Phish Plays Surprise Show For Letterman Atop NYC’s Ed Sullivan Theater In 2004

By Scott Bernstein Jun 21, 2016 1:55 pm PDT

Twelve years ago today Phish performed on the marquee of the historic Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City for a surprise set put together by The Late Show With David Letterman. Phish fans and thousands of those passing by the Midtown Manhattan venue were treated to a seven-song performance that included two takes on the same tune.

Now, bear in mind this impromptu performance came as part of the quartet’s “Farewell Tour” as less than a month prior guitarist Trey Anastasio issued a letter stating Phish would part ways for good after their Coventry festival in August. The foursome had just finished playing four nights in a row to kick off the tour with two shows in Brooklyn (June 17 – 18) followed by a pair of gigs in Saratoga Springs, New York. On June 21, as I was riding home from Saratoga Springs, my cell phone came alive with texts and calls that Phish would play on the marquee for anyone who could make it. Here’s how the announcement was made late in the evening on June 20, 2004:

As soon as I got off the subway I caught a glimpse of Phish’s gear set up on the marquee. It was a surreal scene as the crowd continued to grow leading up to the foursome climbing out a window and onto the marquee. They began their set with an intro-less “Scents & Subtle Sounds” and wound up playing it a second time to make sure the version that aired on The Late Show With David Letterman was just right.

From there, Phish rolled through concise versions of “Also Sprach Zarathrustra” (aka 2001), “Wilson,” “Chalk Dust Torture,” “Tweezer” and “Tweezer Reprise.” Last week we told you about the longest version of “Tweezer” in Phish history, but the take laid down a top the Ed Sullivan Theater’s marquee is among the shortest. However, this was bonus Phish as nearly everyone watching didn’t wake up that morning expecting to see a free show.

Here’s footage of most of the set:

The Phish Jams (See 62 videos)
Phish (See 3,894 videos)

Watch what aired on The Late Show With David Letterman:

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