The Top Jams of Summer Tour

15. “Simple” 7.22 II, Bend, OR: The first hint that something strange was afoot at the Circle K this summer.

14. “46 Days” 8.15 II, Columbia, MD: A murky jam that ended in a huge melodic peak.

13.“Golden Age” 9.4 II, Commerce City, CO: Abstract psychedelia turned ethereal groove highlighted the first night in Colorado.

12. “46 Days” 8.22 II, Watkins Glen, NY: A very original, quasi-ambient take on one of the anthems of summer.

11. “Down With Disease” 8.5 II, Kansas City, MO: A multi-part jam that passed through a gorgeous spacescape en route to some of Trey’s most seething guitar playing of summer tour.

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10. “Down With Disease” 9.6 II, Commerce City, CO

Though Dick’s three-night stand was largely the denouement of an incredible summer, one jam that stood out was the final set’s “Down With Disease.” In the last section of this excursion, Trey initiated a melodic motif that would tug on the heartstrings of even a dead man. The whole band latched on to this theme, crafting a life-affirming section of music that provided the four most blissful minutes of Colorado’s three-night run. While some of Phish’s most complex explorations speak to the intellect, and their grooves speak to the body, this jam truly speaks to the soul.

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9. “Chalk Dust -> Tweezer” 8.7 II, Cuhyahoga Falls, OH

Blossom Official  S.M. Studios)

Blossom Official (S.M. Studios)

This set-opening combo knocked down the doors of one of Summer’s most complete sets of music. “Chalk Dust” reached a gorgeous, fast-paced, whole-band peak laced with thematic playing that evoked Guns and Roses’ “Paradise City.” When Phish descended from this truly awesome plateau, Trey gradually led them into a seamless transition into “Tweezer.” While this version of “Tweezer” didn’t necessarily stand up to the several monumental versions of summer, it certainly packed a legitimate punch with several swanky sections of improvisation. Trey directed the band with some powerful lead playing that Page supported with stellar work of his own. Towards the end of this piece, the band discovered a very dark, almost-industrial, creative milieu that stood out as the most interesting aspect of this jam.

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8. “Light” 8.22 III, Watkins Glen, NY

Magnaball D.Millward)

Magnaball (D.Millward)

Deep in the third set on the band’s most prolific night of their summer-ending festival, they broke out a delicate and very creative version of “Light.” This version saw Trey engage in nimble runs of notes throughout a very connected four-part conversation. Passing through an ethereal plane in its middle stages, this jam saw the band sculpt an open soundscape congruent to their festival surroundings. Landing in an polyrhythmic, digitized exchange replete with a blanket of effects, this version absolutely slayed from beginning to end and is a prime example of how on point the band was on the second day of Magnaball.

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7. “Tweezer” 8.1 II, Atlanta, GA

You know it was quite a summer when a near half-hour “Tweezer” with a soaring peak section lands at number seven on this list. This multi-faceted journey was anchored by Trey’s heartfelt and long-lasting leads in the aforementioned peak section in which he brings the jam out of darkness into the heavens with a circular melodic theme that froze time on a sweltering Atlanta evening. Once the band came down from this middle section, they entered a very creative part of the jam that saw the band proficiently chopping it up in a fast-paced rhythmic exchange that prominently featured Trey’s Tru Tron effect (or Trey Tron as I like to call it) that he favored for so much of summer tour.

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6. “Bathtub Gin” 8.21 I, Watkins Glen, NY

Magnaball J.Pollock)

Magnaball (J.Pollock)

Phish absolutely annihilated this all-time version of Bathtub Gin in the opening set of Magnaball this August. Taking everybody by surprise with such an explosive, multi-tiered rendition, Phish announced their presence with authority early on in their highly anticipated festival. Another jam in which the band continued to roll through fluid themes with ease, the band christened the summer’s peak weekend of majestic improvisation. The guys built to a breathtaking climax in this middle section of this “Gin,” one that had thousands upon thousands of jaws on the field as the band collectively arrived at one of tour’s most indelible moments. And when the band pushed right through the peak into another section of improv, they just about knocked everyone out.

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5. “Kill Devil Falls” 7.31 II, Atlanta, GA

Atlanta Official J.Weinberg)

Atlanta Official (J.Weinberg)

Who knew a day would turn into a week, and who knew that when Phish opened up the second set of this show with “Kill Devil Falls” that they’d wind up with a masterpiece? This colossal jam passed through several distinct phases with notable fluidity, moving from a Tru Tron-based section into darker bass-led textures; through a brief “Manteca” motif into a powerful and extended sequence of guitar narration; through a bluesy exchange into a groovy section of interplay, and finally into a monstrous peak with a “Tweezer Reprise”-esque progression. The band never lost focus or momentum through this phenomenal exploration as the fresh ideas continued to readily flow in lock step fashion, as was the case in all of summer’s top jams. This one was an instant classic and the only thing to be determined was where amongst summer tour’s gems it would land.

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4. “Tweezer” 8.9 II, East Troy, WI

The Alpine “Tweezer” is pure butter. Arguably the smoothest jam of the summer, it featured pure cohesion upon a single theme from beginning to end. Unlike the multi-tiered explorations that were so prevalent over summer tour, in this “Tweezer” the band jammed along a single, united path without a wasted note. Fusing groove with melody like only Phish can, this jam represented what can happen when all band members are on the same page and things go perfectly for an entire jam. This one is so flawless it almost sounds composed; truly an opus of summer.

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3. “Tweezer -> Caspian -> Tweezer” 8.22 II, Watkins Glen, NY

Magnaball Land Land)

Magnaball (Land Land)

This improvisational sequence was the undeniable centerpiece of Magnaball’s second day. Closing out the first evening set with almost a half an hour of stellar jamming, the band—essentially—dropped two “Tweezer” jams with “Caspian” in the middle. I’m not sure why Live Phish didn’t label the second half of “Tweezer,” as Trey even initiated the segment with a gnarred out, chunky version of the song’s signature lick. Nonetheless, both halves of the jam are nothing short of spectacular. Another excursion that signifies the incredibly tight and exploratory jamming that popped up almost every night of tour, this two-part “Tweezer” packed insane power into its every nook and cranny. While its opening half transformed from thick groove into fast-paced melodica, it’s the second half that boasts the magnificent richness that is Phish. The entire sequence leads up to a mind-bending peak that featured a dizzying Mind Left Body progression.

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2. “Twist > Light” 7.24 II, Mountain View, CA

Shoreline Official (J.Santora)

Shoreline Official (J.Santora)

While Bend’s “Simple” teased us of what was to come in a transformative tour, it is this two-pronged sequence from Shoreline that kicked the summer into high gear and showed us that the band was playing for keeps. This dualistic rendition of “Twist” plunged the depths of the Netherworld and then ascended into the heavens with a prolonged, symphonic movement of cohesive bliss. This “Twist” was the jam that changed my summer plans of hitting a few shows out west and the festival to a hitting every show (but Austin). In this monumental improvisation, the band demonstrated the comfort, ease and seemingly effortless communication that allows them to create art in the highest form. And this “Twist” set the bar incredibly high for the rest of the season. Featuring a looser feel than many of this summer’s jams, the style felt very congruent to the Bay Area environs on the heels of Fare Thee Well. This was one of those unforgettable musical moments that will live in the memory banks of all attendees for the annals of time.

And just as “Twist” came to a close, the band crashed into “Light” in a real statement of improvisational intent. The band’s cosmic jamming continued throughout this amazing, multi-thematic jam in which the band eventually landed in an “I Know You Rider” jam in a clear nod to the Bay Area forefathers. A one-two punch like none other of summer, I knew as soon as this combination dropped we’d see it near the top of the tour’s highlights.

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1. “Twist” 8.12 II, Philadelphia, PA

phillyposter

Philly Official (D.Welker)

The Philly “Twist” from the second night of the Mann Music Center stands head and shoulders above any other jam from summer. And it’s not even close. This excursion transcends tour highlight status into that of a career highlight. Demonstrating pure mastery of their craft, the band members passed musical ideas with delicacy and precision, echoing and responding to each other in a way rarely witnessed at Phish shows. As soon as they dove into open waters, the guys were like a one-minded organism, improvising with a stunning proficiency that seemed to awe even themselves, as could be seen with the extended pause they took at the piece’s conclusion. The first half of the jam featured a dark exploration of sound, texture and melody fused into one. Trey utilized all facets of his game as he not only played notes but crafted blankets of sound and effect that served to color the music as much as he pushed it forward. The band crafted a dark and abstract—though airtight—jam, that had it ended when they transitioned into the exploration’s second half, would have still landed it near the top of this list. But the guys pushed on as Fishman initiated a slow groove that methodically built into an entire new jam. After navigating another foray into darkness, the band finally emerged from the murk into a monumental peak that was pulled from a fantasy. Trey tore off majestic melodies that sounded like music you’d known for your entire life as the entire band exploded in catharsis. Capping such a deep excursion with an arrival this glorious is the stuff of which dreams are made. As I walked out of the venue this night with a long-time friend, he described this jam perfectly with a single line—“the soundtrack to the universe.”

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26,608 Responses to “The Top Jams of Summer Tour”

  1. bob dylan Says:

    Big ups Miner. Great piece. Love that alpine tweezer getting the nod over the 2 before it that week. Phish crack.

    I’m glad the twist > light happened so you could catch all of 2015. What a year!

  2. dorn76 Says:

    I posted just like I’ve done for months, without looking at the headline.

    HOLY DEEMSTER BABY JESUS! Sup, Miner?

    @BD, can hold it for ya until Thurs if you want.

    Believe it is behind stage in 100’s. We also have 4 in 201, so that could be arranged.

  3. StoneyCase Says:

    my life is over. i am a robot.

  4. MrCompletely Says:

    Vape, sorry for your bummer

    “Not sure why the double line didn’t make the list.”

    Literal lolz

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    Stoney, man

    I feel you hurtin

    Wish I could help you with your burdens

  6. dorn76 Says:

    Bobby D, can you get me into the Welker happening? I will give you that 1/1 ticket and carry you in on a Imperial litter.

  7. Bwana Says:

    Cheers Mr. Minor, thanks for the new list and for indulging us with this blog for the community that does exist within our greater Phishy massive. I’m pretty sure that same friend that said “the soundtrack to the universe” was why I ended up front row at Shoreline. At least it sounds a lot like him to me. He magically scored two front row tix from the box office upon arriving at the lots… Ended up being a mixed blessing kind of show for him ~ but I did my best to orchestrate in his place… All the best to you in the New Year!

    @C, Kind of like Star Wars… There’s a new post ~ gotta enjoy the novelty of that for a minute before breakin down the arty rankins! But no mention of the Mikes 2nd jam is only because the MSG Mikes that’s coming will legitimately make the list instead!

    Cheers to all those heading to the Garden. Can’t wait to hear what’s in store… Gonna be catching the webcasts at the 1Up in Denver before seeing some live music out here the next couple nights (Boombox and CRB). The East Coast time difference is perfect for doing both and they’ve got it up on a big movie screen with full concert speaker system for free! Then mountain cabin-style webcast for the last two…

    Let’s ring in this New Year BB!

  8. dorn76 Says:

    @Stoney! I put “California Sap” into your search engine and got nothing. Thoughts?

    Robots are people, too, dude.

    Wish I could do more than get a smile outta you, but I’ll take it!

  9. dorn76 Says:

    @Beans_underscore just called him “Minor”.

    Will miss you at MSG! Enjoy the webby+CRB double feature.

  10. Sex&city Says:

    Mr C… it would be even funnier if u were standing behind Telas when that once in a lifetime double epic jam went down.

  11. Sex&city Says:

    Stoney why the down life over comment?

  12. StoneyCase Says:

    webcast salvation on the horizon. someone get behind stage with a witty sign.

    fLegion

  13. bob dylan Says:

    seems like that was a hard ticket since there were only 100. I’ll ask at the venue tomorrow what the deal is. Don’t wanna call any favors in since I’m not going tho.

  14. Bwana Says:

    Haha, good catch Dornholio! My bad Miner!

  15. Plord Says:

    Ok that was intense. Matt Hollenberg, Nick Millevoi, both on guitar, Johnny DeBlase on bass, Kenny Grohowski on a 4 piece drum kit.

    The Bagatelles are short, 1-2 bar, untimed, atonal snippets of music that Zorn composed; each band that plays the Stone gets to debut a handful of them and expand them into longer improvised pieces. For having only the bare rudiments of structure on the page, that was some *tight* raging aggro noise improv.

    Marc Ribot sat in for 3 tunes because of course. Zorn lurked in the back in his signature orange camo. Basically The Full New York.

  16. dorn76 Says:

    You’re a speed-puffing mensch.

  17. bob dylan Says:

    I could go for a mikes 2nd jam. I’ve been so removed from phish and live music tomorrow will be very refreshing. Absolutely 0 expectations. A few wants but anything will do.

    dorn, wanna meet at other half? Gotta trek to BK but we can get 2 solid hours of drinking double ipas in before hitting the train.

  18. Sex&city Says:

    Ok FOMO has turned in to just plain upset I know I’ll be missing out. Time to hit the sack. Safe travels and a safe rage of a time to all going to MSG. May the force be with you all. See the rest of you inside that gooey moist glory hole.

  19. bob dylan Says:

    Plord doing his visit the right way.

    To those of you wondering, the Minetta tavern burger lives up to the hype. When I went we had another for dessert. They open at 5 tomorrow and you can try and get a spot at the bar.

  20. dorn76 Says:

    Shoot, Other Half would be great! Appreciate the invite, but when I’m dropped at GST tomorrow around 330PM it will seem as far away as another planet. Like Manhattan seems to the denizens of Brookjlyn.

  21. dorn76 Says:

    That J makes it even hipper than Brooklyn.

  22. dorn76 Says:

    Isn’t it like 6PM in Colorado?

  23. Plord Says:

    I am seriously considering — unless someone comes through with a miracle NYE ticket for me — skipping the webcast of set 1, and catching the 8pm show at the Stone before bailing to the webcast for sets 2-3.

    That Welker thing sounds choice. Wish I’d known!

  24. Plord Says:

    Apropos of nothing, Ace of Spades has “Fishman antics tune” written all over it, no?

  25. Bwana Says:

    Actually the blackboard postings time is currently the same as Colorado. I thought it used to be Pacific time stamps on here… Unless it registers differently now depending where your IP address is registered. Either way, it’s 9:37pm…

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