Phish spent much of early 1997 touring Europe and recording in the studio at Bearsville and elsewhere. The late summer of that year comprised a U.S. tour. After more recording in the fall, Phish spent most of October, 1997 writing music and preparing for their next tour. The single-show live album Slip Stitch and Pass was released on October 28th (recorded March 1st, 1997 in Hamburg), after which the band and crew assembled to begin the tour, which would span twenty dates in thirteen states.
On November 7th, Phish appeared on NBC’s Late Night with Conan O’Brien, debuting their new unreleased song Farmhouse, which Trey and Tom Marshall had written and recorded in Stowe earlier that spring. As the show cut to a commercial, the band began Mike’s Song, which they aborted after about thirty seconds. Technical rehearsals took place in Las Vegas on the 11th and 12th, and the tour began on November 13th in Las Vegas. Unlike the much smaller Aladdin where Phish performed in December of 1996, the rehearsals and show opener this tour took place at the now legendary Thomas and Mack Center just off the strip (see TMIPH October 1998). The first set on the 13th featured the debut performance of the new instrumental original Black-eyed Katy, to which lyrics were later added and the song was renamed The Moma Dance on The Story of The Ghost. Set two closed with Mike’s Groove including teases of Born on the Bayou and the show concluded with a Loving Cup encore. Phish performed the next night at West Valley E Center in Utah, where Trey dedicated Guyute to house sound engineer Paul Languedoc. The show on the 14th also featured the first performance of Fast Enough For You in almost a year. The second set of the Utah show closed with an entrancing jam linking Twist with Slave to the Traffic Light.
After a Saturday off, the tour resumed with a couple of highly regarded shows in Denver, Colorado at the “mile high venue” McNichols Arena. The first set on November 16th saw the concert debut of Farmhouse and included special guest Pete Wernick on banjo for Scent of a Mule and Poor Heart. A powerful second set ended with Harry Hood > Izabella and the encore David Bowie. The next night at McNichols began with a spirited Tweezer followed by Reba. Perhaps the strongest feature of set one was an exploratory Ghost that preceded the Fire set closer. The momentum continued into set two which the band began with the extended combination of Down with Disease into Olivia’s Pool into Johnny B. Goode into Jesus Left Chicago. This show, which was the soundtrack to a number of band bus social gatherings, was later released as LivePhish 11 – 11/17/97 for which the band was awarded a Jammy Award for Best Archival Album.
On November 19th, the band played at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Illinois. During the first set, Bathtub Gin turned into a long funk jam before the band settled into Llama. The set ended with Fee > Antelope, during which the segue included some lyrics from The Meatstick before Antelope began. The next shows marked Phish’s first of a number of Fall two-night stands at the Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia (see TMIPH November 1998). The evening of the 21st was kicked off by Phish’s first rendition of Rolling Stones cover Emotional Rescue, featuring Mike on falsetto lead vocals. The second set began with Ghost > AC/DC Bag followed by Slave to the Traffic Light and Loving Cup. Phish opened the next night’s show with Mike’s Song > Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove; the second set began with a loud audience recital of the lyrics to the original Destiny Unbound in an effort to convince the band to play the song again (it was last played live in late 1991). Trey responded to the unintelligible chant by saying “That just sounds like a horrible cannibalistic chant for people who want blood. Is that the human sacrifice part of the show?” Halley’s Comet followed, then Tweezer, which eased slowly into Black-Eyed Katy. The next show took place November 23rd at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The band had visited the venue twice before (see TMIPH April 1994). The second set on the 23rd consisted of stretched-out versions of Bathtub Gin > Down With Disease > Bold As Love. Band and crew enjoyed the next two days off to rest and travel to Hartford, Connecticut.
On November 26th, Phish rolled into the Hartford Civic Center. Though the setting is odd as the venue is attached to a shopping mall, Hartford has spunk and the band rewarded it. Set one showcased the tour’s first Gumbo and McGrupp and set two opened with the unique combination of Character Zero into 2001 into Cities into Ya Mar. The show opened with Tweezer and concluded with Tweezer (reprise) before the Cavern encore, which contained some original lyrics (normally left out of the song now). This high-energy show set the stage for Worcester where the band would perform their first of two memorable three-night stands there in two years.
The first of three shows at Worcester Centrum completed the month. Phish opened November 28th with The Curtain followed by You Enjoy Myself which segued into I Didn’t Know, before which Trey joked with the audience that Fish would now perform “his interpretation of the Rolling Stones’ Sucking in the Seventies”. Black-Eyed Katy was next before the band closed the set with Theme from the Bottom > Rocky Top. The second night in Worcester also started strongly with The Wedge, Foam and Simple > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday. The Sloth and David Bowie appeared as well during the first set. Set two that night began with the longest known version of Runaway Jim ever played (nearly one hour and arguably the longest single song the band has ever performed live). The super-Jim showcased lots of jamming along with teases of myriad songs including but not limited to Harry Hood, Crosseyed and Painless, Bathtub Gin and Weekapaug Groove. Strange Design, Harry Hood, Suzy Greenberg and Prince Caspian respectively rounded out set two. The encore was “Fish’s favorite song” Buffalo Bill which turned into the band’s fifth play on Moby Dick in fifteen years (11/21/92, 12/31/94, 10/29/94, 8/17/97 made up the first four parts of the running joke). The Moby Dick segment, announced by Trey in a Robert Plant voice, led into the final segment of the three-song encore, Fire. The first set of the show on the 30th featured an unusually lengthy rendition of Funky Bitch. Wolfman’s Brother came next and mutated into a jam during which Trey sang the heavy metal version of Sanity, the “Esther tried in vain” line from Esther and played licks from Led Zeppelin’s Heartbreaker. Following Sanity, Trey asked Chris to kill the lights so the band could jam in the dark, a tradition begun earlier that summer at Lake Como in Cernobbio, Italy. The second set included an unfinished performance of Stash, followed by Free which morphed smoothly into Piper. The encore that night was Phish’s debut of Them Changes by Band of Gypsies.
After a day off, Phish continued the tour with two shows at Philadelphia’s CoreStates Spectrum prior to looping through the midwest and back to Albany to finish the tour.