Honorable Mention: 7/20 Chicago, IL, 7/25 Charlotte, NC, 7/30 Portsmouth, VA, 8/1 Orange Beach, AL, 8/31 Commerce City, CO, 10/22 Santa Barbara, CA, 11/1 Las Vegas, NV, 12/31 Miami, FL
10. 7.27.14 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
Almost any of the honorable mentions could be pulled into this slot for different reasons. I chose the second night of Merriweather for the following reasons. 1) It was quite a feat for the band to channel the type of old-school. zany energy it took to throw down this wild second set. It shows they are still in touch with the musical pranksmanship that, in many ways, put them on the map. 2) The “Tweezer” and the “NICU” jams are pretty awesome nuggets of Phish. 3) The band was absolutely glowing and clearly had an incredible time playing this show. 3) The first set is quite strong. 4) I didn’t want to deal with getting shit on social media for leaving this show out of the top ten.
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
9. 10.31.14, MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV
A sharp and Halloween-themed first set gave way to one of the most outlandishly conceptual sets of music of the band’s career in set two. A complete blowout of the imagination, Phish led us on an adventure like none other in covering Disney’s “The Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House.” If I was ranking these shows on the live experience, this would be much higher on the list, but I’m ranking them on their musical content after the dust has settled. By the time the band went to jam in the final set, they didn’t have much left in terms of focus or creativity, thus this show doesn’t possess much replay value after you’ve memorized the ten musical vignettes. In no way am I trying to diss a signature night of Phish by placing it here, it was one of my favorite nights of the year, but looking at timeless jamming, this one falls a little short.
I: Buried Alive > Ghost, Scent of a Mule, Sample in a Jar, Reba, 46 Days, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Lawn Boy, Saw It Again, Tube, Wolfman’s Brother
II: Intro, The Haunted House, The Very Long Fuse, The Dogs, Timber, Your Pet Cat, Shipwreck, The Unsafe Bridge, The Chinese Water Torture, The Birds, Martian Monster
III: Punch You In the Eye > Golden Age > Tweezer -> Heavy Things, Guyute, Sand-> Tweezer Reprise
E: Is This What You Wanted?, Frankenstein
8. 11.2.14, MGM Grand, Las Vegas NV
Though Halloween featured a theatrical blowout, this show possessed more consistent playing throughout and one of the most impressive passages of Fall Tour in “Chalk Dust > Piper.”
I: Runaway Jim, Foam, Mexican Cousin, Ocelot, Sugar Shack, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, Halfway to the Moon, Bathtub Gin, Free, Walls of the Cave
II: Chalk Dust Torture > Piper > Theme From the Bottom > Wombat, David Bowie, The Line, You Enjoy Myself
E: The Moma Dance > Slave to the Traffic Light
7. 10.28.14, BGCA, San Francisco, CA
Phish had hit a bit of a slump before turning things around during this fiery, two-set performance. The jams of the night came in “Kill Devil Falls,” “Twist,” and ‘Harry Hood,” but the beauty of this show was also in its non-stop ferocity over the entire night. A slacking Trey pulled himself together for this one and really shone, playing powerfully and creatively all night long.
I: Crowd Control, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Wingsuit, Water in the Sky, Plasma, Halfway to the Moon, Poor Heart, Gumbo -> Sanity > Run Like an Antelope
II: Kill Devil Falls > Mountains in the Mist, Fuego > Julius, Twist > Runaway Jim > Harry Hood
E: Loving Cup
6. 7.4.14 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY
A fire-filled show was squarely centered around the epic debut of “Fuego’s” jam, an event we thought would foreshadow far more than it did. Phish backed this up with strong takes on with “Disease,” “Twist” and “Light.” Though a “YEM” could have dealed the deal a lot better than a “Number Line” and “First Tube,” the damage had clearly been done in a very memorable holiday outing.
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
5. 7.12.14, Randall’s Island, New York, NY
This second set was the best of the summer to date when it dropped. There was no filler, no bullshit. Just perfectly sequenced jams with the “Ghost” of the year at the heart of the set. “Punch,” “Carini” led off and an stunning “Hood” closed a frame that will surprise you on respin. And then the next night happened.
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
II: Punch You In the Eye, Carini > Ghost > Wingsuit, Rock and Roll, Harry Hood
E: Tube > Joy, First Tube
4. 10.17.14, Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR
Phish started out Fall Tour with an absolute banger. Sculpting a seamless, improv-laden second set with one of the jams of the year in “Crosseyed and Painless,” Phish had things fully dialed in for this tour opener. “Carini -> Plasma,” “Twist” and an awesome “Hood” filled out this impeccable frame of music. The “Reba, Roggae, Simple -> Maze”segment of the first set is also particularly choice.
I: Waiting All Night, Free > Poor Heart Sample in a Jar, Strange Design, 555, Bouncing Around the Room > Reba, Roggae, Simple -> Maze, The Squirming Coil
II: Carini -> Plasma, Farmhouse, Halfway to the Moon > Twist, Crosseyed and Painless > Harry Hood > Rocky Top
E: Wingsuit, Sleeping Monkey > Quinn the Eskimo
3. 8.30.14, Dick’s, Commerce City, CO
All things came together on the band’s second night in the Rockies in 2014. Phish unfurled one of their most cohesive performances of the year, with a nearly perfect second set. The guys were fully hooked up and following their lead guitarist who had his best individual night of the year. Phish had suffered during the late-summer without Trey’s leadership, but the clouds parted on this night, offering us the guitar god we all fell in love with and vintage tone that went unreplicated after before and after Dick’s. Though this set doesn’t boast a true centerpiece jam, it carries an improvisatory thread throughout with a more than serviceable “Disease” jam and a “Carini” that will make a dead man’s spine tingle.
I: Free, The Moma Dance, Halley’s Comet, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan,555, Rift, Sample in a Jar, Devotion To a Dream, Yarmouth Road > Sparkle, Wingsuit,David Bowie, Cavern
II: Down with Disease -> What’s the Use?, Carini > Light > Fuego > Slave to the Traffic Light, Meatstick > Bold As Love
E: The Horse, Silent in the Morning, Fluffhead
2. 1.3.15, AA Arena, Miami, FL
The second set of this show, minus the token opener, is among the most complete of the year. Phish never came up for air during this frame, as each song got the full treatment. The “Disease” alone, is a gargantuan improvisational feat, shifting seamlessly through several distinct themes, but they ran with the spirit on this night, getting particularly deep with “Light,” adding an uncharacteristic rock peak to “Sneaking Sally,” and crafting sinister bridge between “Sand” and “Harry Hood.” It is very seldom these days that Phish throws down an entire set with such a sense of adventure, but this was one of those once-in-a-blue-moon type of performances.
I: Maze, AC/DC Bag > Divided Sky, Cavern > Scent of a Mule, Plasma, Devotion To a Dream, Water in the Sky, Split Open and Melt, Character Zero
II: Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Down with Disease > Light -> Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > Sand > Harry Hood, Suzy Greenberg
E: Good Times Bad Times
1. 7.13.14 Randall’s Island, New York, NY
There’s just no question that the Phish threw down their most profound effort of the year on Sunday, July 13th at Randall’s Island in New York CIty. Capping an initial fortnight of summer tour that focused on wide open and patient jamming, this show features a “Chalk Dust” jam that can rightfully be thrown into a conversation about the band’s best jams of all-time—not just of this year or of this era. They carried this golden thread through a delicate “Light” and the best “Tweezer” of 2014. And while everyone has memorized the second set, the first is the best first set of the year as well. In a scene rife with debate, there should be none here.
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, Sing Monica, Slave to the Traffic Light
E: Backwards Down the Number Line > Tweezer Reprise