Northfield Mt. Hermon School , Northfield/Gill, MA
Set 1: AC/DC Bag > Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, You Enjoy Myself, The Lizards, Wilson, Divided Sky, I Didn’t Know, Possum
Set 2: Bold As Love, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Foam, Contact, Take the ‘A’ Train, David Bowie, Golgi Apparatus
Encore: Good Times Bad Times
One great thing about being a New England band is the wealth of opportunity for shows. The ability to play in 7 different states within a few hours of driving is helpful. Also helpful is the amount of colleges within the area. Having a base in Amherst, MA only helps with 5 colleges just in that area alone. Of course, there’s a 2nd tier to the Connecticut River valley, the large amount of private schools also concentrated in that area. If you make it big enough on the college circuit, hopefully some of those students have little brothers or sisters who will rave enough about the band that they’ll get booked to play at their school. This is probably the case of how Phish played some private school gigs during these important years, gaining fans that would help propel the rise to success without radio play or hit singles. A college-level band playing your school is a big deal. I went to the Westminster School just outside of Hartford and when Dispatch came to play there, not only was it big for us, the students, it turned out to be one of their most downloaded live shows.
That brings us to today’s show at Northfield Mount Hermon. The reason I’m conflicted about the location of this show is because both Phish.com and Phish.net say it was in the gymnasium. Firstly the school had two gymnasiums on two different campuses at the time this show occurred, as referenced when they announce the buss before “Contact”. The name Northfield Mount Hermon comes from the fact that the Northfield Seminary for Girls merged with the Mount Hermon school for boys in the 70s. Secondly, Trey keeps referencing the field they were playing on, most notably before Divided Sky. So I don’t even think they were in either gymnasium. At the end of it all, they were at least at NMH.
The show itself isn’t particular outstanding to other shows at the time. Highlights here are mostly the banter. This event was billed as “One Last Thing”, obviously the last social event before graduation the following weekend. Trey dedicates “Alumni>Letter>Alumni” to the graduating seniors once again. Trey introduces “You Enjoy Myself” as the “trampoline segment of the show” and that the audience joins in on the imaginary trampoline. Trey says that the band will build an all-trampoline venue with speakers in the floor. I think we’re all still waiting on that one. Trey introduces themselves as traveling minstrels from Gamehendge again and they’ll do a couple songs from their homeland. A fan yells “Wilson Sucks!” and the crowd goes along with it. It’s interesting to hear Trey count off when the band joins in “The Lizards” intro. Trey introduces who Wilson is during the intro to “Wilson”. It’s kind funny because he calls Wilson an asshole and then realizes he’s playing to a high school crowd. It’s also part of the rebel in him reminded of his own days at Taft. “Wilson” also finally gets its own ending back instead of segueing into “Peaches en Regalia”. Trey closes the Gamehendge trio with “Divided Sky” explaining the ritual of praying at the Rhombus but at the same time, some hecklers go on about a towel, bantering back and forth with Trey about this. It’s funny to hear him try to maintain the upper hand. The “Divided Sky” is a sure highlight of this set with blazing playing by Trey and soaring organ work by Page at the end. “I Didn’t Know” is interesting in that the crowd gets surprisingly quiet during Fish’s vacuum solo, like he entranced the audience with his ability. Set 1 ends with a very strong “Possum”.
We meet Set 2 already in progress in “Bold as Love”. Trey continues the trend of mention Rhode Island at the start of the “Mike’s Groove”, the “Groove” itself is solid. Trey mentions that headlights are not the bus going back to the other campus but they are the 2nd-to-last bus back to the other campus, prompting the crowd to yell “Hell no! We won’t go!”. Trey then says they wrote the next song about that bus and also asks them to sign the mailing list, noting that they’ll learn such facts as how much cable it took up to set up the band at that time. That’s an answer I’d like to know right now, actually. The band changes the lyrics to “The tires are the things on your bus that make contact with the road.” “David Bowie” features more hi-hat hi jinx as Trey weaves “A-Train” and the Woody Woodpecker theme into the intro. The band comes back for the encore and someone asks for “Fee for Tim Rogers. I would think that would be the same Tim Rogers that was their former lighting designer as Trey seems to also know Tim Rogers, joking that “We wouldn’t play a song for that guy….”. Did Tim go to teach at NMH after leaving Phish? Hmm, another mystery of Phishtory to crack! They don’t play “Fee” but Trey does dedicate “Good Times Bad Times” to Tim. The show reminds me of 8/27/88 at Mont Alto, with that same “rock show” attitude but with an actual audience. A fun show to listen to but nothing groundbreaking here.
Just want to take a moment to apologize. I’ve been working on other projects and the radio show, but I’m getting back in the saddle here and ready to continue riding along. Helpfully you’re enjoying This Week in Phish on JEMP Radio as well! Thanks for sticking with me!
9 thoughts on “Show #104: 5/20/1989 Northfield Mount Hermon School Northfield or Gill, MA”
This was my first ever Phish show and still my favorite. I actually helped procure (shall we say?) the recording of this, not ever thinking Phish would be so huge. The weather was beautiful that evening, I remember, beneath a panorama of stars, which was why Trey waxes poetic on The Divided Sky. And what a version of it this is! Precisely played, well-sung,and heartfelt, with blistering solos that are two of the best ever by Phish, in my opinion. In fact, I’ve never heard Phish sing or play as well as they did at this show. If I can disagree just a bit with the blog writer, I think this is one of Phish’s most classic shows ever! And I’ve seen many shows. Each to their own, I know, but I’ve never heard Phish rip into songs the way they do here, plus they talk to the audience ( me included) so much it’s funny.
Thank you for the well-written recap of the show!
It was definitely outside, but right next to the parking lot. I remember the band playing The Wheels on the Bus as a schoolbus began to take some of the students back to the Mt. Herman campus.
Also, there were only about a dozen of us newly minted Phisheads at this show. The rest were students.
This show was outdoors on a gently sloping hill. It was a gorgeous NE spring day and a carload of us (Russ, Kate, Pete, and Jeff G. We’re still all friends!) made the hour trek from
Keene, NH. We stuck out like some sore thumbs as we were much older (23) than the high school kids in attendance! When we walked down with our cooler full of cold beer, we were reminded by the teachers that we were at a high school and to ” be cool”. We were, and so were they. Phish had a little set up with their equipment on plywood boards as a stage. We had all seen Phish in little college cafeterias, miniature golf courses, bars, and other funky places, so there was nothing unusual about this set up at the time. My buddy Russ just drove down to the the sold out run at MSG where tix were going for big $$, and the memory of this day brought a big smile to his 50 year old face!
I’ve just tracked down some info on this show. I’m an NMH alum, but didn’t attend the show. This info is from the Class of 1989:
The concert was on the Mount Hermon campus of NMH, so in Gill, MA. It started with daylight available and went “at least until it was too dark to play Frisbee”.
It was in the Beveridge Bowl, a grassy bowl-shaped area with one long, gently sloping side. The other side is in front of academic buildings, and I believe it used to have a small parking lot on the opposite side where the band could have parked their van. The parking lot was one of several. (Beveridge Bowl is named so because it is in front of Beveridge Hall.) Beveridge Bowl is about 150 yards from Forslund Gymnasium, so not very close.
I have to wonder if Forslund Gymnasium was slated to be an indoor location in case of rain. Also note that one of the NMH dormitories is / was named Wilson Hall, so there’s an additional layer of meaning to the “Wilson sucks!” shouts. There is an audio recording “out there somewhere” where the “Last bus to Northfield” announcement is audible.
Awesome work! Thanks for letting me know. I’ll get the venue map updated.
Thanks for the site!
The actual spot is 150 yards left (north) of the buildings in your second photo. I’ll see if I can grab a photo for you.
i was at this show, first phish show, but had to catch the bus back to the northfield campus, so ‘contact’ was the last song i heard as we pulled away..the show was outside of Crossley dorm, as others have said, it was in a ‘bowl’ shaped field..fun times as a senior that year, funny to find this 31yrs later..thx for the memories
The show was indeed outside in the beverage bowl. I was an 89 NMH grad and got our dorm N Crossley to fundraise for the $800 to hire them down from BUrlington for our Spring Fling. I knew of of Phish through future buddy Amy Skelton who was their manager at the time. Many of us went on to be lifelong fans and the Townsend Vt shows were spurred from that day too. Good times those years were. Skye Chalmers 89’
My dad worked here as an english teacher and coach. He talks about how he met one of the members of the band at a party ( I think Page) at Amherst College and offered him $300 and unlimited hot dogs to play this show and they accepted. Funny story, great listen to me.