On the Cover: H.O.R.D.E 20 Years On

April 4, 2012

The following is an excerpt of the H.O.R.D.E retrospective cover story featured in the April/May 2012 issue of Relix. To read the rest of this cover story, pick up a copy of the issue from newsstands or purchase one online directly from us. You can also purchase a digital copy of the issue or download the issue on your iPhone and iPad via our new iTunes app.

Be sure to check back each Tuesday and Thursday over the next eight weeks for more exclusive H.O.R.D.E. content as we celebrate the traveling festival’s 20th anniversary!

How it all came to pass began with a meeting in the Bill Graham Management’s New York office on a Sunday night four months earlier. Widespread Panic’s John Bell, Spin Doctors’ Eric Schenkman, ARU’s Col. Bruce Hampton, John Popper and a couple of his Blues Traveler bandmates and all the members of Phish came together—with no managers or agents allowed—as they discussed a plan to join forces with the hope that these five club bands could generate a collective interest that would allow them to move into amphitheaters for a few dates. Here’s how the players remember it going down.

John Popper, Blues Traveler:
We all met in a room in Bill Graham’s office and there was a certain reverance. If you’ve ever been in Bill Graham’s anything, there’s a rock and roll reverence—“Oh that’s Janice Joplin’s tambourine, just hanging out right there.”

John Bell, Widespread Panic:
That meeting up in New York was a gas. I’d never seen that before. Everything else now is promoters, agents, managers. They cook up the scenario or you just fit yourself into something like JazzFest or Bonnaroo—which is great—it’s well organized and put together. But we’d been playing with each other for the past couple years opening for each other in different territories and this was young band guys getting together and having their own ideas of what was going on. it wasn’t coming from the management, so it was really hip.

Mike Gordon, Phish:
I remember managers weren’t allowed in the meeting although there were a couple hovering outside.

[Phish’s Jon] Fishman wanted to stage a little skit. He said, “I’m going to run out screaming and youguys drag m back into the room that everybody will be like. ‘What the hell are they doing in there?:’” Well, he got really into it take with his “No, no don’t take me back,” and he ripped the door off the hinge.

Col. Bruce Hampton, The Aquarium Rescue Unit:
I remember everybody was really idealistic and we all wanted to do the festival for a ten-buck ticket, which was unheard of. [This goal would be met at most of the shows.]

Then, Trey [Anastasio] stands up and goes, “Why don’t we finally just make it something where it’s five different bands, equal billing, equal money everywhere no matter what the audience says?” And we’re all like, “Yes, let’s do this!”

Then, Mike Gordon brought out a jar of Vaseline and we all shook hands after ceremoniously dipping our hands in the Vaseline.

I still have that jar of Vaseline.

Eric Schenkman, Spin Doctors:
The other thing that came out of that meeting was the idea of the H.O.R.D.E. sword. Popper had someone make a sword, like a Merlin double edged, huge knight sword and every band got one.

Left to themselves during that Sunday night meeting, the musicians devised an idealistic, egalitarian solution but then Monday morning arrived, and wth it came the realities of the music industry.

Read the full cover story by purchasing a copy of the April/May issue from our online store.