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. garretcorncob Says:

    C, I’d hit Electric Byrd too. A little spacier texturally than Ethiopian Knights, which does make it sound smoother in a literal sense, with some synth action, but not cheesy or anything.

  2. Shred Says:

    No mention of 8/13/96 anniversary? I drove out there to catch the two pack at Deer Creek. A younger and wilder Shred. Watched my band completely crush a first set like no other. I would do that one again in a blink.

    My best first sets were 11/17/97, 8/13/96 and Lincoln 95.
    3.0 we don’t even include them in the ranking.

    @ miner is it almost time to rank best of 3.0 jams? Would create a lot of controversy. Entertain us!

  3. MrCompletely Says:

    spacier texture is fine, the cheesiness comes in from some ineffable quality of tonality and groove…a quality which simply cannot be effed

  4. George W. Kush Says:

    9/9/00 II

    Nice sand groove

  5. George W. Kush Says:

    helps to post the link

  6. little umbrellas Says:

    just found this too:
    Flying Lotus – Ideas + Drafts + Loops (full Album) HQ
    Published on Dec 14, 2013
    Here’s the new unreleased album of Flying Lotus

    —Not sure this is really a completed album or what— already caught some dope shit on here though— it’s dec not You’re Dead, but i had never heard it.

  7. tzara's Says:

    So weird trying to catch up, and everybody’s talking about leo going to the post office. I’m all WTF are you talking about. Then got the payoff at the end. Experiencing the future from the recent past.

  8. Mr.Miner Says:

    the band tried in alpharetta, but never really hit IT imo. Chalk is decent but the rest of the set is wholly mediocre. Not for a lack of effort though. They tried in Twist and Light but just didn’t gain liftoff. Light is decent though.

  9. little umbrellas Says:

    once more for this too:
    Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge

    -All Analog live band recording. Still viscerally inspired. Don’t get thrown by the first song. Amazing music.

    During an interview Adrian Younge revealed that Twelve Reasons To Die will serve as the score to a vintage Italian horror film, that takes place in 1968. He also cited RZA and Italian composer Ennio Morricone as two of the inspirations behind his production on the album

  10. Selector J Says:

    @lilumb – Sorry about the water data mix-up thing from last night. My wook brain is easily confused. Here’s a sample of some Golden Dawn Arkestra.
    (Sweet little pro shot vid from Antone’s.)

    Biased because I know a guy in the group but I think these dudes and chicks–especially the chicks (trying hard not to make creepy smile)–are badass.

  11. garretcorncob Says:

    “Experiencing the future from the recent past.”

    Which is neat, because your everyday experiences are experiencing the recent past from the future, given the traveling of light and the electric pulses that convey sensation. (It’s the future only in the sense that it’s ahead of what you perceive as the present, which as stated is the recent past by the time it’s experienced.)

  12. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Those are the 3 Byrd’s I own.. Ethiopian, Electric and Black… Great stuff.. Everytime I re-listen, I wonder what took me so long…

    MP3 though…

    Those Byrd LPs go into the non- Pitchfork recs from the BB…

  13. little umbrellas Says:

    sweet Selecta. Thanks.

  14. MrCompletely Says:

    Antone’s. Been thinking about C.J. a lot recently. My dad is getting sick and has been filling me in on a lot of their history together since he might not have a whole lot of time left. Too soon to talk about it in public but some real deep counterculture & drug war history there.

    Golden Dawn seems hip & thanks for more FlyLo drops, I had not seen that either

  15. Stoney Case Says:

    Jay and others:


  16. MrCompletely Says:

    Definitely Kofi, the album before Ethiopian, is much more “jazz”

  17. little umbrellas Says:

    Well damn. For one thing, Golden Dawn play at least this one Mulatu song so far:
    Mulatu Astatke – Kasalèfkut Hulu .and they got a vibes player!

    We play that song too, though the feel is a little different. thanks for the share fo sho.

    but yeah. mostly white kids playin similar music… we never went for the full Arkestra/Pfunk/Goat clothing vibe. We where suits. one difference so far.

  18. MrCompletely Says:

    Electric Byrd cued up for later

    Firenado is nuts. Needs moar shark tho.

  19. little umbrellas Says:

    @Selecta. here’s us from 2011 playing the exact same song that the Golden Dawn are playin in the video you shared:
    Sun Hop Fat playing Kasalèfkut Hulu. We sorta do an > with another arrangement by Mulatu.

    here’s the other Mulatu version
    -here makes the groove a halftime feel and the horns speed is doubled. also the horns come in on a phasing place in the beat.

  20. little umbrellas Says:

    but wow, trippy for me to watch that vid. def had some lineup changes since then. been some years.

  21. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Golden Dawn Arkestra is buen buen. I endorse. Some fun nights @ The Continental Club @ their midnight sets. Typically after getting spun up at some earlier show for example Tedeschi Trucks last Jul & after Earphunk in Feb. They like to throw down at The Sahara Lounge too. As a matter of factuality playing tonight at The Long Center as part of Sound & Cinema. Check it:

  22. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Btw…The Old Post Office

  23. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Your old man & Clifford were pals MrC?

  24. little umbrellas Says:

    Golden Dawn def doing there own take and arrangement with the song. They made it a little more porno funk groovin… def would be a fun bill to share! good eye DrJ.

  25. bob dylan Says:

    stone loc, that picture is terrifying. my realtor is a firefighter in the hills outside santa cruz. met up with him last night and he was saying they’ve been sending supplies from all over the state and there still aren’t enough up there.

    good on ya for the rain song. bet it felt pretty good when it worked!

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