Phish this week announced their latest multi-day festival Curveball, which will find the band returning to Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York on August 17 – 19. The band’s first festival since 2015’s Magnaball – also held at Watkins Glen International – is their 11th such event since 1996’s Clifford Ball in Plattsburgh, New York.
This edition of Sunday Cinema takes a video journey to each of Phish’s past 10 festivals. Starting with the Clifford Ball, scenes from each subsequent festival are presented chronologically below. All but one of the videos, 1999’s Camp Oswego, features Phish performing live throughout the past 20+ years.
Clifford Ball | August 16 –17, 1996
Closing out the first set of their first festival, the band blistered through this version of their original as they worked through first day/first fest nerves. Performing in front of over 70,000 fans, it was the first and only time Phish held a festival at Plattsburgh Air Force Base in Plattsburgh, New York.
The Great Went | August 16 –17, 1997
Exactly one year later Phish hosted their second two-day festival. This time the band moved to the Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, Maine where they played this memorable and revered version of “Bathtub Gin” that came out of segue from an equally impressive “Down With Disease” to start the second set of the second night.
Lemonwheel | August 15 –16, 1998
“Jam” > “Piper”
Almost exactly one year later Phish headed back to Limestone for a second consecutive mid-August festival (again covering August 16) at Loring Air Force Base. Filmed at the band’s third festival in as many years, this clip takes you into the audience close to the stage and the action for the end of “Down With Disease” which melts into a patient and grooving take on “Piper.”
Camp Oswego | July 17 –18, 1999
The first of two festivals held in 1999, Camp Oswego was the first of the band’s fests to take place mid-tour, to have a side stage with acts like Ozomatli and the Del McCoury Band, and it was their first (and only) time at Oswego County Airport in Volney, New York. The band matched the scorching heat in the air that weekend with two inspired three-set shows, and though little-to-no footage of the weekend floats around the interwebs, this fan-made mini-documentary gives a feel what it was like that sweltering hot weekend.
Big Cypress | December 30 –31, 1999
The mother of all Phish festivals and perhaps the pinnacle of the band’s career – at least to that point – Big Cypress, the second of two 1999 festivals that was held over New Year’s Eve weekend in the Florida Everglades, was the epitome of epic. This version of “Sand” from the storied midnight-to-sunrise set catches the band’s readiness to explore and expand songs their improvisational limits over the eight-hour set.
It | August 2 –3, 2003
“Chalk Dust Torture”
Phish’s first festival after their first hiatus came four years after Big Cypress when they returned to Limestone and Loring Air Force Base for It. At the time it was played, the “Chalk Dust Torture” from It was one of the longest and most jammed out versions of the tune prior to the band’s recent penchant to take the song out on exploratory journeys and was truly a highlight of the weekend.
Coventry | August 14 – 15, 2004
“Split Open And Melt”
An emotional weekend billed as the band’s final shows, Phish held their first festival in their home state of Vermont for what would be their last performance for five years. After struggling emotionally to get through “Wading In A Velvet Sea” and simply struggling to get through “Glide,” Trey Anastasio stated the band needed to “blow off some steam” before ripping into a dark version of “Split Open And Melt” seen in this video that mixes shots of the festival screens with footage taken from the field.
Festival 8 | October 30 –November 1, 2009
Upon returning to recording and touring in 2009 the band held its first festival over Halloween weekend at the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio, California. The site of the annual Coachella Festival saw the band cover The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street for its musical costume, which included this superb version of the familiar cover “Loving Cup” featuring vocalists Sharon Jones and Saundra Williams, and Dave Guy on trumpet, Tony Jarvis on saxophone and David Smith on trombone.
Superball IX | July 1 –3, 2011
Phish stuck to the three-day format for their 2011 trip to Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York, the site of this year’s Curveball festival. In the tradition of the Clifford Ball truck-bed jam, the Great Went’s disco set, Lemonwheel’s ambient set and the It Tower Jam, the complete Superball IX “Storage Jam” – with recently posted remastered audio and video – is presented in its entirety below:
Magnaball | August 21 – 23, 2015
“Tweezer” > “Prince Caspian”
The second fest at Watkins Glen happened four years after Superball, this time billed as Magnaball. The quartet continued their festival tradition by performing an unannounced, late-night set after Saturday’s main stage show. The all-improv set was presented with the behind hidden behind a screen in an area converted to look like a drive-in movie theater. Prior to that set, Phish closed out the second set of the second day with a massive “Tweezer” > “Prince Caspian,” which can be seen here:
[Updated from original article published March 22, 2015]