This was the second show of The Clifford Ball festival. Reba did not have the whistling ending. Trey sang the verses of Fee through a megaphone. Before the second set, Trey paid tribute to Aaron Stein of Syracuse, who was front row center for every show of the tour. The first Brother since August 2, 1993 (259 shows) featured Ben and Jerry on guest vocals. Wilson included a Heartbreaker tease. Antelope featured a female acrobat twirling in the rigging, suspended above the stage in a circus-like fashion. Scent of a Mule featured a Page/Fish duel instead of the typical Page/Trey duel. Tweezer had big trampolines on each side of the stage and more circus shenanigans. A stunt plane circled overhead during Tweezer Reprise and Harpua. Harpua was unfinished; it was completed on August 16, 1997 at The Great Went.
Heartbreaker tease in Wilson
Debut Years (Average: 1989)

This show was part of the "1996 Summer U.S. Tour"

Show Reviews

, attached to 1996-08-17

Review by hewins

hewins *NOTE: this was originally written back in 1996 pretty much right after the shows.

My thoughts on the Clifford Ball

Please allow me to begin by saying that the Clifford Ball was the greatest concert experience I have ever been a part of. It was not the best phish show I have seen if you consider the music and jamming by themselves though. (That might be Halloween 95 or Murat 93)

I had no idea what to expect before I arrived except six sets of phish and camping. And I guess a whole lot of people. And maybe some surprises too. That's about it.

So here's the Clifford Ball from my perspective:

I was in Vermont at a friend's house about three hours from Plattsburgh. We (three of us) decided to leave on Thursday about 11 o'clock. We thought we'd beat the traffic by arriving at two and that there should be some people there since the gates opened at noon. Well the surprises began immediately upon entry. There were so many people already there, the lots were filling and the camping areas were already fully inhabited. The place was booming when we got there so we quickly closed up the car and began moving about the masses. We took a walk to get our bearings and see what we could see. All I could think for a while was, Damn. All this for one band? Anyway we explored, danced some by the DJ bus, and explored more. Saw Mike wandering the parking lot in a golf cart; almost expected to see him hearing about his bike rides before. Stayed up till six partying, wandering, and wondering.

Night, night...

The Clifford Ball Radio was the first of many special treats of the weekend. I thought this was a great idea and a good way to get most of the crowd information. We flipped it on as soon as we came in the gate and heard Bitches Brew, that was a good place to begin. Later the music got a little weirder. There was some reggae-type-stuff early on Friday morning and one of the CDs was skipping for about 45 minutes. The radio told us about the wristbands so as soon as we woke up we went and got them with no lines to wait in.

So we're the idiots who came supremely ill-prepared. Yes we were most definitely outclasses by pretty much everyone there. We came in a small car, a Civic, with no tent, and one sleeping bag between the three of us. We chose not to ignore the No Alcohol rule which was pretty dumb and evident to us as soon as we were on the lot. We figured that peanut butter and jelly and a loaf of bread, which was slightly crushed in the trunk, some fig newtons, and chips would take care of our Epicurean needs for the weekend. We were sorely mistaken. I look next to us and there are these guys who have two pickup trucks parked next to each other with a tarp up between them. The brought a damn full size gas grill! With the big propane tanks and all. I'm looking at a pb&j in my hand and then at their feast across the way. Oh well. We slept on the tarmac on blankets until it started raining when we moved to the car and slept (may not be the best word) to the delightful sounds of KE2XZK (or something like that) 88.9.

Yay, gates open at one o'clock for a six-thirty set. The walls of the compound (as one of the security guys liked to call it) were painted like the sky. Night sky turned to day sky and back again. It was a long wall and it must have taken a long time to paint. I added this to the list of things that made the Clifford Ball more and more amazing. When the gates opened there was a small marching band that started playing along side of people on stilts. Everyone was in high spirits at the time of the gate opening and this just made it better. Shit, we lost Alan and it's quarter till one. Oh well, We're all going to the same place. An hour or so later we found where that same place was. We knew because Alan was there and he knew because we were there. Are you getting all of this? From the same place we went and found a place to sit and wait for musics to begin. We played cards. The planes with messages were an interesting monotony breaker. Stunt planes later excited the crowd.

I knew to expect surprises but I thought they were all going to be related to the sets that Phish was going to play. I had no reason to expect a small village inside the concert area. I couldn't believe it. For those of you who weren't there I'll describe it, if you want to skip it go to the next bloody paragraph. There was a town square replete with Barber Shop, Ball Court, Ball Diner, Some kind of chapel, General Store, and a statue of Clifford Ball himself in the center. On the outskirts was an artist area where people were making, building, painting, and creating. There was another building that contained giant asphalt balls. One was about five feet in diameter and some of the others were a bit smaller but they were all painted like a street. Outside of that building there was a guy standing in front of a huge log about three feet in diameter. He was chopping at it with a hatchet, a tiny hatchet, he was making very slow progress. There was a theme here and if you can guess what it was you win. It was Clifford Ball. Ball was the theme. Artists were sculpting and decorating balls of all types. Inside on of the buildings in the square there were plaques up on the walls with words: orb, sphere, dance, globe, testis, bullet. I got orb, globe, sphere, and dance but I wasn't sure what testis was. I know testes though. At our time of great mental anguish a helping friendly man arrived. It was the Barber of Clifford Ball. He also knew what testes meant but was not sure what testis meant. He consulted the nice woman in the Diner but she didn't know either. He sat us down in the Diner to wait while he located someone with the answer. I was into this whole role playing thing, it was fun. I always liked to go to places like Sturbridge Village, Plymouth Plantation (are you from Massachusetts?), or Colonial Williamsburg. The Barber was playing a good part, he was funny too. Anyway, he came back with the answer: testis is the singular form of testes. Many of you probably know that already so sue me. Bullet, how is that a ball? Our only guess was the fact that bullets used to be balls oh so long ago. I was looking for something more clever than that so there are two verdicts: it's not the real reason or that reason is NGE. Enough about all that. Jim Pollock was in a tent signing art that he had done. There was a special deal, if you were wearing a shirt he designed you got a dollar off a purchase. I bought a three dollar sticker for two bucks. [Image] There was a music tent too, there was a saxophone quartet, that's all I remember. There also was a place to "confess to Phish." It was attached to the chapel. It was a small room with a mic and a podium that you would sit behind and "confess" in front of a camera. Hmmm. The barber that I mentioned before gives haircuts too. He only cuts one hair though. I found him giving a haircut to a camera crew guy's fuzzy microphone. I chose the hair that he should cut and then presented the cut hair to the guy holding the mic. So basically Clifford Ball square was cool.

Sitting by the sound board waiting for many hours to roll by I noticed there were many cameras all around. I figured they would use them for the three giant screens they had behind the sound board structure. There were too many for just that though, and all the roving camera crews, and the confess to Phish thing. My original thought was that they were going to cut together stuff and play it at intermissions but they didn't do that. Maybe they'll make a video of the whole thing and sell it. That might be cool.

By the way, free water idea: good. Plenty of porta-potties: good. Mist tents: good. Huge slice of watermelon for a mere dollar at one of the food tents: good. no shade to speak of while waiting for music: bad. Sunburn: bad. Sunburn: ouch. Huge plate of Indian food: good. Bringing a deck of cards: good. Phish soon: GOOD.

Now, for the music review I'll not go song by song, other people have already done that anyway. I will talk about what I remember and leave out what I forgot. So some things may be out of order too. I'll try to get the Friday/Saturday distinction correct.

My favorite game, what will they open with? I thought they might do Sanity or something crazy like that. Nope, maybe Runaway Jim or My Friend, My Friend. Nope. What was it anyway? They opened with Chalkdust. That was pretty good. Nice pumped up opener. Next was Bathtub Gin. This was great, looking back it was one of my favorites of the shows. The jam was very cool, Trey was playing with the melody always in mind, a Monk like approach. I liked to hear how he tweaked it and played with it. This just ended too, no restatement of the lyrics, no nothing, Trey just looked sided to side and when he was sure he had everyone's attention it just stopped. I liked it. Ya Mar, and AC/DC Bag followed, this is when I begin to think to myself, "Have I seen and listened to too much Phish?" I just was bored by this stuff. And I know that it's the same stuff that I liked when I first heard it. More on this later. Divided sky peaked my interest slightly except I knew that there was going to be those long, pointless pauses where people cheer for no reason. The fist slow part though was interesting, Trey used some infinite repeater effect and basically recorded a few notes and had that repeat in that background what he played on top of it. Through all this testing, fooling, and playing, Trey has really discovered/invented some cool things one can do with effects. During Trey's pause he watched a helicopter fly by. Fish also took a long pause before the "ding ding" reentry to the tune. The jam was standard Divided Sky. This was right about sunset by the way. Any significance, probably not. Everytime I hear Esther I love it. That song is so well written, everything about it. From the way the time change works to the way each part's mood reflects what is happening in the story. Yeehaw for Esther! Halley's Comet was a good treat. Bowie I remember being above average but I don't remember why.

Set break, more card games. This time we played Crazy Eights.

Set two contained SOAMelt. This one was nothing very special. I liked the Sparkle -> Free. This was the same transition they did at Halloween, I like it. I liked the Rift -> Free better though. Free rocks, this tune always pumps me up big time. The Trey on the mini-drums and playing with effects is not too bad. An acoustic portion was nice. There were the three new songs that I hadn't heard before. The Waste seemed kinda cheesy but it was a nice song. All three had interesting twists to them, they are not standard songs. I like them, I would like to hear them if they are on the new album. Strange Design is still lame no matter how you slice it. Sorry if anyone likes it. After the acoustic came the Mike's songs portion of the show. Mike's Song: good. Simple: good. Contact: ok. Weekapaug: good.

Set break, too dark to play cards. pick nose instead. oops I forgot that this set break, we didn't stay close to the stage, we moved back.

Set three. We found ourselves on the hillside near Ball Square. Makisupa Policeman. The screens are way ahead of the sound when you travel farther away. That was annoying. Trey says, "Dank" and the crowd loves it. Seems weird to me. 2001 was great! Page, by the way, is showing more and more good stuff everytime I see them. Page rocks this tune which was taken much longer than I have ever seen it taken before. Something like 10/15/94 but longer. I really enjoyed that one. I expected Down With Disease to be funky and cool because I heard that about one earlier this summer but it was standard. I always tie this to Divided Sky, the sound similar in the feeling of the jam. NICU is lame now compared to tapes from 92. I think it may be for the little reason that Trey omits the high note in the chord sequence of the tune. I liked that little part. Harry was good. I find myself liking the jam parts right when they begin when Trey is playing melodically and it seems more well thought out. This goes for Antelope, Harry, Possum, Bowie, SOAM, Chalkdust, AC/DC Bag, and some others. Towards the end of these jams they revert to build, build, build, Trey's guitar screams, drop off to some dissonant thing, then it builds again. Ok, this doesn't really go for Harry but Harry always does end in a similar fashion. The fireworks were great. Amazing Grace encore was fitting. You can't really top a Harry -> fireworks. Plus there's always tomorrow.

Sleep on tarmac, to tired to party. Starts to rain again, go in car. Listen to radio, hear weirdo versions of Halley's Comet and I Didn't Know. Mouth feels like a sewer.

Dan Hewins
[email protected]
, attached to 1996-08-17

Review by theothr1

theothr1 okay, McG81, you asked for it (i apologize but my current presence @ work allows only for an extremely abbreviated version); the 2nd set of this show was the most musically intense hour of my life...long story short>>>the psychotropic ingestibles that i took before set two literally opened a window into the mind of the Jedi (as i'm pretty sure Trey structured the setlists back then); after "The Curtain" i called EVERY song BEFORE they started it sans "Brother"...BUT, being so close to Vermont, i was wondering aloud if Ben and Jerry were there and, if they were, would they make a stage appearance...during the "McGrupp" jam in "Golgi" i told anyone who would listen that the ONLY POSSIBLE tune they could properly cap-off this ridiculousness with was "Slave"...and they responded with the most sublime version of that song* i'd ever heard before or since

*-"Slave" is one of two songs in the cannon of which i've heard, literally, every single version
, attached to 1996-08-17

Review by DaReba

DaReba possibly the best Phish set in terms of song choice and execution (set 2) ... The day before was ridiculous and set 1 was ok. Set 2 is what you play for someone who has never heard Phish before. I was at thClifford Ball.... These sad recordings only scratch the surface as to the energy theses four dudes generated these nights
, attached to 1996-08-17

Review by mcgrupp81

mcgrupp81 Someone who was at this show needs to post their perspective on Set II of this show as I unfortunately was not. I still feel the need to comment.

The heart of Phish is improvisation, but if you stuck me on a desert island and told me I could only bring 5 live Phish song performances to listen to, I'd choose the Slave from this show as one of those performances. The great Hoods and Rebas are emotionally uplifting, but this Slave produces the most cathartic experience I have had while listening to Phish. I would imagine that it's the same feeling that people get while listening to the Went Gin. 4/10/94 Hood gets close to that level too.
, attached to 1996-08-17

Review by ImissJohnnyBgoode

ImissJohnnyBgoode It has now been nearly 16 years since The Ball. I was 20, and these shows made up one of the three best weekends of my life! I only remember little bits and pieces of the shows musically, as I refuse to ever hear this show on a bootleg as to not ruin the memory at all, and they are absolutely perfect!! I couldn't imagine a better concert experience than the Clifford Ball...
, attached to 1996-08-17

Review by fhqwhgads

fhqwhgads Despite the number of "Noteworthy Jams" here and the previous day of Clifford Ball's relative paucity thereof, I am firmly in Camp 8/16/96. The Reba is very minimal for my tastes, with a "Quiet Jam" in place of the usual emo melodiousness. Maze is nice, but outside of those two, there're not that many meat and potatoes to the first set. That said, the song diction is impeccable, which benefits from the fact that the Phish catalogue was svelter during 1996 than it is here in 2017. The second set is the stuff of legend, but again, there's not that much jamming--at least, Type-II jamming--to be found in it nor in Set 3. Brother features Ben and Jerry on vocals, which is tremendous phun, and I seem to remember there're some acrobatic-type, bungee stunts and things during Tweezer, and even Scent of a Mule is nearly 15 minutes long, due in part to a Fishman solo, but I just think 8/16 is the better show.
, attached to 1996-08-17

Review by spreaditround

spreaditround SET 1: The Old Home Place: Standard

Punch You in the Eye: Standard.

Reba: Exquisite. Likely the most patient version I can recall. This version is just so smooth. It gradually builds and builds and has a glorious peak. I love the video of this one. Trey just rocking back and forth the entire time. >

Cars Trucks Buses: Standard.

The Lizards: Textbook! Thought this sounded perfect. Both Page and Trey’s solos sound great!

Sample in a Jar: Rocked out like you would expect one from 1996 would do.

Taste: So interesting how this song has evolved over the years. Back in the summer of 96 – Trey basically had no solo at all – he just plays rhythm the whole time as Page bangs away on the baby grand.

Fee: 30 second space jam that is tacked on to the end of this one and is ethereal! It segues through the backdoor into Maze so nicely! ->

Maze: The amount of tension that Page and Trey build up before they finally hand it over to Trey for his solo is textbook. Trey’s solo is sadistic - so intense – the trills that he has at the ten minute mark – I mean the guys fingers were as fast as lightning!

Suzy Greenberg: Straight ahead version. After it is over Trey tells us they are going to take about an hour break and that they are going to bring out the Clifford Ball orchestra, so stretch out blanket, go check out the ball square, etc. etc.

SET 2: The Curtain: The vocals for Follow the lines going south are outstanding! >

Runaway Jim: As you would expect up through 8 minutes where Trey finally breaks away from the group jam and starts soloing a fair bit.

It's Ice: Really cool jam in this one. It is fairly dark and eerie. Led by Page. The whole song in general is smooth as silk. >

Brother: Ben and Jerry, lol – their vocals are funny. Trey rips this one big time.

Fluffhead: Awesome version. Bundle of Joy is not the cleanest but once the get to the Arrival and Trey hits that Fluffhead vocal and just sustains it forever and then him and Fishman just go into attack mode and destroy this! Outstanding, goosebumps for sure.

Run Like an Antelope: The crowd swell at 4 minutes or so from that woman that comes out and climbs up that rope and is spinning around that whatever that thing is called. The visuals during this were – um – very fun, lol. Outside of that interesting acrobatics on stage this is a pretty normal and short version. >

Golgi Apparatus: Run of the mill, fun though. >

Slave to the Traffic Light: I love the heavy metal strumming at 2:45, kicks ass! That repeating theme that Trey does that probably starts at about 10:45 or so just sets up the peak so well. Check out the video of this to see Trey rocking back and forth. The climax of this one is admittedly a little repetitive, but this version has always been held in high regard in my memory. Awesome set closer!

SET 3: Wilson: Intense! To hear 80k people doing the Wilson chant to open the last set of the festival was thrilling to be a part of. Heartbreaker tease at 5:33 was sweet! >

Frankenstein: Sounds standard on tape but I can promise you it was fun as hell, and it was intense as hell.

Scent of a Mule: Page’s part is cool, and Fishman gets to take a long solo. I like the swing/jazzy feel he gives this at the 7 minute mark. The drum solo wraps up at 8:40 and Page takes it from there. Trey doesn’t hop back until the 10 minute mark. Never been a fan of this tune but this one is unique and interesting with Fish’s drum solo.

Tweezer: Two people jam doing crazy acrobatic jumps on big trampolines. At the show I thought they had ski’s on, lol. Pretty straightforward Tweezer really. Trey’s Leslie infused peak at about 9:50 is pretty sick. It does have the old school, wind down type ending.

A Day in the Life: Had to be there, super intense at the end with all the effects and CK5 running wild.

Possum: I like the minor mode and then tension they start building at right around the 11 minute mark. They peak it at 11:36 and it peaks fairly well, nothing too crazy. >

Tweezer Reprise: Fun!!!


Harpua: Where is the Oom Pa Pa vocals? Wonder why they skipped that? At 6:03 Trey says thanks a lot everybody hope we can come back next year. Then, he continues with the feedback and the loops. This was confusing. What about the rest of the story and the song? I guess the band got frustrated with not being able to sync up with the stunt plane that was flying overhead. After they walked off stage we were all going berserk, cheering, clapping, yelling thinking surely they were coming back out because of the confusing end to Harpua. But it was not to be. House lights came on two minutes later and that was that.

Summary: A life changing experience. This was the farthest I had traveled with Phish and obviously my first Phish festival. Just incredible. Hanging out with a large group of friends and sharing in that experience at the age of 22 – tough to beat! The next day, that place looked like a bomb had gone off. So much trash everywhere. Driving out of there and not running over bottles was literally impossible. Great show!

Replay Value: Reba, It's Ice, Fluffhead, Slave to the Traffic Light
, attached to 1996-08-17

Review by MrPalmers1000DollarQ

MrPalmers1000DollarQ In honor of the LivePhish Flatbed Truck Jam release, I figured I'd revisit the Clifford Ball shows again this weekend. While '96 is a year relatively bereft of legendary Phish (in comparison to the surrounding '95 and '97), Clifford Ball is a massive landmark for this community in terms of both the grandness of the event itself and the playing that the band demonstrated all weekend. Granted, there's really not much exploratory jamming. However, every single song played at this festival is absolutely airtight and electric in its own regard. Though it will never be the same, I eagerly await the day Phish pulls off another festival. Shows like these and the incredible community that partake are what define Phish as the icons they are.
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