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. kayatosh Says:

    yo, BB. thanks for the heads up on that $$$ rooster story from last night. that guy can spin a tale. drunk olympian. hilarious.

  2. Robear Says:

    3 am @ mr miners house

    ‘Honey, come to bed already’ – mrs m

    ‘I can’t stop cutting and pasting paragraphs! Trying to narrow down my 10 favorite jams from tour’. – mr m

    ‘just post 7 below from Star lake and be done with it’. – mrs

    ‘you know, I’m not putting that in there ‘ – mr

    ‘WhAt? Have fun sleeping on the couch! #listgonetoshit’

  3. SillyWilly Says:

    just read the rooster story, too.

    that was awesome.

  4. MiA Says:

    I was just kidding on ND. I loved the enthusiasm. I try not to be a homer, but watch me root for Texas, which will be lucky to win 6 games. If I could bet on Mack Brown retiring after this year, I would.

    8:08 of Light -> Weekapaugh -> Seven Below = my trifecta.

    Felt like I won the whole “weekend” “bet” with hitting that.

    Let’s not kid around … 8:51 in Light kinda makes me emotionally erect.

  5. Robear Says:

    If theres not a rule against ND football talk, there could be.

  6. SillyWilly Says:

    I can’t really speak for TypeIII, but I’m a self-hating ND fan.

    doesn’t bring me much joy.

    and there’s a lot of shitty and annoying ND fans out there.

    but I can’t help it.

    at least we’re not the fuckin cubs

    (where’s AW?)

  7. MiA Says:

    Hilarious Robear. I think people haven’t really … LISTENED to Seven Below, because … well … seriously. It rules.

  8. SillyWilly Says:

    i haven’t even thought of that 7 Below


  9. MiA Says:

    I went to the University of MN. I have no problem pretending like as a sports organization, they don’t exist.

    Well, except for Hockey. Whatever that’s worth.

    They can vacate all of Penn State’s wins since 1998, and still have more wins that U of Mn since 1997.

  10. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    thems fightin’ words, robear! 👿

  11. MiA Says:

    The Irish. Wanting to get into a fight as quickly as possible. Typical. 😉

  12. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    i have no idea what you’re talking about, mia 🙄

  13. MiA Says:

    I like the fighting irish. Gutsy team.

  14. SillyWilly Says:

    I’m not 100% sure of this but I believe Minnesota has won more football national championships than the lions of the Un-Happy Valley.


    I’m more than sure. 3x as many.

    I suck. But, I’m a stickler for knowing football history. Mainly because I’m a total nerd.

  15. Robear Says:

    SillyWilly Says:
    July 27th, 2012 at 6:42 am
    i haven’t even thought of that 7 Below

    ^phish card on the line here

  16. stapes Says:

    Sounds like a lot of the reasons I’m no longer a Cubs fan. Well, that and I just don’t have a lot of tine to follow baseball anymore. Oh who am I kidding I can’t stand the heartbreak every year.

    Happy Friday BB!

  17. stapes Says:

    Silly you gotta spin that -7

  18. poop goblin Says:

    Robear it’s killing me.

    I have a golden rule of all lawyers and notre dame fans are total dbags. I Used to feel that no sane person would ever want to be associated with the fools with the gold helmets.

    but now I consider SW a friend.
    so confusing. spinning all my sterotypes on their head. damn BB.

  19. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:


  20. poop goblin Says:

    also to bust miners balls. cuz I love the kid.

    the other day he was making the DCU Roses > AV FEE argument

    but AV Fee made the top 10 list and no roses?

    interesting. BTW I would have put them both on the top 10 list.

    probably drop waves. great version. but with UIC and Bethel and SBIX we’ve already had some pretty nice 3.0 versions.

  21. Litteringand Says:

    Lets just hope BK can keep kids from dying this year. Somebody get that man a wind advisor app!

  22. SillyWilly Says:

    If you kids would have saved me from my suburban white background, this could have been prevented

    Hell, AW is trying. Turning me on to Coast-to-Coast and Rusty Kershaw

    the de-custification of SillyWilly.

  23. Kevin Says:

    Thanks for the great list!

    One note: When I click play on Fee, I get a file not found error. If you have a chance to fix that, I’d love to give it a listen.

  24. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    So Fee makes the top ten, but not Roses. Looks like Miner changed his mind.

  25. SillyWilly Says:


    are you seeing any of that southern run?

    I’m taking off work for SF, so I can’t see much of it, but I’m thinking of making the drive from Milwaukee down to Atlanta on the 24th.

    I figured I’d drive as far as I could Friday after work, then finish the drive saturday.

    And then have all Sunday to get back North.

    any interest? or maybe you’re already doing the run…

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