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.



Tags: , , ,

639 Responses to “TTFF: The Upper Echelon”

  1. xpun Says:

    tried to post this from phone but looks like it disappeared into the ether, also a repost from last night:

    trying to do a BB fantasy football league. looking for 6-10 teams (have 3 so far), $25-50 fees and cash to the winners.

    if interested email w BB fantasy football as subject and please include your handle

    xpun25 yahoo

  2. marcoesq Says:

    Def interested xpu, I’ll email you. Did you see Bwana’s email last night?

  3. Guyute711 Says:

    Silly, get your ass down to the south my Dayton brother.

  4. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    MiA Says:
    July 27th, 2012 at 6:44 am
    The Irish. Wanting to get into a fight as quickly as possible. Typical.
    Fuck you and your sorry ass whine bitch dog beagle, MiA! Insert more inflammatory language here to get riled up and such. It’s Friday, I gave up fighting a while ago.

  5. Phamily Berzerker Says:


    Awesome adventure story! Chronicle that stuff!

  6. Mr. Palmer Says:

    southern silly willy?

  7. SillyWilly Says:

    Pretty positive I’ll be at Lakewood, Guyute

    gotta see a Phish show in Dixie.

    I saw them at Bonnaroo, but it kinda didn’t feel right.

    and I’m calling Miner’s Post title for Lakewood:

    “Big Waves on LakeWood”

  8. SillyWilly Says:

    I think I can only swing Atlanta on the southern run, Mr. P

    I’ll be in SF and Dicks, too

  9. SillyWilly Says:

    the Waves that they drop at Lakewood will be like a late summer neighborhood pool party

    12 yr olds sneaking off to make out over the hill

    puffin with your best friends in the shed

    grilling, music, ‘Merica

    (bet you all didn’t think I’d drop a ‘Merica. It’s Break Stereotypes Day on the site)

  10. Mr. Palmer Says:

    see you there silly.

  11. MiA Says:

    I’ll definitely be swinging Dick’s for sure.

  12. Guyute711 Says:

    Charlotte is on the way back. 🙂

  13. xpun Says:

    marco – got bwana’s and one from andrew. if you’re in that makes 4.

    any others?

  14. SillyWilly Says:


    not if I’m gonna be in court Monday morning at 815. haha

  15. MiA Says:

    “@AJ- what exactly do you do? ”

    AJ is responsible for all education. Everywhere.

  16. marcoesq Says:

    I’ll be at Oak Mtn>ATL, working on CLT

  17. angryjoggerz Says:

    Just read the Rooster story, classic. Rule #1 in Asia… dont go somewhere with a strange woman unless you are looking for prostitution. It is amazing how prevalent it is. I would say that I am confronted with it at least once a day when I am in China, usually with knocks or calls to my hotel room. That is the fast track to never being welcomed back in the country. I just assume that I am being tracked and watched at all times while I am there, because I am.

    Remembering fondly being in Beijing for the Olympics today, it was such an intense experience. I did not go to the opening ceremony (though I probably should have, oh well) but instead watched it in a huge public park with the Beijing common folk on huge jumbotrons over street beer. It was probably one of the most intense experiences of my life. I remember looking around and I and everyone else in the place were just sobbing as the Chinese team came out, really special time. It was like China had finally arrived. Then, jumping in a cab to make it back to my hotel so I could be sure to be there when my boss got back from the opening ceremony (he needed a lot of handling) and standing in the middle of the street, talking to my best friend (who is from China but now lives in Chicago) and looking up and seeing the entire sky burst into fireworks and just being really overwhelmed, and then… boom, rain. The military had been fighting of storm clouds around Beijing for hours, and as soon as the fireworks stopped then let the clouds roll in and it poured, really amazing.

    For someone who basically does not give a shit about sports, the Olympics were still really special. Have fun, London!

  18. angryjoggerz Says:

    AJ is responsible for all education. Everywhere.

    ^ getting there

  19. ThePigSong Says:

    So I’m in Austin, and I really wish I had time for the Spicy Fish that MiA is always posting about. I don’t have time for it, but what’s the name of that restaurant @MiA?

  20. xpun Says:

    okay wait i seem to remember hearing something about this but explain how the military controlled the weather? they let it rain?

    i would put beijing opening ceremonies as the best performance i’ve ever seen on television. it was amazing, i can only imagine how proud they were. for them to be publicly crying is a pretty big deal right? or am i stereotyping there?

  21. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Tell us more about the Beijing Cloud Battle, AJ!

  22. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    The Chinese have atmospheric weapons?!

    and a Great Wall?!?

    How many people?

  23. MiA Says:

    TPS, it’s called “Asia Market Cafe” and it’s on 183 and Spicewood.


    8650 Spicewood Springs Rd#115
    Austin, TX 78759

    Damn, should have let me know you were coming here.

  24. Robear Says:

    Yeah man. Expand on rain story.

  25. Phamily Berzerker Says:


    Learn Chinese, STAT!

Leave a Reply