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. William H. Bonney Says:

    I can’t help but pull for Josh, have been following his career since he got drafted….kid as done a great job of getting his life most importantly back together, but also his baseball career, is inexplicable how bad he has been lately…

  2. William H. Bonney Says:

    Quick olympic question….Ann Romney has a horse entered in Olympic table setting? Count me in, getting the salad fork in right spot is impressive for a horse………good nite BB

  3. xpun Says:

    i hate hey jude

    paul sounded like shit to open

    eclipse is one of my fav songs of all time

    fireworks are fun to watch

    ive tried to get more positive as ive gone on. good for the soul

  4. voopa Says:


  5. RoosterPizza Says:

    I thought he looked like Robin Colcord from Cheers.

  6. MiA Says:

    AJ is a great guy to hang with.

    UIC Waves is more interesting to me than DC.

    Have a great vacation gdad.

    I wanna join the BB FF league.

    That is all

  7. PigSong Says:

    angryjoggerz Says:
    July 27th, 2012 at 7:30 pm

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


  8. Gavinsdad Says:

    SF ticket alerts:

    Have a friend who has an extra Friday. He wants to trade for a Saturday.

    Separately I have a friend in CA who has an extra SAT from that’s $190. You read that right. If you don’t care about $ I can put u in touch.

    Edlooram AT yahoo

  9. Gavinsdad Says:

    ^from stubhub that’s $190.

  10. ThePigSong Says:

    Just want to clarify: I never intended to attach Commrade Joggerz personally, which I don’t think I did. Just give him a little shit, which I did.

    I need to YouTube the Chinese ceremonies that everyone keeps referring to. I was impressed with the parts I saw last night, the logistics and mechanics of a show that size is mind boggling.

  11. willowed Says:

    Leaving in a few hours for vacation. A week with the family in Narragansett.

    Really looking forward to it. Lobsters, beers and beech.

    Just spun this Fee again. What fresh sounding music.

  12. willowed Says:


  13. MiA Says:

    Narrangansett Beechez….

  14. MiA Says:

    At 4:15 in the morning. Wake up. Feel fine. Little stuffy, take an allegra.

    At 7:30 feel hung over. Ugh. Still stuffy.

    Missed the opening olympic ceremonies?

    Well Bob, I wouldn’t say I “missed” it.

  15. Robear Says:

    Has this crazy dream that the opening ceremonies were like watching Oliver Twist on bad L. When is the real event?

  16. MiA Says:

    Lily Zhang. US women’s table tennis.

    Wow. Amazingly boring.

  17. MiA Says:

    Ok, so I was in thebar last night, and it looked like a field was being overtaken y hillbillies from Appalachia? Kinda had a few glasses of wine in me. Just figured it was Romania.

    Was that a skit?

  18. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Enjoy your vacations, Gdad and willowed, you guys deserve it.

    Bobby Hutcherson San Fran kinda morning. Grey and overcast here in the dirty jerz.

    I don’t find the Olympics compelling at all. Maybe a few events, but overall, big giant Meh… Best part of the opening ceremony was that it knocked out my kids on the couch. Zzzzz….

  19. MiA Says:

    I can’t type.

  20. Robear Says:

    Opening Ceremony = good at tucking

    Non-Phish vacays for willowed and gdizzle opening doors for extensive 2013 touring

  21. vegas wolfmans Says:

    That Schoolboy Q record AW has been pimping is exceptional.


  22. xpun Says:

    was looking for the eddie izzard american vs british films skit to try to help describe the boringness of last nights ceremony but its long and has many jokes that you have to have watched the whole routine to get. anyways his impression of christopher walken is pretty funny, not good but funny

    dont lick it

  23. Robear Says:

    This comment section, #gonetosilence

  24. joe Says:

    Everyone is too busy streaming women’s team handball first round action. (Or was that just me? Celtics announcer was on the play by play and sucked me in)

    So many good jams in the top ten with enough diversity of themes/ideas to keep it fresh.

  25. joe Says:


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