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. stapes Says:

    Slf’s bro just bought a house with some land just outside East Troy.

    Come on Alpine ’12!

  2. albert walker Says:

    alpine is great cuz it’s like two different concerts

    one of if not the worst lawns in the country

    and one of the greatest pavillions. the sound and lights in that short ceiling wood pavillion are great.

  3. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I can’t believe it hasn’t been brought up yet.

    WSP covering a Wilco song on Halloween in Chicago.

    AW must have a reaction to this melding of brilliance..

  4. kenny powers Says:

    i wasn’t at Miami 2003 but i love the fact that they opened the whole run w/ Bowie. Darkness baby!

  5. EL Duderino Says:

    Timber Ridge Lodge, CID bus, and pav tix = Great AV experience

  6. stapes Says:

    What song did they cover?

  7. Mike in Austin Says:

    WSP is still playing? Oh yeah, AJ almost drove over a wook. I forgot.

  8. EL Duderino Says:

    If you listen back that Bowie from Miami ’03 is the SLOP IMO

  9. Mike in Austin Says:

    Staying at the Lodge is the best. Way to go.

  10. garretc Says:

    I know there must be someone out there looking to split a room for MSG… If that person or two is you, shoot me an email, dayman, Tom, and myself (part of the BB youth brigade) have a room on the upper west side that will only set you back 267 or less!

    garretconour at gmail

  11. albert walker Says:

    that is funny P

    I give Wilco shit cuz I hate Tweedy. Met him back in the day when he was hanging out at the bar his wife used to own. Was just being a total dick and I could never forget it.

    I still don’t like his whiney white boy country rock thing but Cline is a best and his band is great.

    fuck Tweedy though

    WSP covering Wilco. seems like two different styles colliding there.

  12. MrCompletely Says:

  13. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Stapes- Outta Sight i think? There is a you tube of it floating around.

  14. albert walker Says:

    we always preferred Creek so that became our true home town venue

    loved that place. great little walk way between the lawn and pav. small pav and lawn. love that shit.

  15. Mr. Palmer Says:


  16. EL Duderino Says:

    Creek is a great “new school” style shed…

  17. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    where’s waltzer? still occupying chi-town?

  18. EL Duderino Says:

    Aragon Brawlroom = worst sound eva!!!

    WSP = one of the muddiest sounding bands IMO

    both these things together sounds like an awful sounding experience

  19. sumodie Says:

    Never knew I caught the mother of all Tubes till I read Miner’s blog today.

    I’m both amused and impressed with the way our esteemed host is lending context and perspective to all these MSG shows I saw over a decade ago. Back then my crew & I lived happily in our little isolated node of Phishtopia. Now in the 3.0 era I feel like I’m plugged into the Borg! (well, a non evil, free thinking Borg that is)

    That ’97 MSG run represents the last of my innocent, heady, blissful Phish days. My crew and I had one of the best times ever raging together in NYC. That was back when I danced in sandals, t-shirt, and shorts at every show, which necessitated my wearing mad layers of clothing around the city so I wouldn’t freeze.

    On NYE I vividly remember us crossing Times Square on the way to MSG when a newswoman reporting live cornered us and asked us about our plans that night. I recall her getting confused when we told her we were off to spend NYE with Phish at MSG (Phish?). Then she kept insisting I tell her the story behind my glittery hat. But with the fluff coming on, I was sooo not into playing her little storytime game, lol. I still have that hat, which always brings a smile as I recall that bizarro live TV interview -my one & only.

    By the time of the Island tour in spring ’98, I was a different person, far less starry eyed and innocent. It’s hard to explain, but those Providence shows taught be a lot. I saw most of my shows solo that year, culminating in a huge cathartic release for me during the NYE ’98 run.

    MSG is indeed a magic venue!

  20. stapes Says:

    Definitely butchered that Bowie a bit, Dude.

  21. stapes Says:

    Thx Mr P

  22. Jtran Says:

    Cool story sumo

  23. stapes Says:

    AW- I like Tweedy, but he is definitely a dick.

    Just look at the turnover in that band. He’s obviously not easy to work with. Stirratt is the only guy who’s stuck with him for the long haul. Kotche and Cline seem to be mainstays now too, but before that, there was quite a lot of turnover. Too bad him and Bennett couldn’t get a long. Too many cooks in the kitchen I guess. Both great songwriters and musicians.

  24. kayatosh Says:


    just cued up my copy of the 12.29.97 tube on the home stereo + G13/kush.

    Thanks for the guidance and the piece, miner.


  25. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Aw shit! Ahmad Bradshaw out indefinitely with broken foot.

    No Bradshaw, possibly no Nicks against Pats…. not good.

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