Tuesday 03/10/2015 by phishnet

BEST OF 2014

[Editor's Note, SP] – Continuing a tradition began last year, the phish.net working group set out again to rank the Top 10 shows of 2014 (with Miami being included as part of the 2014 "year" despite bleeding into 2015). Normally this is where I’d caution that any ranking of Phish shows is an exercise in imposing an objective order on something that couldn’t be more subjective. And that’s true! If you really want the lecture, though, here you go. Generally our readers find these posts helpful and informative... or not. If you fall into the latter category, you've at least been warned.

Before we get started, there were some trends that emerged in our admittedly small sample size. We actually ended up with a pretty clear Top 13 that we whittled down to ten. The last three out were 7/20 Chicago, 7/26 MPP and 8/29 Dicks. After that, we were really left with a Top 4 and a Next 6. We’ll get to the Top 4 later, but as for 5-10, these were mostly shows that featured consistently strong playing throughout but perhaps lacked a truly transcendent jam. The group was all over the map in ranking these shows, with any given show as likely to be ranked five or six as it was to be left out of the Top 10 altogether. Now, without further ado, the top 10!

10. 7/12/14 Randall's Island, New York, NYSteve Paolini
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

Some shows make the Top 10 for having a beloved jam or even set, while others have several smaller highlights. The second night at Randall's Island is part of the latter group. The first set doesn't offer much other aside from a spirited version of "ASIHTOS." After "PYITE" warms up the crowd for set two, the band starts up "Carini." Many a recent "Carini" head straight for major key bliss. This version heads straight for atmospheric space. While the jam ultimately struggles to find direction, it gets an 'A' for effort and legs out the infield single.

The "Ghost" that follows is a fine version. The jam starts out hinting at similar territory to the Chilling Thrilling "Timber" that would make its debut months later. From there it quickly finds a triumphant groove typical to many 2014 "Ghosts," before inverting into a more ominous, yet slinky, jam. After one of the stronger versions of "Wingsuit," the band opts for the obligatory New York City "Rock and Roll." The "R&R" never so much as threatens to leave the theme, but still gets points from a song selection perspective. As a bonus, they save the best for last, delivering a stellar rendition of "Harry Hood" in a year filled with them. Everyone has a different idea of what "flow" means in the context of a Phish set, but few would dispute that this set has it.

Some of the shows in these rankings were highly controversial, with some of us putting a show in our personal Top 5, while others left it off of their list completely. This show, on the other hand (as well as #9), arrive at the bottom of our list, because that's where nearly everyone had them: a borderline Top 10 show but a Top 10 show, nonetheless. Hitting a bunch of singles and doubles may get you on the All-Star team, but it's unlikely to get you in the Hall of Fame.


"Harry Hood" – 7/12/14, New York, NY (video via @LazyLightning55a)

9. 10/17/14 Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, ORMartin Acaster
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

When Phish took the stage at the University of Oregon’s Matthew Knight Arena they were definitely looking to buck some established trends. As laid out in my precap for the show, it was the first time Phish had performed in Oregon since their last show at Portland Meadows on 9/12/99, over 15 years and two periods of unconformity ago. Based on their past history of stellar performances in Eugene I tried my hand at prognostication with regard to setlist and performance quality. Though they certainly had my back with regard to the quality of their tour opening gig, excluding the no-brainer heavy dose of Fuego songs, my forecast for song selection had a pretty low success rate with only three (“Poor Heart,” “Reba,” and “The Squirming Coil”) of the likely to be played songs appearing in the show.

The home court vibe at the show was strong. Familiar faces and warm embraces abounded. Fifteen long years of “Waiting all Night” was finally coming to an end. We had begrudgingly let our lost love wander “Free” and their absence had caused pain to our “Poor Heart.” However, as soon as we had another “Sample in a Jar,” the displeasure caused by the “Strange Design” of their tour schedule during the previous fifteen (it seemed like “555”) years was forgotten and everybody was “Bouncing Around the Room.” With the awkward hugs and “I really missed you guyyyyys!!!” pleasantries out of the way... it was time to get down to business. Though certainly not flawless, “Reba” was soulful and sweet. “Roggae” brought forth visions of booger-bears and the guacamole queen. Notwithstanding a “Magilla” tease from Page, “Simple” largely lived up to its name but did segue with ample lubricity into a blistering version of “Maze.” The set closing “Squirming Coil” features a truly spellbinding concerto-pianissimo from the chairman of the boards... if that outro does not fill your cup with love, I don’t know what will.

The second set opens with an atypically buoyant “Carini” that meanders through its lightness of being and seamlessly into the Phish debut of “Plasma,” the infectious hook of which remained implanted in my mind for days afterwards. “Farmhouse” continued the first set trend of playing songs from Olivia’s pool of favorites... happy wife, happy life. This one was approached with great patience and a delicate touch... an existential state to keep in mind. “Halfway to the Moon” was definitely the make or break point for the second set. Would they turn the rocket around and glide back to an uneventful splashdown on Earth destination unreached? Plot “Twist”... HELL NO! We were going all the way. “Crosseyed and Painless” went extradimensional into an ice cold “Tomorrow Never Knows” wormhole that has resulted in memory loss and associated time gap during every subsequent relisten. Regaining our footing on Mount “Hood,” we explored the wondrous internal beauty of the Snow Dragon Glacier Cave system beneath the Sandy Glacier, then surveyed the familiar slopes of the volcano’s “Rocky Top” from the lodge. Triple encore?!?!?!... enough said. See you in Bend!


"Carini" 10/17/14 Eugene, OR (video via @InnovAsianTravel)

7. (tie) 11/2/14 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NVTim Wade
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

The final show from Vegas has a lot more going for it than just the “Piper.” It has the most exciting version of “Free” in a decade, thanks to “Martian Monster” lyrics that will give you chills when Trey advises that “you’re about to blast off” into a ripping peak. It has one of the more interesting “YEMs” of 3.0, which shows that if you can’t take Fish to a drum solo, you can just take the drum solo to Fish. And it has a “Chalk Dust” which shines when it arrives at a “Wedge”-infused climax (even if it takes a while to establish its identity). These are all strong jams.

But the “Piper,” oh, man, the “Piper.” I have been mocked for my unabashed, rapturous praise for this short-but-glorious piece of music. But the ribbing doesn’t make it any less special. In fact, some day, this jam will help put an end to war and poverty. It will align the planets and bring them into universal harmony, allowing meaningful contact with all forms of life from extraterrestrial beings to common household pets, and... well, you get the picture. Following a breathless gallop on the worm, Trey emerges with an elegant melody, led first by Page and then by Mike, who deploys a bass bomb and a drill scream with a level of precision that gives me chills each time. The 11/2/14 “Piper” is the gem that makes this wonderful show shine. Listen with someone you love.


"Free" 11/2/14 Las Vegas, NV (video via @LazyLightning55a)

7. (tie) 12/31/14 American Airlines Arena, Miami, FLSteve Paolini
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

The last show of 2014 proper was, let’s face it, a flawed one. The first set amounted to little more than a warmup set. By the end of a compact second set opening “BOAF,” it’s safe to say lots of folks were questioning the wisdom of the inverted new year’s run.

And then “Ghost” started. Once among Phish’s most reliable jam vehicles, these days “Ghost" is a far more uncertain proposition. The soaring “Ghost” jam is quite pleasing, but when it begins to peter out at the eleven minute mark, it feels like not so much a version of “Ghost” slipping away, but an entire New Year’s show. With the jam on life support, Fish and Trey lock into a new groove, the band returns briefly to the “Ghost” theme and then builds it up to a second peak. By the time it’s all over, we have the best “Ghost” of the year.


Photo by Scott Harris

It’s hard to overstate how refreshingly great the ensuing “Theme” -> “Cities” is, in the context of 3.0 Phish. One of the criticisms of the current era is that sometimes it seems like we know where the big jams will be coming, and we know what songs will bring them. “Theme” -> “Cities” turns all of that on its head. And, though each song only contains five-six minutes of jamming, they cover an astounding amount of terrain in that brief time. Setting side Big Cypress because it’s Big Cypress, this is almost certainly the best NYE set since 12/31/98.

Set III is another oddity. We start with the odd Phish debut of “Dem Bones,” which sets up a NYE prank that can charitably be described as underwhelming. As they did in 2014, Phish started out 2015 with a new song, this year “The Dogs.” An exploratory “Tweezer” follows and by the time it finishes, we’re left with quite possibly the best 90-minute stretch of 2014. Given that, you may wonder why this show only comes in tied for #7 in our little rankings. The answer is because there was still an hour left in the show, but Phish retreated to first set form, offering up the song selection equivalent of waving the white flag. One and a half sets of top shelf Phish and one and a half sets of entirely forgettable music. Like I said, it’s a flawed show… but a great one.


"Theme from the Bottom" 12/31/14 Miami, FL

6. 10/28/14 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CATim Wade
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

The second set of BGCA2 starts with a “Kill Devil” curveball, jamming out the Joy tune instead of its older cousin, “Chalk Dust.” This type-II jaunt is more propulsive than exploratory, with some Hammond color from Page, some whale-calling from Trey, and a soft landing into “Mountains In the Mist.” “Fuego” follows, and I’ll confess to disappointment that its star didn’t burn as bright this Fall. Nevertheless, there is a pretty, somewhat ambient coda that blends into “Julius.”

But the fourth quarter is where this set tightens its belt and starts to chuckle. “Twist” drifts around at first, but eventually winds its way into a dark, early-Floydian jam that makes makes me shiver. The exquisitely sinister “Twist” is followed by a quick “Runaway Jim,” and then Phish lets loose with yet another amazing “Harry Hood.” “Hood” absolutely OWNED 2014, reeling off nine – count ‘em, NINE – versions for the jamming chart (including eight straight starting with Great Woods). This one might be the best of the bunch. Diving into type-II territory around 7:30, this jam gets gritty and mean before making a neat turn, executing a gleeful “Party Time” dance, and ultimately swirling back to “Hood.” It’s a beautiful end to the set, and cements this show’s place in the top ten.


"Twist" 10/28/14 San Francisco, CA

5. 8/31/14 Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, COPhillip Zerbo
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

Coming in fifth in our 2014 Top 10 is the Dick’s edition of “never miss a Sunday show,” the 8/31/14 summer finale. Starting with the unexpected, “The Curtain With” opens a show for the first time since 6/19/88 at Nectar’s or 1,519 shows (though “The Curtain” opened as recently as 11/28/97 Worcester). The set also featured an energetic “Wombat,” the always funky “Wolfman’s Brother,” an “ASIHTOS” far adrift from any shore, and a vibrant “Possum” set closer. Modern Phish shows are not won or lost in the first set, but this was a solid, spirited first half performance. Not even the “Lushington” gag or the horn-infused “Suzy” could save Friday’s opening Dick’s frame, and Saturday’s opener was a poster-child for first set malaise, leaving this the weekend’s best first set if only by default.

If 2013 was the Year of the “Tweezer,” 2014 was the Year of “Chalk Dust.” Outstanding type-II versions of “Chalk Dust” dominate the calendar, with notable offerings at Philly, Charlotte, Portsmouth, Santa Barbara, Vegas and most dramatically at Randall’s Island. This second set opener establishes flight early and maintains a steady cruising speed throughout, declining to ascend toward a dramatic peak or lurch for dramatic shifts, but nevertheless establishing a solid foundation for the set. The “Twist” that follows is easily overlooked if one just looks at the short timing, but what it lacks in expansiveness it makes up for with an attacking aggression from Trey.


Photo © Phish From the Road

A brief run through “The Wedge” paves the way for “Tweezer.” “Tweezer” escapes the main theme and settles into a groove at the five minute mark, downshifting if only briefly before Fishman insists on a driving tempo, leading the way for the band coalescing around a minor peak culminating about ten minutes in. Trey then seizes the initiative with a slick segue into “Sand” that explodes out of the gate. The first half of this almost fifteen minute gem sizzles with a danceable insistence, reaching peaksville before exploding into a brief up-tempo “Tweezer” jam that changes the trajectory… for the emphatically weird! Fishman seemed intent on riding that wave but Trey insists on “Piper” to emerge from the ashes of “Sand.” This “Piper” shoots out of a cannon, establishing a blistering early pace. Trey throws in a “Norwegian Wood” tease three minutes in before yielding the steering wheel to Page, then taking the handoff back ever so briefly and then gliding the jam to a conclusion in deep space.

Joy” offers a tender respite from the high-octane proceedings, the only breather in this set that was otherwise jam-packed with action. The opening notes of “Mike’s Song” then signaled the set’s home stretch. Trey leads the way to Funktown with an echoplex-driven jam that evoked a modern polish on a style reminiscent of 1997 start-stop. With “Mike’s” second jam in deep hibernation and other innovations few and far between, one needn’t go overboard to call this dance-til-you-drop version the most innovative “Mike’s Song” of the post-breakup era. This style of even-less-is-more jamming would rule on fall tour, but the surprise factor here was clutch, injecting excitement and diversity into a song that, while always pleasing, was due for a breath of fresh air. “Sneakin’ Sally” re-floors the accelerator with only its second appearance within Mike’s Groove (7/9/14 Mann) before wrapping the set with a solid if uneventful “Weekapaug.” A “Loving Cup” > “Tweezer Reprise” encore puts a bow on yet another satisfying run at the fantastic Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.


"Mike's Song" 8/31/14 Commerce City, CO (video via @LazyLightning55a)

This #5 ranking is well-deserved, for as we can see the show contains a wealth of riches. That said, this is the point where the 2014 rankings become highly subjective. The first four gigs in our list are locks for those top slots in some order. Beyond that core four of shows heading on to a coveted Champion’s League appearance, any of a half dozen 2014 shows could have easily slotted here without much in the way of controversy. It reflects more on the extraordinary strength of the previous year more than any weakness in 2014, but this show would have trouble breaking any top ten (or even top fifteen) among the exceptional roster of shows from 2013. That said, the reliable first set, and impeccable construction, attention-keeping pace and jamming innovation of the money frame make 8/31/14 a show that deserves if not demands your attention.

4. 1/3/15 American Airlines Arena, Miami, FLJohn Demeter
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

The final show of the touring year served as a stunning valedictory statement to the Miami run (fantastic setting with some excellent playing), to 2014 (marked by legitimate exploratory excursions in almost every engagement, and a career creative crest cloaked in a crypt), and to 3.0 thus far. The quintet of classics that kicked off this capstone had an average debut date (2/7/90) almost 25 years old. “Maze” and “Cavern” were high-energy in uncharacteristic setlist slots, but the early highlight was Trey’s triplet trilling in “Divided Sky.” The outro wasn’t a holistic home run, but the band’s intent and empathy were evident early on. Switch speeds to a sultry, swampy, and somewhat surprising “Plasma” (third time ever by Phish) that saturated the arena, a crystalline “Water in the Sky,” and a murky meandering “Melt,” characteristic of the era, and the band covered a whole lot of territory in the first half before ballistically blowing out a “Zero” and heading into halftime.

Of course, the story of this show is the second set, much of which played like a single suite of music anchored only by what seemed to be obligatory stops at actual songs. The “Disease” > “Light” > “Sally” sequence in particular played out like a triumphant tour through the history of rock and roll. The first shots in this huge improvisational sequence were fired when “DwD” almost ended, but instead went full band into tropical changes that, in the moment, we thought could have been some song… that… we couldn’t quite identify. Starting there, Phish masterfully emceed an arena-sized party, improvising through sounds and styles – upbeat, driven; the music clearly playing the band. One could recognize big chords and feel them ready to drop into “Rock and Roll,” “Low Rider,” “Manteca,” “Takin’ Care of Business,” “Simple,” and “Get Back” (for starters) at various points, but instead of landing on the crutch of covering or teasing a known classic, they kept pushing forward, furthur, into a somehow familiar unknown. The jam out of each song sounded more like the jam out of the prior song than anything else, and by the time we arrived at “Sand” and “Hood,” we were deep into bonus territory. It was the kind of night where strangers continually exchanged knowing glances with strangers, nodding the nods we only share with each other, acknowledging “special;” that in this place and time, everything is saved by Rock and Roll.

A “Birds” quote in “Suzy” and an incendiary “Good Times Bad Times” encore informed us all that after four rich nights and a damn solid six year run, They were still in ‘Attack’ mode, getting right after it. As Trey had proclaimed and predicted a couple nights prior, “2014 - Good year! 2015 - Better!!!”

And here we are...


"Down with Disease" 1/3/15 Miami, FL

3. 7/27/14 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia MDTim Wade
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

I think a lot of the Jaded Vets™ among us rolled our eyes at the initial segue into “Back On the Train.” I know I did. A song ripcorded faster than the UICGhost”? You gotta be kidding me! And then the segue back into “Tweezer” turned that frown upside down and made it look silly. The return to “BOTT” revealed that Phish had brought a quiver of arrows to MPP, and I can verify that even from the couch, this “Tweezerfest” was pure delight.

Shows like these are more about playfulness than how the band plays, but there are moments of beautiful improvisation, too, in particular the third “Tweezer” segment and the jam out of “Disease.” But my oh my, how much of a blast is the “Free” -> “Tweezer” -> “Simple” -> “Tweezer” -> “Free?” How awesome is the first “Catapult” in five years? How sweet is the odd jam out of “NICU” that becomes the first “HYHU” since SPAC 2012? And how absolutely HILARIOUS is “Jennifer Dances?” It even included a poke at “Jennifer’s” detractors, and had me laughing so hard I didn’t catch Fish rhyming “song” with “dong” the first time around. Throw in the band marching off stage with the first “I Been Around” in 149 shows, and you have yourself some historic hijinx. That’s without even considering the now-rare “Fee,” “Curtain With,” and “Saw It Again” from the first set. This show is tier one fun, so throw it on when you need a smile!



"I Been Around" 7/27/14 Columbia, MD

Speaking of tier one, we're heading there now. Only two 2014 shows received first place votes in our rankings (for context, six shows received first place votes in our 2013 rankings). In fact, with one exception, this was a unanimous top two.

2. 7/13/14 Randall's Island, New York, NYScott Marks
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

"Chalk Dust Torture" > "Light" > "Tweezer." Three songs, 56 minutes. Since Phish walked on stage at the Hampton Coliseum six years ago, having a trio of tunes filling up almost an hour has been a rare feat, something that seemed more likely to be found in a monster second set in the mid 90s. Leading the way was a multi-layered "Chalk Dust Torture." Quickly straying off the song's chord structure to chart into jam territory with no turning back, this majestic version had many turns and left me instantly thinking that this was one of the top renditions in the song's 24-year history. With most takes on "Chalk Dust" failing to reach the ten minute mark, the third night of Randall's produced the longest version ever, clocking in at just under 28 minutes and surpassing the old record-holder from IT by two minutes. This "Chalk Dust" has stood the test of time, passing through the haze of immediate post-show hype to stand among not only Phish's best jams of 2014, but also the all-time top versions of the song. "Light" followed "Chalk Dust" with Trey dabbling in a "St. Thomas" tease in the middle of the jam, then an amazing melodic finish before "Tweezer" entered the fray. "Tweezer" had a couple of slow bluesy breakdowns before rising back up to a powerful rush to the finish line, only to return to the melody and slow down to completion.

The first set of the show featured the first "Sand" to ever start off a Phish concert and was followed by a setlist that didn't veer that far off the path with song selection or improvisation and ended with a powerful "Melt." While the second set post-"Tweezer" took an energy dip before finishing off with a tightly-knit selection of songs, all that was lost in the shuffle was dwarfed by the three songs opening the second set; a trio that easily ranks among the best multi-song combinations Phish has put forth in the 3.0 era, sliding right into place with the Albany 2009 "Seven Below" -> "Ghost" in terms of musical blocks the band has put forth.


"Light" 7/13/14 New York, NY (video via @LazyLightning55a)

1. 10/31/14 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NVBrian Feller
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

Your trip is short! They attack! These two phrases are now forever part of the Phish lexicon thanks to one of the coolest "gag" shows in Phish history, 10/31/14.

Phish's Halloween shows have always been draped in secrecy. Sometimes we've been given hints along the way, but the Phish organization has done a fantastic job over the years of maintaining a healthy element of surprise. After mixed reviews from 2013's Wingsuit set, there was a lot of anxiety and wonder amongst people I knew. Trey even indicated the time of covering albums was over. So, what were they going to do this year? When fall tour started, it seemed to be the best kept secret yet. Even the day of the show, most people I spoke with had not a clue. Personally, I had no intention of going to Halloween until we were hanging out with Fishman before the LA Forum show, and he made it very clear that we should come to Las Vegas. Based on hints that tantalized but gave nothing away, we made the trip happen on a couple days notice. All we knew was that it was indeed going to be an album, but not a traditional album cover. And that it was a classic but not in the way an Elvis or Zeppelin album is classic. And the Hot Dog guy was involved in set design. Set design? Oh!

The MGM Grand Garden Arena is a wondeful place to host a run of Phish shows. Staff that has seen everything are quite adept at scene management. In a town that always goes overboard, we were easy for them, I'm sure. The venue had rare in-and-out priviliges, which was truly great. Upon entering, it was apparent this was a special spectacle when you looked up to see beautiful chandelier-like installations hanging above the crowd. For just these gigs. Phish gives in ways you don't often see in popular music, and we would soon see how much intention, effort, money and dedication was put in to this singular night.

The first set was thoughtfully Halloween-y in song selection but gave no real hints. The Phishbill had been let loose so you either knew what the classic Disney sound effects LP was or you didn't. I had the Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House as a kid, so when I saw the Phishbill I freaked. But I still had no idea really what was coming. As setbreak went along, it seemed like all of a sudden there was a graveyard where none had been. OH! Hello! We were blessed that some friends saved us a spot about seven people back dead center, and that's where we watched the first two sets. I assume you have all heard and/or seen the Haunted House set so you know that it is up there with some of Phish's most memorable musical explorations. A set of brand new, original, instrumental jams with Halloween themes and weird noises and space ships and Chinese torture and attacking birds, played in a circle in a Haunted House in white suits and zombie makeup? Uh, what?!?!? I looked around that set and saw jaws on the floor everywhere. People who would normally be dancing with abandon, mouths agape and smiling at the same time. Wow. They could have walked off after set two and done no more, but in true Phish fashion we got a full third set. I barely remember it, but a rare set ending "Tweeprise" out of "Sand" was a trick AND treat.


"Your Pet Cat" 10/31/14 Las Vegas, NV (video via @LazyLightning55a)

2014 Halloween was certainly one of those special nights. Top Shelf Phish with a lot of thought, practice, and love for where they are now. Ever forward 30 years later is no easy task, but they did it. No, they killed it! Pun intended. There is no resting on laurels. Phish pushes on. What's my favorite show? The next one.

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Comments

, comment by mfhgreyboy
mfhgreyboy Thanks for the write up. Fun read.
, comment by CameToPlay
CameToPlay Thanks for the write-up. Fun read. I am guessing a lot of the working group were at 8/31.
, comment by CameToPlay
CameToPlay @mfhgreyboy said:
Thanks for the write up. Fun read.
Ha...i said the same thing as you. Maybe because I read yours earlier and somehow internalized the words. Didn't mean to plagiarize. ;)
, comment by switz
switz Thanks for the right up. Fun read.
, comment by makisupaman
makisupaman I'm assuming 1/2/15 landed at number 14 then? I never see eye-to-eye with these lists, but the effort is laudable and welcomed. What was once a simple(r) endeavor in the early days of 3.0, the quality and consistency of shows since ~ 2012 proves that the task of "ranking" now stands firmly in the arena of subjectivity. I consider the Ghost> Theme> Cities from NYE among the highest achievements of this era, but it's a testament to the band that such a breakthrough segment does not a top show make. Indeed, a case can be made for any of these shows listed, depending on personal taste and experience. With rumors of Watkins and other treats swirling for 2015, it's safe to assume we will be back in this same quandary once again next year. Not a bad problem to have, and one that I hope we suffer from for years to come.
, comment by AlumniBlues420
AlumniBlues420 No way you can justify leaving 7-20-14 off the top ten list...

otherwise a great read!
, comment by tds418
tds418 Kind of surprised 7/4 didn't even reach top 13 but good read nonetheless. Was at both that show and Eugene and thought 7/4 had a stronger first set, just as big of a second set jam (the "Fuego" ;) .
, comment by I_LIKE_FUCKERPANTS
I_LIKE_FUCKERPANTS Thanks four the rite up. Funn reed.
, comment by Ellldoctor
Ellldoctor I'm surprised that 11/1/14 wasnt on the list. Stellar show but they dropped the ball on the encore though I loved the National Anthem closer. Made me laugh
, comment by wooderson
wooderson @CameToPlay said:
Thanks for the write-up. Fun read. I am guessing a lot of the working group were at 8/31.
How does 8/31 beat 8/29? The 8/29 Simple, alone, made that the best show of the run.

/.02
, comment by SoularT
SoularT 7/4/14!!!
, comment by mahimahi
mahimahi Other than Halloween at #1, this list does not make much sense. But then again, this narrow vision is expected in this section of the website--it really is too bad. Maybe next year there will be a better list.
, comment by Bocaphreak
Bocaphreak Great review
I was fortunate enough to witness 2 out of the top 10. Miami & Randalls
Ready for summer tour dates
, comment by johnnyd
johnnyd @mahimahi - how so? What is your top 10?
Though I don't agree with it right down the line, I had my one vote, and I don't think it's that off or hard to defend as "generally reasonable." The process was straightforward in two rounds. All quantitative, no lobbying or arguing.

(Well there was alleged lobbying, but that devolved into more of a joke than any kind of influence peddling scandal.)

Anyway, as @lumpblockclod presented above, there was a clear Big 4, and then the rest. Voting was all over the place for those. For example, I had MPP2 as number 5; nobody else even had it ranked. Regarding SPAC 2 (7/4) I really *wanted* to top 10 it (attendance bias, Fuego as a top 3 moment in 3.0 for me, and 2nd set that didn't let up) but going back and relistening, I couldnt say it was better than the others I voted. But it really gets tricky even as an individual to parse out every single show and attach a rating. Which speaks to the relative consistency of the year. But the methodology is pretty fair.

As with last year, I'll try and take some time to set up a method for any users that wish to cast a 0 - 10 ranking for every show, and we can see where a community ranking puts everything. (If I really had free time, I'd then do a statistical control for attendance bias, but that's a different project.)
, comment by johnnyd
johnnyd Also, franks for the raight upp. Phun Reid.

/sorry about the PH
, comment by Hugh_Mongus
Hugh_Mongus I am not surprised to see 8/31 on that list. Although I am a big fan of the 46 Days > BOTT> Simple> Ghost on 8/29, Sunday really impressed me. I love that OP mentioned that the Twist gets overlooked considering I have done just that for the past few months. The 'injection of excitement' in this Twist may have been reasonably subtle, but it was definitely a preview of what was to come on fall tour and especially halloween weekend. Always fun to think and listen back to some of these experiences, such as when "Phish masterfully emceed an arena-sized party" during my birthday, Thanks!
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS What!!?? You mean :::::inserts favorite personally attended show here:::::: didn't make your top 10?? I'm totally THROUGH with you people!
, comment by itsice88
itsice88 I feel extremely lucky that I was in attendance for the Top 3. Three completely different shows, all amazing and all probably in my personal Top 5 shows of my Phish seeing career (Halloween is number 1...that one will be hard to top). Side note: I would probably swap out Eugene for Chicago 3 but that's just me.
, comment by mikesgroove2390
mikesgroove2390 umm without 11/2/15? I attended none so totally from listening
, comment by FunkyCFunkyDo
FunkyCFunkyDo Great read. No complaints here. LOVE seeing 8.31.14 in your top-10. The forum seems to side with 8.30 as "the Dick's '14 show" but not me, not us... let them settle with happiness, I (we) demand euphoria!
, comment by leftoverlizards
leftoverlizards I've gotta check out that Randall's show.
, comment by n00b100
n00b100 THX 4 D RITE UP; FN RD

I would certainly agree that there was a Big 4 of 2014/15; I would not agree that the 4th one should be 1/3/15 (great though it is) over 10/28/14, which boasts one of this era's mightiest second sets and a pretty darn good 1st set on top. I also think that there are better full shows than 12/31/14, but it's very hard to argue against 12/31 II (Lord knows I don't enjoy arguing against it), and I also can't imagine how *any* of the Dick's shows should rate ahead of 7/20 (with the mighty Wedge/Ghost sequence) and 7/30 (which could very easily be in the top 6 or so of this list).

You know what's wild to me? I feel like a pretty hefty majority of .net readers would consider 2014 one of the 3 best (maybe 2 best) years of 3.0, and yet there is *so much* of 2014 that has just fallen by the wayside or doesn't get talked about. It's not hard to understand, given that MPP2/Halloween/Randall's3 have absolutely sucked up nearly all of the air in the room, but there's still a bevy of riches waiting out there that don't get talked about. The 7/29 CDT, 8/1's Tweezer -> (it's a -> , he said, stamping his feet impotently) Slave, 7/25's Fuego -> Twist -> Circus sequence, 7/5's Waves -> Carini, 10/29's Light -> Possum, 10/21's CDT -> Ghost, 8/29's 46 Days, etc., etc., etc.
, comment by experiencechuck
experiencechuck Personally, I had no intention of going to Halloween until we were hanging out with Fishman before the LA Forum show, and he made it very clear that we should come to Las Vegas.

#humblebrag!
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @mikesgroove2390 said:
umm without 11/2/15? I attended none so totally from listening
Agreed. 11/2/15 will be totally epic. ;/
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS I will say, in all seriousness, that I'm quite partial to 8/29 at Dick's. I feel that this show was quite solid throughout with strong versions of songs in the first set and perhaps the best type 2 jam of the year in the second frame's Simple. The show ended somewhat oddly, but the Simple jam is one I keep going back to.
, comment by Phunkytittymusic
Phunkytittymusic Show of the year was def:
Set I- NICU, Icculus, chalkdust torture, Emotional rescue, wingsuit, roses are free, if I could, tela, uncle pen, possum

Set II- Free> undermind> no quarter> runaway Jim, Esther, Also Sprach Zarathustra> David Bowie

Encore- say something
, comment by LaserShow
LaserShow The write ups are great, thanks for taking the time. I didn't expect to see 8/31 and 10/17 on there, I'll have to revisit those.

How did NYE end up all the way down at tied for 7th? I'm surprised it wasn't considered right up there in the mix with Halloween and Randalls 3. That 2nd set is the stuff dreams are made of, and Tweezer & ASIHTOS are damn fine versions too. Are 3 set shows held to a higher standard?
, comment by CameToPlay
CameToPlay It's not letting me comment for some reason. Keep getting an error message. In short, as I implied above, 8/31 sticks out like a sore thumb. Not a top 20 jam in the entire 10 song 2nd set. Fuhhn read, though. And thanks for doing.
, comment by precco
precco Was lucky enough to catch 7 out of the 10 on your list
, comment by conormac
conormac Thanks for the write up. Phun Read.

Halloween was a once in a lifetime experience. Glad it made #1. Listening to Ghost from Miami now. I dig.
, comment by david_bowie
david_bowie 7/4 and 8/30 deserve some recognition.
, comment by johnnyd
johnnyd @LaserShow - for me, 1.3 was a way more complete and satisfying show. 12.31 SI was kind of a writeoff, even as far as first sets go. It was fun, but no meat, really. And then the show kind of fizzled and lost flow after the Tweezer. Whereas 1.3 SI, had some sauce on the standards, plasma was deep, melt I loved, and 0 was huge. And then the 2nd set alone is comparable to the meat of 12.31 sets 2 and 3. Though the Theme -> Cities is probably the best pair from the whole run. 1.2 2nd set was killer, first set was average-great or maybe just a touch better, to me.

@CameToPlay - wasn't at Dicks, but upon closely listening to all 3 shows, I thought 8.31 was by far the fullest and most complete. Some people will rate a show with one or 2 huge jams higher, others might weigh in a slightly better first set. Definitely as much art as science. No list of standard criteria, other than "how good did you think it was."

@n00b100 - imo, 10.28 was one of the better first sets of the year. Energy was bonkers. But the second set, despite having a couple great components (including of course that monster Hood) didn't really come together for me. I'd have a hard time calling that one a top x 2nd set of the year. Pretty sure I had that show ranked somewhere 10 - 12.

@phunkytittymusic - well played!
, comment by HeadyBrosevelt
HeadyBrosevelt fun list, OP. one of the fun things about being a fan is the subjectivity of the music. i, personally, would not have put mpp 7/27 in my top 10, but it made your top 3. one of the many reasons i love this band, so many ways to read it.

great write ups. 2014 was very fun.
, comment by fhqwhgads
fhqwhgads I feel like 12/31 should be a bit closer to numero uno, but it's hard to argue against the Top 3 here. 12/31 II was ballsy and lots of fun, 2nd jam in Ghost puts it high up in the entirety of 3.0 for me.
, comment by mahimahi
mahimahi @mahimahi said:
Other than Halloween at #1, this list does not make much sense. But then again, this narrow vision is expected in this section of the website--it really is too bad. Maybe next year there will be a better list.
@johnnyd

To answer your question, first, I do appreciate the time someone put into this list, that was a bunch of work. I am happy that someone spent that kind of energy putting it together. However, the premise that an entire year only has ten highlights is absurd. Halloween being #1 only makes sense because it is one of the finer performances I have seen in the past twenty five years of Phish--it truly sticks out. There are so many things to enjoy about 10-31-14. In effect, we have two full albums of new material in the past two Halloween shows, what a treat, excuse the pun.

As far as a list of "Top Phish," I am not one who believes in a "best of a year, best ever, highest rated" etc. How many hours of music have these guys played? There is so much material that has so many wonderful things in it. In order for contrast, people always feel the need to rate something good which means that something else is not as good. Things can be different, they do not necessarily have to be top or bottom.

You cannot compare three set Phish shows with two set Phish shows. I will always take three sets over two. Who wouldn't? What makes a show good? You can have many categories of what was good about a year. Setlist? Jams? Antics/humor? Bust outs? Guest performers? A combination of these things? Sometimes an audience recording is better than a board recording and really captures what it was like to be there; that can also be taken into account. Many phans do not care what they play in a setlist, it is how they play it. It is not a bad point of view, but certainly contrasts with phans that want to see specific songs. Some people over look first sets, why? There many first sets that I think are just as good as second sets. What I look for is what comes back to me, music I go back to re-listen many times. I love listening to a truckload of The Phish, all shapes, all sizes, I just get so much out of it.

As far as this list, forget about rankings, to not include 8-29 anywhere is so utterly bizarre, it destroys the integrity of the entire list. If this was just a forum post it would not be as big of a deal. But to put this front and center of this site is irresponsible. To think someone not familiar with the band could see this list, and not ever listen to 8-29 is criminal.

To a collection of things I enjoyed in 2014. Lets start at the beginning with the Big Easy. It was not Big Cypress, but it was fun. Some people dismiss tour openers, I like them. They have a special energy. 7-12 and 7-13 are popular, I have no beef with those, 7-11 is not just a store, but a solid show in 2014. A "run" or collection of successive concerts I view as one collective performance. 7-3 through 7-5 are highlights. 7-18 through 7-20.7-26 and 7-27. 8-29 through 8-31. I believe there were nine shows in October, all really good. 8-2, is a good one off. As far as the rest of the year, there are many sets I go back to again and again.

Phish needs to be categorized in many ways, and sub categories, not just ten concerts. You do not skim through a good novel, you have to Read The Book.
, comment by n00b100
n00b100 @johnnyd said:

@n00b100 - imo, 10.28 was one of the better first sets of the year. Energy was bonkers. But the second set, despite having a couple great components (including of course that monster Hood) didn't really come together for me. I'd have a hard time calling that one a top x 2nd set of the year. Pretty sure I had that show ranked somewhere 10 - 12.
Man, then we're definitely at loggerheads here, because I consider the flow of that set really quite good (big jam, "relaxed" Type I rockout middle section, jam/chillout/jam), and the Hood isn't even the best jam of the set to me (that's the Twist, my jam of the year). I think it's in the conversation of a top 2nd set of the *era*, let alone the year. YMMV.
, comment by TheEmu
TheEmu I can't tell if you object to the whole concept of lists/rankings or object to the way we've done it or just object to the results. But I do want to respond to one thing you've said:

@mahimahi said:
To think someone not familiar with the band could see this list, and not ever listen to 8-29 is criminal.
Anyone who bases all of their listening choices on what is posted on the front page of this website is a complete idiot, and we can't be held responsible for stupidity.

These lists are always meant to be a fun exercise. If we wanted to tell people what Phish shows they should or should not listen to, almost all of us would respond with "Listen to it ALL, because only YOU will be able to tell what you love and what you don't." And it would be for exactly the reasons you outlined.

But that makes for a pretty short and dull blog post.
, comment by johnnyd
johnnyd Agreed, I am well aware from reading a lot of your posts that we hear phish very differently. Which is great.

I wouldn't call it "loggerheads" exactly, because I'm definitely not trying to argue a point or convince anyone of anything, just explaining how I perceived the shows to get to my subjective rankings.

@mahimahi - that helps me understand where you're coming from. And I am in pretty strong agreement with much of that. Winding a narrative out of a tour, year, or era is potentially much more descriptive and engrossing than simply making a list. (Until discovering the phish internet, I wasnt much of a best or ranking or debating guy. At all.) However, given our collective time and ability to collaborate, the latter is the exercise we chose to undertake. There's no proffer that its any more than an attempt to methodically and fairly aggregate the opinions of the handful of people that keep the site running and present the results to the community. Its not a comprehensive guide to 2014, but rather, exactly what its labelled and described in the intro. I'm actually grateful to have cause to sit down and try to craft a paragraph or two once or twice a year, as opposed to firing off one liners in the forum. Maybe we'll be able to get more creative with the structure next year.
, comment by johnnyd
johnnyd Top part of the above is @n00b100
, comment by CameToPlay
CameToPlay I re-listened to 8/31 set 2, figuring that if I called out the group for its selection at #5, I should at least have the courtesy to re-listen. The CDT is really good. Better than I remember. I don't think it made the round of 64 which is too bad as it is better than some of the jams that did. After that, it is what I would consider a fine set. For a 10 song set, it flows well, it is executed nicely with energy and pop, and the livephish recording is really good. It even sounds a little 2013-ish. Nothing after the CDT is extraordinary, though the Mike's jam does stand out. I'd even say the Sand is overrated. But there is a lot going on in this set. It is a good defense against the criticism over long sets, as many of us chasing big jams, want 6 and 7 song sets. Is it the 5th best show of the year? No. I don't think a show without a top 20 jam - and this show doesn't have one - can be so highly ranked, even if it compensates for it generously in other ways. I think it fits nicely somewhere in the 8 to 12 slot. But better than I gave it credit for? yes. Intangibles mean a lot to me and this show has them.
, comment by n00b100
n00b100 @johnnyd said:
Agreed, I am well aware from reading a lot of your posts that we hear phish very differently. Which is great.

I wouldn't call it "loggerheads" exactly, because I'm definitely not trying to argue a point or convince anyone of anything, just explaining how I perceived the shows to get to my subjective rankings.
Oh, yes, I know. I'm just an argumentative little cuss. :)
, comment by Dressed_In_Gray
Dressed_In_Gray @AlumniBlues420 said:
No way you can justify leaving 7-20-14 off the top ten list...

otherwise a great read!
My thoughts exactly. Other than that, nice top 10 list and great writeup.
, comment by TheNonArmenianMan
TheNonArmenianMan 8/29 should have been on this list. How 8/31 is, is beyond me.
, comment by _UB40_
_UB40_ Great read. Keep it up!
, comment by tweeza
tweeza Thanks for the write-up. Fun Read.

My $.02:
I would sub 08/29 for 8/31, and then move 10/28 ahead to #5 (I might even put it over 1/3 to #4!).

10/28 s2 is just so damn creative and smooth, front to back.

But all good -- fun stuff to debate.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @TheEmu said:
I can't tell if you object to the whole concept of lists/rankings or object to the way we've done it or just object to the results. But I do want to respond to one thing you've said:

@mahimahi said:
To think someone not familiar with the band could see this list, and not ever listen to 8-29 is criminal.
Anyone who bases all of their listening choices on what is posted on the front page of this website is a complete idiot, and we can't be held responsible for stupidity.

These lists are always meant to be a fun exercise. If we wanted to tell people what Phish shows they should or should not listen to, almost all of us would respond with "Listen to it ALL, because only YOU will be able to tell what you love and what you don't." And it would be for exactly the reasons you outlined.

But that makes for a pretty short and dull blog post.
LOL....was thinking exactly the same thing about exactly the same line.
, comment by Cactusgal
Cactusgal I haven't heard much of the Randall's show, will give that one a listen! Halloween definitely has the win in my book!
, comment by Wolfmane
Wolfmane Thanks for the write up. Fun read!
, comment by toddwcorey
toddwcorey I wish to express my gratitude with regards to your literary efforts. I thoroughly enjoyed digesting your written words.
, comment by frankenfunk
frankenfunk The way I see it:

10. 10/17

9. 7/30

8. 1/3

7. 10/28

6. 7/27

5. 7/20

4. 10/31

3. 8/29

2. 11/2

1. 7/13
, comment by andrewrose
andrewrose Thanks for the recap. I have to admit that 2014 is the first year since the 3.0 return that I've felt out of the loop and not entirely enthralled with what transpired in the land of Phish. Part of that is for personal reasons, and I didn't go to any shows this year, which let's be honest can have a huge affect on how we perceive and listen. So what of that perspective?

I would love to say that despite not following as closely this year that I'm devouring the listening material with gusto (I really would) but that's sadly not really the case. From a strictly listening perspective I'm not infatuated with 2014 Phish.

And I've listened to all the highlights mentioned here and many others, I have. The Halloween show was an accomplishment to be sure, but am I going back to it over and over for listening pleasure? Not really. The big second set sequence on 1/3 doesn't blow me away, and while the Tweezerfest in Merriweather was fun, it's also not like essential listening material to me. 7/13 Chalk Dust certainly has its moments (though I prefer the Tweezer).

Lots of exploratory jamming this year, to be sure. Tons! Was it exciting, blissful, groovy and jaw-dropping most of the way through? I don't know about that.. A lot of these Chalk Dusts and Fuego's and DWD jams kind of melt together in my ears (as dynamic as some of them are) and as a result not much stands out.

Doesn't mean it wasn't a banner year. Your mileage may vary, as they say, but I just wasn't as easily roped in in 2014. Happens to the best of us, I guess. But hey, I like the 10/21 Ghost and the 7/20 Wedge a lot, so there's that.

Now, am I going to try and get to some shows this summer under the assumption that Trey's been doing all this Jerry-training? Absolutely.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @andrewrose said:
Thanks for the recap. I have to admit that 2014 is the first year since the 3.0 return that I've felt out of the loop and not entirely enthralled with what transpired in the land of Phish. Part of that is for personal reasons, and I didn't go to any shows this year, which let's be honest can have a huge affect on how we perceive and listen. So what of that perspective?

I'm not infatuated with 2014 Phish.

Now, am I going to try and get to some shows this summer under the assumption that Trey's been doing all this Jerry-training? Absolutely.
I'm squarely in your camp, Andrew. Other than a few moments, such as the Mansfield Hood, the Randall's Chalkdust, the Dick's Simple and of course the Halloween set, I found myself cringing at a lot of what I heard this year.

For me, and I've stated this before, if the playing is sloppy and singing is poor and the flubs abound....the jam rarely saves it for me after that. I'm more of a jazz purist and I attach a great deal of value to clean, cohesive and flawless execution. When it's not there, well, I get just as much of a thrill as anyone from the type 2 explorations, but it doesn't make the show more listenable after the initial flush.

To me, the Halloween set was the easy winner for the year. Just a brilliant gambit in both conception and execution. It was truly exciting. However, after that, I'd rather listen to late 2012 or most of 2013 over what they did this past summer and fall.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS On a generally unrelated note, I want to share that I've been studying the Ghosts that the boys have played the last few years and I've come to the conclusion that Fishman is screwing with the "drop" on purpose, intentionally causing his bandmates to flub it by screwing with the timing.

They are simply too good a set of musicians to be unintentionally botching that so horrendously every damn time. I've heard several recently that I've reviewed again (such as 7/7/13 at Saratoga) where it should have been nearly impossible to mess it up and they still did, in spades.

I believe they are playing with us.
, comment by adaniel87
adaniel87 @experiencechuck said:
Personally, I had no intention of going to Halloween until we were hanging out with Fishman before the LA Forum show, and he made it very clear that we should come to Las Vegas.

#humblebrag!
Had exactly the same thought when I read that, minus the "humble" part. No reason other than that to say it
, comment by Stars_Suck
Stars_Suck Decent list, but the truth is 2014 was about 7/27 MPP and Halloween. And then there was everything else in one big bucket, with the exception of maybe a dud or two. Im hard pressed to find the dud anymore. Phish just plays way more consistently show to show in the mature days of 3.0 era.

These days a vast majority of shows have all the same elements: a couple oldies, a few Fuego newbies, very few true segues, limited jamming and mostly straight forward songs, one or two signature jams that are becoming predictable. Its all about song selection. But Halloween and MPP were the only two shows all year that had it from start to finish and had a batch of totally unique characteristics that were outside the box of the conventional Phish show. They are the only two.

I love Phish these days and in a happy place, but lets stop over-hype or analyze every song and list and try to figure out what is the best Free of the decade. Gimme a break, folks.

The only tour in 3.0 that was truly loose and compares to 1.0 or 2.0 was the Fall of 2010. That said, I'm enjoying gigs as much as I ever have! You may not know what songs they will play, but attendees at every show get some bites at the apple of some good stuff...

Ready for Summer '15!
, comment by jdkrug
jdkrug The Randall's Island Run was the highlight of 2014 for me. Especially Sunday 7/13/14.
, comment by Scott
Scott 7/4, 7/20, 7/30, and 8/29 should be higher. 8/31 and especially 10/28 should be lower.

10/28 has grown on me, I do love the Twist and the 2001, but the first two minutes of Ghost are terrible and wreck ruin the flow of the set.

I completely agree on the top 3 shows. What a showcase of their creative range.
, comment by TheEmu
TheEmu @Scott said:


10/28 has grown on me, I do love the Twist and the 2001, but the first two minutes of Ghost are terrible and wreck ruin the flow of the set.

The Ghost and 2001 are from the 27th, not 28th.
, comment by Scott
Scott @TheEmu said:
@Scott said:


10/28 has grown on me, I do love the Twist and the 2001, but the first two minutes of Ghost are terrible and wreck ruin the flow of the set.

The Ghost and 2001 are from the 27th, not 28th.
Ooops. That's embarrassing. So many great shows in 2014 I guess. 10/27 has grown on me and 10/28 hasn't, but 10/28 is the better show and isn't out of place in a top 10. I still like 7/4, 7/20 and 7/30 more than 10/28.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @Stars_Suck said:

The only tour in 3.0 that was truly loose and compares to 1.0 or 2.0 was the Fall of 2010. That said, I'm enjoying gigs as much as I ever have! You may not know what songs they will play, but attendees at every show get some bites at the apple of some good stuff...

Ready for Summer '15!
Right on. Fall of '10 is the most underrated tour in Phish history. Those shows still deliver when called upon, and stand up well against anything they've done recently. Yes, maybe they are devoid of 20-minute Simples or Tweezerfests, but for sheer fun, tight execution and scintillating musicianship....it was a great run.
, comment by n00b100
n00b100 @FACTSAREUSELESS said:
@Stars_Suck said:

The only tour in 3.0 that was truly loose and compares to 1.0 or 2.0 was the Fall of 2010. That said, I'm enjoying gigs as much as I ever have! You may not know what songs they will play, but attendees at every show get some bites at the apple of some good stuff...

Ready for Summer '15!
Right on. Fall of '10 is the most underrated tour in Phish history. Those shows still deliver when called upon, and stand up well against anything they've done recently. Yes, maybe they are devoid of 20-minute Simples or Tweezerfests, but for sheer fun, tight execution and scintillating musicianship....it was a great run.
I love Fall 2010 as much as the next person that acknowledges 3.0 isn't just a red-headed stepchild to 1.0/2.0, but the *only* tour that compares? Man, even if you aren't impressed with 2014, Fall 2013 is *definitely* as good as Fall 2010, and that's being conservative. Yeah, Fall 2010's way up there in terms of underrated tours, but as great as the run was, IMO both Fall 2013 and Fall 2014 have it beat.
, comment by CameToPlay
CameToPlay @Stars_Suck said:
Decent list, but the truth is 2014 was about 7/27 MPP and Halloween. And then there was everything else in one big bucket, with the exception of maybe a dud or two. Im hard pressed to find the dud anymore. Phish just plays way more consistently show to show in the mature days of 3.0 era.

These days a vast majority of shows have all the same elements: a couple oldies, a few Fuego newbies, very few true segues, limited jamming and mostly straight forward songs, one or two signature jams that are becoming predictable. Its all about song selection. But Halloween and MPP were the only two shows all year that had it from start to finish and had a batch of totally unique characteristics that were outside the box of the conventional Phish show. They are the only two.

I love Phish these days and in a happy place, but lets stop over-hype or analyze every song and list and try to figure out what is the best Free of the decade. Gimme a break, folks.

The only tour in 3.0 that was truly loose and compares to 1.0 or 2.0 was the Fall of 2010. That said, I'm enjoying gigs as much as I ever have! You may not know what songs they will play, but attendees at every show get some bites at the apple of some good stuff...

Ready for Summer '15!
More and more I tend to agree with the bolded. There isn't a big cavern between say the "5th" best show of the year and the "20th". Same thing goes with jams. Perhaps it is partly attendance bias, but I have never been on board with 7/13 or 1/3 or 10/28 or 11/2, etc really being in the conversation with the 2 shows you mention. At a show like 7/13, which the overwhelming majority of people would have in the top 3 of the year, they played a phenomenal show with a great 1st set and a 3-headed monster that will stand the test of time as a great jam sequence. But there are other shows in the last 2 years in the same ballpark as that one. Shows with masterful, creative playing, great flow, and where some magic happened. And I disagree with you, because I do think talking about which is "best" is a fun debate. But 7/27 and 10/31 are in their own league this year. I've been to a couple of the more highly regarded shows the past 2 years (12/29/13, 1/3/15), and I think both were standout Phish performances, especially the 1st one, but 7/27 wasn't just a standout Phish show; it is the greatest concert I have ever attended in my life. And I have seen easily 500+ and maybe close to 1000 concerts going back to the late 80s. You probably disagree with the puffery given how many 1.0 shows you have seen, But I agree with your overall point. I think sometimes we get a little in the weeds with analyzing this stuff (and I like doing it as much as anyone) but if you take a step back and think about the importance of the concerts in relation to the legacy of the band, I think the others become more of their own grouping, with 7/13 probably being the best of that bunch.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @n00b100 said:
@FACTSAREUSELESS said:
@Stars_Suck said:

The only tour in 3.0 that was truly loose and compares to 1.0 or 2.0 was the Fall of 2010. That said, I'm enjoying gigs as much as I ever have! You may not know what songs they will play, but attendees at every show get some bites at the apple of some good stuff...

Ready for Summer '15!
Right on. Fall of '10 is the most underrated tour in Phish history. Those shows still deliver when called upon, and stand up well against anything they've done recently. Yes, maybe they are devoid of 20-minute Simples or Tweezerfests, but for sheer fun, tight execution and scintillating musicianship....it was a great run.
I love Fall 2010 as much as the next person that acknowledges 3.0 isn't just a red-headed stepchild to 1.0/2.0, but the *only* tour that compares? Man, even if you aren't impressed with 2014, Fall 2013 is *definitely* as good as Fall 2010, and that's being conservative. Yeah, Fall 2010's way up there in terms of underrated tours, but as great as the run was, IMO both Fall 2013 and Fall 2014 have it beat.
Well, don't forget he prefaced his praise of Fall '10 by describing it as "loose". As in (as I took his meaning) "freewheeling". I would add...."unburdened by a feeling of pre-set expectations". Trey and Fishman were fire on that tour.

I'll gladly concede your greater point, (because you're obviously right!) but you must admit that it was a great tour during a time in Phishtory when everyone was still waiting for them to go back to being "that" band and hadn't quite moved on from Coventry yet. The playing was superb.

If I had my druthers, I'd like to see the boys keep doing what they're doing now, but tighten things up significantly and sound more like they did then. Don't know if that's possible, but that's my dream.

I've quite had my fill of the Echoplex. I want to hear the man PLAY.
, comment by n00b100
n00b100 @FACTSAREUSELESS said:

Well, don't forget he prefaced his praise of Fall '10 by describing it as "loose". As in (as I took his meaning) "freewheeling". I would add...."unburdened by a feeling of pre-set expectations". Trey and Fishman were fire on that tour.

I'll gladly concede your greater point, (because you're obviously right!) but you must admit that it was a great tour during a time in Phishtory when everyone was still waiting for them to go back to being "that" band and hadn't quite moved on from Coventry yet. The playing was superb.

If I had my druthers, I'd like to see the boys keep doing what they're doing now, but tighten things up significantly and sound more like they did then. Don't know if that's possible, but that's my dream.

I've quite had my fill of the Echoplex. I want to hear the man PLAY.
Haha, I don't feel quite as strongly about the Echoplex as you do, but I don't have any problems conceding that Fall 2010 was a great tour, especially in its context. That's something that really clicked for me when I was thinking about 3/6/09 - *there was no 3.0 history yet when they played that show*. All the stuff we take for granted now just hadn't happened yet, and the early summer shows aren't up to par with 3.0 now (not that there aren't some great moments). Fall 2010 is easily the most consistent tour up to that point, that's for sure.
, comment by SoularT
SoularT Too elaborate on my last comment a little bit ("7/4/14!!!" ;) the only shows I physically attended were 7/4 SPAC and 7/12 Randall's.... and I really thought 7/4 absolutely blew 7/12 out of the water. 7/12 was a really solid show, but it had a rather average first set and the energy was a little questionable (because it was a Saturday night in NYC and I think there were a lot of people there to just party. People were loudly talking through some of the most beautiful parts, like Trey's Wingsuit solo and even the Ghost jam. Not the bands fault, but we all know how much the audience effects the overall energy and, likewise, the chance that the band really goes to that IT place). 7/4 had a first set that told you "we're here to go there" and a second set that went there. Plus, the Fuego was, IMO (and I don't think it's just because I'm biased) the jam of the year.
, comment by Jackaroe
Jackaroe Love the list, except for the NYE run shows. The whole run was a disappointing end to an awesome year of performances. I guess you all should have asked me before you finalized the list.
, comment by FarTooManyRaccoons
FarTooManyRaccoons Good stuff, thanks!
, comment by The_Ghost
The_Ghost @wooderson said:
@CameToPlay said:
Thanks for the write-up. Fun read. I am guessing a lot of the working group were at 8/31.
How does 8/31 beat 8/29? The 8/29 Simple, alone, made that the best show of the run.

/.02
8/29 set the stage that the rest of the weekend did not live up to. It was all amazing, but Friday was just on another level. Sunday did come in a respectable second. But as mentioned Simple from that show is still on heavy rotation for me.
, comment by Toe2323
Toe2323 Was pleasantly surprised to see 8/31/14 in the number 5 spot and I very much agree. One of the best all around shows of the year and the 5 spot feels very fair IMO. 8-29 is right on the heels of 8-31, but 8-31 is the better of the two shows overall IMO even if 8-29 has the better 1> 2 punch with Simple> Ghost.

I would put 7/13 over 8/31 most likely, but I wont argue that too hard as both are valid options for the 1 and 2 spot. 7/27 in the 3 spot I also agree with.
, comment by theswampyankee
theswampyankee All were great shows! Great Blog post, I've listened to them all, I feel it's really tough to "Rank" a show but the guys all seemed to be having a blast at all five of these and it really transcends into the music. Fish singing "Jennifer Dances" was a blast to watch!
, comment by AlumniBlues420
AlumniBlues420 I love the fact that we have this debate on the top 10 shows of 2014 and it is hard to narrow it down to just 10!

never miss a sunday show!
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