Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo); Craig DeLucia
Last Update: 2016-04-14
“Tube” is the musical version of a quickie. Time is a-wastin’ so let’s get down to business.
“Tube” is the first component of the quasi-official “Tube Trilogy” along with “First Tube” and TAB’s “Last Tube,” though it should not be confused with the apparently unrelated “Tube Top Flop” from TAB or “Fresh Tube” from Page’s Vida Blue project. The original “Tube” combines quirky Fishman-penned lyrics that reference asteroids crashing, tigers in lily patches, and even singer Robert Palmer (though few can decipher the ending lyrics well enough to know what he is doing!) with a fast, shuffle-style verse and a groovy jam in the middle.
The frenetic though exceedingly brief “Tube” made its debut on on 9/13/90 at New York’s famed Wetlands and saw steady rotation that fall before dropping out for nearly a year. After a 111-show absence “Tube” returned on 10/24/91 in Prescott, AZ and remained a regular for that fall tour. But for the next five-year stretch “Tube” spent long stretches on the shelf, with only four total appearances from ‘92 through ‘94, and only a handful more in each of ‘95 and ‘96. Trey referenced the crowd’s fondness for the then-rare song on 12/11/95, when he rewarded the fans in attendance with “Tube” for their participation in the humorous “Dog Log” album gag.
"Tube" – 4/2/98, Uniondale, NY
Perhaps no individual Phish song gained more of a sense of identity from the emergence of the Cow Funk in 1997 than “Tube.” The fan favorite suddenly became a centerpiece set-up song that the band tweaked and rode to much applause. Spurred by Mike’s Modulus bass and setlists that placed increased emphasis on thick funk-oriented jams, “Tube” seemed to be a perfect vehicle to convey the sound the band was trying to perfect.
Never before exceeding five minutes, at the 12/7/97 Dayton gig – made available as a Live Phish archival release – Phish started letting out the engines with a six-minute version, but that was just the tease. They rode the wave even further on 12/13/97 in Albany, pushing the nine-minute mark. The year in “Tube” was punctuated at MSG on 12/29/97 with an eleven-minute dance-fest (complete with an “I Feel the Earth Move” tease) that rumbled the foundations of The World’s Most Famous Arena.
"Tube" – 2/22/03, Cincinnati, OH
Late 1.0 was the heydey for “Tube” with plenty of space afforded by the band’s more groove-oriented style of jamming that dominated the time. “Average” versions routinely ran eight to ten minutes, with significant, awesome outliers. The 11/2/98 Utah gig is rightly famed for the Dark Side of the Moon “Harpua,” but “Tube” was shot out of a cannon as the show’s opening song, running almost fifteen minutes and featured a reprise jam that segued seamlessly into “Drowned.” Other standout versions from this era include 7/29/98 Riverport, MO, 9/18/99 Chula Vista, and by far the longest “Tube” to date, a seventeen-minute monster from 9/15/00 in Hershey, PA.
“Tube” was only performed five times during the post-hiatus, pre-breakup period (a.k.a. 2.0) but they hit for an incredibly high average in what would turn out to be the sunset of the song’s jamming era. “Tube” took no prisoners on its first post-hiatus appearance, kicking off a five-song second set at the highly regarded 2/22/03 Cincinnati. The second-set opening role was reprised on 12/30/03 in Miami with an eleven-minute funk fest, opening the door to the subsequent “L.A. Woman” and propelling the madness that would follow; the version was so powerful that the band didn’t even finish it until the following evening!
"Tube" -> “Psycho Killer” -> “Tube” – 7/6/12, Saratoga Springs, NY
Upon Phish’s return to the stage in 2009, "Tube" returned to its early roots as a powerful – if brief – frenetic foray into the mind of Jon Fishman. That wasn’t entirely settled out of the gate, as the first few versions made a go for six or seven peppy minutes, including the 3/8/09 Hampton reunion and 8/1/09 Red Rocks. Also notable was the 6/9/09 version, when Trey explained the common origin of "Tube," "Gumbo" and "Dog Faced Boy."
“Tube” remains a regular fixture in the modern Phish setlist and while most versions are interchangeable, a few notable – if mild compared to the song’s jamming period – versions of recent vintage can be found on 9/4/11 Dick’s, 6/15/12 Atlantic City, 7/6/13 SPAC, and 7/8/14 at The Mann in Philly. The standout “Tube” of 3.0-to-date served as the bread to a “Psycho Killer” sandwich on 7/6/12 at SPAC, with seemingly effortless, fluid transitions between the two high-energy dance machines.
"Tube" – 7/8/14, Philadelphia, PA