Willie Nelson and Phish, Farm Aid 1998

Though Phish has anything but a mainstream audience, the jam band continues to be one of the most successful touring acts in all of the music business today. With that success comes unique and exciting opportunities, like the chance to perform at the famedFarm Aid benefit… with its founders.

That’s what happened on this day in 1998, when Phish joined forces with Neil Young for an extended sit-in at Farm Aid that also featured a sit-in on “Moonlight in Vermont” from Willie Nelson and Paul Schaffer. After a few original songs, Young made his first appearance with the band after a “Runaway Jim” segued into “Arc.” Phish and Neil Young then played “Down By The River,” before the guest-filled “Moonlight in Vermont” came next in the set.

Neil Young stayed on the remainder of the show, joining on renditions of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Uncloudy Day.” Thanks to Farm Aid’s extensive video collection, we can watch some of these miraculous moments in Phish’s career.

This single set performance was part of the annual Farm Aid benefit concert which also included Hootie and the Blowfish, The Del McCoury Band, Brian Wilson, Wilco, Martina McBride, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young. The set featured the Phish debuts of Arc, Down By the River, Moonlight in Vermont, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, and Uncloudy Day (although Will the Circle Be Unbroken was also played during the November 19, 1994 “Parking Lot Jam”). Neil Young sat in from Runaway Jim through the end of the set; Willie Nelson and Paul Shaffer sat in during Moonlight in Vermont. Four Native American dancers came onstage before Will the Circle Be Unbroken. Circle featured Willie Nelson on vocals. Amazing Grace was performed for the first time since December 31, 1996 (115 shows) and included instrumental accompaniment. This set was broadcast live on Country Music Television, though the beginning of Runaway Jim was cut from the broadcast.

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