Phish Plays ‘NORML’ ‘Makisupa Policeman’ On Fall Tour 1999
This year marks 25 years since Phish’s historic Fall Tour 1995. In recognition of that noteworthy tour and to make up for the lack of shows this fall, JamBase presents a daily retrospective highlighting a noteworthy moment from a Phish fall tour concert that took place on that date over the past 25 years (read a note on Fall 1997 here). The 25 Years Of Phish Fall Tour series runs each day between the start of Phish Fall Tour 1995 on September 27 through that tour’s finale on December 17.
Regular Phish concertgoers know that the announced showtime is merely a suggestion and that the band is likely to take the stage at least 30 minutes after the time printed on their ticket. An exception to that came when Phish Fall Tour 1999 rolled into Normal, Illinois for their lone concert to date at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena … more on that in a bit.
More 25 Years Of Phish Fall Tour on JamBase
An Associated Press report that ran in the nearby Peoria Journal Star newspaper the day after the concert described a pre-show altercation between police officers and people in Redbird Arena’s parking lot, stating:
Dodging bottles and rocks, outnumbered Illinois State University police spent Monday night keeping more than 10,000 fans of the rock group Phish at bay.
ISU police arrested 13 people in connection with activities outside the sold-out show at Redbird Arena. Those activities included drug dealing, assaults on police and attacks on two campus residence halls.
More than 100 extra police were called in for possible riot-control duty after undercover officers were attacked by about 150 rock- and bottle-throwing concertgoers as they tried to make a drug arrest outside the arena prior to the start of the concert, according to ISU Police Chief Ronald Swan.
Police reports indicate one of the unruly fans threatened to sic his dog on an officer, and uniformed police had to go in and rescue the plainclothes officers, according to Swan.
“It was anything but calm and peaceful,” said Swan. “It was highly volatile.”
The same article noted a similar situation occurred three shows prior in Ames, Iowa on the Iowa State University campus when 26 arrests were made and Ames Police Chief Dennis Ballantine asked the university to ban Phish. While Swan did not go so far as to seek a similar ban at the other ISU, the police situation likely impacted the concert at Redbird Arena.
Presumably spurred by the unrest outside the arena, Phish started their concert on October 4, 1999 mere minutes after the ticketed 7 p.m. start time, causing several late arrivals to miss the rare “Uncle Pen” bust out opener. According to the AP report, during setbreak a group outside “attacked the Haynie Hall and Wilkins Hall dormitories where front doors were kicked and glass windows were smashed” though no one was reported injured.
Considering the scene, the “Makisupa Policeman” played in the middle of the second set in Normal seemed, well, normal. When it came time for guitarist Trey Anastasio to deliver the song’s usual cannabis-centric keyword, he stepped to the mic and said “N.O.R.M.L.” referencing the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Trey also utilized the keyboard he added to his rig in summer 1999, smiling widely at the audience’s reactions to his synthisized embellishments.
At the end of the “Rock And Roll” encore, Trey told the crowd, “on behalf of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, we’d like to thank you,” adding an additional debt of gratitude on behalf of the, “key of A.”
In response to the article in the Journal Star, the paper published an editorial I wrote. Here’s what a feisty, 18-year-old me had to say back then:
Watch “Makisupa Policeman” along with other footage from the JamBase Live Video Archive of Phish’s October 3, 1999 concert in Normal, Illinois: