After nearly three months of nationwide touring, Phish returned home to the northeast in May, 1991 to begin recording their third album, A Picture of Nectar. The crew (consisting of Paul Languedoc – sound, Chris Kuroda – lights, monitor engineer Pete Schall and Road/Tour Manager Andrew Fischbeck) was traveling in a panel truck with a plywood living space in the cargo area crafted by Page, Fish and Paul. The band was riding in a minivan. In the previous months they had visited many new towns and venues in their second full national tour. May 1991 represents an active time in Phish history with the last shows before the band began recording A Picture of Nectar and their next live appearances in July with the Giant Country Horns (see This Month in Phish History, July, 1991).
May began with a show on the second at Poughkeepsie, New York’s "The Chance" where Skratch Baxter opened the show. Set I at The Chance featured a drum solo by a hooded and caped Fish when Mike broke a bass string before Foam. May 2nd was also Jamie Janover’s (friend of the band and hammer dulcimer player between sets on December 30th, 1991 in Springfield, Massachusetts) onstage debut with Phish. He appeared during Colonel Forbin’s Ascent to play a quick didjeridoo solo. The band moved on to the Somerville Theatre in Somerville, Massachusetts for a two-night stand on May 3rd and 4th. Colonel Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit (see This Month in Phish History, April, 1992) opened both shows. The Somerville shows are also recalled for such moments as a May 3rd set II Harpua during which the band paid tribute to Bruins’ hockey great, Cam Neely.
On May 9th, Phish played the intimate Portland Performing Arts Center for a show which was not announced in the newsletter. On May 10th, Phish played at the Page Commons Room at Colby College Student Center in Waterville, Maine. On the 11th and 12th, they played their final two shows at The Front in Burlington, Vermont. The second Front show acted as a bit of a preview to the coming months, featuring special guest Dave "the Truth" Grippo on alto saxophone for Magilla, AC/DC Bag and Rockytop. Dave also added his saxophone talents to the May 12th set II Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove at the Front, joined by the Dude of Life on improvised vocals for the entire suite. Following their final appearance at The Front, Phish took a few days off before heading south to the Sting in New Britain, Connecticut on May 16th. Paul recalls looking for the men’s room during load-in at the Sting and accidentally walking through a door near the stage which led into the strip club next door. He did a double take when he saw the patrons and performers, then went about his business of load-in and preparation for the show. The band dressing room at the Sting contains a large picture window which allowed them to overlook the strip club’s stage for last minute inspiration, if desired.
May 17th found the band in Providence, Rhode Island for their third performance at the Campus Club. The show got off to a slow start with a power failure during the Chalk Dust Torture opener during which Fish took an impromptu drum solo while the crew scrambled to restore electricity in the venue. The Campus Club show, like the May 12th gig at The Front, foreshadowed the Giant Country Horn Tour of the following July (see This Month in Phish History, July 1991). On May 17th, the band was joined by special guest Carl "Gears" Gerhard on trumpet for the Duke Ellington classic Take The A-Train to end set I. Carl reappeared during set II for a version of Magilla > Cavern with a segue that quoted the Flintstones Theme, and during the encore for Page’s birthday rendition of Lawn Boy. The next day, Phish played at The Marquee in New York City. The May 18th Marquee show featured one of Fish’s more epic Electrolux solos during the set II Terrapin and a comment by Fish before the Dinner and a Movie/Runaway Jim encore that Dinner celebrated "America’s favorite pre-nuptial ritual".
The band performed live one more time that month for an outdoor, daytime show at Salisbury School in Salisbury, Connecticut on Sunday, May 19th. At the Salisbury show, Trey announced that set II would be the band’s last set until summer because they were going into the studio to record an album. This show played on the Prep-School Hippie theme as the band and audience joked about prep schools (of which Salisbury is one) and headmasters. This show marked the end of touring for May, 1991 and the culmination of a long nationwide tour that left a strong impression on many new fans around the country. Next, the band headed into the studio to begin recording A Picture of Nectar.