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:

    cheers, everybody.

    right on, xpun. WW party looks great.

    been checking out 11.30.96. mceuen banjo sit-in on old home pace and uncle pen. timber w/ apfelbaum on sax goes fee jazz. also check out the amazing grace jam w/ John mcEuen on lap slide and apfelbaum.
    shn source, but sounds great:

  2. voopa Says:

    SHN is just another lossless algorithm, like FLAC. Won’t affect sound quality.

  3. voopa Says:

    That is *the* source for that show BTW…two dudes standing 40′ from each other about 20′ from the stage, each with their own KM140 in hand.

  4. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    “And too many know it all nOObs and sycophants.”

    ^ I resemble that remark.

  5. xpun Says:

    BB Fantasy Football is up to 6 teams,

    everyone keeps saying G$ ran a league a few times, so I don’t want to overstep.

    @G$ if you were wanting to commish again, I’m cool with that, if not I don’t mind setting up. are you in to play?

    teams so far
    bill bonney

    need even number, looking for 10 if we can swing it

    xpun25 yahoo if interested

  6. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Loving the new box set. If your on the fence about purchase, don’t be.

    I definitely need to get a lot more ’93-’94 shows into my library. So much goodness. Interesting also as I listen to a lot of this music, shows like these would probably get a lot of heat if played today. There are no 20 minute jams, shit, the longest song in the box set is a 16 minute Harpua.

    The Reba is sublime. Nice Melt, sick ass Reba. All the classics just nailed. If your looking for it to be like the Hampton/WS release, you will be disappointed. A lot different band in the those 3 years.

    I could listen to this all day.

    I would love to see Phish nail an Esther one of these days…like, really nail it.

  7. MiA Says:

    I second a good Esther.

  8. kayatosh Says:

    voopa: didn’t mean to disparage shn’s. i rocked shn’s for years pre FLAC. most people these days just know FLAC and while there are FLAC players, I know of no shn players. traders’ little helper will concert shns to FLAC

  9. Henry Says:

    6.15 Stash $$+ version

  10. Chonz Says:

    lol @ jamnesia.

    yes, this Chicago ’94 is straight fire from the speakers.

  11. BingosBrother Says:

    PsychoNoob, qu’est’ce’que

  12. voopa Says:

    Right on kaya. Yeah, SHN is proprietary and when open source FLAC came along, people opted for that to develop playback software and devices rather than paying licensing for SHN.

  13. Gavinsdad Says:

    Philly 09 Esther worth a respin

  14. RoosterPizza Says:

    That Sally jam is the goods. Great way to start the day.

  15. Xpun Says:

    Roxy 93 the other night for me. I envy you old guys that caught them early 90s. So much energy and craziness. Fun listens.

    Tonight it’s Clifford Ball. For the splitest of seconds I had a seat in a car going to Hersey and Plattsburgh. Would have been my first shows. Had I any idea how huge a part of me phish would become I probably would have been a little more inclined to hop in. Oh well. These were a few of the first shows I had on tape. Great memories of late nights wearing these tapes out. And the 96 holiday run, straight through at work.

  16. Robear Says:

    Palmer, I am now thinking there was some intent between releasing H/WS, then UIC 94.

    Basically their way of showing how much they’ve changed. Often in a short span. Kind of showing ‘the way things were’ is not a one size fits all description. That doesn’t serve the band or current fans very well.

    Clever cats.

  17. Gavinsdad Says:

    Xpun – wish I saw more than one in 93! But I hear you….for me i had those scenarios with the dead. Had friends going in 83 and I didnt get there til 87. Asked my mom about Portland in 83 or 84 she was like “absolutely not”. Missed a couple other offers. At a certain point I couldnt wait to go…counting down 4 months out to make my first. Love looking back at all that.

    Clifford Ball I was able to hit and even tho I was sober its still a little too foggy. Wish the memories were crisper. Best part was GA field on a grand scale with that many heads. That was when you knew we had a seriously good thing going on.

  18. joe Says:

    Made a new protest anthem after many drinks and smoke. Email me at joeblackboard at Yahoo to have a good laugh

  19. xpun Says:

    I like how trey tries to honestly come up with an accurate set break time between sets 2 and 3 on first night of the Ball.

    15 minutes, no wait longer, 40 minutes, no actually more like 30 minutes

  20. dognamedwilson Says:

    JUst got back from our local dead tribute band and the damn dog has eaten about two dozen of my wife’s finest medi cookies and is tripping the fuck out one again.


  21. Mr.Miner Says:

    does chicago 94 have mind left bowie and the tweezer?

  22. xpun Says:

    holy shit again wilson

    hope it all goes well.

  23. RoosterPizza Says:

    Wilson has that look in his eye, like black holes in the sky…

  24. ThePigSong Says:

    I think your dog is trying to tell you something, dnw.

  25. RoosterPizza Says:

    I just noticed the caption on the picture of Troy at the beginning of this thread. Is this a screen shot from a webcast?

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