Monday 02/01/2016 by phishnet

BEST OF 2015

[Editor's Note, SP] – For the third consecutive year, the phish.net working group has set out to rank the top ten shows of the year (with MSG - but not Mexico - being included as part of the 2015 "year" despite bleeding into 2016). I think we’re past the part where we talk about the merits of ranking shows. We are past that, right? Ok, good!

Just how good was 2015? Summer tour sits alongside fall ‘13, as the consensus choices for best tours of 3.0, (though fall ‘13 was a mere twelve shows, albeit twelve incredibly strong shows). It's been argued that Magnaball is one of the greatest Phish festivals ever… at least the best since IT or, for those of you with 2.0 animus, Big Cypress. Similarly, setting aside fall ‘13, you probably have to go back to summer ‘03 to find a tour as strong as summer ‘15 and, for the 2.0 haters, maybe summer ‘99? Is that even possible? Phish just wrapped up their 32nd year and they're still playing shows that can be mentioned in the same breath as those from their “prime?” Yes, it's a good time to be a Phish fan. Generous numbers of webcasts make it possible for fans to experience growing numbers of shows in real time. The band just wrapped up a dream run on the freaking beach in Mexico. Most importantly, the music is as great as ever. Fellow Phish fans, the state of our union is strong!

And now, we rank. Much like last year, we had a clear top four (and, unlike last year, a unanimous #1). After the top four, things got a little more muddled. All of these shows feature at least one tentpole jam; but it seemed like shows with the strongest jams and best supporting cast in the second set had weakest first sets (and vice-versa). Before we start, though, a word about shows #11-14. MSG4 1/2/16, MPP1 8/15/15, Magna3 8/23/15 and Alpine2 8/9/15 are all stellar shows. In fact, looking back to 2014, it wouldn’t be surprising if each of these shows would have found a home in that year’s top ten. Alas, hard decisions had to be made. So enough with the participation trophies and let’s move onto the Best of 2015...

10. 8/4/15 Ascend Amphitheater, Nashville, TN - Drew Hitz
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

The brand new Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville had been open less than a week when Phish performed there in early August. Reports were that the venue was very intimate (only 6,800 capacity), had phenomenal acoustics (it was designed primarily as the summer home for the Nashville Symphony Orchestra) and had incredible views of the Nashville skyline and the famous bridges over the Cumberland River. Both the venue and Phish's performance exceeded all expectations.

The first set was well played, but the reason this show made our top ten list is because of the “Mike's Groove” in the second set. Backstage before the show, Trey was reminded of the second jam in “Mike's Song” and asked if he wanted to "break Twitter tonight" by playing it for the first time in 15 years. Trey responded with a smile and said "I'd love to," and the rest is history.


“Mike’s Song” – 8/4/15, Nashville, TN (video via LazyLightning55a)

The stellar “Mike's Song” is followed by one of the better version of “Piper” in 3.0. That was followed by the only “Crosseyed and Painless” of 2015 which segued masterfully into a phenomenal “Weekapaug Groove.” Within the first two minutes this “Weekapaug” featured “Crosseyed” teases, as well as Trey uncharacteristically slowing the whole thing way down while laughing through the lyrics. This laid back dance party eventually gave way to a full blown type II heavy metal section that set the place off. This fourteen-minute version closed with the triumphant return of the “Weekapaug” theme featuring more “Crosseyed” teases and a “Slave” encore to end the show.

Coming 20 years after the famous Mud Island “Tweezer,” this show proved the old Phish adage that you should never miss a weekday show in Tennessee next to a river.

9. 8/7/15 Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls, OH - Martin Acaster
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

When we are ranking Phish performances, we all have our own criteria for what makes a given show great. My criteria are pretty straightforward. If I was there, it is automatically going to be considered one of the best shows ever! I feel that first sets are just as important as second sets. I like when Phish plays songs that I like. I like when they play those songs really well. I enjoy when they drop unexpected teases in strange new places. I love when they remind me why they are the world’s most accomplished cover band. “Tweezer” and its glorious “Reprise” is the greatest thing that happened in the history of rock and roll. Any “Tweezer”... all the “Tweezers”... and their respective “Reprises” are life-affirming experiences. I really dislike Phish playing shitty bluegrass. Given these ranking criteria, you can better understand my overrating of the 2015 gig at Blossom – I had it as the #2 show of the year on my ballot. However, without this highly subjective grade inflation, the most impactful show of the year (and I wasn’t even there) likely wouldn’t even have made the top ten for 2015, thereby rendering this exercise essentially worthless. Seriously, this show changed the course of history, people!

The opening sequence of “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” through “Roses are Free” is just about as solid a start to a first set as you could expect. “ASIHTOS” is absolutely manhandled by Fishman, Page drops a “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” vibe all over it, and Trey’s solo ties a nice “Slipknot!” on the running rigging. Fishman’s techno-triphammer assault continues through “My Sweet One” which is keyed by some tasty Page funky-tonk. The already high energy level is ramped up into the crunchy flange fest of “Wilson.” Love the tone there, Trey. With “Timber (Jerry)” we are now at four consecutive songs I like that have been played really well. This set is crackling with life so far. I love Ween. I was sad when Ween broke up. This performance of “Roses are Free” though itself fairly pedestrian helped to get the band back together! Thereby making this the most impactful Phish show of the year… regardless of what follows.

It is therefore fitting that the trio of songs that ensue inarguably represent the low point of the show. “Rift” in particular is a total Trey’n wreck, but if you ignore the flubby fingers and concentrate on the sick beats from Fish you will get through it. “Ginseng Sullivan” is a personal nightmare… but over soon enough. Yes, I love this show even though it contains Phish playing a shitty bluegrass song. “Moma Dance” is unfairly but almost universally reviled in certain fan echo chambers. However, this “Moma” is atypically slow and funky with a mild “Tweeprise” flavor. and considering the version that was recently played in Mexico may represent the inflection point in the trajectory of both the song and the first set of this show. “Wingsuit” soars skyward with a patient Floydian fire, “It’s Ice” brings a funky “For The Love of Money” tease, and “Bathtub Gin” has a volcanic peak to send us into halftime with a comfortable lead.


”It’s Ice” – 8/7/15, Cuyahoga Falls, OH (video via Bobby Scharff)

The second set of this show does not let up on the gas, ever. Solid song selection and flow from start to finish. When the mid-set “breather” slot is occupied by “Makisupa Policeman.” you know The Boys took the stage looking to kick some ass. The “Chalk Dust Torture” opener is pumped and jacked and the jam eventually veers down the road to “Paradise City.” With the recent announcement of the Axl and Slash reconciliation, this obviously helped to get the band back together! Thereby making this the most impactful Phish show of the year… regardless of what follows. Naturally, what follows is the best “Tweezer” of the year. Dark, angry, yet melodious. Picture Slipknot playing “Fuck Your Face” while Lexy Panterra twerks in front of the Fountains of Bellagio. Fully satisfied already, the rest of the show is pure gravy. “Lizards” is not perfect… but who cares… it is a treasured gift every time it appears. “Makisupa” reveals that Trey likes to don a cape while he hits the strawberry bubble gum goop he puts in his vape. “Ghost” is another Fishman drum clinic. He is unquestionably the recipient of my 2015 MVP vote. “Harry Hood” goes all Rutherford the Brave’s “Energy Guide” and ignites the smouldering “Tweezer Reprise” set closer. Having flipped the order on a typical “Good Times Bad Times” > “Tweeprise” encore, the “GTBT” proves to be the shreddiest of the two songs on this particular evening, and Fishman once again serves notice that if Page, Plant, and Jones ever want to get the band back together! He is more than capable of taking Bonzo’s throne behind the kit.

M-V-P, M-V-P, M-V-P, M-V-P!

8. 9/6/15 Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO - David “Zzyzx” Steinberg
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

Beloved Phish shows come in three forms: those that have bustouts, those that have great jams, and those that have antics. The final Dick's show of 2015 started out with the former – the first stand-alone performance of “The Landlady” since 1994. While parts of the song are played in the middle of “Punch You in the Eye,” this is song is a common stats clogger for many – I have received many a complaint to have that song removed from their most commonly played but not seen list – and while the song isn't played well, it served as a sign that this show might not be business as usual.

While the rest of the first set is interesting with an unusual mid set “Seven Below” > “Caspian,” “Saw it Again” randomly popping up in the middle, and a rare “Birdwatcher” towards the end, the second set is where things start to cook. “Down with Disease” goes into a euphoric jam, one of those beautiful jams where a theme gets developed and builds. While nothing else in the set touches that peak, the glory of that moment seemed to infect the rest of the evening. Everything else is played with just a little extra energy. The jams are short, but they’re all joyous, one of these sets that is perfect for a run, or that first nice day of spring.


”Once in a Lifetime” – 9/6/15, Commerce City, CO (video via LazyLightning55a)

Due to a late start and a long set break, Phish were bumping the curfew when the encore started. So when they started up the “Tweezer Reprise,” everyone figured the show was over. However, the band didn’t leave the stage; instead there was an Ooom Pah Pah. “Harpua” is always a fan favorite, but this one was especially fun, one that weaved in and out rare songs (including two that hadn’t been played since the mid-‘90s) and ending with a one time cover of “United We Stand,” as Trey talked about how much he appreciated the scene we have built. When the news started to circulate that this encore was spelling out “THANK YOU,” there was nothing but stunned smiles to be seen.

This isn’t a Phish show for those who prefer the dark psychedelic nights. Rather, this is a concert of the light, one that works to remind us that the world is indeed filled with amazing moments. You’re welcome, Trey. You’re quite welcome.

7. 12/30/15 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY - Dan Mielcarz
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

An obligatory “Sample” opener feels obligatory. “Free” opens up a bit (but only a bit) more than usual, with a chill little jam featuring some great interplay between Mike and Trey. “Simple” includes some fun fills by Trey, and the classic MSG cheer at the skyscraper line and then the short jam morphs into “Back on the Train.” A long discussion between songs leads to “Waiting All Night,” a great song off Fuego, but not exactly a dance party. “555” has some vocal detractors, of which I am sometimes one, but this version brings a little extra in a dark type-I jam. “Roggae” follows, and a raging solo by Trey made this the highlight of the first set. “Dogs” and “46 Days” close out a fun, but completely ordinary first set.

There was a time when a set two opening “Chalk Dust” would be a mere prelude to the real jamming vehicle to follow. But not anymore – what an amazing time to be alive! Interestingly this jam starts out with a descending phrase from Trey that seemed like the tune might end up being a straightforward type-I version, but instead quickly launches into a driving funky jam. Trey latches onto a hunk of melody that is close to but not quite “Third Stone from the Sun.” This is no mere Trey wankfest, though, but a jam where you could listen four times in a row, focusing on each band member, because they were each at the absolute top of their games. The jam progresses through several distinct sections, with Trey’s guitar tone going from porno funk to mutron to distorted hard rock, Page switching from clavinet to piano, and Mike dropping meatballs to the great joy of the 20,000 in the house. Towards the end of the jam, the band heads into a triumphant major key section before following some delay loop noise on a slide into “Ghost.”

This first half of the “Ghost” sandwich is notable only for its short length, leaving the crowd to think “that’s it?” and then “what the heck is this?” as the debut of “Can’t Always Listen” played out. A simple AAB 12 bar blues, with some heartfelt nods to Grateful Dead riffs, “Can’t Always Listen” will hopefully find a happier home in a setlist, as opposed to its slightly jarring debut. The “Ghost” reprise contains some more interesting jamming, and a silky segue into a straightforward but uptempo “Waves.” As the chill spacey “Waves” outro fades out, the opening notes of “Bathtub Gin” take its place. And what a “Gin” – an ecstatic, breathtaking hose jam that nearly reaches Great Went heights. A surprising fourth quarter “Mike’s Song” is next, with only a single jam, yet a good enough one to get the entire arena bouncing, which perhaps led to the unusually placed “Bouncing Around the Room.” At the show I figured on a standard but fun “Weekapaug” to close the set. It certainly starts off that way, but then an uptempo tease then segue into “What’s The Use?” happens. The dynamic range on this “WTU” is just astounding – and for a rock band playing in the world's greatest arena it is otherworldly. The quiet part will give you chills, and the crescendo will blow your mind. I’m so happy to have this song back in regular rotation. The resolution on the final chord and launch back into “Weekapaug” is epic. The “Zero” encore gets a zero from me, but after that second set, they were playing with house money.


”Weekapaug Groove” -> “What’s the Use?” -> “Weekapaug Groove” – 12/30/15, New York, NY (video via Phish)

Given the strength of the second set, why isn't this show ranked higher? First sets matter, and even though I pointed out a couple interesting parts, there is really nothing there to truly recommend. And while the awesome moments in the second set were indeed awesome, they don't quite reach the rarefied air of some of the jams in the shows ranked above this one. But if you love set two and think it was one of the best sets of the year, I won't argue.

6. 7/31/15 Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood, Atlanta, GA - Dan Purcell
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

Never let it be said that the jaded vets of phish.net are unable to see beyond superficial setlist deficiencies, like the fact that this consistently stellar show opens with a generic "Prince Caspian" and closes with an unremarkable "Character Zero." Forget about it; if that kind of thing bothers you, just hit the skip button and start with song number two, 2015's Rookie of the Year "No Men in No Man's Land." This show doesn't quite hit the peaks of our top four, but there is barely a down moment in the three hours between the Prince sinking below the waves and the inevitable arrival of the Man Mulcahy. It's so consistently productive that one breathless recapper temporarily lost his mind and anointed it the best Phish show since Big Cypress or something.

Comparisons aside, there's a lot to love here. Some members of our panel rejected the glorious, patient, "Manteca"-flavored "Kill Devil Falls" as a true, set-making tent-pole jam, but while it might never achieve the soul-vibrating peak of the Magnaball "Bathtub Gin" or "Tweezerpants," it still spits hot fire for 20 solid minutes. (For my nickel, Jon Fishman can play that "Manteca" beat all damn night.) But whatever, this second set can't stop and won't stop. "KDF" finally yields to 2015's longest and most productive exploration of 2014's Rookie of the Year, "Martian Monster," providing further proof that, when Phish switches instruments, that usually means it's a good show. No flies on the ensuing "Twist," either, which segues into a good, exploratory "Back on the Train" and then into an unusual (and above-average) fourth-quarter "Reba."


“Martian Monster” – 7/31/15, Atlanta, GA (video via LazyLightning55a)

If you want to argue that 2015 was the best year of the band's 3.0 era, the best support for that position would be the return of productive first sets and the high percentage of all-action, no-letup fourth quarters. This raging Friday night in humid north Georgia could be your Exhibit A on both scores. Nobody talks about it anymore in light of the stunning Magnaball and very good MSG versions, but this was the night when the band finally remembered how to chug unself-consciously from the jug of "Bathtub Gin." Never before in 230-some performances had Phish closed a second set with "Gin," and this one brings arena-rock thunder worthy of a vintage "Antelope" or "Bowie." Likewise, the first set's three-hole gives us a wonderful "Ghost" that shreds its way into your heart and closes with a hot old-school "Mike's Groove." Until the band reviews, practices, and nails the charts for the "Mike's Song" second jam in F major that @tweezer is currently preparing, the end of the first set is probably the best place for this warhorse. The "Mike's" intro turns what could have been a tempo battle between Trey and Fish into a hilarious, stop-time quasi-reggae fakeout that is quintessential Phish, and the concluding jam is intense and steamy. Even normally standard tunes like "The Moma Dance" acquit themselves well. It may not have mustered the height quite cracked our top five, but it was as wide as anything we heard from Phish in 2015.

5. 7/24/15 Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA - Phillip Zerbo
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

The 7/24/15 Shoreline show is a remarkable and yet curious gig – it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. As was the case with the show ranked immediately below, here was a show that opened with “The Line” and closed with “Character Zero” yet still made the 2015 top ten! Obviously a lot of great music must have happened in the middle, though it didn’t happen early. The first set was plagued by a lack of flow and uninspired play, with nothing to recommend for subsequent listening outside of the “Reba,” and even that is a stretch. Even songs that usually sparkle (“Undermind”) or that were stretched out a bit (“Kill Devil Falls,” “46 Days”) fell flat.

When the band opened the second set with only the second performance of the then-brand new “Blaze On,” there was little hint that the situation would quickly improve. But improve it most certainly did, and in a hurry. After dispensing with the song proper, the jam out of “Blaze On” was pure fire. Trey soared early on with inspired and active leads, with Fishman driving the steam engine. About ten minutes in they returned to the song’s chorus to seemingly signal the end, but instead of wrapping up they tacked on another four minutes of swirling exploration let by Trey and Page, finally setting up “Twist.” Phish was clearly intent on going deep, as they shed the confines of “Twist” early – within four minutes of the opening notes, the song proper was a distant memory. The early part of the jam was edgy with tension, before briefly hinting at the “Twist” theme about nine minutes in. As was the case with “Blaze On,” instead of resolving to the song’s conclusion, Page let the way to major key bliss and sent the jam sailing into delightfully familiar and sunny territory, building to a soaring pinnacle.


”Twist” -> “Light” – 7/24/15, Mountain View, CA (video via Phish)

A solid half hour of glorious improvisation under their belt, this set had already more than wiped clean any disappointment from the first set. But Phish was far from done, as the opening notes of “Light” signified that this thrill ride did not require a pit stop. The “Light” takes a little longer to shine than did “Blaze On” and “Twist,” but by the seven-minute mark they had found their stride, coalescing around the most thrilling jam segment of the show. The collective flow of ideas in this set and the “Light” in particular was seemingly endless. “Joy” doesn’t always flow well in a second set, but it was a perfect interlude in this spot, after the joy ride of the first three songs that stretched over 45 minutes. Plenty of modern day Phish shows have a spectacular third quarter, but then tend to protect the lead and go into cruise control and coast to the end. This performance would definitely not follow that script. Instead, “Harry Hood” put pedal to metal with an invigorating, exploratory 15+ minute sprint to the finish. A completely unnecessary “Cavern” was tacked on, but the blowout win was solidly in hand.

Shoreline was an uneven performance to be sure, but when it contains a power hour of artistic greatness with four legitimate top tier jams in a single set, we can all walk away feeling good. Even with the dead weight of the first set, Shoreline is well-deserving of top-five 2015 status.

4. 8/21/15 Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, NY - Dan Purcell
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

It had been a long, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time since Phish had truly rocked our worlds at a festival, in a musical sense. Both Festival 8 in the California desert and Super Ball IX in upstate New York had glorious weather, carefully manicured festival grounds, and infinite delights to pass the time while the band wasn't playing, but the music was not exceptional Phish. And the festival before that was so star-crossed that many fans won't even speak its name. Before this summer, you had to go back to IT in 2003 for a Phish festival that pretty much everyone would agree delivered Phish music at the absolute highest level.

That changed in a hurry on the opening night of Magnaball, and over the course of that weekend the band's tenth festival quickly earned its place on a short list of its very best. The big development of summer 2015 was the resurgence of first sets, and this show almost certainly had the best first set of the year. The "Bathtub Gin" closer seemed like it was about to falter about eight minutes in, only to be served a massive dose of rocket fuel by Jon Fishman, who proceeded to lead the band through the greatest version of that song in over a decade. And "Gin" was just the capstone on a set that was excellent from the get-go. Not just a "Simple" opener, but a "Simple" opener that jammed, pleasantly, melodically, circuitously, making clear the band realized they had all night. Rarities abounded, with "Simple" leading into "The Dogs" and the "TMWSIY" > "Avenu" > "TMWSIY" sequence I am fated never to see live. But the most welcome bustout was only the second instance ever of Mike Gordon's whimsical, fragile, and always welcome "Mock Song." This version sported a special verse calling out Phish festivals past and present, but hopefully that's not a sign that the song will go back on the shelf for another twelve years.


”Bathtub Gin” – 8/21/15, Watkins Glen, NY (video via LazyLightning55a)

The second set is better, as per usual, but not by much. The "Chalk Dust Torture" opener doesn't quite approach the great versions from the song's summer 2014 revival, but it is consistently captivating, first flirting with "Twist" and then (in a recurring theme that weekend) with "What's the Use?" before settling into a garden-variety (i.e., funky, nasty, ass-shaking) "Ghost." Eventually the "Ghost" groove morphed into "Rock and Roll" via a slightly clumsy segue (GSAC 6/29/00 it wasn't), and after throwing down hard "Rock and Roll" dwindled into the signature tom-tom roll that begins "Harry Hood." Does that sound any good? Other than "Waste," which should never be played by anyone, the set is notable for consistent, interesting, exploratory jamming without a down moment. The band even segued one of its newest songs, the incredibly promising Nawlins boogie "No Men in No Man's Land," into one of its oldest, the always-welcome set closing "Slave to the Traffic Light," with its chord progression that conjures the rising sun. A double encore sent the fans back to their tents, or yurts, or luxury condos, happy and sated. They'd need to conserve their energy for the next night's marathon.

3. 12/31/15 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY - Jeremy D. Goodwin
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

One of the great takeaways from 2015 is the return of a creatively vital New Year's Run. Though this annual fixture on the tour calendar has featured ever-more focus on creative and entertaining spectacle, and it's always draped in a feel-good, reunion vibe, musically speaking the shows have tended to be more anticlimactic than exclamatory in 3.0, even as the overall baseline for great shows has gotten more impressive. So it's a great treat to see two shows from the 2015-16 New Year's Run on this top ten list, with the other two shows at least in the top 20 dicussion as well.

12/31/15 was cruising along as a pleasant but low-stakes endeavor when things suddenly shifted gears in the second set. Midway through the set, “Kill Devil Falls” emerged in an extended version. Though sludgy and not terribly interesting, it at least signaled that the band was willing to work outside the box. This bled into a standard but fiery “Piper,” and then a standout “Twist” to close the set. “Twist” offered a head-fake toward wrapping up before stepping back out for some more action; it featured the sort of soaring, simple guitar phrase that Trey put at the center of many memorable jams in 2015.


”No Men in No Man’s Land” > Auld Lang Syne” > “Blaze On” – 12/31/15, New York, NY (video via Phish)

The third set showcased the two most joyous Phish debuts in some time. It opened with a 21-minute “No Man In No Man’s Land,” performed (mostly) at a provisional stage near the back of the floor, and its last ten minutes represent some of the more experimental music Phish has played in a proper set in some time; for several minutes it is a cousin to the “Drive-In Jam” from Magnaball. Following a brisk “Auld Lang Syne,” a standout “Blaze On” marched fans into 2016, with a very active lead guitar part from Trey throughout its upbeat jam. Next came a short “Carini” and a focused “David Bowie” that had a touch of the 1992-era fire, closing out the suite of great music that had begun in the second set with “Kill Devil Falls.” Though bookended with essentially low-calorie material, this impressive chunk of music gives 12/31 a solid place among the year’s top shows.

2. 8/12/15 The Mann Center for the Performing Arts, Philadelphia, PA - Chris Glushko
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

Five song second set. Nothing bad ever comes from hearing those four words. The five song second set is a statement. It’s the band playing at the top of their game, and knowing it.

The first set is solid, but far from spectacular. However looking back now, there is definite foreshadowing of something special to come in set two – the “Martian Monster” jam in “Free,” a rare extended “Cities,” one of the best jams you’ll ever hear in the middle of “It’s Ice,” and Trey… um… losing his shit during “Character Zero.”

The second set begins with an excellent and rare set-opening “Bathtub Gin” that contains a spectacular flurry of notes through Trey’s favorite toy of 2015, the Mu-Tron envelope filter. If you are familiar with this “Gin,” one can only assume you’ve replayed this moment several hundred times by now. The “No Men in No Man’s Land” that followed is the clear best version of summer 2015, containing three separate peaks. “Twist,” the show’s centerpiece, embodies one of the many ways Phish was different in 2015 compared to 2014. During several sections of the jam, any band member could have ended it. But all four patiently held out for new ideas, and the result is a 20-minute masterpiece that should make every fan’s top jams of 2015 list. “Scents and Subtle Sounds” is played with its proper intro for the first time since 2011’s Super Ball and contains the finest improv in any version since the song’s glory days of 2003-04. To close, a heartfelt type-I “Harry Hood” and old-fashioned “Loving Cup” encore.


”Scents and Subtle Sounds” – 8/12/15, Philadelphia, PA (video via Phish)

For many jaded vets, describing the best Phish sets of the last several years often required a “for 3.0” caveat… until August 12, 2015. The second set from this night requires no such designation, making its way into the record books as one of Phish’s finest sets from any era.

1. 8/22/15 Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, NY - Steve Paolini
Official LivePhish Soundboard * Audience Recording

This one was unanimous. It’s rare for Phish fans to uniformly agree on a favorite show, but here we are. Every single one of the phish.net editors who participated in this exercise felt this was the best show of the year and, I’m guessing none of us felt it was particularly close. It’s pretty amazing and maybe even more so, given that the afternoon first set is devoid of anything that warrants a second listen. Harsh? Maybe. But true. And, ultimately irrelevant, as Phish was poised to unleash two of the strongest sets of the year.

The big question with three set shows is, are they going to play two “first sets” or two “second sets”? BITD™, this was never really a concern, but by 2013, it proceeded quickly from concern to trend to norm. Second sets from 7/2/11, 12/31/11, 12/31/12 and even 7/20/13 all failed to distinguish themselves. NYE 2014 reversed the trend but when the set opening “Wolfman’s” and “Halley’s” each stuck to their 3.0 form one couldn’t help but wonder, was this going to be another first set in second set’s clothing? An exploratory, if serene, “46 Days” put those fears to rest. A quick trip down the number line and “Tweezer” effectively announces that there’s no need to worry, we’re deep into second set country. Similar to the “46 Days,” this version starts out almost airy and boundaryless. This is music befitting of the open field in which it is being played. The jam patiently builds to major key bliss before turning spacey and then, oh goddamn it, Trey, seriously? “Prince Caspian”? Now? “Caspian” follows its usual course but then, instead of ending… well, Little Lord Caspian straps on his big boy pants and becomes a man. The cathartic jam that follows could just as easily be called “Tweezer” as “Caspian.” It’s a true mashup… known to many as “Tweezerpants.” It will also be known to many – and rightfully so – as the best jam of summer tour.


”Tweezerpants” – 8/22/15, Watkins Glen, NY (video via notmkdevo)

The gravy set begins with a mood setting (as in “we mean business”) “Meatstick” before shifting gears to “Blaze On.” The new song does not disappoint in this high-profile slot, offering up still more atmospheric, introspective, yet completely engaging improvisation. The end of the “Blaze On” jam actually hints at the storage jamming from four years prior, before smoothly shifting gears into “Possum.” “Cities” is next and features a “Mind Left Body Jam” in addition to its usual funky fare. “Light” provides yet another extended jam and at this point, the only question is whether this is the best or merely the second best show of the year? There’s arguably more to love here than in the exquisite 8/12/15 Mann show, though certainly more filler. I probably come out on the side of “Tweezerpants” and Magnaball, but reasonable minds can differ. But then this happens:


”Drive In Jam” – 8/22/15, Watkins Glen, NY (video via LazyLightning55a)

Game, set, match, Magnaball. Someday we may be brave and/or stupid enough to attempt to rank best shows of all-time. 8/22/15 will be part of that conversation.

Phish.net: Best of 2014
Phish.net: Best of 2013
Phish.net: Best of 1997

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Comments

, comment by Choda
Choda Ow. My butthurt is quite real.
, comment by weewaw
weewaw Thank you all for making this! What a great read on this dreary morning. Brings back a lot of beautiful memories of a fantastic year of seeing and hearing Phish!
I'm sure ranking them all was tough. Other than Magnaball2.
, comment by EdwardGRobinson
EdwardGRobinson Thanks for the great write-up. A wealth of great material to choose from. Sad to have only caught Shoreline this year but at least I got a good one. Set II was really among the best I've seen in many many years. My wife even liked it and she is not exactly the biggest phan of all time. I still like her though.
, comment by diagonalinmybed
diagonalinmybed Happy to see 8/12/15 ranked so high, the only summer show I caught this year.

But my favorite show of the year was MPP1.
, comment by 12_29_97_4eva
12_29_97_4eva Great exercise, nice list. But if we're using David Steinberg's postulate that "beloved Phish shows come in three forms: those that have bustouts, those that have great jams, and those that have antics," then MPP1 (8/15/15) absolutely deserves a Top 10 ranking. I shouldn't have to spell out how the show hits each of those three categories.

I was very surprised to see it was left out. My original anger has turned into a deep and dark sadness. Thanks for making me cry today, Phish.net!
, comment by TheEmperorJoker
TheEmperorJoker I literally laughed out loud when I saw Blossom at 9 and just stopped reading
, comment by johnnyd
johnnyd @TheEmperorJoker said:
I literally laughed out loud when I saw Blossom at 9 and just stopped reading
Too high or too low?
, comment by J_D_G
J_D_G @TheEmperorJoker said:
I literally laughed out loud when I saw Blossom at 9 and just stopped reading
This comment would have value if it came with an argument for where that show would rank on your list, and what you'd move to accommodate it.
, comment by ucpete
ucpete Nice work gents. I'm surprised to see 12/30/15 on the list but not 1/2/16, and I share others' surprise that MPP1 didn't crack the top ten either, with the sublime Steam > WTU? > Steam, the huge 46 Days, and the Piper of the year with a nifty -> Tweezer taboot. Though of course it doesn't make sense to wonder why certain shows were included without proposing which to exclude (though I may be able to comfortably yank 12/30 for 1/2, with 1/2's strong first set and huge Tweezer), and you certainly have assembled a strong list here. What a year!
, comment by lumpblockclod
lumpblockclod FWIW, I had 1/2 ranked #10. It's a great show and the Tweezer is better than anything from 12/30, but the rest of the set kind of coasts from there. It's great song selection and well played, but 12/30 just keeps coming at you with the ridiculous peak in Gin and the What's the Paug? There's even a new song for good measure. I don't know that it will ever be much more than set filler, but a new original is almost always a bonus imo.
, comment by kernalforbin1983
kernalforbin1983 I Personally think Blossom should have been ranked higher than Atlanta Or Shoreline, when in both they say the first set was forgettable, Blossom is a full show with great tour debuts. not just a second set. And the second set was amazing as well.
But hey that's just my two pennies
, comment by lumpblockclod
lumpblockclod @kernalforbin1983 said:
I Personally think Blossom should have been ranked higher than Atlanta Or Shoreline, when in both they say the first set was forgettable, Blossom is a full show with great tour debuts. not just a second set. And the second set was amazing as well.
But hey that's just my two pennies
Who said the ATL1 first set was forgettable? Certainly not us.
, comment by ucpete
ucpete @lumpblockclod said:
FWIW, I had 1/2 ranked #10. It's a great show and the Tweezer is better than anything from 12/30, but the rest of the set kind of coasts from there. It's great song selection and well played, but 12/30 just keeps coming at you with the ridiculous peak in Gin and the What's the Paug? There's even a new song for good measure. I don't know that it will ever be much more than set filler, but a new original is almost always a bonus imo.
I get it -- and don't sleep on that CDT either -- but I felt that 1/2/16 had the higher high (Tweezer) and the better first set too, making it more balanced. But everything you point out in 12/30 is indeed straight cash, homey. Such an embarrassment of riches...
, comment by itsice88
itsice88 Solid list, though like everyone else on here I think MPP1 absolutely deserves to be on the list. If it had to bump anything off, I'd say 8/4/15 is a very good show but isn't top ten. While it has that great Mike's Groove, it's probably a bit overrated because of the novelty of the Mike's second jam. Pound for pound (IMO) MPP1 is clearly the superior show and is a rare example of a great show from start to finish.
, comment by icculusFTW
icculusFTW Cleary, we need an honorable mentions list here.

I agree with those saying that MPP1 really, truly does deserve to be on the top 10 list.

Also, Alpine 2 is completely absurd show -- from top to bottom -- that I'd also place, overall, higher than Nashville. It's just a much more complete show.

I personally feel 12-30-15 is getting a bit overpraised here -- the first set was nothing to write home about, and the debut in the middle of Ghost was a downright buzzkill. I adored the Gin, but its placement was not ideal. The second set didn't really have much flow, it was a bit halting -- and that really matters to my ears, at least. Compare that to, say, 12-29-13 set 2, and it's a night and day difference in terms of smoothly segueing between songs.

Last thing -- I think everyone is really overlooking 1/1/16. That second set is a thing of beauty. The Light alone is one of the most engaging jams of the year, and the whole set was a beautiful flow, from Disease> Dirt straight through to the glorious Slave. I know Theme and Halfway to the Moon are in there, but they both work perfectly in this particular set, I felt.
, comment by frankstallone
frankstallone Nice list!

Glad Nashville finally got a little respect, seems to be the show that slips under the radar somehow. that Weekapaug might be my favorite thing from the entire summer

I'd have dropped Shoreline down a bit, the first set that night alone would have put it behind Lakewood 1 and probably one or two others

I'll just assume Lakewood 2 was an Honorable Honorable Mention? Set 2 that night was so good
, comment by Bob_Loblaw
Bob_Loblaw Totally nailed it on this list. Good Work!
, comment by funkbeard
funkbeard I only caught one show in 2015: Shoreline.

My only gripe here is that the first set had an incredible flow, the band was deep in a groove, moreso than any first set I've seen in years. Second set speaks for itself. #5 for the year is a fair rating.

Also, 8/22/15 set 1: nothing worthy of replay? About half way through the first set, the band becomes an adrenaline junkie, and everything is played with extra gusto. Trey is a beast from that point forward.
, comment by Jephwa14
Jephwa14 Nashville is the most overrated show of 2015. Always fun to chat Top 10 lists, though!
, comment by mikesgroove2390
mikesgroove2390 I would have to put night two of ATL in the top 10. Just dint see how it couldn't be. If that tweezer isn't a "tentpole" jam I don't know what is.
, comment by spac_melt
spac_melt Thanks so much for doing this! I think we have a pretty solid list here. I would sub MPP 1 and Dicks 2 for Nashville and Dicks 3. Your mileage may vary of course. Glad to see Mann 2 and Shoreline get such high rankings. They are my 2 favorite second sets of the year :)
, comment by johnnyd
johnnyd Very nice list overall. Always something to quibble with, but I think in this case, the top 4 are hard to impeach, and then 4 - 10 plus the 4 honorable mentions can go a lot of different ways depending on what you prefer in a show.

Personally I think Shoreline is a little too high - its basically a great 2nd set, but not a balanced show at all. And I don't have Dick's in my top 10 at all. That one is a head scratcher for me. Granted it's a best-ever-conversation-worthy encore, but the first set is poor by 2015 standards, and the 2nd set is not much better than average. So to get it into the top 10 based more or less on the encore (and perhaps more than a touch of contemporary sentimentality) is bold.

So pull Dick's, and drop Magna 3 or MSG 4 in (my slight preference is Magna 3, as again, a more balanced show, even if it didn't have that Tweezer), and I'm on board.

Excellent writeups of the show, team. Regardless of how people feel about the rankings, the narratives are really well done.

/heh heh. "pull dicks"
, comment by lumpblockclod
lumpblockclod Dicks3 is an uneven show to be sure, but I would marketed points in its defense:

1. The DWD is damn good and just enough to scratch that type-II itch. Without it, I don't think the "contemporary sentimentality" is enough to make the top 10.

2. About that sentimentality, it's technically an encore, yes, but it's also very nearly a surprise third set. That carries a lot of weight.
, comment by Chop
Chop The thing about this tour is that after the top four, it's acceptable to put the next 10 in just about any order. I voted MPP1 as eight and MSG4 as nine. Both missed out, but it's completely understandable when so many shows are just so close together in quality.

Magna3, Alpine2, Dicks3, and Nashville all missed out on my top 10. If you asked me to vote again next week, it's entirely possible that Dicks3 and Nashville make my top 10, but I don't see Alpine2 or Magna3 moving up.

After the top four, it's about how you personally weigh stuff. Do you give more credit for bust-outs or long jams? How important is the first set? Does narration make you lose your shit? Bottom line, you shouldn't be butthurt over anything outside of the top four. Shows 5-14 are more or less one big tier.

- CG
, comment by johnnyd
johnnyd Valid points, definitely. Hadn't considered the quasi-3rd set interpretation.

There's no debating that THANK YOU is among the most heartwraming, warm and fuzzy, outrageously unexpected, and fun things the band has ever done. So any sentimentality attached specifically there is absolutely worth as many bonus points as one would care to add.

But what I was actually (and not clearly) pondering with that statement was a positive sentimentality towards Dick's in general, and a possible subconscious pull to include one of the 3 shows in the rankings.
, comment by CameToPlay
CameToPlay Very nice read. Thanks for putting together. and LOL that 8/15 is not in the top 10. I guess attendance bias doesn't just affect n00bs.
, comment by icculusFTW
icculusFTW Can someone help me understand all the buzz for MSG4?

The Tweezer is pretty good but mainly as a backing track for some beautiful Trey soloing. It's hardly the kind of full band improv that characterized, say, 8-22. This is a long and lovely Trey solo at its best.

Aside from that, though, what is the big deal about this show?
, comment by Tenaciousdnj
Tenaciousdnj Mostly in agreement here, except I really feel 1/2 has to crack the top ten especially if the 30th did.
, comment by makisupaman
makisupaman Not sure night three from Dick's belongs, despite its superb encore. Considering the summer tour that preceded it, Dick's was pretty underwhelming imo. I would put nights two and one of Magna as one and two respectively, followed by Blossom at three, a hybrid of Mann 1's first set and Mann 2's second at four, then MSG NYE at five, Magna 3 at six, Lakehood 2 at seven, Lakehood 1 at eight, MPP 1 at nine, Nashville at ten, Alpine 2 at eleven :)

Just danced my ass off cleaning my kitchen and reliving the Artist Formerly Known as Prince Caspian from Magna on full blast. One of the peakiest peaks not only of Summer 2015, but of the band's storied career. What will Summer 2016 be like? I can't wait to find out!
, comment by Mr_Draned
Mr_Draned I'm glad that I was at 3 of these.
What a summer!
, comment by lumpblockclod
lumpblockclod @makisupaman said:
a hybrid of Mann 1's first set and Mann 2's second at four
Um... there are, like, rules here, you know.
, comment by light_above_n_blue_below
light_above_n_blue_below pretty ridiculous list. blossom and ATL 1 are top 5. none of the MSG shows need to be near number 10 and yet 2 are ahead shows that blew them out of the water. Same with Dicks, really. sounds like someone from NY wrote this.
, comment by makisupaman
makisupaman @lumpblockclod said:
Um... there are, like, rules here, you know.

Image
, comment by CameToPlay
CameToPlay Is it safe to assume that the entire working group went to Shoreline and/or lives on the west coast? #5? Ahead of 7/31?
, comment by TwiceBitten
TwiceBitten I attended 8 out of 10. lucky me!
, comment by mikesgroove2390
mikesgroove2390 The MSG shows are really oddly placed.
, comment by mikesgroove2390
mikesgroove2390 Before we start, though, a word about shows #11-14. MSG4 1/2/16, MPP1 8/15/15, Magna3 8/23/15 and Alpine2 8/9/15 are all stellar shows.

So ATL 2 is not even a mention?
, comment by jtesch1
jtesch1 to the people who questioned why 1/2/2016 wasn't on the list, I think it would certainly be on this list if it was truly a "2015" show. was able to catch the last 3 nights of the MSG run and that Tweezer was mind-blowing.

segueing into other unreal tweezers, blossom should definitely be ranked higher. that entire second set is pure magic, start to finish, and I think it was one of, if not the best, non-magna ball show of the summer.

shoreline was great, but I probably wouldn't have ranked it that high. i agree with the masses here that MPP1 should absolutely be on this list. the combination of bust-outs and incredible playing throughout (that 46 days kicks ass, and the NO2 jam in the middle of tweezer was unreal), is enough to pull it onto my list over shoreline. though the blaze on was one of the best of the tour, idk if i can justify the rest of the set being top notch during this truly unforgettable summer tour. i'd argue that the 7/24/15 Twist gets overshadowed by some other great versions from this summer (8/12, 12/31, and maybe even 8/23 for me personally), and the same with Light (8/22 and 9/5)
, comment by SconyMack
SconyMack Finally!! I was in attendance at the "best show of the year!" Agreed, totally, though. That Saturday night at Magnaball was something else.
, comment by mistarich
mistarich was 1/2/16 considered or was this strictly 2015?
, comment by mistarich
mistarich nevermind ( I reread)
, comment by Stars_Suck
Stars_Suck I always feel as if I somehow listen to different shows than everyone?

I would absolutely put MPP Night 1 waaaaaaay up at the top. Best complete show of the summer. The second set flies like the wind and the first set had what we all look for: silliness, sandwiches and thump! Magnaball Night 2 I could also have up there. And I think final night of Dick's goes way up the top just for one of the three or four best encores ever (no debate).

Magnaball was good. The site is impeccable. My friends rule. The food and beer! YES! But this was nowhere near as good as the Great Went, Oswego (Phish's #1 festival), Big Cypress or maybe even IT. No festival could touch the story of the Great Went or the absolute awesomeness of Oswego, which had it all.

Summer '15 is one of the best 3.0 tours. Fall 2010 is still number #1. I went to half of Fall 2013 and I still don't get what all the fuss was about.

I'm not a 2.0 hater at all, so Summer 2015 is about as good as its been since then and Im happy for that. Keeps me hopeful for a great 2016.

But thats why we are here! To debate. Thank all....
, comment by Choda
Choda @icculusFTW said:
Can someone help me understand all the buzz for MSG4?

The Tweezer is pretty good but mainly as a backing track for some beautiful Trey soloing. It's hardly the kind of full band improv that characterized, say, 8-22. This is a long and lovely Trey solo at its best.

Aside from that, though, what is the big deal about this show?
Sorry man I disagree about your assessment of that tweezer. That was a band jam period. It was, to my ears, one of the best things of an amazing year.
, comment by phunky58
phunky58 First of all enjoy and appreciate the article. But I strongly disagree with 2015 being the second best run of 3.0. In my very very strong not so humble opinion Summer 2012 is without a doubt the best tour of 3.0 so far followed by fall of 2013 and then I would place summer 2015 third. Summer 2012 nuff said.
, comment by Hendrix_Phishinfloyd
Hendrix_Phishinfloyd I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed that the Grand Prairie/Dallas show isn't on the list. Coming off a particularly hot and uninspired Austin show, this show was a turn-around. Tube opener. Lots of classics, even a steamin' Steam. Felt like a 90's show to me. And it's Trey and Page's Birth-City! Which Trey explained while introducing Fish for vacuum solo. Well, it will be in MY 2015 top 10 thank you very much!
, comment by whatstheuse324
whatstheuse324 @funkbeard said:
I only caught one show in 2015: Shoreline.

My only gripe here is that the first set had an incredible flow, the band was deep in a groove, moreso than any first set I've seen in years. Second set speaks for itself. #5 for the year is a fair rating.

Also, 8/22/15 set 1: nothing worthy of replay? About half way through the first set, the band becomes an adrenaline junkie, and everything is played with extra gusto. Trey is a beast from that point forward.
The first set of 8/22/15 was one of my favorite of the weekend, and I have definitely given it second listens.
, comment by RobPJohnson3
RobPJohnson3 As a big fan of 8/22 and the Drive-In Jam, I was happy to hear that was the unanimous choice for show of the year.

I would probably put Atlanta 8/1 a little higher, if only for attendance bias and the Tweezer. 7/31 is a better show overall, and you got that part right.

Sorry, I can't let this post go unanswered...

"I always feel as if I somehow listen to different shows than everyone?"

Well, considering you said this later in your post...

"Oswego (Phish's #1 festival)"

...you may be right.
, comment by CreatureoftheNight
CreatureoftheNight Here's what the ratings say:

08-22-15 Magna 2
08-21-15 Magna 1
07-31-15 Atlanta 1
12-31-15 MSG 2
08-15-15 MPP 1
08-07-15 Blossom
08-12-15 Mann 2
08-09-15 Alpine 2
09-06-15 Dick's 3
(01-03-15 for the people throwing Miami in the mix)
08-23-15 Magna 3

Shoreline and MSG 1 are the odd shows out, WAY behind MPP 1 and Alpine in the ratings. The rest is just a quibble about placement.
, comment by The_Ghost
The_Ghost You talk about how great summer 15 was and then include 2 shows from MSG in the top 10? I completely agree with 12/31, but 12/30 was not that strong. Yeah it had a great Bathtub Gin - well guess what - 2015 was FILLED with great Bathtub Gins. Also 7/31 is undervalued. If you want the Bathtub Gin winner, there it was.

top 4 can stay.
5 drops down in place of 7/31. 12/30 is booted out. 10 stays. 9 and 8 bump up a peg and you have to fit 8/9 in there at 9 or 10 with Nashville.

Seriously did anyone see what happened on 7/31? with that Gin and that Martian Monster? That MM was the best thrilling chilling all summer, and that Gin was in the top 3 of a summer full of epic Gin.

Let me just do it this way(10th spot could be changed):
Honorable Mention to Grand Prairie - it was a lot of fun.
10 - Nashville (for intimacy and venue more than the show)
9 - Alpine 2
8 - Blossom
7 - Shoreline
6 - Dick's 3
5 - Magna 2
4 - Mann 2
3 - ATL 1
2 - NYE
1 - Magna 3
, comment by white_lightning
white_lightning This is the only thing I know for sure: there are metrics by which you can predict solid shows before they happen. Sort of like being a trader (try to hit the right show) rather than an investor (do as many as possible and take the good with the bad). Did they have a night off before? Are they trending up or down? But every once in a while, the metrics are wrong.

The only show I could make Summer 15, due to family and commitments, was Walnut Creek. All signs pointed to great things. Unfortunately, this was a case of the metrics failing. It was possibly the weakest show of the summer.

So I can offer insight on that debate: put it near the bottom of the 2015 list.

Oh well, you can't win them all!
, comment by johnnyd
johnnyd The range of opinions expressed in these comments, not just about 2015, but those framing people's interpretations, is astounding.

It's a magical world we're occupying here.
, comment by ColForbin
ColForbin @CameToPlay said:
Is it safe to assume that the entire working group went to Shoreline and/or lives on the west coast? #5? Ahead of 7/31?
I guess you're old enough to know
Kids out on the west coast are taking off their clothes
Screwing in the surf and going out to shows
They get high and they ride around in GTOs
, comment by lumpblockclod
lumpblockclod @whatstheuse324 said:
The first set of 8/22/15 was one of my favorite of the weekend, and I have definitely given it second listens.
Ok, I'll bite. Which Magnaball sets would you place it above?
, comment by lititzphan
lititzphan when I go into my clean mode on my machine @ work Sat3-7am, I have put on magnaball 8-22-15 every time this past month,,drive in jam is like fine aged wine,,keeps getting better every listen
, comment by DaytonJamDelk
DaytonJamDelk Blossom is criminally underrated. It came the closest to the magic I felt at magnaball from a crowd/band connection and the first set smokes!! A delicious Bathtub Gin to end the first set and, in my mind, the strongest 2nd set opening jam of 2015 CDT> Tweezer.... This summer kicked so much ass, and we are all so lucky to have experienced it!
, comment by maxhog
maxhog My only show of the year was... Mann 1. ;)

Granted that was a fuckin rocking show too, but shit I would have loved to see both shows live.
, comment by sureshot1228
sureshot1228 ATL - 3
Blossom - 4 Wilson> Timber under that roof! Monstrous
Mann 1 - 5

Only thing I would change
, comment by Yessir
Yessir Any time you roll out lists declaring the best this or that you are bound to ruffle some feathers. Admittedly I was at the Blossom show so I am biased in that regard, but if there were 8 better shows than that show than this was an incredible summer indeed.

Maybe as a show in total you can rank Blossom below 8 other offerings, but from the first set Bathtub Gin closer through the second set in its entirety, you will be hard pressed to find ANY better Phish from summer 2015!!!

I happen to think that the Blossom show was historically good, worthy of being on an all-time list from PHistory, but again maybe I'm biased.

All in all, great write up, and I have listened to all of the shows on the list so this opinion isn't coming from just the show I was present for.

Thanks for the memories, we can all agree that Summer 2015 was special.
, comment by Yessir
Yessir @TheEmperorJoker said:
I literally laughed out loud when I saw Blossom at 9 and just stopped reading
If you mean because it is sorely under-ranked, I agree with you sir!
, comment by BabtubGin
BabtubGin ALPINE
, comment by GoonieBuff
GoonieBuff I want to start by explaining that I'm purposely using shows I attended as examples for how I try to evaluate shows, and how the immediate feeling and the replay value can come into conflict.

I understand people questioning the MSG 12/30 show being on the list. Immediately after the show (which I enjoyed), I think I would've ranked it as the 4th best show that I attended in 2015. However, since that show, I think I've replayed that show more than any other from this year. Basically, I understand the love for this show, but also understand why some question why it's on the list.

That said, for me, the 12/30 MSG show is the opposite of the 8/9 Alpine show. Based on how I felt leaving the venues at the shows I attended, 8/9 Alpine was a top 2 show for me. However, I haven't given this show as much replay as even the Bend 2 show. That Alpine 2 show was SPECIAL, but I understand why others aren't in love with it (although I think it's criminal that it didn't make the top 10 of the year).

Basically, my point is that I think Alpine 2 should've gotten more love, but that it's very difficult not to have two ways of evaluating shows if you were in attendance. For those at Alpine 2, that first set made the weekend, and plus there we got a Contact in the encore in addition to a fun Frankenstein.

It's clear the panel values jams very much, and so do I. However, there definitely needs to be some consideration of the "in the moment" greatness like the Alpine 2 first set, or the Dick's 3 encore.

That said, it's a great read, and I look forward to checking out some of these great full shows that I haven't listened to yet.
, comment by arabia
arabia Surprised Nashville and Shoreline made the list and MMP1 and Alpine 2 didn't. I would have rated Blossom higher. The top two are solid, Dick's and MSG didn't match summer peak that was Magna.
, comment by whatstheuse324
whatstheuse324 @lumpblockclod said:
@whatstheuse324 said:
The first set of 8/22/15 was one of my favorite of the weekend, and I have definitely given it second listens.
Ok, I'll bite. Which Magnaball sets would you place it above?
There is nothing to bite on. I'm not going to rank the sets of Magnaball, I thought that they were all great. I just think that it is a little contradictory and even arrogant to have a "unanimous" number one show of the year and in the same breath deem the first set not worthy of a second listen.

For me, personally, I really loved the afternoon set. Divided Sky is my favorite song as well as my middle son. I was on the ferris wheel with my kids when Divided Sky kicked it all off. That was one of my favorite moments of the weekend. I was able to catch Scabbard and How Many People Are You? for the first time. There was a Mound and a Tube. Undermind was good, the Antelope jam started going into a major key for a little bit. I'm not saying it was Tweezerpants, but by no means was it a flop or underwhelming. The playing was spot on, the energy was great, and I really enjoyed the song selection. That's what first sets are all about, right? You should give it a listen.
, comment by johnnyd
johnnyd @GoonieBuff and @whatstheuse324 (and others):
Regarding the methodology - different things are valued differently by different people doing the ranking. Though we put this out as a "we", it is really a collection of "I"s - who have different opinions on what makes a great show. Or even who recognize all these different things and try to have their own list reflect a little of each.

There may be some minor lobbying, cajoling, and accusations of deafness throughout the process, but in the interest of objectiveness (in this admittedly subjective exercise) we stick to a methodology and system (which I think is described in one of the earlier linked ranking exercises). There are often strongly opposed opinions that get balanced out in the aggregate. (Even though we were unanimous on # 1 for this year.)

Then the writeups get done by an individual, credited.

FWIW, for example, I really tried to get Alpine into my top 10. I love that style, the setlist, the narration. But upon listening very closely to the other shows we had at #5 - 14, I just couldn't get it in there.
, comment by ColForbin
ColForbin Generally the panel favors shows with multiple songs that have high replay value, and bigger tentpole style jams will win out over flow. This doesn't mean that a "flow" show is bad, or wasn't a blast to attend, but that the rankings are based on what was laid down on tape at the show.

The intention of this post is not to shit on your memories of a perfect day at Blossom, Alpine, or Dallas but to point out which shows had the best musical moments of 2015. But as we used to say on rec.music.phish, YMMV!
, comment by CameToPlay
CameToPlay 3 years in a row now the "working group" puts together a very nice ranking and recap but does something completely tone deaf that makes one wonder what biases are at play. 2013 - 7/14/13 doesn't sniff the top 10 (minor infraction) and 7/31/13 ranks ahead of 12/29/13 and 10/20/13. What? 2014 - 8/31/14 pops up in the 5 slot ahead of 10/28, 11/2 and 12/31. What? 2015 - Putting the transgression against MPP1 aside (I'd have it 5th or 6th), how the hell is Shoreline 5th? Pedestrian 1st set in a year when there were so many good ones, and a very good 2nd set, but one without a single top 20 jam of the year, and none of versions played are the best versions of the year for those particular songs (arguably Hood. I like Magna's better). I get that if 1 or 2 or even 3 people make a list there will be some weird stuff. But how does Shoreline make #5 (I'd have it 10th - 12th), when there are presumably enough people in this group of seasoned listeners to smooth out the biases? Then again if you all have Shoreline 5th and I have it 11th, maybe we aren't that far apart :)

Here is the correct top 6. I look forward to my changes being implemented ;)

1) 8/22/15 - Magnaball 2
2) 12/31/15 - New Years Eve
3) 8/12/15 - Mann 2
4) 7/31/15 - Atlanta 1
5) 8/15/15 - MPP 1
6) 8/21/15 - Magna 1
, comment by 12_29_97_4eva
12_29_97_4eva I'm still not over the MPP1 snub. I'd be very interested to hear the panel weigh in with their arguments against including it in the Top 10 using the very criteria Steinberg spelled out - top notch jams (46 Days, Piper), bustouts (Glide, Buried Alive, and McGrupp were not only played, they were played consecutively! Oh, NO2 in the middle of Tweezer, too, but no biggie smalls), and antics (NO2, Sleeping Monkey banter). Throw in a solid version of Antelope, a very enjoyable rest of the first set, an unexpected and fun Steam> WTU> Steam sammich and a rocking WOTC set 2 closer and I'm just puzzled what else the show needed to leapfrog some of the others on the list.

This injustice has me up in arms almost as much as the decision to leave 12/29/97 out of the 1997 Top Ten. Almost. Except the '97 decision was entirely more defensible (dear Jesus, forgive me for saying that) than the decision to leave MPP out of the 2015 Top Ten.
, comment by drthunder666
drthunder666 Let's take this moment to reflect....
2015 in a nutshell: Some of the best playing since 1.0, an amazing summer tour, a top shelf festival, all-time versions of songs, exploratory jamming, first sets that matter, an all-time great encore, the return of the second jam in mikes, a great NYE run on both ends of 2015, new songs, mu-tron, a renewed excitement for what's going to happen next.
2015!! What a year!!
, comment by WalkLikeACanteloupe
WalkLikeACanteloupe I can't argue too much with this list or with the 2015 tour ratings generally. But I do want to make a plea for folks to give the Grand Prairie, Texas show another listen. I've spent the better part of the last month re-listening to the entire tour on LivePhish+. I made playlist of my favorite songs from the tour, which includes a number of the ones mentioned here (e.g., Magnaball Tweezer/Caspian). But I have surprised with how many of my favorites come from the Dallas show, and it's one of the shows, along with Magna 2 and Mann 2, that I keep going back to. I think maybe it doesn't get more love because the middle of the first set is a little "meh." But it has one of the best four-song openings of any of the 2015 first sets: Tube; Guelah; PYITE; Steam (it was the only time they played Guelah all year). The last two songs of the first set are kick-ass versions of Divided Sky and Squirming Coil (I rank the DS as top three for the tour behind Magnaball and Kansas City, and Squirming Coil was another one they only played once all tour--beautiful Page solo to end the first set).

The second set started off with a scorching Chalk Dust followed by a raucous Simple and SITM. The second set ended with Julius and what I think was the best Hood of the tour. The encore had another rarity with The Connection, and then an upbeat close with First Tube. Add to the mix some synchronized bouncing by Trey and Mike, stir with some Fish on the vacuum, and what's not to love?

Definitely Top Ten material. I'd probably drop Nashville from the list to make room for Dallas. I love the Weekapaug and Mike's from that show, but overall the Dallas show, in the context of the entire tour, is more worthy. (I recognize I am obviously in the minority on this, judging by the ratings).
, comment by RR1994
RR1994 This is my .02, which mean nothing.

I felt like 2015 was a mountain that we climbed together and descended together. Like many of you, I had extremely high expectations about this tour coming on the heels of FTW. It was clear Trey had been practicing for god knows how many hours and really from the first night of Bend it was clear this tour would be decent. I really felt like Trey was considerably better from note one onward then he had at any time in 3.0. Bend is still really good on re-listen, and the tour just went upward from there. By the time ATL1 hit it was clear this was THE tour I had been waiting for since the band got together. They were playing cohesive, full-band jams without whale-calling or abrupt song changes in deep jams or any of these type of things we have begrudgingly come to expect in 3.0. Like the site article says, I would generally expect one meaningful set of music every 3-set show. This tour was different. 08/12 was the first show where I think the full potential was realized. That is, IMO, the best full set they have played in 3.0. All killer, no filler, from start to finish with deep cohesive jamming in each song. Phish has played all killer, no filler sets before (Elements Set - UIC 2011, as an example), but this was the first set where it felt like they were really going deep on every song. I was truly amazed after listening to 08/12 and I could have rest easily knowing that would be the high point of tour. I was wrong, multiple times over.

08/15/2015 is one hell of a show. It is easily in my top-3 of 2015. When I listen to Phish, what I listen for is deep Type-II improvisation. I know we all look for different things in Phish but that's what I look for. 08/15 has very cool, deep jamming, and the band seemed particularly loose this show. The AWESOME antelope to end set one was a great harbinger of things to come in Set 2 and honestly 46 Days - Bug - Steam - Piper - Tweezer - WOTC is a very powerful set of music. I can't think of any other way to put it. This was creative jamming. Phish has jammed a lot in 3.0 but I think the second half of summer 2015 brought out creative jamming of the kind I haven't seen in 3.0. This set is full of it.

And then there's Magnaball. Words can't describe my thoughts on these shows, and especially 08/22. When describing his thoughts on 2015, Trey cited 08/12 and Magnaball as a whole as his favorite moments. It's easy to understand why he said Magnaball as a whole. Not just jamming, but wildly cohesive, creative jamming. 01/02/2016's Tweezer is in my opinion the perfect contrast to Magnaball. It's long. It's rocking. It has an awesome peak, but at the end of the day it's still an extended, standard-form rocking tweezer with some cool Trey soloing. Phish has played lots of long, rocking, epic peak Tweezers in their time. MSG 2012 actually had an epic Tweezer that followed the same script as MSG 2015. I wait for the point where you have to stop and ask yourself what song this is again. I had that moment countless times during Magnaball. Caspian, Blaze On, and Light being prime examples of that during 08/22. But really, all of Magnaball was amazing. The band was just playing so fluidly and out there. They weren't afraid to take risks, which in many ways is the calling card of 3.0. Trey used to use the phrase "playing without a net" back in 1.0 and I feel that is what is missing most in 3.0 (certainly in 2009-2012).

Unfortunately, to me, it didn't feel like Phish was diving into type-2 jams without a net much after Magnaball. Yes, there was lots of jamming but Dicks, MSG, and Mexico just didn't flow as well as the uptick from Bend-Magnaball did, and IMO the creative jamming decreased pretty quickly from Dicks-MSG-Mexico. That's not to say that there weren't cool things to mention. I thought 12/30 Set II was awesome and easily the best set played during Dicks/MSG/Mexico but that set didn't have a jaw-dropping Tweezercaspian or MPP1 Steam/Piper/Tweezer moment. The jamming just didn't feel like the band was trying to stray too far from the norm. Again, Phish jammed a lot during that stretch (12/31 especially) but it just didn't feel like the deep, whole band improvisation going off the map like we saw in the later half of Summer 2015. I know a lot of people loved MSG though.

Although I don't think this is the "best" jam of 2015 by any means, I think the Magna Blaze On is sort of the definitive 2015 jam for me. Here is a new song, that I didn't really care for that much song wise, that had a crazy deep and out-there jam segment that just blew me away. I had to stop and go "wow, I did not see that coming AT ALL." It wasn't nostalgic at all. I wasn't sitting back here thinking about how it reminded me of themes covered in jams past. It was all new, coming out of an all new jam vehicle. It was what I long to see in Phish. 2015 was it for me. I was at 03/06/09 and this year is what I waited for for years. Phish is awesome.
, comment by RR1994
RR1994 Typo in my last post, meant to say "from the first note of bend, it was clear this tour would be DIFFERENT," not decent. That kind of colors the rest of my post.
, comment by TheFuckinBook_Man
TheFuckinBook_Man http://phish.net/user/sausagemahoney
Mock Song is not played often cuz it's the worst Phish song ever. It's not "always welcome". And then to say that Waste should never be played by anyone???
Anyways, this is my only beef with this whole list. Oh, and the Shoreline Twist is better/thrilling/insert crispy adjective than the Light that followed.
WHAT A YEAR!
, comment by sausagemahoney
sausagemahoney Sorry, TheFuckinBook_Man. I have let you down. I will remove those parts of the review as soon as I can log in to the backend of the site. Unfortunately I am stuck in one of those Chinese finger traps
, comment by icculusFTW
icculusFTW Gotta say again, after hearing all of 8-15-15 one more time -- that show CERTAINLY tops 12-30-15, much as I love that Gin.

I mean, both sets of 8-15-15 just smoke. That show is truly fire, one of the most consistently engaged and creative shows of the whole summer.

Its omission is just an oversight, plain and simple.
, comment by icculusFTW
icculusFTW Again, about all the love for 1/2/16. First, let's be clear that that show amounts to JUST the Tweezer, in terms of anything meaningful, so you're already arguing for a show based on a single jam -- which, OK, if it's the Tahoe Tweezer, yeah.

I was at both, and this Tweezer -- while really good and a lot fun -- is no Tahoe Tweezer, to say the least.

It is has some fun breakdown stuff towards the end, and a few very segments led by soaring Trey solos that are very good. But it pretty much stays within one mode most of the jam, and circles around within that mode a few times, before a funk breakdown that is fun but nothing spectacular.

The band sounded tired on 1/2/16. They put on a really fun capper to a great run, but the idea that it was one of the very best overall shows of the year strikes me as almost ridiculous.

The Tweezer is pretty good but mainly as a backing track for some beautiful Trey soloing. It's hardly the kind of full band improv that characterized, say, 8-22. This is a long and lovely Trey solo at its best.

@Choda said:
@icculusFTW said:
Can someone help me understand all the buzz for MSG4?

Aside from that, though, what is the big deal about this show?
Sorry man I disagree about your assessment of that tweezer. That was a band jam period. It was, to my ears, one of the best things of an amazing year.
, comment by sausagemahoney
sausagemahoney Goddamnit, fine, I'm going to listen to MPP1 again right now. I hope y'all are happy
, comment by J_D_G
J_D_G Though I wrote one of the blurbs, I did not in fact vote on the rankings, just for the record.

But while MPP1 has all the cool setlist stuff and wonderful flow, it simply lacks a top shelf jam from the tour. Right away, that handicaps it massively versus the other top ten contenders. There's no amount of "check out the fun Antelope, plus a cool McGrupp" etc etc etc that can overpower the Tier 1 jams found in other shows...imo.
, comment by CameToPlay
CameToPlay @J_D_G said:
Though I wrote one of the blurbs, I did not in fact vote on the rankings, just for the record.

But while MPP1 has all the cool setlist stuff and wonderful flow, it simply lacks a top shelf jam from the tour. Right away, that handicaps it massively versus the other top ten contenders. There's no amount of "check out the fun Antelope, plus a cool McGrupp" etc etc etc that can overpower the Tier 1 jams found in other shows...imo.
I think the whole reason people are irked by the omission of MPP1 is because in addition to the great first set, and the bustouts, and antics and segues and sandwiches and flow, it also has 2 titanic jams in the 2nd set. `Arguably the best 46 days of the year (better than Magna imo), and clearly the best Piper of the year. Whether one would consider them among the elite jams of the year is up to them. Personally I think both are upper echelon jams and in particular I listen to the Piper a lot and think it should be a highly recommended jam (46 days already is). It's a monster upper tier show.
, comment by 12_29_97_4eva
12_29_97_4eva @sausagemahoney said:
Goddamnit, fine, I'm going to listen to MPP1 again right now. I hope y'all are happy
We'd be interested in your thoughts after you've re-listened. I will do my utmost not to launch invective and ad hominen attacks in your direction if you stand by your decision :)
, comment by 12_29_97_4eva
12_29_97_4eva @J_D_G said:
Though I wrote one of the blurbs, I did not in fact vote on the rankings, just for the record.

But while MPP1 has all the cool setlist stuff and wonderful flow, it simply lacks a top shelf jam from the tour. Right away, that handicaps it massively versus the other top ten contenders. There's no amount of "check out the fun Antelope, plus a cool McGrupp" etc etc etc that can overpower the Tier 1 jams found in other shows...imo.
Unsurprisingly, I think a lot of commentators on the boards disagree with this summary of the show.

As we're heading into March Madness season, I'll offer this cute analogy:

"The Selection Committee looked at MPP1's 23-7 record (12-6 in conference play) and thought, well, MPP1 doesn't have any marquee wins against a Top 10 opponent. Nevermind that its RPI is 29 and its strength of schedule 25. Nevermind that it went 11-3 against the RPI Top 100 and 4-3 against the RPI Top 50. NO TOP TEN WINS!

Instead, we're going to give an #11 seed to MSG1, which went 19-12 (9-9 in conference play). Its RPI is a middling 50 and its strength of schedule 42, but it features three marquee victories over RPI Top 20 opponents and that alone justifies its tournament selection over MPP1."

For the record, MSG1 Set 2 was one of my favorite sets of the year, but my opinion is that the show as a body of work doesn't belong in the Top 10, especially over a complete show like MPP1.
, comment by lumpblockclod
lumpblockclod @12_29_97_4eva said:
For the record, MSG1 Set 2 was one of my favorite sets of the year, but my opinion is that the show as a body of work doesn't belong in the Top 10, especially over a complete show like MPP1.
That's certainly a defensible view. As a group, we tend to favor tent-pole jams and complete second sets. When I look at MSG1 vs MPP1, I think the Gin, which is merely the second best jam of MSG1 would likely be the top jam of MPP1. As @J_D_G said, that's just incredibly hard to overcome. Having said that, if you read the intro, we also said that in many ways deciding between shows #5-14 was really tough and the order of those shows should be taken with a grain of salt.
, comment by TheFuckinBook_Man
TheFuckinBook_Man @sausagemahoney said:
Sorry, TheFuckinBook_Man. I have let you down. I will remove those parts of the review as soon as I can log in to the backend of the site. Unfortunately I am stuck in one of those Chinese finger traps
Ironically, Mike was wearing Chinese finger traps when he wrote Mock Song.
, comment by pabalive
pabalive Nashville over 8/15/15 is a complete oversight. Just because they finally played a Mike's song properly does not mean that it should over shadow what was complete show at MPP1. It has a legit quirky and interesting first set combined with a beautiful second set. You guys missed this one. Honestly 8/15 should probably be sitting where 12/30/15 sits. Sorry fellas, you missed this one.
, comment by phootyjon
phootyjon Just re-listened to Blossom....that deserves a better placement imo. And MPP1 was a fucking heater and easily is a Top 5. But hey....it's all gravy. See you this summer!
, comment by nichobert
nichobert MPP1 not making it is bizarre to me. I guess it would be low if we were only ranking on "quantity of Type II improvisation" and not "Quality of type II improvisation" or "everything else about a Phish show"

But I can't even begin to comprehend how a show that's that fun on that many levels not being all the way near the top.
, comment by 12_29_97_4eva
12_29_97_4eva @lumpblockclod said:
@12_29_97_4eva said:
For the record, MSG1 Set 2 was one of my favorite sets of the year, but my opinion is that the show as a body of work doesn't belong in the Top 10, especially over a complete show like MPP1.
That's certainly a defensible view. As a group, we tend to favor tent-pole jams and complete second sets. When I look at MSG1 vs MPP1, I think the Gin, which is merely the second best jam of MSG1 would likely be the top jam of MPP1. As @J_D_G said, that's just incredibly hard to overcome. Having said that, if you read the intro, we also said that in many ways deciding between shows #5-14 was really tough and the order of those shows should be taken with a grain of salt.
I won't disagree with you about the 12/30 Gin and Chalkdust being better jams than the 8/15 46 Days and Piper. But then you're admitting that the only criteria we're using to judge a Phish show is the strength of its top jams. That's fine if we want to make that the criteria, but I don't think you or any of us really want to judge a Phish show strictly on that basis (I'm still sticking to Steinberg's criteria - jams, bustouts, antics...plus intangibles!).

Anyway, yes, you're right that shows 5-14 are generally a toss up, but some are a bit more of a toss up than others. You could also make the case 8/15 belongs in the Top 4 or 5. Debate is fun! Let's keep this going.
, comment by Cymbals_Saxophones
Cymbals_Saxophones Full disclosure: I'm a Midwest Phish fan and for the past handful of years have only been able to catch shows within a 5-6 hour drive of Chicago. Work, family, etc.....Thank goodness for Couch Tour and readily accessible AUDs....they allow me to maintain my religious-like attention to what's going on with the band.
I understand that any list/ranking is bound to fluster many, especially given the typical fervor of Phish fans. I also understand that the live experience can skew the relative value of any given show. Example: I was at the 12/31/2002 return from hiatus. The energy in MSG that night was beyond description. I will remember it on my deathbed and wouldn't trade it for any number of ostensibly superior 2.0 shows.
So - Alpine2. I was there and LOVED the show (I have seen all 17 of the band's Alpine gigs....and it was cool to hear Trey acknowledge their history at the venue during Forbin Narrations - for fucks sake.....we got a Forbin with narration and Mockingbird....that alone is a treat). I digress. A first set, which.....let's admit, generally have been perfunctory, even during superior tours like Fall 13 and Summer 15. If you're not a fan of bustouts.....I can understand, because often times they are botched versions of songs that used to sparkle. In the case of Alpine2, however, these bustouts were played with precision. I have a soft spot for B&R, Saw It Again RAGED, Esther was close to impeccable (I'll relisten), Weigh, The Sloth, Sanity .....and then a smoking hot SOAM to close. THAT WAS THE FIRST SET. Excepting Very Long Fuse (2014), Waves (2002/2003), and Blaze On (2015) - this show could have been played in the late 90s (a la Blossom).
Lights dim and the table is set for the main course - Set II. The bar was set high....
ANTELOPE to OPEN. Jolt of energy back in the venue. Decent transition into Carini, and while it's not a Fall 13 type version....it's interesting, hinting early and eventually finding it's way into Waves. An ambient minute or so outro gives way to an unusually funky drop into Tweezer. I think Trey surprised himself that he was back into Tweezer given the Bloosom version just two nights earlier.
Fuller disclosure: I go to shows hoping to hear Tweezer. The rest is gravy. Ergo, I was jealous and disappointed to watch the Blossom setlist roll in a few nights prior. I'll listen to ANY Tweezer. There's almost always something (or a lot of somethings) that delight my ears (whole body really). From 5 minutes on this version really worked for me. Mu Tron, Fight Bell, funk, and then.....from about 8:30 on just bliss Phish. If this doesn't make you move - you best check your pulse. I could continue, but suffice it to say, I love this Tweezer. Uncle Ebenezer melts into Dirt, which you could say is an energy kill, but it's another rarity....perhaps a slight tip of the proverbial cap to Garcia on the anniversary. I think it worked perfectly in this spot.
Now it's 4th Q time.....and they move into Mikes. Nights earlier they "broke the internet" with the first second jam in Mikes since 2000 (I was at the Polaris show with the last extended Mikes), so interest was piqued, and at first it wasn't clear if they were going to take it for a post Nashville ride or if that would be a one-off. Well - they did it again and it was awesome. Funky. Check. Tension. Check. Release. Check. Woos (ugh...). Check. Again....Blaze on sandwiched in Mikes Groove worked for me. Maybe Weekapaug wasn't the best, but they finished the set with an incendiary Reprise. They didn't save that for encore. The pavilion was up for grabs when they brought Tweeprise to a close.
Do NOT miss a Sunday show. Period.
Contact....Frankenstein and we have one fantastic Phish show.
Bustout laden set I played with precision.
A second set that opens with Antelope and includes Carini, Tweezer, Mikes +second jam.....and that's not top 10?
Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I feel better having voiced mine.
, comment by lumpblockclod
lumpblockclod @12_29_97_4eva said:
I won't disagree with you about the 12/30 Gin and Chalkdust being better jams than the 8/15 46 Days and Piper. But then you're admitting that the only criteria we're using to judge a Phish show is the strength of its top jams. That's fine if we want to make that the criteria, but I don't think you or any of us really want to judge a Phish show strictly on that basis (I'm still sticking to Steinberg's criteria - jams, bustouts, antics...plus intangibles.
No, not admitting that at all. 12/30 has other things I like (the Paug > WTU > Paug is tremendous... relistened to it so many times already, I think a debut always adds some excitement and the return to Ghost was fun, though I could see others taking the view that the new song killed the Ghost). But I'll admit to significant type-II being the most important factor in my rankings.
, comment by icculusFTW
icculusFTW Am just realizing how astonished I am that 8-21 is not on this list. A*first set* gin that is the best in many years, plus a highlight reel second set of chalk, hood, slave and no mans versions that are among the year's best.

Put simply, this show just about runs circles around 12-30 as a top to bottom show. Am I wrong?
, comment by Commander_Riker
Commander_Riker @Hendrix_Phishinfloyd said:
I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed that the Grand Prairie/Dallas show isn't on the list. Coming off a particularly hot and uninspired Austin show, this show was a turn-around. Tube opener. Lots of classics, even a steamin' Steam. Felt like a 90's show to me. And it's Trey and Page's Birth-City! Which Trey explained while introducing Fish for vacuum solo. Well, it will be in MY 2015 top 10 thank you very much!
I couldn't agree more. This show, if not a watershed moment, was definitely a big reason the rest of the tour is as highly regarded as it is. The proverbial "switch" was flipped at this show. This show spawned the everydamnight hashtag.
, comment by 12_29_97_4eva
12_29_97_4eva @lumpblockclod said:
@12_29_97_4eva said:
I won't disagree with you about the 12/30 Gin and Chalkdust being better jams than the 8/15 46 Days and Piper. But then you're admitting that the only criteria we're using to judge a Phish show is the strength of its top jams. That's fine if we want to make that the criteria, but I don't think you or any of us really want to judge a Phish show strictly on that basis (I'm still sticking to Steinberg's criteria - jams, bustouts, antics...plus intangibles.
No, not admitting that at all. 12/30 has other things I like (the Paug > WTU > Paug is tremendous... relistened to it so many times already, I think a debut always adds some excitement and the return to Ghost was fun, though I could see others taking the view that the new song killed the Ghost). But I'll admit to significant type-II being the most important factor in my rankings.
Out of curiosity, was 7/27/14 in your Top 10 for 2014? If not, then I understand you at least consistently choose shows that have "best of the year" jams over shows that have a combo of strong jams/antics/bustouts, etc. But if you did put 7/27/14 in your Top 10, it fails your Type-II/"jams we're going to talk about for awhile" test.

For the record, I think it absolutely belongs in the Top 10, but for reasons that differ from the reasons you've laid out for selecting shows.
, comment by CameToPlay
CameToPlay @12_29_97_4eva said:
@lumpblockclod said:
@12_29_97_4eva said:
For the record, MSG1 Set 2 was one of my favorite sets of the year, but my opinion is that the show as a body of work doesn't belong in the Top 10, especially over a complete show like MPP1.
That's certainly a defensible view. As a group, we tend to favor tent-pole jams and complete second sets. When I look at MSG1 vs MPP1, I think the Gin, which is merely the second best jam of MSG1 would likely be the top jam of MPP1. As @J_D_G said, that's just incredibly hard to overcome. Having said that, if you read the intro, we also said that in many ways deciding between shows #5-14 was really tough and the order of those shows should be taken with a grain of salt.
I won't disagree with you about the 12/30 Gin and Chalkdust being better jams than the 8/15 46 Days and Piper. But then you're admitting that the only criteria we're using to judge a Phish show is the strength of its top jams. That's fine if we want to make that the criteria, but I don't think you or any of us really want to judge a Phish show strictly on that basis (I'm still sticking to Steinberg's criteria - jams, bustouts, antics...plus intangibles!).

Anyway, yes, you're right that shows 5-14 are generally a toss up, but some are a bit more of a toss up than others. You could also make the case 8/15 belongs in the Top 4 or 5. Debate is fun! Let's keep this going.
I don't think that is necessarily clear at all. Of course these things are a matter of preference, but Piper and 46 days are absolutely instrumental to the greatness of the show, and both are very strong versions. Among the best 3.0 versions of each song. I'm not knocking 12/30. It is in my top 10 also. For all my bellyaching, the 14 shows in the list might be my exact 14 shows, just in a different order. If not exact, very close.
, comment by 12_29_97_4eva
12_29_97_4eva @CameToPlay said:
@12_29_97_4eva said:
@lumpblockclod said:
@12_29_97_4eva said:
For the record, MSG1 Set 2 was one of my favorite sets of the year, but my opinion is that the show as a body of work doesn't belong in the Top 10, especially over a complete show like MPP1.
That's certainly a defensible view. As a group, we tend to favor tent-pole jams and complete second sets. When I look at MSG1 vs MPP1, I think the Gin, which is merely the second best jam of MSG1 would likely be the top jam of MPP1. As @J_D_G said, that's just incredibly hard to overcome. Having said that, if you read the intro, we also said that in many ways deciding between shows #5-14 was really tough and the order of those shows should be taken with a grain of salt.
I won't disagree with you about the 12/30 Gin and Chalkdust being better jams than the 8/15 46 Days and Piper. But then you're admitting that the only criteria we're using to judge a Phish show is the strength of its top jams. That's fine if we want to make that the criteria, but I don't think you or any of us really want to judge a Phish show strictly on that basis (I'm still sticking to Steinberg's criteria - jams, bustouts, antics...plus intangibles!).

Anyway, yes, you're right that shows 5-14 are generally a toss up, but some are a bit more of a toss up than others. You could also make the case 8/15 belongs in the Top 4 or 5. Debate is fun! Let's keep this going.
I don't think that is necessarily clear at all. Of course these things are a matter of preference, but Piper and 46 days are absolutely instrumental to the greatness of the show, and both are very strong versions. Among the best 3.0 versions of each song. I'm not knocking 12/30. It is in my top 10 also. For all my bellyaching, the 14 shows in the list might be my exact 14 shows, just in a different order. If not exact, very close.
We definitely share the view that Piper and 46 Days are instrumental to the greatness of 8/15. I was just conceding that you could compellingly make the case that head-to-head the 12/30 Gin and Chalkdust are stronger jams than the 8/15 Piper and 46 Days. However, that doesn't mean that 12/30 is a stronger show. It's not even close, quite frankly. 8/15 is a well-rounded monster and Piper and 46 Days play key roles in making it so. 12/30 Set II is fabulous - certainly my favorite set of the NYE run - but Set I is so obviously mediocre that as a total package I can't put it above 8/15.
, comment by nichobert
nichobert I've just decided to admit to myself that i'm nowhere near in tune with the fanbase anymore lol.

I still think the Best of 2011- Most of 2012-Best of Summer 13 improv style is going to prove essentially untouchable. Unless maybe they wake up one day and go "Let's play one more year and then call it a wrap" It was almost like they scared themselves with how deep they were communicating and decided to pull back to a more carefree late 90s/early 00s style in order to preserve their health.

As far as concessions to age go, "Lets jam more" is a pretty great one. Can't argue there.
, comment by whatstheuse324
whatstheuse324 @icculusFTW said:
Am just realizing how astonished I am that 8-21 is not on this list. A*first set* gin that is the best in many years, plus a highlight reel second set of chalk, hood, slave and no mans versions that are among the year's best.

Put simply, this show just about runs circles around 12-30 as a top to bottom show. Am I wrong?
You are not wrong, which is why it was ranked at #4.
, comment by IdRatherBeOnTour
IdRatherBeOnTour 12/30 makes it on the list so that means 1/2 needs to be on it for 2016 because that was a million times better than 12/30....lots of people I know at the MSG run thought 1/2 was better than 12/31 so that says a lot...
, comment by icculusFTW
icculusFTW Yup. Totally blew it on that one. My apologies.

@whatstheuse324 said:
@icculusFTW said:
Am just realizing how astonished I am that 8-21 is not on this list. A*first set* gin that is the best in many years, plus a highlight reel second set of chalk, hood, slave and no mans versions that are among the year's best.

Put simply, this show just about runs circles around 12-30 as a top to bottom show. Am I wrong?
You are not wrong, which is why it was ranked at #4.
, comment by davey0110
davey0110 I kind of wish the blog linked to Phish's official youtube channel for the Tweezepants, even though I'm one of mkdevo's biggest fans. I just think the Phish youtube channel deserves some more views.
, comment by E_Wolfe
E_Wolfe In your review of 12/30/15, I believe the melody that Trey nearly latches-on to is that of MLB, as opposed to 3rd Stone...
, comment by TweezingSpaceRanger
TweezingSpaceRanger Atlanta 2 should be in the top 10 or at least be in honorable mentions. Talk about underrated....
, comment by Deadphish420
Deadphish420 I think Blossom should definitely be ranked higher than #9. The second set of that show is immaculately played. The chalkdust-> tweezer is seriously one of the best all time sequences Ive seen or heard. I know there were more dynamic tweezers this tour but that 1-2 punch of those 2 songs were amazing. Then follow that up with Lizards! Hell ya! There was such a joyous eruption from the crowd when trey started the first notes of Lizards. And you know its a great set when makisupa is the "breather" song of the set. Then Ghost>Hood>tweeprise to end it. That explains itself. Tremendous flow throughout the set and then an absolutely rippin GTBT encore. Oh ya the 1st set was no slouch either. I'd put it in my top 5 of 2015. Behind the Magnaball shows and Dicks 3rd night
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