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. tela'smuff Says:

    i think that SPAC Piper is a great jam. i said it last week, it just keeps giving me something new with each spin.

    i admit to having completely ignored the JB Sand>Golden Age. need to give that a few spins.

  2. MiA Says:

    Just got my 2 WW tickets for Saturday.

    Hopefully the band pops down and says Hi. I think they will for some reason.

    Nice to get into the event early.

  3. alf Says:

    i can’t not be in colorado for all of 2012, that’s just crazy talk.

    be good out there kids

  4. Mr.Miner Says:

    i feel that the UIC waves is essentially an Undermind intro. IMO it pales in comparison to DCreek. Like not even close…

  5. tela'smuff Says:

    ok, via laptop speakers, the JB Sand is really good! like the Izabella tease. why did i ignore JB? nice transition to Golden Age

  6. angryjoggerz Says:

    Then that breeze came through displaying the Phish/Chinese Weather Control connection.

    ^ I called in a favor for you guys on that one

  7. marcoesq Says:

    The only real problem with the DC Waves is that it kinda putters out too early into ambient soundscape. I need something with a beat behind it typically. If you love ambient soundscape, which Miner and others do, then you love this Waves.

  8. tela'smuff Says:

    marco – when you’ve been sweating in 110 degree heat all day, that breezy ambience is about as good as it gets, imo.

    @T3 – i agree with you on Caspian. I look at the Caspian>Waves>Bug as a nice total piece. brief Caspian with a nice move into Waves, and the segue from Waves to Bug is pretty great. I like Bug.

    @AJ – thx brah. Team E FTW.

  9. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Tela’s – listening along with you. The GA is the real star of that sequence. Enjoy.

  10. tela'smuff Says:

    holy shite Mr P. you’re right. Gordo dropping bombs with some subtle playing from Page, Trey painting. what a jam. reminds me of the beautiful Gorge Roggae as far as feeling of awe. such a tasteful fade out.

  11. marcoesq Says:

    No doubt I would’ve loved in person, I love Waves, just sayin that’s the reason for the disinterest/lack of love.

  12. poop goblin Says:

    bored enough at work to run through the 3 waves in order


    let’s see what I hear

  13. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    we just replaced AW’s normal friday afternoon bloomberg with three waves… let’s see what happens…

  14. Jtran Says:

    morning comrades

    Great list Miner. Can’t think of anything I’d have added to it, except maybe AV GA>2001. Not a jam I’d want to take off right away though.

    Very excited for the Olympics to start tonight. Along with DC Waves, olympics are my jam. How do we feel about keeping the board no spoilers throughout the day for those that want to watch the NBC coverage at 8PM or whatever every night and can’t watch live during the day? I for one would really appreciate it.

  15. marcoesq Says:



  16. garretc Says:

    Oh yeah, that’s right, AW was where I first heard the 13 Assassins rec… Great movie, love the pacing: sloooooooowwwwww build with all the sitting around talking in dark rooms and what not, and then just a solid, what, 45 minutes of action at the end?

    Pretty sweet

  17. poop goblin Says:

    I can tell you with 100% confidence Jtran I will not be spoiling any olympic coverage for ya

  18. garretc Says:

    Don’t front, Poo G, we all know you’re a secret rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming fan

  19. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    if he doesn’t already have it, someone needs to get this pin for alf

  20. snow Says:

    I just won the gold medal in glowsticks.

    Sorry Jtran.

  21. marcoesq Says:

    Mr. C, these JG shows have been fantastic, thanks again. Plenty of good listening on my plane fligths this past week

  22. Robear Says:

    The lack of love for Star Lake 7 Below has me thinking that Poop Goblin and others are not really hearing the imaginary orchestra, and are only #halflistening

  23. marcoesq Says:

    I’m out, pool time


  24. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    i just realized that the reason we haven’t heard from mr.c in a bit is that the sci horning’s hideout shows just happened. he’s such the cheesehead. 😯

  25. angryjoggerz Says:

    I hear Trey and Mike are both gold contenders for the new Trampoline event.

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