‘Cluster Flies’: Ryley Walker Covers ‘First Tube’
JamBase presents Cluster Flies, a covers compilation reimagining Phish’s album Farmhouse, complete with bonus songs and revamped tracklist. The limited-edition 3LP release was mastered by engineer Joe Lambert and includes custom artwork and a poster created by longtime Phish collaborator Jim Pollock. A pre-order is underway now through May 3 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. Visit www.clusterflies.com for purchasing information as well as full album credits and tracklist details.
Each of the songs on Cluster Flies will be featured via daily episodes of The JamBase Podcast with interviews with the musician that recorded the cover. Today’s episode features Ryley Walker’s cover of “First Tube.” Explore additional Cluster Flies podcast episodes here.
Phish’s song, “First Tube,” is the 12th and final track on the band’s 2000 album, Farmhouse (unless its the Japanese version with “Driver” and “Mountains In The Mist” bonus tracks).
More Cluster Flies on JamBase
Anastasio led a performance by a one-off band called 8 Foot Fluorescent Tubes on April 17, 1998, at the original Higher Ground in Winooski, just outside Burlington, Vermont. The show was the first time Anastasio performed in public with Lawton and Markellis, who were joined by guitarist/vocalist Tom Lawson of The Pants, saxophonist Dave Grippo, trombonist James Harvey and vocalist Heloise Williams of Viperhouse.
“First Tube” was seemingly named for its placement as the first song played at the 8 Foot Fluorescent Tubes show, which also saw the premieres of future Phish/TAB songs “Sand,” “Mozambique” and “Last Tube.” Trey, Tony and Russ would go on to form the first incarnation of the Trey Anastasio Band which made its debut — back at the Higher Ground — in February 1999. That concert again featured “First Tube” as part of the setlist.
The same TAB trio was also the lineup on Trey’s first solo tour in May 1999. By the end of that acoustic/electric tour, “First Tube” was a full-on show-stopper that highlighted many electric second sets. Along with fellow 8 Foot Fluorescent Tubes original “Mozambique,” “First Tube” made its Phish debut on September 9, 1999, in Vancouver, British Columbia.
One of two instrumentals on Farmhouse — along with “The Inlaw Josie Wales” — “First Tube” earned Phish a Grammy Award Nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 2001. Nominated alongside Peter Frampton, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Joe Satriani, Phish lost to Metallica, Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony’s “The Call of Ktulu”
The 2001 Grammy Awards were held on February 21, a few months into Phish’s first hiatus that began in October 2000 and lasted through 2002. Two nights later, on February 23, 2001, Phish keyboardist Page McConnell sat-in with the Trey Anastasio Band at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City. Page’s sit-in was the first time two members of Phish performed in public during the first hiatus.
“First Tube” was played by Phish four times when they returned in 2003 but not at all in 2004, the year that began a second break lasting until 2009. Since coming back from the second hiatus, “First Tube” has remained a staple of both Phish concerts and Trey solo shows.
Phish used “First Tube” as part of their New Year’s Eve production at Madison Square Garden on December 31, 2019 with a crew of colorful clones dancing and singing with the band. Trey played “First Tube” as the final song of the final night of his “The Beacon Jams” weekly residency at the Beacon Theatre in New York City in Fall 2020.
For Cluster Flies, “First Tube” was covered by guitarist Ryley Walker, who is no stranger to completely covering an album. In 2018 Walker released The Lillywhite Sessions, his interpretation of the notoriously shelved studio album recorded and abandoned by Dave Matthews Band. Walker, bassist Andrew Scott Young drummer Ryan Jewell (who also contributed to “Piper”), fully embraced improvisation, breaking open “First Tube” into a free-form 19-minute exploration of sound.
Listen to Ryley Walker’s cover of Phish’s “First Tube” below:
JamBase’s Andy Kahn recently talked to Ryley about Phish, recording “First Tube” and more for today’s episode of The JamBase Podcast.