After touring Europe in February and March supporting Billy Breathes and the European compilation CD Stash, Phish headed back over the pond in June for their third tour abroad in just over a year (see TMIPH February 1997). In anticipation of the band’s upcoming summer tours in the US and overseas, Trey and Tom Marshall spent time that spring writing new music. Meanwhile, Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food was launched in March, and the band celebrated its release with a benefit at the Flynn Theatre on March 18th for the newly-formed WaterWheel Foundation. Among its various endeavors, The WaterWheel Foundation channels all band royalties from the sale of Phish Food into the clean-up of Lake Champlain. During the summer of 1997, Phish performed nineteen headline and festival gigs in Europe and another nineteen shows in the United States, culminating with their second self-produced multi-day festival, The Great Went (see TMIPH August 1997).
The 1997 summer Europe tour kicked off with shows in Ireland and continued through June with concerts in England, Czech Republic, Germany, France and Denmark, where the band performed many of the new Trey/Tom songs in public for the first time (see TMIPH June 1997). By the time July rolled around, new tunes like Limb by Limb, Ghost, Piper, I Saw it Again and Twist had begun to develop, launching into deeply textured grooves previously unexplored by the band.
Phish played their first show of the month on July 1st at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. An extended theme began during Ghost, the show’s opener, with repeated reference to the worms in the Amsterdam canals and Trey’s experience “on the back of the worm” in a local public toilet. Set II of the July 1st show started with a jam featuring Fish on keys, which turned into Timber. Bathtub Gin followed and segued smoothly into Cities. There was more celebration of the worm during the jam out of Cities. Loving Cup and Slave to the Traffic Light closed a nearly non-stop set. The next night was another show at the Paradiso, which the band kicked off with Mike’s Song into Simple into Maze. Set two of the second Amsterdam show began with a breakthrough Stash that segued into Llama which in turn led to the “wormtown jam” where the band turned the developing worm theme into a jam on Steve Miller’s Swingtown. Wading in the Velvet Sea closed the set and the double encore of Free and David Bowie closed the show with a bang.
There was a show July 3rd in Nuremberg, Germany followed by a day off for Independence Day. The band’s next stop was Piazza Risorgimento in scenic Como, Italy where they performed a free one-set show at a festival on July 5th. It was there that Trey first asked Chris Kuroda to cut the lights during Harry Hood, leaving the band to check out the Alps that surround the venue. July 6th is one of a few Phish shows where the soundcheck is better known than the concert itself. In the case of their Desenzano, Italy performance, the band played an extended check in front of an audience at an outdoor venue set on a lake. The check featured a number of first-time covers including AC/DC’s Hell’s Bells and Hanson’s Mmm-Bop, during which Fish sang James Brown vocals. You Shook Me All Night long was also played. The band allowed audience members to come on stage and sing with the band for a variety of songs including Another One Bites the Dust and continued the impromptu “soundcheck limbo karaoke contest” with audience members doing the limbo to the tune of Day-O. July 7th and 8th were days off and July 9th found Phish back in France at Lyon/Villeurbanne. Set two at Lyon featured guests from the Flecktones -Victor Wooten, Bela Fleck, Jeff Coffin and Futureman on his infamous Synthax Drumitar. The Flecktones joined the band for You Enjoy Myself into Ghost and the set-closer Poor Heart. On July 10th, Phish played their last headline show of the European run in Marseilles at Espace Julien, where Ghost morphed into Take Me to the River and members of Son Seals’ band joined the band for the Funky Bitch encore. The band finished up their stay in Europe at the Doctor Music Festival in Pyrenees, Spain, and returned Stateside to continue summer touring.
On July 21st Phish performed at Virginia Beach Amphitheater where the first set closed with a soaring Bathtub Gin followed by Character Zero. Set two there began with Wolfman’s Brother into Magilla. A tease of Birdland led into David Bowie next. Theme from the Bottom and Funky Bitch featured guest saxophonist LeRoi Moore from the Dave Matthews Band. At one point, Moore played two horns at once while Trey played multiple guitars, Mike two basses, Fish four drumsticks and with Page playing as many keyboards as he could. Having taken a turn for the bizarre, the show ended with Slave to the Traffic Light and Loving Cup encore.
The next night’s show took place at Walnut Creek Amphitheater in Raleigh, where a lighting storm exploded throughout set one. The band’s playing acknowledged the storm, especially during Taste where the storm and band seemed to strengthen each other. Set two consisted of an exploratory Down with Disease that segued seamlessly into Mike’s Song. Mike’s flowed into Simple leading into I Am Hydrogen and Weekapaug Groove, which completed the set of this monster of a show. The Walnut Creek show has since been released as a full-show DVD. On July 23rd, the band played at Atlanta’s Lakewood Amphitheater, and July 24th was a day off.
Phish added guest drummer Bob Gulloti for shows in Texas on July 25th and 26th (see TMIPH April 1996). The first of the shows with Gulloti took place at Starplex Amphitheater in Dallas. The band played the first set without Gulloti – they finished the set with a great version of Bathtub Gin which rolled directly into Makisupa Policeman and then AC/DC Bag. Gulloti joined on a second drum set for all of set two, beginning with a jamming Chalk Dust Torture that segued into Taste, which then segued into YaMar. After that, a jam featuring Page and the two drummers led back into Ghost and then Character Zero. The show concluded with a Theme From the Bottom encore. The second show with Gulloti occurred in Austin, Texas, where the band opened the show with Limb by Limb. Together for the full show this time, Phish and Gulloti began to pick up steam toward the end of set one, which concluded with You Enjoy Myself into Izabella by Jimi Hendrix. Set two featured lots of great interplay among the band and their guest with a Timber opener followed by David Bowie. Harry Hood segued into the band’s first take on Blister in the Sun, which segued into a strong rendition of Free. The encore that night was Bouncing Around the Room followed by Cavern, with the two drummers digging deep into the groove to finish their short stint together.
The band’s next performance was July 29th at the palm-ringed Desert Sky Pavilion in Phoenix, Arizona, where Gumbo developed into a funky jam section that would change the nature of the song from then on. Desert Sky was followed with a show the next night at Ventura County Fairgrounds, a flat outdoor racetrack set on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. Ventura’s second set showcased David Bowie into Cities back into Bowie, closing with Fire and My Soul encore. The last show of the month was at Shoreline Amphitheater, where set one featured a then-rare Glide, closing with I Saw it Again and Shoreline staple, You Enjoy Myself. Shoreline’s set two began with teases of Sweet Home Alabama before the band broke into Runaway Jim segueing to When the Circus Comes to Town. They rounded out the set with Vultures and McGrupp before hitting a peak with Mike’s Song > I am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove. During Weekpaug, Trey lightly played Happy Birthday, which he then announced was in honor of Jerry Garcia’s Birthday the next day, saying the band wanted to help keep Jerry’s spirit alive through their music. The Cinnamon Girl encore that night – the first since its debut at the Flynn Theatre that spring – was a nod to local resident Neil Young, as the band finished up their short stay on the West Coast.
After leaving California, Phish finished up the tour with a two-night stands at The Gorge and Deer Creek, more Midwest shows and their second massive outdoor festival, The Great Went before returning to the studio to lay the groundwork for what would eventually become The Story of the Ghost and The Siket Disc.