MSG Memoirs: The 12.29.97 “Tube”


It was December 29, 1997, and Phish was back in The Garden for their first holiday show since New Year’s Eve ’95. Skipping the midtown Mecca in favor of Philadelphia and Boston in 1996, the band showed up at MSG in 1997 for a year ending three-pack and they meant business. As memories of their gargantuan New Year’s ’95 performance danced in fans’ heads before the show, Phish came out with a bold sense of adventure and ratcheted intensity on this night. Playing a show—specifically a second set— that could make a strong case for the best in Garden history, 12.29.97 has stood the test of time with a main event that remains one of the band’s strongest sets of the late ’90s.

Phish had just concluded 54 minutes of to-die for jamming in the form of “Disease -> Bowie -> Possum,” and it seemed as if it might be time for a breather. Thus when the band dropped into “Tube” deep in the second set, brains splattered across the arena walls. And ten minutes later when the dust finally settled, this funk fiesta was—and still is—the best “Tube” ever played. The elusive song had been resurrected in Dayton’s Nutter Center weeks earlier, and it was given the full Fall ’97 funked-up treatment for which it had been salivating. A song made for the Cowfunk Revolution finally got its chance to shine. Phish followed up “Tube’s” breakout with a first-set rendition in Albany on the last show of Fall tour, and two appearances over the course of the year hardly guaranteed a spot in the New Year’s Run. But when the first-ever asteroid crashed in Madison Square Garden, things got straight filthy.

Fall 1997 (Unknown)

“Swamp funk” was a term that was tossed around during Fall ’97 to describe the thick, molasses-like grooves that ate up audiences across the nation. And come the year-end party, this “Tube” was a crowning dosage of immortal swamp funk—a hearty helping of Grade-A Phish crack. The collective groove session carried the perfect tempo and represented a culmination of the collaborative rhythmic playing the band had first realized during “Wolfman’s Brother” in Hamburg, Germany, and honed in on throughout the year. Band members filled in the empty spaces left by each other with marksman-like precision, creating one holistic groove throughout the jam while spurning one of the legendary dance sessions in Madison Square Garden history.

Page took the piece out with infectious clav patterns until Trey stepped into the mix with a series of swanky rhythm licks. As the band hit their stride, the music oozed an effortless quality as the audience pulsated as one, gyrating to the buttery excursion. Without missing a beat, the guys paused for three Fall ’97 stop/start segments, allowing Trey, Mike, and Page the spotlight for solos. And each time the band hit one of these breaks, they came back with increased musical momentum, pumping the crowd up more and more with each splash back into the funk. Locked on the same page and riding the wave of a colossal show, Phish nailed this “Tube” like never before or since. The pace, the licks, and the guys’ cooperation all contributed to this jam being far more than the sum of its parts— another unforgettable MSG memory.

Over the next few years, the band brought “Tube” into loose rotation, extending the former three-minute song into lengthy funk extravaganzas. And though they dropped many outstanding renditions throughout this era, none carried the absolute coherence and one-minded groove as MSG’s masterpiece. The Garden brings out the best in Phish, and this “Tube”—not to mention the entire show—is but another perfect example.


Jam of the Day:

Tube” 12.29.97 II

Glorious grooves galore.



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782 Responses to “MSG Memoirs: The 12.29.97 “Tube””

  1. albert walker Says:

    She says he was never pessimistic, ironic, or sarcastic.

    I would never have anything to say

  2. Jtran Says:

    win for the win

  3. Timber, Yo! Says:

    does the same go for floor space trades, win?

  4. bob dylan Says:

    Win, ISO 2 x NYE if ya got em brah. You talk to our friend?

  5. Mike in Austin Says:

    Ah, now I know who Win is. Took me awhile. I’m slow.

  6. bob dylan Says:

    “She says he was never pessimistic, ironic, or sarcastic.”

    ^dont believe it. I’d need a part cut out of my brain to stop. Sounds boring.

  7. win butler Says:

    Ticket Winners >>>>> Ticket whiners

    Timber, check out the Hostels…..on your own time.

  8. Wilson123 Says:

    Win is laying it down thick today

    :: cues up 12/29/97 tube::

  9. BingosBrother Says:

    If only I had Steve J to mentor me. My kids still wouldn’t know who their Dad was.

  10. Robear Says:

    I’m guessing Steve Jobs would have been into ‘Summer of 89’.

    His sister talks about how important Love was in his life. Good stuff.

    AW, I’d have to go on a talking fast.

  11. Mike in Austin Says:

    She’ll say anything to get published. She’s as important in literature as … Tabitha King.

  12. Kaveh Says:

    Firing up the 12.31.02 Piper. Love this one…hopefully this will make Miner’s MSG list sometime.

  13. Mike in Austin Says:

    Ah. $27.50 tickets. Those were the days.

  14. EL Duderino Says:

    Tru$tie$ < Cu$tie$

  15. win butler Says:

    Duder, another tough day on the front lines……of Disc Golf?

  16. Guyute711 Says:

    ting ting ting, are you ready?

  17. Mike in Austin Says:

    I do like the Deer Creek ’04 Tube. One of the best of the year IMO.

  18. EL Duderino Says:

    brought up the rear yesterday afternoon.

    my distance has greatly improved while my accuracy seems to be faltering.
    With the time change this weekend, the weekday outings will be severely limited…

  19. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:


  20. stapes Says:

    Not looking forward to daylight saving time

  21. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    you mean standard time, of course 😉

  22. Gratefulcub Says:

    Parents get an extra hour of adult time each night, until the kids’ bodies adjust to the the time change. I love standard time.

  23. EL Duderino Says:

    @ T3

    that’s stellar!!!

    @ All

    sorry about the Cain rant yesterday was feeling a bit aggro

  24. bob dylan Says:

    “I do like the Deer Creek ’04 Tube. One of the best of the year IMO.”

    ^cinci version in 03 wasnt too shabby either

  25. stapes Says:

    I just don’t like leaving work and it’s already dark. It scares me!

    And leads to more drinking it seems.

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