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. marcoesq Says:

    I could just get down with some summer and fall tour then nye.

    All we’re asking for is like 60 shows, is that so hard????

  2. Mr.Miner Says:

    also to bust miners balls. cuz I love the kid.
    the other day he was making the DCU Roses > AV FEE argument
    but AV Fee made the top 10 list and no roses?

    ^ I relistened to everything last yesterday. Though I may have been far more excited for Roses, I think Fee goes deeper and is a bit cooler. Hence the problem with Summer ’12…to many goodz!

  3. Mr.Miner Says:

    AC Piper is tier 1 IMO. >> Waves

    ^ crazy talk.

  4. Mr.Miner Says:

    under the radar: AV piper

    ^ agreed. so bomb.

  5. poop goblin Says:

    love it man. embarrassment of riches.

    I’m the same way. sometimes a specific spin hits me that didn’t the first couple times on a jam.

    the listening experience is so different from live.

    in the room that explosive build up and drop of that Roses just can’t be put to tape. although by itself I do think the jam is brilliant.

  6. poop goblin Says:

    ya not buying Rooster didn’t at least get the menu run down

  7. angryjoggerz Says:

    The menu is pretty obvious. The one I usually get handed has pictures of people rather than service options. How delightful. I have always gone with “I am a devout Buddhist so I am sorry that I cannot spend time with your friends” – also gets me out of eating meat and drinking hard alcohol.

  8. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    “I relistened to everything last yesterday.”

    In the present moment this computes. Though if we submit to temporal antics, it could be going on right now to prepare for tomorrow, or it has been going on since the beginning of time and never completes only asymptotically approaching the now in a series of “Groundhog Day” type of activies.

    Anyhow there’s much good phish to listen to these days!


  9. angryjoggerz Says:

    Flying Lotus “Lovers Melt 3” mix… for hot summer lovin

  10. voopa Says:

    Love AC Piper, but I think Waves has the edge…although I do think DCU Roses trumps both.

    When is the top 10 a top 20? When it’s 2012 Leg 1 highlights!

  11. poop goblin Says:

    spun that last night AJ. great as usual. perfect timing. I always spin those late night on tour coming down from being lifted. smooth stuff.

  12. poop goblin Says:

    is it AV RnR or AV Piper that peaks with the UIC Waves lick?

    can’t remember but I really dig that jam.

  13. Mr.Miner Says:

    in the room that explosive build up and drop of that Roses just can’t be put to tape. although by itself I do think the jam is brilliant.’

    ^ 100% agree.

  14. Mr. Palmer Says:

    The Dcu Roses and that Dc Waves didn’t hit me as hard as a lot of people. More so the Roses. Is it a case where the concept of them actually jamming a Roses is bigger than the actual jam that has everyone moist? I wasn’t there, so my opinion is invalid.

  15. Mr.Miner Says:

    wow, Waves not getting the love. I think it’s a top 5 jam of summer without any argument. just my opinion…

  16. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I’ll relisten

  17. alf Says:

    rnr has the waves lick, piper has a sick 2 min fish-less jam at the end, perfect cap to segment



  18. poop goblin Says:

    I just felt Miner the Bethel and UIC versions had a more interesting non guitar based section. Trey seemed to be more prominent throughout the DC version although I did dig the more minimalist segments of the jam.

    may need to respin. Ill check back. been a few weeks.

    it would be in my top 15 either way. just kinda tight up at the top.

    great waves.

  19. tela'smuff Says:

    love the DC Waves. that was the only set on the midwest run i spent on a lawn. the jam is up there with Cincy Twist and AV Light>Ghost for my favorites of the run. looking around and seeing Luther, Leo, T3, and Shaggy all blissed out, pretty magical jam. Then that breeze came through displaying the Phish/Chinese Weather Control connection.

    Deer Creek lawn is a special place for me. good shit happens there.

  20. poop goblin Says:

    SPAC Piper
    Cinci Twist
    AC Birds
    AV Light > Ghost
    AV Fee

    would be my top 5 probably

    I actually place the Ghost > boogie a lot higher than some. and think Carini is right there too. I LOVE the DCU Carini.

  21. kayatosh Says:

    blossom (6.24) piper also a tasty version.

  22. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    part of what really worked for me with that waves was how it flowed right out of the caspian. it capped off the night beautifully for me and was exactly what I wanted in that slot. love that song; love that version.

  23. alf Says:

    thanks for the heads up on that little feat show yesterday palmer, DLing now

    still not even close to ranking jams from this tour. too much to digest.

    JB twist another 2nd tier jam under the radar.

    thanks for the tunes miner. phish made some good music last month

  24. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    right there with you, literally, telas

  25. poop goblin Says:

    you know you’re bored at work when you are rankings hit that can’t be ranked anyway.

    hands down the closest to a real phish ter this summer since they’ve been back and couldn’t be more excited for leg 2

    see ya kinds in California!
    back out

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