Thursday 08/27/2015 by phishnet

PHISH FESTIVAL POWER RANKINGS

Just How Good Was the Music at Magnaball?

Before we begin, I want to say upfront that I did not attend Magnaball. Due to other vacations and obligations this summer, I was forced to choose between Magnaball and Dick’s. I chose Dick’s because of the low risk of impacting rain, zero risk of crippling heat and humidity, preference for Colorado over upstate New York, and Dick’s stellar batting average. Along with Star Lake, Dick’s likely has the highest percentage of great shows out of any current venue. As we know now, I may have made a poor choice: Magnaball was blessed with perfect weather, and the band played three shows for the ages.

But were these three shows simply great for an era when the band members are in their fifties? Or, did Magnaball stack up to the great festivals of the 90s? Now, you may be saying to yourself, “How can someone who didn’t attend Magnaball properly rate it?” My response is that is precisely why I’m well-suited to write this. I’m basing this list on the replay value of the music alone – announced sets only – so no Storage Jam, Tower Jam, etc. It has nothing to do with the vibe, weather, traffic, your pimp RV, coming of age moments, or any other factors that can't be captured on the recording. It’s all about how well the music holds up after the festival is long over. Now that we’ve laid the ground rules, let’s run the numbers.

Tiers represent hard borders in the rankings. Shows can be shuffled within a tier with minimal argument. However, moving between tiers requires a much stronger case.

Tier 1
1) Big Cypress
The Meat: I’m not sure what even needs to be said here. 12/31/99 is greatest Phish show ever. You either know this to be true, or you’re tired of hearing it. But how else can it be described? The first set contains a top-two version of “Split,” and that’s just the appetizer. The second set spits out an almost unimaginable collection of Phish’s greatest improvisations ever: 23-minute “Disease,” 31-minute “Rock and Roll,” 21-minute “Crosseyed,” 36-minute “Sand”-> “Quadraphonic Toppling,” 25-minute “Drowned” -> “After Midnight,” 35-minute “Roses Are Free,” and so much more. Any one of those pieces is enough to make a good show great. Now imagine getting all of them, plus several more hours of brilliant music, in one single set.

The Achilles Heel: I guess you can argue that 12/30 was merely spectacular and not the second greatest show that Phish ever played.

X Factors: The 12/31/99 second set went from midnight to sunrise. Enough said.


12/31/99, Big Cypress, FL – Set II, complete.

Tier 2
2) IT
The Meat: This festival is loaded with replay-worthy riches. Start with the “Ya Mar” and “Birds of a Feather” from the opening set. Move on to the “Disease” and “Waves” in set two. Next, play the perfectly flowing fireball set three. When you’re ready, move on to the greatest “Chalk Dust” ever played and the mesmerizing 30-minute “Ghost” from day two. Then, go back and listen to the whole two days from start to finish to discover so much more.

The Achilles Heel: Perhaps the only flaw of this festival is the final set leaned too heavily on a 39-minute “46 Days.” Take a moment to process that.

X Factors: Mike and Fish were absolute beasts for these shows. Nearly every jam had extra gas coming from the rhythm section. It’s perhaps the pair’s finest festival showing.


8/3/03, Limestone, ME – "Chalk Dust Torture"

3) Magnaball
The Meat: These three days are stocked with improv-heavy play from the opening “Simple” to the closing “You Enjoy Myself.” Start with the best “Bathtub Gin” in twelve years. Then, take in the glorious “Tweezerpants,” brilliant “Blaze On,” and smoking “Light.” All four jams are among the best of the year, with the “Gin” and “Tweezerpants” ranking among Phish’s finest improvisations in the 3.0 era. In between those tent-pole moments, there’s plenty more to keep your ears happy for days.

The Achilles Heel: If we are being fair, Saturday’s day set and Sunday’s first set are somewhat of a letdown given the level of play around them. The third night, although still great, was a significant drop in quality from the first two.

X Factors: Before anyone complains that I have Magnaball underrated at third, think about this: a 20-year, 200+ show jaded vet just rated a festival in 2015 higher than The Great Went, Lemonwheel, and Clifford Ball. If it wasn't for somewhat weak first sets on days two and three, Magna would have overtaken IT as the best Phish festival that wasn’t Big Cypress. And if we include the "secret" drive-in set, Saturday goes down as one of the greatest single shows in Phish history. That’s an incredible feat for a band in their thirty-third year of existence.


8/21/15, Watkins Glen, NY – "Bathtub Gin". Video by LazyLightning55a.

4) Coventry
The Meat: If you are not familiar with the music of this festival, you should be. The “AC/DC Bag,” “Drowned,” and “Split Open and Melt” are among the best – if not the best – versions of each song. Then, listen to the “Jibboo,” “Stash,” “Walls of the Cave,” “Twist,” “Down with Disease,” “Chalk Dust,” “Seven Below,” and the “Dickie Scotland” “Piper.” It’s a wealth of thrilling improvisation unlike any Phish festival, other than Big Cypress.

The Achilles Heel: For as great as many of the jams are, much of the music played at Coventry is painful to hear. Just try listening to the “Glide,” the composed section of “Stash,” the “Harry Hood,” or even first half of the “Drowned” – which again is among the best versions ever – you’ll understand the dichotomy when you hear it. This ranking is just about the replay value of the music on the recordings, but it’s near impossible to separate the music from the emotional horror that so many experienced that weekend. The 36-hour traffic jams, being told to turn around and go home, the toxic mud, the fear that Trey’s health was so bad he might not even make it to the end of the shows. And most of all, that this festival would be “the last Phish concerts ever.”

X Factors: To many in the Phish community, giving any praise to Coventry is equivalent to sympathizing with Nazi Germany. It’s understandable. Talk to anyone who was there. We all have horror stories. We all had moments when we broke into tears. But for our purpose here, we are discussing the music. And the compelling music of Coventry is powered with an intense level of emotion that is not part of any other Phish experience. Being able to latch onto what was going on inside the band member’s heads through the sounds coming out of their instruments may still be painful, but it’s also special and in a strange way, magical. We all seek to feel a connection when we listen to Phish, and this is that connection in its darkest and rawest form. If Coventry had been the last Phish shows ever, I might not be able to write what I’m writing now. But knowing the band is now healthy and happy, these two shows offer some of the most intriguing and powerful two days of music for any fan to revist.


8/15/04, Coventry, VT – "Split Open and Melt"

Tier 3
5) The Great Went
The Meat: The Great Went is chock full of magical nuggets of jammy goodness. Your starting point should be the brilliant second set on day two – a set that many fans consider one of the band’s greatest sets ever with its deep “Down with Disease,” soaring “Gin,” funktastic “2001,” and blissful “Harry Hood.” Backing up that pinnacle set are top notch versions of “Theme From the Bottom,” “You Enjoy Myself,” “Wolfman’s” -> “Simple” and “Halley’s Comet” -> “Cities.” To many who love the band’s 1997 sound, this is Phish at its finest.

The Achilles Heel: If we are really being honest with ourselves, the first set on day two is below average for the era, and the closing festival set is nearly devoid of jamming in a year known for legendary jams.

X Factors: A “Makisupa” into “Harpua” (that concluded the “Harpua” from The Clifford Ball) is classic Phish and couldn’t have opened the festival better. And have I mentioned the second set on day two?


8/17/97, Limestone, ME – "Bathtub Gin"

Tier 4
6) Oswego
The Meat: This mini festival is much maligned, but the truth is there's more interesting play in 7/18/99 than in the entire Clifford Ball and Lemonwheel combined. Don’t believe me? Check out the 22-minute “Gin,” 35-minute “Runaway Jim” -> “Free,” and 25-minute “Piper.” Then, head over to night one for a 20-minute “Tweezer,” 23-minute “Down with Disease,” and a brilliant “Wolfman’s Brother” -> “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” > “Timber Ho” sequence.

The Achilles Heel: Oswego had only five sets, and the play was somewhat inconsistent. Some odd setlist choices definitely hurt the flow compared to festivals with better crafted sets.

X Factors: The third set contains the first “Icculus” in four years, sending off those who had been chasing the rarity quite happy.

7) Clifford Ball
The Meat: This is a magical event filled with tight, confident play. Highlight jams include a monster “Mike’s Song” and a brilliant “Down with Disease” that still holds up today as one of the band’s finest versions.

The Achilles Heel: Unfortunately, the improv highlights end with the “Mike’s” and “Disease.” Yes, there are plenty of tight versions of other songs. But by 1996, Phish had proven they had the ability to do so much more. Compared to the jamming displays of 1994 and 1995, the play from these two nights in Plattsburg was in many ways a step backwards.

X Factors: The Clifford Ball was a spectacular milestone for Phish with some fantastic highlights. If we are allowing other festival factors to be included, this moves up several places. But sadly, outside of a few tracks, the recordings from these shows probably don't do much more than collect dust unless you want to relive your personal memories of being there.


8/16/96, Plattsburgh, NY – "Down with Disease"

8) Lemonwheel
The Meat: Although it doesn’t contain the peaks of The Great Went one year earlier or Oswego one year later, there is still plenty to enjoy, especially the sublime “Wedge” > “Reba” > “Gumbo” -> “Sanity” > “Tweezer” segment from the second set of day one.

The Achilles Heel: There is nothing bad in six sets. The problem is there's not much that stands out either, especially for the era. This may be Phish’s most consistent and solid festival. Unfortunately, it comes at the expense of being a little boring to go back and listen to unless you’re reliving the memories of a great time in Limestone, ME. This festival is a classic example of how shows that make for great times in the moment might not make for great recordings years later.

X Factors: If the ambient fourth set on day one counted for this exercise, Lemonwheel would move up a few spots in the rankings.

Tier 5
9) Festival 8
The Meat: The band covered Exile on Main St with a full horn section and backup singers for Halloween. They played a very rare acoustic set with some gorgeous versions of Phish classics. They encored with “Suzy Greenberg” with horns.

The Achilles Heel: See those three sentences above. That’s the end of the highlight reel.

X Factors: If this festival was graded on concert grounds and amenities, it would be number one on the list. I still give it a slight edge over Super Ball IX based on the Exile set and rare acoustic set, both of which I find more fun to listen to than just about anything from Super Ball. However, if you dislike the Rolling Stones, feel free to place Festival 8 last. Also, please seek help to understand why you don’t like the Rolling Stones.


10/31/09, Indio, CA – "Loving Cup"

10) Super Ball IX
The Meat: This festival is filled with tight play, fun setlists, and lots of “micro moments.” If you are seeking out jams, there’s some fun play in the “Golden Age,” “Crosseyed and Painless,” and “Down with Disease” to start. But nothing ever leaves the comfort zone. You’re better off focusing your attention on blistering covers (“Monkey Man,” “No Quarter,” “Roses Are Free,” “Soul Shakedown Party”) or rare Phish originals (“Scents and Subtle Sounds,” “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent” > “Fly Famous Mockingbird”).

The Achilles Heel: In seven sets of music, there isn’t a single deep jam to write home about. Everything is a little too "safe."

X Factors: Super Ball proponents should not take this last place ranking as an insult to what was by all accounts a truly spectacular event. As mentioned previously, you can easily bump this festival up a spot if Exile on Main St isn’t your thing. Even a last place Phish festival is still a better time than 99.9% of the other things you could have been doing that weekend. Phish is a great band that has put on ten legendary festivals. One of them had to finish at number ten.


7/2/11, Watkins Glen, NY – "Storage Jam"

If you have your own Phish Festival Power Rankings, we’d love to hear them in the comments below.

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Comments

, comment by frankstallone
frankstallone I'm just here for the melts

Image
, comment by chumprock
chumprock I came in expecting to see ranked sandwiches, but that'll do pig... that'll do.
, comment by itsice88
itsice88 Clifford Ball at number 7 is going to bring the melts for sure
, comment by aburtch
aburtch Having attended many of these festivals, there isn't much to argue with here. The biggest thing to note is, as you said, for Saturday at Magnaball to be seriously considered as one of the single greatest shows in Phish history is truly an achievement for a band in their 33rd year.

Whereas other bands coast on their one hit or simply tour every year with a "greatest hits" setlist (looking at you Tom Petty) Phish is out there every night improvising, trying new music and generally saying "what can we do next?"
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred Nice bit of writing, and I really look forward to what others have to say.

In many ways, I had considered Clifford Ball and Big Cypress (aside from 10/31/96) as defining Phish moments. With MB in the books, I feel confident saying that we've got one defining festival per ear (more on IT in a bit).

I love - and appreciate - Cypress as much as the next fan. If you take into account the midnight set, however, and get simply into a discussion regarding the music - and not even song selection but HOW the band played - it isn't unfair to say that seven or so hours of playing is pretty unvaried.

Don't get me wrong: One of my all time favorite moments is Trey's demeanor throughout; when I think of Trey I think of that chill as hell 'swing' running throughout C&P. But one is really being disingenuous if they don't admit that the band covers a LOT of similar ground.

The argument might be: What do you expect?

I'd posit: Anything?

I'd never say that to suggest that the Clifford Ball is a 'step back' is an egregious error in judgement; I do, however, totally disagree. This was the band's high-water mark where they could look about and assess what's up .... where are we going.

(The step back takes place in the subsequent arena tour leading up to 10/31.)

Fans, like me, who had been following the band for years, knew, without a doubt, about their penchant to improvise and jam. But in the moment - and revisiting on 'tape' - the music is great.

If you care about songs played well, you get a festival Esther (check it out people, it's awesome), a Sky, THEN the sun-setting Bowie - these are all flawless. The Second Set Mike's is huge, sorta like the Deer Creek before it. And the Hood - Jam really is worth revisiting.

And the forth set really was a snooze / lose affair.

Opening with OHP pays homage to the band's ritual of beginning 'practice' with 'tea' and bluegrass. Reba remains one of the best. Nothing wrong with Lizards (of course you can argue IT's is better; but it's Lizards). Taste is pretty horrid - but the rest is cool.

If you like fine Phish, Set Two is that: Fine Phish. The bust out is kinda lame, but Fluff, Lope, Slave?

I won't go song-by-song, but the Tweezer is awesome.

If you like to hear Phish playing Phish songs well, I don't know how you could let dust settle upon these sets.

It's cool of you to put COVENTRY where you do - as, contrary to what I penned, I LOVE IT-style Phish, and COVENTRY has some sick, sick playing (one of my other favorite images is Trey with those glow sticks) - but man, this review is about re-listening.... Did you give that Ghost a go before penning your piece? Scary.... Before it gets cool.

If it's about re-listening:

IT
Cypress

for me....

MB just happened.... it'll never my top two / I'll wait and see. I love a lot of that 99 sound.

Great job!
, comment by chooglincharley
chooglincharley wow...never have I ever felt so misaligned with someone's opinion.

almost an utterly useless subjective 'ranking'
, comment by johnnyd
johnnyd While many people might want to put an asterisks next to Coventry and/or Cypress, to me, the Clifford Ball is the true outlier, and hard to rank.

That was towards the end of the era when they were playing virtually every note with intent and lethal virtuosity and precision, without venturing into deep ambient soundscapes. To this day, the energy from those recordings will blow my balls off in a way that very little from any of the other festivals will. Yet it has virtually none of the spacious textured grooves that make you feel like you are on a field in the middle of nowhere, ready to dance indefinitely - which to me has become synonymous with the phish festival experience.

I generally agree with the rankings, would have SuperBall above the Ocho, Oswego last, and I'm not sure how I'd cluster the Went, (C) Ball, and Lemonwheel. Lets go like this:

Cypress, IT, Magna, Coventry, Clifford, Went, Lemonwheel, Super, Ocho, Oswego

Throw in unannounced sets and all the intangibles of attendance (traffic, travel, weather, scene) ...hmm...

Clifford, Magna, Super, IT, Lemonwheel, Coventry, Went, Oswego
(did not attend Cypress or Ocho)
With car time factoring heavily in the weight of the WG and Loring AFB ratings.
, comment by johnnyd
johnnyd Or stated in tiers:
Cypress - incomparable
IT/Magna - Tier 1
Clifford/Coventry - Yang/Yin
Went/Lemonwheel - Archetypal
Super/Ocho - Gentrified
Oswego - Ego driven wankery
, comment by CosmicJamz
CosmicJamz Having attended 8 out of 10 festivals (minus Clifford Ball and Festival 8) I'd have to agree with most of what was ranked here musically. 'The set' from BC was the most memorable piece of music I've attended. Another factor that I would work in is the 'comfort' factor. As we got older Phish made increased efforts in making these festivals more comfortable. I mean I remember walking like an hour to get to the stage at the Great Went and Lemonwheel. BC's stage was also mad far from where we were camped. Oswego's oppressive heat and long walks made for a really difficult time. By the time of IT we bought scooters to help up cruise the runway. There was just so many people at these earlier affairs (think 50-80K). Downsizing to 30K is a better option for keeping the distance from camp to stage shorter (my trip was short - four minute walk from GC to Mike's side). Adding more bathrooms (I think Magna had 950 portojohns), better shower systems, free water with a Nalgene, and keeping the place much cleaner (thanks Clean Vibes) all added to a more comfortable festival experience. I can't wait for the 11th festie!
, comment by chillable
chillable Assessments are fair and spot on, and it's hard to argue with the weaknesses that are listed. The 8 acoustic set was a special, emotional moment for me (I cried during McGrupp), but I'm not delusional enough to think that Fest 8 belonged anywhere near the top 5 based on that alone. And even though Magna is fresh in all of our minds, it's never going to touch Cypress. I probably would have ranked it above IT but the author makes some compelling points here.
, comment by Choda
Choda Coventry #4.

Clifford #7.

Hmmmmmm.

Phishy
, comment by phan440
phan440 So author, you're honestly ranking Coventry above the Went, Lemonwheel, Oswego, & Clifford Ball? You did too many drugs last weekend dude. I know it's all subjective but that is insane. Crazy talk.
, comment by Mike_Soft_G_Gordon
Mike_Soft_G_Gordon Great read.
, comment by zzyzx
zzyzx Coventry's Melt wouldn't be in the top 50 versions of the song for me. The actual Melt part is appalling. The usual jam section is tepid. Yes, eventually they venture away from SO&M and the jam hits a nice peak, but any version from 93-94 is preferable to my ears at least.
, comment by Harveyglobetrotter
Harveyglobetrotter WOW.

I thought I was the only one who thinks the Great Went is vastly overrated. Kudos for having the balls to say so. I'm also in total agreement with placing IT so high and I do think Magnaball deserves 2nd tier status already.

However...

Clifford Ball at #7?!

You're dead to me.

(I should note that I never been to any festival in person so what the hell do I know?)
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred The Ball probably was the end of an era, but it's misrepresented. If, as @johhnyd states - whose opinion I always respect - the band wasn't venturing into deep ambient soundscapes, I agree only to the ambient extent. Your assessment of CB is spot on, and better than my hurried, blurry mush; but 94 and 95 find the band venturing deep into jarring, electric, Fripp-induced screamscapes. With _Remain in Light_ in sight, I now see CB as the band doing exactly what they wanted to do in a room they probably never imagined playing.

Like your tiers, particularly the YIN/YANG....
, comment by EvilKingWilson9
EvilKingWilson9 I have also found Camp Oswego grossly underrated. Cheers on the ranking! Wholeheartedly agree to all placements (exception given to Coventry- was too emotionally fueled to give heed to the music, sadly)
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @Harveyglobetrotter said:
WOW.

I thought I was the only one who thinks the Great Went is vastly overrated. Kudos for having the balls to say so. I'm also in total agreement with placing IT so high and I do think Magnaball deserves 2nd tier status already.

However...

Clifford Ball at #7?!

You're dead to me.

(I should note that I never been to any festival in person so what the hell do I know?)
Imagine the Went without that set and you've got one long drive after one long, long summer tour (in terms of driving).... I know, against the rules.

Point. Went = Overrated
, comment by light_above_n_blue_below
light_above_n_blue_below this is laughable. my god. people that didnt go to magnaball in favor of Dicks are butthurt on a level unseen on this website. maybe you all will make better decisions in the future

IT better than MB LOFUCKINGL? Coventry better than anything? LOFUCKINGL Clifford Ball at 7? LOFUCKINGL

enjoy dicks
, comment by Josh006
Josh006 I was actually enjoying this article... Until I got down to #4. You put C******* at #4?!?!?!?!? Putting that thing at #10 is vastly overrated and I would GLADLY give up every dollar I've spent on Phish my entire life again to have that ABOMINATION excised from my memory. Not just because of the scene, not just because of the mud, but because of the HORRIFIC sound that came out of the band. C******* was FAR worse than Big Cypress was good... Nothing personal, but I quit reading your article right when I saw your #4. Your opinions (which you are of course fully welcome to) are far beyond my comprehension!!!
, comment by J_D_G
J_D_G Very, very good list and analysis. Given how thoroughly you've lain out your case, any critics who merely respond with outraged rhetorical questions like "How could you put [X festival] there?" are contributing nothing. To these people, I challenge you to refute Chris's analysis with an analysis of your own.

However, this list isn't really a list of the best festivals, musically speaking. You've baked in two bits of methodology that really make it Chris Glushko's Favorite Festivals, According To The Following Rules. The list is personalized to the point that I don't think it's the universal, clear-headed analysis it would be otherwise. (The old, crucial difference between "this is my favorite" and "this is the best." ;)

1) For reasons that are unclear, you've chosen to ignore the set from each festival that many fans would consider the *best music of the event*

2) You say "replay value," but don't seem to acknowledge that replay value is affected by bad playing. A horrendously played "Drowned" has Low Replay Value, rather than being data that is not counted, which seems to be how you've dealt with it.

I'd love to see you go through the "Extra" sets and create a definitive list! I know I have no idea how I'd rank Tower, Storage, Ambient and Drive-In (Disco at least is last), and they largely blur together in my memory.

Again, great work.
, comment by frankstallone
frankstallone @light_above_n_blue_below said:
this is laughable. my god. people that didnt go to magnaball in favor of Dicks are butthurt on a level unseen on this website. maybe you all will make better decisions in the future

IT better than MB LOFUCKINGL? Coventry better than anything? LOFUCKINGL Clifford Ball at 7? LOFUCKINGL
I was at Magna and not at IT

I think IT was still better, dont see how that takes anything away from the awesome experience that was MagnaBall

Some people seem to hate 2.0 just because people have told them they are supposed to
, comment by J_D_G
J_D_G I should hasten to add, my ranking would still be the same, because for now I would have to re-listen to the "secret" sets to add that in, though Coventry gets some other sort of rating. But I think in terms of other people understanding your list and comparing it to their own, they need to be clear that you're not counting some huge musical highlights, or discounting for bad play.
, comment by Chop
Chop @J_D_G said:
Very, very good list and analysis. Given how thoroughly you've lain out your case, any critics who merely respond with outraged rhetorical questions like "How could you put [X festival] there?" are contributing nothing. To these people, I challenge you to refute Chris's analysis with an analysis of your own.

However, this list isn't really a list of the best festivals, musically speaking. You've baked in two bits of methodology that really make it Chris Glushko's Favorite Festivals, According To The Following Rules. The list is personalized to the point that I don't think it's the universal, clear-headed analysis it would be otherwise. (The old, crucial difference between "this is my favorite" and "this is the best." ;)

1) For reasons that are unclear, you've chosen to ignore the set from each festival that many fans would consider the *best music of the event*

2) You say "replay value," but don't seem to acknowledge that replay value is affected by bad playing. A horrendously played "Drowned" has Low Replay Value, rather than being data that is not counted, which seems to be how you've dealt with it.

I'd love to see you go through the "Extra" sets and create a definitive list! I know I have no idea how I'd rank Tower, Storage, Ambient and Drive-In (Disco at least is last), and they largely blur together in my memory.

Again, great work.
Two quick points -

1) I did not include the secret sets because they are far to visual in nature to be dissected by just through the recording. Just as there is no way one can do justice to the Tower set by listening to the recordings, I'm sure it's near-impossible to do the same with the Drive-thru set.

2) I did discount for bad play. If we were only talking highlights, Coventry would be #2 after Cypress. There's just too much meat in there. There is no exact science to this as everything is subjective and different things move different people. What I tried to get to is what recordings produce the most interesting music to hear -- just for the music and not simply to relive great memories.

Coventry is obviously controversial because of how bad so much of it is. But in the end, I thought so much of the music was so damn compelling that it deserved to be in tier 2.
, comment by Chop
Chop Every typo in the above comment is making me cringe, but you get the point.
, comment by officercookies
officercookies Fine, ill melt, lemonwheel and great went should be in the top 5 at least, no arguement with cypress, but everything else here is fucked. Do not think it is that good. Clifford ball has way more replay value then it, and Coventry is a shit show with some decent jams, not
A top tier performance.
, comment by zzyzx
zzyzx It looks like the ranking is based less upon the quality of the music from Set 1 song one to final night encore, and not even on only the best songs of the event, but rather the best moments of the jams of the event. A horrid 30 minute Wombat that ends with a great 5 minute peak would get ranked higher than a very good Divided Sky, Reba that was high energy but didn't go out on a complete tangent from the song. Other than the 4th set DQ which I don't grok, it's a consistent way of ranking, albeit somewhat non-standard.
, comment by zzyzx
zzyzx And the reason i don't get the 4th set rule is because:

1) The Lemonwheel one was on the main stage with no extra visuals really.

and

2) The Antelope and Tweezer from the Ball also had visuals that completed affected the jamming. They had to keep it upbeat to make the acrobats' performance relevant.
, comment by Just_Ivy
Just_Ivy I have always thought that Cypress was overrated so I can dig your nonconformist rankings, @cglushko. Thanks for the write-up.

::ducks and covers::
, comment by ColForbin
ColForbin @zzyzx said:
And the reason i don't get the 4th set rule is because:

1) The Lemonwheel one was on the main stage with no extra visuals really.
I completely agree that the Lemonwheel Ambient jam has to be considered, even if you are excluding "secret" sets - there was nothing remotely secret about it, Trey announced it from the stage IIRC. And in including it raises my opinion of Lemonwheel considerably.

In fact, the 4th sets of Lemonwheel, IT, SBIX, and Magna are all huge pluses for me, even on tape. Flatbed Jam probably would be too, if a full recording existed. It's hard for me to say that the Great Went Disco detracts from the show, but it certainly doesn't help its case in the rankings.

If I was doing these rankings with the 4th set considered I would put IT as a strong second place (after Cypress of course). Then I would go Went, Magna, Clifford Ball, Coventry, Lemonwheel, SBIX, 8, and Oswego.
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @zzyzx said:
And the reason i don't get the 4th set rule is because:

1) The Lemonwheel one was on the main stage with no extra visuals really.

and

2) The Antelope and Tweezer from the Ball also had visuals that completed affected the jamming. They had to keep it upbeat to make the acrobats' performance relevant.
great point.... i was totally thinking the same thing: Those dudes on the skis and the snowboard; the gals twirling and whatnot..... THEY (at least the guys on the tramps) tired before the band did. you could totally see Trey smiling to that.

Plus it was really, really weird, and far more 'organic' then the later staged events.

Moreover, I don't want to see anything from the Tower Jam (other than whatever is happening upon the 'insides' of my eyelids).

i'm a fan of big, freak out jams. i'm also, as @zzyzx points out, way into transcendent Skies and Rebas....

@cglushko

being one who can look past the 'less' positive aspects of Coventry, aside from the obvious freak outs, where is the meat?
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @Josh006 said: C******* was FAR worse than Big Cypress was good... [/quote]

Yeah, but.... Well because of that you're saying there's no place for Coventry? Like the Bag and Melt and 'parts' of other huge versions?
, comment by humalupa
humalupa I was worried this lengthy article would affect my productivity today at work. Thanks to Coventry's ranking, however, I was able to post this comment, close my browser, and get right back to work!
, comment by johnnyd
johnnyd @raidcehlalred said:
The Ball probably was the end of an era, but it's misrepresented. If, as @johhnyd states - whose opinion I always respect - the band wasn't venturing into deep ambient soundscapes, I agree only to the ambient extent. Your assessment of CB is spot on, and better than my hurried, blurry mush; but 94 and 95 find the band venturing deep into jarring, electric, Fripp-induced screamscapes. With _Remain in Light_ in sight, I now see CB as the band doing exactly what they wanted to do in a room they probably never imagined playing.

Like your tiers, particularly the YIN/YANG....
Of course I agree regarding the twisted exploratory psychadelic jams of 94 and 95, but my (also hurried) point was that the (C)Ball did not contain a Fleezer or Mud Island type jam to define it, or a long raunchy space-disco 2001, or 39 minute 46 Days, for example. Rather, it seemed a blend or flow of the energetic precise speed jazz-washed through prog-rock into tight arena rock that perfectly capped 92-96. What people say about 12.31.1995 - how they call it a "perfect show" or "the best rock concert ever" (not that I'd stake those claims) but they strike me as applying to the Clifford Ball even more so.

It was like Phish. Running through their catalog. Supercharged by freakin laser beams. Probably with sharks swimming around the field for good measure.

And thank you for the respect; I've been enjoying your comments recently as well!
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @johnnyd said:
@raidcehlalred said:
The Ball probably was the end of an era, but it's misrepresented. If, as @johhnyd states - whose opinion I always respect - the band wasn't venturing into deep ambient soundscapes, I agree only to the ambient extent. Your assessment of CB is spot on, and better than my hurried, blurry mush; but 94 and 95 find the band venturing deep into jarring, electric, Fripp-induced screamscapes. With _Remain in Light_ in sight, I now see CB as the band doing exactly what they wanted to do in a room they probably never imagined playing.

Like your tiers, particularly the YIN/YANG....
Of course I agree regarding the twisted exploratory psychadelic jams of 94 and 95, but my (also hurried) point was that the (C)Ball did not contain a Fleezer or Mud Island type jam to define it, or a long raunchy space-disco 2001, or 39 minute 46 Days, for example. Rather, it seemed a blend or flow of the energetic precise speed jazz-washed through prog-rock into tight arena rock that perfectly capped 92-96. What people say about 12.31.1995 - how they call it a "perfect show" or "the best rock concert ever" (not that I'd stake those claims) but they strike me as applying to the Clifford Ball even more so.

It was like Phish. Running through their catalog. Supercharged by freakin laser beams. Probably with sharks swimming around the field for good measure.

And thank you for the respect; I've been enjoying your comments recently as well!
we're totally on the same page. your point was clear, and correct. i don't live in the past. nor am i a prisoner of the moment. i'm genuinely a fan of the music to have emerged from that show....

this said....

i've forever wondered why the band didn't enter one of those jams (i love the JB tweezer; couldn't believe it was Live Bait a couple years ago) - and you may have answered the question for me.

a best sort of rock show ever. (cause i'm with you regarding NYE as well - some of the gags get in the way).

and so i love harpua as E. not just cause it's harpua, or the E, but because it doesn't get in the way of the 'jazz-washed prog-rock.'
, comment by jns425
jns425 I'd say I mostly disagree with this. Probably completely disagree with this actually. Coventry ahead of the Went!?!?: (IMO Great Went/Clifford Ball are absolutely not overrated)

1. Cypress
2. Great Went
3. Clifford Ball
4. Lemonwheel
5. Magnaball
6. It
7. Superball
8. Oswego
9. Fest 8
10. Coventry
, comment by theothr1
theothr1 I love the long improvisational excursions as much as anyone but the fact that some of you actually believe that THAT's what makes or breaks a show/festival is utterly laughable
, comment by jns425
jns425 @theothr1 said:
I love the long improvisational excursions as much as anyone but the fact that some of you actually believe that THAT's what makes or breaks a show/festival is utterly laughable
Agree with this. A song can be great without being played for 20 minutes. And not every 20 min song is a great jam.
, comment by jns425
jns425 Which is why I find it laughable that Coventry could be rated so high. When they aren't jamming they are fumbling through every song. If a show is mostly unlistenable I don't see how it could be rated in the top 10 of anything never mind ahead of some true classics.
, comment by HHood
HHood @jns425 said:
I'd say I mostly disagree with this. Probably completely disagree with this actually. Coventry ahead of the Went!?!?: (IMO Great Went/Clifford Ball are absolutely not overrated)

1. Cypress
2. Great Went
3. Clifford Ball
4. Lemonwheel
5. Magnaball
6. It
7. Superball
8. Oswego
9. Fest 8
10. Coventry
, comment by HHood
HHood @jns425 said:
I'd say I mostly disagree with this. Probably completely disagree with this actually. Coventry ahead of the Went!?!?: (IMO Great Went/Clifford Ball are absolutely not overrated)

1. Cypress
2. Great Went
3. Clifford Ball
4. Lemonwheel
5. Magnaball
6. It
7. Superball
8. Oswego
9. Fest 8
10. Coventry
I attended four festivals of these and bought an xm radio to live stream Coventry. I though the music from Coventry was mostly dreadful noodling.
, comment by johnnyd
johnnyd @raidcehlalred - Actually now that I'm jogging some neurons, I think I'm remembering what some friends and I were saying at and right after the show:

That (almost unbelievably) this Ball (of a Clifford variety) was actually them playing it tight and conservative and within the lines. Because everything else was so new and creative - the idea of the festival, the size of the sound system, the Orchestra, Ball Square, the aeronautics - that they didn't want to fuck anything up by exploring too deeply and maybe risking not coming back. They didn't push too far to that "without a net" place because, what if this show was their legacy? It was clearly already their biggest stage. So lets stick to what we know we can land and be confident with. And the result is absolutely supercharged.

But then you can hear during the Harpua all the pent up weirdness and ambience. I truly thought a portal had opened up above us and all the divine energy of the universe was channelling down directly upon us at that point. And then ... blueballs...
, comment by J_D_G
J_D_G @theothr1 said:
I love the long improvisational excursions as much as anyone but the fact that some of you actually believe that THAT's what makes or breaks a show/festival is utterly laughable
Care to share the "true" answer to what makes or breaks a show, or are you going to leave us hanging?
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @johnnyd said:
@raidcehlalred - Actually now that I'm jogging some neurons, I think I'm remembering what some friends and I were saying at and right after the show:

That (almost unbelievably) this Ball (of a Clifford variety) was actually them playing it tight and conservative and within the lines. Because everything else was so new and creative - the idea of the festival, the size of the sound system, the Orchestra, Ball Square, the aeronautics - that they didn't want to fuck anything up by exploring too deeply and maybe risking not coming back. They didn't push too far to that "without a net" place because, what if this show was their legacy? It was clearly already their biggest stage. So lets stick to what we know we can land and be confident with. And the result is absolutely supercharged.

But then you can hear during the Harpua all the pent up weirdness and ambience. I truly thought a portal had opened up above us and all the divine energy of the universe was channelling down directly upon us at that point. And then ... blueballs...
more really interesting fodder. i never considered the band - i was just a little kid, been 'following' them since 92 / hitting shows since 94 (my mom actually walked the lot with a finger in the air, scored a ticket, and tried to write the sister a check! the girl just laughed and gave it to her) - thinking Legacy. they seemed so young and invincible to me. but you're probably right.
, comment by JahNuhDead
JahNuhDead Rankings are so stupid.

As is 'ranking' Clifford Ball below Magnaball. Gimme a break.
, comment by AaronDJH
AaronDJH Having been to 6 of the 10, my crew in its various forms (we have a core 3 together for 20 years, have escalated to 20 at times, which is quite frankly a roving shxt show) have debated this on and off since The Went (our first.) If you ignore the scene/vibe then the only thing I would dispute is Coventry ranking so high. Sure, it was ph ish. Musically when they bomb, still better than 95% of the music world. However, compared to themselves, Coventry was overall rubbish. The flubs seemed intentional at the beginning, then it was just painful. This wasnt every song. It wasnt always the entire song. But after hearing so many years of spectacular music, and spending last weekend shaking my head at just how amazing they have played of late, I simply can not rank Coventry that high. I am happy to let time and space marinate Magnaball for the larger population, but even 20 years later i am confident Magnaball will rank higher than Coventry. On music.
, comment by hambone024
hambone024 I love when controversial posts come about. It makes for the most interesting comments. And ranking posts seem to do just that without fail.

I'm not here to agree or disagree with the post. But I will say, I've relistened to Cypress, Coventry and Oswego a lot. IX and 8 I don't really listen to, because to me, they offer more of what we were getting, which was well played versions of songs without a lot of big jams. I love Exile, but the Exile set isn't one I listen to much, as I'd rather hear the album. The acoustic is a treat. But I come back for big jams. And as crappy as Coventry is, it does have some of my favorite festival jams. I'll concede that Cypress has a lot of very similar jams throughout, but I also heard a lot of very familiar jams in Magnaball that I've heard this summer. And while Oswego is not a top of the list kind of festival, it has a lot of nice stuff going for it. Oswego is why I love bluegrass, and has an incredible BOTT. Plus that Piper, Jim, Tweezer.

I've never actually listened to Clifford. Weird, huh? That must mean something.
, comment by Slothberries
Slothberries @johnnyd said:
@raidcehlalred - Actually now that I'm jogging some neurons, I think I'm remembering what some friends and I were saying at and right after the show:

That (almost unbelievably) this Ball (of a Clifford variety) was actually them playing it tight and conservative and within the lines. Because everything else was so new and creative - the idea of the festival, the size of the sound system, the Orchestra, Ball Square, the aeronautics - that they didn't want to fuck anything up by exploring too deeply and maybe risking not coming back. They didn't push too far to that "without a net" place because, what if this show was their legacy? It was clearly already their biggest stage. So lets stick to what we know we can land and be confident with. And the result is absolutely supercharged.
Great point that I never thought of. Its entirely plausible.

Good read, all. Thank you
, comment by TheEmu
TheEmu If you're going based solely on replay value, I don't see any reason to exclude the secret sets.
, comment by DividedSkySolo
DividedSkySolo To each their own, but there's no way in hell Coventry and IT are better than Clifford Ball. I'd put Clifford top 2 based on the Slave and Fluffhead alone. I'd love to believe that Magnaball was really that high up since it's the only one I've been to, but Clifford Ball was some of the best music the band ever played.
, comment by SimpleCymbal
SimpleCymbal The Clifford Ball jams might be all of the same 'theme'. IE not much exploration, but damn I don't think any of the guys miss a note/beat/change the whole time. They're so locked in the entire time. Way underrated in this list...

....and yeah Coventry needs to come way down - the best Drowned?? Come on - check 6/19/04 it destroys it...///end rant // otherwise great write up and a solid read :)
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred This probably deserves its own column, but after going through this several hours later, I might, if only for the sake of conversation, take issue with Dick's being #1 or #2 in terms of top-show-producing-'venue....'.

I enjoy the idea of Dicks as theater.... It's fun. But even factoring in the handicap that the band is rested; they will be there for three nights; everyone's going to go nuts over what is spelled; and the band is psyched.... I can think of a couple other venues (especially if you allow for PA, which hasn't had the band in a couple yrs) that seem to capture the band's imagination, and produce greater sets -
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @hambone024 said:
I also heard a lot of very familiar jams in Magnaball that I've heard this summer.

ain't that the truth....

I've never actually listened to Clifford. Weird, huh? That must mean something.
that you started listening to the band after 97?
, comment by Bosco057
Bosco057 Big Cypress was definitely the best festival for people who like to be attacked by fire ants. If you've never had the pleasure, allow me to describe it for you. It. Hurts. Really. Bad.
, comment by Bosco057
Bosco057 Other than the whole being attacked by groups of angry biting insects though, Cypress was the bomb.
, comment by ericwyman
ericwyman It's likely that more people say "put on the Coventry Melt" than "put on the Lemonwheel ambient jam"

The bonus sets are purest in their original element, but don't compare to the traditional sets over the long run. It's likely the one instance where I'd say the recorded artifact actually can not recreate the experience.
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @Bosco057 said:
Big Cypress was definitely the best festival for people who like to be attacked by fire ants. If you've never had the pleasure, allow me to describe it for you. It. Hurts. Really. Bad.
haha. don't know if they 'tour' with the band, but they were all over ventura, too. or maybe it was austin - or both. either way; you said it.
, comment by jkkyler
jkkyler I like what you tried to do but I just can't get to where you are. I will need some more time and listening to truly get a feel for where Magnaball belongs (unfortunately having just started a new job I was unable to make Magnaball even though I was initially scheduled to go). For me you did not give enough credit to Oswego - 7/18/99 is one of my favorite days in phish history strictly for the music . It includes my Favorite Gin of all time, the Water in the sky was beautiful the runaway Jim was great and the Piper insane.

Coventry however was a disappointing mess. FWIW I waited in that traffic Jam for 48 hours and then had my car demolished as somebody fell asleep at the wheel and came across the median and hit me pushing my trunk into my backseat. I ended up walking the last 12 miles into the venue with my gear on my back to face the mud (on my way home which was a 15 hr drive we had to stop every 2 hours and rest as carbon monoxide from the exhaust was venting into the passenger cabin as we pried stuff away from my wheels so we could make it back home for an obligation - awful headaches for me and my buddy and all that was still fine as I didn't care and I made it.) Emotionally the music was a spiritual catharsis for me but quality wise it was some of the worst playing I can recall and my show count is similar to yours going back to '91. Coventry has to be tier 4 possibly 5.

You did however get the first two right IMHO Cypress and It stand as a cut above the rest IMHO after that you could go a lot of ways as long as cypress goes to the near bottom.
, comment by AbePhroman
AbePhroman meh. I think Went should be higher.

Maybe Cypress> Went> It> Magna. It's all debatable.
, comment by lititzphan
lititzphan Only attended IT and Magna, and I have trouble now trying to say what was musically better..I do know that the IT Ghost was single handedly my favorite jaw dropping, face melting moment of all time(clean n sober)to boot.
, comment by J_Card
J_Card I definitely don't agree with the rankings, and obviously many people won't. No biggie there.

But what I really don't understand is why you decided not to consider the special sets. Those were sets of music, and should be included in an analysis of the the festival's music.

Seems like a weirdly arbitrary omission and strange personal choice by the author.
, comment by Philbombs77
Philbombs77 I applaud the author for deciding to focus on the music because, as the comments saliently convey, there's a tremendous amount of subjectivity that colors the "experience". After inching 10 miles in 12 hours, Big Cypress felt like being in one, long 60-hour dream. But if I were to become acquainted with the aforementioned fire ants, it might've become a nightmare. No matter what happens in my life, one of the greatest moments of my existence will be looking up at the pre-dawn sky, all pink and fluffy gray clouds, five hours into The Set and thinking, "This is not real. This is too perfect to be real." You can't incorporate that feeling into a retrospective of the music. I traveled over 24 hours (pre-traffic jam) to BC with five college friends and the guy who was unequivocally most excited on the way down missed the lion's share of the midnight set because he ate some powerful 'shrooms and was having a terrible trip.

It takes balls to rank Coventry as high as it was ranked - I disagree, but can't argue with the logic. Despite issues with the composed section, that WAS the greatest Melt of all time. The Bag, while not nearly as good as MSG '97 or Boise '99, was still a Top 5 rendition. The highs were high and the lows were low.

One last thought that I know will go against the grain, but I think this community needs to hear it. I guess it's fine to gripe about the "sameness" of some of the BC jamming. But you are not taking into account a) a three-set show that took place the day before and a super-long set that occurred the evening of b) how much energy it takes to play for 7.25 hours in a row (please don't use this sentence to make light of Trey's struggle with drug addiction) and c) given how physically taxing it is to play for 400+ minutes in a row, the mental/creative synapses are not going to be firing full-bore for that freaking long. That's why when you look at the highlights, the preponderance of memorable jams take place in the first half the set, not the second.

1. Big Cypress
2. IT
3. Went
4. Magnaball
5. Oswego
6. Clifford
7. Coventry
8. Lemonwheel
9. Fest 8
10. SB IX
, comment by n00b100
n00b100 1. If people are gonna be pushing hard for The Clifford Ball because all the songs were very crisply played, then I'd say we should be seeing a lot more love for Summer 2015 first sets on here.

2. My stance on Coventry has been posted any number of times, so I might as well post it here - I have little problem at all listening to a "mediocre" show (of course that's true, I'm a 3.0 fan, ba dum tish), but I have no desire whatsoever to listen to a show that makes me sad. I mean, I know it turns out all right in the end, but that doesn't make the blown changes or the ugly moments or Trey weeping on stage while so full of opiates they were leaking out of his ears any more interesting to me. Like, that's great that there's so many good jams or whatever, but...every other festival on here has a lot of great jams, and none of the other ones involve the band going through (tm @waxbanks) an acrimonious on-stage divorce, so...?

3. I could probably live the rest of my life without reading yet another article/stream of comments that deify Cypress and say it's an "incomparable" show or some shit. You can compare it very, very easily to the rest of December '99, because it sounds a *lot* like the rest of December '99 (which, if you like December '99, is wonderful, but I feel like there's more people than not that love Cypress and don't really have much to say about the rest of the month). I like December '99, for sure, and I like Cypress for sure, but Lord knows I like Fall '99 better, let alone plenty of other tours. I always feel like the main argument to crown Cypress' ass is "they played seven 1/2 hours of jams", to which I say, well, 1) they didn't *really*, and 2) give me 10 minutes and I'll make you a seven-hour mixtape that *fucking wrecks* Cypress on tape. That's how I've always seen Cypress - an incredible mixtape. As a *show*, there are any number of others that beat it for quality jams, diversity of the music, and setlist flow. In my opinion.

Of course, I say all this based on the recordings; if you were there and think it's their greatest show, I'd never attempt to convince you otherwise.

4. I'm not going to go out here and say Festival 8 is anywhere near Magnaball's level or anything, but I think the entry above sells it short. 11/1/09 III, for instance, is a very nice set, "even" for 2009.

5. I have a feeling I'll end up liking Magnaball more than IT as time passes, mainly because Magnaball's great jams never feel like they're just up there jamming for the sake of jamming (which, for all I love 03-04, is a constant 03-04 issue for me), whereas IT's big jams (especially on Day 2) often have a bit more fat in them than I'd like. That 39 minute 46 Days, for instance, is (to me) more length than girth; the already-legendary 8/22/15 Prince Caspian is 23 minutes shorter but feels so much weightier and more packed with quality music.

6. I cannot say enough about the Great Went. You could very, very easily argue that those are the two best back-to-back shows the band has ever played. You could argue that either show is the best one they've ever played. Shit, you could argue 8/17/97 II is the greatest Phish set of all time. I'd make an argument for that before I made one for Cypress, I know that much.

7. Oswego is weird - not least because they just went right back into the tour after it was over. It's the festival that feels least like a festival. And it's got plenty of good music, but it's got no real je nais se quoi, certainly not the way any of the other festivals do - no famous soundcheck, no secret set, no costume, no long set, no era-defining set, no nothing. I've never thought either show is any sort of "best of Summer '99" contender, great jams or no great jams. Shrug.

8. Count me in among those that don't know how/why you'd talk about the festivals without the secret sets - or the soundchecks, for that matter. I adore Magnaball and IT, but it's hard to imagine either festival without their soundchecks and their secret sets.
, comment by Pockets
Pockets The fact that Coventry is ranked #4 tells me that the author has no idea what he/she is talking about. The following rankings are pretty much dead on, I may change the order of #6-8 but that's about it.

@jns425 said:
I'd say I mostly disagree with this. Probably completely disagree with this actually. Coventry ahead of the Went!?!?: (IMO Great Went/Clifford Ball are absolutely not overrated)

1. Cypress
2. Great Went
3. Clifford Ball
4. Lemonwheel
5. Magnaball
6. It
7. Superball
8. Oswego
9. Fest 8
10. Coventry
, comment by Philbombs77
Philbombs77 One last thing, if we're talking strictly batting average, nothing comes close to The Centrum in Worcester. Dick's is certainly in the Top 5, but doesn't touch Worcester. Out of the 16 shows played there, 4 are canonical (12/31/93, 12/29/95, 11/27/98, 06/07/12), another 7 are still in the A to A+ range, 3 are B+ to A-, and just 2 out of the 16 shows could be considered "average". I live in Colorado and LOVE me some Dick's, but the truth is the truth. I haven't read all the comments, so I'm sorry if someone has already mentioned this and I'm being redundant.
, comment by CameToPlay
CameToPlay It is probably an impossible task, but if one can divorce themselves completely from the context of Coventry, completely ignore composed sections, and listen to the "hallowed" jams in a vacuum, they are still terrible. Adding in any context just makes them even worse. Just categorically bad music. Like most writers here, the author has listened to way more Phish than I have, and I respect his opinion. When it comes to musical opinions I think everyone deserves respect. It just highlights how people who are both huge fans of the same band can hear very different things in the same music. This isn't unique to Phish of course. The point I want to make is that I don't think disagreeing on a polarizing festival, means that person's opinion is rendered totally invalid on all things Phish. It gives you a sense where they are coming from and how they approach the music critically, but in the end you you probably overlap on a lot more Phish music than you differ.
, comment by Chop
Chop Since this is such a point of contention, I didn't include the secret sets because I feel it isn't fair to divorce the music from the visual elements in them. I think it's possible to "get" a set of Phish's music without being at the show. But I don't think you can fully comprehend the Tower Jam, Storage Jam, or Drive-In set without being there.

These pieces are performance art where the visuals are just as important as the music. Technically, I could have included the Lemonwheel Ambient set. But once I decided it wasn't fair to rate the other secret sets without considering the visuals, I just eliminated all of them.

If I had included them, Magna and IT stay the same, Lemonwheel jumps Oswego and Clifford Ball, but doesn't move up a tier, and Super Ball flips with Festival 8.

I'm rather amazed so many people are hung up on this.
, comment by andrewrose
andrewrose I didn't attend Magnaball either, but I think having more than week to reflect might be wise. I am very much pumped about Summer '15 Phish, and Magnaball obviously has a ton to offer, but I also think some moments are being a bit overhyped solely because of context. The Bathtub Gin, while great, and among the longest and most out there versions of the song in 3.0, hasn't really held up for me after a couple listens. Certainly not next to some of the better jams from this tour. The Caspian similarly, the last 4 minutes are awesome but otherwise, besides the fact that it was Caspian (again, impact of context), it wasn't mind-blowing for me. Now, these other festivals being in the past don't quite have the handicap of an immediate afterglow (I don't think the Went glow stick war is playing a factor here). So there's that.

Otherwise, I did attend every single 1.0 and 2.0 festival, and I have to say I think this list is completely out of whack. Coventry for me is clearly the worst of the bunch, on all fronts, and I almost feel like we're being trolled regarding the ranking and recap of it here. No, it does not contain anything anywhere close to the best versions of Drowned, ACDC Bag, or Split Open and Melt. Coventry was a disaster on all fronts, and if you want to a couple shows from 2004 please make it SPAC.

Regarding the Clifford Ball, @n00b100, I see where you're coming from here, but there was a different kind of 'crispness' and execution to Phish in Summer 96. I'm sorry but you can't compare a Summer 15 first set to 8/16/96 II. I mean you can but I don't think you should. The playing on songs like Jim, Fluffhead are out of control. Consider the Reba, the Disease. I will happily put myself in the camp that say the Ball deserves more respect solely on the merit of playing.

I also think that the extra sets should be considered. The Lemonwheel ambient jam is one of the best things the band did in the late 90s, and it still stands up, and much stronger than anything from IT, for example. I loved IT but I also feel like it tends to be overrated a bit. At the very least I don't see it as that drastically superior to Oswego, which between the Tweezer-> Have Mercy and Jim-> Free, Piper + Icculus madness is a very strong offering.

My two cents.
Enjoy Dicks!
, comment by doctordoak
doctordoak Here's mine, based on the criteria laid out:

1. Great Went
2. Cypress
3. Magna
4. IT
5. CBall
6. Lemonwheel
7. Oswego
8. Coventry
9. Super Ball
10. Fest 8

However, if we base this solely on JAMMING (and/or REPLAY VALUE), my list becomes very similar to the author's, with Coventry at #5, and with Clifford Ball dropping down to #8

1. Cypress
2. Great Went
3. Magna
4. IT
5. Coventry
6. Lemonwheel
7. Oswego
8. Clifford Ball
9. Super Ball
10. Fest 8
, comment by philanthropist
philanthropist I Really love your work here!!! I especially appreciate you writing a concise analysis and offering legitimate reasons for the redonkulously controversial ranking for Coventry (for our small sliver of humanity who take this crap way too seriously ;) .
*I will take issue with leaving out "secret' sets, though. Why-I-Outta'!?!?
*There could even be a case for considering sound checks, I say this because this weekend's sound check could have passed for a secret set with absolutely zero detection to most ears. Seems that this is an illustration of the band's maturation as an improvisational unit.
*I didn't go to Coventry. I was ticket-less. I watched the simulcast at a theater with a great sound system and a relatively small crowd and none of the inconvenience that Vermont ticket-holders had to endure. I came away believing that this band was still relevant as a creative force, and this was based solely on the force of the highlights you've mentioned. But there were just too many horrible moments-not characteristic of even that tour- that you can't omit. I believe that almost all of the festivals, and I will admit to little expertise on Went and Clifford Ball, combined don't have as many truly low moments as Coventry. I don't mean boring or average moments, I mean bar-band bad moments. There really were some transcendent moments, truly beautiful, but you can't just edit out all the crap or explain it away with the emotional weight the time if you are only judging "the music."
*I'd also add that I would not eat anyone who would put Magnaball a close second to Cypress. It's true it needs time, but with the sound check and drive-in, it's a whole-helluva lot closer than I would have imagined possible.
Again, I seriously unload mass amounts of proper praise in your specific direction for writing this up!!!!
AAAANNDD, you're dead on about Day 2 at MB!! For a bunch of old guys?? They're still progressing!
, comment by sjpeagles1
sjpeagles1 I think you make a great case for your ranking however for the magnaball you give credit to the FULL DAY including the drive in jam. I think if you consider the tower jam- which just won a recent poll for phish secret sets on this site, and I believe will stand the test of time (unless young phans who didn't attend IT overwhelm the voting as they did to get the storage jam rated above the lemonwheel ambient jam!) as good as the drive in jam was I just musically nothing has ever breen as experimental and just literally tapping into the sound of the cosmos. The guitar tones and textures trey created in real- time (and had teased all week prior and continued after)are simply some of theost unique and genuinely innovative things done to a guitar since hendrix, beck, fripp, eno, or anyone else you can name. And rappelling dancers just monolithic and alien feeling of them up there was way more overwhelming to me then seeing them in the storage unit or from behind the screen. So tower jam wins in both music and aesthetics to me. You already stated how good Saturday at it was. Has IMO best opening festival ever and then proceeds to have two more legendary sets along with the best secret set. Id say magnaball was pretty similar not better Saturday. Also have to disagree about 46 days. Loved that jam and it blew my freaking mind! Yes the ghost is better but the. 46 days is damn good top with fill mini tower jam mortif. But I like your list. It's well explained also. Peace
, comment by quincydog420
quincydog420 I have to completely disagree with you, I went to the first 4 Clifford-Oswego, Clifford should be #2 behind the now #1 Magnaball, you're right, you weren't there, it was the shit, & I was smart enough to buy tix for Dicks as well, glad I'll be attending both.
, comment by HHood
HHood 5. I have a feeling I'll end up liking Magnaball more than IT as time passes, mainly because Magnaball's great jams never feel like they're just up there jamming for the sake of jamming (which, for all I love 03-04, is a constant 03-04 issue for me), [/quote]

I could not agree more, the 03-04 jamming comment is spot on
, comment by nightshadefoxglove
nightshadefoxglove This ranking is ridiculous. And choosing dicks over balls is baffling. I always respected phish.net articles, but this one has me missing gadiel and losing faith in this site
, comment by o_crunk
o_crunk Ranking Coventry above The Great Went is basically over thinking IT.

But whatever. I'll take the wisdom of the crowds. Here's the composite score for each fest based show rating. (For the super nerdy, I did not include the soundcheck ratings).

Went - 4.6685
Cypress - 4.658
Clifford - 4.625
Magna - 4.61333
IT - 4.5495
Lemonwheel - 4.4095
Super - 4.395667
Oswego - 4.378
Fest 8 - 3.90
Coventry - 2.2405

Out of the five I actually attended, had the best time at the Went. How the hell did Oswego become a fest? Someone has Cypress as untouchable and Oswego as "ego driven wankery". These shows took place 6 months apart!!!

Crazy.

Don't overthink Coventry. It was not a good time.
, comment by shelbs226
shelbs226 this article is bunk and now we know whos messing with show stats. a bunch of made up accounts to keep magnaball ranking low.sorry you werent at Magnaball. what a waste of time..

TLDR; I didnt custy up for Magna but Im goin to Dicks.

what a joke.. you try to make sense but your article is full of bull.

sorry dude. Magnaball was the best.
sincerely 20 years of touring approaching 300 shows.

honestly I cant believe anyone read this crap..
, comment by waitingallnightsyousaidim
waitingallnightsyousaidim I think the music may have something to do with coming of age moments
, comment by waitingallnightsyousaidim
waitingallnightsyousaidim but then again I'm biased cus I was blessed enough to have been there wish all the phish heads coulda come! Also magma was my first phish fest so fuck do I know lol
, comment by RobPJohnson3
RobPJohnson3 The music at Coventry was better than the Great Went?

Oswego was better musically than the Cilfford Ball?

Everybody has a right to their opinion, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Those are two of the most laughably incorrect opinions about Phish I have ever encountered.
, comment by dscott
dscott @RobPJohnson3 said:
The music at Coventry was better than the Great Went?

Oswego was better musically than the Cilfford Ball?

Everybody has a right to their opinion, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Those are two of the most laughably incorrect opinions about Phish I have ever encountered.
While I disagree with the rankings that @cglushko has proposed, at least I can see where he is coming from. He likes big jams, and he can not lie. Also, I like the tiering system that he uses.
While I can understand leaving out the soundchecks...and possibly the Flatbed Truck Jam, the other "bonus" sets are integral parts of their respective festivals' musical experience. Can't justify excluding them in the ranking process.

I would shuffle the deck thusly: (within a given tier, it's basically splitting hairs)

Transcendent
1. Big Cypress

Epic
2. Great Went
3. Magnaball
4. Lemonwheel

Awesome
5. Clifford Ball
6. Superball
7. IT

Very Good
8. Oswego
9. Festival 8

Rough (with a handful of diamonds)
10. Coventry
, comment by fessmiq
fessmiq Understanding this is all subjective, but no way is Magnaball and Conventry even worthy of a Top 5. Magnaball (while still great because we are speaking of the Phish) was a huge let down and a basic rerun of raleigh/Merriweather the weekend before. Outside of the Gin and the Tweezerpants it felt so uninspired and everything from the jams to the "bust outs" were ok. Certainly not a Top 3 festival based on music alone. Granted they should both be ahead of Festival and Superball but so not Top 5.
, comment by nichobert
nichobert Ah the perils of essentially ranking festivals by total improv time rather than improv quality.
, comment by Phishsx78
Phishsx78 For the life of me I don't understand why people have this insatiable desire to officially "rank" things that are purely subjective. On top of that, ranking shows from a band over multiple decades that evolves as much as Phish does? Impossible and pointless. Rankings within the context of your own experience? Knock yourself out, but stop trying to tell me what to like. I personally believe U.S. Americans could give a fuck less
, comment by nichobert
nichobert @HHood said:
5. I have a feeling I'll end up liking Magnaball more than IT as time passes, mainly because Magnaball's great jams never feel like they're just up there jamming for the sake of jamming (which, for all I love 03-04, is a constant 03-04 issue for me),
I could not agree more, the 03-04 jamming comment is spot on[/quote]

I agree as well. And I've had a Phish navel-gazing journey over the last few years really expanded the range where I feel like they might be jamming for jammings sake. At first I just felt really strongly that 03-04 were unfairly maligned because the actual improvisation wasn't the dropoff from 99-00 that people made it out to be. And then I started thinking all of it wasn't quite what it was cracked up to be. And then the goalpost started encroaching into Fall 98 and eventually into 97 too. Something like the Went DWD does roughly nothing for me. And a lot of big 97-00 jams seem to go through really long stretches where nobody has an idea. Sometimes that perserverence pays off like the Hampton Halley's which caps a generic jam with one of the best 4 minute stretches of Phish ever. Sometimes I can't believe that they're still riding that funk chord instead of audibling out into a new song or at least pushing the jam somewhere weirder. Maybe with time I'll start becoming more aware of the similarities of the jams in 2012, 2013, 2014 or 2015 and I'll just revise the whole thing to "93-95 Phish is the pinnacle and everywhen else certainly had its moments"

All that, and still... I have a hard time with these rankings even if we're just going on the merits of Type II Improvisation and ignoring everything else. If Coventry is in the Top 5, I refuse to believe that anything else has anything to do with the ranking.

And then I look at Magnaball and wonder just how high I'd have to put it since I find the 46 Days, Cities> Light, Tweezer-> Caspian, DWD-> Scents, Blaze On, Chalkdust> Ghost-> ?<-?-> !Rock & Roll-> Hood to be, personally, a more interesting form of improvisation than all but the upper crust of Type II from the 1.0 and 2.0 festivals.

But ranking them just on Type II just wouldn't be fair to the music. So going from a more holistic perspective but still just taking into account the announced sets of music..

1. Big Cypress
2. The Great Went
3. Magnaball
4. IT
5. Lemonwheel
6. Clifford Ball
7. Oswego
8. Superball
9. Coventry
10. Festival 8

That was way tougher than I thought it would be, and I'm not happy with the results at all. Just going to stick with the way they popped into my head first though. Seems more rational than any other order I can put them in.

One last thought, as people were killing one of the sets of Magnaball for not having enough improv, I remembered that the Great Went has a set where the highlight was a weirdo Scent of a Mule, and a whole day of the Clifford Ball's longest song is Scent Of A Mule.
, comment by Bosco057
Bosco057 Does anyone know what the attendance figures from Magna wound up being? I've heard everything from 30K (Rolling Stone website) to 65K. Just curious, as I didn't go to this one (and yes, as soon as I heard the music they were making this summer I immediately regretted that decision) but went to all the 1.0 & 2.0 festivals except for the Went, and I wonder how it compares.
, comment by nichobert
nichobert The thing with Lemonwheel, Oswego, Cypress, IT and Coventry is the same as 98-04 in general.

When the band is getting as spacey as those years are thought of (often pejoratively) as being, they're fucking wonderful.

When they get into something spritely and melodic and rhythmic all at once, it's great.

But much more often, it's this Hawkwind-ish permashred dominating the proceedings.

And my love for that kind of thing waxes and wanes. It's been somewhere between New Moon & Crescent for the last few years, but this time next year I might adore a 15 minute guitar solo in Piper again.
, comment by fakebeave
fakebeave This is absurd.
The correct ranking is here:

1. Big Cypress
2. ALL OTHER FESTIVALS
3. Coventry
, comment by thephisherman
thephisherman @n00b100 said:

5. I have a feeling I'll end up liking Magnaball more than IT as time passes, mainly because Magnaball's great jams never feel like they're just up there jamming for the sake of jamming (which, for all I love 03-04, is a constant 03-04 issue for me), whereas IT's big jams (especially on Day 2) often have a bit more fat in them than I'd like. That 39 minute 46 Days, for instance, is (to me) more length than girth; the already-legendary 8/22/15 Prince Caspian is 23 minutes shorter but feels so much weightier and more packed with quality music.

I cannot echo this comment enough. I've seen shows since '96 and I really love the jams that are being produced now more than in any other era. It really seems like almost every jam has a purpose. If they catch the jam not going anywhere or they can't lock up, then they don't just noodle around searching for the groove. They move on to the next song and see if it's journey is meant to be.
, comment by pikepredator
pikepredator @noob100

2) give me 10 minutes and I'll make you a seven-hour mixtape that *fucking wrecks* Cypress on tape. That's how I've always seen Cypress - an incredible mixtape.
Agreed, and that's true for every fest, right? Doing so would be Simple for the Went (which is basically three jaw-dropping sets and three regular ones), except said summer '97 mix tape wouldn't include creating a huge sculpture and more or less inventing the glow-stick war . . .

This article has shown me I can't separate the experience from the festival. I can't compare the all-night experience to the art Jam experience or the ring of fire jam. I wasn't even at the Tower or Storage jams.

I've found my reductionist limit for comparing music. In another thread I said that I couldn't compare Cypress to other festivals because the all-night experience was unique. That was wrong, I have to amend that to all festivals. Personal memories and experiences, different # of days/sets/extras . . . there are too many variables for me to wrap up into a ranking.

I'm becoming more of a noob every year. "it's all about the energy/flow" "I wish I had been there/you had to be there" "damn that Free was hot" - these are things I say now, that used to bug me when other people said them. here's one more . . .

08/23 II was my favorite set of Magnaball. Was it the best? No, that would be 08/22 II.

what have I become? whatever it is, I love it. it's lots of fun.
, comment by jns425
jns425 @Philbombs77 said:
One last thing, if we're talking strictly batting average, nothing comes close to The Centrum in Worcester. Dick's is certainly in the Top 5, but doesn't touch Worcester. Out of the 16 shows played there, 4 are canonical (12/31/93, 12/29/95, 11/27/98, 06/07/12), another 7 are still in the A to A+ range, 3 are B+ to A-, and just 2 out of the 16 shows could be considered "average". I live in Colorado and LOVE me some Dick's, but the truth is the truth. I haven't read all the comments, so I'm sorry if someone has already mentioned this and I'm being redundant.
I'm biased as I've seen more shows at the Centrum then any other venue (11 out of the 16 they've played there). Average show quality (for venues with a decent number of shows there) has to be near the top for the Centrum. The amount of all time classic shows there is the through the roof (NYE 93', NYE run 95', 11/29/97, 11/27/98, etc).
, comment by jns425
jns425 @Phishsx78 said:
For the life of me I don't understand why people have this insatiable desire to officially "rank" things that are purely subjective. On top of that, ranking shows from a band over multiple decades that evolves as much as Phish does? Impossible and pointless. Rankings within the context of your own experience? Knock yourself out, but stop trying to tell me what to like. I personally believe U.S. Americans could give a fuck less
What's not to understand? We are an obsessive fan base. We like to argue about things, we like to compare things, we like stats, and we are critical. Doesn't mean we don't love the band.
, comment by jwp86
jwp86 As Frank Pantengeli famously said, "I don't have your brain for...big deals." I don't have an intricate ranking system with well thought-out criteria, but having the Went ranked as low as it is seems harsh. After all, this was the festival for 1997, by many accounts the greatest year in Phishtory. I probably relisten to the Went more than any other festival, because the sound is crackling with the energy of that year. It was a time that any song could go insanely deep, even ones that never had before. Then there is the Gin, which I won't go into in depth, but which a recent poll had as tied for 3rd as best overall Phish jam ever.

So, yeah, I would have had the Went higher, and I do not in any way think that it was an overrated festival. I don't really object to any of the other rankings.

And, I know 4th sets and the like are not part of the criteria, but the disco set was pretty cool. MC Neon Celgap anyone?
, comment by bushwood_a_dump
bushwood_a_dump @jns425 said:
@theothr1 said:
I love the long improvisational excursions as much as anyone but the fact that some of you actually believe that THAT's what makes or breaks a show/festival is utterly laughable
Agree with this. A song can be great without being played for 20 minutes. And not every 20 min song is a great jam.
For sure. Lest you slide down a very slippery slope (Panic comes to mind).

I've noticed in 3.0 that more and more spot reviews of shows emphasize on the time length of tunes from the show (i.e. "The second set featured a 20+ minute Gin " ;) . It didn't used to be that way, and I find it a jarring development
, comment by timkell
timkell I'm one who really really really hates flubs. I can't just ignore a poorly executed composed section of a song and immediately get down to a great type II jam. The poor execution sits with me and makes it take a heck of a lot longer to get into a groove once it's over. In some I think Phish hasn't "earned" the jam when they royally f*ck up the composed parts.

Given my perspective, I can't stand Coventry obviously. And I absolutely LOVE Clifford Ball!!! Give me some rip roaring type I with great set lists and I'll be happy as hell. I listen to Clifford Ball a ton and think it stands up very well.

I also think when ranking on re-listen value nothing should be discounted. If you're skipping tracks because they stink well that means the set stinks. So you must sit through the Coventry Glide while assessing that show. Any poor songs have to take away from the good ones. Yet another reason I would end up ranking Clifford Ball high.

I don't think I'm quite ready to make my list but I would have Clifford Ball and Magnaball top 4 for sure and Fest 8 and Coventry at the bottom for sure.
, comment by mcgrupp81
mcgrupp81 All I know is that I remember reading Trey stating that he considered Phish retirement after Clifford Ball. That should speak to the quality of the shows that were played. 8/16 and 8/17 were considered two of the top 25 greatest shows ever played by the Pharmer's Almanac that came out after 2000. I wasn't fortunate enough to be able to attend any festival besides Coventry, so I can only speak from the recordings of the other shows, but if I had a time warp and, excluding Cypress, had to choose one festival to go to, I'd choose the Ball. And that's coming from someone who cherishes improv just as much as the next fan.
, comment by Ruthaford
Ruthaford When posting a puff piece you should probably open with a disclosure that what is to follow isn't based on anything other than your (questionable) opinion.
, comment by jwp86
jwp86
This article has shown me I can't separate the experience from the festival. I can't compare the all-night experience to the art Jam experience or the ring of fire jam. I wasn't even at the Tower or Storage jams.
I couldn't agree more. Having made the trek to the furthest tip of Maine multiple times, and all of the experiences that went along with it (the bad and the good...overflowing porto-johns and glowstick wars, hours on end in traffic and the Went Gin...etc.).

Also, I would just add that while the amenities and comfort level at the new festies is refreshing for an older phan, there was something really awesome about waking up in a sea of tents as far as the eye can see, walking a mile down a runway to get into a show, sitting in traffic that was literally not moving for hours at a time and tailgating on the highway, etc. that everyone should get the chance to experience. Kind of like when our parents/grandparents would wax nostalgic about walking 5 miles to school, uphill both ways, with newspapers wrapped around their feet because they couldn't afford shoes.
, comment by facebooknews
facebooknews Hahahahahaha this is a joke right?
, comment by Chop
Chop To those who pointed out that Worcester has just as high of a win percentage as Dick's and Star Lake, you're absolutely right. That was a bad omission on my part.
, comment by Doctor_Smarty
Doctor_Smarty @cglushko said:
Since this is such a point of contention, I didn't include the secret sets because I feel it isn't fair to divorce the music from the visual elements in them. I think it's possible to "get" a set of Phish's music without being at the show. But I don't think you can fully comprehend the Tower Jam, Storage Jam, or Drive-In set without being there.

These pieces are performance art where the visuals are just as important as the music. Technically, I could have included the Lemonwheel Ambient set. But once I decided it wasn't fair to rate the other secret sets without considering the visuals, I just eliminated all of them.

If I had included them, Magna and IT stay the same, Lemonwheel jumps Oswego and Clifford Ball, but doesn't move up a tier, and Super Ball flips with Festival 8.

I'm rather amazed so many people are hung up on this.
This is where I have to disagree. You state that your ratings are based on replay value. The secret sets contain music that has variable amounts of replay value that is completely unrelated to the visual effects associated with them. You aren't judging the replay value of any of the other music based on how CK5 was melting faces with lighting or any of the other infinite examples of eye candy that make the total Phish festival experience more than "just the music" that is being played. The secret or otherwise "special" sets (Fest 8 acoustic and Cypress midnight to sunrise are) should be included in your ratings.

You got 99 comments...and my bitch is one.
, comment by philanthropist
philanthropist @dscott said:
@RobPJohnson3 said:
The music at Coventry was better than the Great Went?

Oswego was better musically than the Cilfford Ball?

Everybody has a right to their opinion, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Those are two of the most laughably incorrect opinions about Phish I have ever encountered.
While I disagree with the rankings that @cglushko has proposed, at least I can see where he is coming from. He likes big jams, and he can not lie. Also, I like the tiering system that he uses.
While I can understand leaving out the soundchecks...and possibly the Flatbed Truck Jam, the other "bonus" sets are integral parts of their respective festivals' musical experience. Can't justify excluding them in the ranking process.

I would shuffle the deck thusly: (within a given tier, it's basically splitting hairs)

Transcendent
1. Big Cypress

Epic
2. Great Went
3. Magnaball
4. Lemonwheel

Awesome
5. Clifford Ball
6. Superball
7. IT

Very Good
8. Oswego
9. Festival 8

Rough (with a handful of diamonds)
10. Coventry
Again, I am not really expert (really any of this) but especially Great Went and Clifford Ball, I've listened to both more than once and it's been a while.
That said, I love your tiers and I'll agree with almost all of your rankings. Did I say I hate rankings, hehehehe!

transcendent!!!
1. Big Cypress

Epic:
Magnaball (closer to transcendent than I thought was possible.)
Great Went
Lemonwheel

Awesome:
IT
Clifford Ball

Very Good (VG):
Camp Oswego
Superball
Festival 8

Rough (Several transcendent moments (TM), arguably more TM than some festivals in VG or awesome tiers.) But the roughness ruled the festival in a way that's not even comparable top any of the fests.
10. Coventry
Good Phun! Thanks!
, comment by Phall97Phunk
Phall97Phunk Based on Set list, flow and jamming, I would rank as follows:

1. Cypress
2. Went
3. IT
4. Clifford Ball
5. Lemonwheel
6. Magna
7.Oswego
8. Superball
9. Fest 8
10. Coventry
, comment by philanthropist
philanthropist @thephisherman said:
@n00b100 said:

5. I have a feeling I'll end up liking Magnaball more than IT as time passes, mainly because Magnaball's great jams never feel like they're just up there jamming for the sake of jamming (which, for all I love 03-04, is a constant 03-04 issue for me), whereas IT's big jams (especially on Day 2) often have a bit more fat in them than I'd like. That 39 minute 46 Days, for instance, is (to me) more length than girth; the already-legendary 8/22/15 Prince Caspian is 23 minutes shorter but feels so much weightier and more packed with quality music.

I cannot echo this comment enough. I've seen shows since '96 and I really love the jams that are being produced now more than in any other era. It really seems like almost every jam has a purpose. If they catch the jam not going anywhere or they can't lock up, then they don't just noodle around searching for the groove. They move on to the next song and see if it's journey is meant to be.

I would have to agree with his thoroughly, like others here have said. I felt like 2.0 jamming was forced and often felt awkward, some of it is more complete on re-listen than it seemed in the moment, though, but not all and it was definitely an endemic.
I could have absolutely never imagined that in 3.0, 2015, I would be saying "I'll take that short little Caspian over that huge 46 days, well, any day!
, comment by timkell
timkell @philanthropist said:
@thephisherman said:
@n00b100 said:

5. I have a feeling I'll end up liking Magnaball more than IT as time passes, mainly because Magnaball's great jams never feel like they're just up there jamming for the sake of jamming (which, for all I love 03-04, is a constant 03-04 issue for me), whereas IT's big jams (especially on Day 2) often have a bit more fat in them than I'd like. That 39 minute 46 Days, for instance, is (to me) more length than girth; the already-legendary 8/22/15 Prince Caspian is 23 minutes shorter but feels so much weightier and more packed with quality music.

I cannot echo this comment enough. I've seen shows since '96 and I really love the jams that are being produced now more than in any other era. It really seems like almost every jam has a purpose. If they catch the jam not going anywhere or they can't lock up, then they don't just noodle around searching for the groove. They move on to the next song and see if it's journey is meant to be.

I would have to agree with his thoroughly, like others here have said. I felt like 2.0 jamming was forced and often felt awkward, some of it is more complete on re-listen than it seemed in the moment, though, but not all and it was definitely an endemic.
I could have absolutely never imagined that in 3.0, 2015, I would be saying "I'll take that short little Caspian over that huge 46 days, well, any day!
Agreed 100%. No one can possibly accuse 2015 Phish of noodling.
, comment by conormac
conormac 1. Cypress
2. It
3. Went
4. Clifford Ball
5. Magnaball
6. Lemonwheel
7. Coventry
8. SuperBall
9. Oswego
10. 8
, comment by frankstallone
frankstallone @shelbs226 said:
this article is bunk and now we know whos messing with show stats. a bunch of made up accounts to keep magnaball ranking low.sorry you werent at Magnaball. what a waste of time..

TLDR; I didnt custy up for Magna but Im goin to Dicks.

what a joke.. you try to make sense but your article is full of bull.

sorry dude. Magnaball was the best.
sincerely 20 years of touring approaching 300 shows.

honestly I cant believe anyone read this crap..
Image
, comment by philanthropist
philanthropist @timkell said:
@philanthropist said:
@thephisherman said:
@n00b100 said:

5. I have a feeling I'll end up liking Magnaball more than IT as time passes, mainly because Magnaball's great jams never feel like they're just up there jamming for the sake of jamming (which, for all I love 03-04, is a constant 03-04 issue for me), whereas IT's big jams (especially on Day 2) often have a bit more fat in them than I'd like. That 39 minute 46 Days, for instance, is (to me) more length than girth; the already-legendary 8/22/15 Prince Caspian is 23 minutes shorter but feels so much weightier and more packed with quality music.

I cannot echo this comment enough. I've seen shows since '96 and I really love the jams that are being produced now more than in any other era. It really seems like almost every jam has a purpose. If they catch the jam not going anywhere or they can't lock up, then they don't just noodle around searching for the groove. They move on to the next song and see if it's journey is meant to be.

I would have to agree with his thoroughly, like others here have said. I felt like 2.0 jamming was forced and often felt awkward, some of it is more complete on re-listen than it seemed in the moment, though, but not all and it was definitely an endemic.
I could have absolutely never imagined that in 3.0, 2015, I would be saying "I'll take that short little Caspian over that huge 46 days, well, any day!
Agreed 100%. No one can possibly accuse 2015 Phish of noodling.

I think even the sound check from Magnaball is a great example of this, a jam from beginning to end, but (to my ears) little-to-none of the seemingly-pointless noodling. And that was essentially PRACTICE. They operate as a cohesive-improvisational unit, seemingly effortlessly, much more of the time than they EVER have. Maybe?
, comment by HarborSeal
HarborSeal I don't get your "Don't include the secret sets" rule either, and hereby request a list in which you rank them.

For my pointless contribution, here's my ranking of the 10 Festival DWDs:

1. Great Went
2. IT
3. Clifford Ball
4. Cypress
5. Magnaball
6. Oswego
7. Lemonwheel
8. Coventry
9. Festival 8
10. Superball

There are some monster Diseases in there.
, comment by DividedSkySolo
DividedSkySolo I'm making it a point to relisten to all the festivals over the next few weeks so I can make a more informed ranking. I might even put them up against each other in a bracket-style process. I'm going to set these preliminary rankings down here based on my current opinion, and see if anything changes after giving them all a listen.

1. The Clifford Ball
2. Big Cypress
3. The Great Went
4. Magnaball
5. Lemonwheel
6. IT
7. Camp Oswego
8. Festival 8
9. Superball
10. Coventry
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @n00b100 said:
1. If people are gonna be pushing hard for The Clifford Ball because all the songs were very crisply played, then I'd say we should be seeing a lot more love for Summer 2015 first sets on here.

Apples and oranges, man. Defend 3.0, I'm a fan too .... but what? First set '15 v. festivals?

There's a major difference. One didn't note that Phish played well in 9? - the Ball, one expected it. And then they playing those two days surpassed IT.

The Ball sets were not just crisp.... they were transcendent. The music is laser-like and exciting. You find all-timers in Reba and Wolfman's, and this list goes on. The Lope and the even the Ice and Brother.... Just imagine hearing those tunes played like that during a first set today.

Not to mention something like its Tweezer. Its precision would floor us today. The totally beautiful solo in Hood.

First sets received the appropriate (bordering upon inflated) 'amount' of love this year. I mean, to hear rough versions of PYITE and Esther (both crushed at the Ball).... and Rift and Sloth.... Head-scratching (aside from Esther, I suppose).

and @philantropist

while I love that you're an optimist, to suggest that they are playing tighter now, more than ever.... Much as I wish that were true (see Phish standards above) they can't even seem to decide upon Mike's (or, according to Trey, 'remember' how it was played).

Totally chill with where they are.... But don't we here 'pointless' noodling in basically every Set II opening DWD? (which is like every other show?)

But plenty of room to remain upbeat!

, comment by theresoundingecho
theresoundingecho @fakebeave said:
This is absurd.
The correct ranking is here:

1. Big Cypress
2. ALL OTHER FESTIVALS
3. Coventry
Amen.
, comment by chrismichels
chrismichels I agree the ranking is phishy at best.....I cried at all the mistakes of coventry... (some great jams yes, but very bad deliverance of songs and singing) .....Clifford Ball is my favorite, love the energy, and the Free! i miss the crazy chord changing jam. Most the others are a blur of pretty good to pretty great stuff
, comment by jwp86
jwp86 It seems that all of this conversation serves to illustrate the point that one cannot divorce the music from the context. Much like historicism in literary theory, context matters, big time. The feeling around the Clifford Ball was unprecedented. Nothing on that scale had happened in the Phish universe prior to 8/16-17/96.

Then, a year later, they up the ante with the same festival vibe, but adding all time great versions of songs.

Then, two years later, Big Cypress goes down. Three totally transcendent moments for Phish fans at the time.

IT had some amazing music, but would I rate it higher than Clifford, Went, or Cypress? Not a chance, because contextually it wasn't a watershed moment in the big picture.

Now, MagnaBall could be a different animal. The consistency of the jams, combined with where the band is in their career, may qualify as a watershed moment, i.e. the moment that even the most jaded of vets has to admit that Phish 3.0 has some serious shit to offer, and likely will for some time to come. And that is a great feeling!
, comment by timrpow
timrpow Talking about the Clifford Ball in any negative way signals my brain to secrete the same neurotransmitters that make me want to defend my children from large mammals.

This is all I have to say. Carry on.
, comment by CosmicJamz
CosmicJamz I was just pondering your placement of Coventry. It really deserves to be in the top 5. It was a crazy time for sure. Experiencing a solid 48 hours to get into a festie by abandoning the car line, seeing armed state troopers and finding an alternate route, finishing all our beverages and sundries before entry and forgetting to take boots in to Mud City was an incredibly difficult and yet most memorable event. The music was so good but yet such a trainwreck. That SOAM is the craziest shit. Seeing Page break down and Glide coming apart was so poignant. People getting stuck in the mud and watching tents sink was unreal. It really should rank up there for the emotional roller coaster that was the end of 2.0
, comment by harpua78
harpua78 Went is top three - not overrated. A tremendous festival and a long pilgrimage. 8/17 set II alone was worth the trek. I'm jealous of those who made it to Magna and having listened to the shows, it was certainly strong. But to rank it ahead of the Went (and nearly anything that happened in 1997) seems a bit premature.
, comment by philanthropist
philanthropist @raidcehlalred said:
@n00b100 said:
1. If people are gonna be pushing hard for The Clifford Ball because all the songs were very crisply played, then I'd say we should be seeing a lot more love for Summer 2015 first sets on here.

Apples and oranges, man. Defend 3.0, I'm a fan too .... but what? First set '15 v. festivals?

There's a major difference. One didn't note that Phish played well in 9? - the Ball, one expected it. And then they playing those two days surpassed IT.

The Ball sets were not just crisp.... they were transcendent. The music is laser-like and exciting. You find all-timers in Reba and Wolfman's, and this list goes on. The Lope and the even the Ice and Brother.... Just imagine hearing those tunes played like that during a first set today.

Not to mention something like its Tweezer. Its precision would floor us today. The totally beautiful solo in Hood.

First sets received the appropriate (bordering upon inflated) 'amount' of love this year. I mean, to hear rough versions of PYITE and Esther (both crushed at the Ball).... and Rift and Sloth.... Head-scratching (aside from Esther, I suppose).

and @philantropist

while I love that you're an optimist, to suggest that they are playing tighter now, more than ever.... Much as I wish that were true (see Phish standards above) they can't even seem to decide upon Mike's (or, according to Trey, 'remember' how it was played).

Totally chill with where they are.... But don't we here 'pointless' noodling in basically every Set II opening DWD? (which is like every other show?)

But plenty of room to remain upbeat!


I agree! Well put!
Let me preface by saying these generalizations I make are huge leaps, just made for discussion sake!
I think there is almost a presupposition of some 'noodling' involved in improvisational-rock music. What's striking me as a general characteristic of what I'm hearing now, is the minimal amount of noodling that gets to a maximum amount of cohesive jamming.
In other words there was almost no 'noodling' from '09- Dick's '12, but there was almost no jamming either.
What impresses me now, especially this summer, is that it seems there are many more cohesive jammy moments while the dissonant, unconnected-sounding music is minimal.
We could call it the jam-to-noodle quotient! Or whatever!! Ha!
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred I wasn't around in 77 to know the Dead played better then than they played in the 90s. What makes Phish cool is that one who followed Phish extensively in 97, or 94, can legitimately acknowledge the great playing that took place during moments (and sets) of this tour.

Seems that some fans who, for whatever the reason - it doesn't matter - began following the band after '09, suffer from a complex which prohibits them from outright admitting that the product was simply superior before Coventry.

This translated in person, and holds true on tape.

Those who have written about Coventry, and it's proper placement (bottom) have made convincing arguments. @andrewrose , however, points to some sick summer shows.

and 03 boasted some awesome shows too, running up to IT - a festival which should be 'high,' and whose Tower Jam should be included (sounds way better than it looked, anyways)....

Even the mistakes and off nights along the way were more interesting (forgetting the reasons why) than what we have today.

But what makes 2015 so freaking cool is the suggestion that this isn't another pinnacle, but a 'point' in yet another fascinating trajectory (new tunes, 10/31 tunes considered)....

Even a fun, but less 'inspired' Dicks run can't take anything away from this summer.

But having experienced MB - I wasn't at Nevada for the Tweezer - I still think one should at least let the tour run out, and a new run begin, before placing MB above, in no particular order:

Cypress
C. Ball
Went
It

Because that Tweezer is still pretty cool, but I heard a couple versions this year that I think are much better.
, comment by lincolnfrog
lincolnfrog I won't try to add a ranking, but I was at Magnaball and I can report that it was indeed borderline-transcendant, if not fully transcendant.

I have listened to Big Cypress and it is, of course, Phish of the highest quality doing something earth-shattering.

The music of Magnaball is very different from BC, but I think it is overall better if you are looking for unique ideas and perfect moments of untold bliss. The 5+ hours of music last Saturday are being considered the greatest show of all time by many, and with good reason.

Regardless of rankings, phans are legitimately having conversations like "How would you rank Magnaball against Big Cypress and IT" and it's become a matter for debate instead of immediate dismissal. If you told someone two weeks ago that serious conversations of this sort would be happening today, their minds would be blown wide open.

The state of Phish in 2015 is truly a gift. They are alive, vital, and experiencing another peak, like all the playing since 2009 has been building them back up to a point where they can again destroy the world.

I will never forget Magnaball and the great times we had there. Tweezerpants is probably my favorite section of Phish ever. The DWD-> Scents-> WTU-> Dirt is up there with my favorite suites of all time along with classics like the C&P-> Light-> Sally-> C&P from 8/19/12. In an era where feels are more important than shreds, Magnaball is king.
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @philanthropist said:
@raidcehlalred said:
@n00b100 said:
1. If people are gonna be pushing hard for The Clifford Ball because all the songs were very crisply played, then I'd say we should be seeing a lot more love for Summer 2015 first sets on here.

Apples and oranges, man. Defend 3.0, I'm a fan too .... but what? First set '15 v. festivals?

There's a major difference. One didn't note that Phish played well in 9? - the Ball, one expected it. And then they playing those two days surpassed IT.

The Ball sets were not just crisp.... they were transcendent. The music is laser-like and exciting. You find all-timers in Reba and Wolfman's, and this list goes on. The Lope and the even the Ice and Brother.... Just imagine hearing those tunes played like that during a first set today.

Not to mention something like its Tweezer. Its precision would floor us today. The totally beautiful solo in Hood.

First sets received the appropriate (bordering upon inflated) 'amount' of love this year. I mean, to hear rough versions of PYITE and Esther (both crushed at the Ball).... and Rift and Sloth.... Head-scratching (aside from Esther, I suppose).

and @philantropist

while I love that you're an optimist, to suggest that they are playing tighter now, more than ever.... Much as I wish that were true (see Phish standards above) they can't even seem to decide upon Mike's (or, according to Trey, 'remember' how it was played).

Totally chill with where they are.... But don't we here 'pointless' noodling in basically every Set II opening DWD? (which is like every other show?)

But plenty of room to remain upbeat!


I agree! Well put!
Let me preface by saying these generalizations I make are huge leaps, just made for discussion sake!
I think there is almost a presupposition of some 'noodling' involved in improvisational-rock music. What's striking me as a general characteristic of what I'm hearing now, is the minimal amount of noodling that gets to a maximum amount of cohesive jamming.
In other words there was almost no 'noodling' from '09- Dick's '12, but there was almost no jamming either.
What impresses me now, especially this summer, is that it seems there are many more cohesive jammy moments while the dissonant, unconnected-sounding music is minimal.
We could call it the jam-to-noodle quotient! Or whatever!! Ha!
agreed!

and i too sort of post 'recklessly.' but i mean no harm and it's fun; like i've said once before: it's not like i can actually play.
, comment by G0NEPHISHING
G0NEPHISHING You, sir, are a gentleman and a scholar.
, comment by User_23657_
User_23657_ Whoever wrote this clearly is still a little foggy from Magnaball or a retard.
, comment by FIKUS0824
FIKUS0824 I've been coming to this site for the long as I can remember I've never seen a thread get this much attention. Having been to Magna IT 8 in Coventry I can honestly say that it in Magna are 1a and 2a in my personal opinion. Well. I'm a little perplexed as to how many people are shooting down It as a viable number two or three option when we use the term IT to explain a certain aura about a particular show. For instance when IT happens we all talk about it forever. For that alone I think that IT does deserve the number 2 slot considering that we use the term IT as a measure of greatness. I'm still searching for my second spread it round haha.
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @nichobert said:
@HHood said:
5. I have a feeling I'll end up liking Magnaball more than IT as time passes, mainly because Magnaball's great jams never feel like they're just up there jamming for the sake of jamming (which, for all I love 03-04, is a constant 03-04 issue for me),
I could not agree more, the 03-04 jamming comment is spot on
I agree as well. And I've had a Phish navel-gazing journey over the last few years really expanded the range where I feel like they might be jamming for jammings sake. At first I just felt really strongly that 03-04 were unfairly maligned because the actual improvisation wasn't the dropoff from 99-00 that people made it out to be. And then I started thinking all of it wasn't quite what it was cracked up to be. And then the goalpost started encroaching into Fall 98 and eventually into 97 too. Something like the Went DWD does roughly nothing for me. And a lot of big 97-00 jams seem to go through really long stretches where nobody has an idea. Sometimes that perserverence pays off like the Hampton Halley's which caps a generic jam with one of the best 4 minute stretches of Phish ever. Sometimes I can't believe that they're still riding that funk chord instead of audibling out into a new song or at least pushing the jam somewhere weirder. Maybe with time I'll start becoming more aware of the similarities of the jams in 2012, 2013, 2014 or 2015 and I'll just revise the whole thing to "93-95 Phish is the pinnacle and everywhen else certainly had its moments"

All that, and still... I have a hard time with these rankings even if we're just going on the merits of Type II Improvisation and ignoring everything else. If Coventry is in the Top 5, I refuse to believe that anything else has anything to do with the ranking.

And then I look at Magnaball and wonder just how high I'd have to put it since I find the 46 Days, Cities> Light, Tweezer-> Caspian, DWD-> Scents, Blaze On, Chalkdust> Ghost-> ?<-?-> !Rock & Roll-> Hood to be, personally, a more interesting form of improvisation than all but the upper crust of Type II from the 1.0 and 2.0 festivals.

But ranking them just on Type II just wouldn't be fair to the music. So going from a more holistic perspective but still just taking into account the announced sets of music..

1. Big Cypress
2. The Great Went
3. Magnaball
4. IT
5. Lemonwheel
6. Clifford Ball
7. Oswego
8. Superball
9. Coventry
10. Festival 8

That was way tougher than I thought it would be, and I'm not happy with the results at all. Just going to stick with the way they popped into my head first though. Seems more rational than any other order I can put them in.

One last thought, as people were killing one of the sets of Magnaball for not having enough improv, I remembered that the Great Went has a set where the highlight was a weirdo Scent of a Mule, and a whole day of the Clifford Ball's longest song is Scent Of A Mule.[/quote]

like your take as usual.... however, regarding the MULES (and i don't love them late in any show):

the went MULE has a legit (and the 'last') DDLJ, which the band, in their own estimation, reserves for 'big' shows (i'm sure you know which).... so it's 'better' than your average mule.

and for anyone to mention song length in c. ball discussion is (still) simply missing the point. if "Y"ou listen to the music and don't like it, that's the end of it. but it's about power and precision, the aim of the band realized. for what it's worth, i don't think the band had the same stated objective with MB, nor do i feel they walked off stage thinking.... well, nothing left to do from here.

thinking randomly, but in a related vein:

how cool would it be to hear phish play roggae and 46 days in 96, at the ball.
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @nichobert

like your take as usual.... however, regarding the MULES (and i don't love them late in any show):

the went MULE has a legit (and the 'last') DDLJ, which the band, in their own estimation, reserves for 'big' shows (i'm sure you know which).... so it's 'better' than your average mule.

and for anyone to mention song length in c. ball discussion is (still) simply missing the point. if "Y"ou listen to the music and don't like it, that's the end of it. but it's about power and precision, the aim of the band realized. for what it's worth, i don't think the band had the same stated objective with MB, nor do i feel they walked off stage thinking.... well, nothing left to do from here.

thinking randomly, but in a related vein:

how cool would it be to hear phish play roggae and 46 days in 96, at the ball.
, comment by PlottHound
PlottHound Coventry?
, comment by lastubbe
lastubbe Much respect for you Glushko but that Clifford Ball ranking is still giving me the shakes since first seeing it on your Twitter document.

I basically echo the landslide of comments in this thread that feel about the start to finish playing of the Clifford Ball as I do. Especially the guy who defends the Clifford Ball the same way he defends his children from large mammals. That's meet. Clifford Ball is Phish gold, and while I won't argue it being 1, I will not accept it being out of the top 3. And certainly nothing in 2003 is in the same class.

Best Slave and Fluffhead ever. Watching the video confirms how locked and loaded those two shows were. If there were a third night I think it would have flew off the handle.

I've said for a decade we need phan surveys of shows by year and and all time versions of songs. I have a proposition to Ellis and Charlie during the preview of the new phish.net on September 2009 but I was shot down.

Who knows if we will ever know what the consensus is, but this ranking really throws me.

Also I agree Coventy should be not applicable or permanently last place. There was nothing musical going on.
, comment by Shangho
Shangho I feel like people need to go back and listen to The Great Went.........
, comment by Shangho
Shangho And I also agree on Clifford Ball,and not just because it was my 1st Phish show,but because it RIPPED right out of the gate!!!!!
, comment by Scottofamule
Scottofamule Super fun read!

I'm stoked to read that I've been to the "best" (Cypress) and 2nd worst (Indio) festies. Have to say they were both amazing shows...but Cypress was and is the highlight of my life and I've had a pretty good life :)

Also, want to add that opting for Dick's instead of something else is a safe bet. Coming up on our 5th Dick's weekend and my money is all in on Big Red.

See ya'll on Friday
, comment by Choda
Choda I also want to add once again: Watkins Glen is in central ny not upstate. I'm getting tired of NYC people thinking that going 250 miles west means upstate.

::Glide'd::
, comment by Chop
Chop As a resident of Brooklyn, I consider anything north of the Capitol Theater in Westchester County to be upstate.
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @bushwood_a_dump said:
@jns425 said:
@theothr1 said:
I love the long improvisational excursions as much as anyone but the fact that some of you actually believe that THAT's what makes or breaks a show/festival is utterly laughable
Agree with this. A song can be great without being played for 20 minutes. And not every 20 min song is a great jam.
For sure. Lest you slide down a very slippery slope (Panic comes to mind).

I've noticed in 3.0 that more and more spot reviews of shows emphasize on the time length of tunes from the show (i.e. "The second set featured a 20+ minute Gin " ;) . It didn't used to be that way, and I find it a jarring development
Right on. Still waiting for someone to boast about a twenty-five minute Disease, though. haha
, comment by RobesPierre
RobesPierre coventry at #4?

Did I enter a alternate reality?
, comment by nichobert
nichobert I think it's pretty sensible that people are emphasizing time more lately.

There was a year or two there where Phish almost never let themselves get deep into the improvisation. In 2011 & 2012 they loosened the reigns considerably but still seemed to have significantly higher standards for what jams were worth continuing than us refugees from the late 90s and early 00s were used to. The last three years they seem to have really lightened up on that. And since the batting average for longish-long jams from 2011 & 2012 was astronomically high, it became a convenient shorthand. If a jams long, it's probably pretty damned good. If it wasn't, they'd have stopped and started the next song.

At some point a few years ago I started wondering if Phish was going through a conscious re-evolution of their sound following similar lines to the original evolution. I was curious about when they'd hit the "97" period on that re-evolution, and it feels like maybe we're there. Set construction is at a premium, the jams are long, and the jokes are rare.

It's pretty hard to shake me from thinking 2011 & 2012 are the pinnacle of the last 15 years if we're looking solely at Type II improvisation, but they're certainly putting shows together in a way that's more cohesive and playing tighter in the composed sections lately.

Random show/jams I totally forgot about until the other day: 7/31/99 David Bowie & Simple. I always forget how weird that Bowie gets, and I can't believe I ever forgot the "reverse Simple jam" where they bring the beauty up to a peak instead of working it down to nothing. I was reminded of it when making a case that Caspian has had way more interesting moments in it's history than a lot of songs that don't generate similar levels of revulsion in the fanbase.

, comment by nichobert
nichobert in re: Mule at Ball and Went

I wasn't trying to slam those sets as much as point out that some of the most beloved shows of all time aren't overly concerned with deep type II and that peoples anger at one of 8 sets being improv-light really seems to forget that Phish existed before 1997.
, comment by Philbombs77
Philbombs77 I started veering away from thinking about this in the big picture and began to write down my favorite sets of all the fests. A pattern emerged which is too salient to ignore. I originally just wrote the dates down, along with which set, but when I changed the dates to which "day" (out of either 2 or 3), this is what came out:
1. Went - Day Two, Set II
2. Cypress - Day Two, Set II
3. Magnaball - Day Two, Set II
4. IT - Day Two, Set II
5. (Went - Day One, Set II)
Why is the second set of the second day the sweet spot? I can't imagine this list is way out of the mainstream. Any thoughts as to why they consistently nail this "specific" set?
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred went 2: DWD

cypress (meatstick - sort of, but....): DWD

MB: WOLFMAN'S

IT: GHOST (although day one II has the nice DWD and Waves)

went 1: WOLFMAN'S

and then:

Coventry II: DWD (with the melt and ghost of course)

not to sound like an idiot, but perhaps confidence of the plan going in. these are songs that the band seem to 'shape' to suit the sound they inhabit in the moment.

and this holds true even earlier....
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @Philbombs77 said:
I started veering away from thinking about this in the big picture and began to write down my favorite sets of all the fests. A pattern emerged which is too salient to ignore. I originally just wrote the dates down, along with which set, but when I changed the dates to which "day" (out of either 2 or 3), this is what came out:
1. Went - Day Two, Set II
2. Cypress - Day Two, Set II
3. Magnaball - Day Two, Set II
4. IT - Day Two, Set II
5. (Went - Day One, Set II)
Why is the second set of the second day the sweet spot? I can't imagine this list is way out of the mainstream. Any thoughts as to why they consistently nail this "specific" set?
that's how they open those sets; i'm sure you got it, but, as usual, i wasn't clear -
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @nichobert said:
in re: Mule at Ball and Went

I wasn't trying to slam those sets as much as point out that some of the most beloved shows of all time aren't overly concerned with deep type II and that peoples anger at one of 8 sets being improv-light really seems to forget that Phish existed before 1997.
point taken - good stuff
, comment by moonshinefunk
moonshinefunk These kinds of lists are the reason that people say that Phish fans are all a bunch of dope fiends or glue sniffers.

I have only attended one Phish festival in my life, Magnaball, and I thought it was great. Really, really great. However, I don't think one can credibly claim that 1) Magnaball is better musically than Went and 2) they don't smoke PCP. The argument that a couple Went sets weren't as improv heavy as most shows of the era doesn't pass the smell test because only sets 2 and MAYBE 3 of night 2 at Magnaball would be anywhere close to being as improv heavy as most 1997 shows (maybe set 2 night 1 of Magnaball too). This is like when people tried to say MPP2 last year was better than the Bomb Factory when there was serious jamming at the Bomb Factory in addition to the Tweezer seguefest.

Similarly, I personally think Coventry gets hated on slightly too much because of all the horrendous shit people faced getting there and being there but there were some great jams there (as well as tons of horrible musical moments). That being said, Went was obviously better, and it isn't even close.

Besides that though, list seems mostly spot on. Cypress was definitely the best and It or Went were next. Clifford Ball is overrated and without question Festival 9 and Superball were the two worst; I would personally also go with Superball being the worst of the two and I think representative of 2011 being the worst 3.0 year for Phish (worst year since at least the very early 1990s and probably 1980s). Thank God they pulled out of that slump in 2012 and have been killing it ever since.
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @moonshinefunk

I'm not sure what you mean by 'similarly.'

Although I totally agree w/ your MPP / Factory take.

My guess, based upon your C Ball comment, is that you got into the band post-hiatus, or, probably, post-Coventry. I'm not here to say the C. Ball is #1, but at #7, or wherever it is here, it simply is not overrated. In general terms, it's all but impossible to overrate.

The only problem I have with @cglushko is that he says only one or two tracks are worth revisiting.

The show was so long ago I don't remember a ton. So when I do put the music on, it's not lProustian or something; memories don't come flooding back. I simply hear an era of Phish music sun-splashed and dazzling. I'll defend the _music_ every time I see it dissed. Not just cause I was there, but because the music was that good.

This great thread prompted me to use my computer to create one great set culled from the various festival sets.

C. Ball music stands toe-to-toe with with best of the best; better yet, if "O"ne gives the exercise a try, you'll find the music refreshingly varying in nature.

Even the Mule, which has been discussed here (and didn't make my tape) is really musical, especially for new-era fans who feel the need to overly defend the music (the music doesn't need anyone now; it 'speaks' for itself). It's Muleish, but not wildly different from the other night's Twist - in terms of approach. It even has a really cool drum breakdown. And Page is playing, as opposed to goofily lauding Fish for his work on the 'Marimba Lumina.' Even a song like Contact, in the groove, isn't played like you're at the Prom; you can get down (this didn't make my tape either). But hit the three minute mark and you'll confuse it for a hot little bit of some 98 Tube.

Like another poster said; it's like people were told not to like 03/04 or something. Big mistake.

If the songs aren't 'jammed' out - although some of them are - this is MORE than made up for by the 'absence' of awkward vamping, comping, noodling, spacing, etc.

Sorry to post again. Place C. Ball wherever you want; just don't call it overrated; it is just historically, and objectively, inaccurate.
, comment by SevenBelowZero
SevenBelowZero I loved the Largemouth Bass fishing measurment pic! I've been fishing all my life and didn't realize there were different methods of measuring freshwater fish! Awesome!

However, measuring The Phish is Simple, when we've got a band, the best show is always the next one on the calendar, if that day isn't today! We all still come together and listen live and that's always the best venue/setlist/fest to me, the 5 w's don't apply, we all keep it rolling! Who listens to Cypress "Sand" when there is a live show on? (98 Bi-Lo first show, BIG Cypress, Coventry, SBIX, are ones I was lucky enough to attend) Ha! Cheesecake! The only time is now.
, comment by PhishFanWill
PhishFanWill @frankstallone said:
I'm just here for the melts

http://media.giphy.com/media/JmMqD6azzfnnW/giphy.gif
I'm gonna open a Phish diner, with dishes like "split open and (tuna) melt", run like a cantaloupe fruit salad, and cadillac rainbows spaghetti and meatballs.
, comment by smoothatonalsnd
smoothatonalsnd I just composed a very lengthy and detailed defense of @cglushko and this article, with tons of examples and references to other comments, and then when I went to post it, .net crapped out on me and I lost the whole thing!! Grrrrrr. So here's the tl;dr version of it, which is probably better anyway.

This is a well-written, thoughtful, provocative, and controversial article in which the author sticks to his clearly defined and entirely logical parameters. I don't agree with everything he wrote (especially re: Coventry, which I think is unrankable) but I see where he's coming from, especially when you realize that quality in his rankings is almost entirely based on type-II improvisation. And you all need to relax and not take it so personally :)
, comment by smoothatonalsnd
smoothatonalsnd And also, to echo @raidcehlalred, I find the Clifford Ball to be endlessly re-listenable, especially Day 2 set 2 which had a near permanent spot in my CD rotation before I stopped listening to CDs as regularly. From the note-perfect "Curtain" opener to the transcendent "It's Ice" jam, to the super-high-energy "Antelope" and the magesterial "Slave" closer, and of course the incredibly stupid/silly/fun "Brother" bustout w Ben & Jerry, this disc is a nearly perfect set of pre-97 Phish for me, even though it doesn't contain much heavy, type-II improv. If I want heavy type-II improv, I'll go straight to 12/14/95 II. But for "classic" Phish, 8/17/96 II is where it's at for me.
, comment by MiguelSanchez
MiguelSanchez I'm not going to nit-pick the list, which I disagree with in a number of spots, but there is one thing that irks me here. How can you rate the festivals and act like the secret sets didn't happen?

Now, as for Coventry over the Went, well, there's some validity lost.
, comment by ThomasFunkyEdison
ThomasFunkyEdison @fessmiq said:
Understanding this is all subjective, but no way is Magnaball and Conventry even worthy of a Top 5. Magnaball (while still great because we are speaking of the Phish) was a huge let down and a basic rerun of raleigh/Merriweather the weekend before. Outside of the Gin and the Tweezerpants it felt so uninspired and everything from the jams to the "bust outs" were ok. Certainly not a Top 3 festival based on music alone. Granted they should both be ahead of Festival and Superball but so not Top 5.
You're serious? Big Cypress was a rerun of December 99. Clifford Ball sounds similar to the weeks leading up to it. You're the first person I've ever heard say that Magnaball was a letdown. I would say their playing was the opposite of uninspired. I'm not really sure what you expected...did you think they would completely change their sound for a weekend? Play songs that they hadn't played in 20 years? Sorry you thought Magnaball was a let down. It should absolutely be in the Top 5 festivals musically -- where in that top 5 should only depend on personal preferences.
, comment by shaunfunk
shaunfunk Festivals
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, comment by shaunfunk
shaunfunk Festivals
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, comment by shaunfunk
shaunfunk "say it like your pissed"
, comment by CorndogChapman
CorndogChapman the 40 minute 46 days should elevate IT to the eleventeenth spot on this awful list.
, comment by SconyMack
SconyMack I see it like this....

Tier I:
Cypress
Went
IT

Tier II:
Magnaball
Lemonwheel
Clifford Ball

Tier III:
Superball IX
Coventry
Oswego
Festival 8
, comment by BeAFractal
BeAFractal Like phishnet, I also made the wrong call and punted my paid-for Magna trip, opting to take less time off and settle for Dick's. Silly me.

I've only watched the Big Cypress video twice, but I still can't suss out in a completely satisfying way exactly what drugs Trey is doing from/off his 'drink' container. Has anyone else found themselves distracted in this way while watching the video? Any ideas? I mean, if I were a rock star and inclined to have a little lift, I could imagine having my roadie dump a quarter-ounce of pure in my cola. But Trey's on-stage drug administration doesn't appear so straightforward. Now that I've planted the seed, the next time you watch the video it will seem that Trey can't keep his hand off that darned cup. And it looks like he's snorting liquid or something out of an indentation (reservoir?) in the lid. Seriously, watch how he brings the cup up to his face but doesn't seem to be drinking anything. I'm just curious. ;)
, comment by phan440
phan440 Ive been to 8/10 Phish fests, missing Clifford Ball & Lemonwheel.

I think Oswego are some of the most underrated Phish shows that I know of. 99 is one of my favorite years so i am a bit biased. There are a handful of jams in those 2 shows that are towards the top of my "best ever" lists. That Gin & Jim are absolutely stellar versions. But that Piper & Tweezer > Have Mercy is some of the crunchiest Phish I have ever witnessed. OMG so freaking good. Seriously I challenge anybody to show me a better Piper. That is all-time stuff right there. Its easily the best version of that song the band has ever played. An awesome awesome Reba & a kick ass YEM also. Whoever said that Oswego is "ego driven wankery" is very wrong IMO.

I like your point about fest 8 being #1 for setting and grounds. 100% correct. Non music it was one of the coolest events ive ever attended. That place was beautiful. A Halloween wonderland. I rank it higher musically than most because Exile has always been one of my favorite albums so it was special for me. Also because of that noon acoustic set. What a gorgeous afternoon laying in that perfect grass listening to some Phish favorites played in such a unique fashion. It really was badass.

Superball night 3 is one of my favorite 3.0 shows. The restof that weekend was well below average.

Magnaball was great but the immediate fluffing right after the show was both predictable and comical. Its best to wait to write an honest review when youre off cloud 9. I mean it was great but #3? Gimme a break.

But man oh man your Coventry ranking is ridiculous. It is a little hard to understand your logic on that ranking. Some of your credibility is lost on that one.

1) Cypress
2) Went
3) Oswego
4) Clifford Ball
5) IT
6) Magnaball
7) Fest 8
8) Lemonwheel
9) Superball
-----------------------

10) Coventry

, comment by RunawayJim4180
RunawayJim4180 @ColForbin said:
@zzyzx said:
And the reason i don't get the 4th set rule is because:

1) The Lemonwheel one was on the main stage with no extra visuals really.
I completely agree that the Lemonwheel Ambient jam has to be considered, even if you are excluding "secret" sets - there was nothing remotely secret about it, Trey announced it from the stage IIRC. And in including it raises my opinion of Lemonwheel considerably.

In fact, the 4th sets of Lemonwheel, IT, SBIX, and Magna are all huge pluses for me, even on tape. Flatbed Jam probably would be too, if a full recording existed. It's hard for me to say that the Great Went Disco detracts from the show, but it certainly doesn't help its case in the rankings.

If I was doing these rankings with the 4th set considered I would put IT as a strong second place (after Cypress of course). Then I would go Went, Magna, Clifford Ball, Coventry, Lemonwheel, SBIX, 8, and Oswego.
Good rankings here. To me its this order on tape:
-Cypress
-Went
-IT
-Clifford
-Magna (tied with :)
-Lemonwheel
-Coventry
-Oswego
-8
-Superball
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