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:

    Morning fools

    Tempted to buy WW ticket this morning although not 100% in for trip still

    I think it’s funny that SW blows AW stereotypes out of the water. Phoamm is cool too but pretty sure it stops there. At least from the ones I know.

    Got drunk as shit last night and paying for it this morning. Why do I continue to do that? Should have worked and help pay for trip. Stupid fuck.

  2. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    ha, aw also noticed this

  3. SillyWilly Says:

    lawyers suck

  4. poop goblin Says:

    maybe SW. love that Atlanta venue. always up for extending my weekend a bit longer.

    kinda bumming I’m thinking no LBC and would maybe like to pick up another.

    St. Louis is the no brainer but mid week just doesn’t work for me.

  5. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    I’d also drop the waves AW. Too rawkin for me

  6. Xpun Says:

    Silly that is one hell of a drive for a show. Dedication noted.

    I’m a big cubs fan but haven’t followed all year. I check the standing once a week or so and figure when the win % is lower than the league leaders batting avg it’s safe to give up on the season.

  7. dubber Says:

    When is Trey Monkeystasio going to weigh in on the magic that was leg 1?

  8. SillyWilly Says:

    yeah, I can’t do St. Louis mid-week either

    you can let me know last minute if you want.

    I’m not going to make many plans. Just gonna find cheap hotel rooms on the way down and then around Atlanta. totally wing it

    I asked Cal if he wanted to go, too. Kid’s had a bad summer. Could use an extra show.

  9. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Little bit of a “With a little help from my friends” thing in that that Piper. $$$
    Good morning BB.
    Thx Miner.

  10. poop goblin Says:

    some of the tier 2 jams I really love

    AC Piper
    DCU 2001
    AV RnR
    AV GA
    Cinci LUOLMA

  11. SillyWilly Says:

    And AW

    Kirsten is totally welcome, too.

    That goes for always, you know.

    don’t want her to get pissed

  12. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    AC Piper is tier 1 IMO. >> Waves

  13. SillyWilly Says:


    I’m pretty damn lucky, right now.

    I’m living the Phish dream.

    Got a job.
    Have a car.
    Have a girl into the band who encourages me to go.
    Have great friends who are down to make last minute trips.

    the time for me is now.

  14. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Silly, you doing Dick’s?

  15. kayatosh Says:

    AC piper was the next tune into my top ten. >7.8 piper.

  16. SillyWilly Says:

    Pretty sure, DF!

    at least I’ll do Saturday and Sunday

    i have tickets

    just need to get a flight. waiting for a paycheck.

    you’ll be there, huh? Are you doing SF, too?

  17. marcoesq Says:

    Morning all. Some great pics here Miner, makes your job fun in 3.0

    Where’s Oak Mtn Ghost on this list?

    Funny/shitty that zero Tweezers have even been in conversation this year.

  18. poop goblin Says:

    AV lonesome cowboy
    cinci Llama
    DCU ocelot
    DCU nothin
    AC Tube
    DCU FUnky Bitch

    some other just rippin type I numbers.

  19. SillyWilly Says:

    AC Piper is one of my favorite live and listen back jams from the summer so far

    just dialed in behind the middle stack at AC (all dunkin donuts coffee’d up)

  20. kayatosh Says:

    7.26.97 timber. 2nd spin in two days. thing is beyond $$$. check it.

  21. angryjoggerz Says:

    Back in the Chi for a day, then off to LA, busy travel times. Been to 9 states in the last month. So much for summer being a slow time for education! Gotta pack it in before the baby comes, going to try to be home as much as possible then. Pissed at my staff for not arranging my LA meetings at the same time as Phish, how inconsiderate.

  22. poop goblin Says:

    tweezer has been a real O’bummer in leg 1

    but I didn’t even get one in 8 shows. that’s just crazy.

    thinking between Dicks and BGCA good chance I won’t come up empty

    also want a UIC stylee Undermind. cutting that shit short leg 1 was fuckin lame. TROY.

  23. marcoesq Says:

    I haven’t gotten a Tweezer in 8 shows either, since MPP ’11.

    0 in 5 this year. But I guess there’s been a reason for that.

    Leg II: The reemergence of the Monstah Tweez

  24. marcoesq Says:

    @AJ- what exactly do you do? I’m in education and on the road all the time also. Good times, bad times

  25. punkmug Says:

    @Kaya. That Timber is one of my go-to jams. Love that. The Bowie after it is pretty sweet too. Oh yeah, the YEM>Izabella to close set 1 is pretty sweet. Oh, the LxL, Stash and Hood are good too! Love that show.

    Miner great list!

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