Sound Check 8/15/96
The Clifford Ball was Phish’s 1st and only performance at Plattsburgh Air Force Base – a decommissioned base used from 1954-1995. This was the band’s first full-blown, multiple-day, single-band festival expanding upon the tradition of earlier camping excursions like Townshend Family Park, Arrowhead Ranch and Amy’s Farm. This was the first day of a 2-day festival. Tickets cost $25.00 – camping tickets were $20.00 from noon Thursday 8/15 tuntil 10am Sunday 8/18. Attendance was approximately 70,000 – by far the largest crowd at any Phish show. Real-time traffic updates, music and entertainment were provided by the band and staff via: a local radio station 89.1FM Ball Radio “Ball All The Time.” The Clifford Ball soundcheck took place the previous evening (Thursday 8/15/96).The final Blues Jam segment from the soundcheck included the first annual tribute to “Mr. Sausage,” shout-outs to festival staff/crew, and Trey on his percussion kit. The introduction was provided by Captain Sanity (aka Steve Zinn) who helped set the tone for the aeronautically-themed weekend, which was named after Clifford Ball – a Pittsburgh area pilot and Air Mail aviation pioneer who captured the band’s curiosity when they were traveling through the Pittsburgh International Airport (where there is a commemorative plaque that refers to him as “a beacon of light in the world of flight”). The band had reportedly tried to convince HORDE tour organizers to name that event after him in 1992 (see also 3/24/92 I Didn’t Know and 3/26/92 Harpua) and later attributed all the performances on ‘A Live One’ to an imaginary venue bearing his name. Bathtub Gin included a Dave’s Energy Guide tease from Trey. After David Bowie, Trey announced that the band would play “at least a couple more sets” that day, foreshadowing the Flatbed Jam. Waste, Talk, Train Song and Strange Design comprised the the 3rd acoustic mini-set of summer and featured Page on an upright piano, Trey on acoustic guitar, Mike on acoustic bass and Fish on a stripped down drum kit. The Makisupa Policeman keyword was “dank” and the song developed into a short “Mr. Sausage” jam that led into 2001. Down With Disease was unfinished. Set II began with a tease of Mary Had A Little Lamb. During Harry Hood the band played along with a fireworks display – they left the stage just before the finale. At about 3:30am, the band set up on a generator-powered flatbed truck and performed the Flatbed Jam (an ethereal instrumental jam) while driving along the tarmac through the campgrounds, slowly speeding up until the growing crowd (some on bikes and skateboards) could no longer keep up. This show sans Flatbed Jam was broadcast live on Clifford Ball Radio – a band-operated onsite radio station that became a tradition at future festivals. This entire show including the soundcheck and Flatbed Jam were released in March 2009 on The Clifford Ball DVD and played on Thanksgiving weekend 2021 as Dinner And A Movie Episodes 36 and 37. During DAAM36, ‘The Clifford Ball’ vinyl box set was announced for presale in December 2021.