Shows #95-96: 4/21-22 The Front Burlington, VT

The SkiRack (formerly The Front) looking up Main St. towards The Woodbury Armory (formerly Hunt's).
The SkiRack (formerly The Front) looking up Main St. towards The Woodbury Armory (formerly Hunt’s).

Today I want to talk about two important shows that we don’t have much of a setlist or any recordings from. I know what you’re thinking, “How can you write up shows that you don’t know much about?” The fact is these two shows were extremely important in the history of Phish that our lack of first-hand accounts can’t be reason alone to skip them.

Much of the mythos of the Phish story is Phish rose to be the kings of live music without radio, MTV, or album sales. While on a national front this is true, at home, Phish was all supported by local radio stations. Most notably here at the Rock Rumble at the Front. WIZN was a major player in the Vermont radio scene alongside WNCS out of Montpelier, a station we’ll cover later in this series. Starting out in 1983 in Vergennes, the same year as Phish, with Arty LaVigne as general manager, the station would become a champion of local radio with a popular local morning show, Corm and the Coach, and a focus on Vermont artists. The station would become the predominant rock and roll radio station for the town until 1997 when it added 99.9 The Buzz as its “younger-focused” sister station. As a kid, I used to listen to these three stations ad-nauseum. I still remember listening to Rich Haskell and Arty LaVigne riding down Shelburne Road with my parents in the summer, usually talking about some promotions at the Chickenbone Cafe. On all these stations, around 1992-94, there was always room for Phish between Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton. I probably heard Phish over the airwaves long before I knew exactly who they were. Also, a WIZN DJ gave me a copy of Hoist in June 1994, my first conscious moment with the band and one that clearly changed my life forever.

The official T-shirt of the WIZN Rock Rumble
The official T-shirt of the WIZN Rock Rumble. (Photo credit @JayCatVT)

Part of that was these two shows. The shows were hosted by WIZN’s own Arty LaVigne, who had just bought that station outright in June 1988. Nighttime drive DJ Mike Luoma was also believed to be a judge that evening. The only known fact is Phish pulled out the theatrical stops, climaxing their one set on April 21st by lowering Fishman naked from the rafters for his “I Didn’t Know” vacuum solo. The vacuum, however, was not plugged in. Fish did play a naked trombone solo though. The band also played Contact. Mike’s lone notes from the show are they played “loud and hard”. The band obviously brought it enough to be named a finalist. All the finalists performed with Phish winning the whole thing on April 22nd. Phish used the Archer Studios time won to record “Split Open and Melt” and “Bathtub Gin” for the forthcoming Lawn Boy. Phish were now officially the kings of Burlington’s music scene. Now on the radar of local radio, the band could continue to grow outside of the city of Burlington and college scenes.

4 thoughts on “Shows #95-96: 4/21-22 The Front Burlington, VT”

  1. This is an excellent write up! And thanks for the photo credit. The Rumble was a great event. My band, Sundog, received 2nd place 🎶

  2. I was the manager of the Front, for Shawn (Rog) Sweeney, and remember those shows well. My favorite was their first song on the night of the finals: Divided Sky. I watched from the side of the stage next to Paige along with the guitarists for for two of the other finalists. When the last note of Divided Sky was played they both looked at me and said “it’s over”
    Great times at the Front when Phish played, always felt like the boys were playing for their families and friends. i have some great pics of the band from the stage that show just how close they were to the crowd

  3. Gidget & Ghandi took Second Place… and the $500 Advance Music Gift Certificate.
    Sundog and the Hollywood Indians took 3rd & 4th respectively.

    1. Actually, Sundog took 2nd place at The Rumble! I was in the band 🥁

      Phish’s 1st place prize was studio time at Archer Studios. Sundog won a 4-track recorder, from Advance Music, though we asked to substitute that for a new EQ for our own PA system.

      I honestly don’t remember which band place 3rd, and I’m certain there wasn’t a 4th place, at all.

      I still have my t-shirt from that weekend. Good times! 👍

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