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. dorn76 Says:

    Listened back to that Tweez-Timber-Tweez on LP1 and they really are abrupt transitions. If you define a segue as more of a journey that naturally arrives at the next tune, they aren’t that…

  2. kenny powers Says:

    Anyone catch Colbert the other night that’s a fan of Edgar Meyer / Uncommon Ritual or any other blend of bluegrass/classical/ish?

    there was a totally sick performance by Meyer, Yo Yo Ma and these two other cats who just put out an album “The Goat Rodeo Sessions”. Totally made me miss Uncommon Ritual which i used to always listen to, and i saw on Amazon that Meyer and sometimes the other guys have put out Appalachia-themed stuff recently. will have to check some of that out.

  3. Mike in Austin Says:

    Miami ’03 was excellent. Really great moments. Kinda felt like Phish could really deliver again. They could … bring the heat.

    I could understand that statement after the cluster of Vegas though. I was there for it, and my chasing desire went down considerably until I realized these would be the last shows, so went to DC to AV to visit friends, and say goodbye, etc.

    Had great pav tickets for DC ’04 both nights. Hung out with friends in the lawn. Had a great time.

  4. dorn76 Says:

    ’04 had a couple moments for me up at Saratoga, but I recall the GW show being terrible, and I can’t remember the name of that place in VT where it rained or something before we got there…

  5. Kaveh Says:

    Anyone catch Colbert the other night that’s a fan of Edgar Meyer / Uncommon Ritual or any other blend of bluegrass/classical/ish?


  6. Robear Says:

    ‘Buried Alive>Tweezer’. 12/28/95. Know It.

  7. Kaveh Says:

    Miami ’03 was excellent. Really great moments. Kinda felt like Phish could really deliver again. They could … bring the heat.


  8. Jtran Says:

    Wasn’t there an interview reposted somewhere about a week ago with Trey stating that after 2003 he really felt like they were “back”, and that they were on the verge of breaking more musical boundaries.

  9. EL Duderino Says:

    especially 12/29/03…

    we left the arena and went underneath to our parking spot ALL Fired UP!

    then the P-Funk ruined the next night… just awful

  10. stapes Says:

    Similar experience, MiA. But I decided to skip Vegas, but seriously considered it after Miami. Those were 4 straight nights of heat. I didn’t feel like they really let up at all that run. Bowie opener night one to get things started all the way through NYE. Need to revisit those shows.

    DC>AV was bittersweet for me. Great times with old friends at two of the classic venues. Had pav all 4 nights too, which makes a huge difference at Alpine especially.

  11. EL Duderino Says:

    @ Jtran

    That was the dope talking

  12. Mike in Austin Says:

    GC, that is really funny to me. I remember standing in line at Port-O-Let Deer Creek, and a girl was just standing there looking confused. After I came out, she asked me she walked up to right when I walked out … “Was anybody in there with me?”

    “Um. No. Just me.”

    “My friend went in there a half hour ago, and I haven’t seen her since.”

    “You think she’s still in there?”

    “I’ve been waiting for her to come out.”

    “I think she left”

    “Where did she go?”

    “I don’t know.”

    “Then how do you know she left?”

    “Well, if she fell in, I think you better just leave her down there.”

    “You think she fell in?”

    “No. I’m joking.”

    “This is no joking matter. My friend is lost.”

    “I think we need to go to the lost and found.”


    “Because she’s lost.”

    “How will she find the lost and found if she’s lost?”


  13. stapes Says:

    I liked 12/30 minus the last 20 minutes of so of P-Funk.

    The Tube>LA Woman>Birds segment was fun live.

    First set was hot too.

    But I don’t need 30 minutes of P-Funk schtick.

    ‘Alll skeet skeet skeet skeet!!!’

  14. Dr Pronoia Says:

    @silly – I’d give a small but important body part to go to another class at wisco….you better not start slacking now

  15. Mike in Austin Says:

    I pretend like that part of Miami didn’t exist. Like Coventry Glide.

  16. stapes Says:

    Miami Piper!!!

  17. stapes Says:

    Trey must have starting hitting the crack pipe with G. Clinton then, explaining his condition come April in Vegas.

  18. Dr Pronoia Says:

    Since 03 I’ve always flown back from NYC for alpine shows. That venue is my church

    Can’t defend it in words, but I’ve been transported way too many times there, so there it is

  19. EL Duderino Says:

    The Wolfman’s maybe the best song of that run

  20. Mr. Palmer Says:

    ’04 is caught Coney Island – Had an absolute blast. 1st night was a blast in the rain. Second night was pretty decent. Favorite part was seeing all of the employees at the ballpark go crazy when Trey introduced Jay-Z. Their cellphones were lighting up the park. Fun times.

    Also caught Camden, last show before Coventry. Not a bad show. Knew it was my last so it was bittersweet. I think they crushed a Scents that night. Would love to hear that show again.

  21. stapes Says:

    Drove from Springfield, IL to Indianapolis in a complete downpour to watch the first Coney Island show simulcast.

  22. Robear Says:

    Palmer, they closed set 2 with ‘Scents’. Listened on the RV from Coventry. The one tune I really wanted to catch……..

  23. Robear Says:

    Who is playing the horn in this ‘I didn’t know’ from 12/28/95?

  24. Jtran Says:

    Love that Camden 04 Scents

  25. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Whoever recommended Kurt Vile… thank you. Smoke Ring for My Halo is a sweet album.

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