beard, and his perma-grin throughout the show. With his stack of amps and electronic equipment blipping and flickering behind him, Trey was a veritable guitar god that night (and every other time I saw him).

Phish obviously evolved into a phenomenon, selling out tours for years with minimal album sales & radio play. In 1997, when Phish was playing America West Arena here in Phoenix, I scored a backstage pass and got a chance to introduce myself to Trey. I reminded him of this night in 1990, when he and his buddies from Vermont took the stage at a small auditorium in Colorado Springs, and did proceed to tear the roof off the mother (not to mention my brain).

*Embellishment follows* As a distant neon sign flickered in Trey’s eyes, he began to nod emphatically and hoarsely whispered, “Hey! Weren’t you dressed like Josey Wales?” A tear fell from my eye, and we embraced like two long lost brothers, as we shared the common bong bond of a simpler time. A salivating silver and black dragon then burst through the ground beneath, swallowing us both whole. *End of embellishment*

Armstrong Hall
Colorado College
October 31st, 1990

1: (Buried Alive -> Possum, The Squirming Coil, Lizards, Stash, Bouncing Around the Room, You Enjoy Myself, The Asse Festival, My Sweet One, Cavern, Run Like an Antelope

2: The Landlady, Reba, Runaway Jim, Foam, Tweezer, Fee, Oh Kee Pa Ceremony -> Suzy Greenberg, HYHU -> Love You -> HYHU, Mike’s Song -> I Am Hydrogen -> Weekapaug Groove

E: Uncle Pen, Big Black Furry Creature From Mars

Set 2 preceded by costume contest. *Vocal jam included “A Night in Tunisia” (Dizzy Gillespie).


  • jazzmaster

    Damn… Phish was incredible LIVE, weren’t they?! I had the pleasure of seeing these guys 5 or 6 times. Absolutely incredible!!! Thanks for sharing the memories, Pete. I seem to recall seeing a silver and black dragon at one of my shows, too! 😉

  • jason

    Phish played Armstrong Hall 2 Halloweens in a row…
    Was this the show with any of the following?
    -Jesus & a huge Dancing Bong as the finalists in the costume contest. (The bong won)
    -That chick Chamois dressed as Seuss’ Thing 1 with a squirt gun of liquid.
    -Painted chicks on trampolines
    -3 six foot Rabbits sitting on the woodpile outside eating huge carrots (which turned out to be burritos)
    -Fishman slowly strolling to center stage, and lifting his housedress, to reveal his Surprise Halloween Costume… a gender-bending “tuck”.
    -Bouncing Around The Room with an actual, disco-balled, bouncing room (I don’t think that was real)
    -Someone with a set of huge grinning lips instead of a head (I’m pretty sure that was real, costume-wise)
    -Trey sporting, or maybe sprouting, very realistic goat horns in his Pan-esque curly locks

    My recollection of those shows are alternately Big, Black & Furry.

  • Jwtravis

    This (Halloween 1990-CC) was my first Phish show…to that point I had only heard a couple tracks off of Lawnboy…imagine my surprise. And yes it did pit Jesus (complete with cross) against the giant bong…and yes the bong won. Although….was that 1991 not 90????

    I was a huge fan and follower of Phish from then until Jerry died and the Deadheads ruined the scene with “needing miracles” and selling grilled cheeses….

  • Sethna

    I was one of those bunnies. Best costume ever. Unzip it to boogie down, and once the show’s over, climb back in and voila! instant snowsuit.

    How about Phish’s costume? Second set the band walks out and starts into Landlady. Something seemed a little off kilter, Mike Gordon looked really strange to me, but I just chalked it up to Chamois’ squirt gun or something and kept partying. A minute or two goes by and Gordon emerges from the wings plugging away at his bass and slowly moves upstage to stand next to his doppelganger/girlfriend who had dressed as him and was air guitaring the shit out of his spare bass! 


    • Sethna

      To start set II, Cilla Foster appeared onstage with Mike’s bass and pretended to play The Landlady, rocking along with Trey while Mike played the bass part offstage. The Memories opener was performed without microphones. You Enjoy Myself featured “a slice of pizza, a bucket of lard” vocal jam. The Landlady set II opener was preceded by Trey’s Introduction explaining the Costume Contest. During the Costume Contest, the band teased Jesus Just Left Chicago as a tribute to someone in a Jesus costume with a cross on his back. Can’t Turn You Loose (Otis Redding cover) closed round 1 of the contest and Hold Your Head Up was also played at one point. After each contestant was eliminated, Trey made them stage-dive. First Prize in the Costume Contest was free admission to all shows for a year. The winners were the Bergen County Woman Cop and Captain Bong Hit. As usual, the Costume Contest provided some funny banter. At one point Trey exclaimed “let’s get Jesus up on the trampolines.”http://phish.com/#/tours/dates/thu-1991-10-31-armstrong-hall-colorado-college

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