Fourteen years ago tonight, Phish pulled into Dayton’s Nutter Center on a Sunday night following, perhaps, their best performance of Fall ’97 in Auburn Hills. The band had visited the intimate arena once before on 11.30.95 and a played a great show anchored by the second set sequence “Tweezer -> Makisupa -> Antelope.” But two years later, on December 7th, Phish was neck deep in funk grooves and there was still one song they hadn’t played all summer or fall. Because of my love for the ’95 Nutter show, when Cleveland hit on 12/5, I made the call to the people I was riding with—”Tube” in Dayton. It just felt right. The Nutter Center and “Tube” would go well together, at least in theory, and as it turned out the combination wasn’t so bad in reality either!
The last time the band had played “Tube” was in Stuttgart, Germany on 2.26.97 and they had already limbered their funk chops a bit in a first-set version of the song. But it was still largely anchored by Page the entire time—moving from piano to organ and then back to piano as the rest of the band sat aside comping him. Before that the song was nothing but a short, infectious, sought after bustout. But with the developments of Summer and Fall ’97, the potential collision of an asteroid and Phish, on a James Brown-esque rampage across the country, had all sorts of potential. Thus when the band actually did play “Tube” towards the end of the first set at the Nutter Center—I can still remember the moment it dropped—the intimate venue felt like it might explode.
Sliding into Page’s clav solo with precision, the band immediately carried a synced-tempo of champions. They hit a strong collaborative groove behind Page, as he went off on his clav then his organ. As the band hit a break, they came back in with a full-band funk jam of the Fall ’97 variety. The Nutter center was shaking as the band reinvented the song in front of our eyes. Hitting a classic ’97 break, Trey scratched out a guitar pattern and the band dove headfirst back into the funk for another section before bridging the ned of the song. All of a sudden, it seemed like this treatment was what the song had been made for, and Phish had done more than impressed everyone in the audience—they had impressed themselves!
After winding up the particularly tight groove, the band liked what they had done so much, that instead of starting a new song, they went right back into the rhythmic workout. Elaborating on the funk theme by adding layers of effects and melody, the band took this section into more earnest improvisational realms. Transforming into one of the eternal highlights of the fall, this jam transformed into a delicate palette of melody-infused hypergroove; this was music that felt as good as it sounded. Trey gradually blended in more hints of “Slave,” and the band eventually made the move into a magnificent set-closing rendition.
Though Dayton ’97 will always be remembered for many aspects of its show, the most revolutionary was the first truly funkified “Tube.” Transforming the song into a jam vehicle overnight, Phish went onto keep the song in loose rotation through the end of 2000, appearing in many shapes and sizes. And it was always an adrenaline-inducing dance party. Finishing a gargantuan Midwestern weekend in Dayton and with their reborn song in tow, Phish headed for the home stretch of their hallowed tour with a bulls eye on Albany one week later. All those “Tubes” we know and love throughout the late ’90s can be traced directly back to the grandfather of all significant “Tubes” from Dayton on this night so many years ago.
Tags: 1997, Songs, The Moment