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. MartyParty Says:

    Hey guys sorry to drop in like this. Been a long time lurker, never really posted before. Very entertaining board, learnt alot from you guys over the past year. Dying for tickets for any nights in San Fran, jaw hit the floor when I logged on to stub hub the other day, wife has be on a strict Phish lock down budget this year (thinking of having kids soon).

    could you email me what you want for those tickets?

  2. RedRedWorm Says:

    10/2/99 Target Center getting this day kick-started.

  3. Gavinsdad Says:

    I’d love to go back to the rmp and read the 94 UIC nitpicking from the righteous nerds.

    I’m sure Voopa can dig that out

    Idiots is all I’d have to say. Not saying anything new but 94 is flawless to this guy.

  4. Beaten Worker Says:


    If you still need someone else for ff, id like to join.

    I dont post very often, but would enjoy another league to be in.

    Let me know.

  5. Mr. Palmer Says:

    DF- after listening to 6.18.94 a lot the last 24 hours, you are probably right. That second set is nasty. Mind left Bowie, Tweezer, and a YEM.

    The November show- Reba, Split, Esther, Simple are great.

    I’m sure someone would bitch about the 4 minute 2001 to open set II though…..;) Plus, a Harpua and Fishman antics in the same set… the horror!

  6. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Oh.. DF- What’s you email address? I’m working on a project for someone and may, or may not, have a Final Cut question or two for you. I’m far from an expert. Just highlights ( american football) and voice over stuff. Thanks.

  7. Robear Says:

    Prediction or wishful thinking…….


  8. vegas wolfmans Says:

    Kickstarting day with MLBowie from UIC ’94 in remastered sbd glory.


  9. voopa Says:

    Actually most folks on rmp were still pretty positive during Summer ’94. Archives are on Google groups; here’s a couple posts:!topic/!topic/

    Apologies if the links don’t work exactly right, what with the https and all.

  10. BingosBrother Says:

    Argentina got me Argentingling with their Argenteenie weenie kinis. :ting:

  11. BingosBrother Says:

    Just watched a commercial of a woman taking video on her cellphone at a concert, then sending the video to her friends at the concert. fuck it, I’m joining up w/ sillywilly.

  12. thedayman Says:

    bonaroo tweezer is soo good. tweezer of leg 1 imo.

  13. P.S.H.S Says:

    “Were any girls on pH tour actually “working girls”? In all my years out there I never came across that.”

    Yes, in 04 there were a couple of wookettes slingin’ pune on lot. Gross, same slutty outfits for two weeks, dirty knees, ect..

  14. BingosBrother Says:

    Charlie D on the Alpine Ghost.

    “Ghost is fine”

    3 words? Thought it deserved a little more. At least he gave that 46 Days its due. Felt like I was the only one pamping it for a while.

  15. RoosterPizza Says:


    The man has succeeded at making everyone do surveillance on themselves. People take pictures and videos of everything they do to validate their image of themselves. It is so fucking disgusting.

    I was reading a book a coworker lent me about a Romanian photographer who grew up around gypsies…a real interesting dude. He really gets into what a picture is and the whole concept of a “shot”. Then, out of that, you get the greatest quote in the book: “Terrorists are tourists with guns, and tourists are terrorists with cameras.” The whole concept of “shooting” something to validate oneself is a self-absorbed bullshit act.


  16. BingosBrother Says:

    Exactly rooster. Our children are in trouble if we let them get sucked in. Creating a bunch of self-obsessed, egocentric, no self esteem generation. Slaves in training.

  17. Robear Says:

    Miner, wishful thinking on my part. I heard about the Waterwheel party on Twitter. U can all rest assured, they don’t tell me anything re festies or tour dates.

  18. voopa Says:

    Robear – Finally got the tape deck hooked up and checked out that copy of 12/5/92…unfortunately, it’s no better than the complete SBD already in circ. Oh well!

  19. voopa Says:

    Thought I closed that tag. Whoops.

  20. RoosterPizza Says:

    I hate weddings, suits, heat, and humidity; I am fucked today.

  21. Gavinsdad Says:

    Thanks Voop. Knew you had it in you.

    I think it’s extremely clear to see that the torch has been passed from the last generation of Phish reviewers to the new generation of Phish reviewers. And I’m not here gassing Miner up… What I’m doing at the core is accusing the old guard of not being open to the changes the band has made musically. I think they’re locked in a time warp. For real. And I think their peers from back then are stuck as well.

  22. Gavinsdad Says:

    ^furthermore I’m not positing that 3.0, or ’12 is the best era /year. I’m doing nothing of the sort. What I’m saying is that their ears and hearts are closed

  23. Gavinsdad Says:

    To be honest, even tho he was a dick a couple of years ago, a guy who reviews with serious, almost academic rigor, is Wax Banks. I’d take him any day over Dirksen (who, it should be said, I used to read all the time back in the later 90s)

  24. Gavinsdad Says:

    And it’s ok that when we walk thru the turnstile so many people around me are 100% diametrically opposed from me in what they want from Phish and what they expect from Phish. I’m just kinda shocked that it is that way…specially when I read stuff from the CDs or zzzzzxxs of the world.

    (sorry for so many posts y’all)

  25. MiA Says:

    Gdad with the quadfecta.

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