You are on page 1of 15

The Phishsonian

Walking Tour
Of Burlington, VT

Phish at Nectar’s in 1992. Credit: BC Kagan

©2021 The Phishsonian Institute

This Walking tour of Burlington was created by
Alexander Grosby of the Phishsonian Institute.
Research was aided by, a project of the
Mockingbird Foundation. Visit today to
help music education in America.
Sources used include:
The Burlington Free Press
Seven Days
Vermont Secretary of State Corporations Division
All photos are credited and are owned by their
For more information about Phishsonian Institute
projects, visit
The Phishsonian Institute is not affiliated with Phish
Inc., The Waterwheel Foundation, Red Light
Management, or The Smithsonian Institution.
This walking tour should not be sold for profit.

For a deeper dive into Phish in the 1980s,

listen to season 1 of Undermine
from Osiris Podcasts
1. 250 Main Street - Memorial Auditorium
Memorial Auditorium was built in 1927 and was a hub of
sports and entertainment in the city for many years. Musicians to
have graced its stage include Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, BB
King, and Marcel Marceau among others. Phish played three
known shows in this building, a small acoustic gig on November
14, 1985 and a benefit show on May 16, 1986 downstairs (at the
space now known as 242 Main) and a gig with poet Zenzile
opening for Allen Ginsberg on February 21, 1986.

It also looms large in Phish history as being where the

entire band saw Frank Zappa on March 12, 1988. Zappa held up a
Phish t-shirt on put it on the clothesline on stage at the show.
Afterwards, the band headed to Nectar’s inspired to debut the
rock opera The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday aka
“Gamehendge” for the first time. Trey Anastasio Band also played
two memorable nights here in 2003. Memorial Auditorium
closed to the public in 2016 due to structural concerns.

Bootleg Cover Art for Frank Zappa

at Memorial Auditorium Burlington, VT
March 12, 1988 Flyer for Phish
at Memorial Auditorium Basement May 16, 1986
Walk down the hill west to:

2. 188 Main Street - Nectar’s/Club Metronome

No venue in Vermont music history is bigger than Nectar’s.
For over 40 years, it’s been the proving ground for many of
Vermont’s biggest acts including Phish, Strangefolk, RAQ, Twiddle,
and Grace Potter. Founded in 1975 by Nectar Rorris, the venue used
to be a restaurant and jazz club called the Hi-Hat. Phish’s first gig was
actually upstairs in the space now called Club Metronome. Phish
played two known gigs upstairs. Their first gig with the name Phish
on December 1, 1984 and a gig with the Hollywood Indians on
August 24, 1988, possibly due to Nectar’s “no cover” policy. The
downstairs space is where Phish honed their skills over the years
playing at least 46 known shows between 1984 and 1989. The band
would have 3 night runs on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Nectar
would have no problems of what they played as long as people were
coming through the door. Notable shows include the debut of The
Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday on March 12, 1988, a show that
also introduced the band to their longtime manager John Paluska,
and July 25, 1988, the night before the band headed to Colorado for
the first time. Songs debuted at Nectar’s include Slave to the Traffic
Light, Fluffhead, Divided Sky, Harpua, The Curtain With, Fee, Colonel
Forbin’s Ascent, Fly Famous Mockingbird, and Tela. Phish also played
shows of jazz standards here billed as the “Johnny B. Fishman Jazz
Ensemble.” Nectar sold Nectar’s to its current owners in 2003 and it
was substantially renovated.

Phish on stage at Nectar’s. Chris Walsh, Nectar Rorris, Page McConnell, and Jon Fishman
Date unknown. at Nectar’s 40th Anniversary Celebration in 2015.
Photo: Max Brown/Burlington Free Press Photo: Samuel Hoffman/
Go back up the hill to S. Winooski Ave and turn right, heading south. Turn right on King Street
at the Hood plant and head down to the bottom of the dip to:

3. 156 King St.

Trey, Fish, and Paul Languedoc lived in this
house during the very early years of Phish. It was
seen in the documentary Between Me and My Mind
with Trey explaining that his wife Sue lived in the
apartment building across the parking lot and across
the street is the Hood Milk processing plant
immortalized in the song “Harry Hood.” Its very close
proximity to Burlington’s bar scene was an asset,
allowing the band to go play gigs easily. The band
played one known show here on December 13,

Phish outside 156 King Street

with Harry Hood milk tanks in background.
Circa 1986
Photo Credit: Chris Murray/The Phish Book
Head up the hill heading west. First notice the “Wilson Hotel” sign on the corner. Turn right
on Church St. to:

4. 165 Church St. - Club Toast

Since Club Toast closed in New Year’s Eve
1998, a steady rotation of bars and clubs have filled
the upstairs spot at this address. Phish never played
Club Toast but it was always a place to catch either a
secret side gig or a sit-in during the 1.0 era of Phish.
Trey and Mike’s band New York! played here in 1997
with Page sitting in for the encore. Songs debuted
here include Dirt and Saw It Again. Club Toast was
also the center of the post-Phish music scene with
many local alternative bands taking the stage
including The Pants with The Bunny’s own DJ Tad
Cautious on drums.

Club Toast ad and Nightlife listing

Featuring Trey and Mike’s New York!
and Fishman’s Pork Tornado
Seven Days
May 21, 1997
Continue up the hill to the corner of Church and Main to:

5. 167 Main St. - Finbar’s/Sam’s Tavern/Manhattan

Burlington in the 1980s had more bars per
capita than any other city in the United States, an
easy statistic given its small population. The reason
for this is Vermont was the last state to raise its
drinking age to 21. So, the bars were packed with
college students every night, giving ample
opportunity for local bands to play for long periods
of time with no expectations. This is the petri dish
that made Phish such a successful live band. This
space was the site of the 3rd bar played by Phish
after Nectar’s and Doolin’s. It changed names
around 1987 to Sam’s Tavern. Between the two
venues, Phish played 11 known shows here from
1985-1988. Songs debuted here include Letter to
Jimmy Page, I Am Hydrogen, Dave’s Energy Guide,
Run Like an Antelope, McGrupp, and Esther.

Article about change from Finbar’s to Sam’s Tavern

Burlington Free Press
January 14, 1988
Look across Main Street to the brick building on your left.

6. 149 Church St. - Contois Auditorium (City Hall)

Phish played one show at this small auditorium as a
fundraiser for the Burlington Boathouse at the foot of College
St on December 16, 1989. Contois Auditorium has a capacity
of 332 people. Burlington’s City Hall was built in 1982 and
designed by W.M. Kendall of McKim, Mead, and White.
Turn left and head West down the hill on Main Street towards the lake to:

7. 159 Main St. - Doolin’s/Reuben James

Phish played 5 shows here in the winter/spring of
1985. Songs debut in this space include Alumni Blues and
Mike’s Song.

Flyer for Phish

Flyer for Phish at Doolin’s Happy Hour
at Contois Auditorium, City Hall February 1, 1985
December 16, 1989 Credit: @Phish/Twitter
Credit: @Phish/Twitter
8. 153 Main St. - The Flynn Theatre
Opened on November 26, 1930 and named for Burlington
real estate magnate John J. Flynn, the Flynn Theatre remains the
cultural heart of Burlington. The Art Deco theatre cost $500,000
dollars to build (7.7 million dollars in 2020) and was the showplace in
Burlington for decades until the 1970s. In 1972, local movie theatre
impresario Merrill Jarvis bought the theatre and started hosting live
events in 1974. That same year, Lyric Theatre performed their first
production at the theatre. Lyric Theatre would go on to found the
Flynn Center for the Performing Arts non-profit in 1980, purchasing
the theater from Jarvis. The organization grew the Flynn to be an
internationally known performing arts center, booking acts usually
playing cities of much larger size. They also performed several
renovations over the years restoring the Art Deco appearance of the
theatre. In 2000, the Flynn Center expanded to the space next door
adding a black box theater downstairs and an art gallery.
Phish has played the Flynn 4 times, first in 1992 and lastly in
1997. The March 18, 1997 show was a benefit announced day-of for
the release of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream and the launch of
Phish’s non-profit organization the Waterheel Foundation. A picture
from outside the Flynn on this day is below. Phish also joined the Trey
Anastasio Band here on May 17, 1999. Band archivist Kevin Shapiro’s
“Phish in the North Country” exhibit was on display in the Tarrant
Gallery here as well. Notable songs debuted at the Flynn include,
Down with Disease, If I Could, Julius, Scent of a Mule, and Wolfman’s
Brother. The Flynn Box Office also ran Phish’s Tickets by Mail system
until 2009.

The scene outside the Flynn Theatre

Phish ticket
March 18, 1997
Credit: Mike Gordon/Phish Archives
9. 101 Main St. - Hunt’s/Vermont Comedy Club
The Woodbury Armory was built in 1904. Urban Woodbury
leased the space to the National Guard. In 1911, the Armory was
used to host the first major automobile show in Vermont. In 1919
the National Guard let their lease on the building expire and moved
locations. From 1919 to 1939, it was used by car salesman Leroy
Dopp. From 1939 to 1967, the old armory was owned by the
Riverside Paper Company and mostly used as a production facility. In
1975, Yoram Sanets bought the building and opened the Yankee
Pickin’ Opry to cater to a growing bluegrass music scene in Vermont.
In 1977, the name was changed to R.W. Mill and Mining Company
and the range of music was widened. It also was a restaurant as well
as a music venue. Hunt’s was THE club in Burlington from 1977-1987.
Among those to grace its stage include B.B. King, Roy Orbison, Gregg
Allman, Pat Metheny, Taj Mahal, and Jerry Lee Lewis. It also
showcased local acts such as The Unknown Blues Band and
Kilimanjaro. In fact, according to Trey Anastasio, it was during an
Unknown Blues Band performance here that he decided to attend
the University of Vermont. After Hunt’s, the space became a 50s
theme club names Sh-Na-Na’s and offices. A fire gutted the building
in 2003 and it sat vacant. Higher Ground almost moved to the venue
in 2004 but instead opted for its location on Williston Road in South
Burlington. It is now a Hilton Garden Inn, Armory Bar and Grille, and
Vermont Comedy Club.

R.W. Hunt Mill and Mining Company

Circa 1980s John Floyd of Design Signs
Source: Housing Vermont With Hunt’s sign
Circa 1980s
Phish played 18 known shows at Hunt’s from 1985 until
1987. Notable shows here include Phish’s first performance without
Jeff Holdsworth on May 24, 1986, solidifying the lineup that exists to
this day and May 3, 1985 when they performed with local reggae
legends Lamsbread. Notable song debuts include You Enjoy Myself,
Dinner and a Movie, I Didn’t Know, Harry Hood, Lushington, Sanity,
AD/DC Bag, and Icculus.

Trey and Mike with members of Lambbread

Hunt’s, March 4th, 1985
Credit: Mike Gordon/Phish Archives

Flyer for Phish Flyer for Phish Flyer for Phish

at Hunt’s, March 4, 1985 at Hunt’s, October 15, 1986 at Hunt’s, January 21, 1987
Credit: Phish Archives Credit: Phish Archives
10. 89 Main St. – The Front
With the closure of Hunt’s in 1987, another venue was
bound to pick up where it left off as a place where local and national
acts could entertain this college town. While not on the same scale as
Hunt’s, The Front picked up the torch in January 1988, making an
almost seamless transition. Before The Front, this building was home
to Minerva’s Restaurant and NRG Cabaret. The Front was owned by
brothers Shannon and Shawn Sweeney. The building consisted of two
venues at that time, the 150 capacity Front and a restaurant called
The OutBack. Acts that played The Front include Max Creek, NRBQ,
Blues Traveler, and the Spin Doctors. The Front was closed in June
1991 and was taken over by next door neighbor SkiRack for an
The Front is the most well documented Burlington venue for
Phish. It also was the most played venue in the band’s career with 54
shows between 1988 and 1991 until being surpassed by Madison
Square Garden in 2017 during that year’s New Year’s Run. It was here
on April 21, 1989 when they won WIZN’s Rock Rumble by lowering
Fishman naked from the rafters. Notable songs debuted here include
Contact, The Mango Song, Punch You in the Eye, and Reba. Phish left
Nectar’s for The Front as Nectar’s “no cover” policy made it difficult
for the band to make money and they could start charging admission
for their shows.

Scan this QR Code

To watch Phish
at The Front on T-shirt from the WIZN Rock Rumble
Flyer for Phish at The Front, April 20-22, 1989
May 13, 1990
at The Front, August 17, 1989 Credit: Jay Catalano via Twitter
Artwork by Jim Pollock
Credit: Phish Archives
Either head down the hill on Lake Street to visit or turn right on Battery St and stop at the intersection of
Battery and College to view:

11. 1 College St. – Burlington Community Boathouse

As mentioned at City Hall, Phish played a benefit show for this
boathouse on December 16, 1989. The Burlington Community Boathouse
opened July 3, 1988. It was the first stage in the revitalization of Burlington’s
waterfront that has expanded to the Burlington Bike Path, Waterfront Park,
Main Street Landing, the ECHO/Leahy Center, and the Moran Plant. Designed
by local architect Marcel Beaudin, it was inspired by the 1887 boathouse of the
Lake Champlain Yacht Club. Phish actually played a show at this boathouse on
August 12, 1989 at a wedding. It was the site of several first-time jazz standards
and also the Oh Kee Pa Ceremony.
Walk up the hill North on Battery St. until you reach the park. You can also walk through the park extension to:

12. 1 North Avenue – Battery Park

This 14-acre park was given to the city of Burlington in 1870. The site
hosted a military camp during the War of 1812. On August 13, 1813, American
gunners, with the U.S.S. President in Burlington Bay, successfully defended
Burlington from a British attack. The existing bandshell was built in the 1970s.
Author Rudyard Kipling is quoted as saying that Battery Park has one of the
best sunset views in the world. Phish played a free show here on July 11, 1991.
It kicked off the Giant Country Horns tour. It was the last outdoor show the
band has played in Burlington to date.

Phish and the Giant Country Horns

at Battery Park July 11, 1991
Photo Credit: u/ainm_usaideora
on Reddit r/Phish
Head out of Battery Park on Pearl St. East up the hill. Turn right at Church St. to:

13. 16 Church Street – Halvorson’s Upstreet Café

This little family sandwich shop really took off in 1978, when
owner Tim Halvorson opened the courtyard to musicians and packed
the place weekly. Halvorson’s is synonymous with Big Joe Burrell and
the Unknown Blues Band. So much so that when Big Joe passed away
in 2005, the city erected this statue of him outside the place. Bands
continue to play the courtyard. Grace Potter was another star who
got her start here at Halvorson’s alongside Nectar’s. Stop in on a
Wednesday and see who might be Vermont’s next big thing. Phish
probably saw more acts at Halvorson’s but did play one show here on
June 24, 1988.

Phish’s 1st promotional photo

November 1987
Photo Credit: Phish Archives
Congratulations! This ends the Phabulous Walking Tour.
Hope you enjoyed it!
Feel free to write me with any questions about this tour

For more Vermont Music History, head to Big Heavy World

at 4 Howard St. Unit A-8 in the South End for
the Vermont Music Far and Wide Exhibit.