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”

  1. xpun Says:

    i should type faster or refresh before posting. obviously some of my questions were answered

  2. angryjoggerz Says:

    Thanks, Pigsong. Truth be told, I am huge critic of China as much as an admirer. I do have a knee jerk reaction to blank write off’s, though, so I apologize for that. 18 years of working with, living in, traveling to China has had a huge impact on me – met my best friend there, met my wife there, got my career there, etc. Changed my life.

    Wen Jianbao I am not, ha. Hell, Im not even a party member.

  3. xpun Says:

    late night post for BB fantasy football league

    have 4 teams so far, any interest email me, “BB fantasy football” subject, include bb handle

    xpun25 yahoo

  4. angryjoggerz Says:

    Hey guys, no worries, its not hate – its just a conversation. No offense taken. Believe me, I get the anti-China shit all of the time, it is my job. And criticizing me because I love my friends and am emotional is not really offensive to me because it is true. AW is just talking his mind, and I know him so I don’t take it to much to heart.

    I can see how the olympic talk is annoying – it is like NFL for me. 🙂

  5. Mr. Palmer Says:

    you forgot the geek part….thats true also.. 😉

  6. angryjoggerz Says:

    True, but getting called a geek on a phish message board on a Friday night is sort of redundant.

  7. xpun Says:

    regardless of your apple v pc opinions i dont think that you can say the mac guy pc guy commercials weren’t hilarious.

    this new apple campaign sucks ass

    mac genius is to london 12 as pc guy is to beijing 08

  8. xpun Says:

    True, but getting called a geek on a phish message board on a Friday night is sort of redundant.

    hahahahah so sadly true

  9. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Yes AJ. Great point.. Hysterical…

  10. William H. Bonney Says:

    bB eating my posts again, what the fuck…

  11. xpun Says:

    palmer when do you hear about gig?

  12. xpun Says:

    from a phone bill? i have that a lot on iphone safari and opera drops connection too

  13. Mr. Palmer Says:

    mid august, Xpun, with an early Sept start date.

  14. Robear Says:

    Will H. Check name, email and web link carefully. Weirdpress

    That translates chinese quote makes me nervous

  15. xpun Says:

    ki jong il’s obit from si

  16. William H. Bonney Says:

    no just at PC…I guess doesn’t want me to let the cat out of bag about how Cuba control’s the hurricanes….have to google it ur self…..funny stuff
    Castro’s Hurricane Cannon……..

  17. xpun Says:

    good luck palmer if i havent told you already

  18. William H. Bonney Says:

    タイフー ブキ How you like me know.

  19. William H. Bonney Says:

    Hopefully the finale makes up for a bit of lack luster opening so far….Have to give China credit really set the bar high…..Guess Brazil can just run a few thousand hot half naked ladies to top’em….

  20. angryjoggerz Says:

    Guess Brazil can just run a few thousand hot half naked ladies to top’em….

    ^ YES. Brazil is gonna be awesome.

  21. Robear Says:

    It’s not just that Beijing was great….this was bad. Some blame to NBC for terrible hosts, too many commercials and too quick camera changes.

    Shit was whack.

  22. tela'smuff Says:

    for real. Brazil wins just by recreating Carnival in the Olympic stadium.

    @dorn – i’m about 15mins from you. you should really head on through GS to Carbondale. good times.

  23. RedRedWorm Says:

    You just can’t stop the power of Enthusiasm!

    Speaking of which, the Spanish delegation is clearly partying hard!

  24. stapes Says:

    ‘True, but getting called a geek on a phish message board on a Friday night is sort of redundant.’

    I LOL’d at this.

    Seems someone must’ve ran outta wax tonight and got a little grumpy.

  25. William H. Bonney Says:

    I just thought the theme was weak, “Frankie and Jen” gimme a break, NO PINK FLOYD, in music montage…was were they lost me……Mike Oldfield tublar bells is classic British…..hoping for some sit in’s with Sir Paul…clapton, gilmour, beck, page, some of greatest guitarist’s alive…knock off the trendy social media crap and let the big dogs out….

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