“Twist Part 1”
“Twist Part 2”
“Twist Part 1”
“Twist Part 2”
A historic chunk of Summertime Phish.
“Reba” 8.2.03 Limestone, ME
A daytime, post-hiatus gem.
“Sneakin’ Sally” 8.8.98 Columbia, MD
Quintessential Summer ’98 grooves here.
“Disease -> Free” 6.26.95 I, SPAC, NY
Simply put, one of Phish most superbly executed psychedelic odysseys.
“Chalk Dust Torture” 8.31.12 II, Commerce City, CO
Some of Trey’s most blissful and cathartic playing of Summer ’12.
“Light” SPAC, NY 7.5.13 II
This dense, virtuosic conversation kicked off Summer ’13 in earnest and is now my go-to version of the song.
“Crosseyed and Painless” 7.10.13, Holmdel, NJ
This jam has so much staying power—truly an all-timer.
“Harry Hood” 7.22.97 II, Raleigh, NC
After an intense, power-packed set of Phish, the band encored with this sublime “Harry Hood.”
A jam—especially in context—that caused ripples throughout the modern Phish universe.
“Ghost” 8.15.98 II, Limestone, ME
The essential nugget of late-Summer ’98 Phish foreshadowed the shift to ambient jamming come the fall. This relatively under-the-radar “Ghost” sneaks into my personal top five.
1st Team Type II Jam Vehicles of the Year: “Carini,” “Tweezer,” “Light,” “Down With Disease,” “Chalk Dust Torture,” “Golden Age”
2nd Team: “Ghost,” “Rock and Roll,” “Twist,” “Crosseyed and Painless,” “Piper”
1st Team Type I Jam Vehicles of the Year: “David Bowie,” “Bathtub Gin,” “Stash,” “Harry Hood,” “Wolfman’s Brother”
Jam Vehicle of Year: “Carini”
MVP: Jon Fishman
Best Music of the Year: “Down with Disease > Carini,” 12/29 MSG
Most Succesful Jam of the Year: “Down With Disease” 12/29, MSG
Most Sureal Jam of the Year: “Tweezer” 7/31, Stateline, NV
First Set Jam of Year: “Split Open and Melt” 7/6, SPAC
Most Sinister Jam of the Year: “Carini” 12/29, MSG
Grooviest Jam of the Year: “Carini” 12/29, MSG
Most Unique Jam of the Year: “Tweezer” 11/2, Atlantic City
Unexpected Jam of the Year: “Twenty Years Later” 10/29, Reading
Underrated Jam of the Year: “Carini” 7/5, SPAC
Best Under 10-Minute Jam of the Year: “Chalk Dust Torture” 7/16, Alpharetta
Comeback Jam of the Year:“Twist”
Best New Jam: “Energy”
Best New Original: “Fuego”
Deepest Pocket of the Year: “Carini” 12/29, MSG
Filthiest Funk of the Year: “Twenty Years Later” 10/29, Reading, PA
Most Adrenalized Moment of the Year: “Piper -> Taking Care of Business” 10/20, Hampton, VA
“Holy Shit!” Moment of the Year: “Woos!” in Tahoe Tweezer—like it or not
Phishiest Moment of the Year: “Bush” funk jam in AC “Theme”
Best Guitar Solo: End of “Down With Disease” 10/29, Reading, PA
Most Fluid and Cohesive Second Set: 7/12 Jones Beach
Most Explosive Second Set: 10/20 Hampton Coliseum
Smoothest Segue: 7/6 “Carini -> Architect” SPAC
Worst Attempt at a Segue: “Sand > Light,” 7/10 PNC
Shreddiest Peak: “Ghost” 10/19, Hampton, VA
Blissiest Peak: “Down with Disease” 7/22, Toronto, ON
Best Song in Non-Traditional Spot: “Sneakin’ Sally” E, 11/1 AC
Best 3-Night Stand: 10/31-11/2 Atlantic City
Best 2-Night Stand: 7/26-27 The Gorge
Best 2-Set Show: 12/29, MSG, NY
Best 3-Set Show: 10/31, Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City
Sleeper Show of the Year: 7/16 Alpharetta, GA
Outdoor Venue of the Year (Gorge not included): Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Alpharetta
Indoor Venue of the Year: Glens Falls Civic Center, Glens Falls, NY
Best / Most wide open GA Floor: Civic Center, Hartford, CT
Venue With Chillest Employees: Hampton Coliseum
Top “What Song Are They Playing” Moment: “Chalk Dust Torture,” 7/16 Alpharetta, GA
Most Underachieving Jam: “Backwards Down the Number Line”
Best Individual Performance at a Concert: Jon Fishman 8/31, Dick’s, Commerce City, CO
Best CK5 Moment: the “rain” effect at the drop of the Hartford “Tweezer” jam
Worst Show of the Year: 10/22 Rochester, NY
Most Absurd Moment of the Year: 7/19, Chicago—Canceled show mid “Caspian” with no rain
Hardest Rainstorm of the Year: 7/12 Jones Beach
Honorable Mention: 7.12 Jones Beach, 7.26 The Gorge, 7.31 Lake Tahoe, 8.4 Bill Graham, 10.26 Worcester, 10.27 Hartford, CT
10. 7/5 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY
On the second night of summer, Phish threw down a huge statement at SPAC, foreshadowing what was to come in 2013 with one of the most fluid second sets of the year. Infusing creativity at every turn after setbreak, highlighted by one of the most inventive “Lights” ever played, the band was locked in on this night, and never looked back all year. And the first set ain’t too shabby either, particularly the closing couplet of “Cities -> Bowie.”
I: Kill Devil Falls, The Moma Dance, Sample in a Jar, Roses Are Free, Birds of a Feather, Yarmouth Road, Bathtub Gin, Nellie Kane, Army of One, My Friend, My Friend, Cities -> David Bowie
II: Energy > Light -> The Mango Song > 46 Days -> Steam > Drowned > Slave to the Traffic Light
E: Character Zero
9. 7/10 PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ
Phish’s return to Northern Jersey came on the heels of Toronto’s last-minute cancellation, hence it was primed to explode. An it explode it did, as the band greeted PNC with Leg One’s strongest show. This second set is chock full of improv, featuring a popular pick for the jam of early-Summer in “Crosseyed > Hood,” and an underrated, late-set “Light.”
I. Llama, Wolfman’s Brother, Sample in a Jar, Julius, Halley’s Comet > Bathtub Gin, Lawn Boy, Ya Mar, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Theme From the Bottom, Suzy Greenberg
II: Crosseyed and Painless > Harry Hood, Axilla, Sand > Light > Good Times Bad Times, Slave to the Traffic Light, Rocky Top, Cavern
8. 10/29 Santander Arena, Reading, PA
Reading contained one of the best start-to-finish second sets of Fall Tour. With fluidity, multiple tour-highlight jams and a potent, retro-take on on “You Enjoy Myself,” this show did far more than set the table for Atlantic City. What is keeping Reading’s ranking this low is its pedestrian first set; one of the least inspired of the fall, salvaged only by a ferocious “Split Open and Melt.”
I: Cars Trucks Buses, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Ginseng Sullivan, Wolfman’s Brother, Sparkle > Walk Away, Divided Sky, Split Open and Melt > Julius
II: Down with Disease > Taste, Twenty Years Later > Piper > Backwards Down the Number Line, You Enjoy Myself, Grind
E: Bouncing Around the Room > Reba, Good Times Bad Times
7. 8/31 Dick’s, Commerce City, CO
Saturday night’s throwdown in Commerce City boasts two energetic sets, with a top jam of the year in the now-famous “Chalk Dust Torture.” Don’t forget the late-show, hard-hitting “Tweezer,” the subsequent version to Tahoe’s epic. The rest of the show was filled with rock solid playing and quality song selection throughout.
I: Buried Alive, AC/DC Bag, Wolfman’s Brother, Yarmouth Road, Fee > Halfway to the Moon, The Wedge, Halley’s Comet > Bathtub Gin, Bouncing Around the Room, Mound, Gumbo, Run Like an Antelope
II: Chalk Dust Torture, Light -> 46 Days > Steam -> Free, Joy, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Tweezer > Backwards Down the Number Line
E: On the Road Again > Tweezer Reprise
6. 12/31 Madison Square Garden, NYC, NY
This was Phish’s 30th Anniversary show and it contained a vibe like none other. Centered on the sonic recreation of the early ’90s during the truck top JEMP Set, this New Year’s show was a celebration of Phish past, present and future. The band brought their A-game for the entire night, including another fierce third set. And check our every Trey solo in the first set, they are all fresh, inventive and well-phrased. A gentle-turned-biting “Light” blossomed into the improvisational highlight of three-set show.
I: AC/DC Bag, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, Wilson, Divided Sky, Ocelot, Sugar Shack, Halfway to the Moon, Fluffhead
II: Glide, Llama, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, Fuck Your Face, Reba, Icculus, The Lizards, Split Open and Melt
III: Character Zero > Auld Lang Syne > Fuego > Light > Twenty Years Later, Bouncing Around the Room, You Enjoy Myself
E: Grind, Show of Life
5. 10/31 Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, NJ
Halloween 2013 was a one-of-a-kind evening. Never before had Phish played us a set of unheard music, a move that leveled the playing field by eliminating any possible expectations of what was to come. The anti-Wingsuit sentiment voiced by a faction of the fan base, in my opinion, spoke far more about the listeners and what they were bringing to the show, rather than anything he band did. Owing us nothing but continuing to give, Phish allowed all of us into the creative process, playing us a set’s worth of new material. And what a set it was! Paving the way for the next several years, Phish debuted more than a handful of keepers on Old Hallow’s Eve. And then they absolutely crushed the third set, something they hadn’t done, in any holiday show since 1998.
I: Heavy Things, The Moma Dance, Poor Heart, Back on the Train, Silent in the Morning,Kill Devil Falls, Mound, Free, Camel Walk, Stash, Golgi Apparatus, Bathtub Gin
II: Wingsuit > Fuego, The Line, Monica, Waiting All Night, Wombat, Snow, Devotion To A Dream, 555 > Winterqueen, Amidst the Peals of Laughter, You Never Know
III: Ghost > Carini, Birds of a Feather, Harry Hood, Bug, Run Like an Antelope
E: Quinn the Eskimo
4. 7/27 The Gorge, George, Washington
The second night of The Gorge was Phish’s finest night of summer tour, as they dropped a seamless second set laced with artistry, forethought and patience. Every time Phish gets to the Gorge, everything slows down and Phish’s music garners a spaciousness that is congruent with the venue’s natural surroundings. After an outstanding effort on night one, the band came back and topped themselves with this show. “Disease -> Undermind” and “2001 > Sneaking Sally” anchored—for all intents and purposes—a perfect set.
I: Architect, Golgi Apparatus, The Curtain With, Kill Devil Falls, The Moma Dance, Maze, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Roses Are Free, Say Something, Ocelot, After Midnight
II: Down with Disease -> Undermind > Light -> Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Walls of the Cave > Fluffhead, Run Like an Antelope
E: Show of Life, Good Times Bad Times
3. 10/20 Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA
The second set of this show was absolutely relentless and left the entire audience in a state of blithering state of bliss. It had been quite some time since Phish had thrown down that hard for the duration of an entire set. Deep dives in “Tweezer” and “Golden Age” anchored the exploration, while the band kept the dance music spinning all night long. One of the moments of the year came in the surprise segue out of a celebratory”Piper” into ” “Taking Care of Business.” And the show ended with “2001 > Sand,” “Slave to the Traffic Light.” I mean—really? This set was pure Phish fire.
I: Julius, Funky Bitch, Back on the Train, Roses Are Free > Sample in a Jar, Ginseng Sullivan, 46 Days, Divided Sky, Bold As Love
II: Paul and Silas, Tweezer > Golden Age > Piper -> Takin’ Care of Business, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Sand, Slave to the Traffic Light
E: A Day in the Life > Tweezer Reprise
2. 11/1 Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, NJ
This show makes the number two spot over Hampton on its balance and the strength of its first set. Additionally, the centerpiece of this show,an absolutely transcendent version of “Twist,” bests any improvisational segment of Hampton’s monster set. AC’s second set also remained quite strong after “Twist,” highlighted by a comically-laced “Makisupa” and a very underrated “Light.” Remember the encore of this one? A jammed-out “Sneaking Sallly” with a full-blown “Shaft” jam. Yeah, they were feeling it on this night.
I: Cavern, Runaway Jim, Sand, Halfway to the Moon, Halley’s Comet > Tube, Possum, When the Circus Comes, Sugar Shack, Jesus Just Left Chicago, David Bowie
II: Twist > Gotta Jibboo > Makisupa Policeman, Light > Chalk Dust Torture, Meatstick, Boogie On Reggae Woman, The Wedge, Slave to the Traffic Light
E: Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley
1. 12/29 Madison Square Garden, NYC, NY
This start-to-finish barn-burner featured the band’s best playing of the year—and in memory—in the all-time sequence, “Down with Disease” > “Carini.” I’d put this chunk of music up against any from the guys’ 31 shows at MSG, and that speaks volumes. After this gargantuan opening of the second set, the guys kept things moving in the right direction with a comedown of “Waves” and a sexy version of Twist.” The band sealed the deal with an intricate, rock-solid “Bowie” to close. Don’t sleep on the first set either, an energetic frame of Phish that featured depth-in-brevity within “Gumbo” and “It’s Ice,” not to mention scorching versions of “Stash” and “Walls of the Cave.”
I: The Moma Dance > Rift, Roggae, Sparkle, The Line, Stash, 555, It’s Ice,Gumbo, Walls of the Cave
II: Down with Disease > Carini > Waves > Twist > Golgi Apparatus, David Bowie
FALL TOUR AWARDS
Barely edging out “Carini” on the strength of its third version, “Tweezer” takes away the most coveted individual award of Fall. “Tweezer” not only produced my jam of the tour in Hartford, it also produced two other jams that I have heard ranked number one of tour by others, and that speaks to the incredible nature of them all. Three all-star versions, all with a unique vibe and direction vault “Tweezer” to the top of this fall’s pedestal. Had Worcester’s “Carini” gone a bit longer and developed more, we might just have co-MVPS, but Trey elected for a pre-mature “Caspian,” a move that—in retrospect—sealed the deal for the big dog. “Tweezer,” here’s another trophy for your mantle. “Carini,” close, but no cigar.
Comeback Player of Tour: “Twist”
This recipient comes as no surprise, as Phish resurrected “Twist” from the dead over Fall Tour. When the band opened the second set of the season with “Twist,” it felt like a bizarre and foreign move, yet when they opened up tour’s second-to-last main event with “Twist,” it felt just right. Over the course of two weeks, Phish sculpted three magnificent jams out of their once-prolific platform, and just like that, “Twist” was a major player in the Phish scene again. First, an ambient, Pink Floyd laced excursion in Hampton, then, a delicate, ethereal outing in Glens Falls, that featured a sneak preview of “The Line,” and finally a signature masterpiece in Atlantic City with one of the jams of the year. Welcome back, “Twist!” We’ve surely missed you and had grown tired of your pseudo “Oye Como Va” scene.
Debut of Tour: “Fuego”
It was hard to not sport an ear-to-ear smile during the debut of “Fuego,” the undeniable gem of the Wingsuit set. A multi-staged composition that leaves room for two improvisational passages, all packaged with catchy hooks, overlapped lyrics, and group chanting, “Fuego” has all the components of a Phishy show-stopper. I bet we see this one during the Holiday Run at MSG.
Second Set of Tour: 10/20 Hampton
The vibe after this show reeked of the late ’90s, when Phish left most of their audience speechless and in dismay on a nightly basis. This was one of those shows for which the ushers had to eventually ask fans to leave, because nobody wanted to go anywhere. We had just experienced a full-throttle assault like none in recent years. The second entire set was strewn with big-time jam vehicles, and the band never stopped taking care of business. After two nights at Hampton, many Northeastern fans who had elected to skip the run were feeling pretty good about their decision. After night three’s course-correcting ritual, they weren’t.
Paul and Silas, Tweezer > Golden Age > Piper -> Takin’ Care of Business > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Sand, Slave to the Traffic Light
First Set of Tour: 10/26 Worcester
This first set runs away with this award, though there were several other high-quality opening frames during Fall 2013. This one however, featured highlight jams in “Bathtub Gin” and “David Bowie,” not to mention solid versions of “Stash” and”Simple.” An extended version of “Party Time” opened things up before “Punch” really got things going. A couple rarities of “Ride Captain Ride” and “My Soul” as well a spirited version of “Back on the Train” rounded things out less a gratuitous “Character Zero.”
Party Time, Punch You In the Eye, Back on the Train, My Soul, Bathtub Gin, Ride Captain Ride, Stash, Simple > David Bowie, Character Zero
Show of Tour: 10/31 Atlantic City, NJ
There is no denying the incredible significance of this year’s Halloween show. Never before has Phish presented an entire set of new material, and never have they presented so much new material that has been as instantly well-received. Touching on so many disparate genres and feels, the songs of the Wingsuit set were all crafted with a distinctly Phishy vibe, and most seem to be ready for rotation. The infusion of this much new material totally revolutionizes the Phish experience and paves the way for a glorious future—all in their 30th year! And after setbreak, the guys came out and tore apart a third frame for the first time in ages. Unloading two top ten jams of tour in a prolific one-two Halloween punch of “Ghost” and “Carini,” the band provided plenty of improv for those who didn’t get off on Wingsuit’s revelation. Those jams were supported by solid versions of “Hood” and “Antelope,” and when you combine all of these elements, you’ve got your show of fall tour.
Two Set Show of Tour: 10/26 Worcester, MA
Rarely is a Phish show presented over two flowing sets without a single lull or dull moment, but that is exactly what happened on Saturday night in Worcester. One need only look above to see the quality of this show’s first set, and most are familiar with the monster sequence of “Drowned > Light” that opened the second. Follow that up with “Sand” and “Mike’s > No Quarter > Weekapaug,” with only a “Theme” interlude, and one has the most complete Phish show of tour.
Runners Up: 10/27 Hartford, 11/1 Atlantic City
All-Stars, 1st Team:
“Tweezer,” “Carini,” “Twist,” “Ghost,” “Disease,” “Golden Age”
Mimi Fishman Auction:
Five Phish New Years ticket packages were just added to the Mimi Fishman Foundation online charity auction. All proceeds from the ticket packages to benefit Phish’s WaterWheel Foundation. The auction also features Phish Summer Tour posters signed by all band members. Of special note is the multiple night runs include matching numbered posters auctioned off as single sets. Additionally, the auction includes New Years packages donated from The String Cheese Incident, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Umphrey’s McGee with the proceeds to benefit Colorado Flood Relief efforts.
To access the auction please visit www.mimifishman.org
As everyone well knows, I almost exclusively comprise my playlists of Phish’s open jams. Not today. The band’s playing was so strong across the board this past tour, that I’d like to highlight some of my favorite contained jams for this Friday’s playlist. As I wrote about as recently as this year, the band’s structured—or type I—playing, was the last part of their repertoire to ripen in this era. Sure, they could get through all the changes without the obvious flubs of post-hiatus, but for the first years of this era, they infused little to no creativity into their structured jams, causing parts of shows—particularly first sets—to drag. This year, however, starting in summer, Phish made a point to resuscitate classic pieces that has lost their luster; pieces like “Bathtub Gin,” “David Bowie,” “Stash,” and “Harry Hood.” During 2013, these jams—and more—have regained their proper place in the Pantheon of Phish. Here are some of my favorites from fall presented to you in a thought out playlist that bring some flow to your Friday.
“2001” 10.26 II, Hartford, CT
Though “Also Sprach” had been gaining creative steam all year, this this tour is first time the guys gave the piece a decent amount of time to breathe, as both versions clocked in at must over eight minutes. Hartford’s tour highlight came at the tail end of a groovalicious set that featured massive versions of both “Tweezer” and “Golden Age,” and kept the vibe alive with a nasty rhythmic throwdown.
“Harry Hood” 10.23 II, Glens Falls, NY
Perhaps the retro environs of Glens Falls seeped into Trey’s consciousness, because he took this set-closing version of “Harry Hood” with the fury of old. The jam begins with some distinctly modern textures and ends with a scorching peak the likes of which we haven’t seen in quite some time—all in all, a stellar version.
“Bathtub Gin” 10.26 I, Worcester, MA
This “Gin” provided the highlight of perhaps the best first set of the tour on the second night of Worcester. Almost breaking form, the band remains anchored in groove and brings this version to a colossal peak—the largest single peak of the entire show.
“Sand” 11.1 I, Atlantic City, NJ
This third-song “Sand” beat out any second setter of this tour, as Phish’s relaxed and confident demeanor showed immediately on night two in Boardwalk Hall. They had just turned in their first “Shaft” jam of the weekend in “Runaway Jim,” when they flexed their muscles on their groove anthem—an incredibly fiery start to one of tour’s strongest performances.
“Roggae” 10.18 II, Hampton, VA
I recently respun Hampton’s tour opener and found it to be an incredibly well played show, if not a touch mellow. This mid-second set “Roggae” stood out immediately and paced the set between “Twist” and before “Carini.” This second set is a dark horse of tour.
“Sneakin Sally Through the Alley” 11.1. E, Atlantic, City
After a spectacular performance, Phish went right ahead and blew up a “Sally” encore, eventually reprising the “Shaft” jam from “Runaway Jim.” Whew!
“Split Open and Melt” 10.29 I, Reading, PA
The band seemed to have this “Split” jam by the horns as they had progressed the piece into ominous abstraction. Then, without even attempting to bring it back, Trey bailed out of the jam abruptly for “Julius.” Not sure what that was about, but this jam is nasty.
“Gotta Jibboo” 11.1.13 II, Atlantic City, NJ
After a monumental “Twist” jam, the guys applied their focus to the groove in this smoking “Jibboo.”
“David Bowie” 10.26 I, Worcester, MA
This intricate “Bowie” closed out Worcester’s big-time first set on the 26th, coming at the tail end of a powerful, set-closing trifecta that started with “Stash” and “Simple.”
“Slave to the Traffic Light” 10.20 II, Hampton, VA
This gentle, understated “Slave” served as a perfect juxtaposition to the fire-filled set it closed, the set of the fall tour.
“You Enojy Myself” 10.29 II, Reading, PA
A real live “YEM” jam?! Lordy, lordy where have you been? Refreshing to say the least!
11. “Tweezer” 11.2 II, Atlantic City, NJ
This jam is incredibly unique as all band members anchor themselves in rhythmic playing. Nobody offers melodic leads, and the result is some super crunchy, locked in dance music. One of the more underrated jams of the fall.
12. “Carini” 10.25 II, Worcester, MA
The only thing holding this “Carini” out of the top ten is its brevity. Talk about Phish crack, this jam has it in droves.
13. “Theme from the Bottom” 11.2 I, Atlantic City, NJ
You youngsters wanna’ get a feel for the ’97 and ’98 era when any jam could plunge into gooey, danceable funk textures at any given moment? Well, it was kinda like this! This “Theme” evoked the quintessential sound of the era. Think Island “Cavern.”
14. “Down with Disease” 11.2 II, Atlantic City, NJ
During this tour, Phish featured several jams with monstrous peaks and many sick jams without big-time peaks. This is one of the latter. Locked in from the jump, this version passes through several stages of music with total fluidity, arriving at a gorgeous final segment.
15. “Tweezer” 10.20 II, Hampton, VA
The most exploratory jam of fall tour came via Hampton’s third-night “Tweezer.” This loose, grungy and ever-darkening take on the classic vehicle gets quite abstract before the band finds salvation in the jam’s final sequence—some of the most special moments of tour. The reason I haven’t ranked it higher is because I don’t find it to be very cohesive in concept or execution, but a great piece of Phish nonetheless.
16. “Waves” 11.25 II, Worcester, MA
A soft-spoken psychedelic vignette. I’m not sure why this one hasn’t gotten more speak in the online community, but I absolutely love it.
17. “Drowned” 11.26 II, Worcester, MA
The only “Drowned” of fall popped off in a big way, focusing mostly on hard rock and uptempo groove. But the big payoff came when the band dripped into a surreal final segment centered around Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo.” The reason I didn’t rank this higher is because I don’t find most of the jam to be very original, despite the quality of play.
18. “Golden Age” 10.20 II, Hampton, VA
This locked in dance jam switched up the vibe from the previous “Tweezer,” and is—arguably—the more hooked up jam. Phish set the stage for Hartford’s tour-highlight version of “Golden Age” at Hampton, as the jam traveled an almost identical course. This one, however, take a more extensive glimpse into the storage shed.
19. “Ghost” 11.19 II, Hampton, VA
The triumphant scorcher from Hampton at number 19? What a tour!
20. “Light” 11.1 II, Atlantic City, NJ
This is an underrated jam that has lived in the shadows of the larger pieces of Atlantic City. The band gets into quite a unique—and very tight—conversation in this piece, a sort of avant-garde, jazz-laced groove. This “Light” ends with an abstract foray into an almost Dead-esque, free-form space—quite cool and experimental.
I’ve spent the past week spinning the hell out of Fall and I have come up with my top ten jams of tour. These are—by my ear—the most hooked up, flowing pieces of improvisation from an all-too-short fall run. As always, ranking these was an incredibly difficult task, but that said, I’m quite happy with how this top ten turned out. always, Enjoy the playlist!
10. “Ghost” 10.31 III, Atlantic City, NJ
This locked and driving jam opened the third of set of Halloween with a bang.
9. “Down with Disease” 10.29 II, Reading, PA
After steering through a couple different moods, the band found the end of the rainbow in a southern-style pot of gold. This Allmans-sque passage and earth-shattering peak cement Reading’s “Disease” as a keeper.
8. “Golden Age” 10.27 II, Hartford, CT
Fishman absolutely destroys this rhythmic jam, as the band dances around his inhuman beats for much of its duration. The band truly sits into this jam, something they are becoming more and more comfortable doing with “Golden Age.”
7. “Twenty Years Later” 10.29 II, Reading, PA
Methodical, growling, and funky as James Brown’s band on their worst night, this mid-set surprise obliterated the dance floor and left people picking up pieces of their brains off the walls of Santander Arena. Sliding into a rootsy, Americana outro, this jam hit the feel-good spot as well.
6. “Twist” 10.23 II, Glens Falls, NY
This jam provided the pivot point of tour; from here on out, everything the band touched turned to gold.
5. “Carini” 10.31 III, Atlantic City, NJ
A free-form, third-set joyride that reached profound planes following some early-jam hiccups. The improvisational centerpiece of the Halloween show.
4. “Light” 10.26 II, Worcester, MA
The most slamming “Light” of Fall has so much to offer, including a searing guitar solo, a passionate composed jam and the the most sophisticated groove exposé of the entire tour. Hey!
3. “Twist” 11.1 II, Atlantic City, NJ
The central part of this jam provided the most cathartic group moment of the year aside from Tahoe’s “Tweezer.” Very powerful music; very powerful energy. The band came down from the mountaintop and retained cohesion through a mini-“Under Pressure” jam, continued into a full-blown, psychedelic third segment of music, and finally came down via a dreamy denouement.
2. “Carini” 10.18 II, Hampton, VA
This multi-staged, super-dynamic jam is the only piece of Fall—other than my number one pick—that flows with a completely effortless nature from beginning to end. And that’s quite impressive considering the amount of ground it covers, including a scintillating mid-jam, peak and a funked up final section. Despite Sunday’s scorching final set, this “Carini” is the everlasting gem of Hampton 2013.
1. “Tweezer” 10.27 II, Hartford, CT
The guys clicked from this jam’s first note, locking into a sacred stride and never missing a beat. No jam from Fall flowed more effortlessly that this—four-minded, egoless, soulful music from start to finish. As if God pressed play and the band simply allowed the music to flow through them—this is what it’s all about.
Here are ten more jams/sequences—unranked—that take the next ten slots in 2012’s Top 50. Below, I threw in a random reader’s poll. Take a few seconds to weigh in on some Phishy questions.
“Tweezer” 8/26 II, Charlotte, NC
This jam could be ranked higher.
A rare move outside the lines of “BOTT” brought the show to outer space.
This sequence felt like the start of a huge set.
“Stash” 8/22 I, Kansas City, MO
A first set scorcher, one of the dark horse chunks of leg two.
A hearty dose of whole-band funk at Alpine.
Solid Phish through and through.
A quality, mid-set chunk of 6/15’s second set.
“Run Like an Antelope” 7/3 II, Wantagh, NY
A full-throttle run through the set closer.
Another high-quality start of a set.
“Tweezer” 6/10 I, Manchester, TN
The Bonnaroo “Tweezer.” The best of Leg One.
10. 8/28—Chaifetz Arena, St.Louis, MO
I: Punch You In the Eye, Runaway Jim, Ocelot, Reba, I Didn’t Know, The Curtain > Peaches en Regalia, Mound, Sample in a Jar, The Sloth, Camel Walk, Possum, Quinn the Eskimo
II: Chalk Dust Torture -> Frankie Says -> Undermind -> Sand -> Walk Away, Limb By Limb, Julius, Also Sprach Zarathustra > You Enjoy Myself
E: Shine a Light
Set I: The first set in St. Louis combined a host a rarities and some well-loved classics to form a very entertaining set of music. A powerful trifecta of “Punch You in the Eye,” “Runaway Jim” and “Reba” kicked things off in the Gateway to the West, and after “I Didn’t Know,” the rarities started to surface. Phish dropped the first “Curtain” of Leg Two, but when they were ready to drip into the “With” jam—as they had done every time in 3.0—they rolled directly into “Peaches En Regalia” to form a potent one-two punch. Backing up this pairing with “Mound,” the guys continued to drop non-rotation songs, also including “The Sloth” and “Camel Walk” before closing out the set with “Quinn the Eskimo.”
Set II: This is a darkhorse set from summer tour that has lived in the shadows of its surrounding shows. Splicing together several mini-jams with patient segues, the band unveiled a set-opening sequence of ‘Chalk Dust -> Frankie Says -> Undermind -> Sand -> Walk Away” that moved with a liquid flow. “Chalk Dust” and “Frankie Says” each contained unique, out of the box jams that fluidly migrated into the next song, and though “Undermind” possessed no adventure, the band peaked the sequence with a blistering “Sand” before capped things off with “Walk Away.” Just when one thought the band might cool down with “Limb by Limb,” the song exploded into the centerpiece of the night with a spectacular type-II fiesta that stands as the best version of the song the band has ever played. The “breather” of the set came in the form of “Julius” before the guys topped off a non-stop second half with the classy combo “2001 > YEM.” This set should have been included in my previous posts about the well-crafted sets of the year, because it was certainly one of them.
X Factor: Flow and More Flow—I walked out of this show with it in the highest regard, as it was an experiential masterpiece. The second set never relented for a second, and the entire night never flirted with a slow moment. Though the mini-jams of set two are a bit more concise than they felt in the live setting, there is no denying their quality. And that “Limb by Limb” served as the most out-of-left-field centerpiece of the year, likening a musical left hook that nobody saw coming. St. Louis was a quality two-setter thaty, admittedly, was more of a live experience than one with limitless playback value.
9. 12/30—Madison Square Garden, NYC, NY
I: Runaway Jim, Cities, Divided Sky, Back on the Train, Ride Captain Ride, Ocelot, Ya Mar, Horn, My Friend, My Friend, Run Like an Antelope
II: Down with Disease > Twenty Years Later > Carini > Backwards Down the Number Line > Julius > Slave to the Traffic Light
E: Harry Hood > Show of Life
Set 1: Coming on the heels of a totally sterile performance on the 29th, the first set of this show felt like more of the same—well-played standard versions of common songs. A few quasi-rarities dotted the setlist in the form of “Ride, Captain Ride,” “Yamar” and “Horn,” but these selections didn’t do much of to enhance the vibe of the set. The energy turned up at the end of the frame with “My Friend” and “Antelope,” but like so many shows last year, the real action started after setbreak.
Set II: Check out yesterday’s summary of this set, excerpted here: The second set of December 30th provided the most musically impressive and conceptually crafted stanza of the New Year’s Run. This frame contained a darkness-into-light progression, though the entire vibe changed a bit to abruptly to necessarily label it artistic…
X Factor: Darkness—Rarely, if ever, in this era has Phish assembled such an extensive menacing adventure as they did on this night. The playing within “Disease > Twenty Years Later > Carini” is very scarce in this era of good feelings, and when Phish let the cat out of the bag on this night, the results were astounding.
8. 6/23—Star Lake, Burgettstown, PA
I: Funky Bitch, Backwards Down the Number Line, Gumbo, Maze, Torn and Frayed, The Moma Dance, Scent of a Mule, 46 Days, You Enjoy Myself
II: Gotta Jibboo, Mike’s Song > Simple > Light > Weekapaug Groove > Seven Below, Bouncing Around the Room, Julius, Slave to the Traffic Light
E: The Lizards
Set I: This set didn’t possess a heck of a lot of meat, causing Star Lake to drop to the bottom of the top ten. People love “Mule,” but I don’t dig on that song at all, thus this opening frame amounted to a set-closing “YEM,” and we all know how “YEMs” go these days—purely generic. But the second set was a different story.
Set II: Check out yesterday’s summary of this set, excerpted here: Phish’s second set at Star Lake stood out the minute it ended. With impeccable flow, clear structural intent, and plenty of improvisation, this one had it all. Firing collectively on this Saturday night, the band dropped a timeless frame of music in their Pittsburgh-area venue of lore…
X Factor: Cohesion—The most cohesive second set of Leg One, hands down. The songs not only flowed from one to another, but the improvisation within “Simple > Light > Weekapaug > Seven Below” was all cut from the same cloth.
7. 6/28—Deer Creek, Noblesville, IN
I: The Birdwatcher, The Curtain With, Fuck Your Face, The Old Home Place, Pebbles and Marbles, Weigh, Chalk Dust Torture, Wolfman’s Brother, Cool It Down, Tweezer, Tela, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan
II: Mike’s Song > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Back on the Train -> Hold Your Head Up > Bike > Hold Your Head Up > Weekapaug Groove, Prince Caspian > Waves > Bug > David Bowie
E: Show of Life > Tweezer Reprise
Set I: Amidst 100-plus degree heat, Phish stepped onto the famed stage in the cornfields of Noblesville and dropped one of the most complete first sets of the year. Following an a cappella opener of “The Birdwatcher,” the band rolled out a series of rarities including “The Curtain With,” Fuck Your Face,” “Pebbles and Marbles,” and “Weigh.” After this run of songs, it felt as though the band hit the reset button and launched into the second half of the set comprised of more classic selections. “Chalk Dust” kicked this segment off and it led into funkified “Wolfman’s” which was followed up by the tongue-in-cheek combo of “Cool it Down” and “Tweezer,” as the band poked fun at the blistering heat while planted behind their stage fans. “Tela” emerged from an old-school ending in “Tweezer” and the setlist train kept rollin.’
Set II: This set kicked off with heavy-hitting “Mike’s Groove” sandwich that included the most improvised “McGrupp” to date and a version of “Back on the Train” that jumped way beyond convention into a dark, ambient fantasy before it seamlessly transitioned into “Hold Your Head Up.” “Bike” gave way to more antics in “Weekapaug,” as Fishman started the anthem on guitar while Trey still sat behind the kit. The two joined forces for a drum duet before Trey picked up his axe and slayed song’s feel-good jam. Phish didn’t allow the second half of this set to fizzle like so many others of the year, weaving together a gorgeous quartet of songs to close things out. This late run was centered on the first “Waves” of the year, a stunning rendition that covered a great deal of territory from quickened groove, through a cathartic passage and into deep space before subtly merging into “Bug.” “David Bowie” closed the door on a show that was quickly filed into history under the chapter of Deer Creek lore.
X Factor: Heat—The temperatures peaked in triple digits on this late-June day, making it—easily—the most tortuous show of summer tour. The band clearly understood this and treated the audience to a proper two-setter as they spared us from sitting through any filler in the ungodly heat.
6. 6/15—Bader Field, Atlantic City, NJ
I: The Sloth, My Sweet One, 46 Days, Camel Walk, Tube, Cities > It’s Ice, Ginseng Sullivan, Stash, Simple > The Wedge, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, The Squirming Coil
II: My Soul, Birds of a Feather -> Back on the Train > Heavy Things > Twist > Piper > Billy Breathes, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > David Bowie
E: First Tube
Set I: The first set of Atlantic City’s three-day weekend contained quality songs throughout and also carried a flow of its own. “The Sloth” provided a jolt of energy in the opening slot and the band backed it up with a rare “My Sweet One.” Following “46 Days,” Phish stepped into a groovy triumvirate of “Camel Walk,” “Tube,” and “Cities,” highlighted by the best “Tube” of the year. If you’ve forgotten about this version, check it out, it was my first jam of the morning for most of Leg One. The band included “It’s Ice,” “Stash,” “Simple,” “The Wedge” and “Squirming Coil” over back half of a set that fit congruently with the sunset vibe.
Set II: Check out yesterday’s summary of this set, excerpted here: This set from Atlantic City is one of the more glossed over stanzas of Summer Tour. Boasting a liquid-like flow and non-stop jamming, there is no doubting its rightful place among the year’s best frames of music.
X Factor: The Festival Feel—Bader Field provided a festival-like atmosphere for the weekend, and coming after Worcester, as most skipped Bonnaroo, this show was the transition to summer tour in earnest. Everyone could easily congregate around speaker towers with all their friends and enjoy the wide-open freedom a Phish festi for the only time in 2012. The nearby casinos graced the show with a visual backdrop and a quasi-circus feel as this Atlantic City became a destination spot for much of the Phish community on this weekend in mud-June.
5. 6/7—DCU Center, Worcester, MA
I: Buried Alive > Runaway Jim, Torn and Frayed, Funky Bitch, The Moma Dance, Rift, Nothing, Ocelot, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Possum, Rocky Top
II: Carini -> Taste > Ghost > Boogie On Reggae Woman > If I Could, Quinn the Eskimo, Harry Hood, Cavern > Buried Alive Reprise
E: Loving Cup
Set I: The first set of the year kicked off in high-style with “Buried Alive” and continued with “Runaway Jim” and “Torn and Frayed.” Just like that we were underway; the highly anticipated indoor shows to kick off the summer were off and running. The band sounded polished and ready for tour, adding the rarities of “Nothing” and “Beauty of a Broken Heart” in the opening frame. Though the setlist was far from eye-popping, the music was spot on and everything seemed primed for take off in set two.
Set II: Check out yesterday’s summary of this set, excerpted here: Since 2010, Phish has most often come out on the first night of tours and dropped a monster show. Last summer’s opener in Worcester followed this pattern congruently. The second set of 2012 holds up as one of the year’s best, containing several standout, stylistically diverse jams.
X Factor: First Show After MehSG—Outstanding first shows of tour have become a tradition over the past couple of years, but this one carried a little extra weight as the first show of the yearn and considering it was the first performance since 2011’s lackluster New Year’s Run. This night in Worcester, specifically the second set, likened a soul cleansing for all involved after the band had slogged through their year-end party. The course had been corrected, illustrating that the MSG was a clear aberration and the band was ready to launch into 2012.
4. 8/15—Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA
I: Suzy Greenberg, Cities > Kill Devil Falls, Guelah Papyrus, Cool It Down, Rift, Stash, Bouncing Around the Room, Bathtub Gin, Quinn the Eskimo
II: Rock and Roll > Ghost > Limb By Limb, Guyute, Dirt, Harry Hood > Good Times Bad Times
Set I: So much focus has been placed on the amazing second set of this show that the first set has been largely forgotten. But as first sets go in 2012, this one wasn’t too shabby. “Cities” appeared in beefier form than usual in the second slot of the show and Velvet Underground’s “Cool It Down” came two songs later. The two most significant pieces of this frame, however, came in “Stash” and “Bathtub Gin,” the latter being one of the strongest and most overlooked versions of the year.
Set II: Check out yesterday’s description of this set, excerpted here: When Phish hit the west coast to start Leg Two, everyone had Long Beach circled as a potential blowout. A tour opener in an old-school area before a high key, three-night weekend in San Francisco had all the ingredients of a must-see show. And when the dust settled, Phish had dropped another spectacular tour opening bomb that contained, arguably, the set of the year.
X Factor: The Advent of Long Form Improv—Leg Two represented a crucial juncture in Phish’s modern era development. The band had grown quite proficient at nailing 10-15 minute jams, but the question remained as to when the band would stretch things out into the long form passages so many of us love. The band came out on the first night of Leg Two and immediately spoke to that question with a devastating combo of “Rock and Roll > Ghost” that spanned 40 minutes. We had our answer. They were ready to dig deeper than ever before in this era, and over the course of this tour they would add quite a few more monstrous jams to their 2012 resume, all sparked on this gorgeous night in Southern California.
3. 9/1—Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium, Commerce City, CO
I: Run Like an Antelope, Backwards Down the Number Line, Tweezer > Fluffhead, Roses Are Free, Funky Bitch, The Moma Dance, When the Circus Comes, Theme From the Bottom, Golgi Apparatus, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan
II: Golden Age > Prince Caspian > Light, Boogie On Reggae Woman, The Wedge, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Mike’s Song > No Quarter > Weekapaug Groove
E: Sleeping Monkey > Tweezer Repriise
Set I: Most of the audience that filled Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium on 9/1 was still riding high from 8/31’s throwdown, and when the band opened up this show with “Antelope,” the first such occurrence since 1990, everything picked right back up where it left off. Extraordinary song choices dotted the front of this frame, as “Tweezer > Fluffhead” backed up a second-song “Number Line.” Lost in all the highlights of Dick’s, this “Tweezer” is actually quite good, capping off a proficient second leg for the song with a slick, groove-based incarnation. The rest of the set had a more conventional contour, but the juices were flowing and the band was ready to dig far deeper after setbreak.
Set II: The 50-minutes that kicked off set two—“Golden Age > Prince Caspian > Light”—dominated the landscape of this show. Though the movement between songs wasn’t fluid as in Bill Graham’s sequence, the playing within was just as mind-melting. This segment, anchored by a version of “Light” that stands as the most incredible jam of the 3.0 years, stood out immediately and has matured like a fine wine over the five months since it took place. The focus of this night has so squarely been on the multi-thematic, other-worldly “Light” that the first two jams in the set have been (rightfully) overshadowed. “Golden Age” is one of the strongest versions of the year, while Trey took “Prince Caspian” off course into darker territory, crafting one of most unique renditions of all time. Following the centerpiece of the weekend in “Light,” the band exhaled via “Boogie On,” “The Wedge” and “Horse > Silent,” before ramping things up with an adrenaline-fueled “Mike’s > No Quarter > Weekapaug” to close out the set. Despite a slight pause in the action to recoup, this set is absolute fire.
X Factor: The Best Jam of 3.0—When you hear the best improvisation the band has played in four years, the stakes of the set—and show—are immediately raised. Spanning so much of their musical spectrum within a single jam, Phish had everyone’s jaw firmly planted on the ground by the end of this treasure. Building on each version of summer and far outdoing them all, Dick’s “Light” will be the eternal takeaway from Summer 2012. If Phish played nothing else to support the stunning take on “Light,” it would have been fine by me, but they added quite a but more, putting this night right up there with the best of the year.
2. 8/19—Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA
I: Crowd Control, Party Time, Axilla, Reba, Free, Mound, Walk Away, NICU, Back on the Train, Gotta Jibboo, Roggae, David Bowie
II: Crosseyed and Painless > Light -> Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley -> Crosseyed and Painless > Theme From the Bottom, Rocky Top, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Meatstick, Bug, You Enjoy Myself
E: Ride Captain Ride > Tweezer Reprise
Set I: This set picked up with the mid-set run of “Reba,” “Free,” “Mound” and “Walk Away,” but it’s peak came at the end with the threesome of “Jibboo,” “Roggae,” and “David Bowie.” All in all, this was a solid first set, but nothing out of the ordinary. At setbreak, I said that if the band didn’t play a massive second set that the Bill Graham run would be seen as a disappointment. And we all know what happened next.
Set II: Sometimes an out-of-this-world sequence of jamming can elevate an entire show, and this set’s “Crosseyed > Light -> Sneakin’ Sally > Crosseyed” did exactly that. Totaling 50 minutes of unbridled adventure, this run of songs takes the cake for the improvisational segment of the year. Combining “Crosseyed’s” open-ended exploration with tight, thematic jamming in “Light,” and capping things off with a funk-filled victory lap in a bravado-laced “Sally,” Phish threw down the gauntlet at the top of this set. This three-song leviathan knocked the socks off anything played in 2012 up to that point, and still stands strong as the most focused hour of jamming in this era. The back side of this set left a little bit to be desired, but it was all gravy at that point as the entire venue was on cloud nine. The band brought things home with “YEM” to skillfully close one of the most exhilarating sets of the year.
X Factor: Intangibles—It’s hard to describe the feeling in the intimate Bill Graham Civic Auditorium that night, as the vibe was intense and infectious. This show defined the energetic exchange between band and audience that makes the Phish experience so sacred. There was no show in 2012 that contained a more unified feel between every person in the room; it felt like each of the 7,004 participants was locked into the moment. It is even harder to describe the metaphysical explosion that took place during the segue of the year, when a “Tweezer Reprise”-laden build at the end of “Light” spilled seamlessly into “Sneakin Sally.” A communal eruption like none in memory provided the experiential moment of 2012—one of those magical occurrences that nobody in the room will ever forget. This special night in the city by the Bay can’t be recreated or relived by tapes alone, there was something more at hand. And that’s why we go.
1. 8/31 —Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium, Commerce City, CO
I: First Tube, Uncle Pen, Carini > Kill Devil Falls, You Enjoy Myself, Ocelot, Undermind
II: Runaway Jim > Farmhouse > Alaska, Chalk Dust Torture > Emotional Rescue > Fuck Your Face
E: Grind, Meatstick
Set I: Phish dropped two bombs in this first set in the form of “Carini” and “Undermind,” the latter being a top five jam of the year. It is rare to see any long form improv in opening frames, let alone jams of this magnitude, thus this set jumped forth as the most significant opening frame of 2012. An extended, third-song “Carini” signified something strange was afoot at the Circle K, and a mid-set “YEM” confirmed this. By the time “Undermind”—the most astounding first set closer in memory—ended, it was clear this would be the show of the year.
Set II: Though many figured out the setlist gag by setbreak, the band came with one surprise after another in the second half, furthering the face-fucking theme of the night. The guys added two more outstanding jams to this show’s resume with the first exploratory “Runaway Jim” of this era and, arguably, the greatest “Chalk Dust” ever played. The best show of 3.o included “Farmhouse” and “Alaska” smack dab in the middle of the second set, as well as an intentional “Also Sprach” fake-out, illustrating the well-planned nature of the show-long trickery. The first “Emotional Rescue” since 2000 and an absurd “Meatstick,” “Grind” encore capped the night that everybody has been talking about since it ended.
X Factor: FUCK YOUR FACE—Forcing their own hand with a limited number of songs to spell out “Fuck Your Face,” the band extended jams all night long. Despite the setlist games, however, this show—unquestionably—contained Phish’s most impressive playing of the year. With four astounding jams, including two that are easily among the best of this era (“Undermind” and Chalk Dust”), Phish left a wake of fire in the Rockies on the final night of August. Aside from the top-shelf improv, their outlandishly tight playing shone through all night in selections such as “First Tube,” “Uncle Pen,” “Farmhouse” and “Ocelot.” This show was not just a standout performance, but a conceptual masterpiece as well.
Honorable Mention: (in chronological order) 6/16 Atlantic City, 6/22 Cincinnati, 6/30 Alpine Valley, 7/1 Alpine Valley, 7/3 Jones Beach, 7/6 SPAC, 8/22 Kansas City, 9/2 Denver, 12/28 MSG