Tonight (May 19th), Phish will webcast their July 21st, 1997 performance at Virginia Beach, VA’s Virginia Beach Amphitheatre as the ninth episode of their ongoing archival webcast/cooking series, Dinner and a Movie. Scroll down to follow along with our 7/21/97 stream companion.
The ninth episode of Dinner and a Movie follows the 8/31/12 “F— You Face” show, the 7/27/14 Merriweather “Tweezerfest”, the 7/25/17’s Baker’s Dozen “Jam-Filled” night, Magnaball night two (8/22/15), last year’s first night at Mohegan Sun (7/19/19), the first night of the band’s 2016 Halloween run in Las Vegas (10/28/16), the final night of 2017’s Mexican destination event (1/15/17), and the band’s first of three nights in Alpharetta, GA in 2018 (8/3/18).
In honor of tonight’s 1997-vintage “movie,” Phish is also selling an updated version of their 1997 summer PTBM t-shirt design via Phish Dry Goods in honor of Tuesday’s stream:
A fresh update on our original 1997 Summer Tour Phish Tickets By Mail tee. Two versions available: both 100% cotton, one heavier-weight colorwash, boxier with a giaganic tag (like the old days) and the other is a more modern cut. Available for pre-order: https://t.co/5IU7Qar4bk pic.twitter.com/gt5FjRGf4g
— Phish Dry Goods (@phishdrygoods) May 15, 2020
Since the beginning of this series, fans have clamored for some 1.0 viewing—and now, they’re getting a great one. Beyond the high level of playing throughout, this show features an eventful sit-in by saxophonist LeRoi Moore, co-founder of Dave Matthews Band, in the second set featuring some impressive musical antics: Per Phish.net, “The jam with LeRoi included a segment where he played two saxes, Trey played three guitars, Mike played two basses and the Cracklin’ Rosie cymbals, Fish had four drumsticks and Page was lying across his keyboards playing as many as possible.”
When LeRoi Moore passed away due to complications from an ATV crash in 2008, Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio recalled this particular experience in a note posted to the band’s website. It read,
When Phish played Virginia Beach in 1997, LeRoi came on stage and started playing three saxophones at once and set off the most hilarious chain of events. Within minutes, Page was playing four of his keyboards with his hands and feet. I had three guitars on and drumsticks in my hand banging on Fish’s drums, and Mike was playing two basses. It was just a phenomenal moment! And I remember LeRoi laughing with his mouth full of saxophones.
We miss you LeRoi and thank you for the joy you brought all of us.
The 7/21/97 show in Virginia Beach kicked off the band’s 19-date U.S. summer tour, which would close out with Phish’s second festival, The Great Went, on August 16th and 17th. While this “tour opener” marked Phish’s first official U.S. performance since they ended 1996 with a chorally-assisted New Year’s Eve show in Boston nearly 8 months prior, this was far from the band’s first show of the year. In fact, by the time July 21st rolled around, Phish had already played thirty-three shows in 1997 thanks to two separate European tours—a 14-date run in late February/early March and a 19-date June/July trek that wrapped up just ten days before they took the stage in Virginia Beach.
During those overseas shows, Phish had been both road-testing a new crop of songs and honing a funkier new sound—”cow funk”. The moniker, derived from some combination of its linguistic similarity to the existing “cowpunk” subgenre and the baffling number of cows in the band’s home state of Vermont, was immortalized via a quote from Trey in Richard Gehr‘s The Phish Book: “What we’re doing now is really more about groove than funk. Good funk, real funk, is not played by four white guys from Vermont. If anything, you could call what we’re doing cow funk or something.”
While 7/21/97 featured no official “debuts,” it marked the U.S. crowd’s introduction to both the new material and the revitalized sound. Remember, this was 1997—way before day-of soundboards on LivePhish and the endless platform for post-show discussion now provided by the internet—so unless they made the trek to Europe, virtually all of the Virginia Beach crowd was hearing songs like “Ghost”, “Piper”, “Dogs Stole Things”, “Dirt”, and “Wading In The Velvet Sea” for the very first time.
Despite hearing new music played with a more groove-oriented style, the U.S. crowd quickly took to their first taste of ’97 Phish as the band opened with a slow-burning, 16+ minute “Ghost” jam that flowed into “Dogs Stole Things” and, in turn, “Piper” and “Dirt”—all songs debuted earlier that year in Europe. Following a quick run through bluegrass ditty “Ginseng Sullivan”, Phish launched into a stellar “Bathtub Gin” that showed off just how funky Phish planned on getting that year. From loud to soft, sparse to layered, James Brown-style howls and count-offs to full-blown “Drowned” teases, this “Bathtub Gin” wonderfully showed off the many potent facets of ’97 Phish.
Late in the jam, Trey stepped to the mic for a little explanation. After making note of this show as the opener of the band’s American tour, Trey incited a quick “U-S-A!” chant while Jon Fishman, Mike Gordon, and Page McConnell carried on the thick, funky groove into which this “Gin” had developed.
As Trey told the crowd, “we have a lot of new material for ya. Yes, we started off the show with four new songs. Just so you get it right and you know all the names, the titles of the songs, I’m gonna tell you right now… The first song was called ‘Ghost’, that was that funky thing that went into the long jam. Ah yes, the second song was called, ‘Dogs Stole Things’, so make sure you get that right.” After explaining that the “bluesy” tune was about how your pets try to steal your soul at night (“You gotta watch out for that…Obviously, by the way he’s playing, they have not stolen Fishman’s soul yet”), he continued in running down the names of “the pretty one that builds” (“Piper”) and the “slow one” (“Dirt”) before launching into a set-closing “Character Zero”.
As he listed off the names of the songs, Trey made sure to include a caveat: “This is the last time I’m gonna say this, by the way, so those of you who are traveling from show to show, make sure you remember this, ‘cus I’m not gonna say it again. … So we’re gonna do one more, and then we’re gonna take a break. So don’t go away. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do… or you might end up on the back of the worm! On the back of the worm…” (Note: see the band’s then-recent two-night run in Amsterdam for context on the whole “worm” tangent). Now, fans will recognize those tunes as Phish classics, but before 7/21/97, they were just a few nameless new tunes…
Set two kicked off with a slow, meaty “Wolfman’s Brother” that eventually moved with apparent spontaneity into a rare “Magilla” that gave McConnell the chance to flex his chops on the grand piano. This unusually exploratory “Magilla” eventually dissolved into dissonance before Fishman kicked into the recognizable opening hi-hat roll of “David Bowie”. Rather than diving right into the song’s theme, however, the band stretched out the intro, playing around with a few alternate melodies like a distinct “Birdland” (Weather Report) tease from Trey. The improvisational theme continued throughout this white-hot rendition, which clocked in at over 18 minutes in length when all was said and done.
Next, the band moved into another U.S. debut, “Wading In The Velvet Sea”, a beautiful breather after the frenetic “Bowie” that came before it. Trey gave this one that special touch, lacing the repeated refrain with the kind of piercingly beautiful licks that can only emanate from this man’s Languedoc.
“Theme From The Bottom” came next, the crowd clapping along to the verse unaware of the antics that were about to ensue. Just past the jam’s seven-minute mark, the band settled into a funky groove behind Gordon and Fishman. As the band played, LeRoi Moore made his way onstage with his saxophone to join in on the jam. The jazz-inflected session got out of hand quickly, as Moore picked up additional saxophones to play. The rest of the musicians followed suit, and before long were each playing multiple simultaneous instruments.
From a musical standpoint, this multi-instrument “Theme” jam with LeRoi is unsurprisingly rough. The audio has been circulating for decades, and this writer often hits “Skip” on the end of this jam when listening through. Until now, however, we 3.0-ers have had to rely on second-hand accounts and our imaginations when picturing this unruly sit-in. Now, we all get to watch it in all its chaotic glory. Thanks, Phish.
As the “Theme” shenanigans wound down, Trey guided the five-piece band into a horn-assisted rendition of Son Seals‘ “Funky Bitch”. Finally, after LeRoi made his exit to a chorus of applause, the band put the icing on the proverbial cake with a soaring “Slave To The Traffic Light” that holds its own against any version before or since. A “Loving Cup” encore gave fans one last chance to sing along before filing out and making their way to Raleigh for the next night—and the rest of what would go on to be an all-time great tour.
We asked for ’97, and they gave us the goods. P.S., word on the lot is there are a lot of cops out there cracking heads, so keep an eye out.
Setlist: Phish | Virginia Beach Amphitheatre | Virginia Beach, VA | 7/21/97
Set One: Ghost > Dogs Stole Things > Piper, Dirt, Ginseng Sullivan > Bathtub Gin > Character Zero
Set Two: Wolfman’s Brother -> Magilla > David Bowie, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Theme From the Bottom -> Jam > Funky Bitch, Slave to the Traffic Light
Encore: Loving Cup
 LeRoi Moore on saxophone.
The jam during Bathtub Gin featured Trey jumping up and down in time with a syncopated jam, as well as strong Drowned teases. Near the end of the jam, Trey mentioned how good it was to be back home and named the four newer songs that were played. The beginning of Bowie included a Birdland jam and Wolfman’s included a Bathtub Gin tease. The jam out of Theme, as well as Funky Bitch, featured LeRoi Moore on saxophone. The jam with LeRoi included a segment where he played two saxes, Trey played three guitars, Mike played two basses and the Cracklin’ Rosie cymbals, Fish had four drumsticks and Page was lying across his keyboards playing as many as possible. LeRoi also teased the Woody Woodpecker theme during the jam.
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The next Dinner And A Movie features the band’s July 21, 1997 show from GTE Virginia Beach Amphitheater in Virginia Beach, VA. The full show will play for free this Tuesday at 8:30PM ET at webcast.livephish.com or here at Phish’s Facebook page. This week, Trey Anastasio shares three recipes of Italian comfort food from Scott Tacinelli & Angie Rito, husband-and-wife chefs and co-owners of @DonAngieNYC, located in New York City’s West Village. Tacinelli and Rito were named among Zagat’s 13 Under-the-Radar Chefs to Watch in NYC in 2017, New York’s Rising Star Chefs in 2019, and they earned James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef New York State in 2019 and 2020. The meal includes Italian American Stuffed Peppers, Pasta e Fagioli with Black Eyed Peas & Collard Greens, and Polenta Snickerdoodle Cookies and the recipes are at phish.com (link in profile). Whatever you decide to make, tag us at #phishdinnerandamovie. We have selected Street Medicine Institute as our beneficiary for this webcast. Donate any time at phish.com/waterwheel. The Street Medicine Institute facilitates and enhances the direct provision of health care to the unsheltered homeless where they live by providing communities and clinicians with expert training, guidance, and support to develop and grow their own Street Medicine programs. Street Medicine includes health and social services developed specifically to address the unique needs and circumstances of the unsheltered homeless delivered directly to them in their own environment. For more info visit streetmedicine.org. #phish #phishdinnerandamovie