Phish Friday | Fall ’97, Not Just the Cow Funk Era

cow1.jpgphoto by fatmandy

There are various “eras” of Phish history that get a lotta play, but I’d venture to say that the band’s Fall 1997 tour is one of the most popular and often given the label “Epic!” Fall ’97 is also often referred to as the “Cow Funk Era” because of an extremely funky type of jamming the band focused on throughout the tour, which subsequently spilled over into much of its playing in 1998 (and really until the band’s official hiatus/break-up).

Cow Funk? Chicken-Neck Funk? Intergalactic Space Funk? Call it what you will, but it usually found Trey getting re-acquainted with his wah pedal, Gordo laying down some seriously meaty basslines, and Page frequently heading “up top” to the Clavinet.

But the reasons that this era of Phish is so special (or “epic”) go beyond just the “space phunk.” Most of the band’s Fall ’97 shows also featured some stellar ambient/psychadelic musical exploration, with the band getting way ‘out there’ and firing perfectly on all four cylinders (some folks might even say five). There were also plenty of moments where the band just seemed like they were having even more fun than any of us in the crowd, dropping inside jokes and random banter in the midst of all of the funky, pscyhadelic madness. One of these moments was during the second set of one of the more famous shows of this tour:

12-13-1997 at the Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY (now, the Pepsi Times Union Center).

Here are my favorite tracks from this set:

Comments and setlist after the jump…

There were a lot of amazing Phish performances in Albany at the Knick (including the night before this show!), but this one is my favorite by far. Not only was I there, but I have a ton of great memories from this show, my favorite being one that’s probably among many Phish fans’ favorite moments. It was a spot during “Mike’s Song” where the band found themselves in a very dark groove and started some banter about having to “Bring in the Dude,” supposedly referring to the “Dude of Life” from early Phish lore. I won’t go into all the gory details, but let’s just say that the start-stop funk throw-down that followed and led into “Llama” was one for the books!

And not to let the rest of the show be completely overshadowed by the “Bring in the Dude” start-stop jam, I also decided to include this seriously exploratory version of “Ghost” and a solid “Harry Hood” that perfectly ended the second set of this show. Hope you enjoy. Have a killer weekend!

Setlist (courtesy of

Pepsi Arena, Albany, NY

1: Ya Mar, Axilla, Theme From the Bottom, Ginseng Sullivan, Strange Design, Sample in a Jar, Vultures, Tube, Good Times Bad Times

2: NICU, Punch You in the Eye, Ghost, Mike’s Song#-> Llama, When the Circus Comes, Weekapaug Groove-> Catapult-> Weekapaug Groove, Harry Hood*

E: My Soul, The Squirming Coil

J. Willis Pratt and Weird Bionic opened. #During which the band chants, “Bring in the Dude!”, referring not to Steve Pollak but to Trey, as there was apparently a jovial dispute about who the real “Dude of Life” is. Fish calls on Mike to “bring in the Dude” and the band stops and lets Mike play a crazy, effect-laden bass solo. Then Trey asks Fish to let him “bring in the Dude”. Fishman lets him, and bands stops to let Trey play a wah-wah solo. Then Page “brings in the Dude” with the clavinet. Fish doesn’t “bring in the Dude”. *With lights off and a glow stick war.