TTFF: The Upper Echelon

7.4.2012 (Graham Lucas via webcast)

Ok. I sat at my computer copying and pasting paragraphs for about half an hour, trying—somehow—to come up with a definitive list of my favorite ten jams of tour, and trying to rank from 10 to 1. It was damn near impossible on both accounts. There were so many phenomenal jams over Leg One that any “Top Ten” or “Number One” comes down to what mood I’m in at the moment. Instead of ranking the jams, I’ve left them in a general order that reflects my inner-negotiations. It’s impossible for me to say that any of these  top jams are “better” than one another. We’ll just say that—as a group—these were my favorite ten jams of tour (though the next ten—to be unveiled next Friday—are insane as well!) As I said in the beginning of summer tour, 2012 is great time to be a Phish fan!


Piper” 7.8 II, SPAC

In this locked and loaded final voyage of summer, Phish navigated a series of different feels in a multi-part centerpiece. The band engaged in an exploratory odyessey with a rocket strapped to their back, communicating with ease at a break neck pace before shifting into divergent feels. Amidst a more potent rhytmic context, the band concluded by reprising the chord progression from the end of “Light’s” jam earlier in the set.



Fee” 7.1 I, Alpine Valley

Blissfully converging in a delicate, plinko-laced groove, Phish wove melodic magic out of the evening air at Alpine Valley. Passing through a beatless bridge, the guys came up with a second captivating soundscape that, in previous years—or even on a different night—Trey would have bailed out of three different times. His patience paid off, however, as the band sculpted one of the most majestic tales of summer while the sun was still shining.



Light > Weekapaug” 6.23 II, Star Lake

Rightfully, this song pairing shouldn’t be plucked from its surrounding setlist-mates “Simple” and “Seven Below,” but at that point the suite is almost an hour. Deep into “Light,” the band splashed into a plinko paradise, merging the staccato style with a calypso chord progression that resulted in some of the most innovative music of tour. This section led into, and was referenced in, the most dynamic “Weekapaug” jam we’ve heard in this era and beyond.



Sally -> Ghost” 7.6.12, SPAC

As “Sally” began to get gnarly, Trey took a step away from the jam and dove into a high-octane, alternate universe. The band followed right along, diving headfirst into this hellbent tangent. Live without a net, the band set their improvisational motors to eleven and let it rip. Emerging far later in an ambient passage that morphed into “Ghost,” the pavilion exploded with the transition. A collaboration in rhythm and melody, this jam found a medium tempo and turned into a climbing, cathartic tale.



Sand -> Golden Age” 7.3 II, Jones Beach

This paring of two of summer’s brightest stars featured the greatest “Golden Age” to date—a jammed-to-completion excursion that moved from rhythmic acrobatics into the type of downtempo psych-rock of which I dream. Throw in one of the most impressive “Sands” of summer to the sequence, and you’ve got quite the tour highlight.



Carini” 6.7 II, Worcetser

This mind-bending jam that moved from seething musical dungeons into stunning ambient pastures, set the standard for improvisational density and fluidity on the first night of tour. The band morphed into an abstract sound sculpture that strongly suggested “My Left Toe,” plunging the depths with a soul-tugging, Siket-laced exchange. When this jam ended, I knew it was going to be a special summer.



 Waves” 6.28 II, Deer Creek

It feels redundant to continue typing how fluidly jams of 2012 covered a spectrum of musical feels, but Deer Creek’s “Waves” is but another example. A jam that immediately vaulted itself into the conversation of all-time versions, this late second set gem moves through groove, bliss, and into a trance-inducing spacescape that eventually bleeds into “Bug.” A jam in which Phish is fully locked, this one is musical gold.



Birds of a Feather” 6.15 II, AC

This profound, multi-tiered journey covers astounding amount of ground while never once losing cohesion. Merging aggressive textures with segments of groove, and landing in an extended pool of transcendence, this “Birds” wraps up everything I love about Phish in a single jam. Moving into the abstract and back again, Phish concluded this monster with a seamless segue into “Back on the Train.



 Twist” 6.22 II, Riverbend

When Phish stepped into “Twist”—a song that hadn’t moved outside the box in memory—in the middle of Cincy’s second set in, few could have imagined what was about to transpire. Exiting song structure as a unit, the band reached deep into their satchel of dark magic and cast a musical spell that would hypnotize the entire audience. Playing with ultimate cohesion, it felt as though we had been transported into a different dimension. Realizing so much of their abstract experimentation within this jam, the guys prowled like a menacing assassin through this music; missing a beat or a note wasn’t a possibility. Emerging from the depths with a ferocious theme from “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the band passed through this quote and seamlessly continued the jam as if commanding a ship through outer space. Gradually jamming back towards the song, the guys—instead—continued the piece into silence before dropping into “Halley’s.”



Light > Ghost” 7.1 II, Alpine Valley

If Phish wove a tighter jam with more virtuoso communication over Leg One, I have yet to hear it. I’m a sucker for when the band hits egoless planes of improvisation where they share leadership of the music, playing off of, and developing, each others’ ideas as if controlled by a single mind. And that is exactly what Alpine’s “Light” represents. As Trey neared the end of his guitar solo, Mike picked up on his notes and began to echo them on bass. From this point on, the band entered the most equitable conversation of tour, passing the lead between Trey, Mike, and Page with incredible fluidity. One member would finish and continue the ideas of another in a jam that really stands out as prime example of collaborative improv, and one that furthered the ethereal ideas planted in the first set’s “Fee.” As the band wound down the piece with a new-age, synth-led section, “Ghost” emerged in seamless fashion, combining Leg One’s two heaviest hitters. Taking “Ghost” on, arguably, the most unique ride of summer, the band’s airtight interplay continued as they dropped into a “jamtronica” build and slithered into a slow, menacing groove. Moving without hesitation, within measures, into “Back on the Train,” Phish was absolutely on fire throughout this entire three song sequence.



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639 Responses to “TTFF: The Upper Echelon”

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  1. RoosterPizza Says:

    This is the big time TTFF I have been waiting for. Thank you for the tunes and the write up!

  2. viola Says:

    thanx miner! ttff leg1 style was no east task. gonna be a good read and with better #phishthoughts.

    p.s. rooster, thanx for that great write up from yesterday….. fantastic story telling abilities! very enjoyable to read. lmao picturing you running…. drunken olympian ftw. well done

  3. MiA Says:

    Great write up from Miner and RP’s story last night was fun to read this morning.

  4. willowed Says:


    Light>Paug My favorite piece from this summer. So glad you paired these two together. You can’t have one without the other. Such a great slice of music.

    My close second would be the Birds or maybe the Carini from DCU

  5. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    for willowed’s use

  6. SillyWilly Says:

    Good morning, kids!

    I agree. Really freakin hard to isolate ten jams.

    Went with Cal and his wonderful wife to see Colonel Joy do a stand-up routine last night.

    Really funny. The BBs got talent.

    Have a great Friday, every one!

  7. ThePigSong Says:


    See y’all later.

  8. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    nooOOOOooooo feEEEEeeee
    the file’s missing
    and it can’t be streamed
    you’re the song I want to hear
    but it’s not to be
    so I’ll go on to the next
    and it’s Light>Paug for meeeee…*

    *with extended outro jam

  9. Gavinsdad Says:

    Mudbuddy gets some.

  10. st8 of mind Says:

    Nice list Miner. thanks for the tunes. Glad TTFF is back!!

  11. Dr Pronoia Says:

    Nothing to quibble with here. Throw in the AC piper>billy and skin it back and JB Antelope and this is basically the playlist i’ve been compulsively spinning since SPAC

  12. Litteringand Says:

    Great list Miner, Only two extras for me would be the Disease>Sand from Creek and the Golden>Ghost from Blossom. If i was a betting man, I’d lay some cash down that I’ll see them next Friday

  13. Robear Says:

    Who is this RoosterPizza cat!?!

  14. Robear Says:

    So, the Waterwheel party has me pretty excited. How does a volunteer of 13 years find out about the party?

    Twitter. Of course.

  15. MiA Says:

    Did I see that Miner has some “creations” coming through MYFE?

  16. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    the little isabella inflections in that sand really intrigue me

  17. SillyWilly Says:


    my boss and one of the other attorneys are big nd fans

    yesterday at lunch we were trading heartbreak moments of the last few years.

    i feel like it’s a sign that things are changing.

    i have no logic for it, just instinct.

    we’re gonna run the ball hard, and play good defense. can’t be too bad if we do that.

  18. kayatosh Says:

    miner’s list looks very close to mine, but i kept it to 1 song per slot.

    kayatosh Says:
    July 20th, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    so here’s my top ten type II’s again:
    7.6 sneakin
    7.3 GA
    7.1 Light
    7.1 ghost
    7.1 Fee
    6.28 waves
    6.23 light
    6.22 twist
    6.15 birds
    6.7 carini

  19. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    S01 vs. Navy – win
    S08 PURDUE – win (sorry butter, gp, etc.)
    S15 @ Michigan State – I think win (sorry, robear)
    S22 MICHIGAN – we better win for once but I think we lose this one (keep quiet, aqua)
    O06 vs. Miami – win (how’s al working out, phlorida phan?)
    O13 STANFORD – win (luck’s run out; bad pun)
    O20 BYU – win
    O27 @ Oklahoma – gonna get throttled and humbled
    N03 PITTSBURGH – win
    N10 @ Boston College – win (sorry, dorn)
    N17 WAKE FOREST – win
    N24 @ Southern Cal – loss

    that’s a hopeful take. I’ll take 8-4/9-3. I don’t think we will be competitive with OU or USC, unfortunately.

  20. SillyWilly Says:

    Yeah, Sparty always scares me, but at least we won’t have the beat Michigan one week, lose to State the next syndrome that has haunted us in the past.

    If we’re 3-1 going into Soldier Field I’ll be ecstatic.

    BYU and Pitt are scary. But at least it’s at home.

    I agree. I think we’re outclassed by SC and OU. BUT, if we turn the ball over even 5 less times this season, we CAN post the 9-3.

    And, in the end, we get to see Manti T’eo make 140 tackles this year.

    haha. i love him.

  21. MiA Says:

    T3, are you a betting man. 😉

  22. RoosterPizza Says:

    First softball game of the night, and I absolutely skull fucked a three run homer to center field. Now comes the party…and maybe more stories.

  23. RoosterPizza Says:

    Happy everyone enjoyed other story. Someone needs to come visit me one of these summers.

  24. SillyWilly Says:

    dumb to bet on ND football

    whenever you think something good is going to happen, stop watching.

    and beg Phish for a fall tour.

    that’s the only answer.

  25. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    no, MiA, I’m a fan.

    Rule number one: never bet on the team you root for. but if you have to bet on ND here’s the way to make money:
    –if they are favored (especially by a lot of points and especially early in the season) take the other team
    –if they are the dog, they are a good bet to cover (not necessarily win, but cover)
    –point two is doubly true against ranked opponents (with the exception of USC during the Weis and Willingham eras. Eff those guys.)

    Vegas loves ND fans because they bet on their heart and not their wallet. I have never once placed a bet on ND and I never will. My wife hates football season because she knows how much it impacts my state of mind. Phish season is much better for me mentally.

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