Phish Wraps Hampton Run On This Date In 1997
Phish’s Fall Tour in 1997 found the band at a creative peak, reaching deep into elements of funk and offering up some their most memorable shows and jams during the months of November and December. Perhaps the pinnacle of the tour was the band’s two night stand at Hampton Coliseum on November 21 and 22. The quartet’s third and fourth shows at the now iconic Hampton, Virginia arena contained debuts, covers, antics and outstanding song selections and placements. But what truly sets the shows apart were the memorable segments of improvisation offered each night.
Fall ‘97 was when Trey Anastasio, Page McConnell, Mike Gordon and Jon Fishman fully embraced danceable groove music later dubbed Cow Funk. The funky new approach would remain a focus of the band through the April 1998 Island Tour, but it also forever changed the group’s affinity for locking into a head-bob inducing groove.
Opening night on November 21, 1997 kicked off with Gordon going falsetto on a debut cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Emotional Rescue.” The Stones’ studio track clocked in at 5:39 but the version included on the officially released Phish recording of the song reached 17:45 as they wasted little time delivering the improvisational goods. The first set also saw a silly version of “Lawn Boy,” the eventual rarity “Dogs Stole Things” and a closing rendition of “Prince Caspian.”
The second set opened with a tremendous “Ghost” > “AC/DC Bag” pairing that collectively tallied over 40 minutes. Trey’s wah-wah, Page’s Clavinet, Mike’s synth-effects and Fish’s back pocket rhythms were implemented often during the exploratory opening sequence. “Slave To The Traffic Light” and cover of The Stones’ “Loving Cup” made up the rest of the four song set. The foursome encored with “Guyute” to draw the first night to an end.
Picking up where they left off, Phish opened their November 22, 1997 concert with 17+ minute performance of their classic “Mike’s Song.” Following a segue into “I Am Hydrogen,” a ripping “Weekapaug Groove” marked one of the all-time renditions of the peppy tune. Not letting up, “Harry Hood” trailed the “Mike’s Groove” and reached its typically soaring peak. A pair of guitar-centric covers in the form of Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Izabella” closed out the fantastic first set.
The start of the second night’s second set was a noteworthy moment in Phish history as fans tried to inspire a bust out performance of the at-the-time long-shelved original “Destiny Unbound.” Here’s how the scene was described in The Phish Companion by one of the fans involved:
Now began my quest for “Destiny.” The night before the show, I printed up about thirty copies of “Destiny Unbound”’s first lines, along with an optional chorus. The caption under the header “Destiny Unbound” read: “A pathetic attempt to get Phish to play a song they’ll never play again.” Anyway, with the help of my new friend Nate (the security guard), I passed out the flyers down the first row. Screaming, trying to let everyone hear, I led everyone in a few practices of the lines, just to warm our voices up. By the way, thank you to all the eager participants (especially my “other side of first row spokesman”) who helped carry out my project. I had always wanted to see what I could do with this, and it turned out really well, I thought.
So, at the beginning of the second set, after the crowd died down, all of us (I think a lot more joined in for the real thing) started chanting the lines, at different times, mind you. It was quite loud. My friend, who was sitting well above Page, said he could easily hear it. We got really astonished looks from Page, Trey, and Jon (not Mike of course), and Trey went over and said a few words to Page. Both were laughing in a “caught off guard” sort of way. Then Trey said something to the effect of, “What is that cannibalistic chant? It sounds like, Rah, ror rah oh ror rah” in his best monster voice. Then he said, “What, has human sacrifice become part of the show? Come on then, bring it up here!” Then he started stabbing downward with his guitar as if stabbing the human sacrifice. The band members were all really getting a kick out of this, but we didn’t really get anything out of Mike. As good as this attempt was, Mike started singing “Halley’s,” seemingly unamused by our shenanigans.
The “Halley’s” then took off for over 25 minutes of funktafied improv, eventually landing on an equally funky interpretation of “Tweezer.” The funk flowed in the instrumental “The Moma Dance” precursor “Black Eyed Katy” which transitioned into a frenetic “Piper.” The fifth and final song of the second half was “Run Like An Antelope” which featured another dose of funk in the vocal breakdown ending that Trey dropped “Mike-o Esquandolas” into. The encore started somewhat slowly with “Bouncing Around The Room” but burst into the highest of octanes as Trey happily strutted around the stage during the raucous “Tweezer Reprise” closer that nearly launched The Mothership into orbit.