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. angryjoggerz Says:

    Has there been any Rolling Stones? If not, that is just bunk.

  2. tzara's Says:

    Viva AJ +1. Met him a few times, A+ guy in my book. Was just thinking after his hip-hop drop: he can put together multiple 30 track compilations where I haven’t heard of one artist, and it’s great. At the same time, dude has never even heard of The Band. Just shows how varied of musical (and otherwise) backgrounds we come from to this band.


  3. xpun Says:

    yeah seriously why couldn’t they show the ceremonies commercial free? i dont get that

    and while the show sucked from the get go, the whole 007/queen paradrop was the worst thing ever. like disney channel bad

    ferrell/galifianakis new movie looks funny as shit

  4. William H. Bonney Says:

    commerical free??? come on now…I think u do get that….NBC is a for profit… Queen thing was lame…Danny boyle should stick to playing hockey, much better at QB’ing the Power Play and playing defense than putting together Opening ceremonies….

  5. xpun Says:

    only stones i’ve heard so far was a watch commercial.

  6. William H. Bonney Says:

    Oh and one more thing the Rays are taking their guys out for Ice Cream you just have to hit a home run….

    so yeah we are a little league team

  7. xpun Says:

    i guess i should clarify just the performance part of the ceremonies. this parade shit is for the birds. i guess its taped so maybe we didn’t miss anything. never thought of that.

  8. gavinsdad Says:

    Just took JB Sand and GA for a ride. so nice.


    i think it’s positively nuts that i’ve been “talking” on this board for 3 full years. never woulda seen that coming in my wildest dreams. beyond bizarre.

    nite dudes…off with my family and my bro in law for our week at the beach in cape cod. seeing old friends in a desolate part of the east coast. very very excited. one of my fave spots in life. loaded music on devices. van prepacked including kids boogie boards. glass soaking. yards philly pale ale and goslings packed. and prosecco for the wife.

  9. xpun Says:

  10. xpun Says:

    have a good week gdad

  11. angryjoggerz Says:

    Thanks, Tzaras and glad you dig the mixes. See you in Denver!

    Have a fun and relaxing week, GD.

  12. joe Says:

    enjoy the vacation, Gdad. pack the sweaters too. not going to be super hot next week.

  13. William H. Bonney Says:

    mauer fan should be arrested……..for something…

    Xpun I will take part in FF league………may know other person or two…

  14. gavinsdad Says:

    thanks boys

    @joe – you want a day away from the grind to sit on the beach drive those 2 hours and you can crash w us. serious. (and yeah saw the forecast…we’ve got our cool weather gear packed).

  15. William H. Bonney Says:

    Syria didn’t field a team? Damn would have been Gold medal favorite’s in shelling civilians…….

  16. xpun Says:

    great billy

    id like to try to keep it all BB for trash talking purposes but if you’ve got people and we are short would be helpful

    email me so i can get you info xpun25 yahoo

  17. tela'smuff Says:

    tzara – hit me up via gmail when you figure out your denver plans.

  18. tzara's Says:

    Yes, will do tela’s. Looking forward to your CO IPA tour.

  19. William H. Bonney Says:

    nice cover of Come Together……….

  20. Robear Says:

    Star Lake 7 below is the most pleasant thing to have stuck in your head.

  21. Robear Says:

    Who’s getting Hotel near venue with pool in Denver.

  22. William H. Bonney Says:

    random Baseball observation….Josh Hamilton has went from top 5 hitter in the game to a automatic out over last two months…

  23. tba Says:

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

    classic, and the type of attitude that makes this BB a pleasure. everyone can laugh at themselves thank christ.

    So i just mortgaged my house for who quad tix, neil young same time…heyy hey myy my rock and roll (and phish segues :<)) will never die.

    hoping for multiple ppv from leg 2

  24. tba Says:

    ps worried about Josh Hamliton-Bosox fan I am though-; guy has the burden of the world on him…

  25. William H. Bonney Says:

    the fireworks to Eclipse was nice touch…hopefully London did have to fake any firework like Beijing did..

    @Robear not sure what I am doing for Denver run, have alot of family out in area so might not get hotel room.. but none of them have a pool. hmmm

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