Show #52: 6/15/88


At far left, 85 Main Street, former home of The Front. At far right, the original building of the Ski Rack.

Wednesday, 06/15/1988
The Front, Burlington, VT

Set 1: Suzy Greenberg, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, You Enjoy Myself -> Wilson, Rocky Top, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Fluffhead, Golgi Apparatus

Set 2: La Grange, Fee > Timber (Jerry), I Didn’t Know[1], The Lizards, AC/DC Bag, The Sloth, Contact[2], Dinner and a Movie, Take the ‘A’ Train, Good Times Bad Times, Whipping Post, Dear Mrs. Reagan

[1] Fish on trombone.
[2] First known performance.

Another new room. Another chapter in the book of Phish. This is the 2nd overall but 1st recording of the band at The Front. Located at 85 Main Street in Burlington, it was just across Pine Street from Hunt’s. In 1994, when the band said they’d been playing US Route 2 their entire career, they meant it. You can’t go looking for The Front, it’s no longer there. The building is but it is now the Ski Rack outdoor goods shop and has been for quite sometime. I don’t even remember before the space was the Ski Rack personally. There also are not a lot of links about The Front on the web. Luckily at least one person does, Caravan2001 over at had this to say about the space,

“The venue itself was fairly non descript.  It was right up the street from the Flynn (if I remember correctly).  Walking in, there was a small area where they would check IDs and take money (no advance tickets), and then you would go to the left and enter the actual performance space.  The room where the band played was a dark rectangular room, maybe 100′ long by 50′ wide?  When you entered from the front area, you entered the back of the room on the side, the stage was to your right.  Stage was only about 2 or 3 feet high (knee height) and the ceiling was fairly low too. Definitely one of the smaller rooms I have ever seen Phish in, but not quite as small as Nietzches or The Haunt.  If you went toward the stage there was an exit to a connected (and related?) place called (I think) the Outback, and it was a small bar that also had an outdoor patio.”

To me, it sounds a bit like Showcase Lounge at the new Higher Ground in South Burlington or the old Knitting Factory in TriBeCa NYC. Regardless, it clearly was a music venue most of all unlike the spaces the band had filled up until hat point. You can hear the larger room on this recording as it seems to have more space and less noise. As far as the actual show, there are some fun tracks but nothing outstanding. The big highlight is the live debut of “Contact”, formerly called “The Tires”. It’s a little rough around the edges but has a tight funk jam in the middle that’s worth listen. “The Tires” is indeed “hot” as Trey said a few shows ago. “Dinner and a Movie” is also a fun this go-round. Another long yet less fiery “Whipping Post”. A beautiful “McGrupp”. A sweet segue from “YEM” into “Wilson”. A silly “Dear Mrs. Reagan” with Contact lyrics intertwined to close the show. Also of note, a lot of fans have been commenting about how Page has become the spokesperson of the band. This show is worth a listen because Page does most of the announcements, such as remind fans of the bar in “The Out Back” conneced to the venue. A lot of the guys have been talking about how the band feels like the old days. Maybe Page’s new role is also a throwback actually. This may not be a highlight of the history of The Front but many more will come over the years as The Front eclipses Nectar’s in importance to the band.

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