The Brightest Stars of Summer

(Dan Shinneman)

Though many different songs took center stage throughout Leg One, the following four jams were undeniably the brightest stars of summer. While “Light,” “Ghost,” and “Golden Age” consistently forged innovative paths, “Sand” consistently brought down the house. Let’s take a closer look at the four improvisational pillars of Phish’s opening run of 2012.


The signature jam of the modern era continued to grow expand this summer, as every version provided a totally unique take on the ever-changing jam. Beginning in AC with a hard-edged groove mashup with “Manteca,” and continuing with Star Lake’s new-school venture into a plinko paradise, Phish pushed improvisational boundaries with “Light” each time it hit the stage. At Alpine Valley, Phish wove a minimalist, melody-driven and ethereal tale that transformed into one of the more cerebral highlights of tour. And in their tour finale st SPAC, the guys took the jam for one last joyride, landing in a stunning melodic theme. Sculpting a tour highlight each time they played the song—less a standard run through at Bonnaroo—the boys put “Light” in strong position inb the MVP race. But its main competition would come from a revival story.


6.30.12 (K.Harris)

Resurrecting “Ghost” from the dead, Phish revitalized their late-‘90s jam vehicle in profound fashion this summer. For the most part, modern-era “Ghosts” had remained a springboard into groove or guitar-led jamming, but rarely a launch into full-band exploration. That all changed on the opening night of tour with a seductively, laid-back rendition that saw the band forge original ground with the tune for the first time in ages. Remaining in the background due to its location at the beginning of tour, it deserves a rightful place at the table with any summer versions.  Then came Blossom. Emerging from a standout “Golden Age,” “Ghost” settled into a sinister full-band groove before moving into the abstract on the backs of Fishman and Trey. Getting into a very creative, drone-like pattern, the band was now infusing totally fresh ideas into “Ghost.” And speaking of new ideas, out of a new-age, synth ending of “Light,” came the Alpine “Ghost.” With virtually no time in conventional realms, the band moved into a “live-tronica” sequence that knocked down yet another music door before slithering into a slow musical dungeon. The band also showcased “Ghost” in, arguably, the set of the summer, once again rising from the depths of a jam—this time, “Sneakin’ Sally.” Carving out a stunning version that spent zero time vamping, Phish used one-minded interplay to sculpt a quasi-ambient jam that covered all sorts of ground before a cathartic arrival. Easily the comeback player of the tour, the only question is whether “Ghost” brings home one trophy or two.

 “Golden Age”

7.3.12 (S.Lehrman)

In 2012, the band finally decided to settle on “Golden Age” as a jam vehicle. After a demented pinko foray at Super Ball, 2011 only saw the cover come off the shelf as late-set filler. But that all changed this tour. When the song’s first summer outing fused into “2001” at Bonnaroo, the guys found a go-to combo that would come out twice more over the rest of the run. At Blossom, however, when breaking “Golden Age” to open the second set, they stretched it out far more significantly. Following an super slick rhythm sequence, Trey initiated a more intricate groove in which Fish followed right along, soon blossoming into a deep space sound sculpture. Alpine’s version featured delicate textures and plinko theatrics before smoothly moving into “2001.” Jones Beach’s version, however, may be the most complete of tour. Migrating from throw-down funk into a percussive palette, and gradually into a slowed down piece of Floydian psych-rock, Phish jammed this one to absolute completion. Entering a totally different style of music altogether, Jones Beach gets my nod out of the several of tour. Ending with a brief version at SPAC that, again, segued into “2001,” the band capped a run of standout jams from their modern era cover.


7.8.12 (R.MacNeil)

“Sand” has become the Phish’s preeminent launch pad to crack-like grooves. Filled with whole-band, rhythmic passion, each time the guys seeped into the millennial-era jam, everyone knew they were in for a treat. Kicking off the tour with, arguably, the most dynamic version of 2012, the band cranked through eight of the densest minutes of music you’ll ever hear. Laced with melody and evoking the sound of late-’70s Dead, the band annihilated a piece that segued seamlessly into the bluegrass juxtaposition of “Nellie Kane.” AC’s late-set version also popped out of the usual groove, and growled with a bit more guitar-focus than those sandwiching it. Cincy’s late-set version was in the dance floor, melodic variety of Worcester’s and segued smoothly into “Roggae.” But Deer Creek’s “Sand” was far more extended with outstanding—and stylistically diverse—guitar narration from Trey throughout. Jones Beach’s July 3rd version built into a second, consecutive multi-tiered scorcher that touched on several variant textures before landing in a plinkofied, looped out segment that brought them into “Golden Age.” The final version of tour came our of a gnarling “Carini” at SPAC and became the third spotlight version in a row that moved through several distinct segments of lockstep jamming.


Jam of the Day:

Light -> Ghost” 7.1, East Troy, WI

Summer’s two heaviest hitters wrapped into one staggering sequence from Alpine.



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501 Responses to “The Brightest Stars of Summer”

  1. Robear Says:

    okay, re-read the post. worth it to see the talent that shows up, I guess.

  2. Jtran Says:

    Whenever I drive by that weird roman arch I always wondered what it was. Now I know. Thanks mia.

  3. MiA Says:

    Dear Phish,

    Play that evil jam like you did in Cincy this summer at LGB.




    Dear “MiA”

    You will get a 5:32 second Free in Long Beach. And you will like it. Quit trying to tell us what to play.


    Mike Gordon.

    P.S. I will not be wearing any “leopard skin scarfs” or “Sgt. Pepper Jackets” or “white or purple pants” while in California. So don’t get your hopes up.

  4. MiA Says:

    California “faux” mediterranean is my favorite architecture style.

  5. kayatosh Says:

    puffless in the mitten? robummer.

    bummin a little myself. lost again today. after taking a hit yesterday. finances souring.

    dryness seeping in as well.

    spinning my fave. jam — JB GA 7.3 — to pick myself up and don’t look back.

  6. voopa Says:

    Sweetwater Music Hall has announced that it will offer live HD streaming of select shows. The Mill Valley, CA venue will kick things off this Friday with a performance by the Mother Hips. Opening the show is British singer-songwriter Bobby Long and the Hips will be back him for a few songs as well. The link to the live stream and additional information can be found at the Sweetwater web site.

  7. Robear Says:

    kaya, at least it’s by choice this time. while Poo G is busy reading reading finance reports, i’m waxing and baning all the live long day. gotta reset the tolerance. concentrates mess it up good.

    you need a new job. Huggie Bear, life coach. it involves massage therapy and yoga lessons. head out. i’ll set u up with a string of clients.

  8. Robear Says:

    revise, you going to Meadowbrook tonight for Further?

  9. BingosBrother Says:

    Furthur was ok last night, but I wouldn’t say that if I’d paid 70 per ticket. Sat with the family on the beach and heard every note perfectly. 6 songs in the 1st set and it was shorter than setbreak was, but pretty well played and cool songs. Doin That Rag was fun. Left midway through 2nd set, but was told it was real slow, which is understandable since it was 100 degrees. Brought the kids to Shakedown and Molly was asking why people were looking for her. Also wondered where people got the balloons from. and why the old man she bought a patch from was only wearing tighty whities. God bless merica.

  10. kayatosh Says:

    you’re the best, huggie. kudos for taking a break. vacay is a good opp. for breakage. peace

  11. Robear Says:

    WTF!!!! My parents are drinking Decaf Coffee. No wonder I’m all out of whack this morning! No caffeine, no thc, makes for a confused bear.

  12. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Taking a small Phish listening break. Time to get back to the roots. The good , old Grateful Dead

    Kaya- hit me with another show suggestion. BTW- the show above ^^ has a 46 minute Playin . About 15 minutes in now and its completely off the tracks wild. Wowzers…

  13. kayatosh Says:

    if i were you, plamer, i’d spin some 4.21.78 playin>jam>stella>truckin> playin, werewolves

  14. kayatosh Says:

    then there always 6.24.73 big river>DS>eyes>china doll

  15. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    ::insert sanka reference here::

    pretty sure you can still get sanka in michigan

  16. Robear Says:

    robummin. need some real coffee. argh

    is the headache from lack of coffee, lack of bane, or both…….

  17. Mr. Palmer Says:

    headache is lack of caffeine. Happens to me if i skip my morning Joe. Get out there and find some real coffee.

  18. kayatosh Says:

    more likely the coffee. gave up caffeine for many moons now and have been much calmer and chill.

    collie and wine.

    happy friday, everyone. party on.

    just looked through the 7.7.12 setlist and it reads like a story.

  19. Mr. Palmer Says:

    kaya thinks today is Friday …nothing to see there…

    Got your recs on deck.

  20. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    this is pretty funny. he always struck me as ornery, but this confirms it.

  21. kayatosh Says:

    justs eeing if yall are awke. and it feels like friday to me. when all the cards are down and there’s nothing left to see.

    6.22.12 LUOLMA — $$$. musical density at it’s best. jams like this make me feel that i have to see a leg II show.

  22. kayatosh Says:

    ^^^ its best. spellin paddlin

  23. kayatosh Says:

    dec. 79 shakedowns. 12.5 and 12.9

  24. kayatosh Says:

    5.19.74 truckin>MLB>NFA>GDTRFB

  25. Robear Says:

    man you bounce around the tunes @ kaya! how the hell do you have so much music right at your finger tips?

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