Five Sets of Summer

7.19 Bill Graham (Michael Stein)

7.19 Bill Graham (Michael Stein)

When presented with care, Phish sets are more than a collection of songs. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and carry the listener on a journey with strategically placed jams and songs. Though such artistically created statements were few and far between this summer, here are five that stood out from the pack.


5) 7.15 II The Gorge, George, Washington

The Gorge M. Stein

The Gorge (M. Stein)

Every time you thought Phish was going one way, they threw a head fake and veered another in a set anchored by misdirection, teases and all-around zany Phishiness. Though it didn’t always flow so well, the band certainly went for something on this night, never settling into any one jam and keeping the audience on their toes with segues, hijinks and musical theatrics. Though the set didn’t contain a whole lot of meat, the band came closest to a central jam in the opening sequence of “Crosseyed” > “What’s the Use?,” building the former into a sublime space, before quickly jumping ship into the latter. “What’s the Use?” took on a larger-than-life, feel amidst the majestic surroundings of The Gorge. Phish used “No Man’s Land as a recurring theme throughout this frame, continually referencing the song both musically and lyrically, while featuring a mash up with “Crosseyed” in its jam segment. “Meatstick” > “2001” contained the most fluid improv of the night, as the band locked into a hypnotic outro groove that flowed seamlessly into the Deodato cover. In a set that never stopped bobbing and weaving, Phish delivered a dynamic listening adventure on the first night of their west coast swing.

Crosseyed and Painless > What’s the Use?, No Men In No Man’s Land > Stash, Ghost > Chalk Dust Torture, Meatstick -> Also Sprach Zarathustra, Cavern


4) 7.18 II Bill Graham Civc Auditorum, San Francisco, CA

7.20 Bill Graham M. Stein)

7.20 Bill Graham (M. Stein)

The second set of Bill Graham’s first night possessed four distinct segments that pieced together to form a pretty fluid frame of music. The first segment came in the pairing of “Golden Age” and “Twist,” the former featuring a fiery groove excursion that carried a hybrid feel of “2001” and “Tube.” It seemed as though the band would revert to playlist form with mid-set versions of “My Sweet One” and “The Line,” but they rebounded nicely with the combo of “Simple -> Sneaking Sally.” “Simple” briefly moved into ethereal territory before giving way to the jam of the night in “Sneakin’ Sally.” A relentless peak highlighted this centerpiece before the set concluded with standout versions of “Limb by Limb” and “Slave.” Phish engaged in some patient jamming on this night which came as a welcome shift from their previous several shows.

Golden Age > Twist, My Sweet One, The Line, Simple -> Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Limb By Limb, Slave to the Traffic Light


3) 7.1 II SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY

SPAC Andrea Zimmerman Nusinov

SPAC (Andrea Zimmerman-Nusinov)

Sometimes a massive jam sequence can hold down a set all on its own, and this is what took place on the band’s first night in Saratoga Springs. After a solid set-opening “Sand” the band took flight in their most outstanding improvisation of the summer in “Carini -> Chalk Dust.” Masterful interplay rolled off the stage with the sense of effortlessness that characterizes Phish’s best playing as the band connected multiple themes in a cohesive, thirty-five minute explosion. This sequence felt like a breakthrough after a week plus of building improvisational momentum and it seemed as though the band would take off from here for the rest of tour. As it turned out, however, “Carini -> Chalk” proved to be an anomaly in a low-key summer, but this portion of jamming certainly stands up to the band’s most proficient work of the last several years. Although it did contain some rarities, the rest of the set devolved into a series of songs, but after the peak that Phish had already reached, everything else felt like gravy.

Sand, Carini -> Chalk Dust Torture > Prince Caspian, Bug, Shine a Light, My Sweet One, Sleeping Monkey, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Fire


2) 6.28 II The Mann, Philadelphia, PA

BGCA M. Stein

BGCA (M. Stein)

The three elements of a great Phish set are flow, jamming and song selection, and the band hit on the trifecta on the first night of the Mann. Phish navigated this second set with nary a hiccup, offering two tour highlights and connecting everything quite smoothly. High quality excursions stemmed from “Fuego” and “Breath and Burning,” as both jams navigated the darker side of things. “Fuego” likened a revamped soundtrack to Super Mario’s dungeon lair and “Breath” took a bass-heavy path towards a similar vibe. These jams were complimented by a searing version of “Jibboo,” an intense Page-and-Trey-led “Timber,” and a peakier-than-thou version of “Slave,” creating an airtight set that possessed non-stop action throughout.

Fuego > Runaway Jim, Gotta Jibboo, Breath and Burning -> Timber,  Slave to the Traffic Light, You Enjoy Myself


1) 7.19 II Bill Graham Civic Audirorium, San Francisco, CA

7.20 Bill Graham M. Stein

7.20 Bill Graham (M. Stein)

The second night of Bill Graham contained the best set of summer and, frankly, it wasn’t even close. Amidst a tour in which second sets often lacked jams and flow, Phish swam fluidly through series of jams in this one and closed with authority. This musical statement featured one of tour’s upper echelon improvisations in a high-octane and cathartic “Ghost,” a long-form, angelic-turned-demonic “Down With Disease,” and a wide-open couplet of “Scents and Subtle Sounds” and “Light.” The band assumed a different demeanor than they had shown for the majority of the summer, favoring artistry and improv over songs and simplicity, and they came up with a winner. Capping their jam-laced escapade with the high energy combo“No Quarter” and “Fluffhead,” Phish left everyone with a smile on this Tuesday night.

Down with Disease > Fuego > Ghost > Scents and Subtle Sounds > Light  -> Manteca > No Quarter, Fluffhead


Honorable Mention

6.25 II Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL: Though nothing crazy happened on this night, flow alone pushes this set into contender status—a comment on the quality of this summer more than anything else. A compact, blissed out “Carini” provided the lone highlight of the night.

Carini > Tweezer > Fluffhead, Piper -> Steam, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Harry Hood, Tweezer Reprise

The Mann A. ZImmerman-Nusinov

The Mann (A. Zimmerman-Nusinov)

9,460 Responses to “Five Sets of Summer”

  1. Mr.Miner Says:

    A week later the Crosseyed has grown on me but I still prefer the tweezer.

    whaaat? to each their own, but that tweeze is different but never clicks imo. like a b level type of scene

  2. dorn76 Says:

    Listed to Dick’s. How’d I miss that.

  3. sumodie Says:

    The Chainsmokers are a DJ duo that were at Red Rocks

    Of course my standards for an acceptable phish song have sunk. But B&B was more than acceptable at Dick’s

    Cash Is Devine!

  4. MiA Says:

    Agree Miner. I think the ending of Tweezer elevates a little but they seemed far more “searching” than most other times the other two nights.


  5. Mr.Miner Says:

    yeah. i loved it live, especially for its divergent quality, but it doesn’t have IT on respin.

  6. garretcorncob Says:

    Hans, I’m far from an expert on TAB of any era, but I think it’s pretty close to a consensus that the ‘Roo set from ’02 (I think, maybe ’03) is about as top level for the group as it gets.

  7. dorn76 Says:

    ‘Roo set may be a consensus, but it’s Hammerstein #4lyphe.

  8. dorn76 Says:

    Also not an expert, but did see one of those shows.

  9. Stoney Case Says:

    Tweezer never quite found the Zone. Spun thrice to confirm.

  10. dorn76 Says:

    But how many dabs?

  11. stapes Says:

    Those summer ’01 TAB shows with Medeski were pretty damn sick. Red Rocks, Riverport, maybe a few others.

    Still love me a Last Tube.

  12. Sex&city Says:

    Stoney… Is Yumbolt a strain you’ve heard of?

  13. bobby weird Says:

    the LA Rams look like they do not belong in the league. painful to watch these jokers.

  14. MrCompletely Says:

    Red rocks 03 right? And the Warfield Santana show, for TAB I mean?

  15. MrCompletely Says:

    Miner, you can DM anyone on Reddit when you’re logged in, or if Verno is already at em I’m sure he’ll pass along info

  16. MrCompletely Says:

    HTHT yeah the Grey Hall Ghost is so lovely. It just rises in smooth waves…prob the first of their jams I really imprinted on, playing it over and over etc

  17. MrCompletely Says:

    Breath and Burning
    Blaze On
    Tide Turns
    Things People Do
    Waking Up Dead
    Running Out of Time
    No Men In No Man’s Land
    Miss You
    I Always Wanted It This Way

  18. Mr.Miner Says:

    so 4 new songs and TTE pt.2?

  19. theBaker Says:

    I’m having lunch with Norm Etter (ONLY 24+yr Rockies USHER) in Aurora on Thursday…he’s hatched a Plan to get me a “job” Ushering at AV’s games AND I Just applied for an “on-call” Starter/Ranger for the CityofDenver…&snooker my $80.11 flight home for 9days/1hour from NOW to throw a YardSale; pack S H I t & MOVE out Here to good ole Colorado!!!


  20. theBaker Says:


  21. ElJefe Says:

    65 min plus album..
    Hoping for a Joy style release w a B-Sides type disc
    Mercury, Steam, 30 min Ass Handed.,.
    Interested to what they did w Petrichor, it was incredible w the Seattle Symphony..

  22. theBaker Says:

    *i thought HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE EWE? was gonna make IT?

  23. ElJefe Says:

    I think it may be a MGB tune Baker..

  24. Guitarpicker420! Says:

    @ Stapes – Medeski didn’t play at the two Red Rocks shows, just the Riverport, Alpine, Deer Creek run later that week. We started that week at a Phil and Friends show at the Creek then cannonballed it out to Red Rocks for those two, then worked our way back to the Creek. It was after 5 Trey shows in a row that I realized that Trey band….not Phish. Moesha every single night and that song just sucks.

  25. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Kevin Harlan is a national treasure

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