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. poop goblin Says:

    check out schoolboy q’s fat ass throw down this bangin track at pitchfork

    this got me hooked on this kid

  2. xpun Says:

    “Chinese know how to do fireworks”

    I bet that is true, years of practice

    i remember the ceremony well but don’t even remember the footprint thing

    the scary thing is all of the weather related deaths they’ve been having, i can’t see that going over well here. very diff mindset there

    i liked the efforts to diffuse hurricanes in poops link. neat stuff

  3. ThePigSong Says:

    Wait, the Chinese control the weather? That’s news to me.

    MiA – only here for just over an hour, no time to hit spicy fish. I’ll de hit you up when I’m in town for longer.

    Sirraracha Tuna burrito instead.

  4. poop goblin Says:

    here is the schoolboy q album. live hip-hop is kinda weird but I guarantee you will dig this record.

  5. IrieWalton Says:


    That WW benefit for Saturday’s SF show sounds money. If you get a WW ticket does that guarantee you entry into the show even if you didn’t score a regular ticket?

    Wish I had known about that before as I had a lead on Fri. and Sun., but no Saturday and didn’t want to risk it. Oh well, luckily that weekend is now booked up with visiting guests or I would be flying to SF.

    Looks like I’m going to go a full year without catching a single show. Damn. Here’s hoping that the “magical” 30th anny run in 2013 includes a proper Cascadia Nation run: Portland>Seattle>Vancouver (or the reverse of that would be fine, too).

    Now off to wash away my sorrows with a visit to a cabin outside Mt. Rainer National Park in WA for the weekend.


  6. voopa Says:

    Any relation to Schoolly D?

  7. voopa Says:

    IW- You need a ticket for the show too.

  8. xpun Says:

    although many great versions of a few songs i like that the top 10 only repeats ghost and light. was it last year or the year before when i think summers top ten was like 3 dwd, 3 rnr, a couple lights and a couple pipers or something repetitive like that

    lots of talkers in this AC birds, been doing sbds all summer, i like the cheering and the more natural feel to the sound but good god why do people talk so much. oh good bott is here. i was a little worried miner cut the segue when first reading. why would i ever doubt the man

  9. RoosterPizza Says:

    Oh, I have hundreds of pages of stories. That was just the first one I shared with the BB. I believe that the world is based on story telling and that it is the most captivating writing that there is. Before it gets to deep I will go to bed.

  10. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    No Irie. You can’t buy a WW ticket unless you have a show ticket.

  11. angryjoggerz Says:

    I also want more Japan stories, keep them coming!

    I hear for the 30th anniversary tour Phish is going to play every venue they have ever played, ever. Gonna be epic.

  12. butter Says:

    BB: makin it rain since 08

    Need a good spin of Sandy Age

    I got your hug Poop

    I’m excited for the Olympics, one of the best things to watch in HD, on these new fangled flat panels

  13. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Today I walked into work with a Fear and Loathing shirt and holding a copy of Trainspotting. I look like a drug promo.

  14. RoosterPizza Says:

    Bring on the Fukuoka show!

  15. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    DaNcInG fOoL Says:
    July 27th, 2012 at 9:12 am
    Today I walked into work with a Fear and Loathing shirt and holding a copy of Trainspotting. I look like a drug promo.

    ^ on weed!

  16. RoosterPizza Says:

    ^in Vermont

  17. poop goblin Says:


    you ever watch that 13 assassins?

    cuz Takashi Mike’s new movie I dig too. just watched it last night.

    Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

  18. xpun Says:

    so WW tixs are on sale at 1 pm est

    anyone trying for them from here?

  19. RoosterPizza Says:

    I say thank you to kaya for the top ten type II

  20. voopa Says:

    If they play The Crest again I hope they give first dibs to previous attendees.

  21. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    AW, nah totally forgot about it, def need to check those out

  22. kayatosh Says:

    thank the band, man. are you still awake?

  23. Mr. Palmer Says:


    winter, spring, summer, fall, halloween, Nye tours… 180 shows… ’93 style.

    all you youngsters can get your show stats up to snuff…

    ” brah, I’ve seen Phish 200 times yo. First show, Fenway. Light was sick, brah…”

  24. Mr.Miner Says:

    fee is fixed

  25. tela'smuff Says:

    nice story Rooster, although if somebody wants me to sit and go through their “menu” i might have obliged.

    enjoy the day people. great music leg 1, and even better jams will follow. bummed i can’t pull off anything other than OKC>DEN.

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