Yesterday I came across the image below of a settlement from Phish’s March 29, 1990 performance at The Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio. You’ll notice that the club reported only 16 paid attendees for this Midwest gig far from the band’s hometown of Burlington, Vermont.
When I came across the document, I noticed the name “JIM” and it triggered a memory of my early days as a Phish fan. Back in 1993, as I was first starting to get into the band, I met a friend of my sister’s named Brandon Milner who was an outstanding musician. I talked to Brandon about Phish and not only did he kindly provide two of the first bootleg tapes I ever owned, but he also revealed that a band he was in a few years prior had opened for Phish. For some reason, when I looked at the document above, it hit me that JIM might have been Brandon’s band! I reached out to my sister, who is still in touch with Brandon, and she promised she’d ask him about whether JIM was his band.
This morning I received a response from Brandon that offers an interesting perspective on the early days of Phish and what went down at The Canal Street Tavern on a show from March 29, 1990 for which both Phish.net and Phish.com don’t have a setlist.
Here’s Brandon Milner’s, who currently plays in the band Campfire Ok, remembrance:
I’m flabbergasted at the randomness of that. That show was in Dayton in 1990. I was in an avant garde noise improv band called JIM that opened up for Phish. They only had their first album on cassette available then and as you can see from the bar tally, a whopping 16 people showed up, total, between both bands.
I remember basically no one attending but all the 16 in attendance were there to see Phish, some having driven from neighboring states enthusiastically. A few were turned away at the door for being underage in spite of their trek.
We did our thing (playing virtually unlistenable skronky, free jazz, Zappa-rock-meets-Grateful Dead meandering with two female lead singers who were half blues singers, half performance artists…At best) creating sheets of modern classical self indulgence and then Phish came on and blew our minds. We loved them and were thrilled when they asked us to join them on stage for a 20-minute version of David Bowie. All of us. I played some floor tom (I was a drummer who was playing bass in JIM) and others sang and made noise.
After the show we hung out a bit. They were all as nice as could be and after nerding out on gear a little (they had the nicest guitars and amps of any band we’d ever seen play to so few people), Trey informed us we were the second most entertaining band he’d ever played with. The first had been a band that played speed metal while the guitarist did tricks on a skateboard with a wireless setup. Sounded genius to us.
On a personal ego gratifying note, I remember Mike, their bassist, asking me how to do this certain double slap/pop combo I was doing a lot back then. I’d stolen it from Thomas Dolby’s bassist from the Aliens Ate My Buick album and Mike wanted a little lesson. I showed him and damn if he didn’t start doing it on bootlegs I heard soon thereafter!
Phish were cool, warm-hearted guys. We stayed in touch for a while and they backstaged us for a show some months later at the local “enormodome” (they got popular *fast*). I haven’t spoken to them since!
Thanks to Brandon for sharing his memories of that evening with us! Brandon’s take confirms the account of a commenter named Rasoup on the Phish.net page for this show who says, “I attended this show. I do not have a setlist, but do know that the Encore was David Bowie with backing vocals/screams from the two ladies from the warm up band. I believe the name of the warm up band was Gem and they were from Yellow Springs, OH.” Well Rasoup, the name of that band was JIM and it was more than just the two ladies who sat in on that David Bowie!