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. Robear Says:

    Have never listened back to Deer Creek > Alpine 04.

  2. dorn76 Says:

    Still wondering if anyone knows for sure whether TM did or did not sell Phish MSG through any outlets? I have a lead on some 12/29’s but don’t know the guy and don’t want to be purchasing some bunk tickets.

  3. Jtran Says:


    I believe yes, they did

  4. EL Duderino Says:

    the worst is when you leave for work and it’s dark and then leave work at the end of the day and it’s getting dark or already dark

  5. stapes Says:

    Robear – there is some good stuff in those shows, but sounds sloppy at times as well.

  6. stapes Says:

    Exactly el Dude.

  7. Mike in Austin Says:

    Minneapolis as I remember it:

    Summers = 5 AM to 10 PM sunlight or 17 hours of sunlight. Amazing. 75 degrees and sunny, or about to be. Manic. Great place to be.

    Winter = 9 AM to 4 PM sunlight or 7 hours of sunlight. Terrible. Depressed. 5 degrees or so. You could work a whole week and never see the sun if you don’t go out at lunch.

  8. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    yeah, and with the hamster tunnels you don’t even need to see the sun during the day.

  9. st8 of mind Says:

    What about Island tour Tube? I’m not sure any Tube tops that one, at least for me.

  10. Mike in Austin Says:

    They were kinda phoning it in by that time, but the Tube is noteworthy of the Deer Creek stuff.

  11. Gratefulcub Says:

    Deer Creek>>AV 04 was marvelous (all things considered). It was supposed to be our last shows ever, but we decided that we needed to head north to some festival whose name escapes.

    The second set opening Boogie Ghost Free (I believe that order is right) was one of my favorite phish moments. Sure, I had help from the nostalgia and the acoutrements, but it was still special.

  12. Robear Says:

    Will check those, some day. It really pissed me off that they were phoning in that run. Only Midwest shows after announcing retirement. Let’s not go there….

  13. Gratefulcub Says:

    I also agree with MIA, hence (all things considered)

  14. EL Duderino Says:

    11/03/91 GGP widescrean

  15. Mike in Austin Says:

    Yeah T3. I learned to traverse much of the University of MN through the tunnels. And you can do that same downtown with the skyways. Very “habit-trail” like.

  16. Kaveh Says:

    @ MiA: thanks for the reminder….yes Minneapolis winter’s are NOT all that.

    I think the Slave from Deer Creek 04 is stellar. LOVE when Trey hangs notes…like Atlanta 10 and Denver 11 Slave’s.

  17. EL Duderino Says:

    I went to the ’97 MSG run… My only shows @ MSG


  18. stapes Says:

    @ GC – I really enjoyed that set at AV. Also, the Piper was nice. Maybe it was because I thought it was the last time I’d be seeing them. Ever. So I was determined to have a good show experience and savor every last bit of Phish that I thought I’d ever get to marvel at in the live atmosphere.

    Maybe I should approach every show like that.

  19. Kaveh Says:

    And you can do that same downtown with the skyways.

    ^And when everyone is in the Skyway’s…nothing better than sticking out like a sore thumb by wearing Packer gear! 🙂 (Oh…the looks I get).

  20. kenny powers Says:

    @ t3

    lulz, just reading back – funny because i ran out of beers last weekend and was thinking of hitting Julio’s.

  21. Jtran Says:

    “Maybe I should approach every show like that.”


  22. EL Duderino Says:

    Miami ’03 were my last shows until AV ’09

    Didn’t like what Phish was doing in ’04
    Just seemed pretty obvious that the band was done

  23. Kaveh Says:

    I had forgot the sweet Wilson treat from 12.31.02. Perfect!

  24. Gratefulcub Says:

    Stapes, I hear the Piper was nice. My memory of it was standing outside the port-o-let. My buddy said, “I’m going in, don’t leave me. DON’T LEAVE ME!”

    as soon as he got in, I started questioning whether he was real or not, and if I was just standing outside the johns for no reason. I left him twice, but always went back thinking he was probably real. Still don’t know what he was doing in there so long. Or was it really that long.

    I’m still not sure he was real.

  25. stapes Says:

    Walking into Dick’s this year first night, I ask Dude what he’s wanting to hear.

    “No expectations,” he says.

    Worked pretty good that run. Tried to go in every night like that.

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