My Top 10 Jams of Summer

The Mann '14 (Andrea Nusinov)

The Mann ’14 (Andrea Nusinov)

As always, rankings are silly, pointless and fun all at the same time. This list was extra tough for some reason. Depending on who you are, these jams could take different places, but I feel pretty confident about my group of ten. After making my initial list I re-listened to everything and did some major shuffling. There’s some serious goods in the Honorable Mention section as well!

Honorable Mentions: “Limb by Limb” 7/3, “Chalk Dust” 7/9, “Bathtub Gin” 7/11, “Light” 7/13, “Wombat” 7/18, “Harry Hood” 7/19, “The Wedge” 7/20, “Ghost” 7/20, “Chalk Dust” 7/25, “Tweezer” 7/27, “Fuego” 7/30, “Down With Disease” 8/1, Down with Disease 8/30, Carini 8/30

10. “Chalk Dust Torture” 7/28, Portsmouth, VA

Out of the many versions of “Chalk Dust” outside of Randall’s Island, Portsmouth’s version stands out for its coherence and its narrative thread throughout. The other versions feel a bit scattered.



9. “Light” 7/19, Chicago, IL

A deep experiment in acid-space-jazz, this jam brought a late set peak to Chicago’s second set. And it was well needed as there wasn’t much of substance played before it.



8. “Down with Disease” 7/11, NYC, NY

One of many early-tour jams that is laced with super-tight, super-original whole-band playing with a powerful Trey at the helm. This one gets buried in the avalanche of Randall’s jams, but it really shouldn’t.



7. “Tweezer” 7/13, NYC, NY

Randall’s “Tweezer” was flooded with original playing from the moment the jam drops to its transcendent peak. At no point in this version did the band sit back on any convention, weaving pure gold for the duration. And the way the band collectively climaxed this jam with that chord progression that many reading this can hum right now was nothing short of masterful. This was far and away the best “Tweezer” of the summer.



6. “Ghost” 7/12 NYC, NY

The centerpiece of a flawless set of Phish, this “Ghost” featured gorgeous whole-band interplay and some of Trey’s most powerful lead playing of the summer. The band hooked up early in this one and got into a Hose-like zone, bringing the jam to a huge peak and then sticking with it into an extended section of fully locked downtempo jamming. At this point in summer, the band was squarely focused on deep, psychedelic jamming and it really shows in the Randall’s “Ghost.”



5. “Fuego” 7/4, Saratoga Springs, NY

This was as dramatic of a jam debut as we’ve ever seen over 30 years of Phish. We all knew “Fuego” jams were coming, and Trey made sure to make the first one extra memorable. This second version of tour opened July 4th’s second set with an extended exploration that ended with the most dramatic whole-band peak of the summer. The apex of this jam was a moment that, if present, one will never forget—one of those superhero type moments you wish the world could feel. After this massive version, who would have guessed we’d only see two more jams from the countless “Fuegos” played for the rest of the summer?



4. Simple” 8/29, Commerce City, CO

On the first night of Dick’s all the pieces from summer seemed to come together within this all-time “Simple” jam. Fish and Mike took the reins of this jam out of the gate while Trey sat back adding accents and rhythm licks and plotting a long-range plan. He gradually emerged over the course of several sections and then—for the first time in far too long—took the jam home with a some gargantuan lead playing. After a cathartic peak where the band would usually move on, they—instead—stepped into an all-out, funk throwdown with Trey  spinning dance grooves in a style rarely incorporated into modern day Phish. This “Simple” also contained the longest period of groove of any jam in recent memory.



3. “Harry Hood” 7/1, Mansfield, MA

Throughout their careers, it hasn’t been uncommon for Phish to drop one of tour’s best jams on opening night. And this summer, the band did just that with their late-set version of “Harry Hood.” This wide-open rendition initiated a character shift for “Hood” this past summer into a type II jam vehicle. While many versions popped off in different directions, this one still holds the top spot for me, a truly magical journey.



2. “Fuego” 7/8, Philadelphia, PA

This centerpiece from the first night of Philly is a remarkable jam that is unique in its pacing and progression. Displaying incredible patient, the band shifted as a unit throughout this jam, crafting almost orchestral movements. Just as one thought they were heading for a big peak a la SPAC’s version, the guys took a quick left into a section of whole-band groove. All in all, this “Fuego” is quite an exercise in improvisation and another quality example of the band’s early-summer approach to their jams.



1. “Chalk Dust Torture” 7/13, NYC, NY

While much of this list was difficult to put in order, the top spot was a no brainer. Differing from the many constantly-in-motion “Chalk Dusts” of summer, Randall’s version saw the band develop themes while settling in and exploring several distinct-but-connected musical directions. Even after Dick’s standout weekend, the hour of music highlighted by this “Chalk Dust” still stands out as the most accomplished and innovative playing of the year. There were many great shows this summer, but something special that bears significance in the context of Phish’s career took place on the final night of Randall’s Island.

[audio:] Tags: , , ,

1,621 Responses to “My Top 10 Jams of Summer”

  1. MrCompletely Says:


  2. MrCompletely Says:

    Panic fans are all talk and no action. Mostly cause they’re too wasted to move.

  3. MrCompletely Says:

    no two elements in that pic go together in any meaningful way and there are like 30 things happening

  4. sumodie Says:

    Anyone catching Jack White at Fenway Park on Wed?

    Doubtful my brain will have recovered enough after tmrw’s impending Crimson meltage but stranger things have happened

    (May have a Crimson extra, not sure my partner can weather another sonic assault from Fripp & company)

    Who’s down with Skrillex for NYEMSG? ;0>

  5. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    “damn it, looks like popper is off the wagon again. someone call animal control.”

  6. vapebraham Says:

    thanks, C and Mia for weighing in. I’m not suggesting that it’s a quote of another song, just that it’s a theme i’ve heard them insert into jams before. RanDust, you say Mia. i’ll listen for it.

  7. MrCompletely Says:

    okay then @vape – you mean the Trey riff or the melodic Page part specifically? I’ll listen for it too

  8. sumodie Says:

    U2 album was in iCloud, not automatically in one’s hard drive library. Of course I dl’d it from iCloud, longtime fan tho much less so nowadays

  9. sumodie Says:

    Ah right, it’s Monday. Skrillex news must mean tmrw is Phish announcement day

  10. GWKush Says:

    I was thinking 9/23 would be the NYE announce date

  11. GWKush Says:

    date was 9/24 last year

  12. vapebraham Says:

    C: trey starts the riff. page echoes it later. Portsmouth piper 7.30.14 10:55 til the end. happy rock riff. Overall a very great jam.

  13. vapebraham Says:

    C: u ever see this:

    breakdown of the various jam themes that the GD used and where they used them w/ live music links.

  14. MrCompletely Says:

    sure @vape. A good essay. I don’t agree with him on some of the details about what he calls the “Feelin’ Groovy jam” and the China-Rider bridge stuff but that fellow is quite the scholar

  15. GWKush Says:

    @C, why was China-Rider pretty much dropped from the rotation after being such a prominent suite in early 70s Dead. was it just new material in the cannon phasing it out or did someone oppose playing it?

  16. RicksFork Says:

    Verno, Stoney,

    I think 12/28/13 Steam is good use of the Whale, but I might just like the Whale…

    There goes my BB card again. He who doesn’t love VW and likes whale shall be forever an outsider.

  17. MrCompletely Says:

    @GWK, when they came back after the hiatus in ’76 they just dropped everything they were tired of playing and things that they didn’t think were suitable for rearrangement for two drummers. I’m not sure which category China Rider falls into. My guess is that they were burned out on it.

    China Rider was played once in ’77, a total tease ’cause then it was dropped again until early ’79. The Brent era arrangement dropped the extra bridge jam from the 73-74 versions and it never came back. Some of the late ’79 through early 80s ones are pretty great in a rock & roll type way. For awhile it moved between set 1 and set 2 before settling (mostly) into the set 2 opener slot for good.

  18. sumodie Says:

    Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:
    September 15th, 2014 at 1:17 pm
    posted for your commentary (
    Phases of the Moon looks like it was… something.

    Aha, so that’s what Stoney sees when Trey unleashes the whale

  19. sumodie Says:

    So good worth a repost….listening now

    Phlorida phan must be loving Skrillex after today’s NYEMSG news

  20. Gavinsdad Says:

    Actually mentioned the Miami thing in front of my wife and mother this weekend. Got crickets. Plan was to do Xmas in west palm w parents and grab at least one show. Would also have to factor in taking kids to that Harry Potter amusement spot in Orlando somehow. Hmmmm.

  21. MrCompletely Says:

    yeah I’m laying the groundwork for a plan like that too @gd. Long shot but not impossible. We have family a few places in FL

  22. sumodie Says:

    gdad, i hear there’s some fantastic rides at that Universal Studios park. Esp coasters

    A hip dad move like that has to worth some viking warrior rock

  23. Gavinsdad Says:

    My mom actually brought up coming here when I thought we’d already been planting seeds for down there in FL. Regardless, past two years I’ve been scaled back to one show and this year Id really like to have the wife along for a show in festive mee-ah-mee.

  24. Mr. Palmer Says:

    We are planning a family Disney run also, but it won’t be during that time frame, for sure.

  25. RicksFork Says:

    As a rollercoaster enthusiast and closet Harry Potter fan that sounds like an awesome weekend to me GDad. Hope you can make it happen. Dicks, Seattle, SF and Vegas mean no chance at Miami for this Snowcone.

Leave a Reply