Phish Sings National Anthem & Parties With Prince In Minneapolis On Fall Tour 1996
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.
Phish has held concerts on November 12 only three times and not since their Fall Tour 1995 show in Gainesville, Florida. The band did perform in public on November 12, 1996, when they sang the National Anthem before a pro-sporting event for the first time ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves NBA game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
Singing “The Star Spangled Banner” before the Timberwolves beat the Trail Blazers was not the only memorable experience for Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Page McConnell and Jon Fishman on that day off in Minneapolis. Phish, who played a concert at the Target Center the following evening, followed their National Anthem performance by going to Prince’s Paisley Park compound in the nearby suburb of Chanhassen.
More 25 Years Of Phish Fall Tour on JamBase
Phish previewed their rendition of the National Anthem at a few Fall ‘96 shows leading up to the Target Center visit. They have since sung “The Star Spangled Banner” before a number of other pro-sporting events, while still occasionally performing the song, a cappella, in concert.
Shortly after Prince’s untimely death in April 2016 at the age of 57, Anastasio spoke to Rolling Stone about going to Paisley Park, recalling:
It was just an unforgettable night. One thing I remember is he didn’t serve cocktails, so in lieu of cocktails he served little Captain Crunch cereal boxes. I thought that was the coolest thing.
[Prince] was such a great guitar player, but people don’t point out he was a great rhythm guitar player. The band was playing this funky stuff. He had a woman singing with him, a kind of gospel singer, and she stepped out and started killing it. He stepped back, and I remember thinking that everybody tries to play like James Brown’s rhythm guitar player. Jammy guys do it a lot, and they all get it wrong, myself included. He was playing the most badass little rhythms with the drummer as soon as he got out of the spotlight. I was so fascinated by what he was playing. That’s when I noticed what a great guitar player he was.
I don’t think he would have known who I was, but it didn’t matter. The guy had the best bands. They were unbelievable. And that’s a skill in itself. Zappa didn’t just stumble into having bands that good. Prince didn’t just stumble into having bands that good. Bandleading is an art form. I have a little bit of experience in this, and let me tell you, I always admire people who consistently have great bands. Prince had figured out a way to hire really unique, really talented, really tight bands. And it’s easy to get one. But try getting two or three. That’s different. It’s horrible that he’s gone. I was heartbroken. He was way, way too young.
Gordon spoke briefly about the Paisley Park experience in a 2014 Esquire profile, explaining:
We got ourselves invited to a party at Prince’s house. We heard it was creative formal, whatever that meant. So we went to this Italian suit shop, and within half an hour got four Italian suits, got pinned up and the whole deal. Then we got there and we learned what we thought was creative wasn’t creative.
Phish witnessed a celebration for Prince’s album, Emancipation, which was released on November 19, 1996. Other attendees included Boys II Men, Donatella Versace, Bill Bellamy, Mavis Staples and D’Angelo. The performance was broadcast live by MTV, VH1 and BET. According to the Prince Vault, a press release regarding the performance by Prince — who at the time was going by “The Love Symbol” for his name — was issued on November 22 and stated:
Chanhassen, Minneapolis – “Free at last! Free at last! God Almighty, we’re free at last!” was the chant that began the birth of the Emancipation era. Broadcast live around the world by MTV, VH1 and BET in a rare show of cross-network unity, [The Love Symbol] delighted millions with a liberating performance at his Paisley Park Studios. celebrating both his artistic freedom and the November 19th release of his new album Emancipation on NPG records, [The Love Symbol] and his four-piece New Power Generation band performed selections from the new album on a heavenly all-white soundstage.
The half-hour long set included new album tracks “Jam Of The Year”, Joan Osbourne’s “One Of Us”, and “Get Your Groove On”, as well as old favorites “Purple Rain” and “If I was Your Girlfriend”. The video for the first single, “Betcha By Golly Wow” (directed by [The Love Symbol]) kicked off the broadcast. Among those swaying in gleeful attendance and snacking on [The Love Symbol]’s favorite cereal (Cap’n Crunch) were Boys II Men, Donatella Versace, Phish, Bill Belamy, Mavis Staples and D’Angelo.”
At a press conference following his performance, [The Love Symbol] commented:
“The whole process of this record was different. I’m a free man, I’m a happy man, I’m a married man and I’m a clear man. All the tracks on this record are free, happy and clear. making this record was uplifting for me.”
Here’s footage of Prince performing “Joy In Repetition” with Italian-suit wearing members of Phish among those in the audience:
Stream Prince’s complete November 12, 1996 set here:
For a sense of what went down at the Target Center, here are videos of Phish performing “The Star Spangled Banner” a week later on November 19, 1996, as well as before Game 4 of the 2003 NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the New Jersey Nets: