The Top 10 Shows of Tour

7.16.14 (Jesse Herzog)

7.16.14 (Jesse Herzog)

I must admit, in ranking shows, I am essentially ranking second sets. There were a couple first sets that stood out over others this tour, but at the end of the day, when thinking back and spinning these shows, it’s all about the second sets. There were no first sets that were strong enough to sway my decision making process, so there’s my disclaimer. And therein lies the reason for a couple of rather tight calls on this list of shows. As always, thanks for reading!

Honorable Mention:  7/3 SPAC, 7/5 SPAC, 7/18 Chicago, 7/19 Chicago

10) 7/8 The Mann Music Center, Philadelphia, PA

This show breaks into the top ten on the strength of its “Fuego,” the second best jam of tour, and its late-set sequence of “Ghost > 2001 > Harry Hood.” Though Trey shanked the “Tweezer” jam, there is more than enough meat to carry this one. The story here, however, is the monumental “Fuego” jam that still stands as the song’s most developed and prolific outing.

I: Axilla, Gumbo, Taste, 555, Tube, Halfway to the Moon, Camel Walk, Sparkle, Halley’s Comet > It’s Ice, Ocelot, Walls of the Cave

II: 46 Days, Fuego > The Line, Backwards Down the Number Line, Tweezer > Ghost > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Harry Hood > Tweezer Reprise

E: Possum

***

9) 7/25 PNC Amphitheatre, Charlotte. NC

Charlotte Official (J.Santora)

Charlotte Official (J.Santora)

Living in the shadows of the Merriweather stand since the weekend they both happened, Charlotte’s performance actually has quite a bit to offer. This show’s centerpiece is a long form “Chalk Dust” that stands second only to Randall’s in summer’s top versions. The seamless sequence of “Fuego -> Twist -> Circus” boasts tour’s most impressive segue between the latter two songs, and summer’s most intricate and variant  “Reba” popped up late in the second set.  Trey’s “riftcord” in the “Piper” jam was the only blemish in this set, and Charlotte has  one has one of my favorite first sets taboot.

I: Mike’s Song > Back on the Train > Weekapaug Groove, Wingsuit, Possum, Tube, My Friend, My Friend, Winterqueen, Beauty of a Broken Heart, David Bowie, Golgi Apparatus

II: 555, Chalk Dust Torture > Fuego -> Twist -> When the Circus Comes, Piper > Rift, Waiting All Night > Reba > Character Zero

E: Loving Cup

*** 

8) 8/1 Amphitheatre at the Wharf, Orange Beach, AL

Phish’s first visit to the Gulf Coast resulted in a smoking second set that featured the jam of the south in “Down with Disease” and an original “Tweezer” that reached a gorgeous musical space. Pairing “Fuego” and “Slave” in the middle of the set and then closing things out with a seamless mashup of “Boogie On” and “Antelope,” Phish brought their best Southern effort on the three-night run’s opening night. A rock solid set of music gave the Phish-starved deep South something to write home about.

I: Chalk Dust Torture, The Moma Dance, Heavy Things, 555, Rift, 46 Days, Tube, Devotion To a Dream, Wolfman’s Brother, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Free, Character Zero

II: Down with Disease > Theme From the Bottom > Tweezer > Prince Caspian, Waiting All Night, Fuego > Slave to the Traffic Light, 2001 > Boogie On Reggae Woman -> Run Like an Antelope

E: Bouncing Around the Room > Tweezer Reprise

***

7) 7/26 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD

This second set flowed like water from start to finish and boasts plenty of high quality improvisation throughout. The jam of the show is a toss up between the ‘70s-rock infused “Ghost” jam and the avant-garde fusion that went down in “Light.” Each of these jams is quite good and of completely divergent feels. The opening run of “Carini -> Ghost -> Steam” came off without a hitch and a contained but blistering “Harry Hood” capped things off. A true powerhouse Phish set.

I: Sample in a Jar, The Moma Dance, Wombat, Backwards Down the Number Line, Roggae, The Wedge, Wolfman’s Brother, Nellie Kane, Lawn Boy, The Line, Stash, Suzy Greenberg

II: Carini -> Ghost > Steam -> The Mango Song, Monica, Light -> Also Sprach Zarathustra > Harry Hood

E: Julius

***

6) 7/30 nTelos Pavilion, Portsmouth, VA

Portsmouth Official (Kelly)

Portsmouth Official (Kelly)

Portsmouth’s second performance was far and away the best show Phish has ever played in the intimate nTelos Amphitheatre. It was always a treat to see Phish in such a small outdoor venue, but the shows there have always been medicore. That changed this year in a big way on night two, as Phish dropped only the third “Fuego” jam of tour (and first since Philadelphia almost three weeks earlier) and it was a keeper. The band was locked on this night and it showed in “Fuego’s” deep groove throwdown, a vibe that continued with the second-ever “Meatstick” jam (and first since 7.15.99), a funktastic piece that eventually bled into one of tour’s “Pipers.” This set boasted flow, bust-outs, surprise jams and just about everything you’d want in a Phish set (except a powerful closer).

I: Bathtub Gin, Devotion To a Dream, Yarmouth Road, Guelah Papyrus, Alaska, It’s Ice, Poor Heart, Mountains in the Mist, Meat, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, David Bowie

II: Fuego > Gotta Jibboo, Meatstick > Piper > Billy Breathes, Seven Below, Waste, Backwards Down the Number Line, First Tube

E: The Lizards

***

5) 7/20 Northerly Island, Chicago, IL

I’ve totally come around on this show, as I was in a poor headspace that night, and the back half of this set completely smokes! This is a “Mike’s Groove” to be reckoned with, as the band not only split open “The Wedge” like never before, crafting one of tour’s best jams out in the unlikeliest of places, but they followed it up with an incredibly unique “Ghost” jam that was as dark as “The Wedge” was light. A smoking “Weekapaug” this closed the “Groove” emphatically and an above average “Disease” kicked things off in a set that flows from start to finish, despite an unneeded “Theme.”

I: Gumbo, Runaway Jim, Tela, The Line, Scent of a Mule, Bathtub Gin, Silent in the Morning, Maze, Ocelot, Walls of the Cave

II: Down with Disease > Winterqueen, Theme From the Bottom, Mike’s Song > The Wedge, Ghost -> Weekapaug Groove, First Tube

E: Character Zero

***

4) 7/12 Randall’s Island, New York City, NY

When this second set ended I called in perfect. With everything it its right place, Phish played an airtight frame of music with highlight jams all over. “Ghost” is the true centerpiece of the set, a patient journey through rock and downtempo realms. A stunning “Harry Hood” closes things out, and an intricate and ambient “Carini” started things off. Tour’s only “Punch” opened the set and tour’s only “Rock and Roll” came as a blistering contained rendition. Throw in a strong “Wingsuit” in the middle of the set, and you’ve got—well—a perfect frame of Phish.

I: AC/DC Bag, 46 Days, Yarmouth Road, Devotion To a Dream, Free, My Sweet One,  Back on the Train, Halfway to the Moon , Sparkle, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, The Line, Run Like an Antelope

Set 2: Punch You In the Eye, Carini > Ghost > Wingsuit, Rock and Roll, Harry Hood

E: Tube, Joy, First Tube

***

3) 7/4 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY

7/4 Official (Mumford)

7/4 Official (Mumford)

Rarely does Phish open a second set with an hour of top-shelf improvisation but on July 4th that is exactly what happened. And they did it in grand style, debuting “Fuego’s” jam with an exploratory, twenty-minute excursion that peaked in tour’s most sublime moment. From the new to the classic, the band slid into a run of “Disease > Twist > Light” before ever looking up for air. They coasted to the finish with “Theme,” “Number Line” and “First Tube,” but the damage had most definitely been done. This one was a holiday show to remember, and—easily—the best July 4th show in since 7.4.00.

I: The Star Spangled Banner, 555, Kill Devil Falls, The Moma Dance, Reba,Waiting All Night, Runaway Jim, 46 Days, Rift, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil

II: Fuego > Down with Disease > Twist > Light > Theme From the Bottom, Backwards Down the Number Line, First Tube

E: Character Zero

***

2) 7/27 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD

MPP Official (J.Callos)

MPP Official (J.Callos)

Night two of Merriweather was a different kind of Phish show. Though breakthrough jams took place in “Tweezer” and “NICU,” the take away from this night was about energy. But not the balls to the wall energy one would associate with a rock show, but the wacky, Phishy energy that was necessary to pull off such a second set at all. This type of setlist trickery and antic/comedy driven show was part of the band’s repertoire in the early-Ninties, and here we were in 2014 witnessing a performance every bit as musically inspired and energetic. Watching the band perform this show was like watching them rediscover their youth. As if shot into some alternate zone by Fishman’s abrupt change of direction in “Tweezer’s” jam, the guys became possessed with a spirit of old—but a spirit that clearly still burns brightly in their hearts today, driving the modern version of Phish. We’ve all seen a lot of shows, and we’ve all seen the guys have a great time on countless occasions, but something was different on this night, they were having a whole ‘nother level of fun as they wove in and out of songs, stopped to jam where the spirit moved, and generally carried on with a zaniness that has lied just below the surface for the most of the modern era. This night was special for us, no doubt, but far more significantly, this night was special for them.

I: Fee, The Curtain With, 46 Days, 555, My Sweet One, Sand, Bouncing Around the Room, Saw It Again, Fuego, You Enjoy Myself

II: Wilson > Tweezer -> Back on the Train -> Tweezer > Back on the Train -> Tweezer > Waiting All Night, Free -> Tweezer -> Simple -> Tweezer -> Free, Catapult -> Slave to the Traffic Light, Down with Disease -> NICU -> Hold Your Head Up > Jennifer Dances > Hold Your Head Up, I Been Around

E: Boogie On Reggae Woman > Tweezer Reprise

***

1) 7/13 Randall’s Island, New York City, NY

7.13 Official (J.Flames)

7.13 Official (J.Flames)

No antics in this one, just the best improvisation of the entire tour in a Hall of Fame hour of music that went “Chalk Dust > Light > Tweezer.” “Chalk Dust” is up there with Phish’s all time jams, easily cracking the upper echelon of that discussion. A true masterpiece that soars out of the gates and then settles into the most intuitive and connected jamming of the summer, this one has replay value for days as it continues to wow with every spin. Showing ultimate composure and exhibiting patience rarely seen in this day and age, the band navigated a near half-hour piece of music that is ridiculously dense and rich, featuring countless feels and soundscapes. But that’s just the first half of the coin. On the backside Phish dropped “Light > Tweezer,” each a standout highlight of its own. The band dripped into a surreal “Mind Left Body” jam in “Light,” and packed the tour’s best “Tweezer” with totally inventive playing, building to a group-wide peak that saw brains explode across Randall’s Island. This first hour of the second set was real-deal Holyfield, sashimi grade Phish that will stand up to anything. Finishing the set with “Velvet Sea,” “Monica” and “Slave,” this one was airtight through the end. Randall’s final performance also boasts my pick for best first set of tour, featuring several juicy selections.

I:Sand, Winterqueen, Reba, Birds of a Feather, Water in the Sky, Possum, Runaway Jim, Bouncing Around the Room, Maze, Split Open and Melt

II: Chalk Dust Torture > Light > Tweezer, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Monica, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Backwards Down the Number Line > Tweezer Reprise

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692 Responses to “The Top 10 Shows of Tour”

  1. little umbrellas Says:

    “Yarmouth Road is burning”

    Nooooo, Stoney, damn man!

  2. butter Says:

    Was nice to meet u too Ren

    To many more shows down the line

    Stoney, cheer up buddy

  3. little umbrellas Says:

    Bring it over:
    I’ve kind of made up a narative in my mind for Sextant that contextualizes ‘Hornets’. Here goes:
    -The first song RainDance, like a real traditional dance, is a counjering or incantation, except Herbie is the master of bots which are building a space ship. The arpegiator from the Arp2600 represents this. Blueprints are drawn and the ship built. An alarm goes off at one point warning launch. then the craft takes flight and jetisons into space.
    -The second song Hidden Shadows is perfect interdemensional space travel. Like the shadowspirits which run the quantum ship in Michel Kearney’s ‘Light’. The ship is formed from the true spirit, the space funk, and is effectively navigating the cosmos and shedding light as it reaches into the deepest and darkest part of the space, finding the Hidden Shadows.
    -The third song Hornets takes place on the surface of the found alien planet where the ancient tribal People reside. We have traveled and found the ancient flame where the true nature of our souls finds freedom, where the black spirit can be safe. (Much like the cover of the album). The living myth. Hornets sound is primal, tribal, and organic. The insects, birds and alien wildlife are buzzing all around, but the tribal dance continues around the fire and the stories from deep space and the ancient myths are kept alive.
    … So theres a little story for ya.

  4. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Kinda of surprised that the Randy’s Gin has been neglected when it comes to top jams…

    With ya Tela’s… Was blown away in person and on playback it hasn’t lost much..

    Jealous of Dick’s talk… Need to focus o other things and get myself squared up for my mini PNW trip in Oct…

  5. vapebraham Says:

    prediction: Leo’s thinking of hitting the old post office tonight.

  6. vapebraham Says:

    prediction: Leo’s thinking of hitting the old post office tonight.

  7. vapebraham Says:

    C: is 8.1 coming?

  8. lumpyhead Says:

    no Vegas for you Palmer?

  9. MrCompletely Says:

    yes @vape. it’s really going slow. running now though.

  10. Kaveh Says:

    @telas: I hear you and every year, I say I’m going to come out for more time. Alas. In and out again this year. Keep me posted. I would be up for some brewery action this year.

    The Mrs and I are planning on coming out for Blues and Brews next year, renting a house in town and driving out, with bikes, so that may be the spot. A few days in the front range, then hit the SW corner.

  11. Eli Spamwhole Says:

    Hey Bingo – I’m also glad to have the new David Mitchell book in the queue, but Haruki Murakami’s new one was released yesterday. First things first.

  12. Kaveh Says:

    A song that always fires me up:

    http://grooveshark.com/s/Ramble+On/3mnX1S?src=5

  13. little umbrellas Says:

    Pyrocumulonimbus

    ..Sweet Jesus man. Vibes Mr Case. And Vibes to the forest.

  14. little umbrellas Says:

    The sky is burning.

  15. vapebraham Says:

    cool, C. stoked for it – #8 on the list. The auds. for those bama shows, especially 8.2, are really rough w/ high level of crowd noise.

  16. George W. Kush Says:

    lilum, bring it forward or leave it behind

  17. tela's_muff Says:

    yeah, the Blues and Brews thing is on our calendar for next year as well.

  18. little umbrellas Says:

    Had that. Had to have that.

    FUEGO.

  19. butter Says:

    Hit Jerry day at AT&T park last night. Plus my whitesox were in town and we won in 10 innings 3-2

    This thing is getting crazy. Heads from outta the woodwork. Was like a show or reunion. Total puffing in the park, after parties

  20. ren2.0 Says:

    Pumped for everyone to get a full on Dicks experience. Mrs ren and I have almost vetoed a camping trip for our anny because we wouldn’t be able to cast. Dicks could be the most epic run EVER this go around 😉

    Funny thing I’ve felt as 3.0 continues on….the more a feeling I get the band is dedicated to the long haul this go around the more I begin to feel their “restraint”?…maybe its just me…not being stingy with IT…just more restraint and pace…marathon versus sprint type thing.

  21. butter Says:

    That’s where I heard my silly little joke, in the elevator from some random head

    Between innings playlist

    Shakedown, us blues, lazy Rr (a crispy recorded live version), touch, Casey jones

    A paddle board race in the bay between a tiedye hippy, a dancing bear and Jer, Jer won

    Tiedye “K” ‘s hung on wall to record strike outs

    Free shirt that says “Garcia” instead of Giants

  22. ren2.0 Says:

    Time to screw in some light bulbs over…who wants to help LOL Tempted to go for the LED upgrades but dang theys expensive. I think I only have like 12 light bulbs total in my place (not counting the 400W) so not sure it matters

  23. ren2.0 Says:

    Westies always showing us jabronies how to have a better time. What would we do without you!?!? Seriously, my neighborhood is too uptight

  24. Kaveh Says:

    yeah, the Blues and Brews thing is on our calendar for next year as well.

    ^ Nice; I like it. A long way out, but I’ll keep you posted on our activities.

  25. CPTMURIKA Says:

    Ren,
    Is Carne Pane Thomas’s Mex(I)can Cousin?
    …it’s REALLY HOT here in the Atlanta suburbs; I don’t “get IT” ^
    How’s bout “(un)CommonScents” as our “handle”?!?

    &truth-be-told, a FOOD TRUCK/wood-fired-pizza trailer have been being genuinely “due diligence’d” since LilUm’s buddy brought his “table-top” WFP-oven up to the Bay-Area this past Spring…why-the-fuck-NOT?
    “Do You have A JOB, Mister Lebowski?!?!?”…cuz methinks NEITHER of us do 😉

    #FReeEnterter(RE)PRISE

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