The Second Sets of Summer

6.17.12 (Michael Stein)

While gazing over the summer setlists this past weekend, there were so many great second sets that ordering them one-by-one seemed like an exercise in futility. But as I looked a little longer at the second sets of Leg One, I found that four “tiers” of shows emerged. Using nameable qualities—or lack thereof‑—to separate these tiers, a macro picture of summer emerged. But before we get into analyzing—and overanalyzing—what shows should be where, let’s take a step back to recognize that even the Tier Four shows have solid chunks to offer, and in some cases, more than one. Point being, Phish just played an amazing tour.

The main elements that separated shows were lack of flow or the “fizzle factor.” The first is self-explanatory, while the second refers to a set that started out strong but didn’t finish with authority. The elite sets that made the top tier of Leg One, in my opinion, contain outstanding improv—most often with a centerpiece jam, possess an undeniable flow from beginning to end, and have supporting jam sequences that could be no-brainer highlights of lesser shows. Let’s take a look at these four groupings and then inspect a couple takeaways. Each tier is listed in chronological order. (I wasn’t at Bonnaroo, thus it isn’t included.)



6/7, Worcester:

Carini -> Taste > Ghost > Boogie On > If I Could, Quinn, Hood > Cavern > Buried Alive Reprise

The opening night of tour featured a second set that can stand up to any of summer. The opening sequence of “Carini” through “If I Could” is pure improvisational gold. Juxtaposed against the mediocre MSG shows over New Years, this tour-opening set felt like an indoor soul cleansing. With central jams of “Carini” and “Ghost -> Boogie On,” there is no question that this set belongs in the upper echelon of 2012.

6/15, Atlantic City:

My Soul, Birds -> Back on the Train > Heavy Things > Twist > Piper > Billy Breathes, Sneakin’ Sally > David Bowie

Atlantic City’s first night has everything I look for in a second set. Start-to-finish flow, a centerpiece jam in “Birds” and incredibly strong supporting sequences of ‘Twist > Piper” and “Sally -> Bowie.” A scorcher through and through, and a set of non-stop adventure, AC’s opening night stole the show down the shore.

6/23, Star Lake:

Jibboo, Mike’s > Simple > Light > Weekapaug > Seven Below, Bouncin, Julius, Slave

This unbelievably cohesive frame of music is centered on a sublime, 45-minute chunk of jamming—“Simple > Light > Weekapaug > Seven Below.” Interlacing “Light’s” jam in “Weekapaug,” and “Weekapaug’s” in “Seven Below,” Phish was flowing like lava on this Saturday night with a modern-sounding symphony. Sparked with “Jibboo,” “Mike’s” and brought home with “Bouncin,” “Julius,” and an outstanding “Slave,” Star Lake stopped for nobody.

6/28, Deer Creek:

Mike’s > McGrupp, Back on the Train -> HYHU > Bike > HYHU > Weekapaug, Caspian > Waves > Bug > Bowie

With an unconventional setlist and a Fishman appearance in the middle of the frame, Phish pulled of one of their most musically impressive second sets of summer. Served in wonderfully packaged pre-and post-Fishman suites, this set flowed particularly well, and several jams jumped off the deep end. Pairing the greatest “McGrupp” that I know with a deeply psychedelic “Back on the Train,” and following Fishman with the seamless sequence of “Caspian > Waves > Bug > Bowie,” this set is an absolute gem. The “Waves” is a tour highlight, and in the running with best versions ever played.

7/6, SPAC:

Chalk Dust, Carini > Sand, Roses Are Free > Punch You In the Eye > Sneakin’ Sally > Ghost > Suzy, Antelope

Phish took no prisoners on the first night of SPAC, putting together one of the finest second sets of tour. Opening with a scathing combo of “Carini > Sand” and focusing on the even more adventurous combo of “Sally > Ghost,” Phish played live without a net on this night. Using “Roses” to ground the set before utilizing “Punch” to launched into its second half, Phish didn’t come close to a ballad in frame of fire. Capping their performance with aggressive runs through “Suzy” and “Antelope,” Phish had the pavilion buzzing long after they left the stage.


Tier Two

6/16, Atlantic City:

Crosseyed > Slave, Light -> Manteca -> Light > Theme > Golgi Apparatus, Sand, Number Line, Antelope

This set was hard to keep out of the top tier, but I just didn’t feel it held up to the crème de la crème. Centered on the stellar “Lighteca,” and supported by a “Crosseyed” that all-but-seamlessly segued into a knee-buckling “Slave,” the only other piece of interest was a late-set “Sand.” With songs like “Theme,” Golgi,” and “Number Line” compromising the flow of the set, this one just missed the bar.

6/22, Riverbend:

Disease > Guelah Papyrus, Kill Devil Falls > Twist > Halley’s > Sand -> Roggae, Carini > Chalk Dust, Golgi

Laced with magical interplay throughout, including one of the jams of tour in “Twist,” Cincy’s second set was kept in the second tier due its choppiness. Though “Disease” was glorious, Trey ended it quite abruptly with “Guelah Papyrus,” and after “Roggae,” the final three songs of “Carini > Chalk Dust,” and “Golgi,” felt like they were picked out of a hat. But when focusing on the jams—“Disease,” “KDF-> Twist,” and “Sand > Roggae,” this set packs plenty of improvisational gold.

 6/30, Alpine Valley:

Number Line, Carini > Wilson > Golden Age -> 2001 > Rock and Roll > Steam > Piper > Quinn, Hood > Zero

What the first night of Alpine lacks in a centerpiece jam, it more than makes up for with relentless momentum, non-stop flow and several 10-minute gems. Never stopping for air, the band crafted an ultra-groovy first half of the set through “2001,” including a plinko-funk throwdown in “Golden Age.” And then the guys sculpted two standout excursions in “Rock and Roll” and “Piper,” highlighting exploratory playing during the second portion of the set. Filling in the gaps were the only version of “Steam” this year and a show-capping combo of “Harry Hood” and “Zero.” If I weren’t being so stingy with Tier One, this set one could be argued upward. Though the following night at Alpine reached higher highs, this set was a start-to-finish powerhouse. Had there been a significant closer versus “Quinn,” Hood,” and “Zero,” this would be sitting higher.

7/1, Alpine Valley:

Crosseyed > No Quarter > Light -> Ghost -> Back on the Train, Farmhouse, 46 Days, Heavy Things, Joy, Julius

This set is one of my favorite of sets summer through “Farmhouse”—but then the fizzle factor came into play in major fashion. The final segment of the show read like the middle of a first set—“46 Days,” “Heavy Things,” “Joy,” and “Julius.” Though everything was solid, it seemed like the band had shot their load during the first half of the set and coasted to the finish line. Sometimes that’s what it takes for them to reach their highest highs these days—and “Light -> Ghost” is my favorite playing of tour—but the set’s final third certainly keeps it out of the top tier.

7/3, Jones Beach:

Chalk Dust, Sand -> Golden Age, Wolfman’s -> Walk Away, Bug, Fluffhead, Wedge, Antelope

The first night of Jones Beach seems to have everything to qualify for Tier One, but is missing that intangible “x” factor. A smoking opening combo of “Chalk Dust,” Sand -> Golden Age” featured one of the jams of tour in “Golden Age.” And though the band hit a slight stumble between “Wolfman’s” and “Walk Away,” they didn’t fizzle out, following “Bug” with the summery triumvirate of “Fluffhead,” “Wedge,” and “Antelope.” “Antelope”—the first to raise a brow since Utica—provided a late set highlight, but when I had this paragraph in Tier One—and that’s where it started—it just didn’t feel right. Is it because “Wolfman’s” wasn’t allowed to breathe, cut short for a trio of jamless songs? I’m not totally sure. I had a blast at this one, but listen back boils down to “Sand -> Golden Age” and “Antelope.”

7/8, SPAC:

Axilla > Light > Twist, KDF -> My Friend > Swept > Steep > Piper > Free, Kung > Hood > Cavern, Bowie

This set was one of the hardest for me to place. Though it doesn’t hold up in flow to the top sets, it is played well throughout, and centered on two monster jams in “Light” and “Piper.” Supported by a “Kill Devil Falls” with quite an interesting outro, the rest of the set is just kind of there. The awkward mid-set c0mbo of “My Friend”—best used as a set opener—and “Swept > Steep”—best used as a landing pad for improv—provided a lull in the action, and while Trey shines in “Harry Hood,” nothing else really pops to me. But, damn, “Light” and “Piper” are right up there with the jams of tour.



6/8, Worcester:

Disease > Sand -> Nellie Kane, Mike’s > Makisupa > Weekapaug, Velvet Sea, 2001 > Zero

Kicking off with an explosive combination of “Disease > Sand -> Nellie Kane,” and supported by a late set “2001” that is one of the dark horse gems of tour, this set suffers from a case standarditis right in the middle of the second set in the form of “Mike’s > Makisupa > Weekapaug.” The only real keeper from this one is “Sand -> Nellie Kane,” hence its placement.

6/20, Portsmouth:

Rock and Roll > Tweezer > Free, Guyute, Birds, Hood -> What’s the Use? > Velvet Sea, Possum

Though compared to Portsmouth’s first show, this felt like a colossal triumph, on listen back, I feel this is a very solid tier three show. A quality—though unspectacular— opening combo of “Rock and Roll -> Tweezer > Free” set the table for a huge set, but the band hit some momentum issues with “Guyute” and a standard “Birds.”Hood -> What’s the Use?” is the highlight of the set, even though it’s a sin that the band didn’t follow Fishman back into “Hood.” A “Velvet,” “Possum” pairing closed this night with a whisper.

6/24, Blossom:

Golden Age > Ghost > Sweet Virginia, Rift, Tweezer -> Walk Away > Horse > Silent > Piper > Waste, Antelope

A fun-filled and powerfully-played set peaked with the opening pairing of “Golden Age > Ghost.” Though this sequence was great, albeit chopped a bit too soon, there was little other true meat to the set. The “Tweezer” was pure fire until antics ensued and “Piper,” though short, was notable. A hell of a lot of fun to be at, this isn’t a set with timeless playback quality from top to bottom.

7/4, Jones Beach:

Boogie On, Tweezer > Twist > Taste, Quinn, Julius, Rock and Roll > Horse > Silent, Hood, Shine a Light, Show of Life, Slave

Another front loaded set, Phish’s July 4th edition was centered on a blissful “Twist” and a gorgeously divergent “Harry Hood.” “Tweezer” seemed destined for the stars before the band slipped into “Twist,” and after “Taste,” the guys played an hour of completely standard music, less “Harry Hood.” And when the band followed “Hood,” with similarly mellow song selections of “Shine a Light,” “Show of Life,” and “Slave,” it made me wonder why they no longer use setlists.



 6/17 Atlantic City:

Drowned > 2001 > Reba, Roses > Chalk Dust > Caspian -> Silent, Bug > A Day in the Life > Disease

Bursting out of the gates with “Drowned > 2001 > Reba,” this set caught the first train to Fizzletown as soon as that sequence was over. Fine versions of mellow songs provide a nice soundtrack to a Sunday night while doing something else, but that’s not what we’re looking for here.

6/19 Portsmouth:

Back on the Train, Rift, Split, Mango, Number Line, Limb, Shine a Light, Lengthwise -> Maze, Cavern, Fire

Portsmouth’s second set amounted to a ninety-minute extension of its first, and were it not for Trey’s entertaining light saber antics, this set would have fallen fairly flat. The show that birthed “tucking” was focused far more on fun and songs than any sort of cohesive jamming. “Split Open” stood out, but that’s about it.

6/29 Deer Creek:

Disease > Sand -> Twist -> Rift, Bathtub Gin > Fluffhead, Ride Captain Ride, Antelope

Though the front of this set is front-loaded with a one-two punch of “Disease” and “Sand,” I haven’t found myself revisiting either version very much in favor of others. “Disease” is jammed to completion without ever getting anywhere super-engaging, and after “Sand,” the set kind of fell apart. Trey was certainly having a blast, but when he aborted “Twist” for “Rift,” and the band cut an intriguing “Gin” far shorter than first set versions for a midset “Fluffhead,” serious music didn’t seem to be their concern on this night. A fun Phish set—kind of—I haven’t found much playback value in this one.

7/7 SPAC:

Disease -> Blister in the Sun > Disease > Boogie On, Golden Age -> 2001 > Number Line, Caspian -> Scent of a Mule -> Blister in the Sun -> Scent, Mike’s > Contact > Weekapaug

This is one of those gimmicky sets—like the Moby Dick escapade of 2000—that some fans will treasure and some will yawn at. After a very significant “Disease” stopped off in “Blister in the Sun,” the rest of the set amounted to a standard performance with countless “Blister” teases. Showcasing the playful side of Phish in between two more musically-focused second sets, this one fit fine in SPAC’s three pack, but doesn’t stand very well on its own.



It’s pretty clear that the first night of any given stand exploded, and the following shows were composed of its fallout. There were no occasions over the summer where subsequent nights of any given stand clearly outshone the first, less Portsmouth. What’s the reason for this? Who knows. But don’t miss those first shows! It was also pretty crazy to me to have a high-quality set like Blossom’s in the third tier of tour, but that speaks to the consistent greatness of Phish these days. I would genuinely say that there were no bad shows this tour, just varying qualities of good, and that is exactly where we want to be. Phish 2012—it’s been a long ride, but it’s great to be here!


Jam of the Day:

Waves > Bug” 6.28 II, Noblesville, IN




6.19.2012 (Michael Stein)

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232 Responses to “The Second Sets of Summer”

  1. poop goblin Says:

    Sweetheart of the Rodeo is one of my fav rock albums of all time viola.

    just $$$$ first track to last.

    such masters of covering Dylan. seems Trey is kinda referencing the byrds version which was actually the first recorded version on the Camden version if I remember correctly. been a while though.

  2. Mr. Palmer Says:

    “30 minute scents and subtle sounds followed by a bob dylan first timer. ”

    ^ and that was just the first set! That show was crazy intense.

    I wouldn’t put it ahead of 2/28/03, but it is right up there.

  3. poop goblin Says:

    Byrds at the playboy mansion in 68. funny shit. the opposite of the soul train video.

  4. Guyute711 Says:

    Worst beginning to a pretty good show? You make the call.

  5. viola Says:

    done up like the byrds but trey carries a fantastic dylan pronunciation stride in his voice. nothing but big smiles on the faces of those who trek’d that summer. and then to follow that…. busting spocks on the unholy noobery i witnessed in camden.

    p.p.s. spocks brain is the shit poop goblin eats on holidays.

  6. Bwana Says:

    Emerging regional jam band. Saw them play here in Flagstaff last month… Great sounding SBDs on

    Heavy Phish influence. Cover both Dead and Phish. Originals too. Not afraid to go full throttle and jam for a 20 min song. Reminds me of a young balls-to-wall Phish. Chemistry is there with these guys. For a sample go to 9:00 mark of Stuck in the Middle with You and run it through…

  7. Bwana Says:

    @PhamB Have you seen Spafford yet? Prescott, AZ based…

    Great bass work @3:05, @5:15 in the track Walls from above link…

  8. Andrew Says:

    AV Ghost segment starting around 5:20 is rocket fuel for the cosmonaut in us all

  9. MiA Says:

    Sweetheart of the Rodeo is one of my fav rock Country music albums of all time viola.

  10. BrandonKayda Says:

    yemblog FB page has a jammed out version of Buffalo Bill from AC 12′ Soundcheck. Damn it, why don’t they do this on stage? Haha.

  11. angryjoggerz Says:

    Greetings from NYC, on the road again. This week I have NYC and LA, 2 days at home in the next 10. Wish me luck!

    Posted this compilation of hazy, stoney instrumental hip hop this weekend, go grab it. Hope you enjoy.

    VA – Beat Salad
    a compilation of select instrumental hip hop

    Aphrica – Colossius
    Big Cat (instrumental) – Quakers
    Cant Seem to Forget – Brenk
    Cinnamon – Floating Points
    Coldmess – Bonbooze
    Da Beat – Diabi$e
    Earth Guits Love – Goldee Barnes
    Flying High (instrumental) – MED
    For the Fusta – Kappah
    Free Your Mind – Goldee Barnes
    Glower – Sonakine
    Hash – Knxwledge
    Herstrionics – Mike Gao
    Hey !!! – Diabi$e
    Hide and Seek – Onra
    inTme(stndbye) – Knxwledge
    Lazy Soul – Mux Mool
    Les Saisons – B.Lewis
    Mazzini Science – Major Soul
    Mr Dynomite – Jordan Rockswell
    My Light, My Love – FaltyDL
    Micht Mehr Als 6 Euro – Hulk Hodn
    One Daaay – Brenk
    One for the Wu – Onra
    Openingame – Sir Froderick
    Orange – Digi G’Alessio
    Plug – B.Lewis
    Ploath – Ta-ku
    Seven Years – B-Ju
    Smoke (instrumental) – Quakers
    StarStruck – Diabi$e
    Stereotype (instrumental) – Pritch & Trim
    Strange Days – Daedelus
    Sunday – Christoph El Truento
    Sunrise Luminescence – Matthewdavid
    Thuner-Fonk – Walter Mecca
    Vendas Newly Won Dream – Jonti
    Wap – Oh No
    1 for Dilla – Jonwayne

  12. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Bwana, I would love to say yes. Sadly I am am man of limited resources and have not made it out to a local live show in some time. 🙁 I hit up extra Ticket when I can and have seen Phreezer and Artiphishal. Looking to hit the JGB with Melvin show Wednesday. A-bear is from extra ticket is touring with Melvin now. Being a married man, father of two, gainfully employed in rigorous company and pursuing ongoing education and physical fitness, landscaper, manscaper and contract assassin has really cut into my leisure time. Couple that with a sober lifestyle and and I need a seriously compelling reason to go into a bar. For example, there is no cover, hurts bands sometimes, I know. I bet they get booked for MMMF next year. It is back at Westworld minus the undercover cop saturation. I would like to see them. If you know them have them send their demo in. I know the promoter is always looking for good local talent.

    downloading show tonight to spin.

    The drummer from phreezer has some chops for a 17 year old

  13. BingosBrother Says:

    7/23/97 Ghost commencing now.

  14. poop goblin Says:

    nice work AJ.

    will have to grab that. could use some new artists. only heard of a few of those guys.

  15. Bwana Says:

    ^Yeah, sounds like you’re filling your time! I just looked through their FB page, and I see they did play MMMF this year. Even did a NM, CO, AZ tour early summer.

    Not common for me to listen back to a band’s show I saw at Flag Brew’s Patio Party. But these guys have some drive behind them… Not crazy about lead vocals but otherwise some solid playing.

    A Dark Horse 2nd set from Flag: Stuck Middle (15:28) > Walls (20:40) > Land Down Under (12:40)

    I’m gonna have to check out their July shows from Coyote Joes in Prescott next. And see when they play Flag again. Seems rare to have this kind of potential in a local band…

  16. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    that GSB show in philly you caught is up on archive. hasn’t popped on etree yet though.

  17. poop goblin Says:


    jonwayne was pimpin this album that came out today of instrumental beats and I’ve been really digging it this morning. EP but the whole thing is pretty hip sounding.

  18. angryjoggerz Says:

    Grabbed that yesterday and it is HOT. That is my kind of shit right there. 808’s!

  19. BingosBrother Says:

    Yep, 7/23/97 is still my favorite Ghost. So choice. So crisp.

    Can stream or DL Mike playing Franklis Tower w/ Mickey here.

    7/23/97 YEM up first though.

  20. poop goblin Says:

    ya. I’m digging it too. that jonwayne kid is always just bitching about other artists on twitter and he’s been pimpin it hard all morning so I grabbed it no knowing anything bout the peeps.

    def worth the spin. hip sounds.

  21. sumodie Says:

    Long time fan of the Byrds, love the early & later albums

    Sweetheart made me realize that some country music might actually be awesome

    also don’t sleep on The Notorious Byrd Brothers and Ballad of Easy Rider, which came just before and after Sweetheart, respectively. Gram Parsons wasn’t involved with either but both albums are terrific

    On par with Sweetheart but released in the early 70s are Parsons’ solo albums, GP and Grievous Angel (both have been available on a single CD). All around gorgeous soul stirring music here

    Why stop there, also check out Parsons’ work with the Flying Burrito Brothers, with their debut The Gilded Palace of Sin

    Parsons flamed out far too early, what a genius

  22. BingosBrother Says:

    @AJ, poog and Chi kids : aliveone hosting a listening party for the UIC set coming out. $20 for drinking 8-11 on saturday. Gonna be out of town, but thought y’all may want to know.

  23. Mr. Palmer Says:

    UIC ’94 will be played on sirius JamOn, starting tonight at 9pm est.

    If you still have your free trial from spac, you are all set. Think they do one set per day.

  24. sumodie Says:

    Finally finished Keef’s autobio, Life

    never knew he was so tight with Gram Parsons

    I should’ve known as they sure loved their smack

    Keef Richards has had quite the life, and his book is chock a block with sharply drawn stories. Awesome read

    and hey boys & girls, don’t do smack unless you’ve got some of Keef’s genes in you. Sadly Parsons didn’t. He OD’d at age 26

  25. Multibeast Says:

    I have not read back so I apologize if this was posted already. Chris Kuroda Q&A session from All Good. Some good info in here.

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