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. PigSong Says:

    I think I’m going to buy some really good tickets in the handicapped section for my wife, myself and three others. Just hoping for some reassurance that this isn’t a terrible move karmic-wise. I know my lady needs the space and accessibility, but is it okay to have three friends in there with us?

  2. PigSong Says:

    Damn. SPAC Piper delivers hard. Checked the time figuring they are wrapping it up at 11 minutes, but I guess I’ve got a little ways to go.

  3. PigSong Says:

    aaand I’m posting to myself again.

  4. bobby weird Says:

    I think they only let one person someone with a genuine handicap, but this is probably venue-specific. This has been my experience seeing countless Phish shows with a one-legged man. If night of the show handicap seats are available usually they don’t care if able bodied peeps chill there. Unobstructed sound, but u are also highly visible.

  5. bobby weird Says:

    “One person *accompany* a handicapped”, that is.

  6. PigSong Says:

    ^that makes sense. I def do not want to overstep or hog any of the handi tickets. Maybe I’ll just get the two…

  7. bobby weird Says:

    See what they will let u do. I’m sure they won’t sell handi tix to non-handis unless they know there r enuf to go around for those who need them. My 2 cents.

  8. BingosBrother Says:

    Saw a one legged dude at Furthur last night. Me and the kids thought he was pretty fuckin cool. Thats dedication.

  9. BingosBrother Says:

    That being said, I’m really glad that hurdler girl has 2 legs. Good lord.

  10. joemeg Says:

    hurdler girl made my day, thanks TIII.

  11. PigSong Says:

    Ticketmaster says the policy is up to three people can accompany my wife, so I bought four tickets. I guess the three extras are not handicap accessible tickets anyway. I’m still going to be self conscious about our seats and try to be accommodating if need be. Not to mention I’ll be extra sensitive to my likely uncomfortable slf, though she has insisted over and over how bad she wants to go.

  12. joemeg Says:

    I went to a baseball game- 4 of us in the handicapped section. 1 handicapped & 3 friends. Those who need handicapped seating should be able to hang with a few friends. My 2 cents.

  13. SillyWilly Says:

    Hi kids

    Just about to crash

    Really loving work. Have tons to learn but for right now I’m not too worried about it because I look forward to working everyday

    As long as that stays the same, I’m not afraid to have tons to learn

    Feels kinda nice to be tired at the end of the day. Like I’m earning my sleep or something

    Phish rocks. Can’t wait for SF.


  14. angryjoggerz Says:

    Today I had perhaps the worst day of my entire career. Pretty dire. Now I sleep.

  15. angryjoggerz Says:

    @ Pigsong – that is Japanese, not Chinese, sorry

  16. voopa Says:


    ION, it begins again 4 weeks from NOW!

  17. BingosBrother Says:

  18. bobby weird Says:

    Bingos, where was the show (sorry my pc is down and phone is way too slow). Usually I would suspect the one legged man was my boy, but so many of them now post irac. If east coast guy w blonde hair, and old, dats my boy the Gimp.

  19. bobby weird Says:

    Fwiw, re: handi section. I always make extra effort to taLk to the dudes in wheelchairs, really spend time w them. Something most people probably don’t do. Of course, pointing to my one legged buddy helps normalize the sitch. Funny though, I always come away fascinated by how cool these dudes are. After all, they made great efforts to go see Phish. Highly reccomend quality time w phishies in wheelchairs. They are very easy to talk to. My 2 cents (or 3).

  20. RoosterPizza Says:


    る is the hiragana character for ru. It is pronounced as what is called a flap, kind of between an /l/ and /d/ sound. It’s a bitch to learn, and that is why so many Japanese people have trouble with /l/ and /r/ in English. It is the dictionary/root form of a large section of verbs, for example:
    to eat–>taberu–>たべる. It is dropped during conjugation, and different attachments at the end indicate different tenses etc…

  21. Robear Says:

    Rooster, respect.

    AJ, you didn’t make it to Space Mountain or It’s a Small World, did you. It’s okay, hang in there. Bad days happen for good people.

    Hats off to Revise. Reppin the Mitten.

    ShOws don’t count! Thanks Mrs. Disorder.

  22. sumodie Says:

    PigSong, don’t worry about being in the handicap section, sounds like you followed the rules

    TM will always try and sell unclaimed handicap seats closer to show time, that’s how we scored sweet seats in the handicap section for JB1. There are any number of acceptable reasons why anyone could be in the handicap section

    Fans with special needs can be nutty party types like any other fan. Last year at the Gorge my buds rode the bus for those with special needs back to the campground after night 1. They said the bus ride was absolutely crazy as it was full of spunions, many of whom also had special needs

  23. butter Says:

    teaching and writing in Japanese on the BB, thats next level shit

    love it Rooster

  24. tela'smuff Says:

    Boredoms – Vision Creation Newsun.

    sometimes i need to put this album on to get my head right.

    for the younger set, get hip to this classic.

  25. RoosterPizza Says:

    Thank you. I have put a lot of time in, but sometimes I still find myself completely lost. It’s like any learning…an ongoing process.

    Just like being a Phish noob. Right when I think I know what it is going on, I don’t know what the big deal about Skin it Back is…noob shit.

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