New To Circulation: Most Complete Recordings Of Phish Colorado 1988 Run Surface

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In late July 1988 and early August 1988 the course of Phish history was changed with the band’s first run in Colorado. The Vermont-based quartet quickly gained an audience in the state and would return in 1990 and would play shows in Colorado each year that followed until 1998. While highlights of Phish’s initial visit to Colorado were released by the band as Colorado ’88 in 2006, there was still plenty of material from the run that hasn’t circulated among fans. Today, nearly 30 years later, four of those historic performances now circulate almost in full for the first time. Phish.net has shared the story behind the audio from July 29 and 30 as well as August 4 and 5, plus, of course, the recordings themselves.

First a little background: in the summer of 1988 Phish was nearly a five-year-old band that had yet to play outside of Vermont except for the occasional gig. This was all set to change with an offer procured by the band’s bassist and manager at the time, Mike Gordon. Mike, through his future girlfriend Cilla Foster, had scored a month-long national tour put together by restauranteur Warren Stickney. There was a problem though, as departure date approached, Stickney became harder to get a hold of on the phone. When Gordon finally contacted Stickney, he learned the tour had fallen through. Stickney did offer the band a chance to play The Roma, his restaurant in Telluride, Colorado for $1,000. The members of Phish voted on this new proposal and despite lots of “no” votes, decided to go for it.

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On Monday, July 25, 1988 Phish played their usual weekly gig at Nectar’s in their hometown of Burlington and then loaded their gear, themselves and their crew into a Cube Van for the grueling ride to Colorado. “We were stuck together, but it was defining,” keyboardist Page McConnell told Relix about the 42-hour journey. “We’d never had such an intense time together and were flying by the seat of our pants.” The quartet weren’t the only ones who had been burned by Stickney, who had gained a reputation for not paying his workers or taxes. As such, those in town avoided The Roma like the plague.

Phish played The Roma from July 28 – 30 and by most accounts perhaps a dozen people attended those performances. Thankfully, Mike Lynch was one of them and brought his tape deck with him. Lynch recorded the shows and helped convince the foursome to play the nearby Fly Me To The Moon Saloon on August 3. That night was the group’s off night from The Roma and according to Jon Fishman in The Phish Book, the band found its audience.

“It was a weeknight but the place was completely packed, and they ran out of alcohol during the evening,” Fish told Richard Gehr. Phish, however, stuck to their deal with Stickney and returned to The Roma and “more or less empty houses” according to the drummer, the next few nights complete with posters that read “NEW ENGLAND’S MOST NAIVE ROCK BAND. WE DROVE 2,000 MILES BECAUSE WARREN STICKNEY PROMISED US A THOUSAND BUCKS.” As if the situation wasn’t bad enough, Phish took a gig in Aspen arranged by Stickney on their way home and promptly had their money stolen from the place where they stayed that night. “Other than that our first tour was a raging success,” Gordon recalled to Gehr.

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So now, that brings us to the current day, nearly 30 years and a Hall Of Fame-worthy career later. Fan Niel Ringstad attended several of the shows that were taped by his friend Mike Lynch. Niel lent his analog master cassettes of four Roma performances to Jeff Goldberg, who transferred the tapes to the digital domain. Phish.net has the full scoop on the technical details of the transfer. Goldberg put in “restoring and mastering work to make these recordings sound as good as they possibly can” as per Charlie Dirksen’s Phish.net writeup.

All of the audio is available for streaming and downloading here. There’s plenty to dig through that hadn’t circulated previously including performances of jazz standards “Mr. PC” and “All Blues” played by Mike, Page and guitarist Trey Anastasio when Fishman went missing. Be sure to check out the “Run Like An Antelope” from later in the evening for Trey’s tale of what happened to the drummer. Thanks to everyone involved in finally getting these historic recordings into fans’ hands. Listen to “All Blues” sans Fishman with Anastasio on drums:

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