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 about lost it when they dq’d the Korean swimmer. Total bs glad they overturned. would have been nice to update at the time so I get my bp up

  2. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Silly! Get on this!

  3. ThePigSong Says:

    me too Joe, and it’s going by reeeeaally slooowly…

    But come tomorrow I’m free for nine days. Lots of time to spin Ph summer ’12. (staying on topic)

  4. halcyon Says:

    Greetings from the east coast! Arrived yesterday, and new chapter in our lives begins. Feels good to be on the east coast after a 15 year hiatus. I love Colorado, and miss it so much, but sometimes you need to shake things up.

    Who knows? We might move again, but for now, am excited to rediscover the region again.

    Hope all is well on the BB.

  5. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Uic ’94 just arrived!

  6. sumodie Says:

    Congrats, halcyon. where are you gonna live in new england?

  7. Gavinsdad Says:

    Yeah where’d you land @Halcy?

    (best of luck to you and your family as well)

  8. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Best of luck to you and your family , halcy…

  9. MiA Says:

    Congrats Halcy. I shot a 48 and 42. I am so inconsistent.

    It’s hot as hell here. I’m getting a pool. The decision has been made.

    Pouring money in a hole, I know. But it’ll be a wet hole.

  10. Slicksasquatch Says:

    ( drive by comment) if you are within 3 hours of Boston it is worth the drive to Regina pizza in the north end. Miss that place terribly.
    More importantly I have a Sunday bgca for a Friday .

  11. MiA Says:

    Cincy Wolf is my favorite Wolf from leg 1.

  12. RedRedWorm Says:

    6/24/00 Tweezer. Yes.

  13. MiA Says:

    RRW, are you making it out to Cali?

  14. halcyon Says:

    We landed in the north Worcester area for now. Landed a good job opportunity with room for growth and more pay. Will be renting for a few years before we figure out where we want to purchase. Inlaws are 30-45 minutes away, and my sis and dad are 3.5 hrs away on LI.

  15. lumpyhead Says:

    Can’t wait to visit MiA’s new grotto

  16. sumodie Says:

    CDirksen’s end-o-ter reviewing improves every time. Regardless of whether you like his style or not, he does highlight most of what Miner & the BB pimp here

    Interestingly, I may agree with his point that 2012 isn’t the beginning of a new golden age; the ‘new age’ already began with 2009, albeit with a lot less consistency, fluidity, etc than was unleashed on us in 2012

  17. Robear Says:

    I agree Sumo.

  18. Angryjoggerz Says:

    In LA now, coast to coast this week. Hope everyone is having a restful Saturday.

  19. MiA Says:

    I do really really like this Cincy Disease.

  20. Robear Says:

    Damn AJ! Hell A’s not the place! Good luck. Enjoy the eye candy and don drink any water.

  21. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Doesn’t get much better than a ’94 Reba….

  22. xpun Says:

    I’m in for BGCA! Pretty damn pumped about it too.

    Now looking for an extra for WW event. I can pay face and will make an additional $50 donation to WW in your name or we can work something out where you can keep the pollock print.

    See you in The City

  23. Henry Says:


    I agree that his reviews were better than I expected, and I also agree that Phish hasn’t exactly entered into a “new age” per say, but some of the jams from ’09-’11 that he includes, such as the 8.16.09 BDTNL (in particular), I do not thing belong in the same category as Worchester Carini, AC Birds, so on and so forth

  24. Robear Says:

    I applaud cD for keeping comparisons to 3.0. He irritated people in the past by comparing every ‘Gin’ to the Went. And every ‘Ghost’ to Europe 98.

    This place has occasional jamnesia. Which is good, but discounts some great recent past.

    And too many know it all nOObs and sycophants.

  25. MiA Says:

    Damn. This Cincy Roggae!

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