Phish performs in Rauner’s Webster Hall for a 1990 concert
By Kate Sullivan And Connor Watumull, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Thursday, May 24, 2012
Editor’s Note: This is the final installment in a four-part series profiling popular music concerts at Dartmouth over the last four decades.
While it may be hard to imagine a noise level louder than a whisper occurring in the space that now houses the Rauner Special Collections Library, the now iconic jam band Phish performed a raucous concert full of its signature trampoline bouncing and party-like antics in the now silent Webster Hall on Jan. 21, 1990. The four-man band from Burlington, Vt. is well known for encompassing many different musical styles and improvisational jams.
C.J. Hughes ’92, a former reporter for The Dartmouth who reviewed Phish’s 1990 concert, recalled that the interest in jam bands at the time grew out of the Grateful Dead’s immense popularity.
“When the [Grateful Dead] would stop touring for a month or two, all those people were left sort of scratching their heads,” he said in an interview with The Dartmouth. “I think there was this void, this vacuum, and into the void stepped Phish.”
Phish had performed at the College two earlier times, once in November 1988 at the Tabard coeducational fraternity and again in Collis Common Ground during Green Key weekend in 1989. In comparison to the concert in 1990, however, these earlier shows were barely advertised, Hughes said.
Although two other shows were hosted at the College, Deacon Warner ’90 said he remembered the performance at Webster Hall as Phish’s “first big splash on campus.”
The show was organized by Collis Governing Board, according to Jane Demarchi ’90, the former head of CGB. DeMarchi organized the concert with Curt Fish ’90, who was close personal friends with John Paluska, the band’s manager. At the time, the group was enjoying an increase in popularity, and the packed house came as a shock to the organizers.
“The place was totally full, and we were worried that there were going to be too many people,” DeMarchi said. “People were camped out in front waiting to get in. I don’t think we had much security. My recollection was me and Curt were manning the door.”
The show — which was advertised with posters that featured an overweight Kung Fu master — attracted Dartmouth students of varying levels of familiarity with the band in addition to people from other places, according to Hughes, Warner and DeMarchi.
Guests in search of musical euphoria were not disappointed, as the wacky band played two sets that included Phish hits such as “Lizards,” “Run Like an Antelope,” “Weekapaug Groove” and “Reba.” Some other highlights of the set list featured an improvisational, spontaneous a cappella version of “Carolina” and the unleashing of a song written just the previous evening, “Bouncing Around the Room,” according to Hughes’ review of the concert in The Dartmouth.
The performance featured various bizarre, acrobatic acts that delighted guests in attendance.
“I know people were pretty blown away that were at the show,” Warner said. “For certain songs, they would be hopping around on trampolines in unison, and then at some point, the drummer would come out and do a vacuum cleaner solo.”
While Hughes’ review of the concert mentioned that Webster Hall’s poor acoustics detracted from the band’s energy, he recalled the space as an idyllic place to see live music as a result of the incredible architecture of the building’s interior.
“It was really a pleasant place to see a concert,” Hughes said. “If you didn’t know the band and happened to space out, you could let your eyes wander, and see the green and yellow lights projected around the room.”
A stellar afterparty followed the spectacular performance, he said. The gathering started in the Bema before relocating to an off-campus house colloquially known as the “River Ranch,” according to Fish, who was living there at the time.
“The manager came and spent the night there, as well as a couple of buddies, and maybe Fishman and Trey came over and partied with us for awhile,” Fish said. “There was a lot of tequila.”
Phish continues to perform at large venues across the country and will headline the upcoming Bonnaroo Music Festival held in Manchester, Tenn. Hughes said that the January 1990 concert sparked his longstanding affinity for Phish.
“For me, it began that night in Hanover,” Hughes said. “The show had a real inside secret kind of feel to it and scattered among those in attendance were a few lucky people who happened to be crossing the Green and heard some thudding bass riffs coming out of the door of Webster Hall.”