2012 was certainly an excellent year for our favorite band. Each of the first three years in Phish’s 3.0 era are peppered with highlights and exciting/funny/generally Phishy moments. Even the most hardcore haters can at least admit to that. Phish will always be Phish, and if 3.0 has taught us anything it’s just that. However, Phish is not always outstanding Phish. There’s a difference here and it’s in the band’s very best years that we tend to see outstanding Phish on a more regular, if not nightly, basis. Enter: Phish in 2012.
Following a well-documented lackluster 2011 NYE Run and a "lighter touring year" on the horizon, it appeared as though 3.0 might be headed towards a rut. That is, until Summer 2012 came along and put all doubts to rest within a week. Who knows if the band caught wind of its less than stellar reviews and came out with a renewed sense of purpose, but in any case they delivered this year in just about every facet. From the bustout-seekers to jam-buffs to high-energy fanatics, most every phan can find something to love about Phish in 2012. Personally, I found it most encouraging that Phish was outstanding on many, if not most, nights this summer. When compiling my forthcoming “Jams of the Year” list, it was easy to find a thrilling jam/moment in nearly every show. The same can simply not be said for the last three years. With that in mind, 2012 was somewhat of a revelation for Phish and it’s my pleasure to bring you the Top 11 (I just couldn’t narrow it down to 10) jams of the year. That’s what you’re here for anyways.
**Disclaimer** This list is my own and is in no way a definitive assessment of the band’s playing in 2012. We all love Phish, but not for all the same reasons. That’s what makes them so amazing. So please please don’t think that your opinion is somehow any less valid because your favorite jam is missing from this compilation.
|Photo by Andrea Nusinov|
#11: Light (8/19 - Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA)
In the midst of perhaps the best set of summer ’12, the year’s second best Light was played and treated phans in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium to an intensely unique jam. Wasting little time in the soloing post-refrain section, the band dove into a cool funky calypso groove. Very cool stuff but nothing epic…. yet. As the jam seemed to be winding down and ripe for a segue, Trey and co. opted instead to persist onwards and forge a build/peak that can only be heard to be believed. Using the framework of Tweeprise as a mold for the build, Phish harnessed every last drop of energy in that arena and unleashed it all at once in a single epic moment that meshed seamlessly into Sneakin’ Sally.
#10: Tweezer (8/26 - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Charlotte, NC)
A dark-horse version to be sure, there are some truly incredible moments in this Tweezer that simply must be heard. It’s not a long version but the jam is too gorgeous to not be included in this list. A perfect example in proper usage of the “whale-call,” this Tweezer would most certainly be the year’s top version if not for 12/28’s monster. Wholly underated and wildly improvisational, give this version a listen right about...now.
#9: Rock and Roll (8/24 - Oak Mountain Amphitheatre, Birmingham, AL)
This particular week of the summer was a very busy one for me and it really wasn’t until about a month ago that I was able to look back and check out what Phish had to offer on their latest trek through the South. Long Beach’s monster version and the general epic-ness of the Dick’s run probably overshadow this Rock and Roll jam – but they shouldn’t. In fact, it hangs tough with the best of the summer and arguably reaches the heights of the 8/15 version despite being almost 10 minutes shorter. Come for the Live and Let Die teases, stay for the gorgeous outro.
#8: Carini (12/30 - MSG, New York, NY)
As Trey began the fierce leads of Carini, one could sense that it was primed to blow up. Placed in a heavy-hitting slot on the most storied night in Phish’s extensive NYE run repertoire, expectations were understandably high. And fortunately Phish delivered in a big way with one of the darker jams these ears have ever heard. Phish may be entering a “Golden Age” in which the band’s general happiness and good vibes reign supreme, but this jam illustrates their continued willingness to plunge into dark musical depths and search for uncharted territory. This one isn’t exactly easy to explain so just seek it out if you haven’t already. You won’t be disappointed.
|Photo by Brantley Gutierrez|
#7: Piper (7/8 - SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY)
On the last night of Leg 1, Phish threw down a nearly 2-hour, marathon second set, highlighted by this simply stunning Piper jam. Building off a pattern found in the Light jam from earlier in the set, Phish forges an utterly cathartic peak here that is nothing short of jaw dropping. And what’s more, rather than calling it quits after the peak, the band dives back into the jam for an additional few awesome minutes before finally arriving at a tripped-out, chant filled (always a good sign) outro.
#6: Birds of a Feather (6/15 - Bader Field, Atlantic City, NJ)
So much phenomenal music has been played by Phish since this jam that it seems to get overlooked when reminiscing on gems from summer ’12. However, a gorgeous jam and the best segue of the year (-> Back on the Train) propel this Atlantic City beast into the upper echelon of 2012’s finest. Check out Fish’s subtle change in beat at 10:46 (AUD recording, might be different on the LP recording). One of my favorite moments from Leg 1.
#5: Runaway Jim (8/31 - Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO)
Part of the glory that’s associated with the FuckYourFace show is that Phish was essentially forced to jam in order to properly execute their prank. In my opinion, the song that saw the most benefit from this phenomenon was Runaway Jim. The jam, spanning just over 20 minutes, covers a lot of ground from funk to bliss and it never feels as though the band was playing to just take up time. Mike mixes in some particularly nasty bass licks in the funk section and the later portion of the jam features some really impressive playing from Trey. More Jim jams in 2013 please!
#4: Rock and Roll (8/15 - Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA)
Amidst the now (in)famous “Bieber show,” Phish dropped a 25-minute psychedelic odyssey right in the face of the band’s newest fan. The fact that this jam isn’t even really that talked about anymore really speaks to the brilliance that Phish delivered to us this year. This multi-faceted aural journey reaches the 20-minute mark without losing any composure and its final 4-5 minutes are simply wild, tripped-out Phish at its very best. The Ghost that follows isn’t too shabby either.
|Photo by Brantley Gutierrez|
#3: Sand (9/2 - Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO)
In a year brimming with outstanding Sand jams, the Dick’s version stands tall as the best. Following a typically fierce jazzy solo from Trey, the band began to break form around the 9-minute mark. In a matter of minutes Phish had plunged into a murky whale-call effects jam that eventually bled into a more up-tempo butter jam and a solid peak that is somewhat reminiscent of the Light from the night before. The jam fades and returns to the Sand theme before transitioning very well into Ghost.
#2: Tweezer (12/28, MSG, New York, NY)
After a phenomenal Wolfman’s Brother closed an otherwise uneventful opening set, many phans had high hopes for the second frame of night 1. Leaving last year’s run in the rearview, Phish brought the goods in a set opening Tweezer that stands alone atop 3.0’s many versions. Beginning with a hard-edged groove (similar to Dick’s ’11) the band then works their way through a few minutes of stunning bliss jamming before a slick bluesy jam emerges and builds to an awesome Gin-like peak and a crafty ->Maze. In my opinion the absolute runaway jam of the run, this Tweezer competes with the very best of 2012 and lands at the #2 slot.
#1: Light (9/1 - Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO)
And at #1, standing alone as Phish’s best jam of 2012 is…none other than the “Dick’s Light.” Sure, the first few minutes of the jam are fairly sloppy and aimless but I’ll be damned if the last 10 minutes of this masterpiece aren’t the best Phish you’ve heard in quite some time. Hose in its purest, most magnificent form. A Phish jam for the ages (and it seems to get better with each listen!). Let’s hope we get some more of this goodness in 2013!!!
6/7 – Boogie On
6/22 - Twist
7/1 – Light
8/19 – Crosseyed and Painless
8/28 – Limb by Limb (so hard to leave this one out)
8/31 - Carini
8/31 – Undermind
8/31 – Chalkdust
9/1 – Golden Age
9/1 - Caspian
12/30 – Down with Disease
If you made it this far, thanks so much for reading and not giving up on this site despite its unannounced 10-month hiatus! I’ll do my best to crank out some more Phishy material before tour resumes but in the mean time I’ll wish you all a safe, happy, and healthy New Year!
|Photo by Dave Vann|