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:

    article on rain production

    link under it on google:

    “77 confirmed dead in beijing torrential rains”

  2. xpun Says:

    okay i get cloud seeding, but how did they fight off the rain and then let it rain when it was over? still mind blown on that one

  3. poop goblin Says:

    ya it looks like they can create rain and we’re using some kind of similar cloud seeding techniques to fend off pollution pre olympics but I’m not seeing anything that stops rain only creates (which is nutso anyway)

    they do say though by creating rain in certain areas you steal from others so maybe they were making it rain away from the ceremony attempting to steal their clouds.

    not sure what I think of this. I’m a simple minded brain washed westerner.

  4. alf Says:

    discovered yesterday i had severely underrated JB sand>GA

    top racker no doubt

    under the radar: AV piper

    SW driving chicago to atl (gotta be 10-12 hours right?) has got me checking leg 2 dates & distances again

  5. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    I get that the Japanese can use Godzilla to fight the rain.

    How do the Chinese do it?

    Did they copy Godzilla disregarding international intellectual property rights?

  6. MiA Says:

    Do not question the Chinese Government or propaganda machine. They control the moon and skies and decide when the sun shines or when it rains.

    If they said that they stopped the rain, then the military stopped the rain.

    See, this is why you people will never integrate properly into Chinese society.

    You think and question.

    Stop it. Or AJ will report you.

  7. Robear Says:

    AJ disappeared after revealing ability to fend off rain.

  8. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    @silly, i won’t be at dick’s. i think i’m the only bber who won’t be.

  9. poop goblin Says:

    I was right. they try to make it rain prior to and away from the actual olympics this person says.

  10. angryjoggerz Says:

    From what I understand the military was stationed around Beijing and were launching rockets into the clouds that would make it rain at that spot and not move on – they were essentially fending the clouds off and keeping the rain right outside the city. Now, I have no actual scientific background, so that is all I know. I do know that literally 1 minute after the ceremony ended and the footprint fireworks went off all over the city (there were huge fireworks cannons all over the city to launch these massive patterned fireworks across the city – keep in mind Beijing is the size of Belgium, so it was pretty awesome) it rained and rained. If it had rained during the opening ceremony it would have really changed it and made it unsafe, but Beijing guaranteed the IOC it would not, and it did not.

    The city was pretty amazing during the Olympics – hundreds of thousands of multilingual volunteers, great traffic, great parties, awesome vibe on the streets. I even saw Kobe walking on a side street one day. My hotel was filled with totally up for it Brazillians. I was there supporting the Chicago 2016 bid, so I had to memorize all of the faces and names of IOC members, was a real trip. Honored to have been part of it.

    If you had told me during my first trip to China in 1996 that China would have hosted the Olympics, I would have told you you were nuts.

  11. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Do not question the Chinese Government or propaganda machine. They control the moon and skies and decide when the sun shines or when it rains.

    ^ secretly outsourced to Mayan/Toltec sect in Guatemalan Highlands supplied wtih ample amount of dissidents to cut their still beating hearts out. Shipping is done on the stealth naval fleet.

    In China secuester’d could mean Mayan’d. 🙁

  12. poop goblin Says:

    FTR I have no theories of my own on weather control

    I just like to puff OG. I have no opinions other than that.

  13. angryjoggerz Says:

    What can I say, it happened. Yes, many foreigners stood around and said “you cant do that” then were amazed when they did. I think that pretty much sums up the last 10 years.

  14. RoosterPizza Says:

    I just feel bad that Leo is hosting me for the southern run. The guy must think I’m a nut at this point.

  15. angryjoggerz Says:

    And while the Beijing opening ceremonies was awesome, I am sure London will be super – I mean, they have farm animals and Paul McCartney! What is hipper and more forward thinking than that?

  16. marcoesq Says:

    The real question is: Does the Chinese gov’t support PT or the blackboard??

  17. MiA Says:

    Gao Xiaolong, head of the visual effects team for the ceremony, said it had taken almost a year to create the 55-second sequence. Meticulous efforts were made to ensure the sequence was as unnoticeable as possible: they sought advice from the Beijing meteorological office as to how to recreate the hazy effects of Beijing’s smog at night, and inserted a slight camera shake effect to simulate the idea that it was filmed from a helicopter.
    “Seeing how it worked out, it was still a bit too bright compared to the actual fireworks,” he said. “But most of the audience thought it was filmed live – so that was mission accomplished.”

    He said the main problem with trying to shoot the real thing was the difficulty of placing the television helicopter at the right angle to see all 28 footsteps in a row.

    One advisor to the Beijing Olympic Committee (BOCOG) defended the decision to use make-believe to impress the viewer. “It would have been prohibitive to have tried to film it live,” he said. “We could not put the helicopter pilot at risk by making him try to follow the firework route.”

  18. RoosterPizza Says:


    I can’t wait to hang out with you so I can drop random Stern references.

  19. Guyute711 Says:

    Leo has to put up with me all the time. You’ll be fine Rooster.

  20. poop goblin Says:

    have fun kids. my aggro ass think the whole olympics thing is silly.

    I need therapy. or a hug or something.

    time to work

  21. marcoesq Says:

    whoa, whoa, whoa…stop the Gao Xiaolong clock. This shit was staged?

    Rooster, you know that’s right.

  22. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Beijing opening ceremonies likely will never be topped. Loved the weather control. Crazy stuff. I doubt doubt it for a second.

    Rooster- Save some crazy stories for the southern run…or better yet, create some new ones in the meantime.

    Not a Howard Stern guy but started listening this am a little bit. 90 minutes later, i’m still listening.

  23. angryjoggerz Says:

    The firework thing did happen, but what was seen on tv was enhanced. Because I was there with an IOC group I got to tour the footprint fireworks in advance, it was amazing. They were like military set ups in neighborhoods all over the city. I was next to one when the first wave went off and it was unreal. They lit that city up. Chinese know how to do fireworks.

  24. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I don’t doubt it… lol

  25. MiA Says:

    Yeah, I’m sure they shot the fireworks off.

    I’m sure they just didn’t want the potential for it not to look as good as they wanted it to. They covered their bases. A years worth of prep for digital enhancement never hurts when you absolutely want to make sure everything looks unbelievably great.

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