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. viola Says:

    i like the caspian>waves>bug in its totality as well. love a great stretch of music, first or second setters… the av1 ga>2001>rNr steam piper is awesome and its a go to on my bike rides. same goes for the this stretch which i find so enjoyable to listen to: lonesome cowboy bill vultures jibboo dirt asihtos access me. 40 minutes of the goods. heavy rotation.
    asihtos is just one of their better songs imho. even a jamless 1st setter gets put in heavy rotation cause i love the lyrics and av version is a tight little 6 and a half minute beast. also, the jibboo is a picturesque version that i would spin for any outsider not familiar with the band. i love the av jibboo.

    good cooking with lonesome vultures jibboo dirt

  2. Litteringand Says:

    The end of the DC Waves literally sounds like they are trying to communicate with humpback whales, Star Trek IV style.

  3. poop goblin Says:

    that wah drenched lick at 9min over the undermind bassline in this UIC is just $$$$$

    I LOVE this Waves. but I’m a guitar geek and miss the dirty wah action.

    TROY just crushes this entire Waves. possibly my favorite Trey piece of the return. he’s all over this jam and mike and fish are just crushin the groove behind him.

    on to bethel.

    the outro jam of this waves is just massive though. wah heavy, dirty and grooving HARD.

    WOW! haven’t spun this in months.

  4. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Flaxseed no longer gets me high.

    It does however get stuck in my teeth.

  5. poop goblin Says:

    just added a second weekly therapy appointment to deal with my total annoyance by all things olympic

    damn I’m broken.

  6. xpun Says:

    dvr set for late night viewing of opening ceremonies

  7. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    BS, Adub.

    Stoner Olympics are your strength.

    10,000m Pre-Roll Sprint
    Wax Hits.
    Orange Sunshine Marathon
    to name a few current sports…
    Former contender in the back of floor key hits competition.

  8. xpun Says:

    poop im afraid youre in for a few long weeks

  9. snow Says:

    the fact that it is just an annoyance seems like progress.

    I’m a total sucker for big events like the opening ceremonies. I don’t know why.

    At this point, DCU Boogie was my favorite jam. There were other jams that were deeper for sure. But DCU boogie gets me stoked in any setting i.e. not just when I am spun and listening on the HiFi.

  10. SillyWilly Says:


    no internet at my apt, no TV, and ESPN is blocked at work

    I didn’t even know the Olys started.

    you can come chill in my disconnected apartment in Milwaukee if you want.

    I don’t techically have any furniture…yet.

    But, I don’t have the olympics either.

  11. poop goblin Says:

    I’ll be OK.

    it takes a bit to know what to avoid media wise to get a completely olympic free olympic season but I’m a seasoned pro.

    being out of London though work is gonna be slow too cuz most of the sketchy hedgie stuff is all based out of the City.

  12. dusty Says:

    myself and a few roommates used to have the BHO…bong hit olympics. Its all about performing certain events after a taking a tube. Kinda started with the old oxygen depletion trick…pull tube, hold breath and pump out as many pushups as possible. Meathead or junkie…I don’t know.

    Olympics streaming at work has been a massive pain so far. Comcast/Cox/Turner all seem to have their shit together, but crazy how clueless Espn is.

  13. xpun Says:

    we used to have 4/20 olympics

    team based relay races through obstacle courses with bong hits, bong hits then egg tosses, bong hits then bong hits, i can’t remember the others (wonder why?)

    it was a yearly tradition there in the mid-late 90s now we are old and fat

  14. snow Says:

    I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that weed olympics are at least as annoying as the regular olympics for those that don’t like olympics.

  15. mudbuddy11 Says:

    ahh.. thanks miner for another ttff. work goes by so much better on friday with ten tunes. you did a series of tt a while back that focused on older music… that… was…. awesome. i would welcome themed tt’s like relax, shred, abstract, and bliss’d on a regular rotation. I still go back and hit the after midnight reprise from nye 99 on a regular basis. Thanks, holmes.

  16. SillyWilly Says:

    you got this, poop

    just dodgin bullets

  17. poop goblin Says:

    since I only spun that DC waves once or twice and was probably faded or some shit shouldn’t have been so quick to diss. I’m a stubborn asshole but admit when a bit wrong.

    just fell under my radar. nice and open. flows great. seems like early trey wants to get weird but the end is slow to follow but once they get hip to Troy’s more open minimalist textures they jump in and it’s on.

    of the 3 bethel seemed the flattest on playback. nice outro jam but just mellow. great type I early jam but I dug UIC’s better.

    still LOVE UIC though. that shit is just raging fiery swinging old school Troy led Phish. killer version.

    agreed though DC as Waves of 3.0 can’t argue there.

  18. poop goblin Says:

    band is slow to follow

  19. gavinsdad Says:


    no Dicks for me!

  20. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    “agreed though DC as Waves of 3.0 can’t argue there.”

    guess i need to respin it too. but obv bethel soundcheck waves is still king.

  21. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Miner’s top 10 for leg 2 is gonna be a lot harder, even with less shows.

  22. gavinsdad Says:

    feel lucky to have caught some good shows…and good versions of waves (bethel and uic). DC ’12 needs another listen or three in the right headspace…i’m with @marcoesq in that i thought it was a little shortie’d

    -at JB1 i texted @calpain to meet me to drive home after Bug…WHICH I THOUGHT WAS THE ENCORE. shard’d and blaze’d. Yes I missed the Antelope one of my favorite songs…but I finally found some proper dance space and buddies for Sand and GA which were proper. that green light cooldown face melt section was so great. the band is capable of so much…get ready Long Beach.

    see some of you in SF it’s all happening again soon.

  23. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Prediction: None of these 10 jams will make it on the final top 10 of summer list.

  24. Robear Says:

    Bunch of heathen and meathead stoners. Wtf?

    Stoner Olympics =

    Ping pong
    Disc Golf
    Bocce Ball

  25. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Ouch gdad. Though I did fall asleep during Bug and missed the Antelope on the stream.

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