The Top Ten Jams of 2014

7.12.14 Randall's Island (Chris LaJaunie)

7.12.14 Randall’s Island (Chris LaJaunie)

10. “Crosseyed and Painless” 10.17 II, Eugene, OR

Phish came into Fall Tour rested and raring to go and promptly dropped one of the jams of tour on its very first night. The band moves from hard groove into far deeper psychedelic textures when all is said and done, in a smoking piece of music.



9.”Chalk Dust > Ghost” 10.21 II, Santa Barbara, CA

This one-two punch that opened up the second set of Santa Barbara moved to some very cool places in both halves of the sequence. The most beautiful portion, however, comes deep within “Ghost” as the band hits a musical plane that felt congruent with the Southern California surroundings.



8. “The Wedge” 7.20 II,  Chicago, IL

This jam popped out of nowhere in the middle of Chicago’s final frame, and changed the landscape of the set from routine to creative in an instant. The band hits on some minimalist funk as they calibrate their communication, finally hooking up in some serious grooves before turning on a dime into the infectious chord progression that resembles “Paradise City” among other songs. All in all, a very cool surprise slice of Phish.



7. “Ghost” 7.12 II, New York, NY

This groove-turned-exploratory version of “Ghost” stood at the center of “Randalls Island’s second show, and represents the version of the year. The band applied their patient and intricate style of the early summer to this show stopper, leaving us with a peak moment of Phish from the middle night of their New York City stand.



6. “Fuego” 7.8 II, Philadelphia, PA

This was one of the many long form jams over the first two weeks of summer that built to the Randall’s “Chalk Dust.” On relisten while making this list, this jam struck me as a bit meandering and scattered compared to the rest of the top ten. Delivered in movements, this “Fuego” is certainly is an improvisational beast and hits some choice places, but it lacks continuity and tightness throughout.



5. “Chalk Dust > Piper” 11.2 II, Las Vegas, NV

Phish’s Las Vegas stand provided just what the doctor ordered after an inconsistent Fall Tour, and its finest jamming came on the final night in this second-set sequence of “Chalk Dust -> Piper.” The interplay in “Chalk Dust” turned far more creative than several extended versions of summer and fall, coming as a welcome refreshment from a jam that started to grow a tad stale. This “Piper” took a turn from its usual frenetic pace into a gentle, melody driven peak that proved to be the golden nugget of the entire musical sequence.



4. “Simple” 8.29 II, Commerce City, CO

Denver’s “Simple” is some good, clean wholesome Phish. A journey that moves straight out of the gates with an upbeat tempo, peaks with some of Trey’s most cathartic playing of the year. In fact, this jam is the piece in which Papa Bear awakened from his late summer slumber during which he dreamt about playing weird, aimless rhythm guitar in a rock band for a tour. But his awakening was glorious. And just then when you’d think this piece was winding down, a dance party breaks out. This was a feel good jam through and though, and a great welcome to the Rockies.



3. “Down with Disease” 1.3.15 II, Miami, FL

This “Down With Disease” was the finest piece of improvisation to come out of the inverted New Year’s Run in Miami. The band connected four distinct and disparate themes with notable fluidity once they jumped ship on “Disease’s” composed jam. Improvising at a higher level than at any time in the Sunshine State, Phish slowly deconstructed each section and blended it into the next, creating an incredibly dynamic flow of music. Deep within this “Disease,” the band descended into some of the most gorgeous music of the entire year—a stunning space of aural gold in which Trey spun grail melodies over an ethereal backdrop. Red worked out of this quiet midsection with some grittier leads that developed into a harder rock peak of the jam, putting an exclamation point on the trip before coming down via an abstract denouement.



2. “Harry Hood” 7.1 II, Mansfield, MA

In a year that featured more open jams out of “Harry Hood” than any in history, the first is still the most impressive. After a set and a half that amounted to lay up lines, the band got their feet wet with “Ghost -> Weekapaug” and then absolutely took the plunge in this now-iconic “Harry Hood.” The band’s coherence and command as they bob and weave through open waters is nothing short of astounding. This jam is both exploratory and super-tight simultaneously, creating a truly epic piece of Phish.



1. “Chalk Dust Torture” 7.13 II, New York, NY

This jam from the final night of Randall’s Island is the runaway jam of the year. This “Chalk Dust” is among the elite versions ever played and is a clinic in improvisation. Phish took us on a wild journey in this monstrosity, and each and every movement is impeccable. From the initial burst and melodic peak to the meditative, astral jazz finale, this near 30-minute epic is truly on the all-time level. This “Chalk Dust” was the centerpiece of a very special evening of Phish.

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29,462 Responses to “The Top Ten Jams of 2014”

  1. butter Says:

    While I agree Trey was the musical leader and mostly solo’d vs crafted improv, I respectfully disagree @Miner about the 3 or 4 full band jam attempts and that these shows didn’t require Trey listening. I would say there were that many on the first night

    Dark star
    St Stephen

    Some of this you may file under “thematic” jamming that was practiced, but I feel there was important listening going on. Especially in the slow soupy Bird Song type of jams. Look at Shakedowns 2nd jam. Golden Road ….
    Trey was destroying Bobby tunes like Sailor > Saint, let it grow by having an incredibly open ear – then picking his attack spots. if you mean attempts at full band jamming, that ended up in type 2 open improv, I get it tho.

  2. MiA Says:

    I think Trey was listening. Wouldn’t call it “leading”


    He has been the occasional problem in 3.0. Trey needs to charge the hill. Tahoe Tweezer was hit the ball, drag Trey. Until he figured it out. Dicks Dust was a bit that way too.

    Hard to lead that crew during GD50. Gotta be unconcious. Rarely got to that zone for me. But why should it? They rarely played together to be able to read each other’s minds. Bobby was throwing fouls and arms when he though Trey missed a “return”

  3. MiA Says:

    Hope they are playing together right now!

  4. MrCompletely Says:

    the question of who, if anyone, was leading at any given moment seemed like it was the defining dynamic of all 5 shows. Sometimes it was no one…I felt like everyone involved was more comfortable with Treebeard leading things more of the time when they got to Chicago. It was still amorphous at times. Sometimes that meant freedom, others it was more unfocused. Seems like the leaderless thing works best in the more freeform parts.

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    Bob trying to conduct the band & either doing it wrong, being ignored or both is a GD tradition like any other. When it works it’s great.

    Because of the leadership dynamic I felt like they were listening on 2 levels a lot of the time. Trying to read each other, figure out who was driving, what the plan was, the whole interpersonal head trip thing is one kind of listening/communicating. And then the in the moment musical level is another. When the interpersonal part would click then all the focus could be just on the music and that’s when it worked best

    Could be totally off base but that’s what I thought was playing out. A lot of (maybe necessary) overthinking it getting a little bit in the way of just playing.

    Very understandable/natural in the context of a big band with a loose rhythm section and not a lot of rehearsal time all together

  6. Fat bastard Says:

    This is my final thought on dye. Driving phish as a lead is like arriving a bmw driving the grateful dead is like driving a bus. Good luck turning that mother fucker on a dime but when you do it leaves some serious tread.

  7. Fat bastard Says:

    Dye = ftw on this stupid phone

  8. dorn76 Says:

    Dar dar

    Beers in a bag. Flowers in the room. Somebody is gettin lucky. If this damn 5 year old would just go to bed!

    Should’ve got the one bedroom suite.


    Trent needs to channel the “I wanna fuck you, no not you” guy. Rip it up and be a punk.

  9. Jerseyjim Says:

  10. MiA Says:

    I love your interpretation C. I guess my perception or point of view was that when its unconscious you lose the thought process. They were still jockeying. Not in a bad way but because they had to.

    Unconscious is where the goods are for me. Island Twist. Englishtown Eyes.

  11. MiA Says:

    I like FB’s thoughts too. And Dorns. I’m very agreeable when I am this high.

  12. phlorida phan Says:

    Off topic as usual, but if you all haven’t seen the movie Whiplash, put that up top on your list. Shillenger from Oz is this crazy hard ass football style coach jazz teacher, pushing this drummer to be a bad ass. Throwing chairs at him and shit. $$$ movie

  13. More Says:

    I totally love that a younger generation who didn’t get to see jerry still was able to walk away life-changed from this run. A lot of what my burner friends experienced as life changing at burning man, is the same vibe many of us got from tour community. Especially when camping in lot. And I am even more stoked there was not one iota of holier then thou bullshit that definitely existed back in the day.

    Sooooo if I never got to see the grateful deads play st Stephen because they stopped playing it 2 years before I started going to shows, does it now mean that I have seen the grateful deads play it since i was in Santa Clara?

  14. Snow Says:

    Top notch bob convo the past few pages. I hear gdad and miner on FTW not being a perfect parallel for what we want from peak phish with truly type 2 improv. I tend think that Phish’s improv game is more sophisticated than the dead’s was/is. The bus/car analogy being a great starting point. (The dead being stronger at creating a powerful soundscape with the added players.)

    For me, the hope here is that Trafalgor will benefit from improved chops, inspiration and a confidence boost. I don’t think he has been sheepish. I’m thinking more of him feeling super charged now with new ideas and passion for the game.

    That said, I’m not sure it brings more open improv. I think Trafalgor thinks open improv bores the crowd because the energy dies compared to Zero where everybody knows the places to go nuts. My hope is that Trafalgor has really been avoiding open improv due to fears of it getting stale and FTW will bring the confidence/inspiration that going deep will be rewarding. Blah blah blah. Less than two weeks till we find out!!!

  15. phlorida phan Says:

    It’s on Starz on demand fyi. Can’t beliebe ter is right around the corner. New Tweezers!

  16. butter Says:

    Damn, nice thoughts ya’ll

  17. BingosBrother Says:

    Loved Whiplash pphan. One of my favs this year.

  18. phlorida phan Says:

    Agreed bingos, I imagine treyzor brought that actor with him to the woodshed this spring/summer. Whooped his ass into shape, throwing amps and whammy pedals towards his dome.

  19. phlorida phan Says:

    Broke a few doc’s over his knees teaching tray to become Trey. That’s why the Mar Mar was played, ran low on axes!

  20. butter Says:

    The closest he came to doing that thing Stoney talks about was Shakedown

  21. sumodie Says:

    “Not being the leader must have been very freeing for Trey in many respects”

    great observation, though I thought the music worked the best when he did take charge a little

    Exactly. Bob & Phil were the overall leaders with setlist construction and assigning / offering up lead vocal opportunities. And they appeared to often be the ones orchestrating, or trying to orchestrate, song changes / transitions / endings

    But as Trey grew more comfortable on lead guitar, he was leading the band through his playing and by offering up new musical ideas. Agreed, those were frequently the best musical segments as the other band members learned to trust / understand Trey as well as each other.

    Not being the overall leader gave Trey the freedom to focus (almost) exclusively on being The Lead Guitarist

    I loved watching that dynamic take shape and grow over the 5 shows

    One of the many reasons I wish the FTW run had included a few more shows, maybe 7 or 9 total (but absolutely not more than 9). The limited nature of FTW was part of the magic. 5 was certainly a very good number

  22. BingosBrother Says:

    Maybe Trey needs Jeff Holdsworth back?

  23. dorn76 Says:

    No matter how many times you rev your super duper weed whacker sounding motorcycle engine, I remain unimpressed

    The short hotel robes look ridiculous on me. Robes in general are tough to pull off for guys. Should probably get Gdad to weigh in here. Meesta Fashionista knows how to outfit the urbane male.

    LazyL’s vids remain up. Bless that.

  24. MrCompletely Says:

    “I guess my perception or point of view was that when its unconscious you lose the thought process. They were still jockeying. Not in a bad way but because they had to.”

    definitely. that “who’s driving” conversation keeps them in their heads. every time they settled it, the music just happened

    “Not being the overall leader gave Trey the freedom to focus (almost) exclusively on being The Lead Guitarist”

    well said

  25. MrCompletely Says:

    6.27.15 FLACs!yQ12hSJT!UpY8ftdxFvaUWefHm-ntkeCSPKGF5BHFIt1nR3yHjns

    C. Miller webrip > CM remastering > FLAC > retracking and tagging > FLAC

    this fileset was already normalized but was untagged and many of the tracks were slightly miscut. so just a light cleanup here

    def sounds better than the mp3s to me. more spacious & present

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