Phish drummer Jon Fishman broke the Guinness World Record for the largest cowbell ensemble late Saturday afternoon. As confirmed by the Burlington Free Press, more than 1,600 fans joined Fishman and his self-proclaimed “The Cowbell Record Breaking Band” for the record-breaking performance on Burlington, VT’s Church Street shortly after 4 PM. The turnout more than doubled the previous world record of 640.
For his performance, Fishman’s band consisted of vocalist Joshua Panda, guitarist Bob Wagner, bassist Aaron Hersey, Trey Anastasio Band drummer Russ Lawton and keyboardist Phil Abair. Fishman—who wore a “more cowbell” t-shirt throughout the performance—stuck to the cowbell throughout his short set. Both Hersey and Abair once performed with Fishman in his now inactive side-band Pork Tornado. Phish bassist Mike Gordon was also on hand to sign autographs and greet fans but did not perform with his longtime bandmate.
The cowbell ensemble’s interactive set consisted of The Chamber Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today, ” Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” and Bachman–Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business.” Early arrivals were also treated to the cowbell classic “Low Ride” during soundcheck. Fishman was particularly animated throughout his short set, name-checking Christopher Walken and Will Farrell, whose “more cowbell” skit is an SNL classic.
Proceeds from the afternoon benefited the Vermont Flood Recovery campaign through Phish’s WaterWheel Foundation. The celebration also marked the 15th anniversary of the Vermont Quartet’s Phish Food ice cream flavor. Fans were able to pickup tickets to perform as part of the cowbell ensemble at Burlington’s Flynn Theater, where Phish celebrated Phish Food’s launch in 1997. In another nostalgic twist, fans who paid to participate in the cowbell performance were given leftover Clifford Ball wristbands to wear.
After breaking the world record, the Phish organization moved their celebration around the corner to the classic Phish haunt Nectar’s for the official vinyl release of Junta. The early Phish album will be available on vinyl across the country as a Record Store Day special next week.
Phish has attempted to break several world records over the years, including the world’s largest nude photo at the Great Went in 1997, the world’s largest balloon drop during a New Year’s Eve ’96-97 concert and the world’s largest group dance at Camp Oswego in 1999 (Trey Anastasio mentioned the group would try break the record at Big Cypress as well). The Big Cypress festival was also the largest ticketed show on December 31, 1999.
Additional reporting by Eric Pietrzak