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Tuesday, August 16

Today in Phishtory is the Anniversary of the First Big Music Festival. The Clifford Ball took place on Aug 16-17 in 1996.

Today in Phishtory is the Anniversary of the First Big Music Festival. The Clifford Ball took place on Aug 16-17 in 1996.

Today is the anniversary of the first Phish festival in a line that now includes ten festivals and some of the highest and lowest moments of Phish history.  The Ball was held at Plattsburgh, New York at the end of Summer Tour 96'. This was the first whole Summer Tour I was on and the ball was the end of the line and the destination for the whole tour. It was one of the best festivals in the history of Phish history. Superball and Magnaball and The Great Went all have rabid followers but this is the grandad of them all. It famously ended with a truncated "Harpua" because the planes that were supposed to fly over the field missed their cue, which caused the opening of The Great Went to finish the "Harpua" the next year. This festival also was the beginning of the "secret set" tradition but in this case the band took to the back of a flatbed truck and drove through the crowd as a mobile disco.

The name, Clifford Ball, came about a few years earlier when the band passed a plaque that said, "'Clifford Ball: a beacon of light in the world of flight.'" Seven sets of music over the two nights by Phish and an incredible soundcheck the night before. The Clifford Ball Orchestra, played classical pieces through the day. It also had a collection of other musical acts, which differed from some of the other festivals. They included a blues quartet, some guitar soloists and a string quartet. It was also full of the art installations that came to be a huge part of the Phish festival format.  The festival also was the proof that besides the rabid Phish fans, festivals were a reliable way to make money. The trend in festivals soon shot through the roof including Lollapalooza and now too many to count.

The festival was attended by 70,000, the largest Phish show up to that time and the largest concert in the US that year. At the time the weekend made The Clifford Ball the ninth largest city in New York and dropped $20 million into the local economy. This added an incentive to the other cities that held other Phish festivals. Phish released a DVD documentary in 2009.  This was the beginning and from the sadness and muck of Coventry to the majesty of The Y2K fest, this is the anniversary of the festival to start all Phish Festivals.
Written by: Greg Heffelfinger


 Friday, 08/16/1996
Plattsburgh Air Force Base, Plattsburgh, NY

EncoreAmazing Grace

[1] Acoustic mini-stage.
[2] Unfinished.
Setlist: Aug. 17th,1996

 Saturday, 08/17/1996
Plattsburgh Air Force Base, Plattsburgh, NY

[1] No whistling.
[2] Trey sang verses through megaphone.
[3] Ben and Jerry on vocals.
[4] Page/Fish Mule Duel.
[5] Unfinished.
setlists from
The "Flatbed Jam"musical highlights and band commentary from the DVD
"Bathtub Gin" from 8-16-96
"The Lizards" from 8-17-9

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